Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bach



Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11 HCSB

Where there is devotional music, God is always at hand with His gracious presence.
Johann Sebastian Bach*

Johann Sebastian Bach was a worshiper and a worship leader. Throughout his life and career, he sought the Lord’s guidance as he composed. At the beginning of every composition, he would write J.J. (Jesu Juva – Help me, Jesus) or I.N.J. (In Nomine Jesu - In the name of Jesus). At the bottom of the manuscript, he would write S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone be the glory).

Unfortunately, Bach’s life was full of sorrow. He became an orphan at the age of ten. His first wife died leaving him with four young children. Ten of his offspring died in infancy. Known for his bad temper, he struggled with church and civic government his entire life. Because of cataracts and failed surgery, his latter days were spent in almost total blindness. Through all of these struggles, however, Bach continued to compose music that would help people experience the presence of God.

Lord, refresh us with Your presence today as we worship You in song.

*brainyquote.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fellowship of Joy



What we have seen and heard, we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:3-4 HCSB

Joy is not in things. It is in us. Richard Wagner*

There’s an older man I know who always greets me by saying, “The Christ who lives in me greets the Christ who lives in you.” I once asked him what he meant by his unusual greeting. He told me something like this:

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he limited Himself to living within the confines of one human body. His life exemplified the presence of God. After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, He was no longer limited by His body. Instead, He lives within each of His followers, everywhere, all the time. Therefore, the presence of Christ is constantly working in and through each of us. We are His body and His presence makes our joy complete.”

Lord, thank You for the joy that comes from our fellowship with You and with each other.

*thinkexist.com

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On The Roof



Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me. Psalm 139:7-10 HCSB

“Mrs. Frady!” said our frantic neighbor over the telephone. “Your son John is on your roof!”

My mother quickly ran outside to look. Sure enough, there I was, a two year old, sitting on the roof of our house. Somehow, I had managed to sneak out of her presence, go outside, and climb up a ladder to the roof. Carefully, she climbed up the ladder and carried me down to safety.

As a two year old, I was able to escape my mother’s presence, but we can never escape the presence of the Lord. It doesn’t matter if we’re at work, at church, on vacation, or at home on the roof, He is there with us, offering us guidance, security, and peace.

Lord, thank You for always being with us, wherever we go.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Away In A Manger



Several years ago, I was singing through Away In A Manger one afternoon and thought that the song wasn't finished, so I wrote two more stanzas. I thought that I would share them with you today:

No longer a baby, He grew to a man,
Sent to us from Heaven to fulfill God's plan.
He died on a cross to atone for our sin,
Then rose from the dead to be alive again.

This precious Lord Jesus is all that we need,
If we make Him our Savior and our Lord indeed.
Oh, please, wondrous Jesus, be with us today,
Fill us with Your spirit we now humbly pray.

Merry Christmas!

John

Friday, December 18, 2009

Without Your Presence

“If Your presence does not go,” Moses responded to Him, “don’t make us go up from here.” Exodus 33:15 HCSB

The presence of God is the most real thing we ever encounter. C.S. Lewis*

After the Israelites had sinned against the Lord by worshiping the golden calf that Aaron had formed, Moses set up a tent outside of the camp and called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the Lord would go to the tent. Whenever Moses went to the tent, the people would stand and watch him until he entered. Then, they would all bow in worship as the pillar of cloud symbolizing God’s presence covered the entrance to the tent, for the Lord was speaking to Moses.

Moses, and all of the Israelites, realized that it was impossible for him to even attempt to lead the Israelites without God’s presence to guide him. What an amazing difference it would make in our lives if we would only depend upon the presence and direction of God the way that Moses did.

Lord, help me not to consider any new direction without first being conscious of Your presence in my life.

*Miracles

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Frustrated



Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 HCSB

I was frustrated out of my mind, trying to figure out the will of God. I was doing everything but getting into the presence of God and asking Him to show me. Paul Little*

Kathy and I were married in 1991. We’ve always liked a lot of the same things and enjoy the fact that we know each other very well. But no matter how well we’ve known each other, I’ve discovered that if I want to continue knowing her well that I have to spend quality time with her and take the time to really communicate.

The same is true with our relationship with God. We get so busy trying to serve God based on our prior relationship with Him that we simply forget to get into His presence on a daily basis. Only when we do this can our minds truly be renewed so we can discern His will for our lives.

Lord, when I long to know Your will, draw me closer to You.


*Affirming the Will of God

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joy To The World



Shout to the Lord, all the earth; be jubilant, shout for joy and sing! Psalm 98:4 HCSB

Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, And heav’n and nature sing… Isaac Watts*

Isaac Watts began writing hymn lyrics when he was a teenager. While he was still young, Isaac became an ordained minister. Sadly, Isaac’s hopes to be married were shattered when Elizabeth Singer, to whom he had proposed, responded by saying, “If only I could say that I loved the casket (case) as much as I loved the jewel it contained.” Later, Isaac was forced to resign his position because of health problems. Instead of diving into depression, Isaac set out to write a series of poems bases on the Psalms. As a part of this collection, Isaac wrote the lyrics to Joy to the World! based on Psalm 98. The classic song is still, after 300 hundred years, loved by both the sacred and secular communities alike.

Lord, when all seems lost, help us to worship You with joy as we continue to serve You with all that we have.

*Joy To The World

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Observed



The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 HCSB

I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice. Albert Einstein*

Recently, while driving in Kentucky, I saw a church sign which proclaimed, “Don’t make me come down there! - God.” As I continued to drive, I wondered, “What would it be like if God did come to live down here? How would we treat Him? How would He treat us? Where would He live and what would He do?”

The truth is that God has already done this. He chose to be born as a baby, experience growing pains, go through adolescence, work hard physically, pay taxes, begin His teaching ministry when He was 30 years old, live a totally sinless life, die an excruciating death, then rise from the dead after three days. Isn’t it amazing that He would do that for us? He purposefully became a person, lived among humans, and gave people the chance to behold His glory.

Thank You, Lord, for lowering Yourself to live among us.

*thinkexist.com

Saturday, December 5, 2009

False Testimony



Six things the Lord hates; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19 HCSB

New information has emerged to show the evidence upon which I relied in sentencing Mr. Morales to death, Mr. Samuelson’s testimony, is false. Judge Charles McGrath*

On January 8, 1981, Terri Winchell, a California resident, was murdered. Two years later, Michael Morales was convicted of the crime, based on the testimony of Bruce Samuelson, a jailhouse informant. Samuelson testified that Morales shared with him the details of the murder in Spanish. Judge Charles McGrath and the jury believed that the death penalty was the only suitable punishment.

