Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Gift We Can Use

Do you like gifts?  Do you like gifts that you can use?  Do you prefer gifts that sit and collect dust or get put away in out of the way places?  Are you a hoarder of gifts that have been given but never used, and likely never will be?  God has given us gifts.  The gifts that He has given to us fall somewhere in the answer to the above questions.
Jesus promised a great gift to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.  He promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He promised them many gifts that would come from the one gift.  One of the gifts that He promised us through the Holy Spirit is the gift of power.  Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you.”  In fact, one of the names for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power. 
Do you ever sit in church and hear the pastor request volunteers to do a certain task in the church?  When he asks for a Sunday school teacher do you ever think to yourself, “I wish I could do that” but then answer yourself quickly, “But I just couldn’t”?   But wait! Yes, you can!  The Holy Spirit within you has given you power.  Do you hear the call for volunteers to go to the nursing home to sing and visit for a half an hour?  Do you ever say to yourself, “I wish I could do that” but then quickly answer yourself, “But I just couldn’t”? But wait! Yes, you can.  The Holy Spirit within you has given you power!   
God has given us a gift we can use.  He has given to us the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has given us a gift we can use.  He has given us power.  That is power to work for God, to testify of God, to minister for God to do good works for God to serve God in every way.  It is not a gift He wants us to lay aside and not use.  It is not a gift He wants us to hoard or hide.  He has given us power!  We have the power of omnipotent God within us. Isn’t that a wonderful and useful gift? 

Paul Rader, American evangelist, pastor, hymnist and pioneer Christian radio broadcaster has given us a wonderful hymn about power from the Holy Spirit simply titled, “Old Time Power”.  The second stanza reads, “We will glory in Thy power, we will sing of wondrous grace; in our midst, as Thou has promised, come, O come, and take Thy place.” Then the chorus resounds, “Spirit, now melt and move all of our hearts with love, breathe on us from above with old time power.”  Let us take God’s promises as true.  Let us claim His name as real.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power.  Let us let Him use His great gift in us. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Grace in a Name

Great and mighty God of all, Present every time we call
Ever near at our right hand, Ever near to help us stand
Where we are, Lord, You are there, Every single burden bear
Ne’er alone You leave Your child, Lost alone out in the wild
God who’s there is Thy great Name, God is There let saints proclaim.
(Sung to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)
Ezekiel 48:35 gives us a wonderful gracious Name of God: The LORD is There!  How comforting is that name to every believer!  In Psalm 139 David explores the meaning of this name.  He asks rhetorical questions about where we might escape from God.  Can we go higher than Him and escape above the heavens?  Can we hide from Him in the depth of the sea?  Can we find a place dark enough where He can’t find us?  No. 
Jesus said to His disciples when He ascended into heaven, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Quoting from the Old Testament the writer of Hebrews passes along the simple message from God to His children, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 
God knows us when He is forming us in our mother’s womb.  He watches over the process of our bones being knit together.  David praised God for such wonderful care.  God watches over us when we are at work or play or resting.  His presence at night was a great comfort to the psalmist who knew that He could then sleep soundly.  Indeed we teach our children a simple prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  Watch me safe throughout the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen.”  Are we lying to our children? 

God is there.  He is there in the sickroom.  He is there at the graveside.  He is there in pain, loneliness, sorrow, confusion, doubt and in hurts beyond words.  He hasn’t left us alone in those times.  He is there.  That is His name.  In each moment of joy or sorrow, of victory or loss, of sickness or health, of abundance or want He is there!  He is there to hold us in His comforting arms.  He is there to undergird us in our deepest despairs.  He is there.  O Christian rejoice in this gracious Name of God: The LORD is There!  

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Author

I may not have yet sold as many books as Stephen King, but I am an author.  In addition to this daily devotion I have eight books currently in print.  More are coming and each day I find more things to write about.  God’s world and God’s word are fathomless resources.  As an author I am blessed to know that Jesus is also an author.  Hebrews 12:2 says that He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  I am His book as is everyone who has come to Him in faith believing for His salvation. 
Written on my heart is the message of His grace. When others look at me, they need to see His face. 
Written on my life is the inscription of His love.  The world should stand amazed, as it points to Him above. 
Let my holy book, gently authored by Your hand, proclaim your grace to all, point them to the Promised Land.
Paul told the Corinthians that they were his epistle.  How much more are all of us God’s epistle?  What kind of reading material are we?  If we were in a bookstore, what section would we be in?  Would we be in the How To section with a title, “An Illustrated Guide to Living for God”?   Would we be in the mystery section with a title “The Case of the Man without a Cause”?  Would we be in the outdoor section with a title “Escape from God to Feign Worship at the Fishing Hole”?  Would we be in the mature audience section with the warning: Not for the eyes or ears of those under 18? 
Christ is the Author of our faith.  He called us to faith.  He saved us through faith.  He wants to conform us to Him by faith.  He wants to author a beautiful faith life story in us.  He wants His author’s name to be fully visible on the cover of our book.  He wants the perfect editing of His divine hand to be evident on every page.  He wants the story line to bring Him glory.

