Tuesday, February 27, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About - DIFFICULT TIMES.
If/When difficult times come my way, there are also difficult struggles and questions with which I will have to cope. How do I react and respond when difficulties arise within my life or sphere of personal interest? Do I respond with panic or calmness? Is my natural instinct fear or faith? When a decision or decisions must be made, is it done with confusion or confidence? If it involves a loved one, do I reach a place where I surrender to God's will, not mine being done? In a very literal way, can I genuinely and sincerely "let go and let God" have His way and fulfillment of His will/plan in and for my life and circumstance?
Over the years, I have found Hymnals to be a useful devotional tool. Some of the ancients had keen insight into the ways of God and the reality of the presence of God in and for their life. One such verse that is ascribed to the 13th-century English bishop Saint Richard of Chichester contains these helpful words: Day by day, day by day, O, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.
If I remember to couple these words with Micah 6:6-8 (Amplified Bible), I have a clear picture of the Lord's expectation for me as I approach Him to worship, serve and endeavor to live for Him: "With what shall I come before the LORD [to honor Him] and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Will the LORD be delighted with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my acts of rebellion, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]?"
When my difficult times come and I'm uncertain of the immediate or long-range impact they may have, what should my knee-jerk reaction or response be? My own choice to is to make a particular need known and ask faithful men and women to join in prayer regarding it. Graphic detail is not necessary inasmuch as the Lord to whom prayer is being offered already knows the detail and His resolve for the need in accordance with His perfect will and plan. I need to be certain that I frame any request with a focus upon Almighty God receiving all the glory. The catechism instruction must be implemented throughout my life and every detail pertaining to it: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
For one who has received God's call and has been engaged in ministry for Him, the approach of Paul's abandonment to God's will is clear. In Acts 20:22-34, he stated to fellow-believers that which he embraced as God's will for his life. He makes mention of the difficult times that await but he is undaunted by that possibility. "And now, compelled by the Spirit (and obligated), I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in town after town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions await me. But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus-the ministry of testifying to the good news of God's grace."
How do you and I respond to God's will when difficult times are in the balance? Do you and I come before the Lord with an unfettered faith and confidence in Him alone? As painful and as unwanted as it may be, can you and I be content with "His will - not mine" - being done for His glory alone?
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Monday, February 26, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About - ANALYSIS PARALYSIS.

While working on a graduate degree and writing required papers, one of our daughters has encountered a professor who is entrenched in her views regarding white supremacy. To indicate she is "set in her ways" would be a classic understatement. "White Supremacy" has little to do with the subject matter at hand. The course work is presently dealing with the cross-section of all cultural viewpoints that impact how people are to be approached and for which they are to become recipients of purposeful care. Even though this is in the secular realm, there seems to be an obvious application to the spiritual realm as well.

How one views basic matters pertaining to life has to be contained within a parameter that can be identified as cradle to the coffin perspectives. The spiritual factor pertains to the claims made about and by Jesus Christ regarding life's values and choices. For instance, When John is making his introductory comments about Jesus Christ (John 1), he declares in verse 4: "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men." Jesus will reiterate this declaration when he indicates to His disciples (John 14:6) this fact: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." The Amplified Bible renders this text: "I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Jesus Christ alone is the REAL and ONLY life that will allow one to enter God's eternal kingdom. In John 10:10, Jesus restates His being the source of the only/real life: "I have come that they may have life and have it in all its fullness." The Message paraphrase renders Verse 10: "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of."

Does Analysis Paralysis become a factor that will keep one from accepting and believing this truth spoken by Jesus Christ? In Luke 18:18-30, a rich ruler approaches Jesus Christ and asks: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus references the law and the ruler claims to have kept the commandments from his youth to the present time. Jesus then confronts him about his wealth and whether or not he has a focus on compassion toward the poor. Jesus says to him: "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." The ruler becomes very sad because he was very wealthy. The scenario is very similar to the instance when a Lawyer came to Jesus with a similar question in Like 19:25-37. Will those who are rich and/or well-situated in life be able to easily transition into being that which Jesus is stating they must be? In these illustrations, the answer was No! They were sad in their innermost being and went away sad. Why?