Two months before Morales was to be executed, Judge McGrath sent a letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking that he grant Morales clemency. Much of the damaging evidence against Morales was based on the testimony of Samuelson, who claimed he conversed with Morales in Spanish, a language that Morales does not speak.

Lord, help us be honest in everything we say.

*Ventura County Star

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Innocent Blood



Six things the Lord hates; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19 HCSB

Power is no blessing in itself, except when it is used to protect the innocent. Jonathan Swift*

The Lord hates hands that shed innocent blood. The sentence itself is sobering for two reasons. First, the Lord hates it. He doesn’t just dislike it or avoid talking about it. He hates it. That in itself demands our attention. Secondly, the term innocent blood brings to mind violent acts such as assassination, murder, and abortion. Certainly most of us are innocent of this, right?

However, the Lord sees the heart of people as well as what they do. He sees those with a murderous and cruel disposition. He sees those who would do harm to the innocent rather than have their own plans frustrated. He sees those whose lives are defined by out and out cruelty.

Lord, help us to never be guilty of shedding innocent blood.

*Gulliver’s Travels

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Lying Tongue



Six things the Lord hates; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19 HCSB

It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place. Henry Louis Mencken*

Do you remember the story of the shepherd boy who cried wolf? Whenever he grew bored while watching the sheep, he would cry out “Wolf! There’s a wolf near the sheep!” The villagers would all come running and he would enjoy watching them scurry around to help. However, one day, a wolf really did come near the sheep and the shepherd boy cried out “Wolf!” for real, but no one believed him.

In this day when so many cry out wolf for their own entertainment, may those of us who are shepherds for our Father never be guilty of similar fabrications.

Lord, help us to have honest lips instead of lying tongues.


*A Little Book in C Major

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Arrogant Eyes



Six things the Lord hates; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19 HCSB

The image of the Lord had been replaced by a mirror. Jorge Luis Borges*

When I was in high school, I was in awe of many Christian musicians. They had a confidence about them that I knew could only come from the Lord. I could see it in their eyes. I wanted to be one of them.

When I first went to college, I was surrounded by an ocean of confident, talented musicians. I realized that their confidence came more from their effort than their devotion to the Lord. I could see it in their eyes. I worked hard to become like them.

Years later, I passed a mirror and didn’t recognize myself. My passion for my own talent had replaced the Lord’s presence in my life. I could see it in my eyes. What had I become?

Lord, help us never replace Your presence with our own arrogance.

*thinkexist.com

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Slow



My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. James 1:19-20 HCSB

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. Benjamin Franklin*

When I read the scripture above, two words stick out to me: “quick” and “slow.” Like many temperamental artists, I enjoy and understand “quick”. I can be quick to hear, which according to James is good, but many times I don’t choose to hear that way. If I am quick to hear, then I’m often swiftly moved away from my own preconceived ideas, which I desperately feel I need to hold on to. I’m an artist! Sometimes my convictions are all that I have, even if they are false. But I’m also sometimes quick to speak and quick to become angry, which is not good. Because I’m sometimes quick to speak, I can offend people. Because I’m sometimes quick to anger, I can get into arguments with others and they usually become angry. I’m not good at “slow” at all, but I’ve got “quick” down.

Lord, help us be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

*thinkexist.com

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Together



Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

Concerts. Eating out. Football. Certain things are much more enjoyable when done with others. Have you ever tried to do a group activity by yourself? If so, was it much fun? Did you want to quit?

God wants you to tell others about Him. He wants you to help them grow in their relationship with Him. But He doesn’t want you do it alone. He wants to join you.

Read Matthew 28:19-20 again.
What did Jesus command His followers to do?
What does this mean to you today?
What promise did Jesus make?
How does this make you feel?
What decisions are you going to make concerning the command and promise that Jesus makes in Matthew 28:19-20?

As Christians, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of people in every nation of the world. But, making disciples is hard work. People often don’t want to hear about how to become a disciple of Jesus. Sometimes, they reject and even harm those who are reaching out to them. However, Jesus also promised that He would be with us always. We may feel inadequate in many ways, especially when it comes to sharing the love of Jesus with another person, but the presence of Jesus, working in and through us, can accomplish more than we could ever imagine.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Attention

Then she said to her husband, “I know that the one who often passes by here is a holy man of God, so let’s make a small room upstairs and put a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp there for him. Whenever he comes, he can stay there.” 2 Kings 4:9-10

Awards. Name recognition. Being in the spotlight. Fame. People think these elements make someone great. But what about the so-called small, insignificant acts of service?

Here’s an example: Where do you live? Who provides you with a place to sleep? Who pays for your meals at home? Are they often recognized by others for what they do for you?

Read 2 Kings 4:9-10 again.
What did the Shunammite woman want to do for Elisha?
Why would this be important?
Do you think many people knew about what she had done?
Can ministry be important even if it is not seen by others?
Who do you know who does acts of service without being recognized?

The Shunammite woman knew that Elisha was a man of God. Whenever he passed by, she fed him. Wanting to do more, she and her husband prepared a guest room for Elisha. Most people did not know about her service to Elisha, but she continued to serve God in this unique way.

What has God called you to do? Is it something that everyone will see you do? Is it something that no one will see you do? God wants us to serve Him by serving others. It doesn’t matter if our service is attention-getting or not.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009




Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
Matthew 9:37-38 HCSB

How would you feel if your teacher gave you a group project to complete on your own? Would you feel overwhelmed? Would you give up? Would you ask the teacher to assign other students to help you?

Read Matthew 9:37-38 again.
How did Jesus feel when He saw the people and why do you think He felt this way?
What did Jesus tell His disciples to do?
How would Jesus feel about our world today?
How should you pray as a result of seeing the world through Jesus’ eyes?

It is obvious from reading this story that Jesus cares about people. Matthew 9:36 shows us that when Jesus saw the crowds, “He felt compassion on them because they were weary and worn out.” Jesus knew the spiritual, physical, and emotional condition of the people in those crowds and this led Him to command His disciples to pray that God would send Christian workers to help them.

Jesus sees and knows the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of today as well. He sees that people are weary and worn out. He knows that they need Christian workers to lead them. He wants you to pray. He wants you to get on your knees and ask God to send the right people into the most desperate places of the world so that they might know Him.

