Here’s Your Oscar

Good Morning:

My wife and my daughter watched the Oscars last night.  I assume they did because I didn’t.  It’s not that I don’t like the Oscars but more a guy thing.  I preferred a movie.  But it gave me pause to consider the impact that these awards were having here and around the world.  This was a ‘big’ deal.  For a few hours, nothing else mattered.  Not even politics.

Then I began to wonder what it meant to the actors who received their Oscars.  Recognition.  Acclaim. And yes, big money.  Their name alone will command hugh salaries.  But is that what they were after.  In our worlds, why do we do what we do?  Why do we put the long hours and extra effort into our work and responsibilities.  Obviously, not just for the  money.  We don’t make the ‘big’ bucks. 

I looked back in God’s Word to understand that motivation and found a disturbing verse.  It comes from Solomon who was best at what he did.  He wrote, "I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy!"  Ecclesiastes 4:4 (LB)

I didn’t enjoy that insight and had to review what drives me or you.  Are we truly just driven by our envy of what others have or enjoy?  Could our efforts be so shallow?

Thankfully, Solomon wasn’t finished with that thought.  In the book of Proverbs, he offers a contrast for this greedy motivation.  He writes, "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life." Proverbs 113:7 (MSG)

There are actors that do their work the best they can irregardless of awards or recognition.  They do what they do because that is what they love to do.  They don’t do it for the hype or the glamour.  They never let the lights go to their head.

We should be much the same.  And we do.  You go through your day to day existence and few but those who know you realize what all you do.  Except God.  He takes great interest in what you do each day and the level of effort you put into it.  In heaven, He will recount all those unseen moments with us with the attention this world cannot give.  What a day that will be!

But for our patient sacrifice, He gives us something now.  He gives us a full life.  He lets us experience all the things that last like love, faith and hope.  He surrounds us with those we care about and gives us the chance to bless their lives.  And that is the greatest satisfaction.  It’s the gift of a clear conscience and an uncomplicated life.  We don’t have to worry about people expecting another Oscar performance.  We don’t have to worry about being labeled a one-time wonder.  We get to go and do this again today and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

So celebrate you rather plain and simple life.  It comes with something better than an Oscar.  It comes with fulfillment.

Michael

To Be or Not to Be

READ Titus 2:11-15

Who is a servant of God? Ask the average church-goer that question, and he will most likely point to his pastor or some Christian celebrity.  He almost certainly will not say,“I am God’s servant.”

The church has a mixed-up idea that believers are separated into servants—that is, individuals in full-time ministry—and lay people. The Bible contains no such distinction; instead, Paul reminds the Ephesians that believers are saved so that they might serve. (Ephesians 2:10)

Service is not an option.  The Lord calls us to be servants so that we can invest our lives in an eternally valuable purpose—the salvation and discipleship of mankind for His glory. Our job may be insignificant or our limitations great, but we are vessels of Christ with a role in the kingdom.

This past week I spent time with my 35 year reunion at Johnson Bible College.  It was good to see so many old faces.  And I mean ‘old’ faces.  But they still have the joy for service.  I only regret that one of the dear souls gave me the flu.  I recover as I write. 

There is something special shared between servants of the Lord.  Our faith is alive and active.  Irregardless of its success, we are engaged in the kingdom.  That is worth our gratitude. 

QUOTE

“It is probable that in most of us the spiritual life is impoverished and stunted because we give so little place to gratitude. It is more important to thank God for blessings received than to pray for them beforehand. For that forward-looking prayer, though right as an expression of dependence upon God, is still self-centered in part, at least, of its interest; there is something we hope to gain by our prayer. But the backward-looking act of thanksgiving is quite free from this. In itself it is quite selfless. Thus it is akin to love.  All our love to God is in response to his love for us; it never starts on our side.‘We love,
because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19).”                                                        —William Temple

DO SOMETHING TODAY

Make some music.  Either sing in the shower, hum a tune or play a musical instrument but make some music today.  It’s not only good for the soul but it makes the day go a little bit easier.  If nothing else, listen to some good music.  But make some music.

"Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps and cymbals."  I Chronicles 15:16

P.S. Take care in this weather.  A false step can hurt you in more ways than one.

When You Love Too Much

READ Acts 5:17-42

Today in a nation around the world and here at home, someone was physically assaulted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  Now more than any other time in the history of the church, followers of Jesus are paying for the faith big time.

Imagine receiving a beating as a warning to stop talking about Jesus. Would you quit? Would you go underground, secretly sharing His salvation with others? Or would you do as the disciples did: rejoice that you were considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ sake and then go right back to your public
ministry?

The Lord’s disciples had reached the pinnacle of zealous submission.  These men were not compelled by fear or the hope of reward—they faced shame, physical pain, and death because they loved Christ too
much to stay quiet!  Faith was no longer a matter of possessing the right doctrines but loving Christ so much that they could not deny Him for any reason.

LEARN

  1. People who receive salvation and then sit back, content that their name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life,have missed the point of discipleship.
  2. Salvation is not just for our benefit; the Lord’s grace also positions us to be used for His glory.
  3. He intends to live through us, expressing His life-changing principles so that we can impact others. The only hindrance is the restriction we set on our own usefulness.

Limitations and passionate obedience cannot peacefully coexist.  Life might seem easier if we choose
when to obey God, but we’ll never be satisfied.  Instead, we will always wonder why the Lord does not use us more or bless us better. 

Our dedication may at first be based on the promised reward, which is acceptable because blessing is part of obedience. But as we mature and experience increasingly difficult challenges to our submission,
our devotion also grows until we, too, can rejoice when we suffer for His name.  We understand the high honor of facing this life the way Jesus did.

QUOTE

“God is pleased with no music below so much as with the thanksgiving songs of relieved widows and supported orphans; of rejoicing, comforted, and thankful persons.”     —Jeremy Taylor

DO

Put yourself in the path of resistance today.  Carry your Bible.  Pray before your meals.  Offer to pray for someone who is troubled.  Don’t keep your head low.  Allow yourself to be seen as a follower of Jesus today.

Thanks Anyway

READ Ephesians 5:15-21

Why would God command us to thank Him regardless of the circumstances?  The idea defies human logic.  But then, the Lord rarely binds Himself to man-made rules.  Scriptural principles serve specific purposes in the Christian’s life.

Gratitude keeps us aware of God’s presence, which builds our trust and ultimately strengthens our peace.  We must realize that thankfulness is not based on emotions or a situation’s outcome.  We can be grateful, even during trials, because the Lord has promised to work everything for our good. (Romans 8:28)

That means He has a purpose for every experience,pleasant or difficult. A big problem stacked against our small resources sends us running to Him, thankful He has committed to work it to our benefit.  The believer’s part is to trust God will bring good from trials and to seek to discover His plan, which gives further reason for thanking Him.

LEARN

  1. Understanding His intentions renews our strength for facing difficult trials.
  2. Expressing gratefulness changes our attitude about God, ourselves, and our situations. Most people allow hurt and stress to form a pessimistic mindset, which negatively impacts every facet of their life.
  3. We have God’s Spirit working within us to provide courage a flow of thanksgiving. Ask Him.

QUOTE

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.”   —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DO

Look at one of the problems you are enduring.  Ask yourself what spiritual purpose could possibly come out of this situation.  The spiritual purpose may be for another as well as you.  That is the target you want to keep you eyes upon.  That is the result you want to see achieved. 

When Its Hard to Say Thanks

READ:1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Some verses are easier to memorize than practice. If we could simply remove a word or two from these verses, God’s command would feel doable.  Giving thanks is easy, but giving thanks in everything is a nearly impossible task.

Often gratitude seems our last choice, considering the depth of pain or turmoil we may be enduring. But we have a Comforter who helps us exercise thankfulness in every situation.  The Holy Spirit helps believers to do what God requires, and part of His work involves teaching us a gratitude habit.

