I Long For You

www.bible.com/1713/isa.26.9.csb

Need someone? Isaiah’s words here encapsulate what I’ve been feeling for a long time. Night time can be a lonely time. It when you long for a companion, one who is true and present with with you, you can’t go wrong with God. Of course what he is speaking to here is prayer and meditation on God. He is speaking to soaking in the Word of God to hear the voice of God.

As you prepare for rest tonight, take a moment to soak in His word. Speak His words of promise back to Him, so that you can abide with Him for a while. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

God bless you today!

Giving Tuesday

www.bible.com/1713/mat.6.3.csb

So let the Non-profits get on the bandwagon by making the next day on the holiday calendar their own day. We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I hear a distant chorus of “me too”‘s with Giving Tuesday. Hey you’re already in the spending mood. Why not send some money our way too and feel good about it. I’m surprised this same attitude hasn’t taken April 16th, the day after taxes are due, or the day after Mother’s Day.

Oh I suppose there will be statistics that will say Giving Tuesday will have another great year this year. People, used to spending money on themselves and their loved ones will be charitable and feel like giving to strangers too. It’s the holiday spirit after all. Everyone feels good by giving, right?

Recently my son was caught in a giving scam. He was “hired” by someone to buy gift cards for a foster family with a check of over $2000. Sounds good, right? The giver of the check insisted that those cards be bought and the numbers on the cards be given to this needy foster family as soon as possible. The check was from four states away. What could go wrong? Actually the check did. We found out it was a bad check after the dust settled. Now my son is out $2000. It comes down to certain bank rules that allow you to float a check for a certain number of days and invent money while the check is being processed. It’s a scam and a devious one, because most importantly it played on the idea of being generous to a needy family. My son wants to do good, and this was such an opportunity. Now he has another $2000 to pay back.

Let me earn you that not all causes are good. Some are out there simply to take your money. If you are not careful, many are set up today to take your good name as well. If you are not certain what makes a good donation, may I recommend your local church? Some even allow you to give online. Just be careful who you give to.

God bless you today.

Not from Works

www.bible.com/1713/eph.2.8-9.csb

Being the last month of the year, how do you evaluate how well your faith is doing? Do measure how many Sundays you went to church, Sunday School or small group? Do you measure your faith by how many good deeds you did? Or how much money you donated? Maybe just now you are thinking that you put money in the little red bucket so you are now a good person. But what Scripture tells us is that our faith is not measured by our works, but by the grace we’ve been given.

We understand God’s goodness to us not in what we do for Him, but what He has done for us. He has given us this marvelous salvation by grace through faith. Our faith is measured in our relationship to Him. His faithful love endures forever. Ours, well not so much.

So what I might ask is how well your faith has held up this year, through crisis, tragedy, highs and lows. Did you feel close to God during that job transition, or the loss of a loved one, or difficulty in family relationships. You find your church attendance means nothing when you are arguing with your wife. Your contribution to the kettle will mean nothing in the face of job loss. They may help measure your faithfulness and obedience, but the true test is whether you are still faithful when times are tough; when no one can see your pain. Who you are behind closed doors will determine how faithful you truly are.

Works will not save you, but they will offer some proof of your growth in Christ. But the real test of faith takes place when you suffer.

Will you still believe when it isn’t easy? God still believes in you. Never forget that. He doesn’t pull you out of the game until He’s ready.

A Lonely Voice

www.bible.com/1713/isa.40.3-5.csb

How many join you in your calling? Our pastor this morning asked if we had invited many to church. He said this season was an ideal season to call them in, because everyone feels spiritual around the holidays, especially Christmas. He’s not wrong. People do become more sensitive to family issues and holiday traditions around Christmas, because every family has something, many of whom involve going to church. So yes, this is a good time to remind others that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

That said, it can be very lonely being the voice that invites. We have become very sensitive to religious freedom and identity, even the lack of it. Christian itself is consider a hateful religion, especially in the West. So to invite someone to your church can sometime be akin to inviting someone to join the KKK. Ouch!

Is that true in Eastern Kentucky where I abide? Not really. Around here people know church as the place you go to because Mama went and Granny went. And they were holy. Around here church is for the old, and for those who have sown their wild oats and need to get right with God. So they wait until they are nearly dead. I wish I was kidding.

