God’s little encouragements

It is amazing how God manifests Himself to us even in the “little things” of life.   I was dropping my wife off at Walmart for a simple return and not wanting to wade through the crowds decided to drop her off while I waited in the car.  As I jockeyed my vehicle for  a strategic position to pick her up upon her exit, I parked the car exactly where Cindy would be parked.  I didn’t know Cindy was parked there but she was.

Who is Cindy?  She is a wonderful Christian woman and Mom I’d met in Walmart some time back. I’d admired her children and how well she and her husband have disciplined them as they were so well behaved. I chatted with her and them and once in while God crosses our paths.  Cindy and her family (though we do not know each other very well yet – one day we shall all enjoy eternity together and get to know each other much better) are a wonderful encouragement to me.  She may not have realized it as we briefly chatted today, but she told me she still read these blogs. That was personally encouraging and God used her !

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Note the word “consider” as the passage begins.   There must be a mental/spiritual decision to encourage someone. The real key in this (since so many dwell on themselves and don’t give much thought to uplifting others) is one’s daily walk with Christ.  He is the driving force for us to be genuine encouragers and to think how we could minister to someone. Left to ourselves we’ll fixate on us, but when we give our heart to Him we become more considerate, more loving, more caring !

People are going though a lot at times. All kinds of trials weigh us down, but a simple word may pick someone up and then God has used you and manifested Himself to them through YOU !  Cindy is a blessing to me, I can tell from knowing her just briefly she takes her role as a Mom, a wife, a Christian very seriously and works hard at them. Thanks again Cindy, God is well pleased with your encouraging nature !!  And anyone else reading out there, tap into Christ today and let Him encourage you through His Word and in turn you will look to encourage others too !!!

What’s in YOUR attic?

Not long ago I did a real nasty job for my daughter and her husband. I cleaned their attic of bat waste !  Before and during the time they’d owned this home bats had infiltrated their attic and obviously “made themselves to home”.  So I volunteered to rid  the attic of their putrid excrement and I must say it was not the most pleasurable of tasks I’ve ever done !     Nonetheless even in this there is a spiritual lesson !!

Throughout the course of your day your mind is subjected to all kinds of filth. Some you are faced with immediately and through no fault of your own and then you have a quick decision to make, do you dwell on it or not?  For example, you can be driving down the highway and see a filthy billboard, do you allow the image to stir up evil passions in you or do you look away?  The same could be true while watching TV or surfing the internet.  Or how about, someone gossips, do you join in or refrain?   Or you see or think of someone who has been hurtful to you in some way, do you take the high road or do you wish them evil in your mind or think bitter thoughts?

Yes, our minds can be an “attic” to collect all kinds of repugnant things, and this is key: if we allow our minds to be such receptacles.  However there is a spiritually healthy option, namely, we can make sure we are cleansing our mind routinely.  Paul wrote this, “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom.12:2).

Interesting that in the Greek Paul literally wrote: “STOP being conformed” !  These early believers, just like us, had problems with worldly contaminants too.  But the antidote for real cleansing was and remains the renewal of the mind by letting the Word in the mind and allowing it to be our focus.  This transformation (the Greek word here gives us the English ‘metamorphosis’) takes what’s vile and changes it for the better, to be more like Christ !  So instead of thinking stinky thoughts we contemplate more wholesome ones.  Never underestimate the cleansing power of reading your Bible regularly.   If you have gotten away from that, start today a commitment to the Lord to read it for at least the next three weeks each day and watch how better you think and act !   Clean up”the attic” and the rest of the “house” will be WELL !!

Your church – be there or be square !!

This February has been a vivid reminder that Al Gore and all the global warming crazies are dead wrong !  Cold temperatures, busted pipes  – yes its winter ! We have had to cancel church due to the weather more times this month than any other month since the founding of our church !!   And I have to admit, I miss it.  Not only do I miss preaching and teaching the Word but I miss seeing our folks each service.  It’s been a great lesson that we should never take for granted the blessing of being able to be a part of a Bible believing and teaching church.

What if you had no good church to attend anymore? If it wasn’t the weather that was the reason but something else more permanent. Perhaps a lack of freedom that shut down all such churches, or persecution that made the availability of a church out of the question. Not too many years ago I was privileged to meet a Russian couple who had come to America but lived and worshipped in the former Soviet Union when worshipping as a Christian could mean certain death. They told me of their “underground church” there and how much they were now enjoying our religious freedom here.