The demand by Jesus would cut through their analysis paralysis and give them a singular choice, namely, eternal life in Him alone. It is summed up clearly in Luke 9:23-24, "Jesus said to all of them: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." The ruler had to decide between his wealth and purposeful life in Christ. He made his choice as he went away sad because he was wealthy. The lawyer had been reared properly in terms of the standards of God but was unable (incapable) of transferring those standards into a practical compassion toward the multitudes of perishing - the wounded and near-death Samaritans throughout the world.

Are you one who is set in your ways? Are you willing to take up the cross of Christ daily and follow Him? Are you willing to set aside your personal analysis paralysis and find the only/real life in Jesus Christ alone - eternal life that will gain you entrance into God's heaven?

Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About - GAINING STRENGTH.
Over the years, my wife and I have tried to be supportive of Shriner's Hospital for Children and St. Jude's. Both of these institutions (along with some others) achieve remarkable results from the treatment they provide. If it hadn't been for their tireless and skilled efforts, many children might've just vegetated and not gained sufficient strength and confidence to try physical activities for which they were not physically capable. That which seemed impossible has been transformed so that a child without hands or arms can play a Piano with his feet; another missing a hand and arm is able to play the Cello' etc.
My thoughts shift into the spiritual area where maladies and challenges are present. Is there a possibility that one can gain strength for the journey of life? We should always be encouraged by the promises of God that He will be with His own regardless of the trials of life and the magnitude of the challenges. A promise such as Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) should readily come to one's mind: "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Notice that which God promises HE WILL do for you: (1) I WILL strengthen; (2) I WILL help; (3) I WILL uphold. Do you believe that? Is it a reality in your daily journey with him? What about the reassurances in Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)? "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Is this the dynamic for life in Christ that you have embraced and by which you live each day?
We should also give consideration to Second Corinthians 12:8-10 (NKJV) where mentions a thorn in his flesh: "Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for MY STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG."
There are times when one attempts to bluff his/her way through personal hardships and challenges. There are some reasons for doing so. Among them are the desire for privacy and not wanting to be thought of as a complainer or hypochondriac. However, there has to be a way within the body of Christ where one can unabashedly share inner feelings or needs. Can it be hazardous to do so? Sometimes, yes! Are there genuine souls within the body of believers who truly care about and for others? Gratefully, the answer is yes! On a professional level, especially in ministry, do colleagues manifest the compassion of Christ for one passing through a time of fear or physical need? In some circles, not usually. Why? I think it's because it might take time and involvement in behalf of a fellow-professional, colleague, minister. In such instances, it is a great blessing to know the intimacy of the Lord who never leaves, never forsakes and is never too busy to manifest His compassion.
Granted, some people erect barriers to protect themselves. A recent day in the Fusion Center, I was situated between an older and a younger woman. When the Pastoral Care Representative made her rounds, the older woman said in a dismissive way: "I'm Catholic!" It was her way of saying I don't need or want your Pastoral Care. The younger woman responded much more tersely: "I'm not interested and don't have time!" That was interesting. Her "Don't have time" is a misnomer in a Fusion Room. Chemo administered will take almost five hours. If anything. A person does have time!
I take great comfort in and am encouraged by the words of a Hymn written in 1901 by: Frank E. Graeff,
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained, Too deeply for mirth or song, As the burdens press, and the cares distress And the way grows weary and long?
Refrain: Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About - GUIDELINES FOR LIFE
There are basic Biblical guidelines that should encourage and prove to be helpful for those who journey along the narrow way. One of the encompassing prayers for the Christian life is Colossians 4:12 (NKJV). There isn't too much recorded about Epaphras, but it is obvious he was perceptive and dynamic in the prayer he offered for God's people. This is one of the basic and foundational guidelines for the follower of Jesus Christ: "Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. It was the burden of his heart and focus of his prayer that the child of God learns to fit his/her life into the will, purpose and plan of God for it.
Two other passages substantiate the importance of such a discipline of life. First is, Jeremiah 29:11-13 that speaks subjectively of a relational and intimate lifestyle that is possible with the Lord. "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. God has a perfect plan for the lives of His people. He wants them to desire it and live within its parameters. Second is the very familiar, although oft misquoted, statement in Romans 8:28-29, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. We must not gloss over too casually the words: "Called according to His purpose." It goes along with the prayer of Jesus, "Not my will but Thine be done."
There is a very practical word of instruction and guidance in Proverbs 4:23-27. I am so very thankful for a faithful Sunday school teacher who had the boys in his class memorize this passage; "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil." Along with this passage, he also had us memorize Psalm 1. (There is an obvious connection with the words of Proverbs): "Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law, he meditates day and night."
An additional guideline that connects to Psalm 1:1 is First John 2:1,15-17 that addresses the dangers of one who may become enamored by worldly or lesser things. John wrote: "These things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
One last guideline (requirement) is stated in Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you 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." The negative is: "Do not be conformed to this world!" The positive is: "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." When the Biblical Christian embraces and adheres to these words, the result in his/her life will be: (Then) you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
There are never any shortcuts when it comes to the will of God and implementing it in one's life. Just like the pursuit of holiness (sanctification), it will require patience and diligence as this process continues in one's life. Difficult choices will have to be made but they will be done with eternity's values always in view.
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About - IMPRESSING GOD.
One of the truths we learn from the Holy Scriptures pertains to the people throughout all generations who set out to please a god with their religion and religious practices. Within the early practice of Judaism, there is reference to the use of phylacteries. The general idea is described in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 indicating one's personal life and household being devoted to God, His Word and His Law. A phylactery was either of two small black leather cubes containing a piece of parchment inscribed with Scripture. One cube would be attached to the left arm and the other to the forehead during weekday morning prayers by orthodox and conservative Jewish men.
In any religious group, certain customs can be taken to extreme. When Jesus is pronouncing a series of woes about various religious practices in His day, He mentions in Matthew 23:1-7 (BSB) to His disciples about the Scribes and Pharisees and the religion they have adopted and demand of others. He states in verses 5-7, "All their deeds are done for men to see. They broaden their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the places of honor at banquets, the chief seats in the synagogues, the greetings in the marketplaces, and the title of Rabbi by which they are addressed."
We have untold numbers of people who cling to religious traditions and practices as a means of impressing "God" today. They have their rituals; the saints to whom they pray; the candles they light; etc. The more desperate an individual becomes the more the rituals come into play. The purpose of the individual is to impress "God" and to gain His favor for a particular need or expressed desire.
Do any of these things impress God and move Him to an action? No! There are two simple statements that tell one that which pleases and impresses Almighty God. The first is in Micah 6:8 (NLT), "The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." In Micah 6:6-8 (MSG), the text is rendered: "What can we bring to the Lord? What kind of offerings should we give him? The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Secondly, if one's purpose and goal is to impress God positively, we are instructed in Hebrews 11:6 (MSG), "It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (NKJV), "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
Regardless of how desperate our need or situation is or may become, what is our only hope and confidence? Can we trust God to do His work of the impossible as we come before Him in faith alone through Christ alone and seeking His grace alone? Yes!
I find real comfort and encouragement in the poetic words written by Annie Johnson Flint… He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sends more strength when the labors increase; To added afflictions He adds His mercy, To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
I hope and pray that these words will resonate with you and fill you with hope and confidence in God alone. He will not share His Glory with anyone or anything of mankind's invention. Trust Him! Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Friday, February 16, 2018


