Monday, February 23, 2015

Precious things...1 Peter 1:7


The price of precious things


“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

There are sometimes rare and beautiful wares brought into the market that are invoiced at almost fabulous rates. Ignorant people wonder why they are priced so high. The simple reason is that they cost so much to procure. That luxurious article labeled £75 was procured by the adventurous hunter, who, at the hazard of his neck, brought down the mountain-goat, out of whose glossy hair the fabric was wrought. Yonder pearl that flashes on the brow of the bride is precious, because it was rescued from the great deep at the risk of the pearl-fisher’s life, as he was lifted into the boat half-dead, with the blood gushing from his nostrils. Yonder ermine, flung so carelessly over the proud beauty’s shoulder, cost terrible battles with Polar ice and hurricane. All choicest things are reckoned the dearest.

And so it is that the best part of a Christian is that which was procured at the sorest cost. Patience is a beautiful trait, but is not worn oftenest by those who walk on life’s sunny side in silver slippers. It is the product of dark nights of tempest, and of those days of adversity whose high noon is but a midnight. For “the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Purity of soul is like purity in gold, where the hottest fires turn out the most refined and precious metals from the crucible.—Theodore Cuyler.

When other things are broken, they are nothing worth,

Unless it be to some old Jew or some repairer;

But hearts, the more they’re bruised and broken here on earth

In Heaven are so much the costlier and the fairer.

W. R. Alger.

Those who are broken in wealth, and broken in self-will, and broken in worldly reputation, and broken in their affections, and broken oft-times in health; those who are despised and seem utterly forlorn and helpless, the Holy Ghost is seizing upon, and using for God’s glory. “The lame take the prey,” Isaiah tells us. God must have broken things.

“By reason of breakings they purify themselves” (Job 41:25).


Al Rosario 
Sent from my iPhone

Self Pity...1 Kings 19

1 Kings 19

A severe case of ingrown eyeballs strikes all of us every once in a while. In both dramatic and subtle ways, the stubborn enemy of our souls whispers sweet little nothings in our ears. He reminds us of how unappreciated and ill-treated we are . . . how important yet overlooked . . . how gifted yet ignored . . . how capable yet unrecognized . . . how bright yet eclipsed . . . how valuable yet unrewarded.

But the most damaging impact of self-pity is its ultimate end. A frown will replace your smile. A pungent criticism will replace a pleasant, "I understand." Suspicion and resentment will submerge you like a tidal wave, and you will soon discover that this sea of self-pity has brought with it urchins of doubt, despair . . . and even the desire
to die.

An exaggeration? If you think so, sit with me awhile beneath the shade of a juniper tree located at 19 First Kings, the address of a prophet named Elijah.

Elijah had just won a great victory over Ahab and his Baal-worshiping pawns. In fact, God stamped His approval upon Elijah in such a way that all Israel knew he was God's mouthpiece. As a result, Jezebel, Ahab's spouse (he was her mouse), declared and predicted Elijah's death within twenty-four hours.

Now, the seasoned prophet had surely been criticized before. But this threat somehow found the chink in his armor.

So Elijah ran for his life. Then, beneath the tree, overwhelmed with self-pity, he said, "I've had enough . . . take away my life. . . . I've worked very hard for the Lord God of the heavens; but the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you and torn down your altars and killed your prophets, and only I am left; and now they are trying to kill me, too" (1 Kings 19:4, 10 TLB).

Yet God didn't rebuke His man, nor strike him dead. He encouraged him to take a rest, enjoy a catered meal or two . . . and get his eyes off himself and his situation so that they might get back on the Lord. God even gave him a close friend, a fella named Elisha, with whom he might share his life and his load.

Feeling sorry for yourself today? Why not try God's remedy: Take a break, stop trying to work things out yourself. And take a long, loving look at your Savior in His Word . . . and then spend some time with a friend. You'll be amazed at the outcome.

