Saturday, November 25, 2017

Looking like Jesus

Galatians 5:1-6
             “To become Christ-like is the only thing in the whole world worth caring for, the thing before which every ambition of man is folly and all lower achievement vain.”                                          - Henry Drummond

             It is interesting when a child is born. One of the first comments from anyone is that the baby looks just like so and so. One day, they might look like mom, dad, aunt or uncle. I remember just after my oldest niece was born we were walking her in a stroller. Someone that should have known came up to us and asked if my wife and I were walking our son. We told him that no, not only was it not our son, but it was my sisters GIRL. It just so happened that my niece looked a little like me when she was born. My oldest son favored me at first and now he looks much more like the Smalley side of the family. My youngest son is an exact replica of his grandpa Frank (Oh, NO!).
One of my favorite passages of scripture is Philippians 2:5-11. I find the underlying themes of all of biblical doctrines are the fact that we desire to be like Christ. The British novelist J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, "Sheep get to be like their Shepherd, it is said, but slowly." The renewal of the inner person, becoming Christ-like, is not accomplished in a  moment but a lifetime.
Augustine (354-430) observed that this process is like healing from a near-fatal wound. "It's one thing," he said, "to remove the spear, but quite another to heal the wound by long and careful treatment." This healing occurs gradually as our old ways of thinking and living are erased, and we become more like our Savior as we are renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). This renewal takes place not by        self-effort alone but by faith. It involves reading, meditating on, and obeying God's Word. We must also fix our minds on the character of Christ and ask God to make us like Him.
Then we must wait, confident that God is working in us to accomplish His purposes. Every day has its mishaps and memories of something we should have done or not done, but we must not be impatient. Though incomplete, we are in process. Sin may frustrate us for a day, but God is at work—and on ahead lies perfection, which is "the hope of righteousness" (Galatians 5:5).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Philippians 4:6-7

Let’s find out today how we go about worrying about nothing.
The key to finding peace in anxious times is to - pray about everything. In other words, instead of worrying about it, pray about it. That is how we release our worries, relieve our stress and put our trust in God. Turn your anxious thoughts into prayer requests. In so doing, you turn your eyes off the problem and on to God, who is the problem solver. Remember, “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.” When you pray about it you are taking your problems out of your hands and placing them in God’s hands.
I heard about a guy who worried all the time. He worried about his checkbook, his investments, his wife, his mortgage payments - he worried about the fact that he worried so much. Finally, one of his friends hit him with a question and said, “Man, why do you worry so much – you’re always so agitated?” “Not anymore,” the man replied. “How’s that?”, the friend inquired. The fellow explained, “I hired somebody to worry for me - I put an ad in the newspaper and offered $10,000 a week to somebody qualified to make me worry-free by doing all my worrying for me.” The friend laughed, “And how do you think you’ll pay him?” The man shot back, “Hey, that’s his worry!”
Don’t you wish it were that easy? Actually it is and we don’t have to hire anyone. We have a God that wants to handle our problems for us. I Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Giving God your worry, anxieties and cares is an act of humility. You are saying, “Lord, I can’t handle it, but you can.” A corollary verse can be found in Psalm 55:22. It says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you.” Cast your burden on the Lord literally means to throw them down or slam them down on God. The way you do that is in prayer. In other words, whenever a worry filled, anxious thought comes to mind, instead of sitting and stewing on it, pray about it. Through prayer you can slam down your worries.
Try this exercise. Take several pieces of paper crumpled up with these words written on them; “family problems,” “health problems,” and “financial problems”. Let me show you what that looks like. An anxious thought comes, “My teenager has been acting rebellious.” “Well Father, you gave me that child and I have committed him to you. I took him to Sunday school, I pray for him daily, and I trust him into your hands. I’m not going to worry about it, he’s your responsibility.” (Crumple the paper and slam it down). “Yes, there have been layoffs at the plant but you’re the God that supplies all of my family’s needs according to your riches in glory. I’m going to continue to be the best employee I can be, pray for for my boss and company, and trust you. Even if I do get laid off, you’ll provide for me, maybe through another job. But I refuse to worry about it; I give it over to you.” (Throw the next paper). “The doctor’s report wasn’t good but it’s not my responsible to worry about. I’m going to take good care of myself, follow the doctor’s instructions, and claim the Bible’s promises of divine healing. Lord, I trust you with my health, in Jesus name, Amen.” (Repeat).
That seems to sound easy, and in principle it is. Now, pick one of those pieces of paper back up. Do you notice how quickly it came back? That’s because it’s your paper. Once you cast them on the Lord, don’t ask for them back by setting your mind on them again. If you do, He’ll give them back to you, because they’re your problems. So once you cast them on him, let Him handle them and don’t take them back. There are too many that spend the time casting them through prayer into the lap of the Lord but are yet determined to take them back and worry over them again. Once you place it in His hand, leave it there and the way to do that will come tomorrow.

