Excuses or Hope

Daily Devotions

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Excuses Have Replaced Hope

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:15  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

I want to tell you a story today. It should move us to consider whether or not we have allowed excuses to replace hope in our lives. How do we know if that’s happening? Because we have stopped witnessing to others about the hope we have in Christ. Here’s the story:

Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven-year-old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts. This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the street with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring down rain. The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, “OK, dad, I’m ready.” His Pastor dad asked, “Ready for what?”

“Dad, it’s time we get our tracts together and go out.” Dad responds, “Son, it’s very cold outside and it’s pouring down rain.” The boy gave his dad a surprised look, asking, “But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?” Dad answered, “Son, I am not going out in this weather.” Despondently, the boy asked, “Dad, can I go? Please?” His father hesitated for a moment and then said, “Son, you can go. Here are the tracts, be careful son.” “Thanks Dad!”

And with that, he was off and out into the rain. This eleven-year-old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met a Gospel Tract. After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his last tract. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand it to, but the streets were totally deserted. Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door. He rang the doorbell, but nobody answered. So he rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer.

Finally, this witnessing trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him. He knew he should ring the doorbell again. This time he also knocked loudly with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch. He rang one more time, and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, “What can I do for you, son?” With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about JESUS and His great LOVE.” With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave.

She called to him as he departed. “Thank you, son! And God Bless You!”

The following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit. As the service began, he asked, “Does anybody have testimony or want to say anything?” Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, “No one in this church knows me. I’ve never been here before. You see, before last Sunday I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live. So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and brokenhearted I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, ‘I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.’

I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more insistent, and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly. I thought to myself again, ‘Who on earth could this be?

Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me.’

I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door. When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes. There on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you!

The words that came from his mouth caused my heart that had long been dead to leap to life as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, ‘Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU.’ Then he gave me this Gospel Tract that I now hold in my hand.”

“As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them anymore.

You see—I am now a Happy Child of the KING. Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say THANK YOU to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in hell.”

There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honor to the King resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated.

He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably. Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love & honor for his son… Except for One. Our Heavenly Father also allowed His Son to go out into a cold and dark world to rescue sinners. And now He has seated Him at His right hand in glory waiting for all those who will by faith become His children.

If you are a child of the King, you have an eternal hope that springs from your heart. No more excuses – go and tell someone about Jesus today. 

Pastor John

Where’s the Hope?

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Where’s the Hope?

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:15  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Standing only four foot six inches tall at his adult height, Alexander Pope was a man of great hope. His short stature was caused by a series of illnesses, not the least of these being a form of tuberculosis that affected his bones and caused severe curvature of the spine. Born in 1688, he lived his entire life in England, and died at the age of 56. He was ridiculed for his physical appearance, and later threatened with death because of his writings. In his later years, he never ventured outside of his house unless accompanied by his Great Dane and two loaded pistols.

Yet when anyone studies English literature, they read Alexander Pope. You may be familiar with one of his most famous writings entitled Essay on Man. It was an essay that proclaimed his faith in an eternal God who was not only the creator, but the controller of all things. His theology may not have been very good in most other aspects of the essay, but in this one thing, he had learned and proclaimed an important truth – God is in control.

Yet his application of that truth was severely lacking in his own philosophy of life. He believed that the only way God’s sovereignty was revealed to people was through their happiness. Happiness justified God’s existence. And because man is not very happy, and his own life certainly wasn’t, he spoke of man’s existence as a constant pursuit of the unattainable. He called that hope. And in his essay he writes:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

How sad this is. To live life believing that we never reach the point of blessing, but are driven by the eternal spring of hope to pursue it. Maybe someday my life will change sufficiently so that I may experience happiness.

Unfortunately, many people – probably most people – live their lives under the same deception that hope is a wish for something better rather than a guarantee of present blessing. That’s because they have not set apart Christ as Lord in their hearts. Happiness is their lord. Wealth is their lord. Fame is their lord. Acceptance by this world is their lord. And unless Christ is Lord, all other lords lead to hopelessness.

Vast numbers of people in the world today believe in nothing more than fate. If they believe in a God at all, it is a God who is disconnected with the human race and has left people to fend for themselves. To most people, the future is in their own hands. God is not in control, and has no final outcome in mind. We the people determine the outcome. These are people without any real hope.

Yet Alexander Pope was on the right path when he said in another essay, A God without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but fate and nature. I only wish there was evidence that he had set apart Christ as the Lord of his life. But there’s no way to change that today.

