On our one-year anniversary of our wedding, we decided that we would go to the nicest restaurant in our town to celebrate. We had never been there before, so we invited another couple to join us. I will never forget the meal. I was trying to be the “loving” husband, so I told my lovely wife of one year to order anything she liked on the menu (we had saved our money for some time for this night). Thinking we were doing a great thing, we ordered a Filet Mignon steak (she order the “queen cut” and I ordered the “king cut”). I could not wait to see our steaks. The husband of the other couple also ordered the “king cut.” His wife (who weighed about eighty-five pounds with every piece of clothing she owned on) ordered the Prime Rib. When the waiter approached our table, my mouth was watering for that HUGE “king-cut” Filet Mignon steak I was going to enjoy. She sat my plate in front of me, and I was in sheer excitement. The others received their Filet Mignon steaks, and we all three sat in wonder as we watched the Prime Rib being served to the skinniest person in our group. I had never seen a Prime Rib before, and I was thinking it was a little piece of meat hanging on a rib … the piece of beef not only covered her plate, but hung over the sides. We all sat with our mouths hanging open in shock!
The Bible uses the illustration of milk and meat to describe what we dine on in the spiritual way. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: For he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
When we first started out in our faith, we were like a baby … all we needed was some simple truths to excite us (the milk of the Word of God). As we grow up and mature in our walk with God, there ought to be a change in our appetite spiritually. We ought to crave that Prime Rib that God has in His Word. It takes more to get a Prime Rib than it does to get a bottle of milk. Be willing to work to find these delicious truths in the Word of God today. Don’t settle for the milk … go for the Prime Rib! I learned my lesson in that restaurant. We returned to that fancy restaurant again for our tenth anniversary … I ordered the Prime Rib! I don’t want any less in my spiritual diet either. I want to study to find the most precious truths in my Bible today! Pull up a chair and enjoy the feast waiting in God’s Word!
If we are not careful, the longer we are a believer, the greater the tendency is for us to become self-righteous. “After all, I’ve been at this a long time … I think I’ve got this “Christianity” thing down pretty well by now.” What a dangerous way of thinking! Now I know that none of us would actually say those words, but our thoughts and actions prove that they are in the heart of many of us “seasoned” believers. Let me give you three verses that will help to shake you out of that comfortable way of spiritual thinking.
“The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: There is none that doeth good. God looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: They are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 53:1-3).
Adam – created in perfection, ate of the fruit of the one tree he was told not to eat from. Noah – built the ark and lived righteously and got drunk and was a disgrace. Abraham – the father of the Jews, lied twice about his wife being his sister … oh, that’s right … that was only a half-lie (she was his half-sister). Jacob – the father of the twelve tribes of Israel stole his brother’s birthright and lied throughout his life. Joseph – a man of character, but was filled with some pride as he revealed his dream to his brothers of them bowing down to him. Moses – led Israel out of captivity, but murdered an Egyptian before doing so. Peter – promised allegiance to Christ, but denied Him.
The above list in no way is meant to take away from what these men did in their life-times; it is simply meant to show you and me that the verses from Psalm 53 are absolutely true! The one who penned the words (David), raped a women and murdered her husband. “There is none that doeth good … Every one of them is gone back … altogether filthy … none that doeth good, no not one.” The sooner we recognize that this describes us, the better chance we have of living a spirit-filled life. You see, when we think we have arrived, in essence we are saying, “There is no God.” What I mean is that our self-righteous attitudes and actions display that we have not humbled ourselves to the point that God is actually elevated to the throne of our lives. When we act as though we have arrived, and all others are some kind of spiritual peons hoping to attain our level of spirituality, we are in trouble. Thank God for sending Jesus! Humble yourself before Him today!
I remember the time I was asked to coach basketball in my first job teaching in a Christian school. I explained that I had never coached basketball before; and they explained that I would be coaching a Jr. High boys’ team and my experience was not that important. When I began, I learned that no one likes to be corrected or criticized. When I would try to point out a mistake that a player made, or something that I wanted them to do differently, the first thing I would hear was an explanation, or a reason why they had done the wrong thing. I developed a saying over the years that I have said often: “Losers make excuses … winners make adjustments.”
