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What’s in your hand?

Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”

There was a young boy who was the son of a drifter. This boy worked as a store clerk for a while, but the store failed. He bought a partnership in another store, but it failed also. He ran for legislature and lost both times. He ran for vice-president and lost. He became the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

There was another boy who was called a “slow learner.” A teacher recommended he be withdrawn from school because of his seeming inability.  He tried to go to school in Switzerland, but failed the entrance exam. He was fired from three teaching jobs. At age 26 he won the Nobel Prize. He was Albert Einstein.

Here were men who suffered serious setbacks in life, major disappointments, but they perserved to do a great work in their fields. How much more important is it for a child of God to use the ability God has given them?

Yet many times the very things God has given us to use, sit idle on the sidelines. We’ve bought in to the lie that we don’t have much of anything to offer.

If you think what you have to offer is insignificant – tell that to the jawbone in Sampson’s hand.

If you think what you have is too little to share – tell that to the widow who’s oil never ran out.

If you think what you have to offer will be ridiculed – tell that to little David with a slingshot in his hand.

Homework – What’s in your hands? What talent, spiritual gifting, financial ability do you have?  Find a way to serve someone else this week.


What is the meaning of Easter?

Matthew 28:6

What is the meaning of Easter?  Ask any child: “Easter is Easter Bunnies and Easter Eggs.”  Ask any mother: “Easter is new Easter Clothes.”  Ask any dad: “Easter is a good Easter Dinner.”  Has the true meaning of Easter escaped us?

Easter means Christ is Lord!  In Matthew 28:6, than angel at the tomb tells the women who came, “He is not here, for he is risen.”  If Easter means anything, it means Jesus Christ is Lord.  He has authority over life, death and salvation. The message of Easter is that Jesus is alive.  Christ is our living Lord!

To carry the news of the Battle of Waterloo to England, a sailing ship signaled to a man on shore, who relayed the word to another on a hill, and so on across Britain.  The first word, “Wellington,” was signaled.  The next word, “defeated” was also signaled.  And than a fog closed in, and the message halted.

Across England people wept over the message.  “Wellington defeated.”  Then the fog lifted.  The communication continued with two additional words, “the enemy.”  Englishmen celebrated the victory!

There was great sorrow when the body of Jesus was carried from the cross to the tomb.  The signal seemed to say, “Jesus Christ defeated.”  But three days later the fog lifted and the angel announced, “Jesus Christ defeated the enemy.”

“The Christ event,” writes William Hull, “began with life from an empty womb and ended with life from an empty tomb.   Empty womb, empty tomb – what is this if not a description of the God who creates things that are, out of things that are not and who can make dead things come to life again.”  This is indeed is the meaning of Easter.  Christ alive in you!

View From the Donkey

Matthew 21:6-7, “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.”

All four Books of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give the account of the Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  Let’s take a second to see the story from the donkey’s viewpoint.

1. He was Tied. – There many people who are hooked, victims of habit, bound by lifestyle.

2. He was Untamed. – “Never ridden”; stubborn, rebellious in nature.

3. He was Outside. – There are many that are “without Christ, God, Hope.”

4. He was at a Crossroads. – “Two ways met”; Place of decision.

5. He was by the Door. – Jesus is the door.

6. He was Untied. – Jesus sets us free.

7. He was brought to Jesus. – “And they brought the colt to Jesus.

8. He did not resist. – Jesus “sat upon him”

9. He was used for God’s glory. – People shouted “Hosannah in the Highest” as he carried Christ through the crowd.

10. He was submitted to the will of the Savior. – Jesus directed where he went.

To live as a donkey, you must recognize that God is requesting your presence, so that you might be used of Him. Jesus wants to make a triumphal entry into your home…will you take Him there? Your workplace, this church, that restaurant, into your phone conversations, with your loved ones!

Homework: Answer the question: “Are you carrying Christ with you everywhere you go?”  If not, how can you.

Worship through Thankfulness

Psalm 69:34, “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them…”

This week I had the opportunity to walk on the Galveston beach with my two older sons.  As we threw sea shells into the sea, I realized that I never stop being amazed at God’s incredible masterpiece we call Earth.  How beautiful the sunrise is over an open sea or the sunset across vast mountains.  I’m thankful for God’s creation.

Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.

