The Next Day

One day some of Napoleon’s officers came to him and recommended a young captain for promotion. When Napoleon asked them why they were suggesting the captain for promotion, they explained that he had used great courage and cleverness to win a victory several days earlier. To that, Napoleon replied, “Good, but what did he do the next day?” And that was the last that was ever heard in regards to a promotion for the young captain.

You say you went to church Sunday? Fine, but what did you do Monday? You studied your Bible Tuesday night? Okay, but what did you do Wednesday? You prayed a great prayer Thursday? Excellent, but what did you do Friday? You see, occasional flashes of brilliance in serving the Lord just don’t compare to a life that is wholly devoted to serving Him 24-7. So, how’s your case for a promotion right now?

Posted in Character, Church Attendance, Commitment, Discipleship, Faithfulness, God's Work, Obedience, Personal Holiness, Priorities, Righteousness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A New Shirt

Sally Haack tells the following story:

“Last summer one of the local civic clubs of which my husband was a member sponsored a camping trip for underprivileged children. Upon arriving at the camp, each little boy was given a Frisbee and a t-shirt.

When the weekend was over and the boys were boarding the bus to go home, one little boy ran up to my husband and handed him his t-shirt, which was rather soiled and wrinkled but nevertheless neatly folded and placed in its plastic package.

My husband told the boy that the shirt was his, that he could keep it. Big tears welled up in the boy’s eyes as he said, “Thank you. I’ve never had a new shirt before.”

My husband swallowed the lump in his throat and told the boy to be sure to come back next year and he could get another new shirt. The boy thought for a moment, then looked up and said, “No. I don’t think I will come next year.” “Well, why not?” asked my husband. The boy replied, “I think I’ll send my little brother. He’s never had a new shirt either.”

What all is currently hanging in your closet? How many pairs of shoes do you own? What’s inside your refrigerator right now? How much food is on the shelves of your pantry or cabinets? Are your bills paid up? Do you have some money in the bank? Then be thankful. Remember that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is still in the Bible:

“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (N.K.J.V.)

You see, whatever else might be the specific will of God for your life, I know that it His will for you to be thankful for what you have. So, work on that today.

Posted in Children, Contentment, Desires, Giving, God's Will, God's Work, Thankfulness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ordered Steps

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23, N.K.J.V.)

The Hebrew word translated as “ordered” in this verse is kun, and it’s a word that primarily means “to be established, readied, or prepared.” In Judges 16:26, it is used to describe the supports that held up the pillars upon which a Philistine building stood. In Psalm 93:1, it refers to how God has firmly established the world. In Genesis 41:32, it is used to emphasis the fact that the dream Pharaoh had on two separate occasions had been established by God and was therefore surely going to come to pass. As kun is used in the context of Psalm 37:23, it means that God will make rock solid the steps of the person who truly walks with Him. In other words, the person who walks with God never walks on shaky ground!

Of course, walking with God requires the individual to walk in God’s will. In terms of God’s will for any person’s life, He has a general will — love God, love others, keep God’s commandments, etc. — and a specific will — where to live, where to work, where to attend church, etc. Don’t hold to the wrong assumption that God is just sitting up in heaven, kind of half paying attention to your decision-making. Much to the contrary, He has a will regarding ALL of your decisions, even those that you consider inconsequential. As our text verse says, He wants to order and establish your steps and, consequently, delight in your way.

I once heard a comedian build a comedy routine around the advantages of driving a run-down car. He said, “When you drive an old car, you don’t care if it gets hit. That’s why, when I’m trying to get on the interstate, I just pull straight out into traffic. Let ’em sort it out behind me.” I cracked up at that joke, but it’s not so funny when you operate like that in life. When you go ahead and pull out into traffic and expect God to sort things out behind you, you live life backwards. Rather than letting Him order and establish your steps, you charge off down your own path and leave yourself wide open for all kinds of unpleasant results.

