A Word to the Wise

Matthew 7:24 Then everyone who hears these words from Me, and does them, I will compare him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; 25 and the rains came down, and the rivers came up, and the winds blew, and fell against that house; but it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and who does not do them, he shall be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand; 27 and the rain came down, and the rivers came up, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (NLT)

As Jesus closes the “Sermon on the Mount,” He draws the net on the most important message ever preached.  The Kingdom Manifesto if you will. “Whoever” hears and does what “I” have said is a wise man.  Wise people build their homes (lives) on solid foundations.  There is no more solid foundation than the Word of God!  He affirms that the opposite is true of those who heard the Word of God but failed to put it into practice.  The first is sustained even in times of trouble; the second suffers complete loss. I absolutely love that the Bible speaks of our condition in real terms, unlike many of the “prophets” of our day. Storms happen in all lives, the godly and ungodly alike. The difference in not in the condition but in the end result.

All of us build our lives on something or someone. In fact, our lives and eternity can only be as secure as the thing that it is anchored on.  The Word of God is infallible.  This literally means that the Word of God, the Bible, is without error, therefore they cannot fail us.  But we must “do” them.  It is not enough to “hear” them even if we hear them with the best of intentions.  It is not even enough to begin the race — we must finish the race.  I want a secure life and future; so I must use God’s Word as my foundation.

PRAYER: Father God, thank You for Your marvelous word.  Help me to desire it as I do the things that sustain me physically.  Your word is the food that my spirit needs; it is the sustenance of my spiritual life.  Help me to be “wise” and “build” my life on the clear principles of Scripture.  I place my full trust in Your promises and your ability to bring them to pass.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT: I will read the Word of God.  I will learn the Word of God.  I will love the Word of God and I will live the Word of God.  My life and eternal destiny are anchored in the promises of Jehovah, the covenant keeping God!

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Forsaken?

Psalm 37:25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly forsaken, nor seen their children begging for bread. (NLT) A huge ocean exists between the young and old. It is one of the great reasons that in every generation there is a mistrust for the aged by those who are still young. I have often kidded with the youth in my ministry that they ought to try to conquer the world while they still know everything. My ministry started 40 years ago, while I was still a young man. I have learned in those years that if you are blessed enough to live long enough, every person goes through three phases. Again, the caveat, if they live long enough. The first is where you think you know everything. The second is when you fell like you don’t know anything and if you are blessed, you come to a time when you are sure that you know some things. This final stage is the vantage point that King David is sharing from. Not judging a moment, hour, day, year, but the breathe of the ocean of time – godliness has its rewards and God will give you companions to live, walk and work with. When you get ready to leave this world you won’t wish for more stuff. You will wish for family, friends and for God Himself! From an advanced state of years I can tell you that David is not making a promise that people won’t forsake you. I promise you that they will. They did it to Jesus and you not I are not greater than Jesus. Promise as they will, if you live long enough you are going to find that only a few will not forsake you after they have used whatever resources you have that they need. My experience as a pastor is much the same as a father whose children stay at home until the point of return breaks even. Once their need for you is less than your need for them, you will find yourself in the company of only a few. The aged should have something to say to our youth, but I find in these verses of Scripture an important word for young and old alike. David says, (my paraphrase) “Be righteous and you will not be forsaken, by some and God will always send others into your life so that you are not ultimately forsaken.” Don’t be dismayed when people forsake you. It is a sign of immaturity and self-reliance. Even when God puts people in your life – they will often forsake you. Don’t blame that on the Lord, if they will not fulfill His plan, He will send someone who will. We can stop our part of His plan but we cannot stop His plan! PRAYER: Father God, I pray for our youth for the wisdom to live rightly according to Your Word. I pray for the wise that they would become wiser still and live by their word, persistent, faithful and loyal to their commitment and Your voice. COMMITMENT: To be a man of my word, persistent, faithful and loyal to God and man. To not allow the inconsistency of men to discourage me to the point of despair. To never forsake the righteous. The greater their need the greater will be my commitment to them.

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A.S.K.

Matthew 7:7-11   Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (KJV)

A.S.K.  This is an acronym that will help you to remember the main idea of these verses.  The acronym “A.S.K.” stands for “Ask”, “Seek”, and “Knock.”  We are told that prayer is more than just asking. Prayer is a search, it is an endeavor to know God and His will.  

