1. "Are Ye Able...?"
I thought and prayed about a new topic for our Daily Devotionals, and the words of Jesus kept coming to my mind, "Are ye able...?" (Matthew 20:22) Our weather has been very hot and humid for the past week or two, conditions which are challenging to me since I was diagnosed with asthma two years ago. I may go to bed with big plans for the following day, but wake in the morning disappointed as I admit that I am not able to go, or do, what I had hoped to do. I am having a hard time adjusting to this new way of life since I was always very healthy and able to work hard to accomplish the things I needed or wanted to do. There will always be certain things in life that we are unable to do, but many others which we can try to be: dependable, available, peaceable, likeable, and hospitable, to name a few. Let's look at some of the things we are able to strive for to be servants pleasing to God, knowing that He is able to help us along the way.
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Jude 24-25
2. Are We Able To Follow In His Foot Steps?
As we begin our new devotional series let's look at the scripture where Jesus asked the disciples, "Are ye able...?"
"20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." (Matthew 20:20-23)
In the previous verses Jesus had just told the disciples how He would be betrayed and crucified. He tried to prepare them on many occasions, but they failed to see, and looked for Him to reign as King. James and John may have desired to reign with Him, but did they really understand all Jesus was asking them? When we trust in the Lord to be our Savior, we look forward to heaven and all the glory that awaits. We may be surprised by the troubles and trials that we have to go through here on earth. Following Jesus is a daily surrender to His will, as we read in Luke 9:23. "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." This may seem hard, but the Apostle Paul assures us, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) When days are hard and you begin to feel like you are not able to go on, put your trust in Jesus to carry you through. A better day is coming! "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)
3. Are We Teachable?
Last week I worked on the Activities Page of my devotional web site to update it for our Back To School games and party ideas. The youth at church always enjoyed playing the games and went away with prizes of new school supplies. (You can see the Back To School Activities page here.) Many students and teachers are preparing to go back to school. With this in mind I want to look today at the question, "Are we teachable?" The old saying goes, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" but I like to think that we are never too old to learn, although I will admit that it gets harder as we grow older. My hearing and eyesight are getting worse and I am not as quick to grasp new concepts as I once was. But in our quest to be good servants of the Lord we need to be teachable. We can learn from the preaching and teaching of God's Word and in our personal Bible study as Paul told Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15) There is a great example in Acts 18:24-28.
"24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ."
Notice that Apollos was described as "an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures... instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord,..." and he spoke boldly in the synagogue. He was a great preacher! Aquila and Priscilla heard him and "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." The Apostle Paul had lived and worked with Aquila and Priscilla and no doubt they talked together of the things of God. Apollos became a great minister of God's Word and I believe that it was possible because he was teachable. There are many people out there who think they "know it all" and as long as they have that mentality they probably know all they are going to know. But when we seek for knowledge and wisdom, God has promised we will receive. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)
"I would have." "I could have." "I should have." I don't think anyone has used these phrases as often as I have. It is discouraging to face regrettable situations. Many times they weren't intentional. I usually plan to do the right thing but sometimes I get distracted and forget, or get misunderstood, or just don't know the situation. I don't want to come to the end of my life and look back with regret, so I try to ask the Lord to forgive me and work hard to do better the next time. For our Biblical reference I want to look at the disciples at the Feast of the Passover with Jesus.
"1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded...
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:1-5 and 12-17)
Because they wore sandals and walked from place to place their feet got dusty and dirty. It was the custom for the servant of the house to wash their feet before the meals. I think that as Jesus took the towel and washed the feet of the disciples there may have been some who thought, "I could have washed Jesus' feet" or maybe even, "I should have washed Jesus' feet." The bason, water, and towel were all there. Jesus used this to illustrate how we are to serve others. Do we have an attitude of service toward others? I believe that one way we can serve the Lord is by serving others. "Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25:45)
5. David Made Himself Available, And God Made Him Able
I have often heard, "The best ability is availability." We are looking at the familiar story of David, who heard the Philistine giant defy the armies of God and said, "Is there not a cause?" He made himself available to fight to take away the reproach from Israel. David was just a shepherd boy, and King Saul told him he was not able to fight this battle, but through his faith in God, David led the Israelites to victory.
"32 And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee." (I Samuel 17:32-37)
There are many things that we are not able to do, but when we make ourselves available to the Lord, He can work through us to accomplish His plan! Let's step up and be available to fight for the cause of Christ!