Today I read, “The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: But he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility” (Proverbs 15:31-33). Now, we are not playing on a basketball team whose record will most likely not be remembered (I do remember the record of that first team); we are involved in a life, that if successful, will require us to make changes and receive instruction.
I want to be wise … I want to be a winner in this life. Therefore, I must learn to be a good listener and then to make adjustments and changes in my behavior. According to this verse, if I develop a resistance to people trying to help me by giving me constructive criticism, I really hate myself. This verse also says that if I will listen to what others have to say to help me, that I will get wisdom and understanding. I want these things in my life. In order to get them, I am going to need to put my foot on pride and push it out of the picture. That last phrase in these verses says clearly that in order to get the honor that I desire, I must have a humble servant’s attitude. I will be honest … my natural tendency is to offer an excuse first and later to make adjustments. I want to change that in my life today. I want to have a humble heart that God can instruct very easily today. I don’t want to pull out all my excuses for living in opposition to His Word. I want to adjust!
By the way; that first team I mentioned ended up losing only three games all year (all to the same team), and ended up second in our state among Christian schools. We had a group of guys who were humble and willing to listen to instruction. I want to be that kind of winner in what I do today. I want to keep my eyes and ears open to what the Lord wants to teach me today. I hope you do too!
Your choices will determine your direction. Your direction is directly tied to your attitudes. Today you will have a decision to have a good attitude about what you are facing, or to have a bad attitude. Paul encouraged the recipients of the book of Hebrews with these words: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
Notice that there are two choices offered to us in this verse. We can exhort one another on a daily basis, or we can be hardened because of the deceitfulness of sin. The word “exhort” here means to call someone to come to your side. In other words, this is the idea of us standing together as brothers and sisters in Christ. It carries the idea of loving one another unconditionally, and having the courage to stand beside a fellow believer who might be hurting, or struggling through some issue in life.
As I look around today, I notice plenty of people with challenges that are beyond their wisdom or experience. God made us uniquely different so that we will need each other and depend on one another. Just like a sports team, all the members of the team have specific responsibilities that match their strengths. Some are shooters, some are better at assisting. Some are better on offense while others shine on defense. Each member of the team is important, and each has the opportunity to exhort one another during the game for the good the whole. If we choose to try to be the star we run into the second part of this verse.
The advice of the end of the verse is to beware of hardening of the heart. This is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in the life of a believer. God designed us to have emotion and feelings. He wants us to reach out to others that are hurting. Jesus said that people would know that we were believers by our love for each other. When we allow the pressures of this world to overwhelm us, we will tend to try to handle the situations we face on our own; in our own strength. Just as we have witnessed others hardening their hearts throughout the Old Testament, we ought to be warned to guard against that ourselves.
Our reaction to our God will determine whether we have a soft heart, or a hardened heart. The sun that warms the clay that is just under the surface of the water softens that clay. The clay that is on the riverbank is hardened and will crack eventually. The sun did not change, but the reception of that sun makes all the difference. Receive God’s instruction with a warm heart.
Santa Claus and Rudolph and mistletoe and candy canes and tinsel and shopping and … have crowded our attention with the purpose of replacing the real meaning of Christmas. Today I was reading in the book of Hebrews and was reminded again why we celebrate Christmas. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil … Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18).
I hope you take the time to read these verses and don’t just fly right past them. These verses contain the true meaning of Christmas. You and I (flesh and blood) were without hope; separated from a holy God because of our unholiness. God in His great mercy left the absolutely indescribable beauties of Heaven to be made flesh and blood so that He could destroy the eternal death that was awaiting each of us. He took on this human cloak, and wore it for about thirty-three years without sin, so that He could stretch His arms wide on a cross and die for the sins of the entire world. He did all that for you and for me … amazing love … how can it be? According to verse eighteen, He did all that so He could purchase the guarantee of our reconciliation back to a God that demands righteousness.
Now comes the part that totally falls on as our responsibility. Jesus Christ has done all He can to provide this salvation for all mankind; what are you doing to tell them about it? “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him” (Hebrews 2:3). I have heard this verse preached that we need to respond to the Gospel when we hear it; and I agree that we should. However, this verse is speaking to those who are already saved. The meaning behind this verse, and the meaning I hope you and I will carry all through this Christmas season is that we who are saved already … we who know the reality of this salvation … need to be careful that we do not neglect to tell others about it. We have already been given the greatest gift of all, but God still has an extended hand to offer that same gift to “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord.” When was the last time you invited someone to accept His gift of Jesus? When will you tell someone? Today looks like a perfect day to do it!
