Archive for March, 2011

John the Baptist is sometimes characterized as a prototypical “turn or burn” preacher who enjoyed chewing people out in the name of God.

I’m sure that he was, in fact, quite disappointed by the way so many people were living during the time of his 1st Century ministry.

What’s impressive about his ministry, though, is that he helped so many others living inappropriate lives to become disappointed with themselves.

It was that realization of personal error and spiritual need that prompted large numbers of people to seek him out in remote areas along the Jordan River.

And it was that humble acknowledgment of spiritual need that prompted John to sometimes change his tone from indictment over to instruction.

Read closely the following section from Luke 3 that reveals John’s desire for simple, sincere change in the hearts of those listening to him:


“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

“John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’

“Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

“Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’

“He replied, ‘Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.’” (3:10-14)


Many people in our circles of influence think that being right with God is a matter of remembering complex theological concepts and rituals.

Hopefully, you don’t embrace such a perspective.

Yes, we are to grow weekly in our knowledge of the Bible and our level of personal intimacy with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And we need to be able to explain to others the reason we believe as we do.

Unless we live as people surrendered to the Lord, though, our ability to conceptualize and verbalize our faith will appear as facades of faith.

The fact is that our walk has to match our talk.

That’s why John said what he did in the above verses.

Dear friends, don’t complicate your faith by thinking it is measured by intellectual sophistication.

John the Baptist was a highly studied member of Essene sect of ancient Judaism. He knew the scriptures frontwards and backwards.

Yet, when asked how one can show a changed heart, he told people to share with those in need, don’t steal at your job, don’t coerce people, don’t lie about them and don’t complain about your pay.

I don’t need a seminary degree to understand these instructions.

I just need an obedient heart.

Let’s join together to do what John said.

We ‘ll help others.

And we’ll honor God.

As always, I love you

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(To help Japanese tsunami victims, click link after Morning Devotion).


I’m not sure why this thought hasn’t crossed my mind before, but I’m glad it did today.

I’m talking about the Luke 2 reference to Joseph and Mary using a hay manger as a crib for the newborn Messiah rather than having a room at the Bethlehem Inn.

What intrigued me today after I read Luke 2 was the fact that none of the people staying at the inn volunteered to give up their room so that a young lady about to go into labor would have a decent place to prepare for and experience the delivery.

Did anybody at the inn, other than the innkeeper, know that Joseph and Mary desperately needed a room?

Did the innkeeper not want to anger tenants who might not have wanted to hear the sometimes-pained cries of a woman in childbirth? Particularly in those days before anesthesia?

If some staying at the inn did know of Joseph’s and Mary’s situation, would it have made any difference?

What if you had rented the last room at the inn after an exhausting, three-day trip? Would you have given up the room to make way for this young, pregnant couple?

Would you have slept with the cows and donkeys in a drafty stable rather than in a bed with a nearby firepot to keep you warm?

I want to think that you and I would have willingly done so, but we can’t know for certain we’d have done so.

If we were to see a traveling salesman refuse to give up the motel room he’d just rented so that a young, pregnant couple didn’t have to sleep in their car, we’d probably form an unfavorable opinion about the salesman.

But lest we become judgmental, are there young, struggling parents we know who are desperately needing our sacrificial help?

We probably won’t encounter the need to give up a motel room to accommodate the couple, but our willingness to give up eating out for lunch for a month could mean $100 for gas expense to get to church for the next four months. You know how Satan’s whispers are SO persuasive when money is extremely tight…

“Oh, you can’t afford to go to church. Gas is just too expensive and you don’t have the money. Just stay home and have church with yourself,” is what the Enemy might say.

You see, he knows that young parent couples who attend church each week are far more likely to raise up children who grow into faithful believers.

Please don’t allow Satan to have more influence than you. If you don’t know such a couple but still want to help refute Satan’s lies, talk to your pastor. He’ll know some young couple who could benefit from your active, tangible compassion.

However the Holy Spirit stirs your heart, please make sure to follow His leading.

For if God is stirring you to help the young couple — or even tsunami victims in Japan — you’ll make a HUGE mistake if you don’t respond appropriately.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17).

As always, I love you

If you’d like to donate to a Japanese congregation that will be using 100 percent of the money for victim relief, please click this link with confidence.

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We all need reminders positioned here and there to keep us on track regarding the purposes and practices of our lives.

I have an 8×10 photo of Lori and myself hanging right by the door in my church office. That way, no matter what lonely, vulnerable counselee walks through the door, I’m reminded that my heart and life are promised to Lori.