Barzillai



The people must be hungry, exhausted, and thirsty in the desert 2 Samuel 17:29b HCSB

For a minute, imagine that you are very thirsty. Your mouth is dry. It’s hard for you to swallow. All you can think of is water. Now, imagine someone giving you a bottle of water. How do you feel about this person? How do you think he knew that you were thirsty?

In 2 Samuel 17, King David and his men had been traveling through the desert. Even though these men were strong and brave, they were probably tired, hungry, and thirsty.

When Barzillai and his friends learned that King David and his men were in the desert, they decided to help them. They collected beds, food, and water and delivered them to the King. Barzillai and his friends saw a need and decided to take action.

As Christians, we are called to take action when we see needs around us. However, many of us do not see the needs of others because we do not consider the lives of others. We are too focused on other things. We are too focused on ourselves.

What about you? What needs are in your community, your work, your school, or even in your own home? God wants you to be sensitive to the needs around you, whether big or small. So, pay attention to what’s going on. Listen to others. Look around you. Think about how you can help. Then, do something about it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

His Plans



The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Psalm 33:11 HCSB

Hurricanes. Global Financial Crises. Widespread Disease. Divorce. Corrupt Politicians. Immoral Pastors. Sometimes the world seems like it’s out of control. With all of this chaos everywhere, is there any hope for you? Is there anyone you can trust?

Lots of things in life are confusing. Many people you know may turn out to be untrustworthy. But the God who created everything is still in control and He cares about you.

Read Psalm 33:11 again.
What does the word faithfulness mean to you?
What does this passage teach you about the faithfulness of God?
According to verse 11, how long will the counsel of the Lord last?
Do you think God ever gives up on His plans? Why or why not?
Are there areas in your life where you do not fully trust the Lord?

Even when the world feels out of control, you can trust God. He existed before time began and is more powerful than anything in the universe. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He has proven Himself to be faithful. He has great plans for your life. He will always be there for you. He will never let you down. No matter how chaotic life gets, He will not be shaken. His plans will always succeed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vastness



I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him. Ecclesiastes 3:14 HCSB

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? What about the Rocky Mountains? The Atlantic ocean? What was your first response when you saw one of them? How long did your initial excitement last?

People often treat God like the Grand Canyon. The first time they encounter Him, they are amazed and can’t look away from His grandeur. However, after a short time, they often let themselves get distracted and forget to honor Him. Have you ever been guilty of this?

Read Ecclesiastes 3:14 again. Why do you think God wants people to be in awe of Him?
List some awesome things that God has done. How should you respond to Him?
Have you ever let something keep you from being in awe of God? What happened?

God created the heavens and the earth. Everything exists because of Him. Life itself is a gift from Him. You were able to breathe in and out today because of Him. He cares about you and knows the details of your life. In fact, He is working in your life to bring about His plan for your life. He is awesome.

God deserves our worship. He wants us to express our awe of Him. Today, don’t let anything distract you from His greatness. Be in awe of Him. Let Him know how you feel about Him.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Suffering



God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5 HCSB

Have you ever known a good person who suffered terribly for no apparent reason? What happened? Did you pray about it? If so, what did you say?

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why does God allow suffering in the world? Can we trust a God who works this way? In the Bible, Job struggled with these issues. After talking with God, he realized that God does things that people are not capable of understanding.

Read Job 37:5 again. These words were spoken to Job while he was going through a terrible time of suffering where he lost his servants, his animals, and his children. If that wasn’t enough, Job also developed boils over his entire body.
If you were Job, how would you have responded to hearing these things?
What do these verses teach you about God and the way that He does things?
Why is that important for you to understand?

God wants you to trust Him, no matter what happens around you. He has your best interests at heart even when it doesn’t make any sense to you. Sometimes, people think that faith means that you have all the answers to any problem that you could possibly have at any time. That’s not true. Faith means that you trust God and honor Him through every circumstance, even when you don’t understand what He is doing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Course Of My Life



The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors. Psalm 31:15 HCSB

Have you ever really needed help? Have you ever had to run for your life? Have you ever been in the place where you felt as if all would be lost if someone amazing didn’t lend you a hand? Have you ever needed a hero?

Why did David, the writer of this Psalm, need help in verse 15?
What did David say contained the course of his life?
What do these verses teach you about the power of the Lord?
Are you afraid of something? Have you talked to God about it? Why or why not?

David was a man who encountered many enemies. As a shepherd boy, he faced lions and bears. As a young man, he faced Goliath in battle. Later, he faced King Saul who chased him across the country. As an older man, he faced his son Absalom, who tried to steal his kingdom from him. David knew what it was like to have enemies. However, David also understood that God was in control and served Him faithfully through all of his difficulties.

No matter what troubles you may face, you need to remember that God is in control. He is greater than any enemy or any problem that you may encounter. Since the course of your life is in His power, shouldn’t you honor Him with the time He has given you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Challenge



There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven. -Ecclesiastes 3:1 HCSB

You’ve seen it hundreds, perhaps thousands of times: Breaking News. Disaster occurs. Maybe you’ve heard on the news about a hurricane hitting a southern coastal city. Perhaps you’ve read online about a rampant disease in Central Africa. Maybe you overheard your classmates talking about the abortion rate in your own school.

In many ways, the world seems like it’s out of control. Various disasters are happening in nations around the world, in our own country, in your neighborhood or church, and maybe even within your own family. With such chaotic things happening all around us, how can we trust God to protect us?

According to the scripture above, everything that happens has its appointed time. In other words, God knows when and where things are going to happen. No matter what the people of the world may believe, nothing happens without His permission. He knows when disaster is going to strike a village in Southeast Asia. He also knows when disaster will happen to you and your family or friends.

God knows everything and is more powerful than anything. He wants you to follow Him even when you don’t understand what He is doing. God rejoices when you faithfully serve Him through chaotic times.

Are you ready to serve God with passion no matter what is happening around you? Are you up to the challenge?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Whatever



“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 HCSB

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Frank Outlaw*

An impure thought came to the worship leader’s mind. He allows himself to think about it for a few minutes. Over the next few days, he allows himself to dwell on it a little more each day. One day, when his wife is away, he goes online and looks at unwholesome pictures. He feels bad and vows to never do it again, but the next week he does the same thing. After a few months, he begins secretly buying ungodly magazines and videos. After a couple of years, watching isn’t enough. He never meant for it to go this far.

The most grievous sins are often conceived in the mind with no intention of follow through.