I remember when I was a little boy having to take some very nasty tasting medicine. I’ve heard horror stories of castor oil (I have a feeling that is the medicine I’m talking about), but I’m not sure if that’s what I was taking. I can only tell you that every taste-bud in my mouth, nose, ears and eyes (I know you don’t have taste-buds in some of those places, but I’m trying to make a point) revolted as that medicine left that spoon and proceeded down my throat. I can still hear my mom telling me that I should take this horrible tasting medicine for my own good.
God has provided some medicine for our lives that tastes much better and I am sure is far superior to whatever medicine that was that I was taking years ago. “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24). God had provided Moses and the children of Israel a road map for success in their lives. He gave us His laws and statutes to help us stay out of the ditches of life, and to stay in the center of His will. All that sounds good to us … until we get nearer the ditch and see something that looks attractive over there. We know better, but for some reason, we are drawn to the ditches.
I love this verse today because it is so true! God gives us a list of guidelines for our lives to be lived successfully. Some may call them “rules,” or “laws,” or some other word that often makes us feel restricted. However, as this verse says, God’s standards are not for restriction, but for freedom! You see, if you step outside God’s standards, you will find a pitfall of life. You will wish you had stayed on the right path. The ends of our choices are often destruction and heartache. The greatest joy and freedom we will ever experience is in the center of the will of God. In the center of the path that God desires us to walk upon. The greatest joy in the life of any person on this earth is to accomplish the things that God desired us to do when He originally designed us. One day a friend of mine invited me to hunt pheasants with him. He told me that he had two “bird-dogs” to help us find the pheasants. I had never hunted with a dog like this before. As we started to walk through the fields, I watched these dogs as they pointed a straight line from the tip of their tail to the tip of their nose … directly where the pheasants were hiding. These dogs were so excited to go with us, because they were doing exactly what God made them to do. Are you following His Word today and being obedient to what you read? You will not find true happiness until you surrender to His Word today. It’s for your own good.
“Just have one drink … it won’t kill you.” “Just try it, everybody else is doing it. All your friends are doing it. It won’t hurt you.” “Nobody sees what you’re doing, go ahead and try it.” The first two set of phrases were actual statements made to me during my formative teenage years of life. The last phrase was what my sin nature has whispered to my soul many times since. Today I read a wonderful story of a group of young men who decided they would not bend to peer pressure, or to that rotten sin-nature within them telling them it’s okay to go against the standards and principles of the Word of God.
One family; the children of Jonadab (son of Rechab), had made a promise to their father that they would not drink wine, or build houses. In this account in Jeremiah 35 we read that someone told them to sit down and enjoy some wine with them. They refused, stating that they had made a commitment to their father not to go against his word. Today we are living in a society that excuses many things that the Bible says we should avoid. Jeremiah was so impressed with the conviction of these young men that he wrote their story in the Bible. Not only was Jeremiah impressed with them, but God also was and is. “And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, ‘Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before Me forever” (Jeremiah 35:18-19).
God is looking for some people who will stand and be counted today. I know that it is tough to do what is right when so many other people are doing what is wrong and making seemingly rational excuses for their behavior. I’m thankful that I was taught Biblical principles to build my life upon and to understand where to take a stand. This world will always try to entice the believer to “step over the line” from what is right to what is just slightly wrong. Please beware of this trick, and be careful where you step! God is still searching for young and older men and women who will not bend to the pressures of the society around us. Will you be one of them, or will you give in to the deception of the world? God’s Word is clear enough about what we should and should not do. God gave the believer the Holy Spirit to witness with our spirit when we are about to do wrong. The ministry of conviction that the Holy Spirit gives to you, while not necessarily enjoyable, is needed every day. Don’t bend … please!
