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.”
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Prov.25:11)
Words are powerful. I fear that we may not realize how powerful words can be. We try to act like words do not bother us (“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”), but they do bother us, and they often bother us greatly. Think of how one unkind word, or a word that a friend spoke that you just did not know how to take, ruined your day or left you upset. We know how awful words can make us feel, but we also know how encouraging words can be. We have all had our spirits lifted by one kind word or compliment, whether it be from a friend or a stranger. In his lesson last night, Joey Sparks challenged us to realize that our words either lead people closer to Jesus or push them further away. So today, let’s resolve to speak only kind and uplifting words. Yes, this means even when others speak in an ugly way to us, we respond with grace and kindness. Even when the server gets our order wrong, or the cashier is taking too long, or the man on the other end of the line in the billing department is not being very helpful, we choose to speak words that will lead them closer to the Lord. A simple “thank you” or “have a nice day” may go a long way toward lifting a discouraged soul. Let’s allow kindness to rest on our lips today, and then let’s do it again tomorrow.
“Father, may our words show that we are guided by you. May what we speak to others bring glory to you. Help us to choose our words carefully. Help us to realize the power of the words we speak to lead others to you. Help us to use our words only for good. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil.3:14)
I love watching the Olympic games. Many sports that I generally care nothing about are captivating when the U.S. is competing against the world. I have been known to watch water polo, table tennis, and even synchronized diving when it involves my country. Watching these athletes lay it all on the line in pursuit of gold is gripping. The back-stories of many of the athletes are amazing and even gut-wrenching. All of the hard work often comes down to one second, one inch, one point. These athletes are so focused and they refuse to be deterred from their goal. As Christians, the ultimate aim of our lives is often couched in athletic language in Scripture. We are told that all who compete in the games use strict training, but they compete for a perishable prize (1 Cor.9:25). We are to keep working toward the prize (Phil.3:14). We must discipline ourselves so that we do not miss out on the goal (1 Cor.9:27). The goal of heaven is within sight. Let us refuse to be deterred from the finish line!
“Father, we ask you to help us endure to the end. We are often tired and weak and worn out by the things of life. We allow ourselves to become distracted. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus and run the race with endurance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matt.5:6)
Have you ever been hungry? I know we often think we are hungry. We have likely said something like, “I’m starving to death.” Maybe we have said that after eating a large meal only a few hours earlier, or a snack just moments prior to the “hunger pangs.” We eat when our stomach rumbles uncomfortably, or we eat so as to avoid the feeling of hunger. But, it is likely that most of us have never really known what it is like to be hungry. Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. The idea is of being absolutely famished and parched. Here is one who is so hungry that he cannot focus on anything else except for satisfying his craving. Can you imagine being so destitute of even basic sustenance, and then being presented with a buffet fit for a king? How would one who is so famished and never knows when he might eat again react? I can just imagine that one in such a setting would gorge himself. How hungry are we for God’s righteousness? It’s not a matter of eating out of curiosity or boredom or habit. It is a matter of starving for the things of God.
“Father, help us to be absolutely consumed by you. Help us to realize that the things of this world will leave us empty and will never satisfy. Fill us with your righteousness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD. (Jer.1:8)
We had the teens over yesterday for a back to school get-together. We concluded the evening a movie. A line in the movie got me to thinking. A character in the movie (former Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, actually) said that the phrase “do not fear” could be found 365 times in the Bible. Nothing else was said about that particular line, but it stuck with me. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a “do not fear passage” for every day of the year? I started searching today to see if this was accurate. What I found is that even with different wording (“Do not fear,” “Don’t be afraid,” “Fear not,” etc.) and different translations, this thought appeared about 125 times (some translations had it upwards of 131 times to as few as 117 in other translations). Does that disappoint you that it doesn’t fit the passage-a-day-for-a-whole-year idea? I hope not. I will admit that when I first heard it, I thought that this was an amazing coincidence. But as I started looking deeper, I was not disappointed. I mean, God tells us over 100 times not to be afraid! We may think that courage or bravery are the opposite of fear, but that is not so from a Biblical perspective. Faith is the antithesis of fear. The more that we trust God and believe in his promises, the less we have to fear. We may not understand exactly how God will keep his promises or bring them to pass, but we have faith that he will. God wants us to trust him, to focus on him, to fix our hearts in him. The world is becoming increasingly more frightening from a human point of view. Will fear rise within us, or will we allow our faith to keep us focused on eternity? Do not fear. God is with us and in us.
“Father, we admit that we often fear many things that we know we should not fear. We worry about petty things and we are anxious about foolish things. Help us to look to you and allow faith to cast out fear. Help us to find confidence and assurance in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
More and more our world is shunning the idea of absolute truth. The prevalence of humanism has led many to believe that man is god. This idea has elevated man to a position only God should occupy. If each man is his own god, then who is to say that one’s convictions are any better or worse than another’s? With no God in the equation, no ultimate source of good or love or truth, who or what will determine what is right, or even if there is such thing as right or wrong? The preponderance of humanistic-influenced teachings has us to the point where we are afraid or unwilling to declare anything to be true or false, right or wrong, good or evil, bad or good, etc. Moral relativism is carrying the day, and many feel intimidated into thinking it is wrong to be right. Must we backpedal and apologize for upholding that there is a right and a wrong? I often remember the words of one of my instructors in preaching school: “It is always right to do right. It is always wrong to do wrong. It is never right to do wrong, and it is never wrong to do right.” We must not allow the prating of “educated” fools to sway us into thinking that it is wrong to stand up for what is right. There is an absolute standard of truth and right which is never wrong (John 17:17). Jesus said to those who considered themselves educated in the word of God and the ways of the world, “you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt.22:29). God’s way is always right. Satan’s way is always wrong. May we never be made to feel that we are the fool for holding firm to the word of God, and to His absolute standard of morality and godliness!
“Righteous and holy Father, thank you for giving us your truth so that our lives may be guided toward eternity with you. Help us to realize that your word is always right, and that it always has the answers for anything we face in this life. Help us to long to be right with you. Forgive us when we fail to uphold your perfect will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
For who has despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth. (Zech.4:10)
We often measure milestones or celebrate achievements based on what we consider significant events. We usually are impacted by what we consider the great things, the “big” things. If we are not careful, we allow so much in life to go unnoticed simply because we are holding out for something on a grand scale. Throughout my recovery, I have hoped and prayed that I can return to 100% of movement and function that I enjoyed before my stroke. I envisioned being able to walk normally, to run again, to throw a ball with my right hand. A great deal of what I have longed for have been major things. I failed to realize the value and the importance of the minuscule, the overlooked, the simple. As my recovery continues, I have come to realize just how amazingly needful the little things are in the overall scheme of things. Don’t miss out on opportunities to minister by overlooking the small things. Great things may come our way every now and then, but the little things are all around us constantly. The seemingly insignificant becomes far more significant when we consider that what we do to the least, we do to our Lord! There is nothing insignificant about that!
“Father, help us to realize how you bless our lives in 1000’s of little ways each day. Forgive us when we are so focused on the great that we fail to serve in the small ways. May we be willing to give a cup of cold water for your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”