As the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ began, immediately after the temptation by the devil (Matthew 4), one of the first things Jesus does is to call disciples to follow Him. As they are called, He assures them they will become extra-ordinary men as they follow and serve Him. The first four men chosen were fishermen. He promises them that while they have natural skills of fishing for fish, he will give them the spiritual skills so they can fish effectively for the souls of people. Jesus introduces them to the concept of reproduction. In order for them to learn this concept and implement it will require instruction, demonstration and training. The words are significant when Jesus says to the first four men he chooses, fishermen by occupation, as you follow Me, "I will make you fishers of men." It is the process of learning how to develop the skills and gifts to effectively reach their generation for Jesus Christ. There will be and are many lessons to learn, but The Rabbi, the Master Teacher has committed Himself to that particular task of fashioning them into all of what He wants them to be. The task will be challenging, sometimes daunting, and the opposition to their learned skills great. They will need tenacity if they are to reach the vast cross-sections of people in their day. Jesus Christ is convinced they have proven their tenacity from their years of fishing for fish. He is confident they will have that same determination to reach the lost with His Gospel.
Why did Jesus Christ select those who would become His disciples and apostles? Did they have the unique skill sets for the work of a disciple? Did they have special gifts that Jesus saw and that He wanted to expand in them? What was it that made Peter, Andrew, James and John to immediately respond to the call of Jesus Christ? What would happen to the family fishing business? What about parental permission and their employees - should they have been consulted them about this major change taking place?
One of the things we notice in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, is who He seeks out and those whom He calls for special ministry tasks. More often than not, He chooses people from among the unworthy, unqualified and broken. He seeks out the less prominent rather than the celebrity types. The "little people" who have been passed by so often will have opportunity to follow The Savior and learn from Him. He alone would - will - transform them into useful vessels of honor who will bring glory to Him.
Who did Jesus decide to choose and why did He choose them? We note in Mark 3:13, "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him." Later on in His ministry with them, Jesus reminds the disciples, John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." Jesus is still seeking those who will serve Him and bear fruit for Him? Could it be that He is wanting you to respond affirmatively to Him?
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Monday, February 5, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About - DIVINE QUESTIONS.
One of the major truths we learn about God pertains to His non-communicable attributes - Omnipotence (God is unlimited in what He can do and He does all things); Omnipresence - (God is everywhere present at the same time); Immutability - (God does not change and is the same always); and Omniscience - (God knows all things about all things as well as knowing everyone). It is His Omniscience that we consider today. Since God knows all there is to know about everyone and everything, why are there so many questions in Scripture that are posed by God to both individuals and groups?
One illustration of this is the first question posed by God in Scripture. It occurs following the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Prior to their disobedience, they would enjoy fellowship with God in the cool of the evening. After they had disobeyed, the anticipation of fellowship with God was altered and their eagerness was now fear. Genesis 3:8-9 indicates: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him: Where are you?” Just pause and think about how piercing these words were for them both - Where are you? God knew exactly where they were and what they had done that caused them to want to hide from Him. Two additional questions by God quickly follow in Genesis 3:11, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The excuses offered by Adam and Eve were ineffective. They had disobeyed God and that fractured the fellowship they had been experiencing with Him each day. Sin - Disobedience - has a way of doing that with all people from that point forward. 
On another occasion, Jesus Christ poses a question to His disciples in terms of His authenticity - Matthew 16:13-20. His Question: (V.13) “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples respond (V.14): “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” While that is the general conversation in public, Jesus has a particular question for His disciples: (V.15) “But who do you say that I am?” Peter (V.16) responds (almost blurts out that which he truly believed): “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The question for you is: Who is Jesus Christ in terms of what you believe and why? Is Peter’s confession your confession? What is your relationship to Jesus Christ? Have you come to the place where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would enter God’s heaven? What if you did die today and you stood in the presence of God and He said to you: “Why should I let you into My heaven?” - What would you say? These are questions that deserve an answer from you - today!
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