In the original language these words are in what is called the “present active indicative.”  Jesus is saying ask and keep on asking.  Seek and keep on seeking.  Knock and keep on knocking.  These are continuous verbs.  The verbs used in the answer are also under the same continuous action.  In other words, if we keep on asking we will keep on receiving.  If we keep on seeking we will be continually finding.  If we will keep on knocking doors will continue to open before us.  Verses nine and ten assure us that the answers which we receive from the Father will be only good ones. When you stop to think about it, a Good God can only do good things. It might be hard to understand some of the workings of the Lord but you can be assured, even if they are at times mysterious, that they are always good!

Applying these verses practically means that I must be in a constant state of asking, seeking and knocking at God’s door.  In which case I will be literally being answered. I will continuously be finding what I’m searching for and the doors will continue to open before me and all of the doors of the Lord lead to goodness.

PRAYER: Lord, as the disciples asked you and as I have asked You hundreds, if not thousands of times before;  “teach me to pray.” I ask you now, again.  It is not some form of words that I seek rather it is the heart that pursues You in a constant and consistent manner.  All good things come from You and I ask that You pour Your goodness into my life and from my life into the life of others.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT: I will seek God daily.  Regardless of the circumstances that surround my life I will be confident in the promises of His Word.  It is my expectation that I will be in a process of being continually answered, I will be finding, and the right doors will be constantly opening before me. This is my declaration of faith and hope in Christ.

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Help My Unbelief

Mark 9:23-24   Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (KJV)

Jesus, coming down from the mount of the Transfiguration finds His disciples embroiled in a heated debate with a group of religious leaders.  A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples to be healed but they powerless to do anything to help him.  No doubt, the “Scribes” were ragging them about it.  Jesus tells the father of the child to use his faith. The answer to what seemed impossible was, as it always is, – faith.  The father in turn confesses his measure of faith and his need for more.

If we are honest we all have a little faith and a little doubt.  What we need is to use the faith we have and then to confess and forsake the unbelief we possess.

This passage, like many that we have studied in the Bible, points to “faith” as the solution to all of our greatest needs.  Remember; God never rebukes honest faith – even when what we ask for may seem impossible.

PRAYER:  My Father, I believe.  I lay claim to Your Word and seek to apply it to my life daily.  But, I must confess that I like everyone else have too much unbelief.  Forgive me and lead me to greater faith. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT:  I will believe the Word of God implicitly.  When I find unbelief I will work to eradicate it immediately.  Unbelief will find no welcome mat at the door of my spirit.

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Don’t Worry – Be Happy!

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  25 “So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. 28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! 31 “So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32 Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33 and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (NLT)

“No man can serve two masters.”  That every human being is mastered by something is not in question. Another fact is that we alone get to choose our own masters. Jesus assumes that we all understand that we have a free-will.  In our choices we will either be mastered by our fear or our faith.  The end result for the believer is to trust God and not be overly concerned about the things of this life.  The passage is like a mathematical statement. When you add up the facts you come to the only reasonable conclusion.  “… seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”  Every day has enough to be concerned about by its own self.

A short summary of this long passage is simply, “Don’t worry be Happy.”  We should not spend our time paying interest on things that have not even happened.  That is what worry is. It is paying payments on something before you even get it.  Most of the things that we worry about never come to pass.  Therefore, it is foolish to worry about them.  Most of the other things that happen in life we have absolutely no control over.  Therefore, it is just as foolish to worry about them as well.  It is much better for us to be concerned about our relationship to God and the certainty of eternity.  He is the only One who really can do something about anything all the things that are truly important!

PRAYER:  Father, far too often my mind is fixed on things that I cannot change or things that are not real at all.  Help me to stay focused on Your kingdom and plan for my life.  I can live without all of those things but I cannot live without You.  You created me to enjoy all that You are and all that You made.  Help me to enter into that joy everyday.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT: Happiness and worry are choices,  or the Lord would not have told me that I must choose between them.  I do choose and my choice is happiness.  I will fight worry and I will be happy.  I intentionally focus more on the “wows” than on the “whys!”

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He Can – He Will

Jeremiah 32:27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (KJV)

Here is a statement that can only be made about God, or by God Himself. It is basically the same statement given by an angel to Hagar in Genesis chapter 18.  This time it is God Himself Who is speaking with regard to His own nature.

The Lord asked a rhetorical question. As you probably know, a rhetorical question that is one that needs no answer. Or, the answer should be clearly obvious.  “Is anything too hard for me?” So the question becomes a statement. NOTHING is too hard for the Lord!

