Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that once we are saved, we are beyond the devil’s grasp. Truth is, the closer you are to God, the greater the temptation will be. Temptation takes many shapes and forms and the devil knows exactly which one of your buttons to push. Jesus was the Son of God, and he too was tempted but sinned not. Others weren’t so fortunate:
Two brothers were talking one day, when one said to the other, "When I'm older, "I'll find me a hideout in the mountains and rob the rich guys." Before his shocked mother could respond, the other brother said, "Not me, I'm going to be a medical missionary somewhere in a needy continent like Africa." The next day the mother narrated the incident to her neighbor, finally exclaiming, "Can you imagine that? In the same home and with the same training!"
One day, a pastor was preaching a fiery sermon, and the congregation was carried away by the atmosphere generated in the church. The pastor strode boldly from one end of the altar to the other, carefully crafting his illustrations and skillfully weaving God’s word into the mix. Occasionally he pumped the air with his fists, bobbing one way and then the other, his voice rose and fell, captivating his audience with the power of God’s word, with his charisma and with his gift of oratory.
In the middle of the 19th Century, a man in India named, Nokseng came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ through the efforts of an American Baptist missionary. The village chief instructed him to renounce his faith, but the convert declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus." His refusal led to the killing of his two children. When his wife was threatened, he continued to declare, "Though no one will join me, still I will follow." The chief responded by killing his wife. Undeterred, the man continued to sing, "The world behind me, The cross before me." He was executed while singing these last few lines. This display of unfaltering faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and many others in that village.
Have you ever looked at the world with all its mind-spinning headlines and wondered where it’s all going to end? Do you look at the church and wonder if Christians are going to make it? Today, look no further than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He alone is your peace in the good times and the bad times.
In the hymn titled “There is a place of quiet rest,” Cleland Boyd McAfee writes:
Recently, I heard someone tell a story which is said to have originated in Japan; it is the story of the hummingbird:
One day, there was a huge forest fire, and all the creatures of the forest: ants, bears, birds, caterpillars, deer, elephants, insects, lions, raccoons, snakes, spiders, squirrels, turtles…and all kinds of creatures of the air and of the ground ran out to the edge of the forest and stared back in horror at the raging flames.
“What are we going to do?” the bear asked, but there was no response. All the animals just stood staring at the red, hot, menacing tongues of fire, mute with shock!
Have you noticed lately, that everyone seems to be telling (selling?) their story? From sunrise to sunset, someone is trying to get our attention through one of the many forms of media that we all choose to interact with. The airwaves are packed 24-7-365. Every storyteller insists that their story is the most captivating with an important lesson for the listeners.
Have you ever wanted to know God’s will? Well here is one instance (and there are many), where the Bible makes God’s will crystal clear. It is God’s will that the believer should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is his God’s will in Christ Jesus. The believer gives thanks, not because the situation is good, but because it is God’s will. It means giving thanks in the hard times, as well as in the good times.
Has God been speaking to you? That’s a question that many believers wrestle with from time to time. How can one know when it is God and when it is just a personal desire or dissatisfaction or something else? How can mortal, flawed and sinful human beings identify the voice of a divine and infallible creator whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9)? I don’t know how, but I know it is possible and I know that it does happen, because of God’s love for humanity, and his love covers a multitude of sins (John 3:16).
What would you do if someone asked you the same question three times? This is exactly what happened to Simon Peter, Jesus’ disciple. Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” as though to say, this is of utmost importance Simon. It is a question that is equally important and relevant for us today. In the midst of a world filled with God and truth deniers, there is urgent Kingdom work to be done. In the midst of a great falling away, Jesus is once again asking as he did back then, “Do you love me?” If so, then, “Feed my sheep.” And this is love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13:
In 1864, while the American Civil War was still being fought, three young women, Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller and Elizabeth Myers began the custom of decorating soldiers’ graves at a cemetery in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. They wanted to recognize the contributions of these brave soldiers from the village who had paid the ultimate price. Today it has become customary to decorate graves with flowers as a sign of our deep affection for those who sacrificed their lives for us, and for those whose lives have touched ours.
Do you live in a state of constant expectation that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says, he will do? This appears to be the way the disciples in Acts 9:37-38 lived. In the face of what most humans would consider IMPOSSIBLE, they exhibited outrageous faith; the kind of faith that anticipates the inevitable intervention of the Almighty God. The kind of faith that is completely surrendered to the will of God, whatever that may be. They displayed the kind of faith that invites ridicule.
Leon Morris, a New Testament scholar, once said: “There is no point in accepting Christian teaching if we refuse to let it shape our lives.” The writer of the book of James is more direct. He says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22). And yet believers around the world have turned their backs on doing the word. Instead of letting God’s word shape our lives, we have allowed the influences of our world to shape us.
Where do you turn to in times of trouble? It’s quite a revelation to watch little children interact with their parents. Whenever a little child is in distress, that child will turn towards a parent and look up with lifted arms, expectantly waiting to be picked up and comforted. In such a case, the parent’s most eloquent response is to bend down, pick the child up and hold them close to reassure them. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s love.
Last night I attended the premier showing of the soon to be released movie “Breakthrough” which is based on a true story. After the movie, all I could think to say was “Wow!” What a display of God’s power, and of the unfathomable ways in which he works through ordinary humans and events to affect his divine plan.
The children of Israel had been held captive in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10), when the word of God came to them declaring that God was “doing a new thing;” something they had never seen before. God was doing this new thing right there in the wilderness; in that uncomfortable wasteland; a place where they did not want to be. At the time they must have wondered what he meant.
All around the world, millions of people are looking for love. Some swipe right, others left. Unfortunately, as Johnny Lee reminds us in his song, Lookin’ for Love we often go “looking for love in all the wrong places.” What would you say if I told you there is no greater love than the love of God? As a young child, I often sang a song in Sunday school that went something like this:
While visiting Kenya recently, I stopped by a local shopping center in the western part of the country. As I looked around the shops, I observed a woman emerging from a tiny kiosk with a young girl, about five years old, carrying a book bag on her back. As I watched them, the woman bent down and whispered something in the girl’s ear, simultaneously pointing towards a building which was about half a mile down the road. With that, the little girl began to run. I stood there glued to the scene, fascinated to see such a tiny child running such a long distance on her own. I watched her frame grow smaller and smaller as the distance between her and her mother increased. Occasionally, this precious child would slow down and begin to walk and her mother, who kept her eyes on her the whole time, would shout encouragingly, “Keep running, you’re almost there.” With every shout, the young girl who never once looked back, would once again break into a jog. Finally, she made it! As she turned into the building that her mother had pointed out to her earlier, the woman went back into her kiosk to serve her customers.