Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Purpose of Pain

"For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Have you considered the purpose of your pain?  It's not for nothing!  This verse makes clear that our difficulties produce, "an immeasurable great glory that will last forever".  Imagine that!  The crisis that you've just come through, or perhaps that you are coming through, is producing glory that you will experience forever. 

James explains it this way, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)  God uses trials to perfect us.  I often say that our painful experiences either makes us better or bitter.  We get to choose how we react to problems.

Today, lets trust God with our issues.  Should you find yourself struggling, remember this verse, and instead of getting grumpy or depressed, begin to give God thanks for the good He is doing in your life.  Don't get bitter! Get better!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Taste Test

"Just as the mouth tastes good food, the ear tests the words it hears." (Job 34:3)

I have been sitting here the past few minutes trying to think of something that I don't eat because it tastes bad to me.  Funny thing is that I cannot think of anything.  There are a lot of things I don't eat because of color, texture, etc.  But taste?  Over the years, I've learned to eat just about anything that is put before me.  Foods that I thought I would not like based on color or texture sometimes turn out to taste pretty good.  I've also adopted the belief that everything tastes good if you put enough butter on it (or Tabasco). 

In the same way, I wonder if I've learned to accept words (and concepts) that I don't necessarily like.  We hear all kinds of things on tv, radio, and in conversation.  Our culture says a concept is good for us and we put a little Tabasco on it and swallow hard. 

Today, let's make an effort to taste the words we hear.  Let's discern what we're hearing and measure it by the Word of God.  Let's test what we hear!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Stretch out!

"He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered." (Mark 3:1)  "He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Get up and come forward!'" (v3)  "He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored." (Mark v5)

In the first five verses of Mark, Jesus restores the withered and dried up hand of a certain man.  All of us, perhaps, have had "dried up" experiences when our lives have withered.  We have withered dreams, withered relationships, and maybe even like this man, withered health.

If you are in a dried up place today, let me suggest you follow Jesus' pattern.

#1--Get Up!  Refuse to stay down.  Start over!  Begin again!  You may have been knocked down but you don't have to stay down. 

#2--Come forward!  Don't stay where you are.  Take a step, no matter how small, in the right direction--the direction of your dreams--the direction that Jesus' leads.

#3--Stretch out your hand!  The man in our story had likely tried a million times to stretch out his hand.  Jesus asked him to do it one more time.  Your failure doesn't need to define you one day longer.  Get up and come forward!  Stretch out! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


"Sing to Him a new song." (Psalm 33:3)

I've found six references to singing a new song in Psalms and two references in Revelation.  That's a total of eight times that the Bible talks about singing a new song to God.  I guess it shouldn't surprise us that a creative God who created the universe with all of it's diversity and complexity would enjoy our creative worship.  I take these verses to mean that God really likes it when you and I start making up songs to sing.  I'm sure He likes the old songs too but there is something special about a unique and creative expression from our heart sung to God.

Let me suggest that you try it today.  While you are out and about, driving or walking, or wherever you may find yourself, sing a prayer to the Father.  It doesn't have to be in tune, or a melodic masterpiece.  Just sing from the heart, the louder the better.  Sing of your love for God.  Sing of His greatness.  Sing thanksgiving or sing the scriptures.  Maybe sing about your needs or sing about the desires of your heart.    Sing a new song--sing your new song!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Newness of Spirit

"But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:6)

God wishes to move us from the discipline of the rigid law to the freedom of the boundless Spirit.  This means we don't just worship on the Sabbath but on every day of the week as the Spirit leads.  We don't just give a tithe but we are quick to share all of our resources as God directs.  Our goal is not to just meet the minimum legal requirement but to graciously give our lives as a living sacrifice.  The disciplines of the faith must cease to be religious rituals and must become natural expressions of our living faith.  In the same way that we breathe without giving it a thought simply because our lungs demand oxygen, we also love, serve, worship, pray, etc. because of the hunger in our souls.  My motivation for eating is not just to nourish my body.  I eat because I get hungry and because I enjoy the taste of food.  In the same way our motivation for the spiritual must move from duty to delight.

My friends, you are released from the duty of religious ritual!  God has provided a new and better way for you to serve God.  Here is a good starting place, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8)  Today, let us love, even if we don't feel like it.  Soon, it will come as naturally as taking a deep breath.

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” --C. S. Lewis

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Kingdom of New

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:18-29)

The "Kingdom of God" is the "Kingdom of New".  The Bible contains a variety of references to how the kingdom is new.  We are new creations experiencing a new birth through newness of spirit.  We have a new song, a new teaching, a new covenant, a new command, and a new life.  We have a new self, a new attitude, and a new way.  The kingdom has a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, and a new day of worship right at the beginning of every new week. 

Today is a new day in which we will experience new adventures.  God has planned an amazing day for each of us.  Even now He is springing forth new things.  He is making new roads through your wilderness and new rivers through your desert.  Don't get too busy and miss the joy that today brings.  Live your life!  It's a gift.

“One of the tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”   --Dale Carnegie

Friday, April 10, 2015


"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This has long been one of my favorite verses from the Bible.  I like it because it's a message of "new".  Christians are to be "new creatures" who are experiencing "new things".  I don't know about you but I'm encouraged by new--new opportunities, new experiences, new life, etc.  Today is a new day and in it each of us will experience God in new ways as He reveals Himself to us.  We will, perhaps, make new friends, develop new skills, and receive new gifts.  The day will absolutely be filled with new.  The only question is to whether we will open our hearts to receive all of the new that God has for us today. 