To fail to be thankful to God is a great tragedy. When Paul recounts the tragic moral downfall of mankind in Romans 1, he begins with the statement in verse 21: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thanksgiving is taught in the Bible by both by principle and example. In 1 Chronicles, the Levites who took part in the temple worship were to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. The Psalms contain some 35 references to giving thanks to God. In 18 instances in his letters, Paul expresses thanksgiving to God, and there are 10 other instances in which he instructs us to give thanks. In all, there are approximately 140 references in the Bible to giving thanks to God. Thankfulness is no minor principle in God’s sight.

The primary purpose of giving thanks to God is to acknowledge His goodness and honor Him. God says in Psalm 50:23 – “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me.”

Being Thankful to God stimulates our faith. In Psalm 50:14-15, God connects thank offerings with calling upon Him in the day of trouble. Remembering God’s previous mercies encourages us to trust Him for the mercies we need today.

Being Thankful promotes contentment. It will promote contentment about possessions, position, and providence by focusing our thoughts on the blessings God has already given, forcing us to stop spending our time yearning for thins we do not have. Contentment and thanksgiving strengthen each other.

Homework: This week make a list of specific things you are thankful for.  Begin and end the day with a time of thanksgiving.

Friend of God

John 15:14-15 “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

  • I wonder why it’s such a compliment to tell a woman she looks like a breath of spring, but not to tell her she looks like the end of hard winter. Isn’t it the same thing?
  • I wonder why it pleases her to say time stands still when you look into her face, but not to say her face would stop a clock. Why?
  • I wonder why people who punish a child for lying will tell the same child, “Just say I’m not home.”
  • I wonder why, when the preacher says, “In closing…” he doesn’t.
  • I wonder why a speaker who “needs no introduction” gets one anyway. It seems curious.

Many things in this world could cause us to wonder. But one of the most striking is that God should want to call us His friends.  “Friends.” That Jesus would call us friends somehow defies imagination.

The Cross is the highest symbol of friendship. John 15:13 tells us “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  The symbol of the cross is so important to our relationships that God even used it for marriage: “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). There is no greater love we can show to another than to sacrifice for them.

In 1969, Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black celebrated his 83rd birthday.  His colleague, frequent opponent and good friend, John Marshall Harlan, sent him a birthday letter. This is a simple gesture for most men, but Justice Harlan was almost totally blind. To sign an opinion, he found it necessary to turn on a massive set of lights that had been installed above his desk and use a large, single lens magnifying glass. With the glass on his eye actually touching the paper, …he would struggle painfully to complete his signature.

That was the only writing he ever did.  The birthday note to Justice Black covered a page. When he had read it, Black folded it and put it carefully in his pocket, then turned his back on his clerk for a few minutes. When he turned around, his eyes were full of tears. “He wrote it himself,” he said.

No act we can do can impress others as much as sacrifice, and no other kind of act will bring others to the Cross of Christ – who sacrificed for us.

Homework: This week sit down and write down the friends who come to your mind and answer the question, “Are you the kind of friend that points your friends to the Cross of Christ?”  How can you be a better friend?

Create in Me…

Psalm 50:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

David doesn’t offer to do it himself. In fact, he knows that he can’t. And when David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God”, he goes back to the language of the creation itself in the first chapters of Genesis. The word “create” used here in Psalm 51 is the very same Hebrew word used in Genesis. In fact, it is a word used only of God in the Bible. It means to create something out of nothing. Human beings can fashion, arrange, or remodel things. But we can never create anything in the true sense of the word. We can’t bring into being something that never existed before.

There was a group of scientists who got together one day and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell God that they were done with Him.  The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this, let’s say we have a ’man-making’ contest.” To which the scientist replied, “OK, great!”

God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.” The scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!”

The point is that, even if man can gets to the point where he thinks he can be on the level of God, he hasn’t even come close. So it’s not surprising that when David wants a clean heart, he says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Because, you see, I don’t have the power to create a clean heart. And you don’t have the power.

People try to deal with their guilt in a lot of different ways. Some try to cover it up with a lot of good works, thinking, “If I do enough good deeds, I can balance the scales in my favor.” But good deeds won’t get rid of guilt.  Only what God has done for the us through the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross can take away the sin and the guilt and the shame. Create in me a clean heart, O God.Homework: This week sit down take time to be thankful to God, that He created a clean heart in you!

Blind Faith

In a recent conversation with my 7 year old, I was amazed at his faith in God.  He believes without question that God is real. He believes in the truth and authority of The Bible and he believes without doubt that he will be going to heaven because he has made a commitment to Christ.  At the end of the day, believing in God is all about faith, and faith can be a really hard concept to grasp – for children and for adults.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we not see.”