However, there is something that can be done about our hearts today. I long to know that you have set apart Christ Jesus as Lord of your life. I want you to know the hope that springs eternal in the human breast when man in Christ is fully blest. The soul, content, while confined from home, rests secure in the life to come. It is a hope that is sure. It is the guarantee of the life to come, and that life is the final glory of God.

Spend some quality time right now asking the Holy Spirit to evaluate the status of your heart. Who or what is on the throne of your life. Who or what have you set apart as Lord of your life? What motivates you to activity? What drives you? Is it hope that something better from this world is just around the corner? Or is it certainty that something out of this world is just around the corner? If we as God’s people would set Christ apart as Lord of our lives, our hope would become the conversation piece of our culture. They will want what we have , rather than us wanting what they have, when what we have is true hope.

Pastor John

Conspiracy Theory

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Conspiracy Theories

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:14  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 

Yesterday we in America celebrated the 40th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon. At least that’s what I believe happened. Not so for author and conspiracy theorist Bill Kaysing. He claims, in a self-published book based on only hunches and what he thinks is photographic evidence, that the whole thing was a ruse of NASA to prevent international embarrassment over a failed space program. Kaysing also believes that astronaut Neil Armstrong, who took those first steps on the moon, has hired secret agents to follow his every move to make sure he doesn’t get too close to the truth.

Celebrities have now joined the crusade to convince the American public of the hoax. Yesterday, Whoopie Goldberg announced on ABC’s The View that she believes Kaysing’s theory.

The foundation of most conspiracy theories is this – FEAR! People who succumb to belief in conspiracies have already surrendered to a spirit of fear. For some reason they believe that the government is out to get us and dominate the world through the use of secret spy organizations. While many people may not fall prey to the fear that results in conspiracy theories, many of us love to read books and watch movies that speculate on such things. Why else would Jason Bourne and James Bond be so popular?

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord had this to say – “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary;” (Isaiah 8:11-14)

As we discovered yesterday, Peter is encouraging us to be do-gooders in our culture. We are to focus on how we can help people rather than what’s wrong with our country. Change enough people and the country changes. But those in power will resist such change, because they like the power they have. So in order to keep what they have come to love, they will threaten those whom they perceive as threats to themselves. Peter not only knew this based on his eye witness account of seeing them do it to Jesus, but he also knew that Jesus had prophesied that it would happen to him. (“When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. John 21:18-19).

Yet even though Peter knew he would suffer as a do-gooder, he quoted the prophet Isaiah and said, “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” The Lord is our sanctuary; of what do we have to be afraid?

Every day we are tempted to succumb to the fear-filled news of the world. We get all bent out of shape over health care reform, taxes, bailouts, and terrorists. We sit at the coffee tables of our local restaurants and spend uncountable moments theorizing over how to solve these issues. Yet every day we walk away from those conversations less hopeful than before. Why? Because not once during the conversation did we talk about our faith in Jesus Christ as the Sovereign Ruler of all and our sanctuary from fear. How many unsaved people have been left hopeless because we have chosen to share our fears rather than our faith?

My friends, we live in a day of fear, when what is needed is faith. We live in a day of hopelessness, and what people need is the God of hope. They should see Him in us. He may be your sanctuary in private, but you are not fulfilling your mission for Him until you make it public. I challenge you to make every conversation you have with anyone count for Jesus. Make sure people walk away from their time with you feeling some hope.

In fact, since we’re living in a day of conspiracy theories, let’s talk about this one – Jesus is coming and everyone who has been born again will be raptured out of this world and taken to glory. Meanwhile, the world will fall prey to an Anti-Christ who will end up leading them all to destruction. How’s that for a conversation starter? 

Pastor John

Be a Do-Gooder

Daily Devotions

Monday, July 20, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Be A Do-Gooder

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:13-15  Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

I have a question running through my mind this morning. It deserves some contemplation. It requires an answer. Here’s the query – How does the world know that I’m a follower of Jesus?

The first response that comes to my mind is that they know I’m a Christian because I say that I am. But the people of the world are more discerning than that. For example, no matter how much I told people I was a Viking fan, no one would believe me if  I consistently wore Packers jerseys. The truth is, activity validates claims.

For the third time now in his letter, Peter challenges each one of us to show the validity of our faith through the activity of doing good. And he’s not done telling us to do good. He will say it one more time a couple of verses from now. Let’s review:

  • Peter told all of us to be good citizens of our countries by submitting to the authorities over us, and to do good. When the government is corrupt, the good deeds of God’s people will silence foolish men. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (2:15)
  • He challenged us as employees to do good even when we had bosses who were harsh. But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (2:20)
  • In today’s passage, he encourages us to do good within the context of our everyday lifestyles with people. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (3:13-14)

The Apostle Paul has a similar challenge for us in Galatians 6, where he says, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Unfortunately, many of us have an underlying aversion to doing good. Our very nature – the flesh – is selfish and prideful and has convinced us that we are weak if we do good for anyone other than self. We resent being called a do-gooder. In fact, our own Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines a do-gooder as ``an earnest usually impractical and often naive and ineffectual humanitarian or reformer.” For an excellent article on this, read William Coplin’s Why Do Americans Shun The Label “Do-Gooder?” at http://www.commondreams.org/views/022000-105.htm.