Since the founding of the first church in Acts 2 about two millenia ago now not all believers have had the freedom or regularity to worship as we do.   So don’t think it couldn’t be a reality in your future.  Never ever take it for granted, Never ever waste the opportunity God gives to you to be at your church when those doors are open  for one day it could be over.  Ineffective, unpatriotic, and anti-christ type leaders now have emboldened the enemies of the Lord and those who regularly worship in good churches fear that we may lose what we have enjoyed.   Zealous Islamists, for example, will not rest until all ‘infidels’ either convert or are killed.   But one day the reality is they will be the ones bowing to Jesus Christ just as Paul wrote to the Philippians,  “at the name of Jesus EVERY knee shall bow” (2:10).

So what does this all mean for you?  If you have been serious about your church, remain so and encourage others by your example to do the same, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”   Make the Lord’s program for this era (the local church) a high priority and model that to your family and friends.  If you have been slack, repent and dedicate yourself to supporting your local church. Join, serve, tithe, encourage one another because doing so will propagate the faith, send the enemy packing and shine a bright light to all around that Jesus is alive and well in YOU !

Speak up or Shut up

Every once in a while I enjoy watching the show Bizarre Foods.  The host goes to various countries and cultures and samples the differing types of foods people enjoy and some indeed are bizarre !  But one thing I especially enjoy is seeing how people live all over our planet.   One particular episode got me thinking recently though. The host is always very gracious and careful not to offend in any way (even if it means sampling something even he is wary of) and he was visiting an African country and a custom was highlighted that even he was squirming about and you could tell he was in disagreement yet tried as hard as possible to convey that that is their tradition and so one must respect it.  That’s what people these days are taught and it comes from the postmodern idea that truth is relative and there really are no absolutes (so they claim, yet the statement itself is an absolute !!).

It used to be that missionaries would go to a foreign land and not only speak the gospel to the natives but would also teach them basic right from wrong.  They didn’t worry about “offending” if what the natives believed was error for error kills in the end !   They would “Christianize” the peoples while not seeking to change but rather appreciating those things in their culture that were not in conflict with the Word of God.  But here is exactly “the rub”.  We have allowed the postmodern thinkers to influence us to shut up when in fact we should speak up.  We are so worried about offending and  appreciating the difference even if those differences counter truth !  They say truth is what you want it to be so who are you to tell someone who wants to eat another human being they are wrong, its their culture!

Jesus COMMANDED us to go and make disciples (Matt.28:19-20) and this begins with sharing the good news of the gospel, how  that He died and rose again and everyone must admit they are a sinner and ask His forgiveness and to be their Savior or hell will be their destiny.  Then we must not be quiet to speak truth about everyday things.  As we go to work, let your life  bespeak truth in your dealings. Don’t be afraid to counter the culture and speak and live out good ethics.   All in all it’s put up or shut up.  Satan prefers you do the latter because he knows truth is powerful ! But God desires to use you today to speak the truth in love (Eph.4:15). Will you speak up when he gives you opportunity ? If you do you make your slice of this old planet a better place.    We have the TRUTH in the Bible, speak up for it !!

Stressed? Anxious? Here’s a great ANSWER !

Aren’t you thankful as a Christian to have the peace of knowing that whatever may come into your life, you will be just fine ?  Recently my wife and I were chatting with a couple we have been ministering to for years. They are as yet unsaved and they were telling us about a trip they will be taking soon which involves flying over the ocean.  She is VERY anxious about the trip and so she joked that prior to the flight she would be extra “medicated” until she landed !   But we tried to assure her and alleviate her anxiety from a Christian standpoint.

Those feelings of anxiety you face or those you know face can be dealt with properly by faith in the precious promises of God. As Jesus stood with His disciples after His resurrection and commanded them to go into all the world and make disciples He knew their hearts.  It is not a stretch at all to figure they must have had some VERY anxious thoughts for when He told them to take the gospel to Jerusalem, that was the very place He had been crucified !  When He asked them to publish the good news to Samaria, it was these people who had such great animosity for Jews !  And when He finally required they convey the news of salvation to the rest of the world (which was then the Roman empire basically) the Gentiles were not exactly known to be sympathetic either !