Psalm 92:1-2 tells us that since “it is good to give thanks to the Lord,”we ought to “declare God’s loving kindness in the morning, and His faithfulness by night.” In other words, we should regularly
anticipate and recall His provision. But when we are caught in painful circumstances that have no logical reason for thankfulness, our Comforter provides the motivation and words.

LEARN:

  1. Thanksgiving during turmoil takes place neither spontaneously nor apart from another
    spiritual activity—prayer.
  2. This passage links the disciplines of rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving: both praise of God and gratitude to God hinge upon regular communication with God.
  3. A prayerless man cannot remain thankful for long because he is too overwhelmed by his problems.
  4. Talking with God forces problems to recede so they can be replaced by peace.

QUOTE

“We have short memories in magnifying God’s grace. Every blessing that God confers upon us perishes through our carelessness, if we are not prompt and active in giving thanks.”  John Calvin

ACTION

Spend a few minutes meditating during your prayer time.  Ask the Spirit of God to reveal His presence and blessings amid your problems so you can do more than praise Him.  You can understand Him!

P.S. Email someone you know about these devotionals.  Invite them to join you as you follow after Jesus and become more like Him.

Passion

READ: Philippians 3:3-12

In today’s world, “passion” usually refers to sensuality or sexuality.But the word’s meaning—an intense desire toward something or someone—can apply to any area of life, including spirituality. Indeed, the one place passion ought to appear is in the believer’s life:

We should fervently seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ who saved us.

When we claim to know someone, we often mean that we’ve accumulated facts about the person or simply are aware of his existence.  Unfortunately, too many Christians “know” Jesus Christ in this superficial way. He is the world’s Savior, the virgin-born Son of God who accepted death in our place and then rose again to sit at the Father’s right hand.Those are the facts,but collecting and sharing data points will not bring lasting satisfaction.

Who is this Jesus that willingly died? Why did He give His life? The quest for these answers begins a journey to intimacy and true knowledge of Christ.

By recognizing Jesus as our Savior, we are blessed with redemption and a basic spiritual relationship. But though we’ve gained heaven, we can miss the treasure of experiencing Christ as Lord now. Few people will delve deep enough into Scripture and spiritual intimacy to claim Him as their life—as the One who makes believers complete. What about you?  Do you feel spiritually complete? The apostle Paul was so intimately acquainted with God that he viewed his own personal history and experiences as not worth comparing to what he had discovered in his walk with Christ.  (In fact, he called it rubbish)

LEARN:

If you want to thirst for Jesus as Paul did, only Scripture and your daily experience with Him can fuel your passion.  Start by opening the Word and drinking Him in.  Then beginning looking for Him in your daily walk.  Have you seen Him today?

QUOTE:

Beloved, it is not our long prayers but our believing God that gets the answer."  John Lake

OBEY: Never decide to do nothing just because you can only do a little.  Do what you can.  It matters especially to God.

"For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have."  2 Corinthians 8:12

This Sunday we address what heaven and resurrection can do for you life now and not just then.  See you Sunday.

A Little More Love

READ: I Corinthians 13

On this special day, I thought it would be appropriate to refer to the love chapter once more. (I Corinthians 13).  The love I am speaking of is God’s love (called agape).Divine love empowers us to respond calmly to difficulties, to demonstrate patience in seasons of waiting, and to sacrifice without
complaint.

LEARN: We offer God’s love when we can:

  1. Forgive others. The son wasted his money in riotous living and discovered both the empty promises and destructive quality of sin. Upon the boy’s return, his father forgave him completely.Love made it possible to wipe away the past. (Psalm 103:12)
  2. Act generously. The son, fresh from feeding pigs, arrived at his father’s estate with few expectations. The forgiving dad greeted him most warmly and dressed him in the finest garments. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It enabled the father to show generosity.
  3. Serve joyfully. What a celebration the father had upon the prodigal’s return! His joy in his lost son’s homecoming overflowed to others.Love expresses itself in willing service.  Restore those who fall. The one who both abandoned his father and squandered his inheritance was again given full rights as a son.