Self-pity is the smog that pollutes and obscures the light of the Son.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Salt & Light... John 8:12

John 8:12; Matthew 5:13

God calls us to be salt-and-light Christians in a bland, dark society. We need to remember salt must not lose its taste and light must not be hidden. Let me suggest three statements that declare and describe how to fulfill this role:

"I am different." We should not become like the world. We must guard against being sucked into the prevailing culture and conforming to society's expectations.
"I am responsible." Every once in awhile we need to ask some hard questions: Are we making contact with others? Are we seeking isolation? It's up to us to spread the salt and light.
"I am influential." Let's not kid ourselves. The very fact that we belong to Christ—that we don't adopt to the system, that we march to a different drumbeat—gives us an influence in this society of ours. We are influencing others in our every behavior, be it good or bad. Even when we aren't trying, out comes the salt and on comes the light.
Remember to keep your light "on" and your saltshaker tipped!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Don't take it easy... Psalm 90

Psalm 90

Last fall one day at the church, I spotted a visiting gentleman who was shaking hands with a half-dozen folks he’d never met belore. Then he looked at me, and with a grin and a twinkle, he whipped out his hand. It was a hand you could strike a match on, toughened by decades of rugged toil.

"You look like a man who enjoys life. What do you do for a living?" I asked.
"Me? Well, I'm a farmer from back in the Midwest."
"Really? I guess I'm not surprised, since you've got hands like a tractor tire."
He laughed . . . asked me a couple of insightful questions, then told me about his plans for traveling on his own.
"What did you do last week?" I asked.
His answer stunned me. "Last week I finished harvesting 90,000 bushels of corn," he said with a smile.
I then blurted out, "Ninety thousand! How old are you, my friend?"
He didn't seem at all hesitant or embarrassed by my question. "I'm just a couple months shy o' 90." He laughed again as I shook my head.

He had lived through four wars, the Great Depression, sixteen presidents, ninety Midwest winters, who knows how many personal hardships, and he was still taking life by the throat. I had to ask him the secret of his long and productive life. "Hard work and integrity" was his quick reply.

As we parted company, he looked back over his shoulder and added, "Don't take it easy, young feller. Stay at it!"

The Bible is filled with folks who refused to take it easy. Remember our friend Caleb, who, at age 85, attacked the Anakim in the hill country and successfully drove them out (Josh. 14)? Or Abraham, who had a baby (well, actually Sarah did) when he was "in his old age" . . . he was 100, she was 90 (Gen. 21)? Or Noah or Moses or Samuel or Anna, the 84-year-old prophetess . . . significant people, all.

Age means zilch. Wrinkles, gray hair, and spots on your hands, less than zilch. If God chooses to leave you on this old earth, great. If He makes it possible for you to step aside from your work and move on to new vistas with fresh challenges, that's also great.

And whatever else you do, don't take it easy!

"No disease is more lethal than the boredom that follows retirement" (Norman Cousins).

 Age means zilch. Wrinkles, gray hair, and spots on your hands, less than zilch.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Unwholesome Talk... Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
—Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Thoughts on Today's Verse...
We can use our words to be cute. We can use our words to appear impressive. We can use our words to win arguments. We can use our words to defend ourselves. We can use our words to lie and distort. We can use our words to do many things, but God wants us to use our words to bless. So when we speak, if our words do not bless and benefit those to whom we direct them, then we are to simply not say anything. Grandma was right. "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all."
Prayer...
Give me wisdom today, dear God, to speak words that bless my family, my co-workers, and those I meet. I want to be truthful, loving, kind, and merciful when I open my mouth and speak. May the words of my mouth be used in your service and to your glory today, dear LORD. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Seek God... Lamentations 3:25

Lamentations 3:25

"Lord, I'm back and I diligently seek you." How many times have we said this? This time stop talking and sit silently. Wait patiently, seek diligently, sit silently. That means you need to pour out your heart and then deliberately be quiet. Spend a full day in quietness.

Meditation is a lost art in this modern, hurry-up world. I suggest you revive it. Not by endlessly repeating some mantra to get into some other frame of mind. Not that. Simply and silently wait before your faithful God. Read a passage of Scripture, perhaps a psalm, and let it speak. Say nothing. Just sit silently. Let Him talk. Let Him reassure you that you are fully and completely forgiven and that your shame is gone. Feel His arms around you. Understand the cleansing that He's bringing. Feel again the freshness and relief of His presence.