Lord, help me to honor You in my thoughts.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Perhaps




“Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
Esther 4:14b HCSB

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Charles Swindoll*

Queen Esther was in an impossible situation. If she didn’t approach the king, the Jewish people would be massacred. If she did approach the king, she could be killed for entering his presence without being summoned. As she struggled with her decision, she received a message from her cousin Mordecai which said, “Perhaps God has placed you where you are for moments like these.” Esther approached the king, was spared by him, and the Jewish people were allowed to defend themselves against sure annihilation.

Have you ever felt like Queen Esther? Disaster is seemingly hitting you from all sides and you feel like screaming, “Lord, why do I have to be here?” During these times, it’s important to remember that God loves you immensely and really does have great plans for your life. Perhaps, He has placed you where you are for unique opportunities disguised as impossible scenarios.

Lord, help me see the challenges that come my way as unique opportunities to serve You.

*thinkexist.com

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Covers




“Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8 HCSB

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.” Michael Leunig*

I once heard longtime Houston inner-city missionary Mildred McWhorter tell about how a little girl was pestering her one day when she was trying to get some work done. As Mildred was working, the little girl would pop up and say, “Mrs. Mildred, I love you.” Frustrated with the child, Mildred responded, “I love you, too. But I’ll love you tomorrow.” After seeing hurt in the child’s eyes, she realized that she needed to love her at full strength. She put down her work, pulled the child into her arms and said, “Oh, Honey. I love you too.”

Have you ever noticed how it’s very easy to get irritated with other people, especially when you’re trying to work on a project? Especially in those times, it’s important for us to remember that we are to keep our love for one another at the highest priority.

Lord, help us always to keep our love for one another at full strength.


*allgreatquotes.com

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Mountains



I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 HCSB

When thro’ the woods and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees; When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze: Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art! Stuart K. Hine*

Recently, I was visiting with an older woman who lived in the mountains. While in her home, I noticed a beautiful wooden plaque which stated, “I will raise mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” Next to it was a second plaque which was much more simple and rough in appearance which stated, “My help comes from the Lord!” Curious, I asked her about the two plaques.

“A young lady made the first one for me,” she replied. “Isn’t it beautiful? Unfortunately, it is incomplete. My help doesn’t come from the mountains, but from the Lord, who made the mountains.”

Lord, our help comes from You and You alone.

*How Great Thou Art, stanza 2

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Good



But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do. Psalm 73:28 HCSB

O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be. Cecil Frances Alexander*

Did you know that God wants to spend time with us? It’s true! In fact, He willingly allows Himself to serve as a refuge for us. He wants to be a place where we can escape the troubles of the world and rest our souls. When we visit Him in His presence, He delights in helping us remove the burdens and cares from our minds so that we can bask in His holiness. There, in the closest place to Heaven that we can be while on earth, we easily remember that He is God and that we belong to Him, our Abba Father.

Lord, today I desperately want to be in Your presence. Let me hide there and get to know You better.

*O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who Stole The Salsa?



One of my first experiences with a mean deacon as a paid church staff person was at a small church I served while I was in college. An unexpected ice storm made driving the interstates dangerous and many Christmas travelers were stranded in our town overnight. Every hotel, meaning the one by the interstate and the one in town, was full. Our church leaders decided to open the church fellowship hall as a shelter. Weary families were thankful to have a place to spend the night and a chance for a hot meal. Little did they know how hot their meal would actually be.
While the church staff, many of the deacons and other various church leaders prepared beds and tried to make the impromptu guests comfortable, Deacon Dan took it upon himself to take care of the cooking.
“Everybody out of the way!” he declared as he made his way into the kitchen. These people need something hot in their bellies!”
Mrs. Edna, one of my choir members and the president of our Women’s Missions Society, shook her head as she watched Deacon Dan go. “Now there goes a man on a mission!” she declared. “We could all learn something from that man.”
A few minutes later, after an ear piercing interlude of banging pots and pans, Deacon Dan yelled from the kitchen, “Who stole the salsa? What’s the world coming to these days? We work for years to get God’s people to tithe and when they finally do we’re able to save a few pennies to buy salsa and then something like this happens. Why would anyone take the church’s salsa?” The other deacons chose wisely not to respond and continued preparing the makeshift beds. Seeing that no one was going to respond to him, I sighed and made my way to the kitchen to help Deacon Dan find the stolen salsa.
“Ha!” he cried as I entered the room. “There’s the culprit! Where’s that salsa? What did you do with it?”
I tried to answer my accuser. “Deacon Dan, I just…”
“Don’t bore me with your confession, Slick,” he interrupted. “Just fork over the stolen goods. I can’t believe you college kids these days. Just waltzing right into a church’s kitchen and stealing God’s gallon of salsa.”
“Deacon Dan, I…”
“You should be very ashamed of yourself, Sneaky Fingers.”
“Deacon Dan, It’s on the counter behind you,” I pointed out.
“What? Where?” he exclaimed as he spun around and grabbed the large container. “I knew that it was around here somewhere.” Then, with no apology or any acknowledgement of his false accusation, he stared me down and asked, “Now, are you ready to watch and learn?”
“Uh, I guess I could…”
“Good,” he exclaimed as he dumped the entire container of salsa into a pot large enough to bathe a small child.
“Wow!” I said. “That’s a really big…”
“Silence!” he exclaimed. “Never interrupt an artist at work or you get sloppy masterpieces.”
So, I watched in horrified silence as he added water, condensed milk, spaghetti noodles, pork-n-beans, kidney beans, tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, and Beanie Weanies to the concoction. He pulled a long wooden spoon from the drawer and with a sinister laugh began to stir his creation.
“Deacon Dan?” I asked timidly. “I’m not familiar with this recipe. Is it going to be a soup or a spaghetti meal of some kind?”
“Yep,” he said as he stirred heartily. “And they’ll like it, too!”
“Are you sure that people will want to eat that?”
He laughed to himself and shook his head. “Son,” he said. “I know that you are just getting started in church work which means that you really don’t know squat, but I’ve been a deacon for 41 years, 5 months, and 9 days.”
“Wow, that’s very…”
“And do you want to know what I’ve learned about people during all that time? Do you want to hear some practical church advice that they don’t teach in that fancy college of yours?”
“Sure, why don’t…”
“Well, I’ll tell you, boy!” he said as he put his arm around my shoulder and drew me close. “People,” he said dramatically, “will eat anything as long as it’s tomato based.”
“That’s what you’ve learned about…”
“That’s right!” he cried as he turned me around and looked me straight in the eye. “Tomato based. Now you just remember that!”
Somehow, I managed to sneak out of the kitchen and away from Deacon Dan. For a half hour or so, I busied myself greeting our visitors and preparing beds until I heard him yell out, “Soups on, everyone!”
To my surprise, every single guest rose from their beds and lined up to eat the tomato based concoction. I expected to hear a loud uproar of complaints from the weary travelers, but instead I heard a chorus of appreciation. By the end of the night, much to the delight of Deacon Dan, the contents of the massive soup pan had all been consumed.
Many years have come and gone since that night and, to be honest, Deacon Dan and his advice have been the furthest things from my mind. However, I thought of him recently as I perused our church food pantry. I found spaghetti sauce, chili, pork-n-beans, tomato soup, and Beanie Weanies. I laughed when I looked for salsa and found that it was missing.
“Deacon Dan was right!” I smiled to myself. “People will eat anything as long as it’s tomato based!”
The night of the ice storm, all I thought of Deacon Dan was that he was a mean old man who wanted to cook gross food and point out how inexperienced I was. Now, as I reflect upon that evening, I remember a funny eccentric deacon who left his family at home over the Christmas holidays to minister in a way that no one else wanted to do. As odd as it may seem, I am honored that he took the time to pass on a bit of his culinary wisdom to me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anniversary



Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. John 12:24 HCSB

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. Ralph Waldo Emerson*

In August of 1959, a young Marine Corps private was married to a pretty country girl in Arkansas. The plan was for them to be married and for her to finish high school in Arkansas while he served his country in California. However, when the time came for him to leave, she couldn’t let him go. With the last of their money, they purchased a second bus ticket and she traveled with him to California with nothing but the clothes she wore. A few months later, he was sent to Okinawa and she returned home to finish school, but they kept their reckless, powerful love for one another.

Recently, the couple above, my parents, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Someone asked them how they were able to stay married for such a long time. Everyone laughed as if it was a joke, but I knew the answer. Everyday, they treated each other as if they were more important than themselves.

Lord, help us die to ourselves everyday.

*thinkexist.com

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Perspiration



There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty.
Proverbs 14:23 HCSB

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration! Thomas Edison*

Once upon a time…

Three brothers lived in a cabin in the woods. Every year, they would cut firewood in autumn so they could stay warm throughout the winter. One year, the oldest brother said, “Brothers, before we cut firewood, we should probably discuss the purpose behind firewood. The next day, the middle brother suggested they listen to a lecture he had prepared on how to find fulfillment cutting firewood. The third day, the youngest brother said they needed to rethink their entire firewood cutting strategy. This went on for weeks and before the brothers knew it, winter arrived.

“Where’s all the firewood?” asked the oldest brother. “We should have a ton of firewood. We understand the purpose. We know how to find fulfillment in the cutting of firewood. We’ve reworked our firewood cutting strategy several times. What’s the deal?”

“Maybe it’s time for us to go cut some firewood,” suggested the youngest brother.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Lord, help us know when to stop talking and start doing.


*thinkexist.com

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Miracle Grumblings



Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them. He kept giving them to the disciples to set before the crowd. Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets of leftover pieces. Luke 9:16-17 HCSB

Head of the Church, inspire us to have in us Thy mind, to humbly wait Thy guidance, Thy joy in serving find. Henry Lyle Lambdin*

When Jesus fed the 5,000, it was a miraculous thing. I can envision the disciples being amazed as Jesus was breaking the bread and the fish because each break multiplied into more bread and fish. However, I have often wondered if the disciples complained about having to serve the food and then pick up the leftovers. I can envision them grumbling, “You would think that if Jesus can multiply this food that He could also make it appear before each person. And what’s the deal with us having to pick up the leftovers? Jesus must have not been very strategic in his miracle food breaking ministry plans!”

Lord, help us to be in awe of Your miracles and not complain about the work involved in experiencing them.

*To Worship, Work, and Witness

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

t-ball



Everyone,

Sorry for the longer entry below, but it's something that I just finished editing from a late night writing rant I had two years ago. I hope it ministers to you.

John

You might not believe it if you saw me now, but I used to be a serious athlete. When I was in second grade, I played t-ball. You know t-ball, don’t you? It’s a form of baseball for children in which the baseball is not pitched, but is rested on a stand called a tee in front of the batter. I wasn’t a very good t-ball player. I was so terrible at batting that often I would strike out. Who strikes out in t-ball? The ball is right there in front of you and you don’t even have to worry about curve balls, slow pitches, or anything. I, however, would often swing at the ball and miss it altogether, even though it was just sitting there on top of the tee, right in front of me.

When I signed up for the t-ball team, I wanted to be the pitcher. Pitchers were cool. They were right in the middle of the action. I imagined myself pitching no hitter games as thousands cheered me on as the next American baseball prodigy. It never occurred to me that t-ball pitchers actually didn’t pitch the ball. I didn’t become the pitcher. My friends told me it was because I threw like a girl. I ended up in left field, which isn’t a very active position in t-ball.

Even though I wasn’t the pitcher, I swore to myself that I would work so hard that my coach, Coach Williams, would eventually admit his coaching mistake and make me the pitcher. I made it to every practice and did everything that Coach Williams told me to do. I ran laps with the other players. I took turns trying to hit the ball at batting practice. I even caught the ball a few times when Coach Williams hit it to left field. Finally, I sat with the other players in the dugout and listened to my first pre-game pep talk. I don’t remember a word that Coach Williams said, but I do remember that he was sure that we would win if we all played our best.

The day of that first game, I was pumped. Just to prove my team spirit, I wore my uniform to school. What I was most proud of was my blue baseball cap with a big “S” on the front. I pulled it so far down on top of my head that you couldn’t even see my eyebrows. All the kids laughed at me but I didn’t care. I wasn’t moving that cap off of my head for anything. I was part of a great t-ball team and I was sure that soon we would be playing in the national t-ball championship. Unfortunately, my teacher soon told me that I had better take it off unless I wanted to run laps to the principal’s office. She kept it for me for the rest of the day just to make sure that I wouldn’t somehow forget and put it back on my head. However, when she placed it on my head at the end of the school day, she whispered in my ear, “Hit a home run for me, John.”

The next time I took off my cap was when I stood on the baseline with my fellow players and listened to a canned rendition of the national anthem. When it was finished, the umpire yelled, “Play ball!” I ran to my position in left field and waited patiently for the first fly ball to come my way. I was in for a long wait.

