Planning your next step

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 HCSB)

I like the book of Proverbs.  Here you can find short and sweet statements that help you through your day.  Like the verse above.  You may be one of those people who grab your calendar the first day of the new year and begin to fill it with all kinds of plans.  Me, not so much.  Oh, those federal holidays are marked out for me and occasionally I will add a birthday or two but most of the time it’s one day at a time, “Que Sera, Sera”.

We look to the future with exciting plans and ideas that will brighten our days ahead, but the second half of the verse is what we need to consider, “But the LORD determines his (our) steps.”  If we believe that God is sovereign then we must trust that He is in control of all that happens.  Remember what the apostle Paul wrote, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 HCSB)

Yes we set our plans in motion and when they are planned and done in God’s will, they prosper.  But sometimes its the in-between steps that are the hardest.  God may take our plans and route us through the hot desert or through the valley green or up the steep mountain just so we will end up where He wants us to be. The thing that you and I need to do is to trust that He is still in control.  Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV)

The thing I need to do is put Jesus first in my planning (even if it is day by day planning) and leave the results to him.  I will trust Him step by step.  That’s my point for today.

Being Content

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)

We live in a world of discontent.  It seems that no one is satisfied with what they have.  My dad often said, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  There is nothing wrong with being rich (which may be a matter of perspective).  Also, there is nothing wrong with the poor wanting to better themselves so that can have more.  God has given us the ability to work so that we can improve our status in life.

As I looked at “POWERBALL” today, the total winning would be half a billion dollars ($550 million).  For many that sounds like an easy way to go from being poor to being rich.  I heard someone say that statistically you have a better chance of finding the winning ticket on the sidewalk than buying it.  Yet some would say, “someone’s going to win it why not me?”  But the verse above doesn’t tell us not to gamble but to keep our lives free from the love of money.

Jesus says, ““No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” (Matthew 6:24 HCSB)  You see it’s the love (strong desire) of getting rich and having more and more stuff that allures us away from following God.  As Christians, we “should keep our lives free from the love of money.”

So if we are free from the love of money, where does that leave us?  Being content with what we have.  This is the hard part because the world around us says, “Keep up with the Jones” (whoever they are).  God wants us to rely on him for our needs.  He is the one who promised that he would never leave us or forsake us.  That doesn’t say that we shouldn’t work to get more.  But how much more is enough?  Is the accumulation of things claiming all of your attention and what money you do have?  Is getting rich quick the answer to your problems?  Don’t get me wrong, this is not an anti-gambling post but it is about being content.  Don’t let the world dictate what you need to have to be rich in the Lord.  Trust God for your daily supply and plan for the future.

One last thing to remember, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:8-10 HCSB)  Don’t fall for the “get rich quick” schemes of the world but be content with what you have.  That’s my point for today.

Something New

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”  2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NIV‬

Today, as I write this, is the last day of 2017.  At midnight tonight it will become 2018.  It boggles my mind just how that works.  The verse of the day from the Bible app YOUVERSION speaks of something old becoming something new.  That boggles my mind too but lets take a look at this verse.

First, what does it mean to be in Christ?  Here’s what I think it means…I (or anyone) have come to the place in my life when I realize that I am a sinner and I need a savior.  That savior is Jesus the Christ.  So by receiving him into my heart (life) I become his and he is mine.  We abide (dwell) together to do what is right in the sight of God.

As Jesus comes into my life, he begins to clean out the dross and sin that I am prone to cling to.  I become a “new” person in Christ.  As a new person, I begin to bear the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  My attitude and desires begin to change and become like Jesus’ attitude which was to become a servant.

So as a new person (creation) the old stuff in my life has been done away with.  I have a heavenly home that is waiting for me when I leave this life and pass into eternity.  This new life should be different from what it was before.  Yet, there are times when bad thoughts or desires come into my life, what happens then?  I have an advocate with the Father who intercedes on my behalf.  He also sends the Holy Spirit to be my helper in times of temptation.

As we enter this new year,  remember, in Christ you and I are made new through what Jesus did for us.  If you have not received Him, Jesus, as your savior, ask him to forgive you of your sins and invite Him into you heart.  He loves you and gave himself for your salvation.  That’s my point for today.  More next year!