“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
- Corrie Ten Boom

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Write it on paper

Genesis 12:1-4
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.’”
                                                                 Erma Bombeck
Calendars are an interesting thing. We plan, schedule and cajole our time so that we are able to meet the demands of our responsibility. I hate to be late for anything. I was raised that if you are supposed to be somewhere at a certain time, that meant you were at least five minutes early. I still live by that principle (much to my wife’s chagrin). However, invariably something goes wrong. Some time ago, we were scheduled to fly out of Kansas City at 6 a.m., which meant that we needed to be at the airport by 5 a.m. However, my alarm clock went off at 4:15 instead of 3:15. Our airport was forty minutes from my home. Needless to say, we barely made it. You see, life is what        happens to us while we are making other plans. Our lives are subject to detours and corrections that we never expected or imagined.
Abraham and Sarah could testify to that. They were planning for retirement when life "happened" to them. God adjusted their agenda. He told Abraham, "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). So this old couple packed up the tent and headed out to only God knew where. When Alexander the Great had completed his     conquest of Persia, he headed east. Author Halford Luccock said the general "marched off his maps." That happened to Sarah and Abraham. God gave them marching orders without a map. They   needed only enough faith to begin the journey, and they headed out to unknown territories and unimagined adventures. God never told them He would turn them "every which way but loose" before fulfilling His promise of a son who would become a great nation.
The lesson in all of this is very simple. Make your plans, but write them on paper, not in concrete. Use a pencil instead of a pen. God and life have a way of intruding and leading you on a journey that you might not have anticipated in your wildest dreams. Solomon said it just perfect, “A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

John 3:16, I John 3:2

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”
- Dion Boucicault

I have a dilemma. I am required by my relationship with Jesus Christ for you and I to establish an honest, genuine relationship before I discuss with you what I'm about to discuss. But it's a catch 22. I may never meet some of you. There are those I send these devotions to that I do not know, and there are those of you that are receiving these from people that are forwarding them to you. Yet I cannot bring myself to face my Creator unless I do my best to give you the opportunity I've been given.
So I'm going to assume that you, dear reader, do not believe the things I do and I'm going to tell you about my Lord. You see, someday I WILL face Him and I couldn't stand it if He said, "You say you cared about people, yet you didn't even try to tell them about My sacrifice for their sake?"
The thing is, someday you'll face Him, too. And you won't be able to point to my poor presentation of this message, my "pushiness," or any other way in which I may have been a bad example. I'll answer to Him for those things. At some point, you'll have to humble yourself, examine your own heart and admit your need of a Savior regardless of my bad example. You will not be able to look at some poor televangelist’s bad example of Christ. There will be no one that you will be able to blame for your choices today.
Someday it will be just you and Him and He'll say, "That messenger on the Internet? Oh yes, his interview is next week. The Televangelist? He may be a hypocrite but that's not your concern. He will answer to me if he was. Now I'm asking you why YOU rejected My sacrifice."
God so loved each one of that He did not send someone else to save the world, He came himself. I remember that statement hanging on either side of our sanctuary growing up. I think about it often. The great God of the universe, the one that spoke all things into existence, loved me so much that He became a man like me so that one day I might be like Him. I can’t wait to see Him.
The older we get, the more urgent it becomes to discuss this subject. So I cannot afford to mince words. You have a choice to make today. Will you bow to Him now or will you wait until later. The sound of His return is in the air. We are closer to the coming of the Lord than ever before. We MUST be ready to see Him.
The bottom line is a changed life can be yours if you want it. You say you want the one you have? Consider yourself fortunate for the time being. But it won't last forever. When you face the Master, you can do it with confidence.