After a few minutes of zero left field action, I started to grow antsy. The time between batters seemed to last forever and my baseball cap was starting to feel tight around my skull. My determination to be a professional t-ball pitching star waned as it began to sink into my brain that t-ball pitchers don’t actually pitch the ball because the ball is on a tee.

As I stood there in left field, it started to get hot. The announcer took forever announcing each batter from the other team that stood to bat. Some of them hit the ball, but none of them made it out of the infield.

“This sure is taking a long time,” I sighed to myself as I looked around me for some type of diversion that would keep me from my intense boredom. My search didn’t take long for perhaps twenty five feet behind me was a huge oak tree with large limbs that hung near to the ground.

“This is great!” I thought. “There’s a tree out here that I can play on while I’m out here in left field. Nobody ever hits a ball to left field so there’s no reason for anyone to even look out this way. It’s so far that no one will ever notice, especially not Coach Williams. He wears glasses anyway and that must mean that he can’t see very well.” I took one more look at the infield. Everyone there seemed to be moving in slow motion.

So, I threw down my glove, turned quickly, and ran toward the tree. I grabbed a branch with both hands and swung my feet up and wrapped them around another branch. In my mind, I instantly became a prince in a middle ages kingdom fighting for his princess. As I hung from the branch, I cried out, “Don’t be alarmed, my dear Princess Alookabala! I, Prince Johann, will save you from the evil three headed dragon!”

“Frady!” yelled Coach Williams from the infield. “What are you doing? Get the ball!” His voice instantly melted away the kingdom and returned me to left field. I turned just in time to see the ball rolling toward me.

“Frady!” Coach Williams continued. “Get the ball! What are you doing hanging from the tree?”

I dropped from the tree and placed my glove on the ground to stop the ball, but it hit a root and bounced right over my head.

“Behind you!” yelled Coach Williams. “Get the ball!”

I quickly turned and started chasing the ball but tripped on another root and fell to the ground.

“I have to get that ball!” I screamed at myself as I stood and ran in the direction that I thought the ball must have gone.

“Frady, turn around!” Coach Williams yelled. “You’ll find it if you turn around.”

Furiously, I started spinning in circles looking for that stupid ball until I actually fell to the ground from dizziness.

“Frady! Get up! Find the ball!”

“Give it up, kid!” a voice called from the bleachers.

“I’ll never find it,” I said to myself as I momentarily gave up and sat down Indian style facing away from the infield and bleachers.

“Get that kid off the field!” I heard a man yell.

“What’s he doing out there!” screamed a woman.

I was so ashamed. I realized that I had to do something. So I shook off the last of the dizziness and saw that the ball was sitting right in front of me. I jumped to my feet, picked it up and turned to throw the ball, but stopped when I realized that Coach Williams was standing right in front of me.

“What are you doing, Frady?” he asked, towering over me.

I looked up at him and suddenly my mind went blank.

“Answer me!” he commanded.

At first, I thought about telling him about how I was suddenly Prince Johann saving Princess Alookabala from the three headed dragon, but I didn’t think he would understand.

“I, uh, don’t know, Coach.” I answered timidly.

“Well, I know,” he snapped. “We’re in the middle of a very important t-ball game and you’re out here swinging on trees, mumbling to yourself, not even paying attention to what’s going on around you. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, beginning to tear up.

“Well, I know!” he snarled. “Get your glove. You’re going to warm the bench for the rest of the game and maybe the rest of the season.”

The walk to the dugout lasted for an eternity. My teammates on the field glared at me. Adults in the bleachers shook their heads. One of the dads even yelled out, “Williams, you ought to just kick that kid off the team! He was swinging in the trees, for Pete’s sake!”

Another man joined in: “Yeah, Williams! You better at least bench that kid! The other team got three runs because of him!”

When I finally made it to my seat, no one would sit by me. I leaned against the wall behind me and cried hard. I threw down my glove and whispered loudly, “I hate t-ball.”

I played two years of t-ball and then two more years of baseball. I hated almost every minute of it. I did improve a little. I eventually stopped throwing like a girl and never again did I swing on a tree during an actual game.

I don’t know why I continued to play t-ball. I think I was trying to earn respect for myself through improving my sports skills. I never got it. My teammates continued to glare at me, coaches continued to lecture me, and other kid’s parents continued to suggest loudly that I be kicked off of the team. No one, ever, told me that I was a good t-ball or baseball player.

As I look back, I realize that I’ve worked hard all of my life to achieve respect. First, it was sports. I played t-ball and flag football, then I played baseball and football. After that, I tried basketball and soccer. Then, when I realized that sports weren’t for me, I joined the Boy Scouts and earned more badges than anyone else in my den. Next, I threw myself into my school subjects, hoping to find satisfaction. It didn’t come so I began learning the piano and I seriously started singing. Before long came band and drama and school clubs and honor societies and college scholarships. It never stopped. I continued to earn respect for myself so that never again would I be sitting in the dugout listening to someone yelling at me to give it up. Never again did I want to hear my coach or teacher or leader or friend or family member yell out, “Frady! What are you doing? Go get the ball! Why are you hanging in the trees?” I would win their respect by outdoing everybody in everything.

And then I met Jesus Christ. He loved me unconditionally no matter if I excelled at anything. He accepted me whether I played left field or played in the trees. He didn’t care about my abilities. He only cared about me. I thought that was cool and I made Him my Lord and Savior.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t leave it alone. I decided that the best way to “repay” God for loving me unconditionally was to give Him other reasons to love me. I got involved in every church activity that I could find. I sang in the choir. I went on visitation. I wore neon Christian t-shirts to school (it was the 80’s), I sang solos in our church and in other churches, I went on mission trips, I wanted to do it all.

I took what should have been all about Him and made it all about me.

Oh, I thought that what I was doing was all about Him because I was serving Him. I was singing about Him. I was learning about Him. I was visiting for Him. I was wearing t-shirts that portrayed cool things about Him! I was telling people about Him! But, really, deep down, it was all about me. I feel so ashamed as I write that now.

I was like Martha preparing the meal for Jesus. She was working so hard that she wasn’t getting to spend any time with Jesus. I’m sure that as Martha was preparing the meal for the Lord that she was thinking, “O.k. I’ve got to make this meal for Jesus and His disciples. Would He best like my unleavened bread or my fig preserve sandwich spread? I’ll just have to make them both. Then, when Jesus tastes them, He will turn to me and say, ‘Martha, you make the best unleavened bread fig preserves sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. Why don’t you sit on my right side when My kingdom comes?’”