6. We Have Different Capabilities
When I decided to put down new flooring two years ago my Mom joked that we would practice on mine and then we would do hers after we learned what we were doing. Well, Mom is now ready to put down new flooring. She decided to paint her walls before we start on the floor, and also decided that painting the walls might make the ceiling look dirty, so we began with the ceiling. I have spent the past two days going up and down a ladder. Painting takes a lot of patience. It also takes dexterity and a steady hand. It is a job that not everyone is capable of doing. I believe that God gives us different gifts or talents. And we need to do what we can to the best of our ability as we are capable of doing. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:6-8) God wants us to be faithful servants according to the abilities He has given us. We shall be rewarded for our faithfulness. This reminds me of the time David and his men went to rescue their wives from the attack of the Amalekites. Some were not able to stay with the battle, but they received a reward by faithfully abiding by the stuff.
"21 And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them.
22 Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart.
23 Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.
24 For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.
25 And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day." (I Samuel 30:21-25)
7. God Is Able To Deliver
In our last two devotionals we used scripture references to David's victory in battles. Today we turn to the book of Daniel and see two examples of men who had faith that God was able to deliver them from their battles. Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were commanded by the king to bow to his golden image. They refused even though the penalty was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. I admire their faith and their answer to the king. "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:16-18) Daniel is the next example, as he continued to pray to God after the law was made against him. He was thrown into a den of lions, but God also delivered Daniel.
"19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." (Daniel 6:19-23)
In both of these accounts they had faith that God was able to deliver. During these last days we may encounter some battles that we will have to fight as Christians. Our faith may be tested and tried, but remember, God is able to deliver. "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27)
8. God Can Save The Lost And Make Them Profitable
My Grandfather, Moyer P. Beasley, pastored at a few different churches in our area as I was growing up. The last church he pastored was very small with just a handful of members, but he was faithful to preach as long as he was able, until he died of cancer. I don't know how many people were saved under his ministry but I do know that I was. I don't know if he thought he was profitable to God leading just a few sheep, but I believe that his work carries on. I believe that he will be rewarded for preaching the sermon that the Holy Spirit used to convict me and call me to Jesus those many years ago. Michael and I tried to sow the seed of God's precious Word to our children and I believe that my Grandfather will also be rewarded in part for their salvation, and for the work they do for the Lord, since he had such a big part in my salvation. I want to be profitable to the Lord. I want to leave a testimony that will live on for God long after I am gone. I am now reading through John and I was really touched by chapter four, the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. She was a lost sinner, but her life was changed when she met Christ. "The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:28-29) She testified to the ones she knew. Now, look at the next verse. "Then they went out of the city, and came unto him." (John 30:30) The Lord changed this lost woman, and made her profitable for His work. Notice His discussion with the disciples while she was away.
"35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word;
42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." (John 4:35-42)
We may not feel profitable to the Lord if our calling is small. But the Lord promised that those who sow will rejoice with those who reap. We can be profitable to the Lord by serving Him in the place He has put us, even if it seems so small. In Paul's letter to Philemon about a runaway slave named Onesimus he said, "Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him,..." (Philemon 11-12) We were all lost in sin until Jesus found us and saved us by His marvelous grace. Only God has the power to cleanse us and make us profitable for Him.
9. Longing For A Peaceable Life
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9) Our world is far from peaceful. And it seems to get worse every day. I hate to look at the news because of all the hatred that abounds, not just across the seas, but across the state, or sometimes across the street. What can we do to bring hope to our children and grandchildren? We can pray!
"1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" (I Timothy 2:1-5)
I long for my heavenly home where we shall live peaceably throughout eternity. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:4-5)
10. Dorcas Was Charitable
In our quest for what we are able to do for the Lord, I want to look today at Dorcas. She was raised from the dead by Peter, but I want to focus on her charitable nature. She is described as a woman who "was full of good works and almsdeeds." At her death the widows showed Peter the coats and garments which she had made. I don't believe that she had a shop selling these clothes from her home. I think the widows which were there in mourning were wearing these clothes. They wanted Peter to see the good works this woman had done. We are not saved by good works, but our good works can be a witness to others. In this world there are so many in need. Let's proclaim the name of Jesus through our good works and be charitable to others.