Christ is also the Finisher of our faith.  The end of the story will be great.  He who has begun a good work in us will finish it.  Our end is heaven.  The end of the story is His glory.  As He has promised us a great ending, we need to be co-authoring with Him a great book.  Jesus is a great author.  We need to let His pen hand write the details of our life.  We need to rejoice in being His work.  

  The Saturday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Loving Father

There is a very sad statistic about the nature of our day.  In America today nearly 40% of all births are to single mothers.  There is a host of social ills that grow from this figure but there is also a great spiritual void that is seen in these numbers.  How many children today do not know a father?  How many do not even know what having a father means?  How many then have no concept of how great it is to have a heavenly Father? 
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father . . .” What did they conjure up when they said those words?  Did they see someone they knew who had built them a home?  Did they see someone who had cared and provided for their needs?  Did they see someone who had guided them with love and with a firm hand?  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus likened praying as asking one’s father for a loaf of bread or small fish.  The concept of Father was a known commodity.  That was then.  Today many children will be raised without that loving parent.
Father is a name rich in grace.  It is a name that believers are to hold dear.  It is a name that should still convey to us the strength and love and guidance and purpose and provision that a father has for his children.  When we think of “Father” we should think of all the riches of grace that God, our Father, has given to us.  We should think of all the ongoing care that God, our Father, offers to us each day.  We should think of the loving hand and the guiding purpose that God, our Father, has for His children.  There are many names for God that extol His power and His majesty, but there is the one name that is rich in His nearness, His approachability, His kind smile and caring hug.  There is the name of Abba Father. 
Jean Gower, who is credited with writing two hymn texts in her life, has given us a hymn titled “Father, Loving Father”.  It is a simple text that reflects the simplicity of a child calling upon their Abba Father for care and love and guidance and peace.  As we sing its words we find ourselves in the place of the small child looking expectantly to the great Father of our lives.  Let us rejoice in having a Father.  Let us praise Him for adopting us as His children.  Here is Jean Gower’s hymn. 

Father, loving Father, hear Thy children’s call; with Thy love enfold us, and protect us all. From the dawn’s first glimmer to the close of day, may we feel Thee near us, on our earthly way. And from evening prayer time through the dark of night, let us rest in quietness until morn brings light. Teach our tongues to praise Thee in the hymns we sing; teach our hearts to love Thee as our voices ring.”  Father, loving Father, hear this prayer of ours.  

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Comforter Has Come

Another great name that we are blessed to know is that of Comforter.  As Jesus is our Advocate, the Holy Spirit is our Comforter.  Jesus did not want His followers to be left alone.  He told them before His crucifixion that He would ask of the Father that He would send them another Comforter.  Jesus knew all that His Church would confront in the centuries between His ascension and His second coming.  He knew that they would face trials of faith that would test them to the core of their being.  He knew that in a world that was hurting they would need to be effective witnesses of His grace though they were hurting as well.  Jesus knew that we would need a Comforter. 
What would this Comforter do for the Church?  Jesus said that He would abide with the believers forever.  We would not be alone. God would be present in us every day.  That is indeed a great comfort.  When things go wrong in life, from little calamities of the ordinary every day variety to the greater trials that confront saved and lost alike in financial distress, job loss, tragedy and more, God is there!  He is there to give us patience to endure, hope to go on, faith to overcome.  When we do these things we can then bring comfort to the world that confronts the same situations without hope.  Paul told the Corinthians that we are comforted that we might be comforters.  The Holy Spirit will work in His Church to strengthen them to minister to a lost world that still lives as sheep without a shepherd.
The Comforter does more.  He teaches us about our dear Savior Jesus Christ.  He takes the word of God and explains it to us so that we might know God the Father and God the Son better.  Then He takes that word and speaks it through the Church so that the world may know God as well.  He goes with each word of witness that we share to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.  We are not alone when we tell others of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace.  The Comforter is undergirding us and working through us all the time.