But doing good is what Jesus was all about, and He certainly wasn’t weak. When Peter was in the home of Cornelius, bringing the Good News of Jesus to the Gentiles for the first time, he described Jesus this way –

You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. (Acts 10:37-38)

The validation of God’s presence in the life of Jesus was the activity of doing good. It is the same for us today. We prove the love of God by loving others. We prove the goodness of God by doing good to others. We proclaim the grace of God by showing grace to others. By this the world will know that we are followers of Jesus – because we love one another.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood are the songs that my mom and dad used to sing in church. God uses them to refocus my heart when it is needed. I remember the first cantata I ever heard in our church as a boy, and I remember the song that stuck out to me. It was from John W. Peterson’s “No Greater Love”, and the song was called He Went About Doing Good. Let the lyrics bring you to a point of greater understanding of the Scriptural truth that we are to be like Jesus and be do-gooders.

When our Lord was here, Our Savior dear,

He gladdened each neighborhood;

For the Bible tells, the message spells,

He went about doing good.

 

It was love revealed when the lame He healed,

The blinded ones made to see;

When He raised the dead, the hungry fed,

The demon possessed set free.

 

He went about doing good,

And helping where’er He could;

Our example is He, and like Him we should be,

Who went about doing good.

Follow the example of Jesus, and be a do-gooder.

Pastor John

Wait!

Daily Devotions

Friday, July 10, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Waiting

Scripture Reading:  Jude 1:20-21   But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 

Today’s devotional comes from a faithful reader and a dear friend, Marian Green. She wrote it early in the week, so read all the way to the end to discover the outcome.

Wait! Don’t you just hate that word! Waiting. For whom? For what? For when?

Waiting implies patience. Something many never learn or want to learn. “I want it now!” we say. Yet in Psalms 28:14 it says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.  Check it out. “Wait, be strong, take heart, and wait”.  The Father says, “Be patient, stand firm, be courageous, and wait for Me.”

Last Oct 20th my car was hit by another driver. As any of you who have been in an accident know, it’s not so much the physical injuries that are the most painful; it’s dealing with the Insurance companies afterward.

Thursday July 9th, I have to go to a meeting where a 3rd party will decide if my insurance company must stand by its policy and pay for my medical expenses or if I do. As the day has drawn closer, I have lost more and more sleep and become so stressed that my chest hurts. After rent is paid I have very little to pay the rest of my bills. My church helps with food and gas. There is no room for $10,000 in medical bills. I’ll be in that meeting, through no fault of my own, waiting for someone else to tell me what the next few years of my life are going to be like.

Praying for comfort and calm has seemed to be a losing battle, until this morning. I, again, realized that the Father has already worked everything out. “Wait” He said. “Be strong and take heart and wait for Me.” He continues to have everything in His control! Psalms 27:13 “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” Wait, and be patient.

How many times have we all said, “This is taking too long! I’m going to take control of this situation”. Control, that’s the real problem, isn’t it? We want to be in control, but we wind up making a bigger mess than if we had just left everything to the Father’s timing. Be Strong! Stand Firm! He will come through! Yes, I know it’s hard sometimes, but that is where our faith will grow! Be patient. Wait. It will be worth it.  The Father IS here for us.

Isn’t that good? Great truths, Marian. Now, how did the meeting turn out?

My attorney, Allen, said it went well, whatever that means. We won’t hear a decision for 7-30 days. If we win the arbitration, I have a better chance of winning against the other driver. If we lose…………….well, Allen is not so sure we would win. The good news is that the Father already knows how it is going to work out! At this point, it is all about being strong and waiting!

Thanks, Marian, for sharing your story. I have a couple of areas in my life where I know God is asking me to wait as well. I am determined to be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord!

Pastor John

What’s On Your Face?

Daily Devotions

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Face to Face

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:12   For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 

I have a face that’s easy to read. I know, some of you humorists out there think I should have said I have a face that’s easy to forget. While that may be true, I am told by those closest to me that I do not have a poker face. My true feelings and emotions are easily read by the expression on my face. It is an almost uncontrollable reaction to what I hear and what I see. There are times I wish I could hide it. I’m sure there are times when you wish I would hide it as well – the whole face, that is.