God will give you a fresh start if you'll stop fighting. It works. I know. I've been there. Just submit to Him and accept His grace.

God will keep His promise to forgive and welcome you home.
His mercies are new every morning.

 God will keep His promise to forgive and welcome you home through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Finance... Malachi 3:7-12

God's Master Plan of Finance

Malachi 3:7-12

Though the world is full of disorder, confusion, and uncertainty, believers in Christ have the wonderful assurance that God is in absolute control of every situation. When He created the heavens and the earth, He had a purpose and a plan, which He carried out with precision and order. Nothing was haphazard, late, or uncertain. The Lord also has a plan for each one of us, and every aspect of our lives is not only under His scrutiny, but also under His care.
One of those areas is our finances. If we'll follow God's plan, He promises to manage our money. Now, that's quite a blessing. After all, who do you think would be better at knowing how to handle money—you or our omniscient, all-powerful God? He promises that if we will give Him the first part of all we receive, He'll provide for our needs. He has an amazing way of making the remainder stretch farther than the original amount.
So, considering the blessings of this promise and the unfailing faithfulness of the Promise Giver, what is keeping you from obeying this command? The most likely reason is unbelief—fear to test Him on this even though He invites you to do so. But you may be asking yourself, What if He doesn't come through? What if I give it away and don't have enough?
The Lord is after your trust, and what better area to test and build it than your finances? Believing Him for our salvation seems easy, yet we often doubt He'll keep His promise when it comes to money. Take a step of obedience today, and discover how faithful your God really is.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Trust... Isaiah 2:22

My house is going to trust the Lord. The kitchen is getting hot when pride steps in.


Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?

Right now, where is your trust? Is it in your own intellect, abilities, and what people say? The Word of God reminds us continuously to stop trusting in man,Stop trusting in our own judgement and to start trusting in the ways of God. Today, the Lord our God clearly wants us to put an end to trusting in man.

The ability to trust in the Lord, to believe in the unseen, and walk by faith, is to be treasured. Sometimes the way the Lord guides and leads us may seem confusing and doubtful, but here is the test. Will we trust and obey or trust in our own ways?

The Word of God reminds us to stop trusting in man.OurFather wants us to confess our deepest fears to Him. As we do this, ask the Lord if we are fully submitted to Him. Do we trust in our own hands, in the ways of man, or are we fully surrendered to Him?

God is encouraging us to trust in Him. Trust in our maker. Can we trust in our maker today? Or are we too proud to do so? Let us always remember: man's wisdom does not compare or even come close to God's foolishness. This is the power of our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.


Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?

Right now, where is your trust? Is it in your own intellect, abilities, and what people say? The Word of God reminds us continuously to stop trusting in man,Stop trusting in our own judgement and to start trusting in the ways of God. Today, the Lord our God clearly wants us to put an end to trusting in man.

The ability to trust in the Lord, to believe in the unseen, and walk by faith, is to be treasured. Sometimes the way the Lord guides and leads us may seem confusing and doubtful, but here is the test. Will we trust and obey or trust in our own ways?

The Word of God reminds us to stop trusting in man.OurFather wants us to confess our deepest fears to Him. As we do this, ask the Lord if we are fully submitted to Him. Do we trust in our own hands, in the ways of man, or are we fully surrendered to Him?

God is encouraging us to trust in Him. Trust in our maker. Can we trust in our maker today? Or are we too proud to do so? Let us always remember: man's wisdom does not compare or even come close to God's foolishness. This is the power of our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

cordiality...Proverbs 15

Proverbs 15

The heart of the term "cordial" is the word "heart." And the heart of "heart" is kardia, a Greek term that most often refers to the center of our inner life—the source or seat of all the forces and functions of our inner being. So when we are cordial, we are acting on something that comes from and affects the very center of life itself. Maybe that's why Webster defines "cordial" as "of or relating to the heart; vital, tending to revive, cheer or invigorate, heartfelt, gracious."

