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Showing posts from August, 2019

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Reminders Of LoveJohn 19:1-7, 16-18
God is love.(1 John 4:8) After the US entered World War II in 1941, Estelle tried to talk her friend Sidney out of joining the Army. But he enlisted and began his training in April of the following year. For the next 3 years he wrote her letters—525 in all. Then in March 1945, she learned that her beloved fiancĂ© had been killed in combat. Although Estelle did eventually marry, the memories of her first love lived in her heart. To honor that love, she published a book of Sidney’s wartime correspondence more than 60 years later. Like those letters, the Lord has left us with reminders of His love—the Scriptures. He says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jer. 31:3). “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). The Bible also tells us that “Christ . . . loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). “[Jesus] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us” (Titus…

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Like A Diamond In The Sky
Psalms 8
You have crowned him with glory and honor.(Psalms 8:5) Astronomers discovered a star in the sky that has cooled and compressed into a giant diamond. The largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found on Earth is the Cullinan Diamond—at over 3,100 carats. So how many carats are in the cosmic diamond?—10 billion trillion trillion carats! In our world, diamonds are prized for their rarity, beauty, and durability, and we often hear it said, “Diamonds are forever.” But God isn’t enamored with diamonds. To Him there is something far more precious. Thousands of years ago, David marveled at the great value God had set on human beings: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:4-5). In fact, God placed such a high value on us that it cost Him dearly to buy our redemption. The purchase price was the precious blood of His S…

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The Power Of LoveZephaniah 3:14-20
The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love.(Zeph 3:17) The documentary film Young@Heart gives a rollicking look at a senior chorus of 24 singers whose average age is 80. Filled with humor and poignant moments, the film includes this remarkable singing group’s deeply moving performance at a New England prison. When the concert concludes, the singers walk into the audience, greeting the surprised prisoners with handshakes and hugs. The inmates’ unexpected amazement at this personal touch reminds me of the book of Zephaniah in which the prophet brings a powerful message of God’s presence and love to His people during a dark time: “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (3:17). According to Bible teacher Henrietta Mears, Zephaniah “begins w…

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“Cast Down” SheepPsalms 23
He restores my soul. (Psalms 23:3) In his classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller gives a striking picture of the care and gentleness of a shepherd. In verse 3 when David says, “He restores my soul,” he uses language every shepherd would understand. Sheep are built in such a way that if they fall over on their side and then onto their back, it is very difficult for them to get up again. They flail their legs in the air, bleat, and cry. After a few hours on their backs, gas begins to collect in their stomachs, the stomach hardens, the air passage is cut off, and the sheep will eventually suffocate. This is referred to as a “cast down” position. When a shepherd restores a cast down sheep, he reassures it, massages its legs to restore circulation, gently turns the sheep over, lifts it up, and holds it so it can regain its equilibrium. What a picture of what God wants to do for us! When we are on our backs, flailing because of guilt, grief, or gr…

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Light As A Feather2 Samuel 6:12-23
A merry heart does good, like medicine. (Pro 17:22) We Christians can sometimes be a joyless lot, preoccupied with maintaining our dignity. That’s an odd attitude, though, since we’re joined to a God who has given us His wonderful gift of joy and laughter. It’s okay to have fun! Each family expresses it in different ways, of course. I’m thankful that our house has been a house of laughter. Water fights, good-natured (albeit stiff) competition, gentle ribbing, and hilarity came easily to us. Laughter has been a gift of God’s goodness that carried us through some of life’s darkest days. The joy of the Lord has often been our refuge (Neh. 8:10). When King David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem from the house of Obed-Edom, he danced “with all his might” before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:14). The Hebrew word has the idea of joyful exuberance and is akin to our expression “kick up your heels.” In fact, in verse 16 it says that David was “leaping and whirli…

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The Importance Of Theology1 Kings 11:4-13
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.(2 Cor 6:14) When looking for a new car, potential buyers look at more than the exterior styling. They check out the inner workings that make it run smoothly and efficiently. When choosing a spouse, however, some are not so careful. They discover too late that a beautiful body is camouflaging a defective mind and soul. Men and women both make this mistake, but author Carolyn Custis James was specifically concerned about men when she wrote: “[A] woman’s interest in theology ought to be the first thing to catch a man’s eye. . . . [Her] theology suddenly matters when a man is facing a crisis and she is the only one around to offer encouragement.” Solomon should have known this. He was, after all, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:12; 4:29-34). But Solomon followed his own desires rather than God’s command and married women whose allegiance was not to God (11:1-2). The results were disastrous.…

