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Friday, April 27, 2007
Have you ever had such a conversation? Interestingly, we often say "can't complain" but then we go ahead and do it! The Israelites were good ones for complaining.
"And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord." (Numbers11:1)
It is so easy for us to forget all the benefits and privileges we have in God. His mercy and grace are unending, and His love is total and unconditional. He knows our every need and desire, and He alone knows and provides what is truly good and best for us. But we often forget that and become impatient when we don't understand what God is doing in our lives.
The next time you hear yourself, like the Israelites, tempted to complain, stop right there and thank God for all He's done in your life so far, and all He will do before He calls you home. He knows you best, and knows what's best. Don't complain - trust Him.
May our lives not be marked by Numbers 11:1, but rather by 1 Timothy 6:6 " But godliness with contentment is great gain." Or even better, Hebrews 13:6 " Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Truly we can't complain when we learn to be content in Him.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Those were the words of the immortal Linus, in a Peanuts comic strip long ago. Do they ring true for you? I suppose there are times in all of our lives when we relate to Linus.
But, God's Word say, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:18
And we learned in a recent study at church that "the fruit of the Spirit is love." (Galatians 5:22)
If we want to be like our Lord, and as Christians that should be our highest desire, then we must practice loving one another. Jesus showed us just how much we should love each other on the cross. Evangelist Billy Graham put it this way, "God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, 'I love you.'"
May I share some thoughts about the love we are to have toward one another?
Such love seeks the welfare of all.
"Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification." Romans 15:2
Such love works no ill to any.
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:8,10
Such love seeks the opportunity to do good to all, especially to Christians.
"As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:10
Such love is the chief test of discipleship.
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." 1 John 3:14
So, the next time you start thinking like Linus, remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love. It's not always easy, but it is ALWAYS what God wants from us - that we love one another.
Monday, April 23, 2007
- Tuesday, April 24 - Ladies Fellowship Bible Coffee
- Tuesday, April 24 - Men's Timothy Club kickoff meeting
- Wednesday, April 25 - Elders / Deacons prayer meeting
As summer gears up and we all start enjoying the weather, don't forget the Lord in it all. You'll be healthier and enjoy the summer more if you remember the importance of spiritual things, and keep God first in your life.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I hope you read often from the book of Proverbs. Have you ever noticed that there are 31 chapters in Proverbs - one for every day of the month? This book is filled with wisdom, and it works out wonderfully to read a chapter every day. As part of your daily Bible reading plan, consider adding a chapter a day from Proverbs.
This morning, as I read today's chapter, I came across the above verse. Some questions came to my mind. How many times, for example, have I thought I knew better than God, and tried to go off on my own and live my life in a way that went against His will? But according to Proverbs, no such plan can succeed against the Lord. His way is best and I should just submit to it, knowing He only wants what's best for me.
And how often do we see the philosophers of this world devising schemes and imaginations that are different from what God says in His word? It can get depressing if we let it, can't it? And yet, nothing this world devises, will stand against the truth of our God.
My friend, may I encourage you this morning to trust in God, even when other plans and imaginations seem (at least for the moment) more logical. His way is the only way.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Do you believe everything the preacher says? Or do you keep him honest by comparing what he says to what you read in your Bible? The Berean Christians did the latter, and scripture commends them for it.
It is so important to understand that preachers, pastors, elders, whatever you want to call them, are simply teachers of the Word of God. Where they follow the Word of God, and are true and honest with it, then we should follow them. Where they go off on their own and preach something other than God's Word, we should not follow them. For our only authority and source of truth is the Bible - God's perfect Word.
So when you listen to your pastor this Sunday (and I hope and pray you will be faithful to that), don't just take everything he says at face value. Keep him honest. Go to the Bible and study what he has taught. Both you and he will benefit from such attention to the Word. You will be stronger in your Christian walk. Your pastor's ministry will be stronger, and your church will be stronger.