But the Lord accompanied in the Matthew account something He often does elsewhere in Scripture when He knew His commands to His disciples caused them a great measure of alarm: He mentioned His presence with them !  Note what He says as recorded in Matt.28:20, “. . . and lo, I AM with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.
Whatever worries, fears, anxieties you may feel about anything (a trip, a person, a trial, etc.) remember and BELIEVE that as a child of God YOU have the abiding presence of God. He IS with YOU !!  He loves you and will NEVER forsake YOU (Dt.31:6).  He promises to be with you through whatever you may find yourself going through, don’t try to handle it alone for that will only increase you stress, rest in His presence !!

How can you help against the cults?

Of real concern of late to many Americans is the scourge of Islam and their terroristic practices.  While such atrocities are not new they seem to be more commonplace.  Why is this? They are now more emboldened due to a weakened response from our leaders and they are simply playing out what their heretical doctrine has taught for years.  When you hear the term ‘extremism’ placed alongside of Muslim its as if the ‘preaching’ from our media wants us to think these are rare instances of those on the fringe of this religion yet the Koran itself advocates the killing of ‘infidels’ (any who would not hold to their religion, Koran 2:191-193).

Their founder was a man centuries ago (600’s A.D.) who when contrasted with Christianity’s Master, Jesus, does not even begin to measure up spiritually !   Mohammed had multiple wives and took a six year old girl named Aisha to be his wife, consummating his marriage with her when she was only nine ! Absoutely disgusting!!   Mohammed was a warring man who took many of his wives from conquered foes.  Jesus never married and lived His life here not in military conquests but teaching, healing, doing good & loving folks !    When Christ was dying on the cross he uttered “Father, FORGIVE them. . . ” Lk.23:34 to those who had desired His death yet when Mohammed lay dying his words were those of bitterness and hatred as he uttered, “May allah curse the Jews and the Christians. . .”    HUGE difference, huh?   And this difference is precisely what TRUE Christianity and TRUE Islam are !!

If you choose to truly follow Christ or Mohammed, you will be marked by love or by hate.   So don’t buy into the rhetoric of those who claim Islam is a religion of peace and love, far far from it !   Only Jesus can rightly make the claim that He is THE way, THE truth and THE life (Jn.14:6).  Recently I spoke with a Muslim young lady and she was so close minded to truth that I felt such pity for her and prayed for her since.  She told me she did not wish to discuss further the truth I was sharing with her. Pray for those brainwashed by Islam’s teachings to come to the TRUE God, share the good news of the gospel, and show the love of Christ to these folks whenever you get the chance !!

A World of Hate

Have you ever thought much about why there are people in this world who crash planes into buildings, behead children, and stifle freedom of speech in the name of their god by  killing journalists? HATE !   It all comes down to hate, the very opposite of God: LOVE !!    These brainwashed sinful pawns of Satan have swallowed the rhetoric of hate rather than heed the good news of God’s love, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16),   “He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8).   It’s pretty clear these religious fanatics are not even close, but are polar opposites to the God of heaven !

The apostle John who was known as the “apostle of love” pinpoints the root problem our government ignores by being so “politically correct” they won’t even label terrorists for what they are. How can you cure cancer unless you properly diagnose it and if you don’t it will grow and eventually kill its victim.  John says haters simply don’t know God !  So by way of application what can you do as a Christian to fight terrorism? You can pray for the people’s of our world, particularly the many Muslims being preached hateful, envy filled sermons. You can pray for missionaries who work on these folks, and if you see Muslims in your own area show Christlikeness to them. I realize that may be a challenge but the grace of God can help you.  And pray for the many believers in Muslim nations to be strong in the Lord and be good witnesses to these unbelievers.

Remember Saul of Tarsus?  He was terrorizing Christians on a grand scale but the Lord got a hold of his heart and he became the greatest missionary our world has ever known  !!  There may be another Saul out there who could become a Paul and YOU may be used of God to bring him or her to their own “Damascus road” encounter with Christ.   A world of hate can change one soul at a time and the key is YOU allowing God to use you today !!   Pray, hand out a tract, flash a smile to a Muslim, be a friend and a witness for the  One Who IS love !!!