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Lament For A Friend2 Samuel 1:11,17-27
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. (2 Samuel 1:26) As a pastor, I was often asked to lead funeral services. Typically, the funeral director would give me a 3 x 5 index card with all the particulars about the deceased so I would be informed about him or her. I never got used to that, however. As practical and necessary as it may have been, it seemed a bit trite to take a person’s earthly sojourn and reduce it to an index card. Life is too big for that. After David received news of Jonathan’s death, he spent time recalling the life of his friend—even writing a lament that others could sing as a way to respect Jonathan (2 Sam. 1:17-27). David recalled his friend’s courage and skill, and he spoke of the grief that caused him to lament deeply. He honored a rich, pleasant, heroic life. For David, it was an intense time of mourning and remembrance. When we grieve for a loved one, it is vital to recall the cheris…

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Tell Your StoryMark 5:1-20
Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you. (Mark 5:19) An organizational consultant in New York says that his graduate students typically recall only 5 percent of the main ideas in a presentation of graphs and charts, while they generally remember half of the stories told in the same presentation. There is a growing consensus among communication experts about the power of the personal touch in relating an experience. While facts and figures often put listeners to sleep, an illustration from real life can motivate them to action. Author Annette Simmons says, “The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity.” Mark 5:1-20 gives the dramatic account of Jesus setting a violent, self-destructive man free from the powerful demons that possessed him. When the restored man begged to stay with Jesus as He traveled, the Lord told him, “?‘Go home to your friends, and tell them wh…

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Just Like DavidPsalms 51:1-12
I acknowledge my transgressions. (Psalms 51:3) The elderly woman didn’t like the way her pastor prayed each Sunday morning, so she told him. It bothered her that before he preached he would confess to God that he had sinned the week before. “Pastor,” she said, “I don’t like to think my pastor sins.” We’d like to believe that our spiritual leaders don’t sin, but reality tells us that no Christian is exempt from the burdens of the sinful nature. Paul told the believers at Colosse to “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5 niv). The problem is that sometimes we don’t do that. We yield to temptation, and we’re left with a mess. But we are not left helpless. We have a pattern to follow for restoration. That pattern comes from the heart and pen of King David, whose sin demonstrated the sad consequences of succumbing to temptation. Look closely at Psalm 51 as David owned up to his sin. First, he flung himself at God’s feet, plead…

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Indestructible!Hebrews 7:11-21
[Christ] has come . . . according to the power of an endless life. (Hebrews 7:16) The space shuttle reenters Earth’s atmosphere at more than 25 times the speed of sound! Friction from wind resistance raises the spacecraft’s outer temperature to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep the shuttle from burning up, 34,000 separate tiles protect its underbelly. These tiles must be virtually indestructible against high-speed friction. In this world of death and decay, nothing is truly indestructible. Yet the Bible tells us of an indestructible life. Comparing the Lord Jesus to the works of the law, we are told, “[Christ] has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16). The Greek word translated “endless” is best rendered “indestructible.” The Messiah is our Great High Priest whose priestly duties required His own sacrificial death for our sins. His resurrection guarantees eternal redemption for all…

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Real RewardsMatthew 5:3-12
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3) I once viewed the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 as a kind of sop Jesus threw to the unfortunates: “Well, since you aren’t rich, and your health is bad, and your face is wet with tears, I’ll toss out a few nice phrases to make you feel better.” Unlike medieval kings who threw coins to the masses, though, Jesus had the advantage of dangling real rewards before His audience. He who came down from heaven knew well that the glories of the kingdom of heaven would easily counterbalance whatever misery we might encounter here on earth. Among many Christians, an emphasis on future rewards has gone out of fashion. My former pastor Bill Leslie used to observe, “As churches grow wealthier and more successful, they’re less likely to sing ‘This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through’ and more likely to intone, ‘This is my Father’s world.’ ” We dare not discount the value of hope in futu…

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I Know I CanEphesians 3:14-21
[God] is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.(Eph 3:20) Remember the story of The Little Engine That Could? That determined little train climbed the steep hill by chanting positively, “I think I can. I think I can.” And then, as it gained more resolve, it declared, “I know I can. I know I can.” No one would disagree that followers of Christ should think and live in a positive way. But do you ever find yourself depending too much on your own abilities rather than on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit? In John 15, Jesus explained our need for complete dependence on Him when He said, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (v.5). Paul reminded us that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]” (Phil. 4:13), that “the excellence of the power [is] of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7), and that we are “strengthened with might thr…

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It’s All About The HeartMatthew 15:7-20
Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.(Matthew 15:18) Every time Susan opens her mouth, it sounds like the blare of an ambulance siren. This TV commercial uses humor to indicate that a dental problem could reveal a more serious physical ailment. So she’d better see her dentist soon! The commercial made me think about what comes out of my mouth when I open it. Jesus said that our words come from our heart (Matt. 15:18). He offended the Pharisees when He said, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (vv.11-12). They thought they were right with God because they followed strict rules, including ritual cleansing of their hands before eating and eating only “clean” foods. Jesus upset their pride. Jesus upsets our pride too. We may think we’re godly people because we go to church regularly or pray, but then we gossip or talk about people behind their backs. James 3:9-10 sa…