"36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord." (Acts 9:36-42)
11. Dependable And Reliable
If you were an employer getting ready to hire a new employee, you would want someone that would be dependable and reliable. If I needed to buy a new car, I would look for one that was dependable and reliable. No matter how good it would look in my driveway, it would not be any good if I could not depend on it to get me where I needed to go. Should we think that God would expect any less from us? Can He depend on us to live for Him in such a way that others can see Christ shining through our lives? Are we dependable and reliable to our Pastor at church? Can the choir leader depend on us to be faithful in the choir? If you are a Sunday School teacher, can your students rely on you to be faithful to church and teach them from God's Word? Pastor Jack Tripp preached recently on the importance of not being a missing link. The cure for Naaman's leprosy began with a little maid.
"1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.
2 And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
3 And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy." (II Kings 5:1-3)
God used this little maid. She was dependable in getting out the message about the great Prophet Elisha. But there were other links in this story. She told Naaman's wife, and someone got word to the King of Syria, who wrote a letter sent by a messenger, to the King of Israel, who despaired until word got back to Elisha, who sent a messenger to tell Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River. When Naaman thought Elisha should have performed some great miracle and started to go back home, his servants convinced him to wash in the Jordan as Elisha had said, and Naaman was cured. Each person in this story was a link to Naaman's healing. Each one was dependable and reliable and did his, or her, part as God willed. If someone had broken the link, then there may not have been another person to take his place. When God puts something on our heart to do or say, then we need to follow through, no matter how small or unimportant the task may seem. We may be part of a link that needs not be broken. Let's be dependable and reliable in God's eyes.
12. Heaven Is Reachable
Do you remember the story of Babel when the men of the earth wanted to build a city and tower that would reach up to heaven? I don't think they actually thought they could get to heaven with their tower, but they wanted to make a name for themselves.
"1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:1-9)
These men could not build a way to heaven through their works. Neither could they lift themselves up to God through their pride. There is only one way to heaven. Jesus gives us the assurance that heaven is real. He also tells us that He is the way.
"1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:1-6)
There is no sin in heaven and because we all have sinned we could never get there on our own merits. Jesus came to give His life on the cross as our sacrifice to pay for our sin. When we confess our sin to Him and believe in our heart that He is the only way to God the Father, then He will forgive us our sin and we can be saved. So we see today that heaven is reachable. We can't build a tower high enough to reach heaven, and we can't lift ourselves up to God, but we can trust in Jesus as our Savior because He is the only way!
13. We Are All Accountable Unto God
Many people are living under great burdens and I try to use these devotionals to encourage people in the Lord. I feel for those who are hurting and try to lift them up through God's Word and prayer. But, sometimes we need to be reminded that God is not only a God of love, but one day He will be our Judge. Our message today is that we are all accountable to God, whether we are rich or poor, and no matter our race or nationality, each one of us will one day stand before God Almighty in judgment. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:10)
"7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:7-12)
14. When Is An Acceptable Time To Be Saved?
We begin today with a verse from Psalms 69:13, "But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation." The question we are asking is, "When is an acceptable time to be saved?" We have talked about being saved. Many have heard the gospel message that Jesus came to die to pay for our sin so that we can confess to Him and believe that He is the only way to be saved. Some believe and trust Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, but others hear and put off the decision. Maybe they want to be saved later on, but they want to enjoy the things of the world a little while longer. When is the right time to be saved? Of all the people in the Bible who believed on Jesus I only know of one story where a man got saved just before he died. The man on the cross believed on Jesus and he was saved, so we see that we can be saved on our death bed, but I think it is very rare. The Bible tells us when the acceptable time of salvation is in II Corinthians 6:2. "(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)" "Now is the accepted time." We are not promised tomorrow. "Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." (Proverbs 27:1) Now is the time to be saved. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart and drawing you to Jesus, please confess your sin to Him now and believe on Him to save you. One day it may be too late.