Unless we have become very good actors, or as we learned yesterday, liars, our face is the outlet of the sea of emotions within us. The face responds almost instantaneously to what is going on around us. The expressions of the face are the indicators of what we feel. Those around us, even strangers, can read us as easily as Dick and Jane books.

Yesterday, during a class I was teaching, I was sharing an incredible truth about our salvation in Christ, when I noticed one of the men with a scowl of pain on his face. I thought I had said something wrong, or that he was confused about what I had said. I asked him what was wrong. He said he had bumped his foot on the bottom of the chair and that it really hurt. His face immediately gave away his feelings.

There are several expressions used in Scripture about the face of God. For one, His face shines on those who are righteous (Psalm 67:1). We also know that His face is against those who do evil (Psalm 34:12). In addition, and to our benefit, He hides his face from our sin (Psalm 51:9). And when things aren’t going our way, or moving as quickly as we think they should, we accuse God of turning His face away from us (Psalm 88:14). We are also encouraged to seek the face of God (Psalm 105:4).

While we could make lots of applications of these truths today, let me just ask this one question – What would be the expression on the face of God right now if you stood face to face with Him? Would He have to turn His face because He couldn’t look at your sin? Or would His face be shining with joy at the mere sight of you?

H. G. Wells, while not a real friend of the church, told a helpful story years ago in the New Yorker.  There was a certain pastor who was the kind of man who always said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of voice, was, “Have you prayed about it?” If said in just the right way, it seemed to settle things.

The pastor himself didn’t pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat package that he thought he controlled pretty well. But one day, life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the pastor that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral, went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his hands before the altar and began to pray. He said, “O God,” and before he could say another word, he was dead.

 The next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the pastor sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him over, lines of horror were etched upon his face.  

 What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they saw him face to face.

 Either the face of the Lord is against you, or it is shining upon you and giving you peace. God does not arbitrarily decide to do either one. His facial expressions are a response to you, and His face is easy to read with your spiritual eyes. If you are living in righteousness, surrendered to His will, His face is shining. His eyes are upon you and His ears are listening to you. But if you are living with known and unrepentant sin, His face is against you. His eyes still see what you are doing, but He has closed His ears to your prayers. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:18) The face of God is the mirror that reflects your choices. Just remember, your face also reflects those same choices to us. What does your face tell us today?

Pastor John

Get Real!

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Get Real!

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:10   For,     “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech…” 

I’m back. Only for five days, but I am back. It is getting increasingly difficult to cram everything we want to do with family and friends into one summer. We had a great trip. I really relaxed. I played 54 holes of golf in two days; drove my nephew’s boat for him while he and his son water-skied and rode the tube; did projects around Denise’s mom’s house; played games; and spent time visiting friends and family. Then yesterday, on the way home, we attended the funeral of a 94-year-old friend who was the founder and president of the Midwest Evangelistic Association, a mission work that supports over 350 churches in the tribal regions of the southern Philippines.

Every time I go on a trip, I ask the Lord to show me something I need to learn. There were several things this time, but one stands out above the rest.

Deceitful speech, referred to by Peter in today’s Scripture, is more common than we want to admit. It starts with what we think are simple embellishments of the truth in an effort to improve the story’s impact or gain greater recognition. Fact is, they’re lies!

So how big was that fish you caught, and what was your real golf score without mulligans?

The biggest embellishment of all is when we claim to be one thing, but in our hearts we know we are something else. We do this for a variety of reasons, not the least being that we are attempting to live up to what we perceive as other’s expectations of us. We may be seeking the approval of people. We may be trying to measure up to some standard we are convinced gives us greater value. Whatever the reason, Jesus called it hypocrisy. It is deceitful speech.

When we claim to be followers of Jesus in public, but in private we pursue the gratification of the flesh, we are liars. When we unite with a local church and worship with people so that we may appear spiritual, we are using the church as a means of deceiving others so they won’t see who we really are. When we claim to be in fellowship with God, but we seek to impress others and earn the approval of those living in sin, we are guilty of deceitful speech. When we appear to be looking to connect to others and find intimacy, but don’t include Christ in our fellowship, we are lying to ourselves, to others, and most of all to God about who we really are.

So what is the purpose of Facebook, and how could it be used to share the truth of who you are in Christ?

Lord, forgive us for living deceitful lives that seek to connect to You and the world at the same time. Let our connection to the world be only so that we may connect the people of the world to you. Let every avenue of connection we have (Facebook, etc.) be used to connect others to Christ. Let others see the truth of Jesus in us every day. AMEN!

Pastor John