What if God says, “NO”?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB)

I have a friend who has family members going through a very difficult time right now with debilitating cancer and treatment. It is hard to imagine your loved one being in such a serious condition and feeling helpless. Yet we have all experienced that kind of distress as we too have had family who has succumbed to this illness of cancer.

When you read Paul’s words to the Corinthians, it helps to know that God is still working in our lives. Each one of us has or will have some hardship, trial or “affliction” that we must go through. We pray and pray but it seems our desire (or “wish” if you would) for that person to get well goes unheeded. I think it is right to pray for any who are sick or broken but what if they don’t get well? What if God says, “NO”? Someone has said our affliction will make us better or bitter. The choice is ours.

In the verse above, Paul says that God will comfort us in our affliction so that we can comfort those who face a similar affliction. Remember what Romans 8:28 has said, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 HCSB) Not all things that happen to us are what we would consider “good” but God will take even the bad that happens to bring about His good will in our lives. We can’t see with the insight that God has. I’m sorry to report this to you but we are not “all knowing” nor are we “all powerful” so with our limited ability, we must trust in the one who is—the Lord our God.

I don’t know what you may be facing this very moment but I do know this, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” will bring you comfort in this most disheartening and trying time in your life. Rest you cares upon the one who cares for you. I am praying for you as you read this and for my friend’s family. That’s my point for today.

Who Is This Child?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Why do we celebrate Christmas?  As a kid growing up it meant getting presents from family and Santa but now I hope that the message of the season has not been lost with those childhood memories.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like to get gifts but we can still get so caught up in “hope what you got me is bigger than what I got you” syndrome.  So what is the season all about if not the gift giving and receiving?  It is about a child that was born so many years ago that some have forgotten who this child is.

The prophet Isaiah writes in the verse above about a child who has some amazing attributes.  First of all, the government will be on his shoulders.  Which government, the USA or Europe or Russia?  I believe that it the government of God.  It is His rule and reign in our lives that makes the difference in how we see this holiday (as a friend pointed out, it means “Holy Day”).  So if this heavenly government will be upon this child, then that child must come from God.  Jesus fits that role.  When we think of who this child is in the prophecy above, the child born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph is the promised child.

As ruler of this government, this child, who will grow into a man, will be a wonderful counselor.  He will guide us (as believers) in the correct direction in our lives.  He will help us make the right choices that will please our Heavenly Father.  He will be called the Mighty God because He (Jesus) is the son of God.  He will also be the Everlasting Father who will love us unconditionally.  And finally, He will be the Prince of Peace.  When we know Him we have peace with God and with others.

This Christmas Season let’s get our focus back on who the child in the manger is and put Santa and all of the trimmings in second place.  That’s my point for today.

What Did You Say?

“No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29 HCSB)

Sometimes bad words just slip out, right?  Try watching some movies or TV shows and you will probably hear a cuss word, perhaps not directly but implied or the phrase started but you know how it finishes.  The verse above is an admonition for the believer (Christian) to avoid or refrain from using such words that are crass or considered unwholesome words.  No I’m not going to list them out for you.  But have you ever been told, “Say that word again and I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.”  Did that happen to you?

The word that I have underlined above comes from a Greek word that means rotten, putrefied.  I’m sure you have had some food to go bad and how it smells.  Or you come across a dead animal and the smell that lingers there.  That’s the picture the apostle is painting for us today.  Another translation puts it this way, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 KJV)

When I was in junior high school, I tried to fit in with the other guys so I used a few words that would have deserved a mouth washing.  Then I began to be convicted by God that my speech and actions were not acceptable to Him.  As followers of Jesus, we need to be careful of the words that come out of our mouths.  You may say, “I don’t use any cuss words.”  That may be true and I’m proud of you.  But Paul the writer of this verse doesn’t stop with “don’t use cuss words”, he adds that the words we use should build up others.