But Jesus didn’t say that to Martha. “The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her.’" (Luke 10:41-42, MSG) Jesus was saying that although active, practical service to God is essential and good, our first and most important task is a love and devotion that expresses itself in worship, prayer, and fellowship with Jesus.

Now that several decades have passed since I was a child, I hear Jesus calling to me from outside of the whirlwind of my own making. He’s asking me, “Why are you so caught up in this game? Where’s the John who forsake his outfield position in order to swing in a tree? That’s who I made you to be. Spend time with me and let me remind you of who you are.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hatred



When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him homage, he was filled with rage. Esther 3:5 HCSB

Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated. Coretta Scott King*

When Haman was honored by King Ahasuerus, the entire royal staff was ordered to bow down before him. Everyone obeyed this ruling except for Mordecai, Esther’s cousin. Haman was so angry about Mordecai’s insolence that he decided to wipe out all of the Jewish people in the entire kingdom. In order to get the king’s permission to kill all of the Jews, Haman deposited 375 tons of silver into the royal treasury. In his hatred, he even had a gallows built in order to hang Mordecai. His plan was secure, however, in the end, Mordecai was honored by the king, the Jews won a great victory over their enemies, and Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built.

Have you ever felt like Haman? Have you ever despised an entire group of people because one person didn’t honor you as you thought he should?

Lord, keep us far from hate and the destruction it brings.

*thinkexist.com

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spacious Place



I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in a spacious place. The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. Psalm 118:5-6a

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the Friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. Mother Teresa*

I was frazzled. I had been working entirely too much and was at the end of my rope emotionally. One day, when I realized that I was being extremely hard to get along with, I looked into the mirror and said, “You need a vacation. You need refreshing. You need to reconnect with your wife. You need to reconnect with God.”

So, my wife Kathy and I packed our bags and flew to Oregon. We spent a week hiking long trails, praying long prayers, driving through beautiful forests, reading good books, finding high waterfalls, watching young deer, discussing life’s issues, walking beautiful beaches, and taking pictures of colorful starfish.

God, thank You for that spacious place.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sometimes



If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.
Daniel 3:17-18 HCSB

Sometimes questions are more important than answers. Nancy Willard*

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar, so he had them thrown into a huge fiery furnace. The Lord intervened and they were saved. In fact, the Bible indicates in Daniel 3:27 that not a hair of their heads was singed.

John the Baptist spoke against King Herod, who threw him into prison. Jesus said of John in Luke 7:28 that among those born of women no one is greater than John. However, Jesus did not intervene and John was later beheaded.

Sometimes God works miracles. Sometimes He allows bad things to happen. Regardless, we are called to serve Him and worship Him with our very lives, no matter what the consequences might be.

Lord, help us to serve you no matter what the consequences.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dirty Work



So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14 HCSB

Janitor. Garbage collector. Plumber. How would our homes, schools, businesses, and churches look and smell if no one ever did these jobs? Sometimes, someone has to do the dirty work.

God wants us to serve others. But what if serving others means lowering ourselves to do something we feel is beneath us?

Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet. A job which was normally done by a servant was done by the Son of God. When He should have been sitting at the head of the table being served, Jesus chose to lower Himself in order to serve His disciples. By doing this, Jesus showed them the importance of self-sacrificing service.

Jesus is our example. He served others, even if it meant lowering Himself. He served His disciples by washing their feet. He served us all by lowering Himself to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He wants us to serve others as well, even if it means lowering ourselves.

Lord, help us be willing to do the dirty work when necessary.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What Can You Do?



In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. She was always doing good works and acts of charity. Acts 9:36 HCSB

What can you do? Can you play the guitar? Can you design websites? Are you good in science? Are you good at making friends?

What do you have? Do you have an ipod? Do you own a car? Do you have extra money? Do you live in a big house?

Who do you know? Do you know someone famous? Do you have interesting friends? Are you a leader? Can you influence others?

What would you give? Would you be willing to give Jesus what you can do, what you have, and who you know in order to reach people for Christ?

Tabitha’s ministry to others was so well known that it was written in the Bible. As a follower of Jesus, God wants you to do good works as well. God has gifted you with an abundance of talents, abilities, possessions, and money. He wants you to use these gifts to serve others and to further the mission of Christ.

Lord, let me serve You with what you have given me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Think



For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7a HCSB

Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5b HCSB

Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak. Probably so we can think twice.
Bill Watterson*

One of my favorite lines from Star Wars takes place when Luke Skywalker tells Han Solo that if he helps to rescue Princess Leia the reward would be more money than he could imagine. Han Solo quickly remarks, “I don’t know. I can imagine quite a bit.”

Creative people are often like Han Solo. We can imagine quite a bit. We often let our minds roam free in order to begin or continue the creative process. The only problem with this is that sometimes an idle mind left to wander can quickly lead us to sinful actions.

In Matthew 5:27-28, while speaking of lust and adultery, Jesus made the connection between our thoughts and our actions. We are responsible for what we think. When an ungodly thought enters our mind, we must take it captive and make it obedient to Jesus.

Lord, help us think godly thoughts.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hungry



The people must be hungry, exhausted, and thirsty in the desert 2 Samuel 17:29b

For a minute, imagine that you are very thirsty. Your mouth is dry. It’s hard for you to swallow. All you can think of is water. Now, imagine someone giving you a bottle of water. How do you feel about this person? How do you think he knew that you were thirsty?

In today’s scripture passage, King David and his men had been traveling through the desert. Even though these men were strong and brave, they were probably tired, hungry, and thirsty.

When Barzillai and his friends learned that King David and his men were in the desert, they decided to help them. They collected beds, food, and water and delivered them to the King. Barzillai and his friends saw a need and decided to take action.

As Christians, we are called to take action when we see needs around us. However, many of us do not see the needs of others because we do not consider the lives of others. We are too focused on other things. We are too focused on ourselves.

What about you? What needs are in your community, your school, or even in your own home? God wants you to be sensitive to the needs around you, whether big or small. So, pay attention to what’s going on. Listen to others. Look around you. Think about how you can help. Then, do something about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Confusing



The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Psalm 33:11 HCSB

Hurricanes. Global Financial Crises. Widespread Disease. Divorce. Corrupt Politicians. Immoral Pastors. Sometimes the world seems like it’s out of control. With all of this chaos everywhere, is there any hope for you? Is there anyone you can trust?

Lots of things in life are confusing. Many people you know may turn out to be untrustworthy. But the God who created everything is still in control and He cares about you.

