April Fools Day

            CAN you believe it's already Spring and Easter is here... April 1st. Nice planning whoever you are that determines which Sunday will be the date for Easter every year. Can't you almost hear some "Execs" in a board room, "Hey, let's call those chocolatey things 'Milk Duds' and while we're at it, let's have Easter on April Fools Day." However, when you think about it, it is kind of cool that Easter is on that day because Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God."Only Fools deny the existence of God. We are going to fly right in the face of April Fools Day and worship our LIVING GOD! Don't be a fool and miss out on church.

            NOW I do understand that April Fools is a day for jokes and pranks and is a fairly harmless day. But did you know that a "fool" from scriptures is not a very good thing. 87 times the word "fool" appears in the Bible and another 46 times the word "foolish" shows up in Scriptures. A fool is someone who knows the truth but refuses to follow the truth. A fool is much different than an ignorant person or even a "not very smart" person. Those who are not blessed with a high I.Q. or the ability to learn well are just that, they struggle to learn. They are not as capable of discernment and comprehension as others. There is nothing wrong with this. God does not make everyone equal in everything. Now, an ignorant person is someone who is capable of learning but has not been given the opportunity to learn. Once information is shared with the ignorant, then they are no longer ignorant but informed. The fool is not stupid, nor are they ignorant. They have both the skill to learn the and information to apply. They simply wont apply what they know because they are either too lazy or stubborn and both are descriptive of the fool. The wise are those with the capacity to learn and then the desire to apply what they have learned.

            THREE days after the Crucifixion of Jesus, there were two "Ignorant" men walking along a road heading toward the town of Emmaus. This story is told in Luke 24:28-32, "As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going further. But they urged Him strongly, 'Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.' So He went in to stay with them. When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" These two disciples (followers) of Christ did not know that Jesus had rose from the dead. But once the information was given to them by the Lord they went from ignorant to informed and from informed to wise.

            WHAT are the keys to becoming a wise person like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? The first is to have a desire to be with Jesus.

            NOTICE here in Luke 24:28-29, "As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going further. But they urged Him strongly, 'Stay with us..." Jesus was going to continue on, but the two disciples urged Him to stay with them.  Jesus and wisdom go hand in hand. He is wisdom, therefore being close to Him is a great start to acquiring wisdom.

            THE second key to wisdom is the right information. In Luke 24:30, it says, "When He was At the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them."Bread, from scripture, is a synonym of the Word of God. Jesus said, Matthew 4:4, when tempted by the devil, "...It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." So when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, "...Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him..."Luke 24:31. After this, the two went to the other disciples and shared the "good news" that Jesus was alive. In other words, they applied what they had learned, proving they were no longer ignorant. Neither were they fools, but they had wisdom.

            EASTER may be on April Fools, but we will learn and grow and gain wisdom. See you "Wise Ones" this Sunday!

At The End

            KING David was a powerful man of God. Probably one of the most dedicated followers of the Lord in human history. He is right up there with the likes of The Apostle Paul, Moses, The Law-Giver, and Abraham, The Father of Faith. And yet, he like so many other giants of the faith struggled with life from time to time.

            IN Psalm 61:2 David writes, "From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."The first phrase in this verse is, "From the ends of the earth I call to you."This word "ends" means the border, the outskirts, the extreme quarter. In other words, David was really saying, "Lord, I'm at the end of the road." What the end of the road literally means is he was out of options with no where to turn. Ever been there? I sure have.

            MAYBE you are at the end of the road in your finances. Your out go is greater than your income and you don't know what to do. Your rent or mortgage is too high, your fuel bills are out of control and there is nothing you feel you can do. Habakkkuk, a prophet in the Old Testament knows just how you feel. He said in Habakkuk 3:17-18, "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." Somehow, even with nothing, Habakkuk could find reason to rejoice... His Savior.