I’ve been a Christian since I was 12. I don’t understand someone waiting until they are old to give themselves to Jesus. I’ve also lived with a sense of duty and guilt; duty because there are things expected of me and guilt because I haven’t done them. There is far more temptation for the Christian who has grown up in it, than one who has lived their whole life apart from it and knows how bad life can be without Jesus. A lifelong Christian is tempted to find the line, while the old convert knows where the line is and vows never cross it again.

Yes, I’m in the former category. I’ve probably given more than one person reason to reject Christianity based on the way I’ve presented it. But I also hope that some few have found Jesus because if something I said or did. I won’t know until I get there. Until then, it can feel pretty lonely on the journey. May I encourage you by saying you are not alone? Not only is Jesus with you, but every other believer is with you, including me. We are not alone, and we are stronger together. Your voice is not the only voice in this wilderness announcing Jesus is coming. God is using each voice to shepherd the lost to Himself.

May God bless you today.

The Battle of Good and Evil

www.bible.com/1713/rom.12.21.csb

Which is stronger? Good or Evil? Are they opposed to each other, or just certain points of view? Depends on who you ask. When the Nazis were overrunning Europe, did they think they were committing evil? When Americans were breaking treaties with Indians and taking their land, did they think they were committing evil? When the Catholics hunted down heretics because they didn’t believe in the authority of the Pope, did they think they were committing evil? It depends on who you ask.

Good and evil take different sides and different forms. Only discernment will help you here, and more importantly, the knowledge of Him who is good. You can’t know what evil is unless you know what good is. You cannot say something is wrong without knowing what is right. And you cannot know right without knowing God, who put His own holiness and justice in us so that we would know right from wrong.

We know from this verse that good is stronger than evil. How? Because we are commanded to overcome evil with good. We could not do that if it wasn’t possible. God is good. God is all-powerful, this God’s goodness reigns supreme. Evil cannot overcome good, but it can overcome us. Which is why this passage also serves as a warning.

Christian it is possible that evil can overcome you if you allow it access. Close off every avenue to sin to possess you, because sin is crouching at the door, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Every temptation to doubt, to dally, or to despise God’s word is an opportunity for evil. Take every thought captive to the throne of Jesus. Don’t let evil win. Overcome evil with good.

God bless you this weekend as we prepare for worship!

Save Much Today?

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.3.17.csb

Folks venturing out early this morning are either heading back to work or looking to save some money. If you are in the latter category, have you saved much today?

A few people would rise early to save 10%, and a few more for 30% off. But who would get up for 100% off? And what would you do to get that discount on big ticket items, like a new car or a house on the beach? What would you value so much that you would spare no effort to receive if it was given to you at no charge?

And so we move into the realm of our text today. The single most valuable asset that God possesses is His Son. And yet He considered Him a fair exchange for all humankind. God gave His Son, paying the highest price, to save all people. What He offers, at no cost to you, is the most valuable commodity He can offer. He offers you salvation from the consequences of your sins, which would otherwise result in your destruction. What would you do to obtain this fantastic gift?

Would you rose early in the wee hours of the morning just do spend some time with Him? Would you give up precious sleep just to be near Him? What effort would you expend in exchange for the free gift of Hos salvation?

Something to think about on this Black Friday. God bless you today!

Happy Thanksgiving! Or at least as best you can manage…

www.bible.com/1713/1ch.16.34.csb

I hope you get to spend yours with family and friends today that love and care about you. Living with family isn’t always easy. Sometimes for the sake of family we won’t let ourselves out too much. Family has a way though of getting under our skin and rooting out old anxieties and issues. That’s why family get-togethers are both welcome and shunned. It’s tough being who you are since you left your home of origin. Sometimes there are bad memories of who you were, or who they were.

But fear not. The God of yesterday is the same as the God of today. If you need a moment to center yourself, find a quiet space, gather your thoughts, and meditate on the goodness of God. This day is about thankfulness. Even if your own family is a mess, we know God is not. Don’t retreat into your phone or whatever’s on TV. Retreat into God, for there is your only sure stronghold.

I hope and pray you won’t need it, but if so, may the peace of God be with you today. May His peace fill and infuse your gathering. Fear not. God is with you.