15. Our Desirable God
I am a "Christmas all year" kind of person. I am looking for ideas to use to make Christmas gifts and I like to start early so I don't have to rush with last minute details. And even though it is hard to think about it when our weather is still in the high 90's, we are only four months away from Christmas. I went in Hobby Lobby today to see what they have out for Christmas in the craft department, and while walking through the store (I love to walk through that store...) I saw a wall hanging with a beautiful wooded scene and deer and the verse from Psalms 42:1. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." The next verse goes on to say, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" Do we long for the Lord as the Psalmist did? Do we hunger and thirst after the things of God. Jesus told His followers, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6) I am older than I like to admit, and through these years I have learned that the more time I spend reading my Bible and in prayer talking with my Lord, the greater the hunger is for the things of God. I know that it may be hard to find time for daily Bible reading, but I would like to encourage you to read the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, between now and Christmas. That is one book each month. I can think of no greater way to prepare for the blessed season in celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this focus on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus will bring a desirable appreciation and greater joy for Christmas.
I have noticed that when I go to a specialty shop for a big purchase the sales person is so nice and helpful. He or she seems to have all the time in the world to help me choose the right product and ring it up quickly. After the purchase, is usually a different story. If I have a question about the product, the sales person is so busy or on the phone and I can barely get him to talk with me. This is not always the case, but many times sales people are only interested in making the sale and once you buy it they don't have time to help you work out any problems that may occur. I am afraid that the politicians running for office are often the same way. They will make promises to get elected, but how many will actually stand by their word? Our word for the day is "unmovable". We see this in I Corinthians 15:58. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." I believe that James explains it well in James 5:12, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." We need to take a stand for what's right and keep the stand we take, no matter who is in our company. We should not have a different standard of living for our church friends, our co-workers, and our after work buddies. The Apostle Paul had some good advice to the church at Ephesus on taking a stand for God.
"10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;" (Ephesians 6:10-18)
17. Our Reasonable Service
If I go out to eat and a waitress takes our order, I expect her to bring my food and fill my water glass when I need it. It's not that I am used to being waited on in my daily living, but that as a waitress that is her reasonable service. There are some waitresses who go above the normal service and try to make my dining as pleasant as possible. When we talk about our reasonable service to God, we need to look at Romans 12:1-2. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." God sent His Son Jesus to die for you and me, and it is our reasonable service to live for Him. First, we see in this scripture that we are to present our bodies a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." God wants our bodies, as poor and weak as they may be. Paul told the Corinthian believers, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (I Corinthians 6:19) Next, we see that God wants our mind. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind," We see this in Philippians 4:8. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." And last of all, our reasonable service to God involves our will, "...that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." We surrender our will to God through prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God's will be done. "And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." (Luke 11:2) Jesus died for us, and it is our reasonable service to give Him our body, our mind, and our will.
18. I Want To Be Usable
My pastor through my teenage years was Preacher Arthur F. Blackburn. I remember that as he preached he would sometimes say that he wanted to be used of God and didn't want to be set on a shelf. That was a long time ago and I can appreciate and understand what he said more than I could when I was young and carefree. It came to my mind the other night when I was thinking about how I want to be usable. I don't think any of us really want to be set aside, to feel useless, when we grow old. I feel like my part in the Lord's work is so small, but I pray that He will continue to use me and keep me in His will so that I can become a vessel of honor. As I thought about those who served the Lord and were faithful to God and now they can't attend church regularly or they don't have the means to serve the Lord, I realized that they are still precious in God's sight. Sometimes we keep things we don't use on our shelves because of the joy they give us. They may be too precious to our hearts to use because we don't want to break them, but we still enjoy having them. We may have something that was given to us by someone special and even though we don't use the item, we keep it close by for the sweet memories it brings. I pray that I have the mind and strength to serve the Lord as long as I live, and after I have gone I hope that God still uses the life I lived to be a blessing to others.
"19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (II Timothy 2:19-21)
19. Is It Believable?
Mom's new flooring was on back order so while she waits she is remodeling her bathroom. She is also doing some major cleaning and tossing things that are almost as old as I am. She pointed to the shelf of encyclopedias today and told me she was going to throw them away. I agreed that was a good idea. I don't think anyone would want encyclopedias that are almost fifty years old. Especially today when you can pull up all types of information on the internet in seconds. I searched for all the gardening ideas I could find when planning my vegetable/flower garden. I compared information and found that some of it was just unbelievable. I can find some good web sites that help me with problems and projects, but I have learned that some of the people don't know as much as I do about the subject. Don't trust everything you see and hear. But... you can believe the Bible, because it is God's Word. The Holy Bible tells us that believing on God's Son, Jesus Christ, brings salvation. John walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, heard His Words and talked with Him. He was a witness to all those things and he wrote to confirm that they are true. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:30-31) "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." (I John 5:13) I believe the Bible. All of it! From creation in Genesis 1:1 to the prophecy of how the world will end in Revelation.