And when all that happens, others will be attracted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Notice the very next verse, which tells us what happened in Berea when they chose this approach - Therefore many of them believed. (Acts 17:12)
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Have you ever come across something in your Bible study that you just didn't understand? Maybe it's one of Jesus' hard sayings like "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) Or maybe it's one of those teachings of scripture that just doesn't jive with modern philosophy.
The thing to remember is this - God always knows best. And God always loves best. If He has told you to do something, or given you a principle in the Bible to live by, He knows it is for your good. And whether you understand it or not, you should "trust Him (completely) and lean not unto your own understanding." (Of course, questions also provide opportunity to study your Bible more and increase your understanding, but we'll save that for another devotional.)
Recently, I pulled my motorcycle into a neighbor's driveway. I hopped off and stood next to the bike speaking with my neighbor. His four year old son was enamored with the bike, and was giving every indication that he wanted to get closer. However, I knew that the engine was HOT, and so I warned the little guy of that. "Don't touch... HOT!"
That's a simplistic illustration, I know. But when God tells you something, whether you understand it or not, you can know it is for your good. He knows you. He loves you. He will never lead you the wrong way. The world will lead you down wrong paths, but God won't. Choose to trust Him, and He will direct your paths, always.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Money is an interesting topic in the Bible. Jesus taught a lot about money. Solomon's words of wisdom, recorded for us in the book of Proverbs, often centered on the subject of money. So, this time of year, when our hearts are a little raw about the subject, it might do us good to remember what the Bible teaches about it. God's Word says:
Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Put simply, to give of our money to God, is to honor Him. It is an act of worship. And when we so worship Him, He promises to multiply the gift. Now I'm not saying that if you give $10.00 to God, He promises to give you back a multiplied amount of money. God doesn't always pay us back in kind. But He does pay back. He does bless our gifts.
It is not possible to out give our giving God!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." Matthew 27:39-40
Everyone in John's office knew he was a Christian. In his own quiet way he lived out his faith by means that were evident to all. But when he went through a number of difficulties in life—things his coworkers learned about—he felt like everyone must be thinking, "Where is God now? I thought God promised to take care of you Christians. If your faith is so strong, why isn't God helping you with these problems?"
Sometimes it can be "embarrassing" to be a Christian—embarrassing to our fleshly nature, that is. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He was mocked by the crowds. But as He had done with all the rest of the injustices of His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus embraced what He knew instead of reacting to what His mockers didn't know. When you feel a need to apologize for what God hasn't done, remember all the things He has done.
God's timing and His decisions don't always meet our expectations. But that didn't keep Jesus from trusting Him on the road to Calvary.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
There is so much spam that hits our inboxes these days. Because of that I don't want to post the church email address, or my email address, on this web site for the spammers to get. If you have attended our services, and received one of our church bulletins, then you already know my email address and can simply send a note to that address saying "Add me to the list!" However, if you don't know that email address, just call the church at (330-325-7836), and leave your email address on the voicemail.
And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace. (Luke 20:20-26)
It was the day after the yearly ritual - I had driven to the accountant's office and handed him all my paperwork so he could prepare my tax returns. None of us are very fond of that particular part of life in America. But here I was, the very next day, reading Jesus' comments about paying taxes. Interesting how timely the Word of God is, isn't it? It always speaks right to the need of the moment.
As I read these words I was reminded of two things:
We should be faithful about paying our taxes, and about everything else related to being a responsible citizen of the country. "Render unto Caesar" was how Jesus put it, and He meant, as much as is possible, do your duty as a Roman citizen. Paul would later expand upon this thought in Romans 13, when he taught us to "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." and "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." (Romans 13:1,7) So, if you are a Christian, pay your taxes, and be a good citizen of this great country.
But Jesus also said that we should render "to God the things that are God's." We shouldn't let our responsibility to God get lost in our other responsibilities. It is always there and always paramount - our greatest and highest responsibility. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)
May God help us to be good citizens, but more importantly - to be good Christians.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Jesus' enemies were constantly trying to make Him say something that they could use against Him - a not-uncommon experience for us today. Those around us who do not know the Savior listen to everything we say - will they hear us say something that brings shame on the Lord... something that discredits our faith... something that we wish we had never said? How do we guard against slips of the tongue that others might be bothered by?
Perhaps by ensuring that everything we say conforms to this formula:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
Ensure that the only things you say are GOOD, and that they EDIFY or build others up. That's what Jesus did.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
You remember the story, don't you? If not, you can read about it in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus was in the home of His good friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Martha was concerned about all the trappings associated with being a good hostess. I can picture her fussing about, refreshing the Lord's beverage, ensuring he was comfortable, preparing and cooking and serving the food, cleaning up after her Guest, etc. Meanwhile, she was becoming increasingly frustrated to see her sister ignoring all these important tasks, remaining at Jesus' feet, and listening to His every word. Finally, in frustration, she complained to Jesus about this seeming injustice.
But notice that Jesus didn't rebuke Mary, but rather gave a mild correction to Martha. It was not that she was doing anything wrong, but rather that she had gotten her priorities off just a little. What Jesus had to offer was far more important than anything Martha was doing. And Mary was not being unkind to her sister, or lazy in leaving certain mundane worldly things undone - she was just concentrating on the "one thing that is needful" - Jesus Christ.
Do you find yourself sometimes "careful and troubled about many things" as Martha was? If so, stop. Set some time aside for the things of God. Time spent in prayer and seeking the Lord is never wasted time. Time spent in reading your Bible is never wasted time. All those activities that clamor for your attention will still be there when you're done sitting at Jesus' feet. But you will be closer to Him, healthier, and happier in your Christian walk, when you recognize that "one thing is needful."
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
There are many characters who played a role in the passion week narratives of Christ: Caiaphas and Annas, the priests who oversaw the illegal mock trial of the Savior... soldiers who ridiculed, spit upon, punched in the face, and pulled out the beard of our Savior, and who painstaking created a crown of thorns and pressed it deep into Jesus' forehead... the individual(s) who flogged and scourged Christ. There was Simon, who carried the cross. And the thieves who were crucified next to him. There were the women at the foot of the cross, the centurion who recognized He was the Son of God. And there was Joseph of Arimethea, and Nicodemus, who took down the body of the Lord and placed it in a tomb. So many played a role on that fateful day.
And there was Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate is interesting. He was a tortured man. He locked eyes with the God of the universe, and knew this was no ordinary man. "Where are you from?" he asked. And when he heard that Jesus was on trial for claiming to be the Son of God, the Bible says, "When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid." (John 19:8) His wife turned up the heat on him even further by warning him to "have nothing to do with that just man." She had dreamed a dream, and this just added to Pilate's turmoil. He famously washed his hands in front of the crowd, symbolizing his contention that he was not involved in the death of Christ. Yet he flogged him, and delivered him to be crucified.
I guess the most interesting thing about the Pilate account is his question to Jesus, "What is truth?" It sounds like the same question many ask today, in our age where people think truth is relative and there are no absolutes. Perhaps the fact that Pilate bought into that silly relativistic thinking contributed to his confusion and dilemma. He said "I find no fault" and then had him flogged. He said he was an "innocent man" and then delivered Him to be crucified. Talk about not believing in any absolute truth! I can imagine the relativistic drivel that went through his mind - "Well, to my way of thinking he is innocent, but somebody else might have a different definition of innocence. Who am I to judge their belief system?"
Have you bought into that kind of thinking? Do you believe that there is no absolute truth, or do you believe the Lord Jesus Christ, Who said, "I am THE TRUTH." (John 14:6)
As we consider what happened in Jerusalem during the week leading up to Jesus' death, may Pilate's words be a reminder that there is truth, and it is found in the one Pilate condemned to the cross. It is found in Jesus Christ.