Did the last conversation you had with someone build them up or tear them down?  I have heard parents tell the children that they were stupid and would not amount to anything.  Or they may use profane language that would not build them up.  (It shouldn’t surpise anyone why kids act the way they do today.  It’s because of the way they are treated at home.) Why would we want to do those kinds of things?  Let the words of your mouth be words of encouragement and not destruction.

Today I see it even spreading to social media.  Cyber bullying is a great concern among teenagers.  Face Book and other places can be used to promote good in the lives of people or destroy them.  I have had to unfriend some because they use social media as a platform to use words that shouldn’t be used by anyone.  Please, as you live out your life for Christ, remember this verse and apply it to your life.  Let’s build one another up for the glory and praise of the Lord.  That’s my point for today.

 

 

Restore the Joy

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  (Psalm 51:10-12 NIV)

The verse above is taken from David’s confession before God when his sin with Bathsheba was exposed.  David realized that his sin caused his heart to be defiled.  He cries out for forgiveness and cleansing.  There are some important lessons for us in this passage as well.

Let me assure you that by trusting in Jesus, your sin and mine were atoned for in His death on the cross.  Yet there will be times when you find yourself in a compromising and tempting situation.  Like David, we may fall into the devil’s trap causing us to sin and the fellowship with the Father is broken.  Your conscience begins to trouble you until you confess it to God and ask for forgiveness.  Then the process of renewal can begin.

I don’t think there is a specific formula to follow but the verse above gives us a pattern to use when we come to God with sin in our heart.

  1. Ask that your defiled heart be made clean by God’s mercy and grace.
  2. Ask that a steadfast and faithful spirit be placed within you.
  3. Ask for a filling of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Ask for the joy you found in His salvation be restored unto you.
  5. Ask for a willingness of spirit to rely on His grace to uphold you.

First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9 NIV)  We (both you and me) fail at times to follow Christ the way we should.  When we realize that we are on the wrong path, follow the pattern above to find peace and joy in the Lord.  That’s my point for today.

I Will Praise You

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”  Psalm‬ ‭63:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Oh to be loved by someone is a wonderful thing. As my wife and I have shared the passed 44 ½ years together our love has grown stronger every day. I enjoy spending time with her just hanging out. We hold hands as we cross the parking lot or go for walks along the river. We are indeed each other’s help mate.

The Psalmist says here that God’s love is better than life. It is because of God’s great love for us that we can give glory to Him who loves us. Like spending time with your “soul mate” you need to spend time with God. When you consider the verse from John 3:16 then you know how much God loves us. No wonder we give Him praise and glory.

We as Baptist don’t normally raise our hands when praising the Lord because we might get too excited but the Psalmist says that he will not sit on his hands. Notice that he says “in your name” I will lift up my hands. If I am doing it to show off or call attention to myself then it is wrong. Let your praise be to the one who loved you and gave His Son to die for you. If you are a follower of Christ, then praise Him for his blessings upon you. That’s my point for today and Happy Thanksgiving.

Victory through Jesus

“”Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)

We always want our favorite team to win whether it is pro football or high school football we like to cry out, “we won, we won!” when we weren’t even in the game.  Victory is sweet in what ever sport is your favorite.  It doesn’t have to be sports, either, it can be a situation at work in which the boss recognizes your effort and gives you a bonus.  Or in school when you work hard on a project and earn that “A” from the teacher.  We just like to be victorious.

There is another area of life that we can have the victory.  It happens as a person comes to know Jesus Christ as their savior.  The apostle Paul in writing to the church is talking about the time when Jesus “raptures” the believers out of this world.  The believer then has the victory over death.  We are victorious over death and the grave.  But what about now?  What about those who are dying before this “rapture” occurs?  Here is some more good news.

Every day we face death.  We try to evade it if possible but let’s face it, we are all one heart beat away from death.  I know, we don’t like to think about it, but here comes the good news,  Christ has overcome death.  By His resurrection, each person who has placed their faith in Jesus will be resurrected, too.  John 14 is one of my favorite passages of scripture especially the first three verses.  Here they are…

““Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 HCSB)

As Benjamin Franklin said in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  Yes, death is certain but for the believer there is victory in death and a peace that passes all understanding.  I pray that you will be ready to face death in the power of Jesus’ name.  That’s my point for today.