“God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make fat the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalm 46:1-5). When God is in the middle of something, there is no reason to fear. When we keep God in the center of our lives and His will as the driving force in our lives, we will be far more likely to stay on the course He wants for us, and we will have His help along the way. When God is in the center of our dreams for the future the path that we are to take will unfold in front of us with a clarity we cannot miss. When God stays in the center of our lives and our finances are under His control, we will experience the blessing of our needs being met, and having money to use for His causes. When God is in the “midst” of our lives, there is nothing He cannot do for us. He can remove the earth; He can put a mountain in the middle of the sea; and He can shake mountains. The key is for us to keep God in the middle of our lives and plans.
When we move God off the center-place of our lives, we become responsible for the drastic changes that need to be made. When we put our desires above God’s desires for us, and we take the control for our own will for our lives, we will potentially end up in a ship-wreck. When we make our money more important that the simple principle of tithing the Bible gives us, we will face potential financial disaster. Regardless of what you are facing in your life, you will face potential disaster without God in the center of your plans. One leader after the other throughout the history of mankind has tried to take God off His rightful throne in the center of their lives, and to sit on that throne themselves. The result has always been the same. God allows them to be their own source of strength, and disaster follows. For those who have humbled themselves before God, He has always “moved mountains” to benefit them and their righteous cause.
Even when things look toughest, keep your God in the middle of your plans and life. You will not be sorry for doing that. Any other person or thing that replaces Him cannot promise you the power that God brings when He comes to live within you! Don’t trust the temporary things around you in this world for help. Trust your God and keep Him central in your plans!
Of all the relationships we have on this earth, God has the right to expect our whole hearted devotion to Him. After all, He made us … we turned our back on Him … He sent His perfect Son to die in our place, and for our sins … Jesus rose from the dead conquering our sin and death … He gave everything for us … the least we can do is love and obey Him. “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).
Many times when I read this verse, I am thinking about those who completely deny God and shake their finger at Him. The reality is that this verse was written to the children of Israel, the chosen ones of God. This statement of reminder was to this group of people who had His laws; who carried His name; who were responsible to show a world that was polytheistic (believing in multiple and many gods) that there is only One God. This passage was written to a group of people that were supposed to be followers of God. Something happened to them … even though they had the advantage of having His laws, and seeing His hand leading them, and His protection in battle, they still were being drawn into the false teachings of those around them.
Those of us reading this today have had the advantage of holding the entire sixty-six books of the Bible in our hand; written in our language; with study tools and preachers/teachers to explain all its details to us; and yet, we still play around with the philosophies of the world today. We have set up our church services, our music, the way we dress, the attitudes toward sin … on what the “demographics” tell us rather than what God says is right and true. Rather than getting on our knees before God to beg Him for wisdom about how to build our churches, and how to most effectively minister to people, we are raising our finger to feel which way the wind is blowing through surveys, and area studies, and statistics.
God is God … and there is none else! The only One whose opinion really matters is God! It does not matter what my common sense tells me. It does not matter what my neighbor, or politician, or doctor, or teacher, or lawyer, or sports star tells me … what matters is what God is trying to tell me. If God is a jealous God (and He is), am I listening with both ears open and my hands cupped behind each ear to hear every detail? Or, am I so busy listening to the continual chatter of the world trying to influence me that I miss His “still small voice?” Listen to Him today! He is always right!
“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thing heart, that the LORD He is God in Heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: There is none else. Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, forever” (Deuteronomy 4:39-40).
I think God is the only Person that can say, “Because I say so …” and it really is true. I remember when our children were younger and in that stage when they were constantly asking “Why?” about everything. I would do my best to answer all the questions until I realized there was never going to be an end (that mixed with the fact that I did not know the answers), and I would try to cut them short by saying, “Because I say so.” When I said that, it did not necessarily carry the weight of intelligence and experience needed. When God says it, it’s time to stop asking questions.
In the passage written above, I love the phrase that comes at the end of verse thirty-nine. “There is none else.” In other words, when God speaks, we do not need a second opinion … or do we? Why is it that we question the clear teaching of the Word of God? Why is it that when the Bible convicts our soul that we try to find an excuse for our behavior, instead of confessing our sin; repenting of it; and forsaking it? Why is it that when others speak about our God in condescending ways that we allow them to get away with it, without standing up for Him? Why is it that when we have the opportunity to tell someone that God in Heaven reached down to us with His very own Son, that we often balk and miss the opportunities?