So, starting right now, you should dedicate yourself completely to seeking God’s will and doing it regarding each and every decision. That includes where you live, where you work, where you attend church, what clothes you buy, where you go on vacation, etc., etc., etc. Don’t be guilty of just pulling out into traffic regarding any decision. And never forget that God wants to lead you by walking ahead of you, ordering your steps, and making sure that you are always walking on solid ground, not by following up behind you and coming to your rescue every time you’ve stepped into a gopher hole, a ditch, a crevice, or even a pit.

Posted in Backsliding, Choices, Decisions, Doing Good, Dying To Self, God's Will, Obedience, Sanctification, Trusting In God | Leave a comment

Feeling Kind of Inadequate? Good!

My wife, Tonya, is a middle-school math teacher, which means that she is good at math. She isn’t nearly as good, however, in the areas of grammar and spelling. Being polar opposites, I am good at grammar and spelling but not much at math. So, would Tonya be quicker to seek God’s help concerning a situation that involved math or one that involved grammar? Obviously, she would run to Him more quickly for help with grammar. I, on the other hand, would run to Him more quickly for help with math.

The point is that none of us typically asks for the Lord’s help unless we really think we need it. In light of this fact, can you see how God would work against Himself if He made us all supremely talented and gifted in every area of life? I mean, if we could expertly handle everything that came our way, would we ever look to Him for guidance and strength? I think we know the answer to that.

Therefore, rather than cursing your inadequacies and physical shortcomings, you should learn to see them as pathways to God. Instead of being angry at Him for not making you “perfect,” you should hear Him calling you to Himself by way of your limitations. I don’t want to sound corny here, but God wants to show off for you. He wants you to see what He can do when you admit your inability and ask for His help. You say that you are struggling with a problem right now, one that is out of your skill set? Okay, that makes you NORMAL. Now take that problem to a loving, all-powerful God and let Him help you. And don’t feel shame for acknowledging your weakness. Instead, feel the joy that comes with working hand in hand with the One who created you and longs to share your life.

Posted in God's Love, God's Omnipotence, God's Omniscience, God's Provision, Individuality, Needs, Personal, Problems, Trusting In God, Worry | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Properly Appreciate Heaven

Charles Spurgeon, Victorian England’s most famous preacher, wrote the following concerning why the Christian has difficulties in this life:

“We would never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched or enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress. We would never discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten or feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Peace will be sweeter after conflict and rest more welcome after toil. The recollection of past sufferings will enhance the bliss of the glorified.”

Think about it, Christian. Who desires heaven more, the person who has never known anything but health, comfort, and ease or the person who is acquainted with sickness, hardship, and struggle? Show me a Christian who has mourned the loss of a loved one in Christ and I’ll show you a Christian who will enjoy heaven all the more because of the reunion. Show me a Christian who has never known the wealth of this world and I’ll show you a Christian who will truly appreciate the inheritance Peter spoke of in 1 Peter 1:4, an inheritance “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Perhaps, right now, you feel like you are being trodden in a winepress, pressed and beaten, or consumed in a fire. Well, Christian, just keep in mind that such grueling experiences do indeed produce their crop. It is a two-fold crop. First, it creates in you a sincere longing for heaven. Second, it grants you the background to be able to properly appreciate heaven when you get there. Are your grueling experiences easy to live through? No, they aren’t. But you can get through them if you will just keep your eyes focused on this two-fold crop and the blessings it brings.

Posted in Adversity, Comfort, Encouragement, Eternity, Heaven, Perseverance, Problems, Reward | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for Something?

Late one night, drunken Sam was down on all fours under a streetlight. He was groping around on the ground, obviously looking for something. A friend drove up and said, “Sam, what are you doing over there?” With slurred speech, Sam answered, “I lost my wallet.” So, the friend got out of the car, walked over, got down on his knees, and started helping Sam look. Finally, after a few minutes of unsuccessful searching, the friend said, “Are you sure you lost the wallet here?” Sam replied, “No, I dropped it a half a block over there.” “Then why are we looking for it here?” asked the friend. The answer came back, “Because there’s no streetlight over there.”

