Archive for April, 2011

Nothing plugs Christian ears faster than lessons about giving more money to God.

Are your fingers heading toward your ear canals?

It shouldn’t be this way, of course, since every penny a Christian has is from God’s hand in the first place.

But who said logic determines every thought?

I’m not perfect in my logic and you aren’t either. Because of this, I’m not going to give you a lecture because it’s not my place and there’s somebody else much more qualified for teaching on giving.

His name is Jesus.

And here is what He said in Luke 20:25 found in today’s One-Year Bible reading — give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Jesus had been asked if believers should pay taxes.

Jesus said they should. But they were to also give the offerings that God expected.

Those offering amounts weren’t to be determined by the level of public taxation, He said.

A faithful Jew couldn’t legitimately give a smaller sacrificial gift at one of the annual temple feasts just because Rome imposed a tax increase.

Government’s appetite for taxes had no bearing on how the faithful were to obey God’s call for sacrificial gifts.

This principle is still true.

Government taxes should not determine how much we give to God as our tithe, just as the grocery store or gas station prices should not determine how much we give to God as our tithe.

Early believers almost certainly didn’t figure their tithe after taxes but instead before.

Shouldn’t our pattern be the same?

Please open your heart, your mind, your ears and your wallets so that “what is God’s” actually does end up being used in ministry for His Kingdom.

This is not just me talkin’….

It’s what Jesus said.

As always, I love you

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When we or our loved ones or friends get entangled in a trap set by Satan, it’s almost always because we or they didn’t see it before stepping into it.

There are so many ways that Satan traps people. For example, he gets them joining in a gossipfest because they’re jealous of another and then he reveals the participants to the person being gossiped about.

What seemed as it it would be just a minor, side role in this concert of criticism has turned, instead, into a major smackdown where “Somebody is going to pay!”

A number of people are hurt in such conflicts that should never have happened and only one person is really happy.

His name is Satan.

We all know what it’s like to step into one of Satan’s traps. Some have done so because of the desire for illicit sex. Some have done so because of the desire for public massaging of their pride. Some have done so because of the desire to gain stuff in order to displace feelings of insecurity. The list goes on and on.

Because we now know better, it should be our mission to show others that there is a better way through life.

That’s why we are to learn what the Bible teaches. That’s why Jesus said all who come to learn and live out His Words are drinking Living Water from a well that will never run dry.

Please show others that you live a faith-refreshing life. Please tell them that the same life can be theirs if they’ll drink from the same fountain.

Their future will be so much better when they’re not having to pull their foot or hands or even their tongues out of his traps.

‘The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.” Proverbs 13:14

As always, I love you

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My life through the week is better when my worship experience on Sunday has been deeper.

Sometimes, because of my mindset fog, I am less engaged in authentically intimate worship during the praise time of singing and prayer.

I wish I were always on top of my faith game but the fact is that I have some days that are less so than others.

Every year, I improve and that’s good.

Some day, I’ll worship perfectly forever.

Yesterday was a very good day of worship in all respects at SouthWinds Christian Church in south Miami.

I left feeling quite refreshed because of God’s gracious ministry to me through His Spirit, His Word and His people.

And then, this morning, I read a powerfully potent verse in Psalm 87 that reminds me of why I cherish times of worship SO much.

As they make music they will sing, ‘All my fountains are in you.’” Psalm 87:7

To the ancient Hebrews, being close to a fountain — whether natural or man-made — was a matter of survival.

And for the psalmist to use the above term, the obvious meaning is that survival and refreshing of the soul is found ONLY in a personal relationship with God.

It is this truth that was to compel the singing worship among ancient believers and it is this truth that should compel us to do the same.

Truly, all our fountains of hope are found in the Lord.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) that whoever drinks from His fountain of hope — the Living Water of His Word — will never thirst again.

If you have found salvation and refreshment in the fountains of God’s Son, God’s Spirit, God’s Word and God’s nurturing people, then you can sing with joy the words of Psalm 87:7.

For you have found that ALL of your fountains are from the Lord.

If you’re still drinking from the cisterns of this world, please come to the Lord’s fountains.

You’ll never thirst again.

As always, I love you

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One of the treats of reading the One-Year Bible is discovering the biblical addresses for oft-heard phrases.

Today’s reading includes Psalm 84 and a number of phrases that I heard on numerous occasions.

  • “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Verse 2)
  • “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage” (Verse 5)
  • “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Verse 7)
  • “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Verse 10)
  • “The LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Verse 11)

Some of these phrases have made it into worship songs, adding more pervasiveness to the psalm’s influence. That’s good.

These are words of praise, things God deserves.

As we instill these ideas into our spiritual psyche, our weekly cycle of living will will become more pleasing to the Father, more powerful for the Kingdom, more productive for our family and friends and more peaceful for our souls.

Please select one of the above verses to memorize in the coming days. That will be a good way to permenantly remind you of why Psalm 84 is such a good place to go for inspiration.

Set your heart on the pilgimage to heaven, my friend. For even the doorkeepers there will have it better forever than the richest of the rich who are cruising along in the luxury limos headed toward the cliff.

As always, I love you

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One of the lessons that Christians learn early in their walk with the Lord is how to eat humble pie.

Well, at least most Christians do.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting our own intelligence, abilities and life experience when it comes to tough decisions.

