Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Serve the Lord

Paul encouraged believers to "never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11). So what is zeal? And what is spiritual fervor?

Zeal is an eagerness to do something. Implied in the eagerness is readiness. So believers are to be prepared, able, willing, and enthusiastic to do something. An opposite condition would be laziness or inactivity. We act exactly opposite Paul's command when we sit back and do nothing.

In his commentary on Romans, Robert Mounce wrote, "Believers are to be aglow with the Spirit. The life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit radically alters the way a person lives... A Spirit-filled believer by definition cannot be dull and boring. That would be a contradiction in terms." Spiritual fervor is being on fire for the Lord because of his indwelling Spirit.

The zeal and spiritual fervor are expressed in service to the Lord. Are you serving the Lord or sitting by while others serve him? Is the Spirit working in your life to bring about acts of service? Don't quench the fires of service placed within you by God.

You serve the Lord when you serve others. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 25 that serving others by clothing them, feeding them, befriending them, and helping them equals doing those same things for him. And believers are identified by such acts of service.

So serve the Lord today with zeal and spiritual fervor!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Weekly Devotional - February 22, 2013

"Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it
and that produces a crop useful to those for whom
it is farmed receives the blessing of God."
Hebrews 6:7 NIV
My backyard is a low spot in our area. So low that water runoff from all Saline county pools there. OK, that's an exaggeration but it is true that puddles appear quickly after rain begins and they stay there a long time. Yesterday's rain was so heavy that at one point almost half the backyard was under water. The puddles that remain this morning will linger and keep Riley and me from playing ball for several days.
My grandfather was a soybean and cotton farmer. He looked for rain. Often his crops badly needed rain. When the rain came the fields would drink it up and the plants would perk up, too. When rain fell often, the harvest would be plentiful.
Jesus talked about a farmer who sowed seeds plentifully. Some fell on good soil and some fell on soil that would not sustain the crops. The farmer could not expect a harvest from the bad soil but they could expect it from the good soil.
Quality seed plus good soil plus adequately rainfall plus a hardworking farmer equals a good harvest. The seed is the word of God. The good soil is the receptive heart. The rainfall is the supernatural work of the Spirit of God. The farmer is the Christian living out the Lord's commands.
God promises to bless those who will trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. People will sometimes get confused about what blessings are. Lots of folks think that a blessed life means success in the boardroom, athletic arena, or classroom. They may gauge success by what's in the game room or garage or bank vault.
God's blessings may or may not involve worldly success but his blessings always involve knowing him better. Pray that God will bless you with his presence and deeper knowledge of him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Perfect Day

Today is a perfect day. The temperature was in the mid-30s when I ran this morning. The high this afternoon will be in the mid-50s. I'd say that's as good as it gets! I'll take 300 days a year like this and split the rest evenly between warmer and colder by 20 degrees.

What makes today even more perfect is that the sky is crystal clear; almost white on the horizon and gorgeous blue up top.

And baseball is in the air! The way I see it, any day with baseball is a great day! MLB Spring Training is underway. Will someone please give me two weeks at the Reds Spring Training Camp as a Christmas gift soon?

Riley had try-outs for a new ballpark Saturday. I couldn't be there because of church-related work. Not being there was hard but probably was a good thing. He would have felt more pressure knowing I was watching. Instead, he was loosy-goosy and did great. Deana said he hit the ball really well and only made a couple of mistakes fielding. He actually overthrew to first base a couple of times. He's played first base for six years so he never has to make many throws. At least he overthrew the ball so he showed a good arm.

I saw a tweet from the local college baseball team's coach that they play today at 3:00. I'm picking up Riley from school today so maybe we can head over there and watch the big boys play. Clear skies, 54 degrees, and baseball. Yep, this is a perfect day.

Really, what makes it perfect is Jesus. I've spent time reading his word and praying to him. I'm about to dig in and study for this week's sermons. I am aware of his presence by the way he's answered prayer and brought great thoughts to mind. Like baseball with my family on one of the perfect days he's created.

It's a perfect day because I am not alone. Jesus is with me. His Spirit guides me. I will enjoy the day and give him glory.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekly Devotional - February 15, 2013

"Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you."
Psalm 63:2 NIV

Did you notice all the Valentine's posts on Facebook this week? How could you NOT notice! The men posted about how much they loved their wives. The wives responded with an "Aawww" and then posted a picture of the flowers or candy or teddy bear that was delivered to their office. All because of love.

What does your love for the Lord prompt you to do? Three choices are before you. You can do nothing. You can do something. You can do a lot.

A person who does nothing cannot possibly understand God's love. Perhaps that person has never realized that God's love is the reason we exist. Maybe they have explained away all the touches of God by claiming coincidence or chance. A sunrise, a hunger to learn, a desire to be in relationships...these are all part of our lives because God loves us. Doing nothing in response indicates a hardness toward God due to a life of rejecting him or of bitterness toward him.

Some people muster some response to God's love. They may participate in church activities from time to time. They may call upon others to pray for them when life is unusually hard. They may thank the Lord when spared from some difficulty. But they don't do much else to glorify God. The stream of appreciation that ought to flow from their lives is just a trickle. Like a brook that is mostly dry and only swells with the occasional downpour, so is the praise that comes from the hearts of many who say they love the Lord. They are either expecting more from God or experiencing little that they attribute to God. And praise is little.