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”
- Dion Boucicault

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Colossians 1:9-14
“Lamps make oil-spots and candles need snuffing; it is only the light of heaven that shines pure and leaves no stain.”      Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Some people may not especially enjoy poetry. But often a few lines of verse will grip our imagination, as do the following by Francis Thompson: "The innocent moon that nothing does but shine, moves all the laboring surges of the world." Here are some interesting facts in regard to the moon. The moon is nearly 240,000 miles from Earth and is only 1/400th the size of the sun. With no light or heat of its own, it reflects the radiance of that greater heavenly body. It appears to be relatively insignificant. Yet, the moon quietly and almost imperceptibly moves the oceans of the world by its gravitational pull. 
Does that sound like you? Do you often feel insignificant and unimportant? Most of us may not seem all that influential or well known. We do not have the giftedness, the wealth, or the position to make much of an impact on our society. Our names do not appear in Who’s Who of America, nor is it mentioned in the newspaper, nor are they mentioned on the radio. We may clench the thought that all we can do is practice our faith in the humdrum routines of everyday life.
Perhaps, though, unnoticed by us, we are having an influence on the people around us by our Christ-like attitudes and actions. I remember a time when we stopped to pick up some food following a church service. My wife went in to pay for the food and to pick it up while I sat in the car (I know, it should have been the other way around, but then this story would not be able to be written). A man that she had never met began asking her questions. The bottom line of the conversation was that this man saw a glowing from her. It was the glory of the Lord. I do not know where that man is today, but he probably has not forgotten a young wife that was dwelling in the reflection of the Son. Like the moon, my wife at that moment in time especially was radiating a glory that was not hers, but it was the glory of the Lord reflecting from her. 
You never know whom you will influence by acting like the moon and reflecting Him. Let's not be concerned, then, about our seeming lack of influence. Instead, do what Jesus commanded: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  Go, enter a closest and shut the door and see if even the smallest light can make a difference in the darkest night.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ezekiel 18:26-32
“My heart is as pure as the driven slush.”           Tallulah Bankhead

We purchased a car in 2006 during a “hail” sale. It was a Toyota Corolla. It has been a very good vehicle. After a decade of driving, we received a notice in the mail. It stated that the manufacturers had made a recall to fix something that had gone wrong in other Corollas. After ten years, it was amazing that they were still putting out warnings about defective instruments. During the past year, cars, trucks, tires, window blinds, and toy xylophones have been recalled by their manufacturers. In every case, the message was similar: "This product is defective or dangerous and could cause serious injury or even death. Return it to us and we will correct the problem." Nevertheless, it is up to the consumer to heed the warning and return the dangerous item. 
Suppose God put this warning on the heart and soul of every person: "Because of a fatal attraction to sin and willful misuse, this item is defective. Failure to correct this problem will result in certain spiritual death." How many “consumers” would be quick to take that defective instrument to the manufacturer? Honestly, our Toyota has never been brought into the dealer for the warning that we received. Fortunately, we have had no problems (at least in that area) with the car. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked above all things, and unless we deal with it at the cross of Calvary, it will become defective and cause us to fail.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God said that the hearts of His people had become adulterous (Ezekiel 6:9) and as hard as a rock (11:19). Yet, the Lord longed for their hearts to be softened, and for them to come back to Him. He made this impassioned plea: "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin . . . Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies . . . Therefore turn and live!" If you could just take your heart back into the Dealership, the Great Physician will do open heart surgery and draw you into His arms and embrace you like you were never broken in the first place.  Look at this poem:
The power of God can turn a heart
From evil and the power of sin;
The love of God can change a life
And make it new and cleansed within. —Fasick
The exciting thing about salvation is that it is not turning over a new leaf, but receiving a new life. How’s your heart today?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Matthew 28:16-20
“Accustomed to the veneer of noise, to the shibboleths of promotion, public relations, and market research, society is suspicious of those who value silence.”     John Lahr

As I was reading one day, I came across this story. I thought maybe you would like it. It is only a humorous story, yet it makes a serious point. Brother John was a timid man who dreaded speaking in public. He was terrified on the day it was his turn to give a devotional message. With his knees trembling, he faced his listeners and said, "Do you know what I'm going to say this morning?"
"No," answered the audience. He then said, "Neither do I," and he ran from the room. 
The next day he was told to try again. He said, "Do you know what I'm going to say?" This time they replied, "Yes." So he said, "Then you don't need me to tell you." Again, he fled. 
He tried a third morning, saying, "Do you know what I'm going to say?" Half his hearers shouted, "Yes!" and half shouted, "No!"  "Ah," said Brother John, "then let those who know tell those who do not know," and again he fled. 
At first, his hearers sat in silence. Then the words hit home: "Let those who know tell those who don't know."  It is the responsibility of those that know Christ to introduce others to our Savior. Paul stated in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him…” It was Paul’s desire to know Jesus Christ in all the Christ is, but then Paul desired to introduce Him to every pauper and president. 
There is as much power in silence as there is in speaking up. The difference is the results that power causes. Our silence can cause thousands NOT to hear about Jesus and our voices can influence thousands for Him. Which would you rather be? 
For three years, Jesus' disciples absorbed His teaching and observed His mighty works. They had come to know Him as the way, the truth, and the life. He was God in the flesh, the One who is "eternal life" (1 John 1:2). In the years to come, He so impacted their life that they devoted their lives to telling others about Christ. How has He impacted you and yours? Today, let those who know tell those who don't.