Only God’s love has the power to do this.  When we mess up, our heavenly Father patiently waits for us to turn back. He accepts our repentance, rejoices in our return, and restores intimacy with Him.  The elder brother in this parable missed the point because of his self-righteous attitude.He didn’t recognize his mistakes or the many times his father had shown him love and forgiveness. (1 John 1:8)

QUOTE: "Beloved, it is not our long prayers but our believing God that gets the answer." John Lake

GOOD DEED: Say thank you a little more often.  Especially to those closest to you.  "In everything give thanks."  I Thessalonians 5:18

The Power of Love

Luke 15:11-32

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I thought we would spend a little time on the power of love in our lives. The New Testament uses three Greek words to express love—Eros (physical intimacy),
Philia (friendship), and Agape (the love produced in us by the Holy Spirit).(Galatians 5:22)

Our Father cares for us with agape love. He sacrificed His Son Jesus to bring us into a right
relationship with Him. (1 John 4:10)  We are demonstrating agape love when we:

  1. Respond calmly to difficulties. To the Prodigal Son’s untimely demand for his share of the inheritance, the father didn’t reply with angry words about ungrateful children.  Though the boy’s attitude must have caused pain, the man held his tongue and did not retaliate. In calmness, he could think more clearly and choose to love.(1 Corinthians 13:5)
  2. Sacrifice without complaint. The father, quietly and without complaint, gave the legacy as requested. Although he knew his son was committed to a ruinous course, he directed his efforts towards preserving their relationship. In so doing, he chose the way of love.
  3. Wait patiently. Out of deep affection, the father allowed his son to leave and to stay away.What heartache he must have had; yet he remained hopeful.He waited for the boy to recognize that sin cannot deliver what it has promised.Waiting is feasible only through the power of agape love. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

I didn’t say love would be easy.  It often means we get the short end of the stick.  Your willingness to practice the ‘agape’ love will go a lot farther than flowers or candy.  That’s the power of love.

Quote for the Day: "Faith is needed for the impossible and you dare to act on the Word as though the impossible had become a possibility…a reality."  E.W. Kenyon   Luke 18:27

Good Deed for the Day: Overtip your waitress or waiter for you next breakfast out.  "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."  Proverbs 11:25

PS No Family Hour tonight due to weather.  Watch your step out there!

The Profit of Pain

Read: Psalm 23:5-6

People rarely think of suffering as profitable.  But when facing the difficulty and pain of a valley experience, we mature spiritually.  We make discoveries about ourselves when trials peel away any facade we might typically display and instead expose who we truly are.  As our life is shaken,we learn what forms our faith: the Scriptures or opinion.

Consequently, valley experiences reveal priorities, spiritual crutches, and whether we boast of Christ or
our own strength. God’s purpose is to wrench away everything we depend on until nothing competes with Jesus’ reign.  Crutches and bravado are to be replaced by a real dependence upon God.

Believers are encouraged to recall that He provides for our needs—“prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies”—and heals our wounds—“anoints my head with oil.” (v. 5)  A good shepherd rubbed oil onto the scrapes his sheep received while foraging. In that way, healing began before the animal left the valley floor. As a result of relying on our Shepherd, we experience renewed intimacy and a sense of inner peace that sustains us through the daily challenge and beyond.

Learn:

  1. God’s children can profit from pain only by accepting the Father’s work in the valleys. Fighting or crying for a way out gains us nothing. 
  2. Accepting means asking the Lord two questions:What is Your goal for this time? and How am I to respond?
  3. Whatever the Lord’s response, our next step is submitting ourselves and all we have to Him with the knowledge that our valley is really a gateway to His purpose and our profit.

Today’s Quote:

"There is no limit to the inexhaustible power of God and an ‘atom of faith’ can level a whole range of material mountains."  Howard Carter

Today’s Action:

Compliment someone today.  "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."  Proverbs 25:11

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