Obedience to our God and His Word will result in blessings … not only for you, but for your children and into the future! Why would we not acknowledge our God in everyday life? Why is it that we seem to be far more concerned with what others think about us than we do what God thinks about us? I believe it is time for those of us who are Christians to stand up and begin to serve our God like He is God and there is none else! It’s time to stop playing the game of Christianity and begin to live a Spirit-filled life that will demonstrate to those we meet on a daily basis that God is more than a curse word. I think that it was the same in the days of Moses. God was depending on Israel to stand for Him and let the world see what He could do for a nation that followed Him. Decide to stand for your God today. Don’t allow the world to miss this wonderful God we serve!
Usually when I call one of my friends, the first thing he says to me is something like, “I had not heard from you for so long that I thought you had died.” He’s exaggerating, but I wonder how many times God feels this way with good reason. How many days can we go without spending some time with God alone in prayer? Communication in any relationship is one of the key parts to having success. In school, if you are understanding the teacher and communicating well, you will have a good grade. In business, if you hare open communication and clear exchange of idea’s you will also have success in business. In your family, if you communicate well with your husband / wife, you will have a happy home. If parents and children are able to express their hearts to each other there will be harmony in that home.
Your relationship with God is no different. He said, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). I can almost hear God begging us to spend time with Him. I was reading an interesting book recently, and the thought was proposed in the book that our time alone with God not only benefits us (which it does), but it also is something that God wants from us. Let me explain … Why did God create man? He created Adam for the pleasure of interaction with him. Everything was going great until sin entered the picture. But, before sin came on the scene, God enjoyed the open and honest communication with Adam and Eve. I am sure that when Adam and Eve sinned, it grieved their hearts … but I think it probably grieved the heart of God even more. His fellowship with man was now broken.
God provided His only-begotten Son to build a bridge between you and Him through the salvation by His shed blood. He still wants that communication with you on a daily basis. The time you spend in prayer, is a time for you to express your heart and burdens to God. That time in prayer is also a time for God to communicate His heart and burden with you. In other words, God yearns for that time in prayer with us every day just as much we should. It is a mutually beneficial time – a time that is good for us (which we know), and also a time that is good for God (He seeks that fellowship with you). When I hear my friend’s voice on the phone, it brings joy to my heart. When I speak with my friends in a different country over the computer, it brings me joy. Why should my communication with God be any less important to me? Call on Him … He is waiting to hear from you! Let Him know the burdens and joys of your heart … He wants to share in them with you! He loves you!
“Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). “’Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: Is there anything too hard for Me’” (Jeremiah 32:27)? In a day when it seems there are multiple things that are too hard for us to handle, this statement and question in Jeremiah’s prophesy is especially comforting to me. There is a story of a group of passengers on a flight across the country. They began to hit some turbulence, and passengers started to become panic-striken. As the turbulence increased, so did the number of panicked passengers. One lady noticed that one little boy remained totally calm through the entire traumatic situation. When she asked him how he could remain so calm, he simply answered; “My Dad is the pilot.” He was at peace because he had total confidence in the one who was controlling the plane they were riding in.
Please don’t forget that our Father is in control no matter how much turbulence this life has in store for us. Storms will come in any life. Hard times will press upon all of us. Difficulties will see insurmountable at times. Take comfort that your Heavenly Father is in control. Take comfort that there is nothing that will come to your life that is too hard for Him. After all, He is the One that stretched out His arm and in great power made the universe. He is also the One that stretched out His arms on the cross to do the impossible. He removed your sin-debt when Jesus died in your place. No religion could accomplish this. No pastor could offer this. No amount of good works can satisfy the righteous demand of God.
The Israelites must have felt they were in a hopeless situation with the Egyptians closing in and the Red Sea on the other side … but we know what God did there. Daniel must have felt a little uneasy as he made his way through the hungry lions in that den … but we know what God did there. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego must have felt a little tense as they stepped into the fiery furnace … but we know what God did there. David must have felt somewhat uneasy looking at the heavily armored giant in the valley … but we know what God did there. Elijah must have felt outnumbered by the 400 prophets and the 450 priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel … but we know how God brought fire down from Heaven. Are you getting the picture? I could name more, but I’m running out of space. Your story and mine can be added to these if we will simply rest in our God. Trust Him today, and write your own story of success in the face of failure. This is our time to serve God. Depend on Him and live for Him today!