And, yes, those factors should be part of our decision-making process. But the greatest influence should belong to the Lord.

That means that we should always pray for godly wisdom when it comes to making decisions.

When we don’t, we suffer the consequences.

We end up in dating relationships or marriages that have turned from dreams into nightmares.

We end up in jobs that we had hoped would solve money problems but instead are causing family and health problems.

We end up with houses or cars that looked good at first but now are heavy, economic anchors dragging us down.

Or we end up with tit-for-tat squabbles with siblings who should have never heard us say things about them that were said.

It would have been SO much better if we had patiently, sincerely prayed before making the above decisions or statements.

But you know how it is with us humans.

We too often think that we don’t need God’s help.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us the trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and in all our ways, acknowledge Him. If we do so, He will direct us toward the way everlasting.

We acknowledge Him when we pray to Him and when we listen to Him.

Yet, you’ve had mess-up times when you didn’t listen to Him, just as have I.

We’ve got to do better in this regard, my friend, if our personal lives, church lives and work lives are going to be pleasing to God and helpful for others.

I’m prompted to this devotion topic because of a reading in the One-Year Bible for today.

Joshua 9 tells of how Israel was tricked by the people of Gibeah and did not destroy the pagan people, even though God had earlier said that all those in the Promised Land should be destroyed.

Why was Israel tricked?

Because they didn’t pray to God before making a promise to the Gibeonite tricksters. You can read about the scheme by clicking this link.

When we don’t pray, it’s sometimes our brain against the devil’s.

We won’t win that contest.

He’s got a lot more practice and a lot more power.

Start praying more when facing decisions, my friends.

Especially the tough ones that don’t have obvious, Bible-compliant answers.

Don’t trust your own wisdom. Pray for help, instead, from the Father of wisdom who has never been outwitted by the enemy.

It is SO much better to humbly ask for help than it is to ask for forgiveness because of a previous “I got this one” attitude.

As always, I love you

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Who needs your grace just now?

A family member who spoke harshly to you?

A co-worker whose random sarcasm lacerates your sense of workplace peace?

A neighbor whose dog doesn’t consider property lines during those quick trips outside?

A church member whose criticism toward “some people’s children who act up” is really a veiled shot at your parenting skills?

Please show grace.

For grace has been shown to you.

Jesus taught often about grace. In today’s reading from the One-Year Bible, He emphasized the value of grace within the context of money owed.

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16:1-15 describes how the manager met with a couple of people who seemingly had not been paying their debts. Rather than lambast them with threats, the manager said — in effect — that he’d reduce the debt if the people would renew their promise to pay up.

By showing grace with the amount of money owed, the manager fostered loyalty from those in debt AND increased the likelihood of eventual payment.

If the manager had been a hard-nosed person, it’s probable that the debts might never have been paid and only hard feelings would have resulted all around.

Jesus said we are to use worldly wealth in a way that builds quality relationships. And sometimes that means letting some of our worldly wealth be invested in graciously forgiven, unpaid debts.

You might actually be owed money by somebody who just keeps putting you off when it comes to repayment.

Someone might not owe you money, but they do owe you an apology and a transformed attitude.

Please don’t let their failure to act like Jesus keep you from acting like Jesus.

Show whatever amount of grace in that situation that the Lord is leading you to provide.

Remember that God has forgiven you for far more than you’ll EVER forgive others.

It really is a case where “honey” will likely prompt more cooperation than will vinegar.

As always, I love you

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It’s never fun to lose.

It’s even more disappointing to lose because we messed up.

It’s true in sports. It’s true in board or card games. It’s true in the pursuit of dating relationships.

And it’s particularly true when the erosion of God’s blessings is the result of our eroding obedience to Him.

To some extent, we’ve alll experienced each of the above.

I pray that you’re not in a season of eroding blessings.

If you are, then the verse below can give you some valuable guidance toward a status with God that will likely lead to renewed blessing.

The context of today’s devotion is this: In Joshua 7, the children of Israel had just suffered an embarrassing defeat by a small army from the city of Ai. Though only 36 Israelites had died from among many thousands of Hebrew soldiers, Joshua and other soldiers acted as if the defeat were the end of the world.

They thought God had let them down.

God quickly told Joshua that sin was the reason for the defeat.

An Israelite named Achan had directly defied God’s order that all precious metals found in the defeated Jericho should go into the Lord’s treasury. Achan hid some of it in his tent before the attack on Ai and God saw what was going on.

If God didn’t deal with this early-stage rebellion in a blunt fashion, He knew that bigger problems would follow.

And that’s why God told Joshua and the Israelites to stop whining and stop sinning.

For if they didn’t, they would continue to be fighting enemies without His help.

That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” Joshua 7:12

This verse sounds ominous, but it actually inspires a great deal of optimism for me.

Why? Because I choose to flip the the emphasis in the second sentence.

If I make sure to rid my life of sinful things, behaviors and attitudes that God wants destroyed, then He WILL be with me in the efforts to overcome ministry obstacles, everyday life obstacles, physical health obstacles, etc..

I know from experience that I’m not good enough on my own to vanquish all that comes against me.

I need His help.

And so, I need to live the way God commands and give the way God commands.

I hope that you’ll do the same.

Lose the secret sins, my friend. Life is SO much better with the blessings and victories that come with God’s presence and power.

As always, I love you

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