            THE second thing David said from Psalm 61:2 was that "I call as my heart grows faint."The key word in this phrase is "faint" and means overwhelmed, feeble, weary. In other words David was not only at the end of his road, he was at the end of his ropes. He had nothing left of himself but to call on God for help. I can't tell you how many times I've been there. Not only confused and feeling out of options (end of the road) but at my wits end feeling like I have no resources and nothing but confusion and helplessness in my circumstances.

            LIFE is tough. The stuff that seems to get hurled at us from every which direction can be overwhelming for us mere mortals. Even a powerful man like David. Ah, but God, nothing rattles Him. He is greater than all our problems. The Apostle Paul was in a similar situation as David was and as we are at times. He was battling a physical ailment and repeatedly asked the Lord to take it away from him. But here is what God said to him in II Corinthians 12:9-10, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." No matter how weak you may feel, God is mighty and His grace is sufficient for you as it was for Paul, Habakkuk and David.

            FINALLY, David wrote, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." This is where it all gets summed up. David was at the end of the road, the end of his ropes and the end of himself. 

            GOD, having given us free will, allows us to flounder about, struggling with the difficulties of life. He patiently waits for us to come to the end of ourselves and then look to Him. This is what it means when David said, "The rock that is higher than I." We, like David, must reach up to God and then He is able, because of our humility, to reach down to us. The "rock" David was referring to was a place of stability and sure footedness. It was also a place higher than his circumstances and situations. The thing about a "higher rock" is also a place of better perspective where vision and safety are available. This is the place we need to be. But we must call out to God to get there.

            THE Bible tells us the "rock" was symbolic of Jesus. In Matthew 21:42 Jesus refers to Himself as the "...Stone the builders rejected..." But He wasn't the "Stone" David rejected. He was the rock David rested on, his place of safety and perspective and the one greater.

            AS I said earlier, life is tough. But Jesus is not affected by the difficulties of life. He tells us in John 16:33, "...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." If you're at the end of your road and the end of your ropes, come to end of yourself and call on Jesus.

Steadfast

            ONE of the things I loved most about King David was his attitude. Now of course, some of the Psalms are filled with his frustrations over the prowess of his enemies or the blessings he watched them receive. But for the most part, David always ended his Psalms (prayers) with gratitude and faith in God.

            GRATITUDE was a key ingredient to David’s attitude. He was always thanking God for who He was in his life and what He had done for him. One scripture comes to mind concerning his attitude of gratitude and it is found in Psalm 115:1, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."This brought so much favor from God on David's life. If you were God you'd bless him too.

            FAITH in God was another of David's strength of character. He was certain that God would help, guide, save and deliver him. Throughout his writing in the book of Psalms are his statements of absolute confidence in God who not only created him but was with him daily. One of the verses that bears this out is found in Psalm 71:5, "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth."

            THERE was something else about David that was very impressive - his attitude about himself. This one is a little more difficult for me. I totally get the gratitude thing because I believe I am very grateful to God for all His blessings. And I also have confidence in the Lord in regards to my past, present and future. But this other thing about David is more of who I need to be and less like who I am now. This is what David wrote about himself in Psalm 108:1, "My heart is steadfast, O God..."Just think what this statement says about who David believed himself to be, his self- perspective if you will. He believed he was steadfast and so I would think that was who he actually became, a steadfast man. His healthy self esteem added with his gratitude to God and faith in Him was a dynamic combination.

            A poor self image is not what any of us wants, especially for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior. Seeing ourselves the way God sees us would radically change our lives. He believes in us far more than we believe in Him. But getting this through our pea-pickin' brains is a hard task.

            THERE are two devastating foes that attack our self image and personal confidence. They are identified in Revelation 12:10 as the Devil,  "For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down." And the second enemy is ourselves, as we see in I John 3:21-22, "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him."One of the reasons we lack confidence in God is because we know too well that we do not always obey God's commands and we do not always please Him.