‘Sure’ and ‘certain’ are pretty strong words aren’t they?  There’s no room for doubt when we use those words.  It’s much easier to be sure about something when we can see ‘it’ and it’s usually easier to convince other people of our belief in something if they can see it for themselves too.  So how can I explain my ‘blind’ faith to someone?  Here are some invisible things that most people believe exists:

AIR – I can’t see the air around me but I know it’s there.  I can fill a balloon with air and see the balloon expand.

WIND – similar to air, I can’t see it, it’s invisible too but I can see the effects of wind (trees, washing, leaves etc being blown about)

RADIO WAVES – these are invisible and yet we know they are there because we can turn on the TV and pick up a broadcast from many miles away.

INTERNET – as with radio waves, I can use my ‘wireless’ internet and connect with people all over the world.

GRAVITY – a ‘rule’ of nature that we can’t see but know exists.  If I drop something or throw something in the air, it will fall back to ground level.

These examples are fairly simplistic, but at the end of the day this is what faith is – believing something that you cannot see.  What does your faith in God look like?

Homework: This week sit down with your family and ask them about their faith, and what believing in God means to them.

Love Passionately

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

If you’re like me, you want to love God passionately. After all, when a scribe pressed Jesus to identify the greatest commandment, He summed up the entire law in two all-encompassing statements—love God with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Nothing in life is more important than these!

We would all agree that loving God is a worthy goal, yet what does it really mean and how can one truly accomplish this?  When we love God passionately, we keep one eye on our heavenly Lord and one eye on our earthly circumstances. In other words, loving God includes both a vertical component (our relationship with God) and a horizontal component (our relationships with people).

As soon as a branch is severed from the vine, it stops growing and dies. It can no longer produce fruit of any kind. That’s why maintaining our vertical connection with God is absolutely nonnegotiable. If we neglect times of intimate interaction with the Lord, we dry up and become worthless. Christians simply cannot afford NOT to meet one-on-one with God. To ignore this is spiritual suicide!

When our vertical connection with God is intact, we automatically produce fruit. Spiritual fruit helps to nourish others. It leaves a lasting impact on the people who are close to us. Years ago, as I read Chuck Colson’s book, Loving God, Colson focused almost entirely on the horizontal connection—establishing and nurturing loving relationships with other people. God wants us to draw out of our vertical connection with him to meet the horizontal connections of those around us!

Homework: This week find three ways to love God passionately by meeting the need of people around you.

Love the Lord your God with…

“Jesus answered, ‘The most important [commandment] is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your HEART and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'” – Mark 12:29-30

To love God with all your heart means to love God with all of your feelings, with all of your emotions and with all your passion. Now, passion is a very hot term in our contemporary culture.

People ask, “What’s your passion?” What they’re asking you is what is it that really gets your juices flowing? It could be a certain social cause, or politics. Perhaps it’s a passion about the theatre, movies, or music. Or It could be making money, physical fitness, or watching college football. You can be passionate about a lot of things, but the number one passion of your life should be your relationship with God.

Think about your relationship with God this way. When you first came to Christ there was no problem in feeling passionate about God. You had a hunger for the word, to be in worship, and to tell others about Christ. You were excited about it and there was a very real passion there! But then as time went by and life presented its many challenges and opportunities, it became easy for other things to become a higher priority.

If we’re more passionate about anything else than our relationship with God, our priorities are simply out of whack. 

Jesus reminds us that when you give your heart to God, you want to maintain that passion and love Him with all your heart.

The Main Thing

There is an mistaken idea today that the main reason we attend worship is to “get something out of the service”, rather than going there to give our worship to God.  This is a selfish motive on our part. This is the reason people cannot be satisfied with the worship service when their emphasis is not on the proper object of worship, God.  People want to “do their own thing” in the worship of the church.  What the Bible has to say about worship for many people is of little consequence as long as they are happy and feel good.

The United States has produced the most entertainment-oriented people the world has ever known.  We have more forms of amusement than has ever been know to man, but we still want more.  In our age everything is designed to appeal to our emotions and to entertain us.  Our pleasure-mad society gives little thought about pleasing God in their worship.  We seem to have forgotten our worship service is to bring glory and honor to God, and not to entertain ourselves.

When we have people to sing to us and concerts to entertain us, we are not worshipping God; but we have become the spectators who are being entertained.  Worship was never intended to be a spectator event.  We dare not become the spectators, because in worship it is God who is the spectator.

How about you?  When was the last time you found yourself lost in awe and amazment of God as you surrendered your heart in worship to Him?