It is no wonder that Frank Bottome could write such an uplifting song of promise as “The Comforter Has Come.”  Just consider the words that should encourage and energize the Church.  “O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found, wherever human hearts and human woes abound; let ev’ry Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound: the Comforter has come!”  He has come indeed!  Rejoice in His presence!  Rejoice in the great gift of God’s grace that has not left us comfortless.  Spread the tidings to all believers.  There is hope!  Spread the tidings to all the lost.  Spread the glad tidings to all who believe.  There is hope!  The Comforter has come!  

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Best of Friends

(Tune of “Jesus Shall Reign”)
My Advocate resides above, a gift of my dear Father’s love.
He pleads His precious blood for me; presents me clean for God to see.
 As Advocate He guides me, too; directs me all my long life through.
His counsel is for me what’s best; obeying it I will be blest.
Years ago we moved to a new town.  On my visit to the community I met with a realtor and purchased a house.  It was a nice house and I was assured that everything was in working order. The day we moved in it was learned that the realtor had simply lied.  Nothing was in working order.  Nothing was as agreed in the contract.  The house was literally uninhabitable and we moved out the next day.  The day after that the realtor called and both he and the seller were planning to sue us for breach of contract.  I was rather upset.  At work I mentioned the situation to a co-worker and went home quite worried and more upset.  Right after supper that night I got a call.  My co-worker had passed the news of our trouble on to a lawyer.  The lawyer called and told me that he knew both the realtor and the seller and that he would make everything alright the next day and that there would be no suit and we could get on with our lives. Not only that, but his service was free.  I was no longer upset. 
A lawyer is an advocate.  He pleads the case and takes care of his client’s needs.  In I John 2 Jesus is called our Advocate.  He is our Advocate with the Father.  We make a mess of things in our haste and then we find ourselves in trouble with our guilt.  But we have an Advocate with our Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  He pleads His precious blood that was shed on Calvary for our sins and presents us spotless before the throne of God.  We cannot buy this service; it’s free.  The blood of Jesus Christ cannot be paid for.  It must be believed in.  Faith in our Advocate is the key.  Not by any work can we pay Him.  He saves us and keeps us by faith in Him.  Our response is gratitude. 

That gratitude should display itself in obedience to the guidance then given to us by our Advocate.  While His blood will never fail to cover our sins, His will for us is that we stop living in the practice of sin.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Should we then sin that grace may abound?  God forbid!”  Our Advocate will lead us in paths of righteousness for His Name sake.  He will not abandon us in our need, but He wants us to follow closely to His lead.  He knows best and we can rest most peacefully as we follow the guidance and live in the care of our great Advocate. 

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Blessed Name

Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?”  The Bible answers, “A lot!”  The third commandment states that, “You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain.”  Psalm 96:8 says, “Give to the LORD the glory due His name.”  Philippians 2:10-11 says, “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”  Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  There is a lot in a name.
Take a look in the index of any hymnal at the section: “Jesus, Names of”, and find how many hymns have been written on this one topic.  Lydia Baxter wrote the hymn, “Take the Name of Jesus with You”.  In this hymn she extols His name as the one that gives comfort, protection, strength, joy, welcome, and hope.  She declares that His name is precious, powerful and eternal. Lela Long wrote the hymn, “Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know”.  In her hymn she praises His name as precious, blessed, wondrous, dear, sweet, honorable, and praise worthy.  The list goes on and on from ancient hymns to contemporary Christian music.  There is a lot to be said about the Name of Jesus. 
In this Name there is salvation, the wonderful grace of God in Christ.  In this Name there is victory over Satan, the wonderful power of God in Christ.  In this Name there is comfort, hope and peace, the wonderful care of God in Christ.  What do you need from God today? Its provision is there in the Name of Jesus Christ our eternal Lord and Savior.  What burden do you bear?  Its release is in the Name of Jesus Christ our loving Shepherd.  What work do you want to accomplish for God?  Its power is there in the Name of Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

The words of W.C. Martin will sum it up for us today.  “The Name of Jesus is so sweet; I love its music to repeat; it makes my joy full and complete, the precious Name of Jesus!  Jesus, O how sweet the Name; Jesus, every day the same; Jesus, let all saints proclaim, it worthy praise forever!  The word of man can never tell how sweet the Name I love so well, O let its praises ever swell, O praise the Name of Jesus!  Jesus, O how sweet the Name; Jesus, every day the same; Jesus, let all saints proclaim its worthy praise forever!”  

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