I Was Just Thinking About – PRAYER PEAKS AND VALLEYS

For those who make use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, there is a very succinct statement regarding: What Is Prayer? The answer given is: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” Two passages from God’s Word utilized are Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Additionally, I John 5:14-15 states: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” Is this the confidence that you have as and when you pray?

A modern response to the question – What is Prayer? – is offered by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that defines prayer as: “Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God, a two-way relationship in which man should not only talk to God but also listen to Him. Prayer to God is like a child’s conversation with his father. It is natural for a child to ask his father for the things he needs. There are many promises in God’s Word to encourage us to pray, such as: “He shall call upon me and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him” (Psalm 91:15); “And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24); “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The Scriptures tell us that we are to pray for one another and also assure us that God hears and answers prayer.”

There are two passages that should encourage all of God’s people as they approach Him in prayer. In the last words of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 28:20), Jesus is making a declaration about reaching the world with Him. He then closes with these words: I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Reflect on this great truth of the presence of Jesus Christ with “you” always. In addition to His Presence with us always are the words of I Thessalonians 5:17 that instruct one to be spontaneous in prayer – “Pray without ceasing.”

There are two other truths that we should always remember in terms of how one prays. Psalm 55:22 (ESV), “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” The idea is to trust the Lord to manage and work out the details of those things which are a burden to you at a given moment in your life. The second verse is very similar in I Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties (cares) on Him, because He cares for you.” These words precede the statement of the adversary, the devil, doing his utmost to devour you. In 1920, Edward H. Joy wrote the words to a Hymn – All Your Anxiety. Some of the lyric states:
Is there a heart over-bound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross, each burden bearing;
All your anxiety—leave it there.
All your anxiety, all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there,
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus!
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.