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Beware The Rupert2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 12-15
Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.(2 Corinthians 11:14) In the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Europe, an armada of Allied ships assaulted the beaches of Normandy, France. Simultaneously, thousands of airplanes dropped paratroopers into the action. Along with the paratroopers, the Allies also dropped hundreds of rubber dummies behind the enemy lines. Called “Ruperts,” these dummies were intended to simulate an attack to confuse the enemy. As the Ruperts landed, some German outposts were tricked into fighting the “paradummies,” creating a vital crack in the walls of Fortress Europe. We accept that kind of deception as part of a legitimate military operation designed to thwart oppressive forces. What we should not accept is the deception Satan throws our way. Paul explained that the devil “transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), and his servants appear to be people who are promoting righteousness (v.15). W…

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Sing A New SongPsalms 98 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. (Psalms 98:4) At age 94, Pastor Willis was admitted into a care facility. From his wheelchair, he shared with joy how God had given him a new mission field to share the gospel. When he was bedridden a few years later, he spoke with enthusiasm of being in the best possible position to look up to God. When he died at age 100, Pastor Willis left behind a legacy of one who sang a new song of praise at every turn of his earthly life. Psalm 98 exhorts us to sing a new song for God who “has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory” (v.1). We ought to praise Him —even in times of difficulty—for God remembers “His mercy and His faithfulness” (v.3). Though this psalm is about God freeing the Israelites from slavery, it is prophetically also about our salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. And as we remember what God has done for us, we can …

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Royalty RecognizedPhilippians 2:5-11
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, . . . [and] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.(Philippians 2:10-11) As a kid, I loved watching the film Little Lord Fauntleroy. The story focuses on Cedric, a boy growing up in a poor home with his mother in Brooklyn. He discovers the stunning news that he is actually the direct descendant of the Earl of Dorincourt and the heir of a vast fortune. One day he’s a nobody playing “kick the can” on the streets of New York, and then suddenly he’s traveling through an English town to the cries of “Your lordship!” from adoring villagers. If you had seen Jesus playing in the streets of Nazareth as a boy, you wouldn’t have taken any special notice of Him (except that He probably wasn’t playing “kick the can”). If you had seen Him in the carpentry shop, you wouldn’t have had a clue about His deity. And if you had seen Him hanging on the cross, that horrific scene wouldn’t have enticed your heart to …

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Running Every Day1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Run in such a way that you may obtain [the prize]. (1 Cor 9:24) The Pikes Peak Ascent is a challenging mountain foot race, covering 13.32 miles while gaining 7,815 feet in altitude. My good friend Don Wallace ran it 20 times. In his final race, he crossed the finish line one week before his 67th birthday! Instead of training just before a race, Don ran 6 miles a day, year round, with rare exceptions, wherever he happened to be. He’s done that for most of his adult life and continues to this day. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul uses running as a picture of his own discipline as a Christian in the race of life. He ran with purpose and discipline to win an eternal crown, and he encouraged others to do the same: “Run in such a way that you may obtain [the prize]” (v.24). The word temperate in verse 25 carries the meaning of self-control practiced by athletes who train to win the prize. As a consistent habit of life, regular discipline is of far greater value to…

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The Deadliest DiseaseJoshua 7:1,19-26
[Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions, . . . and by His stripes we are healed.(Isaiah 53:5) Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was identified in 2003 in Vietnam. By the time it was brought under control, SARS had spread globally and killed nearly 800 people. One reason for the high mortality rate was that the virus was not recognized initially. But once recognized and understood, SARS was contained. An even more dangerous disease is on the loose in our world—sin. It too is difficult to bring under control because many people do not recognize its deadliness. And many dispute the Bible’s diagnosis of sin. In Joshua 7, we read the tragic story of Achan. We may recoil at the extreme way God dealt with him. Against God’s command, he had taken some of the spoils from Jericho and hid them in his tent (v.21). He and his entire family paid with their lives (v.25). Thankfully, God does not deal with us in that way. If He did, none of us would remain a…

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The Love Of Rules
Romans 13:1-10
Love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)When I teach writing, I explain that it’s generally better to use short words or phrases first in a series, as in “arts and letters” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Early in my career, I explained to authors that it just sounds better this way, but then I discovered a “rule” about this. And I learned that authors are more likely to accept editorial changes when I can point them to a rule than when I just say, “Trust me.” This is typical of human nature. We have a love/hate relationship with rules. We don’t like rules, but we’re unsure how to determine right from wrong without them. God had a relationship with Adam and Eve that was based on loving trust. The only rule necessary was one that protected them from knowledge that would end in death. But when disobedience broke the trusting relationship, God added more rules to protect the wayward couple and their offspring. In Christ, God procla…