Read Psalm 33:10-22. Now read verse 11 again.
What does the word faithfulness mean to you?
What does this passage teach you about the faithfulness of God?
According to verse 11, how long will the counsel of the Lord last?
Do you think God ever gives up on His plans? Why or why not?
Are there areas in your life where you do not fully trust the Lord?

Even when the world feels out of control, you can trust God. He existed before time began and is more powerful than anything in the Universe. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He has proven Himself to be faithful. He has great plans for your life. He will always be there for you. He will never let you down. No matter how chaotic life gets, He will not be shaken. His plans will always succeed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Music Makers



“Chenaniah, the leader of the Levites, was to direct the music because he was skillful.” 1 Chronicles 15:22 HCSB

“We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams, wandering by lone sea-breakers, and sitting by desolate streams, world-losers and world-forsakers, on whom the pale moon gleams: yet we are the movers and shakers of the world forever, it seems.” Arthur O’Shaughnessy*

When the ark of the covenant was brought into Jerusalem, David told the Levites to appoint their relatives as musicians. The singers were to sing joyfully while the harps, cymbals, and lyres played. Seven priests were to go before the ark playing trumpets. A celebration was about to take place. David was going to dance before the Lord. There had to be music. And Chenaniah, who was skillful in music, was selected as the main worship leader.

Chenaniah was the music maker for King David that day. The entrance of the ark just wouldn’t have been the same without him. Today, we are the music makers. We have been selected to lead the people of God in celebration of His new covenant with us. And it wouldn’t be the same without us.

Lord, we will sing for You!

*Ode

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Loving One Another



Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12 HSCB

There have been times in my life when I’ve thought, “Okay, everybody in the world is stupid. I don’t need anyone but God, so I’ll just make sure everything is good between the two of us and then I can just ignore other people altogether.” I’ve pictured myself as some type of wild looking hermit monk who lived in isolation being content to worship God without any contact with other people. Even though I would often like for that to be my reality, it just isn’t God’s plan.

God designed us to love Him and to love one another. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to earth to make a way for us to have an eternal relationship with Him. God wants us to love each other as He loves us. Loving one another means more than simply being nice to each other. It means digging deep into each others lives, being open with each other, exploring the good and the bad parts of one another and then loving each other as Jesus would.

Are you ready to love others as Jesus loves you? If so, pray and ask God to show you someone with whom you need to build a relationship.

God, thank You for loving me so much that You sent Jesus to earth to pay the penalty for my sins. Teach me to love others as much as You love me so that Your love might be perfected in me.

To learn a little more about loving one another, read 1 John 3:16-24.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Course of My Life



The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors. Psalm 31:15 HCSB

Have you ever really needed help? Have you ever had to run for your life? Have you ever been in the place where you felt as if all would be lost if someone amazing didn’t lend you a hand? Have you ever needed a hero?

Read Psalm 31:14-25 and focus on verse 15.
Why did David, the writer of this Psalm, need help in verse 15?
What did David say contained the course of his life?
What do these verses teach you about the power of the Lord?
Are you afraid of something? Have you talked to God about it? Why or why not?

David was a man who encountered many enemies. As a shepherd boy, he faced lions and bears. As a young man, he faced Goliath in battle. Later, he faced King Saul who chased him across the country. As an older man, he faced his son Absalom, who tried to steal his kingdom from him. David knew what it was like to have enemies. However, David also understood that God was in control.

No matter what troubles we may face, we need to remember that God is in control. He is greater than any enemy or any problem that we may encounter. The course of our lives is in His power.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mind Reader



May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 HCSB

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier, and simpler.
Friedrich Nietzche*

Have you ever wondered how life would be different if you were able to hear the thoughts of other people? What would it be like to know the real price of a vehicle in the dealer’s head? How would your life be different if you could read the mind of every teacher who ever asked the class a verbal question? How would your marriage be different if you could read the thoughts of your spouse?

Now let’s put a twist on the above questions.

How would you do business if you knew the other person could hear your thoughts? If your teachers and mentors always knew what you were thinking, would you try to think different thoughts? What type of marriage would you have if your spouse could always read your mind?

God knows what we are thinking all the time. Since that is the case, what type of thoughts should we be thinking?

Lord, have Your way in my thoughts.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

His Ears



I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.
Psalm 18:6 HCSB

When the thunder shakes the mighty hills and trembles ev’ry tree, Then I know a God so great and strong can surely harbor me. Barbara Fowler Gaultney*

Sometimes in life, terrible things happen. Everything seems fine, then suddenly unexpected bills arrive, tires go flat, health problems arise, family members go crazy, and friends turn their back on you. During these times, you may be surrounded by hundreds of people but you constantly feel hopelessly alone. You begin to cry from confusion as you realize that you’ve never quite been in this situation before. Through your tears, you see that there’s no safety net, no personal flotation device, no phone a friend, and no help available. You need a Savior. So, finally, at the end of yourself, you cry out to God for help. Even in His temple, He hears your faint voice calling to Him. He will come and save you.

Lord, thank You for always hearing me.

*My Lord Is Near Me All The Time

Monday, July 6, 2009

Before The Throne



“Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11 HCSB

“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory.” Eliza E. Hewitt*

According to Revelation, there is a throne in heaven. The One who sits on the throne is surrounded by a rainbow that resembles an emerald. Before the throne is a sea of glass and seven fiery torches. Thunder, rumblings, and flashes of lightning all emanate from the throne. Four creatures around the throne never stop proclaiming the holiness of God. Whenever the creatures give praise to the Lord, 24 elders bow before the throne and worship. In total submission, they remove their crowns and present them to God, the One who sits on the throne.

When we get to heaven, we will celebrate the victory! In total submission and without pretense, we will fall down and worship the One who lives forever and ever.

Lord, You are worthy! I worship You.

*When We All Get To Heaven

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sometimes



If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up. Daniel 3:17-18 HCSB

Sometimes questions are more important than answers. Nancy Willard*

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar, so he had them thrown into a huge fiery furnace. The Lord intervened and they were saved. In fact, the Bible indicates in Daniel 3:27 that not a hair of their heads was singed.

John the Baptist spoke against King Herod, who threw him into prison. Jesus said of John in Luke 7:28 that among those born of women no one is greater than John. However, Jesus did not intervene and John was later beheaded.

Sometimes God works miracles. Sometimes He allows bad things to happen. Regardless, we are called to serve Him and worship Him with our very lives, no matter what the consequences might be.

Lord, help us to serve you no matter what the consequences.

*thinkexist.com