And on the wall by my work desk, I have a large, fabric banner that shows an eagle in flight and is embroidered with Isaiah 40:31, reminding me of how my hoping on the Lord allows me to soar above the slop of this world’s woes.

God also directed the Israelites to create readily visible reminders of who they were to serve. In fact, God wanted reminders that the Hebrews couldn’t help but to see throughout the day.

The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.

“Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’” (Numbers 15:37-41)

You and I don’t have faith tassels on our clothes. But if we did, it would probably help.

At least until we started ignoring them and then started ignoring God’s Word and eventually God’s standards for how we should live.

That’s a very bad sequence, my friend.

We don’t hand out stitchable tassles every week to people attending SouthWinds Christian Church in south Miami where I serve as a pastor.

But we do hand out the Lord’s Supper emblems every week so that attendees can remember the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross and remember the pattern for living to which Christians have been called.

We don’t want people to chase after lusts of the heart and eyes. Instead, we want them to remember and obey the commands of God so that they will be consecrated to Him.

Please observe the Lord’s Supper every week, just as the Christians did in the 1st Century church. They believed that God had called them to attach that weekly form of worship to their faith.

Shouldn’t we?

As always, I love you

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Lori and I drive vehicles that are close to the end of their useful lives and we’re praying that we get at least a year from each of them before we start looking for replacements.

When that time comes, the sellers of the replacement vehicles will expect cash, not a bunch of sob stories about the problems with our current vehicles.

For us to expect anything else would be foolish.

It’s all about expectations.

Now, if I say something that deeply offends somebody to the point that they can’t sleep at night because of the wounded emotions, their expectations are likely to be that I would ask their forgiveness, not pull out my wallet and give them a bunch of $20 “Band-aids.”

You see, no amount of money is going to heal that wound. Instead, it will only cover up what will continue to fester and eventually scar.

I was reminded of these facts when I read Proverbs 11:4 this morning as part of my daily Bible reading. Here’s what Solomon wrote:

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

It seems to me that Solomon is pointing to that time when someone dies and his or her soul heads to eternal peace or to eternal pain.

It is foolish to think that any amount of earthly wealth will buy one’s escape from the horrible consequences of rejecting God’s authority and His remedy for sin, Jesus Christ.

God will not be bribed into waiving His pattern of holy justice simply because He’s offered a pile of money that’s already His anyway because it came from His pocket in the first place.

The only way that I can escape the consequences of my sins is to be seen as righteous and not deserving of wrath.

I know for a fact that my self-managed measure of righteousness leaves much to be desired.

I know that I sometimes stumble and fall and make a mess of things.

So how can I be seen as righteous in order to be delivered from death?

Cling to Jesus, that’s how, repeatedly being covered by His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) as I ask God to forgive me because I’m covered in His blood poured out for me on the cross.

This same promise can be yours.

Nothing physical can deliver you from spiritual death.

It’s the choice of our spirit that seeks sin and it’s the choice of our spirit to seek the Son.

Choose wisely, my friend.

Remember that no amount of physical wealth can satisfy God’s spiritual wrath.

Choosing Jesus, the One who innocently suffered all the wrath that would ever be due all mankind, is your only hope for deliverance.

Make sure that your greatest desire is to be rich with the righteousness of Christ.

As always, I love you

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It’s a phrase we all heard while growing up — “Cheaters never win and winners never cheat.”

The idea, of course, involves ethics and long-term legacy, not actual success in a particular business deal, card game or sports contest.

For we all know of times when cheaters did win the game or get the contract or win the pot.

I’m glad that God sees all and is the Ultimate Equalizer so that the above phrase IS true in an eternal sense.

That scoundrel who stabs backs at the office and nabs sales leads that belong to others and grabs opportunities earned by others won’t get away with it forever.

For all will stand before the Lord to give an accounting of their choices.

It is much better to be cheated out of something important to you and then ultimately receive unearned, phenomenal blessings in heaven than it is to cheat others out of things important to them and ultimately receive unending, earned punishment in hell.

Why this topic today? Proverbs 11:1 says, “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with Him.”

God hates cheating, but He loves honesty.

You see, God is truth and anyone who practices deceit opposes Him.

Please, my friend, ignore Satan’s temptations to cheat.

Conduct yourself with absolute honesty in your business transactions, in your conversations with family, in your commitments to your congregation and in your interactions with God.

Please don’t tell Him that you don’t have the money to put your tithes (10 percent) in the offering plate and then you amazingly find the money to pay for cable TV or your new dress or your new flatscreen TV or whatever.

It’s all about integrity.