20. Sadly Unnoticeable
For two weeks after we killed the copperhead under the zucchini, I could smell another snake in the garden so needless to say, we didn't spend much time there. Then the weather turned hot, and for several weeks the temperature was in the high 90's and we gathered the vegetables quickly and came back to the house. In my absence, the weeds took over. The garden is steadily coming to an end, but the weeds are thriving! As Mike gathered a few okra I noticed how tall the weeds were. So with the little break in the weather I decided to till them under before they seed over. As the ground started breaking up I could smell the rich dirt, then I noticed the pungent odor of the marigolds which I was careful to leave, and in sharp contrast I could smell the sweetness of the small cantaloupes which had not fully matured as they busted under the tines. I started thinking about how God has given us so much to enjoy and much of it goes unnoticed. God created a beautiful world and gives us senses to taste the goodness, ears to hear, and eyes to see. I don't believe that we are intentionally ungrateful, but I think we are so blessed we take it for granted and much of God's goodness is unnoticeable. An even sadder thought, is that with the convenience of electronic devices, many people go unnoticed. It is sad to see people in a restaurant giving all their attention to their phones instead of talking with those seated with them. From the smallest little children, to the oldest grandparents, many are sadly unnoticed, day after day. Now that we are in September our minds start thinking ahead to fall. Let's take time to notice the beauty of the autumn leaves. Let's take advantage of the cooler weather and spend time outdoors with those we love. Let's be ready for the smell of roasted turkey and pumpkin pies by being thankful today. A good place to start is Psalm 139:14, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
21. God Is Able
I am burdened with some urgent prayer requests. I have family members that are undergoing treatment for cancer. Others who are battling different physical ailments and need healing. Some have financial needs, and some have back-to-school stress. I also need answers that only God can provide. The one thing that gives me hope is that I know God is able! "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:" (II Corinthians 9:8) We also see His grace in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." God wants us to go to Him in prayer and He promises to hear and answer. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." (Jeremiah 33:3) I close with Paul's prayer to the Christian believers at the church of Ephesus.
"14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:14-21)
22. Nothing Is Able To Separate Us From The Love Of God
I don't think we can ever comprehend just how much God loves us. He gave His only Son to die and pay for our sin. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. God loves us and nothing can separate us from His love. "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39) With such love it is hard to understand why anyone would turn Him away.
23. Joy Unspeakable
Our choir sings a song which was written by Barney E. Warren in 1900. The title is "Joy Unspeakable" and it is a joyful song to sing. I hope that you are having a joyful day! I have found that it makes my day much brighter to sing songs of praise to my Lord. So, here's praying you will have a joyful and blessed day! "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:" (I Peter 1:8)
I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.
I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.
I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face.
I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.
24. Labor Day
Is It Alright To Be Comfortable?
When I worked in an office the people in management kept trying to get us "out of our comfort zones." I always thought I worked better in my comfort zone. I could do a better job when I knew what I was doing and understood how to make things work smoothly. It was much more difficult for me to get my job done "out of my comfort zone." I kept wondering why being comfortable was so bad. I guess they were trying to push us beyond our conceived limitations. There are two verses that come to my mind about being too comfortable. "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." (Jeremiah 48:11) "And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil." (Zephaniah 1:12) When I read these verses of people being "settled on their lees" the picture that comes to my mind is an old farmer, sitting in his blue jeans, leaning back in a straight back chair, resting. I think these verses are really telling us to look for the Lord's coming and do what we can for Him, while we can. I don't think the Lord minds us taking a day off to celebrate our labors. In fact, we read in Mark 6:31, "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat." Jesus knew that our bodies need rest. So, this Labor Day I hope that you can find some time to sit back and be comfortable, in your lees, your wranglers, or your levis.
25. God Comforts Us, That We May Be Able To Comfort Others
I recently mentioned that my heart is burdened with the pain and suffering of so many of my friends. It is hard to watch loved ones go through such sorrow and heartbreak. One of the things I have noticed is how wonderfully Christian friends are reaching out to try to comfort others. I see the uplifting words and promises of prayer fill the posts of trials and conflict. We see so much bad news today, that it is good to see posts of people trying to make life a little easier for someone who needs help. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4) If you are going through the storms at this time, I pray that you can find the comfort of God through His love and mercy, passed to you through His children. If you have been through the trouble and trials, I pray that you can comfort others with the same comfort that God provided for you.