Just as was the case with Hagar, the question of the angel related to her personal need and that of her son, so it is in this case. God is speaking to His people and with a question actually reassures them of His will. His potency and His willingness to use His power in their behalf is clearly addressed.  The application then becomes very clear.  God is all-powerful and He is willing to use that power to help His people.

This would be similar to saying, “Bill Gates has the resources to meet your financial needs.” The problem is that Bill Gates has not committed his resources to meet your needs. The God of heaven and earth has even more financial resources than the owner of Microsoft and has pronounced his desire to apply what He has to your need. The ultimate proof of this fact in God’s gift of His own dear Son for you. As in Romans 5, “How shall He not much more give you all things” since He has already given His best, His Son.

PRAYER: Father, knowing that You’re all-powerful leaves me in a sense of awe but it does not sustain me.  Knowing that You are love and benevolent with Your power does.  Even in the sure knowledge that You are the Judge of all spirits I am comforted.  I do not fear the sword of judgment because it is being held in my Father’s hands.  Today I ask You to use Your power according to Your character and word to meet my needs and the needs of my family in Christ as well.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT:  I trust the power and the love of God.  Fear will not dominate my life. Sin will not cause me to be afraid of my Father.  Assured by God’s Word I believe that He is on my side at work in my behalf everyday.

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Inter-dependance Day

Ecc. 4:9-12  Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (KJV)

Loneliness is a horrible emotional condition. In a world of 7 billion people multitudes are afflicted with everyday. Loneliness is more than just an emotional issue it is a physical problem as well.  

Solomon tells us that there is great reward for partnership or what we call team work. Companions get greater results for their labor.  If you have a real friend you always have a helping hand.  You can keep one another warm.  A two-person defense team is better than a person defending him or her self, alone.  And a cord made of more than one strand is much stronger than a single cord could ever be.

In America we extol the virtues of independence but what we really need is inter-dependence.  Instead of living and working alone we need companions.  God created us as social creatures.  This is the reason that “solitary confinement” in such a harsh punishment. Human beings must have social communication and physical interaction. 

Accept this truth, working or suffering for prolonged periods of time without companions is a resolvable dilemma. In order to have friends you must prove yourself to be a friend. It will open you up to hurt, but it will also expand your possibility and capacity to give and receive love. You need love but you have to give some to get some. I call it God’s law of multiplying what we have. It is the oldest law in the Bible. The Law of the Farm. Plant in order to reap. 

PRAYER: Lord, help me to always be mindful of my need for others.  Help me to be the kind of friend others need and send me the friends that I need. Teach me to learn to rely on friends more while at the same time making sure that I do not abuse their friendship. Thank You Lord for the wonderful friends that I do have. Continue to bless them and provide for them in every area of life.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT: I will be a friend to all who will allow me to be.  Every person who comes into my life is important.  I will seek to have a life-long relationship with every person God sends into my life.  I have no disposable relationships.  My love and loyalty are not for sale nor can they be taken from me.  It is my choice to befriend the lonely and the broken hearted.  I choose to be a “low maintenance ” friend.  I do not have to be thanked, patted on the back, encouraged, given gifts, called or even spoken to in order to continue my loyalty.  I will not allow jealousy; envy or hurt will rob me of my friendships.  I will remain a devoted friend forever! That is my choice!

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When God Repeats Himself

Jeremiah 17:7-8   Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (KJV)

This text sounds very much like the the words found in the first chapter of the book of Psalms. There is a very good reason for that. These ideas are recurrent themes that are found throughout the whole of the Word of God. Pay attention: If God says something over and over again it just might be important!

The man or woman who “trusts” in the Lord and who has their “hope” in Him will be fruitful. He is, in a figure of speech, planted in the right place. The “heat” will come, nothing will be done about that but the effects are not sustained. Storms blow in and out of every life but God makes an incredible promise: there will be no enduring effect! As a matter of fact, this person does not have to be “careful” (worried) about “drought.” Even under those circumstances he will continue to be fruitful. What a wonderful word for those who are living under the present circumstances in our country and around the world.

Satan would love for me to think that there is no reward for godliness. That all of my labor in the Lord hasn’t counted for much, if anything, but Bible affirms that godliness not only pays, it pays off big! In God’s system you don’t always get paid on Friday, it pays when you need it the most.

