Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev.1:7)
We love Jesus. The gospel message has caused us to fall in love with the one who died for us. We have never seen him with our physical eyes, but through the eye of faith we see him everywhere we look. There will come a time when we will behold him, face to face. Every eye will see him. What will we do when we finally see him? Can you imagine what this day will be like? We live for and long for the day when our Lord will return to take us home. A song that came out a few years ago called “I Can Only Imagine” really causes you to think. The chorus asks, “Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine. I can only imagine.” To be honest, I have no idea how I will react. Will I be so overcome with joy that I begin to sing, or will I be so in awe that I will not be able to utter a sound? Will I be frozen in respect and admiration, or will I be so excited that I start to dance (I am not speaking of some rhythmic, choreographed dance, but that sense of being so overwhelmed that you cannot contain yourself. Maybe something like your favorite team somehow scoring the game winning touchdown as time expires, or getting a letter in the mail that says that the test results show that the cancer that has been ravaging your body is in complete remission)? I really cannot even begin to imagine what that day will be like, but I do love to think about it often. One thing I do know, if I am not living for him now, then that day will hold only fear and dread for me. I want to live in such a way that I can look to that day with excitement and anticipation.
“Father, thank you for saving us through the blood of Jesus. Thank you for the hope of everlasting life that we have because of him. Help us to live so that the coming of our Lord will be a day of joy and reunion. While we cannot imagine what that revelation will be like, we long for that day to come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam.16:7)
Saul was selected as the first king of the nation of Israel. If you remember, Saul was chosen because he stood head and shoulders above his peers. He looked the part. Initially, it seemed that Saul would make a valiant, humble leader of God’s people. Ultimately, he allowed pride to destroy him, and the kingdom was taken from him. As Samuel set out to anoint the new king, God directed him to the house of Jesse. As the sons were lined up so that Samuel could look them over, the eldest appeared to be the obvious choice. If not him, then it must certainly be the next, and so on. God’s choice was the little shepherd boy who had not even been invited to the festivities. While Samuel (and no doubt others) had been looking on the externals, God was looking at the heart. This is significant, especially in light of David replacing Saul as king. Saul had been chosen because he looked like a king. David was chosen because he had the heart to be king. We need to be reminded that things are not always as they appear. We tend to judge based upon externals and assumptions. Before we jump to conclusions and rush to judgment, it would be good to step back and try our best to see things from God’s perspective. Let’s try to see the heart of people rather than just what is on the outside.
“Father, we are guilty of judging based on what we see rather than what you see. Thank you for looking beyond the trappings of this world to our hearts. May we seek to do the same as we look at those around us. Help us to see hearts and souls rather than externals. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen.3:9)
When God created man, Adam and Eve were innocent and without sin (Gen.2:25). There was perfect harmony between Jehovah and his creation. The fellowship between them was unmarred by sin. After Adam and Eve gave into temptation and sinned, their relationship with God changed. It seems that prior to sin, God would come to the garden and walk and talk with Adam and Eve. There was nothing to stand in the way of perfect, sweet fellowship. After their sin, their eyes were opened, and suddenly the innocence was gone. Because of their shame, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the impending visit from their creator. When God entered the garden to walk with them, they were nowhere to be found. God called to Adam, “Where are you?” The question was not asked for the purpose of informing God, for he knew what had taken place. The question was asked for Adam’s benefit, to cause him to see where he was now that sin had entered the picture. Fellowship had been broken, and this rift had nothing at all to do with God. What about you? Where are you in your relationship with God? Did you enjoy sweet fellowship at one time, but now you find yourself hiding from him for shame? If your fellowship with God is not what it needs to be, who moved? God does not change (Ma.3:6). Therefore, if there is trouble in our relationship with God, it is because we have allowed sin to come between us. Don’t allow sin to shame you into hiding. Admit your sins, and overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
“Father, thank you for creating us and for allowing us to have fellowship with you. We realize it is our sins that jeopardize and break sweet fellowship with you. Help us to realize what sin does to us, how far it takes us from you. Help us to draw close through the blood of Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
And then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Heb.6:6)
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to sing, especially when it comes to singing praise to our God. One of my favorite songs is one that we often sing with our young people entitled, “Can He Still Feel the Nails?” It always causes me to pause and think about the sins with which I so often struggle. Frequently (far more than I want), I find myself giving into some temptation. Later, I regret what I have done, having failed my Lord again. Perhaps if I would envision the nails in the hands and feet of Jesus, I would be far less likely to succumb to the temptations that come my way. If I could only realize that my sins continue to cause him pain, how would I view that fleeting moment of pleasure? My sins caused Jesus to go to the cross, and my sins continue to break the heart of him who died for me. The writer of Hebrews speaks of crucifying afresh the Son of God (Heb.6:6). I must realize that my sins not only harm me and those I love, but my sin is ultimately against my God (Gen.39:9). The pain Jesus suffered in going to the cross was awful and excruciating enough. Let’s do our best to see that we bring him honor and glory and joy rather than pain.