It’s all about being honest.

In every corner of your life.

By the way, if you cheat in your work life and Satan reveals such to others — as he surely will — the damage to your Christian witness will be severe.

Don’t risk it.

Do the right thing always.

You’ll have more influence with people who need to hear more about the Lord.

And God will make sure to treat you way more than right when it’s time for your heavenly reward.

As always, I love you

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Numbers 11:19-20 provide an amazingly vivid picture of how we humans can complain to the point of angering God.

“You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

These words sent to the Israelites through Moses make it quite clear that God was deeply irritated by the Israelites’ whining about how life was “better” in Egyptian bondage.

The people neglected to recall the frequent beatings, long days of back-breaking work and loss of all civil rights. It seemed that the only things they recalled from generations of brutal slavery were the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic (vv. 5-6) they weren’t getting in the desert.

Even though God was meeting their nutritional needs with daily manna sent from heaven — at no cost to them — that wasn’t good enough.

They wanted meat and were going to gripe to high heaven because they weren’t getting it.

They would get it, all right.

Verses 31-32 describes how God sent a massive number of quail that promptly died when flying over the camp, so many so that the dead birds were three feet deep “all around the camp” for a days’ walk in any direction.


To a bunch of whiners, the idea of eating only quail as meat for years probably became mentally and emotionally nauseous.

But they wanted meat and that’s what they received.

It’s quite a pathetic testimony to human nature, isn’t it?

Our challenge after reading such accounts is to avoid griping as if it were the plague.

God has done so many good things for us that we don’t deserve.

He has saved our souls from eternity in hell, if we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

The last thing He needs to hear — or wants to hear — is whining about how our job isn’t fun or about how our spouse isn’t as funny or as romantic as other spouses or about how we wish our kids or our siblings or our pastor were more like the successful ones we see in the lives of others.

The fact is that if we’re breathing, we’re blessed.

Millions of people take their last breaths every day, most of whom will not be spending eternity in heaven.

If you’re saved, you’re ahead of the game.

Remember that and resist any temptation to gripe about something that you believe is less than perfect.

If anybody has a right to gripe, it is God. Because you and I are WAY short of perfect.

Listen, it’s not right to anger the God who delivered you from bondage and provides what you need to serve Him.

Let’s remember that the “manna and quail” provided by God through our tight budgets are a whole lot better than nothing.

Let’s remember that their are billions of people around the world who would trade places with us in a moment.

“Thank you, God, for your grace..”

“And thank you for forgiving our whining whenever we slip into such behavior.”
As always, I love you

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Lori’s upcoming move to south Miami to join me has taken many more months than we wanted, but we’re grateful that it is finally happening.

We’ve prayed hundreds of times that the Lord open a career door — the right door — for her so that she is not only living with me and serving in the church, but also working in a setting that will allow her professional competency to open doors for spiritual influence.

The Lord finally opened that door at North Shore Hospital in Miami Shores, a 35- to 40-minute drive north of our rented house.

Thank you, Lord.

I was reminded this morning of long waits on the Lord. In my daily Bible reading, the selection was from Numbers 8-9. Vv. 15-23 of Numbers 9 described how the people of Israel would only move their wilderness camp whenever the cloud of the Lord’s presence moved from over the Tabernacle and headed a different direction.

Sometimes, the cloud would stop in one place for a day. Sometimes it would stay in one place for a year.

The path of their 40-year journey was charted by the Lord.

At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. They obeyed the LORD’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” (verse 23).

I’m sure that year after year, there were many who wanted the Lord’s cloud to make a bee-line to Palestine.

But they had learned from hard lessons in the past that running ahead of the Lord’s leading would only lead to painful problems.

Because Lori and I have learned this lesson as well through our past life experiences, we chose to not run ahead. We chose to wait on her accepting of a job offer than made real sense.

Seven months is a long time to live apart when you’re talking about not being with your best friend and the spouse with whom you’re “crazy” in love.

A weekend here and there was wonderful but it’s far from providing the life together that you want.

Yet, the Lord is now moving Lori’s camp to merge with my own.

And that is going to be a beautiful day when our clouds merge and our influence for the Kingdom is greater together than apart.

If you’re waiting on the Lord to move in some special way in your life, please remember the lesson of Numbers 9:15-23. Trust the Lord to lead you according to what is best for the Kingdom and for you. Don’t run ahead of His will.

Strive to always seek His presence, learning more about Him, loving His people more and trusting that the vocational or relational or geographical door He opens will be the moving cloud that you should follow and not another.

As always, I love you

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