26. Our Comparable Notions
It begins before we are even born. Mothers compare their pregnancies, and then once the baby is born, its, "My firstborn was bigger", or maybe, "She cries more than Mary did". We don't mean anything by these remarks, and we never think about them weighing heavy on the emotions of the new mother. When there are complications we may not be as vocal as the disciples, but do we question in our hearts as they did. "And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2) As our children grow, it can get worse, even affecting their personalities and development, when we compare their behavior, their size, and their abilities. I don't know why it is so important to us to compare one person with another, when God created each of us as individuals. We may look at a man and say, "He has the nicest house in the neighborhood", or "She has the newest car", or "She is the smartest girl in her class." But, I am sure God does not look at us that way. All that we have comes from God, and He created us according to His will. I don't think God judges us on how short or tall we are, or how fast or slow we move, so why is it so important to us? Sometimes we look at people and make our wrongful judgments about their spirituality, just as Job's friends did. When things are going well we think that person is so blessed by God, but when a family goes through the dark storms of life we may wonder what they did to be judged like that. It's wrong. I do it, you may do it, but it's wrong. I read Acts 12 last night, which begins...
"1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)"
King Herod killed James, and put Peter in prison. During the night the Angel of the Lord appeared to Peter and the chains fell from his hands and he followed the Angel out of the prison. As I was reading this I wondered, "Why was James killed, and Peter released?" There is a verse in Isaiah 55:8 that I need to remember. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." We would do well to put away our comparable notions. We don't know why God delivers some from the storms, and delivers others through the storms. We just need to put our faith and trust in Him and know that He is in control of all the storms of life. I close with these encouraging words found in Romans 8:28 & 31. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose... What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"
27. Praise God! He Can Save To The Uttermost!
I am reading through the book of Acts and when I came to chapter 10 tears filled my eyes. I have not heard many sermons about Cornelius, but we should be so thankful for his role in the early church.
"1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:" (Acts 10:1-5)
Cornelius was a Gentile and Jesus came as the promised Messiah to the children of Abraham, the Jewish people. John explains it simply, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:11) After the Jews rejected Jesus, the way of salvation was opened to the Gentiles. Cornelius sent for Peter, and gathered his family and friends to hear what Peter had to tell them.
"34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)" (Acts 10:34-36)
As he preached the Holy Ghost fell on the Gentiles and they were saved and baptized. As I read this I thought about how I was once lost. I realized that if God had not offered salvation to the Gentiles, then I would have no hope. Without Jesus, there would be no way I could go to heaven and I would be doomed to spend eternity in hell. But, thanks to God, I have hope! I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and save me and since that day I have not had to worry about dying. I know that He took away my sin and has gone to prepare me a place in heaven to spend eternity praising Him. My God is able to save to the uttermost! "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)
We had a good time this evening with our family. Our parents and our children that live locally (and their families), came for dinner and homemade ice cream. It was good to get together with those we love. There are many verses in the Bible that tell us to love each other. Two are found in I John 4:7-8. "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (I John 4:7-8) I have noticed that as people get older they seem to get sweeter or they become bitter. I want to be one that gets sweeter and sweeter. I have prayed for several years that God would give me more love for others. I want my heart to just overflow with love. Jesus tells us how important love is in Matthew 22:36-40.
"36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Of all the things we can do to show the world we are Christians, love is the most important thing. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35) Our word for today... Lovable. Not just what we do, but what we are.
29. When We Are Not Able
Do you sometimes feel like your work is in vain? Does it seem like you are fighting a losing battle? You may find help in the little book of Nehemiah. A remnant of people had been set free to go back and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They faced many obstacles, and at one point they just admitted, "We are not able to build the wall." The people had a mind to work, but their strength was gone and there was much rubbish in their way. The enemies fought them from every direction.
"6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
7 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,
8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
10 And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.
11 And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.
12 And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.
13 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.
15 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work." (Nehemiah 4:6-15)
If you keep reading through the book of Nehemiah you will see that they did finish the wall. They stood together, they prayed together, and they worked together. There are times when the task is too great to bear alone, and we are not able on our own. And if there is no one else to stand with you, put all your trust in the Lord and He will never let you down. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)