Things will not necessarily go smoothly just because I am a believer (regardless of much of today’s Theology), but they go, and God goes with me through them. The key is that I continue to “trust the Lord” regardless of any situation I might find myself in.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I have placed my trust in You and You have sustained me. With You, I have faced both mountain and valley. I have gone some “through” hard times but You have gone through them with me. It is my testimony that You have always been faithful to honor Your Word. Teach me as You did Paul to be content in all things forever trusting in You everlasting arms. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT:   I will maintain my faith and focus on the Lord, especially when times are troubling. My rest will come and my peace will be secure as I place my hope in unfailing Word and unlimited power of the almighty God. I will be like a tree planted by the water. I will produce fruit even in times of drought!

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He’s a Healer

Matthew 8:14 When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a high fever. 15 But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him. 16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. All the spirits fled when he commanded them to leave; and he healed all the sick. 17 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” (NLT)

This is a parallel passage of one of the greatest of all the Scriptures, Isaiah chapter 53.  Matthew’s Old Testament counterpart is a prophetic word concerning the message, meaning and the method of the suffering Messiah.

That Messiah, Jesus was completely effective in destroying “the works of the devil” on all fronts (1 John 3:8).  He accomplished for us the deliverance from “sickness, disease and our spiritual enemies.”

Some have taught that the healing spoken of in Isaiah and was purely “spiritual.”  They say that the words have a “symbolic” meaning and were never meant to applied to physical healing.

Such an interpretation flies directly in the face of what is clearly revealed in the literal fulfillment of the passage in Isaiah found in the book of Matthew.  The obvious natural application of this passage makes it very plain that Jesus’ sacrifice was to overcome the enemies of God’s children; sin, sickness, and their spiritual enemies as well. 

Since Jesus has already paid the price for for these things we should be able to receive them as a part of the general plan of God. The Bible also teaches that these deliverances come through the avenue of “faith.”  

God has always been a Healer. Old Testament and New Testament alike teach by word and deed that God and His plan have not changed. God is still a Healer and He is still setting people free from their spiritual enemies, oppression and possession.  There remains no biblical reason that any believer should be left out of God’s program for his or her life (Mark 16:15-20).  Believer God’s Word concerning His will and not the nay sayers who say that God’s will has somehow miraculously changed concerning healing.

PRAYERLord God, thank You for the marvelous work of Christ in my behalf.  When I’m sick or suffering You are there not only as a Savior but also as the “Great Physician”. Lord, use “Your Word” to free me from all of the works of the devil.  Heal my body. Forgive my sin and release me from any grip that Satan might have on my life.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENTI will walk by faith not by sight.  I trust confidently in the work of the cross.  My confession is that I am “more than a conqueror in Christ”.  The healing I have received in every area of my life is not according to my own ability but His.  The deliverance that I receive comes from the substitutionary work of Jesus and I lay claim to it by faith.

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What Has Changed?

Isaiah 59:1 BEHOLD, the Lords hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (KJV)

It is said that an Arabian Sheik set about to search for an axiom that would always be true. He wanted it to be true whether he was addressing royalty or speaking to the his common herdsmen.  A wise man is said to have come to the him with the only statement believed to always be appropriate. Here it is, “This too must pass.”

This is in fact an almost perfect statement, with One exception. God doesn’t change! He is no less powerful than He was in the past.  God is no less capable to work miraculously in our day as He was in ancient times.  His ears work just fine.

When God does not hear and respond to my prayer it is not a problem with God. The problem is that my “iniquity” and “sins” have hidden His face from me.  That is, He does not want to look at me in state that my disobedience has left me. Sin still makes God angry and separates from His presence.

These are actually words of unrequited love.  They are words not of correction, for punishment’s sake but for the purpose of restoration. God wants to work in my behalf. He has once for all proved this beyond all argument by giving his Son’s life in my place. If God is not at work in my life it may well be because I have offended Him.

He desires to hear my cry but He wants that prayer to be one of repentance; a prayer of brokenness, not one of pride.  If I want to close the distance between myself and God I must do it by dealing with my “iniquity and sin.”  The only possible solution to dealing with sin is the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, I confess all known sin to You now and place it under the blood of Jesus.  I trust You for my salvation and deliverance.  Read my heart as a book, turn every page in it and show me where I have offended You.  Help me to be truly sorry for my sin. The evidence of this Godly sorrow will be a change of mind, heart and direction. Use your power to deliver me and I will use my strength to glorify You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

COMMITMENT: I will confess and forsake all known sin.  I will plead the blood of Jesus and trust in its power to break the barrier between God and myself.  I will allow the Holy Spirit to search me and guide me so that I might walk in full reconciliation with my God. I apply the blood by faith to my life and trust God for the deliverance.

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