            DAVID was no different than us when it came to faithful obedience and bringing glory to God. He sinned as well. But he spoke differently about himself than many of us do, myself included. He called himself a steadfast man. Which, by the way, meant ready, fixed and established. David was ready to follow God, fixed in his desires to serve Him wholeheartedly and established as a believer in God. Seeing himself this way led him to fulfill his self proclamation.

            WHAT are you proclaiming about yourself? Often I hear people, good people, Christians, say, "I'm not very good at reading the Bible"; "I don't pray enough"; "I need to be a better Christian"; and one of the worst, "I'm not a very good Christian". 

            IF an athlete always saw himself as a loser, how often do you think that person would actually win? If a person was a singer but thought they were always off-key, what would you expect to hear from their voice? If a person thought they were dumb, just how good would their grades be? 

            WE would all be better and do better if we had confidence in ourselves. Gratitude and faith are important, but so is saying we are going to do great things through God. We have to have Great Expectations for 2018 in God, but we must also see ourselves as winners through Him, kind of like David.

SO THAT

            CLEAR back in January of 2017, I came across this scripture as I was preparing for my new series on relationships entitled, "Love Handles". The passage I was working on for the series was Romans chapter 12, which we went through for the entire year. I decided, in order to get a better understanding of this chapter, I should research the previous chapter to get a better idea of the context. The verse was Romans 11:32 and says, "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all." I realized from this verse, that mercy was key for all good relationships, for this was how God deals with His creation. I guess if viewing people through the eyes of mercy is good for God, it has to be good for us too.

            FAST forward to late spring of 2017, as I was preparing to speak at the Western District youth camp and I felt strongly that Romans 11:32 should be the first message I spoke to the youth. As I was working on this verse two particular words rang out. Those words were "SO THAT". What I saw was the first phrase of the verse, "God has bound all men over to disobedience." This happened SO THAT God could do something else. The one set up the other. The other being "mercy on them all." The first had to happen SO THAT the next could take place. What these two words have come to mean to me is an expectation. Because the first things had happened we could now expect the second to happen.

            FROM all of this, I started seeing those two words, "SO THAT", regularly in my daily devotional readings. In fact, just in the New Testament alone "SO THAT" appears 299 times. Obviously, some of these did not carry the same deep spiritual meaning as what I saw in Romans 11:32. But some of them sure did.

            ALL of this has led me on a journey of exploration as to what "SO THAT" really means for our spiritual growth and maturity. I came to see that the Lord was speaking to me about this new year.

            WITH what has been happening in our beloved country and the world these past months: Horrific hurricanes; horrible floodings; mass shootings; devastating fires; earthquakes; terror attacks and political upheaval, I sensed a bit of foreboding for 2018. But this, as I have learned, is not how God views our new year. In fact I believe God is excited for 2018 and has great plans, not only for our country and the world, but for us individually. I'm reminded of His great promise from Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." No matter what is troubling our world and even our hearts and minds, does not negate what God wants to do and how He sees things. I prefer God's view of my life and not how the world may see things! How about you?

            IT is with great joy, anticipation and excitement that I see for 2018 and I pray you join me. The word that I believe God has given our church for this new year is:

"GREAT EXPECTATIONS FOR 2018!"

            JUST think what positive things God could do in our lives in spite of all the negative things going on. God isn't bound by global economies, natural disasters, terrorists, governments or anything else we could name. The only thing that binds the hands of God moving in our life and our new year is our lack of faith in Him. We are the only ones who can prevent God from working great things for us in 2018.

            IN Matthew 9:27-30 it says, "...Two blind men followed Him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' When He had gone indoors, the blind men came to Him, and He asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord,' they replied. Then He touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored." Just like that, their faith in Jesus caused the miracle of sight. Who knows what God can do for you? Well, God does, He knows exactly what your new year is going to be. He's already been there for you mapping out what is best for you and what will cause you the most growth and blessings possible.

            SO what do you say? Will you join with me in believing that 2018 will be the best year of our lives? One thing that is so important is having Great Expectations for 2018, SO THAT we see His goodness.