Happy Happy New Year

Well its a brand new year !  If the Lord should not come back this year and He gives you another year of life here there are 365 days ahead of you, or 8,760 hours, or 31,536,000 ticks of the clock !  That’s a LOT of time and while its true the older you get the faster it seems to fly by its still a LOT of time AND a lot of opportunities for you to live for the Lord and influence others for Him.

Paul wrote this to us in Ephesians 5:16, “redeeming the TIME because the days are evil.”    He was using a real estate term when he used redeem meaning one should wisely invest or buy up the opportunities around us just as a businessman sees the advantage of acquiring property to pad his holdings.  Time is a precious commodity that only God can give. A rich real estate mogul cannot purchase or manufacture time but the Lord graciously, and I do mean graciously, gives it to YOU.   How ungrateful we would be to treat with contempt a very special gift given to us by a loved one yet when we squander the opportunities He gives us or we don’t spend time reading His Word  aren’t we guilty of the same?

Now I’m not saying you can’t have a little time to unwind or rest, Jesus did and God even instituted a sabbath.  What the verse is saying is time is meant to be used selflessly and FOR Him above all. That is how it is utilized the wisest and when it is it is then invested eternally, for what you do FOR Him will stand and be richly rewarded.  It is ironic how in our country and time we have so many wonderful time saving devices and yet we tend to waste so much time. They save us time but then we turn around and waste what was saved !  This year think about the time you have been given and how  you can use it in even wiser ways FOR His glory and the year will turn out to be a truly happy one !!!

The Wonder of Christmas

Most Americans would certainly say that Christmas is their favorite holiday.  But why is that so?  For many its the time with family, the gifts or all that wonderful Christmas food ! (By the way what’s some of your favorites?).  But for the child of God Christmas should be so wonderful because of the purpose itself.  In Luke 2:10-11, the beloved physician wrote, “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ ”

Christmas happened because God came to save us !  We blew it way back in Eden – man decided wrong, we sinned, we rejected God’s Word and let Him down by not trusting Him and heeding Satan.   And what was God’s response? To reach out to save us !!  Wonder of wonders !!!!  How are we prone to respond when we are rejected? We don’t normally, as humans, reach out to help those who have offended us.  So why does God? The apostle John answers that best: “God is love” (1 Jn.4:8,16).   If you are not SURE you are going to heaven, if you only HOPE you are, then ask the Savior to forgive you for being a sinner and ask Him to save you.  If you have done this and have seen the peace that that brings then show the wonder of Christmas to someone the next time they diss you  and make them wonder !  It may just draw them to He Who makes us all wonder !!  Have a merry Christmas and never get over the wonder of it all !!!

Happy Thanksgiving !

What a great holiday !!  Great time with family, great food, great opportunity  to remember to stop the whining and be grateful for all God has done for us !   For many it will be a great feast, lots of football, and gained weight !   But a verse that has always struck me equally with clarity as well as conviction is  “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess.5:18).     As we come to this holiday consider what the Lord had Paul write here and let it permeate your festivities and thereafter.

It states that we are to be grateful “in everything”.  That is not easy, for not everything that enters our life we see this way, at least initially. It is a daunting imperative and whenever we see these it prompts us to lean on Someone higher than us for the grace and perspective to think so. If a trial comes we’re told to think thankfully. And why shouldn’t we? Aren’t they all temporal? Aren’t they all allowed by the Lord to better us? So, be thankful, even if it’s not what you’d like dealt you today.

To “give thanks” means we deliberately make the conscious choice to render appreciation for what God has given us and tell Him so.  When God hears you utter even the simplest thanks out of a sincere heart it smells better to Him than the best pumpkin pie !    And the “will of God” is often a source of wonderment at times to many  folks but here is crystal clear. Interesting that the command to be thankful is so plainly defined as in His grand purposes for us.  And also interesting that we have to be commanded,  which means its not a “given” for us !!   To be less than thankful is to place yourself outside of God’s explicit purpose in your attitude and actions and to forfeit His special blessings.

Last, “concerning YOU”.  God makes this command to be thankful very personal so we don’t miss the application and shove it off to someone else who we think has it better than us.   We all go through ups and downs and sometimes we’re better or worse off than others yet that doesn’t change the Divine charge here to be a person of Thanksgiving the whole year !   Enjoy this great Christian holiday and let God enjoy you as His child being a person typified by thanks !!