“Father, we praise you for your grace offered to us through Jesus. Help us to ever keep before us the pain, anguish, loneliness, and shame that he endured for us at Calvary. Help us to realize that our sins that we commit cause him pain. Forgive us when we lose sight of the pain that sin brings to self, to others, and ultimately to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Gal.6:9)
Today, our nation celebrates the hard work that has helped to make our country great. This holiday of Labor Day is quite unique as far as national holidays are concerned. It does not commemorate a national milestone or a person/group of people who are important to our country’s history. It simply honors the working men and women who have sweated and toiled to make their way in this land of opportunity. I do find it a bit ironic that we honor the value and place of hard work by not working, but I do appreciate what this day means. Hard work is wearisome, but rewarding. There is something fulfilling about toiling for what we consider to be worthwhile. I am grateful for all who work to provide for their families and who make this world a better place. But, there are times when we allow our focus to be on things that perish rather than the eternal. We are to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor.15:58). Just as physical labor can be taxing and tiresome, we can grow weary in laboring for the Lord. Paul encourages us so that we do not lose heart. Keep on working until Jesus comes. It will be worth it!
“Father, thank you for surrounding us with so many who have a great work ethic and who show us the value of hard work. Help us to labor for your honor and glory, whether that labor be physical or spiritual. Help us to not lose heart, knowing that you are with us in all that we do for good. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal.6:5)
Being a little over two years removed from my stroke, I often have people who still inquire about my health. There are also those that know me who will sometimes ask why I walk with a limp. After I tell them that it is a lingering effect of the stroke, the majority who know me will then say, “Oh, yeah. I had forgotten about that.” Now, a major life event like this is not something I will soon (Honestly, never) forget. But, other people can and do forget that I have been through such. Some people may get upset that others could forget something so devastating, but it doesn’t bother me. Two thoughts come to mind when people tell me they have forgotten I suffered a stroke. One, God has been so good to me and provided such remarkable healing that the lingering effects of my stroke are minimal. Those who are not around me often do not see the slight troubles that still remain. When they say they have forgotten, it makes me praise God for how far he has brought me! Two, life goes on. People have to deal with the realities of life. They have their own struggles that can be so overwhelming. While I won’t forget what happened, I have to realize that others will. They don’t forget because they don’t love me, or because they don’t care, or because they are self-absorbed, or because they are indifferent. People have their own trials to deal with. When folks say they have forgotten what I have been through, it makes me want to reach out and help them, because so many have done that for me. I cannot sit back and wallow in pity. Through the comfort and goodness you have brought to my life, I can now comfort and strengthen others (2 Cor.1:3-4). If I ever forget a trial you have faced, I pray it is because God has been so good to you that the effects of the trial are long past. Let’s not be upset with others when they have moved on (and we have not) from an ordeal that has scarred us. Let’s remember that they are bearing their own burdens. Let’s offer them a shoulder to help them hold up under the weight of their trials.