Being cordial literally starts from the heart, as I see it. It begins with the deep-seated belief that the other person is important, genuinely significant, deserving of my undivided attention, my unrivaled interest, if only for a few seconds. Encouraged by such a belief, I am prompted to be sensitive to that person's feelings. If he is uneasy and self-conscious, cordiality alerts me to put him at ease. lf she is shy, cordiality provides a relief. If he is bored, cordiality stimulates and invigorates him. If she is sad, cordiality brings cheer. What a needed and necessary virtue it is! How do we project cordiality? Try these four basic ingredients:

1. A warm smile. A smile needs to become a natural part of your whole person, reflecting genuine friendliness. Nothing is more magnetic or attractive than your smile, and it will communicate volumes to the other person.

2. A solid handshake. Never underestimate the value of this cordial expression, my friend. The handshake is a rare remaining species in the family of touch, and it is threatened with extinction.

3. Direct eye contact. Accompanying every handshake and conversation, no matter how brief, ought to be an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter. The eyes reflect deep feelings enclosed in the secret chamber of your soul . . . feelings that have no other means of release. Eye contact allows others to read these feelings. Cordiality cannot be expressed indirectly.

4. A word of encouragement. Keep this fresh, free from clich├ęs, and to the point. Call the person by name and use it as you talk. Be specific and natural, and deliberately refuse to flatter the person. Let your heart be freely felt as your words flow.

"Oil and perfume make the heart glad, / So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend" (Prov. 27:9).

Spread some sweetness . . . have a heart . . . convey cordiality!

How are you doing in the cordiality department?
Try to be conscious of it this week, without being self-conscious.

 Nothing is more attractive than your smile, and it will communicate volumes.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Crucible of crisis... Jonah 2:1-6

Jonah 2:1–6

God's Word is filled with examples of those who believed God and "commenced prayer." David certainly did. "I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm" (Ps. 40:1–2).

Paul and Silas experienced the same thing in that ancient Philippians prison when all seemed hopeless (Acts 16:25–26). And it was from the deep that Jonah cried for help. Choking on salt water and engulfed by the Mediterranean currents, the prodigal prophet called out his distress:

"Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, 'I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; Thou didst hear my voice. . . . All Thy breakers and billows passed over me. . . . But Thou hast brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God'" (Jonah 2:1–6).

Often it is the crucible of crisis that energizes our faith. Think it over.

 Often it is the crucible of crisis that energizes our faith.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Doubt

"Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death."

Unknown

Doubt brings us down and gets us off track. Doubt opens the door to usher in all forms of fear. If you want to minimize doubt and fear then make up your mind to reduce their food supply. So what kind of faith food helps to starve doubt to death and begin to feed our faith? Begin with the Word of God... For solid food try reading daily a a truly amazing book . . . read the Bible, the inspired Word of God, a collection of texts written over 2000 years ago. Fix your mind on things that are true, lovely and right. Fill your mind with stories of faith. Spend time in nature, with small children and the aged. Volunteer to help the less fortunate. In other words, give of yourself. Feed others and be fed. But above all, love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Contentment...Philippians 4

Philippians 4

Laurence J. Peter and I are close friends. Although I've never laid eyes on him, I've smiled at his comments and nodded at his conclusions . . . amazed at his remarkable insight into my own life and those around me.

The simple answer to the riddle is this: I own a copy of his book The Peter Prescription, and you should too! It's an insignificant looking paperback filled with significant, sound principles. He says it talks about "How to Be Creative, Confident, and Competent," but I think he overlooked a better word: how to be Content.

Isn't it strange that we need a book to help us experience what ought to come naturally? No, not really. . . not when we've been programmed to compete, achieve, increase, fight, and worry our way up the so-called ladder of success (which few can even define).

Face it. You and I are afraid that if we open the door of contentment, two uninvited guests will rush in: loss of prestige and laziness. We really believe that "getting to the top" is worth any sacrifice. To proud Americans, contentment is something to be enjoyed between birth and kindergarten . . . retirement and the rest home . . . or (and this will hurt) among those who have no ambition.

