Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Have You Lost Your Fire?

When you cook outside on a grill, you’ll pile all the charcoals together to set them on fire. You do that because it’s easier for the fire to spread when all the charcoals are connected together. The fire flames up when all the coals are burning as one.  

But if you take one charcoal from the pile and set it off by itself, the coal will cool off. It’s the same charcoal. It’s the same fire. But it dies out because it is no longer connected to the other burning coals. 

That pile of charcoals is a picture of being in fellowship with other believers. When you gather together in small groups for Bible Study, prayer, and fellowship, everyone gets spiritually encouraged. You catch the fire and excitement of others. But when you withdraw from fellowship, it is like pulling that charcoal off the fire and setting it off by itself. You lose your fire and cool off. You get discouraged, which often leads to depression.

However, if you will take that the charcoal that has cooled off and put it back with the other hot coals, it will catch back on fire again.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” If you have pulled yourself away from Christian fellowship, put yourself back in the pile of burning coals. You will be surprised how quickly you’ll catch on fire again.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God's Provision During Famine

After the Lord stopped rain from falling in Israel, He told Elijah to go to the brook Cherith. "And it shall be that you shall drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there. . . And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook” (1 Kings 17:4, 6).

Notice that God commanded the ravens to provide for Elijah. This gives us an insight into how the Lord can provide for us in unusual ways. God spoke to the birds and they understood what they needed to do. The ravens went out and found food, and God showed them exactly where to fly to find Elijah. Do you understand the lesson here? He knows exactly where you are and how to get provision to you.

Every morning and evening the birds flew in breakfast and supper (the first airline food). Elijah didn’t worry about where they got the food or if they would show up in time. God simply wants us to obey Him and He promises to take care of the provision.

After a while the brook dried up. “And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land. . . .The Lord said, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." (1 Kings 17:7, 9).

God could have commanded the brook to keep flowing, but He didn’t. When the brook dries up, it’s time to move to a new place. Again, the Lord commanded a widow to provide for him. When you read the story, she doesn’t seem to be aware of this command (see 17:10-24). Nevertheless, she did what the Lord commanded. God can command people to do things for you even though they are not aware of it! This shows that the Lord uses a variety of ways to provide for His people.

Elijah walked in godly obedience and that’s the key to God’s provision. If you will do what God has told you to do, you will never have to worry about the provision being there for you. Do what you can do and God will take care of what you can't do.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Selling Cracked Pots

The apostle Paul wrote, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Tim. 1:5). A sincere faith is a faith that's genuine.  It’s not fake.

The word sincere comes from two Latin terms sine and cere meaning “without wax.”  In those days, sometimes potters would accidentally crack their vessels they were making. If they were crooked, they would try to deceive the buyer by patching the crack with wax, painting over it, and then selling it.  After the people took the jar home and set it in the hot sun, the wax would melt and it would start leaking.

When honest potters cracked a jar they would throw it away.  When they made a pot in perfect condition they would stamp it "Sine Cere" —without wax.  They guaranteed that their jars didn’t have cracks in them and that they weren't patched with wax. What the seller made was genuine. It wasn’t a fake.  

When Paul says he wants your faith to be sincere, he means having a faith without any cover-ups. What you see is what you get.  It's not a patched-up fake.  Do people see a sincere faith in you? 

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Fake Watches and Fake Faith

Years ago someone showed me a fake Rolex watch that he had bought in Mexico for $15. It looked exactly like a real $5,000 Rolex. He said, "Do you know how you can tell that it's fake? The second hand ticks every second and a real Rolex doesn't do that." A counterfeit item looks like the real thing, but a trained eye can tell that it's fake.

Jesus warned us about having a counterfeit faith. He said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"  (Matt. 7:22-23).

Jesus is talking about Judgment Day and apparently these people had deceived themselves into believing they were saved--but they weren't.  Jesus has a trained eye and can identify fake faith. They called Him "Lord" and even used His name to apparently carry out ministries, but Jesus says He never knew them.  They didn't lose their salvation. They were never saved in the first place!

Are you reading about yourself in this passage? I hope not. Counterfeit faith is such a huge problem that Jesus gave us a preview of Judgment Day and told us that "many" will say this to Him. When you come to God with a sincere heart and ask to be saved, He will save you. But don't try to fake Him out because He can see right through it.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

It's How You Look at It

While Timmy was playing in the yard a bee stung him on the hand. He ran to his mother, crying, "I hate bees! I wish God had never made them." His mom put some ointment on the sting and said, "Do you want some toast and honey to cheer you up?"

Timmy perked up. "Yeah, I love honey!"
“Did you know that it takes bees to make honey?" she asked.
He looked at the honey and said, "I never realized there was a good side to bees!"

Nearly everything in life has a good side and a bad side, and everyone gets to choose what they will focus on. It’s easy for us to always look for what’s wrong. It takes more effort to look for what’s good and positive in every situation.

Paul said, “Whatever is true…honorable…right…pure…good…anything worthy of praise let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8). If you will discipline yourself to control your thoughts (and it will take discipline), you discover the secret of happiness. I challenge you to spend today finding the positive side of every situation and thanking God for each thing you see. Doing this every day will change your life.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Lest Something Worse Happens to You"

The Titanic telegraph operators ignored the numerous warnings they received about icebergs because they believed their ship was unsinkable. Other ships would sink when they hit icebergs, but not the Titanic. At least that’s what they believed. Of course, we now know they believed something that wasn't true. 

When Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda who had been paralyzed for 38 years, He gave him this warning: “You have been made well, so stop sinning or something even worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Jesus was warning him about a potential danger that awaited him in the future that would be connected to a sin.

After the paralyzed man was healed, an entirely new life was ahead of him and he needed to understand that with his new freedom also came a new responsibility. With his ability to walk, he was now capable of sinning in ways that he hadn’t known before. So Jesus warned him to not give in to those temptations because the consequences would actually be worse than his thirty-eight years of being paralyzed!

What could be worse than being paralyzed for nearly four decades? I don’t know but whatever it was, Jesus saw the very real possibility of this happening. It was up to him to navigate around the icebergs.

Jesus gives the same warning to each one of us—turn away from temptations lest something worse happens to you. When a high school graduate goes off the college, there are new opportunities to sin like never before. When a person becomes successful and wealthy, there are new opportunities to sin that weren’t there before. Yielding to those temptations can also bring on something worse than before.

You are navigating your own ship through life. Are you staying away from the icebergs? 
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Freedom from Guilt

Peter was praying on a rooftop in Joppa when suddenly he saw a vision of a sheet descending from heaven, being lowered by its four corners. Inside the sheet were unclean animals that Jews were forbidden by the Old Testament Law to eat. The vision was repeated three times and a voice told him, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy" (Acts 10:15).

At that moment, three Gentiles came to the house looking for Peter. The purpose of the vision was to let Peter know that he was to accept the three "unclean" Gentiles, who had been sent to him by God (Acts 10:20). The Gospel was to be preached to the entire world and wasn't just for Jews.

But there is also another meaning of the vision. If God has cleansed you with His blood, you must not consider yourself unholy. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness, not just some. God has imputed His righteousness to you, so that you are completely clean in His eyes!

Did you do something bad in the past that's still bothering you?  If you have received Christ into your life, He has cleansed you. That means you must no longer consider yourself unholy. If God forgives you, you must forgive yourself. Don't just take my word for it. Take it from God. He said it, not me.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Putting Your Child in God's Hands

Pharaoh ordered all the male Hebrew babies to be killed, so Jochebed made a bold decision. She put baby Moses in a tar-covered wicker basket and placed it in the reeds by the Nile River. (See Ex. 2:3-9). Moses could have easily been eaten by a crocodile or swept downstream. Jochebed made a decision to let go of her child and place him in God's hands.

When the daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river to bathe, she discovered the baby and had pity on him. Moses' sister Miriam saw her pick up the baby, so she went to her and asked, "Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?" (v.7)  Miriam ran and got Jochebed, the mother of Moses. Pharaoh's daughter paid her wages to nurse her own baby! God had a plan for Moses, who grew up to be the man who delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage.

Looking back on the story, we can clearly see God's hand at work. But God's hand isn't so obvious when you're doing something risky, like letting go of your child. That's why we must trust God's heart when we can't see His hand.

Have you placed your children in God's hands? Just as Jochebed "let go" of Moses and put him in God's hands, you must do the same with your children. Perhaps you have a wayward child that you are worried about. Maybe your child is in a dangerous situation and needs God's protection. Can you trust God to take care of your child even as Moses' mother placed her trust in God? You must turn your child over to the Lord and let Him take care of the situation. If he or she is rebellious, the change in your child's behavior might not happen instantly, but will happen ultimately. So put your child in the basket, give him or her to God, and quit fretting.

Prayer: "Lord, I let go and place my child in your hands.  I trust you for protection.  I'm going to stop worrying about him (her) because I trust you to do what I can't do. Thank you for what you are going to do in my child. Amen."

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Solution to Your Problem

Most people want a quick, easy solution to their problem without any effort on their part. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s likely your problem will never get fixed. Often the correct solution will require a great deal of effort on your part.

The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh had a problem. They claimed to be “a numerous people” and needed more living space, so they asked Joshua to expand their boundaries, which would give them more room. But Joshua had a different idea. He said, “If you want more land, go clear the forest and you’ll have plenty of room to live.” (See Joshua 17:14-18).

Imagine how hard it would be for you to clear a forest in those days. You don’t have any chain saws. You have to take down all those trees, once chop at a time. Imagine working under the hot sun, and how tired you would be. Think about the blisters on your hands. And then you have to dig up all those stumps. This was not the easy answer but it was the right one. Would you be willing to chop down a forest to solve your problem?

I see so many people who want a counselor to solve all their marriage problems but they won’t put forth any effort to make it happen. They don’t change their attitudes, or their behavior, or how they communicate, yet they are furious because their spouse won’t change! They aren’t willing to chop down the forest.

You can fix just about any problem if you are willing to do what’s necessary. It won’t be easy. It’s going to take time for that first tree to fall. After you knock down that one, you move on to the next tree. It will require perseverance and patience. But if you will keep chopping away, one whack at a time, one day you’ll look back and see the forest has been cleared. It’s then that you will be glad you did it, as you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why was the Veil in the Temple torn in two?

Have you ever wondered why the veil of the temple was torn in two after Jesus died? Matthew 27:50-51 says, "Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yield up His Spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom."

That veil was 60 feet high and six inches thick, and it separated the room called "the Holy of Holies" (the holy place) from the rest of the temple. Only the high priest could go through the veil into the room once a year on the Day of Atonement. He sprinkled goat's blood on the mercy seat, which was the top of the ark of the covenant (the one Indiana Jones looked for).  See Lev. 16:12-14.  This atoned for the sins of Israel for one year.

The holy place was an exact copy of the temple in heaven (see Heb. 8:5, 9:23-24).  If God hadn't told them to sacrifice animals for centuries, they never would have understood why Jesus had to die for them. If God hadn't told them to build a temple and for the high priest to put blood on the mercy seat, they never would have understood what Jesus did just after He died.

When Jesus died, He committed His Spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46).  At that moment, Jesus in His Spirit (not His body), went to heaven and placed His blood on the mercy seat in the heavenly temple. Heb. 9:11-12 says, "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." The earthly high priest had to do this every year, but Jesus did this once for all time.

When He sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat in heaven (Heb. 12:24), God tore the veil from "the top to the bottom" which meant He tore it from heaven to earth.  He opened the way for everyone to come to Him. Have you come to Him?  Have you gone through the veil?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Unmasking "Self"

Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).  Notice that He put a condition on following Him.  He didn't say you must deny the devil, but you must deny yourself. Why? Because "Self" is the number one thing that keeps you from following Jesus. Self is even a bigger obstacle than Satan. "Self" is the most selfish person in the world, always demanding his own way. And guess what? He's living inside you!

Self is also hard to recognize. In fact, Self is so good at disguising itself, you can act selfishly and then deny that you're acting that way!  Here are some ways to unmask Self so you can identity him.

1.Self wants to exalt itself. (Luke 14:11).  It loves to be in charge and craves attention.
2.Self doesn't admit to being wrong. (James 4:6) It is so arrogant that it never thinks that it's wrong.
3.Self is mostly interested in being comfortable. (Luke 9:57-58).  Jesus often calls us to do uncomfortable things, and Self doesn't want to do them.
4.Self is easily offended. (Matt. 15:12). It gets offended at the smallest things.
5.Self says "this is mine" instead of "this is God's." (Mark 10:21-22) It is unwilling to give to God.
6.Self refuses to do God's will. (Matt. 21:28-31). It will say, "No one is going to tell me what to do!"

Now you know why Jesus said you must deny yourself.  The only way to stop Self from controlling you is to nail him to the cross every day. By an act of your will, you tell him, "I'm not listening to you. I'm going to follow Jesus today!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Entering the Promised Land

When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, they were now in the Promised Land.  Whenever you obey what God has called you to do, He will bless you for taking that step of faith.  Here are four blessings awaiting you in the Promised Land.

1. God will give you a new respect.  Joshua 5:1 says, "When all the kings of the Amorites...and the Canaanites...heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel." The Amorites and Canaanites had probably sent spies to watch them come into their land. When they saw the waters parting, they were terrified!  They had a new respect for Israel and knew they would never be able to defeat them. Your enemies will also be afraid of you when you do what God says.

2. God will give you a new reputation. Joshua 5:9 says, "Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.'" What does that mean? After they had left Egypt, the Egyptians had mocked them for wandering in the wilderness for so long.  They probably said, "Israel has no vision. They don't know where they're going!" (See Ex. 14:3).  The Egyptians didn't realize that God was leading Israel by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  The timing wasn't right for them to enter the land.  But now that they had crossed the Jordan, God says, "I'm now vindicating you.  I'm removing the reproach of the Egyptians. You are now in the land I have given you!"

3. God will give you new provision.  God stopped sending manna to them on the day they started eating from the land (Joshua 5:12).  By entering the Promised Land, God gave them something much better than what they had been eating.  Now they had more food and a better variety.

4.God will give you a new protection. Joshua saw a man with a sword and asked who he was. It was the Angel of the Lord who said, "I indeed come as the captain of the army of heaven" (Josh. 5:14).  The Angel never appeared to them in the wilderness, but as soon as they entered the Promised Land, he shows up to assure Joshua that he now had greater protection.

Have you entered the Promised Land or are you still wandering in the wilderness?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crossing the Jordan

The children of Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness and now they were about to enter into the Promised Land. The Jordan River was the barrier keeping them out, so they had to cross the Jordan to get there. Sometimes we need to leave the past behind and enter new territory. Usually we will encounter a barrier that keeps us from the new land, and we must break through that barrier to get to what God has for us.  Here are 4 principles in "Crossing the Jordan."
1. You must believe that God has given you the land.  God had promised their fathers that He would give them their own land (Josh. 1:6).  Many of those people died in the wilderness and could not enter it due to unbelief (Heb. 3:19).  Before you can enter any new territory, you must believe that it's God's will and that He has given it to you.
2. You must believe that the Promised Land is better than the wilderness.  Why would you go into the land, unless you believed it was better than the wilderness?  The 12 men that Moses had sent to spy out the land said that it was "an exceedingly good land" (Num. 14:7).  Some people probably said, "I kind of like it here in the wilderness.  This is what I'm used to. I like all the sand, rocks, and dirt out here. I'm not sure I want to go into a land full of green grass and fruit trees."  It's easy to stay with what you're familiar with instead of doing something new. But then you miss out on the blessings God has for you.
3. You must believe that God is with you.  Joshua said, "Be strong and courageous...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Josh. 1:9).  To leave your comfort zone and tread into new territory, you must believe that God is with you and that you're not on your own. "God is with you" means that He is there to help and guide you through all situations, both good and bad.
4. You must take a step of faith into the Jordan.  Imagine standing at the Jordan River, and you don't know how you're going to get an entire nation across it.  There isn't a bridge over the river. There aren't any boats. But God told them to take a step of faith and He would open the way.  As soon as the priests put their feet in the river, the Lord stopped the water and they crossed over (Josh. 3:13).  Sometimes God wants us to take the step of faith first, and then He will come through.
Do you need to cross the Jordan today?

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Perplexing Parable

The parable Jesus told about the wedding garment has left people scratching their heads saying, "I don't get it!"  A king gave a wedding feast to honor his son (Matt. 22:2-14). In this parable, the king is God the Father and the son is Jesus. In those days, they would send out two invitations. The first was to let the person know they were invited to the event, and the second invitation went out when the feast was ready.  The king sent his slaves out with the second invitation to let his invited guests know that everything was ready. Instead of coming to the feast, they ignored the invitation and went about their daily business.

The king decided to open up the feast to everyone. He sent his slaves out on the streets to invite strangers to the wedding feast. This was unheard of!  Kings only invited prestigious people to events like this, but this king invited everyone--including evil people (Matt. 22:10). Just imagine all the thieves, murderers, and prostitutes at this feast to honor his son. This shows that God loves everyone and wants every person to be saved, no matter how evil they may be.

As the king was looking at the wedding hall filled with the guests, he spotted a man who wasn't dressed in wedding clothes. He asked him why he wasn't dressed properly.  He couldn't give an answer, so the king threw him into hell!  Now you're scratching your head, trying to figure out what it means.  To understand this parable, you need to know an important piece of information.

In those days when a wedding was held, the host bought a wedding garment for each person to wear.  It was a free gift to the invited guests.  All the person had to do was put it on, which showed honor and respect for the person being married.  This man had no excuse because he refused the free gift from the king.  The interpretation is the wedding garment was "the robe of righteousness" (61:10).  He was at the feast just to get the free food and had no interest in honoring the son. Many people today want to go to heaven to get the free food, but have no interest in living for the Lord.  On Judgment Day, they will be like the man who refused to wear the wedding garment.

God is giving an invitation to you to spend eternity with Him, but you must accept the invitation and receive the robe of righteousness.  Will you be at the wedding in the next life?

Monday, February 27, 2012

On Your Way Home from Church...

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among robbers and was beaten until he was "half dead." The wounded man on the road would die unless someone helped him.  Jerusalem was 3,000 feet higher in elevation than Jericho.  A colony of 12,000 priests lived in Jericho, and they would travel "up the road" to Jerusalem to serve in the temple.  When they had finished their weekly temple duty, they would go "down the road" back to Jericho.

In Luke 10:31, a priest was going "down the road," which meant he had finished serving God in church, uh, I mean the temple, and was on his way home. A priest was the highest position in the temple, offering up people's sacrifices to God.  If anyone was supposedly close to God, it was a priest.

But now he was going home from church, uh, I mean the temple, and was "off the clock." He sees this half-dead man lying in the road and decides to walk by without helping him. Next a Levite comes by and he too bypasses him.  The Levites assisted the priests in the temple.  So this man was also on his way home from church, uh, I mean the temple, but didn't stop to rescue the man. 

What did the priest and the Levite have in common?  They both supposedly loved and served in the temple. They acted one way inside of the temple and another way when they were away from it. They claimed to love God but it wasn't manifested in their daily walk in how they treated others.

Many people who attend church are like that priest and Levite in the parable. They act one way inside the church, but completely different after they leave. They claim to love God during the church service, but it isn't manifested on the daily road of life.  Another word for this "double life" is hypocrisy--acting one way at church and completely different away from it.

The parable concludes when a Samaritan comes by and rescues the man. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews because they had a rival temple on Mt. Gerazim. (This is why the woman at the well in John 4:20 asked Jesus which was the right mountain to worship God--Jerusalem or Gerazim).  Ironically, the Samaritan worshipped in the wrong temple, yet showed more compassion than the priest and the Levite who served in the right temple.

It just goes to show that it's not the church you attend that makes you right with God, but what's inside your heart.  So next Sunday, when you're on your way home from the temple, uh, I mean church, remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Do you love me more than these?"

Not long after Jesus was resurrected, the disciples went fishing on the Sea of Galilee. They fished all night and caught nothing. As the sun was coming up, Jesus was on the beach and yelled to them, "Cast your net on the right-hand side of the boat" (John 21:6). This time the net filled up with large fish. Jesus showed His power over nature by commanding the fish to swim into their net.

Peter pulled a net full of 153 fish to shore (21:11).  After the disciples finished eating breakfast with Him, Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" (21:15)  These what? It had to be one of two things. He could have meant "these other disciples." Peter had bragged that the other disciples would deny Him, but he would never do that. But, of course, he did. So Jesus would be pointing to the other disciples.

The other possibility is "these fish." We don't usually say "these" when we're talking about people. In verse 10, Jesus had asked him bring him some of the fish they had caught, so He was probably pointing at those fish. Why would He use fish as a comparison? It was because Peter was probably thinking about returning to his fishing business. He may have been thinking, "I've put in three hard years of following Jesus, and I'm ready to go back to fishing. I love fishing!"

Jesus in so many words said, "Peter, I'm not done with you yet. You're just getting started. Now I want you to go out and teach people everything you've learned from Me. Feed my sheep. Do you love me more than the fish?" 

It's a question He asks all of us.  "Do you love me more than fishing?" "Do love me more than football?" "Do you love me more than your hobby?" "Do you love me more than Facebook?" "Do you love me more than . . . "

Monday, February 13, 2012

Agape Love

I love my wife. I also love hot Krispy Kreme donuts. I love football, pizza, enchiladas, and my kids. I love to go to the beach. And I love God. We love to use the word love. We use it so often that it has lost its meaning.

In 145 B.C., seventy scholars gathered together to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. This translation became known as the "Septuagint." The Greeks were pagans who worshipped idols and had several words for human love, but they didn't have a word to describe the true God's unconditional love. This presented a problem for Bible translators.

Here is what the translators did. They searched for a word in the Greek language that was hardly ever used. In fact, this word was only found four times in literature. That word was "agape." They took that word and gave it an entirely new meaning--God's unconditional love. So whenever they came to the Hebrew word "hesed" which meant "God's loving kindness" in the Old Testament, they translated it into Greek using the word "agape." This kind of love only comes from God in heaven.

God puts agape love inside every believer. "The love (agape) of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5). The love of God is inside you, but you must let it out. It's like the faucet in your house. The faucet doesn't produce any water, it only allows the water to flow. When God says to "agape your enemies" (Luke 6:35), you choose to turn on the faucet to let God's love flow through you to them. Will you let God use you in this way today?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Are You Angry at God?

Jonah had gone up and down the streets of Nineveh preaching that God would destroy them in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). When the people of Nineveh repented, God decided that He wouldn't destroy the city because their hearts had changed. How did Jonah respond? "But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry" (Jonah 4:1). The Hebrew word for angry means "furious." Jonah was burning with anger against God because he thought He had made a mistake.

Do you understand why you get angry? We get angry because someone is doing something that we don't want them to do, or they are not doing something we want them to do. Someone is not meeting our expectations! We get angry at God for the same reason. We're mad at God because we think He has made a mistake. We want Him to do something for us, but He isn't obeying our wishes. He hasn't answered our prayers by our deadline.  He's not meeting our expectations.

How can we stop being angry at God? 
First, realize we don't have all the information that He has. Dt. 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord"... and He's not obligated to tell us. If we knew that He knows, we would sheepishly say, "Oooooohhh, that's why!" When we stand before Him, He will answer all our questions, but until then, we must continue to trust Him.
Second, we've got to stop blaming God. God gets blamed for so many things He doesn't do.  Just read Job 1-2 to see how Satan likes to cause destruction and then pin the blame on God.
Third, we must lower our expectations. We get angry because we want God to meet our demands. That's pride, and we know that "God resists the proud but give grace to the humble" (James 4:6). It could be that your anger at God is actually keeping you from being blessed.  Humble yourself and ask God's forgiveness.  If you will, you'll find that your anger will vanish.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mission Impossible

After the whale vomited Jonah on dry land, God gave him another chance to fulfill his mission.  His challenge was almost like Mission Impossible.  "Your mission, Jonah, should you decide not to accept it, you will be swallowed by a whale that will bring you back to Israel, and we'll keep doing that until you finally do accept your assignment!"

His "impossible" mission was to be the first foreign missionary to an evil, pagan nation. Jonah saddled his donkey and rode 500 miles to preach to the Assyrians. When he arrives in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, he sees temples, shrines, and idols all over the city.  They worshipped the fish god, and when archaeologists excavated Nineveh several decades ago, they found many stone images of a large fish with a man coming out of its mouth. Proof of Jonah, perhaps?

Jonah went up and down the streets of Nineveh preaching a five-word sermon: Forty--Days--More--Nineveh--Destroyed. (Jonah 4:3) He didn't need to learn the entire Assyrian language. He probably just yelled these five words in their language as he walked down the streets.  Amazingly, the Ninevites heard his sermon and repented! The king of Nineveh stepped down from his throne, took off his robe, and put on sackcloth as an act of humility (Jonah 3:6).  Repentance always begins by stepping off the throne and asking God to take that seat.  When God saw that the entire city changed their hearts, He decided to not destroy them.  Jeremiah 18:7-8 says that if a nation will repent, He will stop the judgment from happening. God gave the Ninevites another chance because they changed their ways.

God gave Jonah another chance. He gave the Ninevites another chance. And He will give you another chance too. But first you must repent and submit to God's will, just as Jonah and the Ninevites did.