“Father, thank you for bringing us through the trials of life. Thank you for surrounding us with others who help us bear our burdens. May we in turn help them to bear their burdens. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psa.23:5)
My family and I returned last evening from a yearly convention called “Polishing the Pulpit,” held every year in Sevierville, TN. It is a gathering of over 4,000 Christians who desire to grow in wisdom and understanding of God’s word. It is one of the highlights of my year. With classes running from 8AM to 9PM (with breaks at meal time), a week’s worth of PTP leaves you exhausted, but recharged. I heard so many powerful lessons, both textually rich and practical. My cup is filled to overflowing, and I cannot wait to put to use what I have been able to learn and reaffirm. To top it all off, they sent me home with a thumb drive containing the audio of every lesson given this week (numerous sessions run simultaneously, so it is not possible to attend them all)! The Lord will continue to fill my cup. In addition, I also learned of numerous other good works that will allow me to hear, see, and study materials at any given moment. Not everyone has the luxury of attending something like PTP, but you can have your cup filled. Technology has made listening to the good news a 24-hour-a-day reality. We upload our sermons (assemblies and radio) to our website so that you can listen to them at any time. There are podcasts and YouTube videos available from faithful brethren, with new content being added daily. There are sites like Apologetics Press, Gospel Broadcasting Network, WVBS, The Light Network, truthfm, and many others that are full of great sermons and Bible study materials. There are blogs filled with Biblical articles and devotionals. Spend some time each day with one (or more) of these great resources. Let your cup be filled with the good news!
“Father, thank you for allowing us so many opportunities to hear and study your word. Thank you for those who labor to send your message all over the world. We pray that you might fill our cups to overflowing, and that we might drink deeply from the living water. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of worshiping our God with over 3,000 other children of the King. The singing was beautiful, the prayers were uplifting, the message was powerful, the time spent in observing the Lord’s Supper was moving, and the fellowship of God’s people was so very encouraging. You may think that the worship could be better where you are if you could join with 3,000 others. I do realize that we can improve the ways in which we approach God in worship from the standpoint of what we offer to God in the ways he has instructed us (but we cannot change the avenues of true worship), but we might need to stop and consider what makes worship great. Would more people make the singing better? From the aesthetic beauty of it, probably so, but does it matter to God whether the singing emanates from three souls who have come to extol him in worship as opposed to 3,000? You see, the worship yesterday was awesome, but it had nothing to do with the number of people assembled. It had everything to do with an awesome God! So, whether you worship with 20, 200, or 2,000, worship as God directs is always great, because God is great! For sure, I want as many souls as possible to assemble where I am to worship God, because God is worthy of every bit of praise and worship we can give (and more). But, if only a few show up, it does not change how awesome it is to get to worship our God!
“Father, you alone are worthy of praise, honor, and glory. Thank you for accepting the meager offerings we make as we come together to worship you. Help us to realize the greatness of worship lies in your greatness, not in the greatness of what we offer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers (Psa.1:1)
The book of Psalms highlights the preciousness of the word of God. It begins with telling us how we can be blessed (happy) by focusing on the law of the Lord. But the man that will be happy must avoid the pitfalls of sin. Sin entices us. It is alluring. Sin tempts us to get a little closer. Imagine a man walking along the way only to encounter a group of gossips. Godliness would encourage him to walk past the the loose-lipped entourage, but sin entices him to try to edge closer so as to overhear what they are saying. Before he realizes it, he is standing with the sinful, caught up in their tale-bearing. As sin progresses, he finds himself as the very center of attention, having now become the king of gossip. If we will study and meditate on the word of God, it will help us to avoid the slippery slope of sin. Spend time with your Bible. Your happiness here and hereafter depends on it. Don’t flirt with sin!
“Father, lead us in the paths of righteousness as we give ourselves to your will. Thank you for blessing us with guidance in your word. Help us to realize how dangerous sin is. Help us to avoid temptation. Help us have the will to refuse to flirt with sin, but instead to meditate on your word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph.4:32)
One of the things they taught us in preaching school was to have an alligator hide and a tender heart. They meant that, in dealing with people, you are going to have to sympathize and empathize with them in their struggles. It also meant that you are going to have to ignore the criticisms and barbs that will inevitably come. When people are hurting, they can often say things that hurt. We must not wear our feelings on our sleeves, nor must we refuse to feel with people. We cannot have a tender hide and an alligator heart. Everyone seems to be offended by everything these days. Let us refuse to fall into this mentality, or we will spend our whole lives upset and hurt by everyone imaginable. Jesus taught us to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Let’s not get this backwards.
“Father, help us to feel with and for others. Help us never to intentionally hurt others. Help us to help those who are hurting, even when they may hurt us. May we seek your glory, even if we must endure pain in so doing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”