Stop and think. A young man with keen mechanical skills is often counseled against being contented to "settle" for a trade right out of high school. A teacher who is competent, contented, and fulfilled in the classroom is frowned upon if she turns down an offer to become a principal. The owner of Super-Duper Hamburgers on the corner has a packed-out joint every day, but chances are selfish ambition won't let him rest until he opens ten other joints and gets rich—leaving contentment behind.

Now, listen to Jesus: "Be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14). Hear Paul: "I am well content with weaknesses," and, "If we have food and covering . . . be content!" (2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Tim. 6:8). And hear another apostle: "Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have" (Heb. 13:5).

I warn you: This isn't easy to implement. You'll be outnumbered and outvoted. You'll have to fight the urge to conform. Even the greatest of all the apostles admitted, "I have learned to be content" (Phil. 4:11). It's a learning process . . . and it isn't very enjoyable marching out of step until you are convinced you're listening to the right drummer.

When you're fully convinced, however, you'll be free, indeed!

"Striving to better, oft we mar what's well" (William Shakespeare).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Renewed Mind...2 Corinthians 10:11-12

2 Corinthians 10:11–12

No hypocrisy, no competition. Wouldn't that be refreshing to live such a life? It all comes to those with a "renewed mind" . . . those who determine they are going to allow the Spirit of God to invade all those walls and towers, capturing the guards that have kept Him at arm's length all these years.

I can't recall the precise date when these truths began to fall into place, but I distinctly remember how I began to change deep within. My fierce tendency to compete with others started to diminish. My insecure need to win—always win—also started to fade. Less and less was I interested in comparing myself with other speakers and pastors and parishioners . This growing, healthy independence freed me to be me, not a mixture of what I thought others expected me to be.

And now my heart really goes out to others when I see in them that misery-making "comparison syndrome" that held me in its grip for so many years. Not until you start thinking biblically will this independent identity begin to take shape.

It is when God is in control of the servant mind that we can realize as never before that life's greatest joy is to give His love away to those poor souls who are still stuck in the rut of comparative living.

The more you give, the more you'll get!

 God’s Spirit frees you to be you, not a mixture of what others expect you to be.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Final war... Romans 11:33-36

Romans 11:33–36; 2 Peter 3

For the next few minutes, imagine this scene:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for . . . the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (2 Pet. 3:10–12)

Scary stuff, that business about the heavens passing away and the astronomical destruction and the twice-mentioned "intense heat" that will result in a total wipeout of Planet Earth. Makes me wonder how. Oh, I've heard the same things you have about superatomic warheads and World War III. But somehow that never explained how "the heavens will pass away" or how the surrounding atmosphere and stratosphere could be "destroyed by burning."

Since that would usher in "the day of God," I've always questioned whether He would use man-made, adult fireworks to announce His arrival. But in my reading recently I stumbled across a possible hint of how the Lord might be planning to pull off this final blast.

On March 9, 1979, nine satellites stationed at various points in the solar system simultaneously recorded a bizarre event deep in space. It was, in fact, the most powerful burst of energy ever recorded. Astronomers who studied the readings were
in awe.

The burst of gamma radiation lasted for only one-tenth of a second . . . but in that instant it emitted as much energy as the sun does in 3000 years. If the gamma-ray burst had occurred in the Milky Way Galaxy, said one astrophysicist, it would have set our entire atmosphere aglow. If the sun had suddenly emitted the same amount of energy, our earth would have vaporized. Instantly.

As untrained and ignorant as we may be about the technical side of this, I suggest it might cast some light on the validity of Peter's remark. At least, in my estimation, it makes a lot more sense than atomic wars.

It's probably going to be more like star wars. The good news is this: I have no plans to be around at the premier showing.

How about you?

We may not understand all His ways, but we can know Him
whose ways are "unfathomable."

 We can’t understand God’s ways, but we can know Him whose ways are unfathomable.