Laugh all you want, but Sam’s “searching” makes about as much sense as searching for sexual satisfaction at a pornographic web site, searching for happiness in a drug needle, searching for fulfillment in a financial report, or searching for joy in a bottle of liquor. And yet plenty of people go on these types of searches every day. Yes, such things might seem to offer some “light,” but I promise you that no one will ever truly find what they’re looking for under such light.

So what about you? What are you searching for these days? And just exactly where are you searching for it? You know, if you aren’t finding what you’re looking for, you need to start looking in a spot that makes more sense. Even if that spot is darker right now and makes for harder searching, that’s where you’ll find your “keys.”

Posted in Change, Choices, Desires, God's Will, Needs, Personal Holiness, Sin, Temptation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does God Love You? Yes!

Consider a father holding his beautiful baby. Which person in the scene loves the other more? Obviously, the father loves the baby more than the baby loves the father. If the baby is stricken with pain one night, the father won’t sleep a wink. But what if the father is the one stricken? The baby will keep right on sleeping. If the baby somehow finds itself in a potentially dangerous situation, the father will risk life and limb to come to the rescue. But what if the father ends up in such a situation? The baby won’t even notice. If the father suddenly dies of a heart attack, the baby will forget him in a few hours. But what if the baby suddenly and tragically dies? For all of the father’s days, he will never forget the child.

You see, the father does not withhold his love until the baby does something worthy of that love. To the contrary, the father loves the baby even when the child can in no way either earn the love or repay it. The father doesn’t love the baby for what the child does; he loves the baby for who the child is. That makes the love unconditional.

In 1 John 4:9-10, the Bible says:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (N.I.V.)

Remember this verse the next time you begin to question whether or not you are worthy of God’s love. You are no more worthy of God’s love than a baby is worthy of its father’s love. But does that father still love that baby? Of course. So, stop trying to earn God’s love. You’ve already got it. Instead, focus all your energy on being the kind of child of which He can be proud.

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“Let Me Tell You About My Better Half…”

In volume 4 of his commentary set on Romans, the noted preacher Donald Barnhouse tells the following story.

“A man I knew through my ministry was going with a girl who, some of us thought, was not at all worthy of him. We breathed a sigh of relief when he went away into the army for two or three years (this was during the war). The girl drifted around with other fellows, and, most happily, the young man met a worthy girl in a distant city. He fell in love with her and married her.

When the war was over and he had returned to his home with his bride, the first girl drove by the house one evening and dropped in to see her old flame and meet his wife. But the wife was not there. The first girl made no attempt to hide her affection and moved in such a voluptuous way that the young man realized he had but to reach out his hand and she was his. He told me about it afterwards.

There was within him all that goes with male desire. There was something much more within and he began to talk about what a wonderful girl he had married. He showed the pictures of his wife to the first girl and praised his wife to the skies, acting as though he did not understand her obvious advances. It was not long before she left, saying as she went, ‘Yes, she must be quite a girl if she can keep you from reaching.’”

I wonder how many affairs could be prevented, how many temptresses and tempters defanged, if only spouses would start bragging on their better halves the way the fellow in Barnhouse’s story did. After all, happy homes certainly make poor soil for sexual sin. So, are you married? Then get in the habit of singing the praises of your spouse to others. That’s a great way to keep potential home-wreckers at bay.

Posted in Adultery, Character, Choices, Desires, Husbands, Marriage, Personal Holiness, Temptation, Wives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

R-E-M-E-M-B-E-Q

Most of us have spent some time doing word-search puzzles. You know the kind I’m talking about. They are the ones that require you to find a list of words or names, each of which is imbedded in a large square of seemingly random letters. Usually the list of words or names has a specific theme such as Bible characters, movies, farm animals, names of Presidents, or whatever.

Sometimes the creator of a word-search puzzle will purposefully trick the reader. For example, let’s say that one of the words from the list is “remember.” Well, right there, in a sequence that is running vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, you find the letters: r-e-m-e-m-b-e-q. Naturally, your eyes fall upon those letters r-e-m-e-m-b-e, and by the time you get to that last “e,” you are thinking, “Got it.” But then comes that last letter, the “q,” and you realize that you’ve been had. It wasn’t coincidence that strung those first seven letters together, either, was it? No, whoever wrote that word puzzle had made a point of building a false trail into it that would end in a “gotcha” moment for anyone who would follow that trail.