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” --C.S. Lewis, Mere Chrisitanity

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The 7 Last Words of Christ from the Cross #7

"It is finished!" (John 19:30)

"It is finished" is a shout of victory!  Salvation has been accomplished! Jesus death on the across perfectly fulfilled all that was needed to purchase salvation for all who would look to Christ.

I like what Chuck Swindoll says:

Stop and think: Upon believing in Jesus Christ's substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, the once-lost sinner is instantly, unconditionally, and permanently "declared 100% righteous." Anything less and we are not righteous . . . we're almost righteous. If we are declared 99.9% righteous, some verses of the Bible would have to be rewritten. Like Isaiah 1:18, which might then read: "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'though your sins are as scarlet, they will be light pink.'" Nonsense! The promise of sins forgiven is all or nothing. Eighty percent won't cut it. . . .  When our Lord said "It is finished," He meant "finished."  --Chuck Swindoll

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The 7 Last Words of Christ from the Cross #6

"I am thirsty." (John 19:28)

John's Gospel tells us in verse 28 that Jesus said, "I am thirsty", in order to fulfill the Scripture.  Verse 29 continues, "A jar of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth."  This fulfills Psalm 69:21, "They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."

The message that jumps out at me as I meditate on Psalm 69 is how untrustworthy human beings can be in comparison with the faithfulness of God.  When we look to people to meet our thirst, we are often given a mouth full of vinegar.  Only God can really meet our thirst.  This is a great Psalm for those times when we feel let down by friends and family.  Look to God! He is faithful! He is full of compassion! He is Hope!  "You who seek God, let your heart revive.  For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners." (Psalm 69:32-33)

Are you thirsty today?  Let me suggest a good long drink from Psalm 69.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The 7 Last Words of Christ From the Cross #5

"Woman, behold, your son!" (John 19:26) and "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:27)

When Jesus saw His mother and John standing near the cross, He placed her care in John's hands.  The Bible says that John took Mary into his own home to receive care and provision.  It's of note that as Jesus approaches death, He is concerned with the welfare of his mother.  Jesus is showing us what it means to honor our mother and father even in the final moments of life.  In the midst of the most important and essential mission ever conducted, Jesus doesn't overlook his responsibility to His own mother.

Here a few takeaways that I can see from the text:

#1--Our responsibility to honor parents goes way beyond our childhood.  Just because we are grown, doesn't mean we're beyond the 5th commandment.

#2--Honoring parents is a high priority.  If it's a task that Jesus performs while on the cross, then it's a task we need to make time for regardless of how busy we are.

#3--If we're not honoring our parents, then we aren't honoring God.  He requires it! (See Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:2-3)

My mother is my root, my foundation. She planted the seed that I base my life on, and that is the belief that the ability to achieve starts in your mind.  –Michael Jordan

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The 7 Last Words of Christ from the Cross #4

"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46)

Allow me to make three observations in applying this short verse today.

#1--As Jesus dies on the cross, He offers His life completely unto the Father.  He holds nothing back as He releases His spirit into the Father's care.  Jesus trusts the Father perfectly.

#2--With this statement, Jesus confirms the reality of life beyond death.  There is a Father God with whom our spirit dwells.  The Father can be trusted.

#3--Jesus dies with scripture on His lips.  This  sentence is a direct quote of Psalm 31:5.  I would suggest you take the time to read the entire Psalm sometime today.  It's about trusting God in our time of need.

"Pray, and let God worry."  --Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The 7 Last Words of Christ from the Cross #3

"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

As Jesus was being executed on Mount Calvary, two criminals were also being put to death.  One of them hurled abuse at Jesus, mocking Him.  The other displayed a different action and a different attitude.  He said to the other criminal, "We indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."  He then turned to Jesus and said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" (Luke 23:41-42).  Through this dying criminal's words we see an example that we would do well to follow. 

#1--We see an example of owning our own sin and the consequences that it brings.  The criminal says, "We indeed are suffering justly."  That's a hard sentence to get out of my mouth when I'm in pain.  "I'm suffering justly", "I deserve this", "I'm reaping what I've sown".  It's true!  Often the difficult experiences of life come my way because of my previous actions.  Occasionally, I may suffer innocently, but not as often as I would like to think.  Someone has said, "We reap tomorrow what we have sown today."  If you are reaping pain, frustration, heart-ache, etc., maybe double-check the seeds you have planted in prior days.

#2--We see an example of recognizing the unique holiness of Christ.  The criminal says, "This man has done nothing wrong."  Jesus didn't die for His own sin--He died for my sin!  When I'm suffering the consequences for my stupidity, can I look over and see Jesus suffering with me?  Now this is where it gets real.  I sometimes want to blame God for my pain.  Because I don't enjoy suffering, I have in the past wanted to get upset with God when my plans don't work out well.  Like the criminal I need to say, God has done nothing wrong!  God is holy, perfect, righteous, and He does nothing wrong!

#3--We see an example of faith.  The criminal says, "Remember me when You come into Your kingdom."  Knowing that he will soon be dead, this dying man puts his trust in Jesus.  It's comforting that this man who has no good works to rely upon, no record of church attendance, no prayer life, no Bible study, no baptism, and no sinner's prayer; this man is given access to the kingdom of God through the work and word of Jesus.  We are saved through Jesus--nothing more and nothing less!

My friends, determine to own your sin and its consequences.  Look to Jesus as the Perfect Son of God.  Put your trust in His finished work on the cross.  Paradise awaits . . .