Then there are those who recognize the love of God in the small things and big things of life. The realize that they experience much more than they could ever expect from God. And they respond with an ever-flowing stream of authentic praise that involves their lips, their lives, even their Facebook posts. Pray that God will help you know his great love and give him glory for it.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Weekly Devotional - February 8, 2013

"Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around
the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.'"
Exodus 14:3 NIV
Have you ever tried to map out how your life has been? Sometimes we think about what the future might look like and make big plans but the past holds lessons for us that are often overlooked. Take a closer look at where you've been. Map out your past and try to find God's hand in it.

What might look like aimlessness could actually be full of purpose. If you had mapped out the route taken by the Hebrew people as they fled Egypt you would come up with a squiggly line. You might think your toddler had taken a crayon and scribbled on the paper.

But it was not aimless wandering. Even though a direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land seems to make more sense, God had another plan. The well-trained Egyptian army could have easily overtaken the Hebrews on a predictable route. Although the Hebrew people would have been more confident in the obvious route, it would have surely led to greater hardship or their destruction.

God had another plan! And he often does in our lives, too. The obvious often overshadows other options. Our decisions often aren't made with much thought. Consider what God plans to do, however, and the obvious may become obviously undesirable.

Following the squiggly line through the desert led the Egyptians to under-estimate what would happen next. The Hebrews looked like sitting ducks on the pond. The pond, however, was the Red Sea and would become the grave for the Egyptians and the victory for the Hebrews. But only hours earlier, the Hebrews thought it would be the other way around.

God pulls victory out of defeat all the time. The key is to be completely obedient to his word even when it doesn't make sense. Pray that God will help you obey him even when it's tough so that you can experience life's victory.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Expecting an E-mail

So I'm expecting an e-mail pretty soon. It's not the usual e-mail because this one will come from heaven.

A church member was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year and a half ago and she's now nearing the end of her earthly battle. She told me today that she'd e-mail me from heaven. We laughed because she's never sent me an e-mail down here. She admits to knowing almost nothing about computers. But in heaven, hey, all things are new! We'll not be plagued with the kinds of things that slow us down on earth. Maybe Mary will know how to send e-mail, check and update her Facebook page, upload pictures and videos, and lots of other stuff.

Probably so but I'm not sure how handy that will be. I'm not sure what heaven will be like. Nobody knows and if they say they do they are not being truthful. The Bible says that eyes and ears cannot see or hear what God has in store for us. My friend Rex Horne spoke at my wife's grandfather's funeral. He said that when Ed Abel woke up in heaven and looked around he likely took in all the sights and sounds of heaven. Heaven was more amazing, awesome, magnificent, unbelievable, and inspiring than Ed could have imagined. Then Dr. Horne said that Ed probably said, "Well, of course! This is exactly what heaven should be!"

I like that way of describing it. Heaven will be beyond our imagination but we will be able to immediately recognize it as God's handiwork. I just don't know if we'll send and receive e-mail there. I'm pretty sure we won't be sending e-mail from heaven to earth so maybe I ought not get too excited about getting Mary's e-mail. But if I do I'm going to be REALLY excited!

Mary is facing death with confidence. I asked her yesterday how we could pray for her. She said with raised eyebrows, "God's got this!" Whatever "this" is, Mary knows God is in control. "This" could be a lengthy physical fight on the line between life and death. "This" could be the quick escape from the trappings of this world into the freedom of eternity. God's got this!

For you, "this" could be a marriage that seems to be falling apart. "This" could be wayward children that drive you to your knees in prayer. "This" could be the uncertainty of a job. "This" could be a medical diagnosis you never wanted to hear. "This" could be a stack of unpaid bills and threats from collectors.

God's got this.

The big question is, Does God have you? Are you part of his family? Can you face uncertainty with hope and confidence because you know you are his? The answer to these questions can be "Yes!" if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Weekly Devotional - February 1, 2013

"God has raised this Jesus to life,
and we are all witnesses of the fact."
Acts 2:32 NIV
We have a new dog. Her owner passed away a few weeks ago. And I learned this week that we are Lexi's third owners. The first two owners both passed away. Lexi is not her original name. She used to be known as "Poptart." I'm glad the last lady changed it.
So I kidded with Riley that Lexi must be in the Witness Security Program. I guess I just blew her cover by giving out her real name! Anyway, the Witness Security Program is run by the US Marshals Service. According to their website, they have "protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,500 witnesses" and their family members in the last 40 years. I couldn't find a list of names on the website so they do a better job of keeping a secret that I do.
The reason these witnesses need protection is because they are testifying in trials of drug traffickers, terrorists, organized crime members and other major criminals. I suppose enough witnesses prior to 1971 came up missing that the government decided to provide protection for someone who could help lock down the case in these kinds of trials. Their testimony was that important.
A witness testifies to something they know to be true. Every follower of Jesus Christ knows truth that others need to hear. We know that Jesus is the Son of God. We know that God loves us so much that he gave his only son Jesus to die for our sins. We know that God raised Jesus to life and that Jesus lives today. We know that we can turn from sin and toward Jesus through faith and receive salvation by God's grace. We know that our lives are quantitatively and qualitatively better because we follow Jesus. We know that Jesus will someday return to take us to be with him in Heaven forever.
Are you testifying to this daily? It's one of the most important things a believer can do. Pray that God will help you speak up about the truths you know.