I take no pleasure in reporting that sometimes discerning God’s will can be like following one of those false trails from a word-search puzzle. You think you are on a trail that is going to end in a certain something happening, but then reality suddenly smacks you in the face and you realize all too well that you’ve been following a false trail that Satan has designed to deceive you. He laid down the tracks, you boarded the train to follow them, and they ended in a concrete barrier.

In Romans 12:1-2, we find Paul’s familiar advice for figuring out God’s will for your life. He writes:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (N.K.J.V.)

Please notice that word “prove” that is found toward the end of that passage. It translates the Greek word dokimazo, a word that carries with it the idea of “testing.” That’s why the English Standard Version translation of Romans 12:2 renders the word “by testing” and the New International Version translation renders it “to test and approve.” The point is, if you think something is God’s will for your life, that something should be able to stand up to having its validity and truthfulness put to the test.

And how can you tell if it passes the test? If you are a Christian, one sure way involves your inner peace (or lack of it). In Colossians 3:15, Paul says to Christians, “… let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” The Greek word translated as “rule” there is brabeuo, and it literally means “to arbitrate, to decide, to act as an umpire.” This makes the application of the verse easy to understand. The inner peace that comes from God should serve as the umpire that makes the final call on whether or not something is God’s will in the life of the Christian. If the peace is there, the Christian should proceed onward until it isn’t, but as soon as the peace vanishes, that Christian should come to an all-stop and change direction.

Christian, I don’t know where this post finds you right now, but perhaps you are sincerely trying to figure out what God’s will is regarding a certain decision, choice, or course of action. If that’s you, a good prayer to regularly pray goes like this: “God, if I am following a false trail that Satan has designed to deceive me, help me realize my error as quickly as possible and get onto Your true trail for me.” If you pray that prayer and then start sensing a loss of God’s peace in your life, that loss of peace is your warning bell. It’s God’s way of letting you know that you are on a false trail, one that will never lead you to whatever destination He has in mind for you. To play off my title for this post, R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R that God taking away your peace is Him telling you, “The trail you are on is a wrong one; don’t let Satan keep leading you to its bitter completion.”

Posted in Change, Deception, Decisions, Discernment, God's Will, Inner Peace, Satan, Temptation, The Devil | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Just Never Know

Lyman Beecher was one of the most famous Presbyterian preachers of the 1800s. Early in his ministry, he once exchanged pulpits for a Sunday with the pastor of a small country church. It was in the middle of winter, with snow piled up along the road, and it was all that Beecher could do to maneuver his horse through the drifts and get to the church.

Once he arrived he found that he was the only one in attendance that morning. Not knowing exactly what to do about the situation, he went to the pulpit and began to pray silently. Finally, one man entered the church and Beecher proceeded to preach an impassioned, fervent message to him. At the sermon’s close, Beecher hurried down to greet the lone worshiper, but the man made his way out the door before Beecher could approach him.

Well, twenty years passed and one day Beecher was boarding a train when a pleasant looking gentleman approached him and asked, “Do you remember me, Dr. Beecher?” Beecher answered, “I don’t believe I do.” “Why, we once spent an hour together in a storm!” said the man. “I don’t recall it,” said Beecher, “where was it?” The man asked, “Do you remember preaching in a small country church to an audience of one man twenty years ago?” Beecher smiled and said, “Yes sir I do, and if you are the man, I’ve been wanting to see you ever since.” “I am the man,” said the fellow, “and the sermon you preached that Sunday morning led to my salvation, made a minister of me, and yonder is my church! And the converts from that sermon, sir, are all over Ohio!”

Be faithful in whatever your Christian duty is today, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. You just never know how God might use it.

Posted in Church, Church Attendance, Commitment, God's Work, Obedience, Preaching, Reward, Salvation, Sowing and Reaping | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment