First!

Good morning, Lord!  It’s another day and my list seems to be getting longer and longer.  Where do I start to overcome this load?  My mind started off on its normal track this morning – there is so much I have to do today, just where do I begin?  You know, there are times when the thought crosses my mind that my ideas just might be different than Yours.  I really don’t object to having a boss; actually there are many times when it makes life easier.  If You are telling me what to do then I don’t have to worry about whether I am doing it as I should, right?  So I guess the bottom line is I need Your help, Your input into this day that I am facing.

I realize even as I am typing that this may not be your problem as it is mine.  I often remind myself that I am not living up to what I think is best.  So many things seem to get in the way that need to be cleared out.  However, my greatest desire really is to be in the Lord’s will.  The answer to that question may be different for all of us so please don’t think I am trying to tell You how to manage Your days and Your thoughts.  I am only wishing that I knew how to manage mine.

Little Danny thinks I should stay home and play; I think my list is long and I should start to scratch some things off.  What are Your thoughts, Lord, because I really do know that I am only happy and satisfied when You are smiling and happy with my accomplishments.  There are so many events happening in these days and so many things to accomplish it truly is hard to know just where to start.

Isaiah told the people of his day that it shall come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel, and such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, will never again depend on him who defeated them, but will depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth (10:20).  Hmm! I wonder just how often we decide to depend upon ourselves rather than the Holy One of Israel.  In his day, Luke, reminds us that it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account…that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (1:3-4).  If we polled a circle of our closest friends today I wonder if we would come up with many who have felt they were given instructions from the very beginning of their lives.  Also most of us receive instructions in writing rather than in the Spirit.  We probably never even consider asking God’s Spirit what He would have us do today in the world in which we live.

Can we, should we, change our perspective?  Most of us who read the newspapers or listen to the news by way of TV know that our world is in serious trouble and we also know that there is very little control we have over what will happen next.  However, we do still have control over the things we choose to do from day to day.  Should we spend some serious time thinking about whether we are putting first things first in a day when it could be more important than we currently realize?

I am aware of the fact that there is little any one of us can do to change the world in which we live, but we can receive assurance of our position in the future if we consider more seriously just what should and does actually come first.  John tells us in no uncertain terms that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1).  Just maybe it would be worth our time to spend some moments considering just what should actually come first in our lives.

I serve a living Savior, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always here.

The Life We Owe

As human beings we are always looking forward to the life we want and hope one day to enjoy.  However, there is something we often neglect in the process and it is the life we owe.  Don’t think I have not been the same, but lately something has been drawing me to consider more deeply the life I owe to the One who created me with a purpose.  If asked I believe we all would answer that we want to live that life, it’s simply that the things of this world often attract and distract us from our primary purpose.  What will it take to return our focus to the beginning of our life as we reap its benefits and pay our debt to our Creator?

Normally, I guess we all realize how complicated creation is.  We can look at the flowers, smile at the animals, enjoy the beauty of the night sky, but how often do we look up with vigor and thank the Lord once again for what He has done for and with us.  It truly is amazing, no matter the ups and downs of existence.  We were each and every one of us created with a different purpose in mind, one that would help to fulfill the larger purpose of our Creator.  Do you ever wonder if you are fulfilling the purpose you were created for?

If we are familiar with the Bible, the Word of God, we all know how it starts.  I happen to like the way John expresses it – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God (1:1).  We cannot argue with these words, we simply accept them and marvel at how intricate and wonderful they are.  The question though is do we ever stop to say thank you and wonder how often we are following His plan rather than our own.

I cannot know for sure if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, but I can continually thank my Lord for loving me, for taking care of me and giving me a purpose for life.  I wish everyone could feel the same, but I know that is not the case.  So the logical next thing is to wonder if there is anything I can do and will do to make a difference in someone else’s life.  Maybe this is our purpose – sort of like a snowball that picks up in size as it rolls down the hill.  Surely most of us realize that we were created for a purpose.  The question is to first discover it and then pursue it and that is where we often fall down.  Can and will we strive to fit into the purpose our Creator created us for?  That is my prayer and I hope it is yours also.

So I guess the best thing to do is to simply ask our Lord what purpose He has given us to follow and then the next part is where we make it or fail – how do I perform to make the grade He desires for me to make.  Do I ask Him where to start or do I remind myself that He has given me the tools and knowledge that I might know how to perform?  You know that really is a good question because there is or will come a time when either could be the best answer.  We are told in Ecclesiastes 12:14 that God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.  That might cause us not to want to work and yet John tells us that I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work (9:4).

Our Lord does want us to pay attention when He tells us something but He also desires to see us go with our own initiative even if we put Him on standby for any emergency.  Paul probably had more to learn than his brothers but he reminds us all to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1st Corinthians 15:58).

Lift high the cross of Christ, tread where His feet  have trod;
As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up O men of God!

Your Hand To The Plow?

You may already be thinking that is a strange title, but believe it or not that is what the Lord just told me and it may bear some thoughtful concentration.  We are so very busy living life these days that we hardly have time to stop and add something to our list, that’s if we keep them which I imagine most of us do.  I wonder if God keeps a list.  If He does maybe I am already in trouble.  However most of us have grown up with hearing, probably from our mothers, that the Lord helps those who help themselves and the Psalmist reminds us that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (46:1).  Have we gotten so busy and over confident that we don’t ever actually think of asking for help.

Making a decision to cooperate with God and His plan will undoubtedly take some of our time as well as our thought and you probably won’t have any trouble knowing in your heart that our time seems to be as full already as it can possibly be.  Does that mean we will have to change our priorities and we thought we had already pruned our lists to handle only the most important things.  How can we possibly work in anything more?  I know you will hate to hear it as I hate to say it, but we have all heard all our lives that “first things come first”.  I guess it is time we pick up our pencils and rework our lists.  It is just possible that we will find that there is still time if we just give our Lord the first place because He will then help us with the necessary things that will follow.

Time seems to disappear when we get to the point of figuring out we can handle so many things in one day.  Is it the most important things that we put off or do we actually do them first.  They are often the things that seem to be the hardest but they should also be the things that make our hearts sing the most.  Jesus accomplished many things in His life upon this earth, but if you take the time to notice you might see that many of the things He did we would have put at the bottom of our lists.  Some of them might not even have made our list.  How many times have you seen a stranger who needs help and simply walked right on by?  Surely someone else will stop and we have so many things we must accomplish today.

What runs through your mind when you are feeling desperate for someone to either tell you how to resolve a problem or do it for you?  And who would you want to give you an answer – someone who got their solution out of a book or someone who has actually had the experience himself.  The latter is probably more likely to have found the right solution whether he knew it at the beginning or later realized what the best answer would have been; rather the tried and true result than the supposed answer from someone’s imagination or untried book solution.  If we were to study the Bible to find our answers we would discover that Jesus experienced many of the problems we have in today’s world even though the circumstances will be slightly different because of how our world has changed.

Our Bibles will not hesitate to tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  While it is sad to say I think you will agree with me that most of us put ourselves first these days and then if we have time we will consider our neighbor.  Somewhere along the way we have begun to consider ourselves and our lives more important than anything or anyone else.  Will we cross the finish line with this same attitude?  Maybe this is the first change we should make before it is too late.

Our world today is changing faster than we can keep up with it, but we should be careful before we change our focus.  John tells us plainly A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you will live also (14:19).

Unction To Function!

Isn’t it interesting how things drift into our minds, sometimes in an instant.  I borrowed this title from my pastor who borrowed it from someone else, but I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me in that minute revealing His hope that we could all feel His need to communicate His heart’s desire to our hearts.  We are currently living in a world and in a time when it is more important than ever before to hear the voice of God telling us exactly what He wants us to do in the remaining time allotted for this earth on which we live.  We are always excited about planning for a special vacation that we have waited a long time for.  Just maybe it is past time when we should all get more serious and excited about planning for our trip to our eternal home.

While it is true that is mind boggling, it is also true that if we want to avoid the normal trip problems we should begin to consider what we need to know and who we want to take with us because we don’t actually know when this trip will be scheduled.  We all have people that we know and love that we want to be sure go with us, but what about all the good and/or needy people that we do not know.  If we could know them we might want to add them to our list, but there obviously are more that we cannot know that are just as deserving as we consider ourselves to be.  What about them?  Do they know there is a God who loves them also?

We who attend a church, whether it is regularly or only once in awhile, have been made aware of the fact that there are many who have never even heard of our Lord and many who have heard but don’t really know Him.  Do we actually have a responsibility for their salvation?  The Word of God tells us that is the most important job we will ever have.  A verse heard by many, but often ignored comes from the book of Mark – Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned  (16:15-16).  We hear it, we read it, but very few actually put much importance to its message.  I wonder why since it is very plain; do we not believe we will be turned away because we did not take what God said seriously enough?  We are so busy taking care of our families and earning the living to do so.  Why do we think that is enough?  A “D” in class was never good enough to suit our parents; so why do we think our Lord will give us a pat on the back and forgive our choice of being busy?

We were created to be loved by our Lord, to enjoy His creation and to help those who didn’t know Him to know and love Him also.  While it is true that we have groups of volunteers and many who travel to foreign lands that are more backward than we consider ourselves to be, that doesn’t relieve us of the need to be sure our backyard neighbor knows and loves our Lord also.  What was that you just said “you will work on it tomorrow”?  It seems to me I remember Paul saying If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! (1st Corinthians 15:32).  Hmm!

Before you shake your head and ask yourself what I am doing, I will tell you that I am also guilty of leaving this job to someone else, someone who has more time and knowledge.  It is no excuse to say I am writing this devotional so you can do something if I am not doing the same.  Okay, guys, I will strive with you to change my ways because I honestly do want to be the blessing that our Creator made us all to be.  I am going to strive to talk less and hear better so that it will be obvious to me when He puts the opportunity before me.  You will have to admit if you are at all “smart” that our time on this planet Earth is becoming shorter by the moment, but we still have time to do the things that are the most important.  Let’s just do it!

Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.

Whose Burden?

Burdens used to be something that we would only have to carry once in a great while.  In today’s world they seem to have grown into somewhat of a monster because there are so many and often we don’t know how to get rid of them and so we continue to carry them even if in the background.  And, of course, our lives are changed somewhat because of them even though it might not show up to our friends and relatives.  Is there any way to change this scenario? 

The answer is an unequivocal “yes” and I am happy to say I finally found it as I have been having my own mountain of problems.  I am in hopes that the Lord gave this to me not only for myself, but for the many who also have this problem.  We are told in the book of Isaiah that It shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing (10:27).  And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord  (11:2).

Are you already feeling better?  I have to admit to being somewhat unsettled thinking that I was just another one of those that were created faulty, but then my Lord told me that He didn’t create any to be faulty, only those who could be used for His glory.  I became instantly more relaxed as I have always wanted to please Him.  I know you feel the same way.  So where do we go from here?

The Word of God tells us that we should go into all the world and yet you will have to admit that we all can’t do that; we have families and responsibilities.  So just exactly what are our options in order to take that place and please our Father.  This is the point where we all slip because life is, without a doubt, so very busy.  However, I believe it is more a problem of sight than willingness; at least I hope it is because there truly are so many ways to add joy to other needy lives as well as spark our own.  The words that so easily flow from our lips is a good place to start.  Do our words and our lives spark joy in another’s downtrodden day?  Can they see how very much we love our Lord by our actions in their time of need?

The big question is how do we recognize our opportunity and then how quickly do we act.  People have a way of attempting to hide their burdens because they don’t want their friends to think they are weak.  The truth however is that we are all weak on occasion and we all need someone to lift our spirits in order that we will find the strength to carry our burden.  It is not a weakness that we will always have, it is just a rough time that we will get through, but it is also a time when we can show to others as well just how much we really love our Lord.

 One of the first things we might do is paste a large smile on our own faces.  People notice and are attracted when they see someone filled with joy. You might be surprised to find someone will stop you and ask for help because they are able to sense your kindness and willingness.  They will see God in your joy and isn’t that what we want people to see in us. Since not everyone wants help how do we decide when to step in and what we can do.  That has to be as we hear from the Lord.  He does speak when you become accustomed to listening.  I guess that is the basic problem.  We are so busy thinking about what we have to do that we don’t make time for watching and listening.  Can we change?  God, our Father, would tell us –

Rise up, O men of God, have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Bright Shining!

I serve a living Savior, He’s in the world today
I know that He is with me, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always here.

I realize this is not the way devotionals normally start; they usually end with capsuling and that will probably come, but this is where it all began.  I don’t consider myself a complainer, but lately I have had the need to talk to my Father quite a bit.  However, this morning I felt that He told me to sit quietly and listen, so that is what I am doing. 

I know my Creator loves me and will fill my needs if I let Him, but you will agree that most of us strive to be our best so that we are deserving of being helped when we really need it.  However, it  has been impressed on me that that is not what our Lord really wants.  He wants to share our lives with us, both our ups and downs, and many times show us what the easiest route to take will be to get to where we honestly want to go.  So many times we have written up a master plan to follow and then it seems to get lost in the shuffle because something will come along the way to distract us from our goal.  It would appear that our old enemy is trying very hard these days to do exactly that.  Is there anyway to shut him out of our lives forever?  I believe there is – we simply have to carry with us 24 hours a day the “knowing” that we are not alone. 

John tells us that He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him (8:29).  As we look at our days before we go to bed do we ever think about whether or not we have pleased our Creator?  Paul would have us know to let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another (Galatians 6:4) and James tells us without pulling any punches that faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead  (2:17).  Well it seems to me that you can’t get any more specific so why do we keep trying to come up with excuses?  Have they just become part of our human nature because it is easier to not think?  Shame on us!

I can think of one big thing that is different in our world today that gets in the way of what God intended and that is ego.  We all have a tendency to believe that there is something specific in our path that we will be able to do well while no one else can do so good.  It is true that the Father did not create us all alike, but my heart tells me it is not because I can do something better than anyone else.  I believe it was because He wanted us to learn to work together for a common goal.  Can you imagine what our world would be like if we could throw jealousy out the window and accept the fact that our work, whatever it might be, is just as important as theirs.  It is in unity that we get our strength and can come together as a family, each with his own part to accomplish.  Why did we ever feel the need to resort to tearing someone else down; it doesn’t make us any stronger.  Actually we continue to get weaker and weaker, both in actions and beliefs.  Is it too late for us to change and for the world to become what it was intended to be?  I have the awful feeling it is, but we, as individuals, are not the world and each of us can make the effort to be more like what we were created to be, children of a loving Heavenly Father.  I have to believe you are not any different than myself when it comes to that desire.  Let’s try to shine brightly!

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart;
You ask me how I know He lives,
He lives within my heart.

Wherever He Leads

We will find that often there are times in life when we would simply like to have a do-over.  We may not have an iron clad solution or we may not really want to try, but God says it is time to straighten out some things.  Many of us would like to respond with any logical excuse we can come up with, but the question will continue to play in our minds.  Is it really necessary, Lord?  It has been such a long time and it may not even be possible even if I wish it were.  Also, if the truth were honestly faced I am not really sure I want any of my life today to change.  Can you just speak a little louder so I can plainly hear?

Have you ever been through such a time?  Were you lucky enough to actually hear the Lord tell you what to do?  And even after you are sure that is what you heard do you have the desire to let Him make the changes He sees need to be made.  That is really a tough question because there will be times when you agree and change will be easy and others when you will fight against the bit and strain to give reasons why the change is neither necessary or desirable.  How do we resolve this larger than life decision?

John, who had the opportunity to walk and talk with our Lord gives us the very words from the lips of Jesus - I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (8:12) and If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there my servant will be also (12:26).  You can’t say that is anything not clearly stated.  This is one of those times when there is no other possible explanation.  So the problem becomes what are we going to do about it and just how long can we afford to put it off.  You do know that “putting it off until tomorrow” is not an actual choice.  This happens to be an either/or decision which will affect not only your day to day decisions, but also your eternal life.

While it is true that we should not put this choice off until another day, it is also true that once done it will affect our decisions from this time on.  It is not something that can be turned on and off at will depending upon our feelings or if we happen to be having a “bad hair day”.  We can consider the outcome, but we must know that we don’t actually have control over the results.  Hopefully we will be able to one day look back and thank our lucky stars we made the right decision.

Many of us have had the opportunity to grow up learning about our Creator, but there are many who have not had that same opportunity for whatever reason.  In the learning we also were probably told that this decision would affect the rest of our lives.  It is not something we can bury or drag out at will according to the weather.  As it should be it is a life decision whose results will be considered at the highest level.  So what do you think we should do?  Can we afford to wait until next week or next year when we are a little smarter than we are today?  I think not!  Mark left these words of wisdom for those who would follow – Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left everything who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time….and in the age to come, eternal life (10:29-30).

That is going to be my choice; what will yours be?

Take up thy cross and follow Me I heard my Master say.
I gave My life to ransom thee, surrender your all today.
Wherever He leads I’ll go, wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,
Wherever He leads I’ll go.

Leaning

We don’t think much these days about leaning; we are much too busy and have gotten in the habit of thinking we can do it ourselves.  In fact, it’s even worse than that – we have convinced ourselves that anything other than that is weakness and who wants to admit to being weak?  I don’t know how we got to where we are because using the smarts to admit that we can’t do it ourselves actually makes us smarter.  None of us can be 100 percent smart in all areas of life – surely you have heard of specialization.  It’s the latest thing – if you excel in some area others will be knocking on your door and what you are able to do will bring in the money to feed and clothe your own family.  Who would ever have thought it?

However, the process has also succeeded in dividing us.  Think about it!  In the past neighbors were always available to help each other out no matter the problem.  The gain was realized not only in fixing the problem, but in bringing people into each other’s lives.  Haven’t you realized that joy is at its best when it is shared either with family or friends?  Maybe even your Creator!  Wow! I hadn’t really thought about that, I just didn’t want anyone to know there was something I couldn’t do.  What a shame!

The wisdom of Solomon and others was given to us eons ago and it is recorded in the book of Proverbs – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (3:5-6).  Apparently asking for help when needed was the smart thing even in Biblical times; after all none of us can know everything.

Elihu, one of the miserable comforters of Job and thought to be the possible writer of the book, tells us that God is mighty, but despises no one (36:5); if they obey Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.  But if they do not obey, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge (11-12).  I don’t think any of us want to be in that boat.  Maybe that might give us a new insight into the value of leaning.

For the past number of years we seem to have become masters of learning as more and more things have been discovered in many fields of life, but have we really learned that when all is said and done there is only one who decides each day of life while we remain on this earth?  I would say it is doubtful.  One only has to look at the newspapers to see or turn on the TV to hear how today’s happenings have gotten worse than yesterday’s.  No one knows for sure how to stop the progress and so no one really tries.  Not to be unfair there are some who do, but the world has put up walls that no one individual can change without help.

Is there hope?  The Psalmist thought so as he reminded God’s people that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (46:1).  It might give you comfort from worry to read again the entire 46th Psalm.  God’s Word was given to us specifically to help us manage the stresses and strains of life; to show us that His way has always been the only way to the future that we want and hope to obtain.  Don’t you think it just might be time to give up our struggle and trust His love and comfort for tomorrow and the days ahead?  I do!

In addition, however, I also believe we should participate in God’s efforts to gather His flock together, once again.  Surely you can find one who needs His peace and comfort.

What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.