He Knows Everything About Us

During my quiet time one morning, I felt that God wanted to talk to me about worship, so I opened His Word. The Psalms seemed like the perfect place to start. I felt compelled to turn to Psalm 139. As I read this psalm, it became clear to me that God wasn’t speaking to me about worship after all. Instead, He was showing me how well He knows me and how much He is involved in my life.

What God was telling me is this: He knows everything about me, from the things I do to the things I think and say. And He knows them before they happen! He is always with me. He is in front of me. He is behind me. There is no place I can go that His presence is not in. He made me and He knows every part of me. He knows all of my days and the events in them before they have even occurred. One of the most awesome things He showed me was that He places His hand of blessing on my head.

Knowing that God knows all of this about me is a humbling thought. There are many things I have done and said in my life that I am not proud of. But, it is also a comforting and pleasant thought. What it means is that God loves and cares for me deeply. Why else would He want to be so much a part of my life? Of course, knowing all of this does instill in me a desire to worship Him. Guess that’s why I started out that day thinking He wanted to talk to me about worship!

The What-If’s and If-Only’s

Have you ever had a case of the “what-if’s,” or, as they are sometimes known, the “if-only’s?”

Dwelling on the past serves no purpose. The past cannot be changed. Dwelling on what could have been or might have happened if we had lived our lives differently is really just a waste of energy.

I find myself doing this at times. I think about what might have happened if only I had been more dedicated to my writing when I was younger. Or, what if I had finished college? I could have accomplished so much. That type of thinking cannot and will not change a thing in my life today, and it will certainly not change the future.

Instead, what I need to do, what we all need to do, is focus our energy on the here and now and what lies ahead. We need to the the things that we can do today to make tomorrow better than yesterday. But, we can’t be overly concerned with the future either. Jesus said that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow brings its own worries (Matthew 6:25-34).

We need to focus on today, doing what the Lord guides us to do, seeking His face, and living righteously. When we forget the past, focus on today, and avoid worrying about tomorrow, the result is greater happiness.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Throughout the month of December, there are not too many places you can go without hearing Christmas music. Popular Christmas songs and carols fill the air at shopping malls. Radio stations play them with more and more frequency as Christmas day gets closer. Churches begin adding Christmas songs to their worship services. The songs of Christmas have a special way of bringing about holiday cheer.

Some of the most familiar Christmas carols, such as Silent Night, O Holy Night, and Joy to the World, reflect the glory, joy and peace that the birth of Jesus brought to the earthThe words and music remind us of God’s great love and mercy that was clearly shown by allowing His Son, Jesus, to be born in Bethlehem as a tiny, helpless baby who would grow up to be the Savior of the world.

One of my favorite carols is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, perhaps because it is very clear in its message of salvation, with lyrics such as,

God and sinners reconciled.

and,

Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.

These words clearly speak of the reason that Jesus came to earth. He was born to bring salvation to fallen man, to restore man’s relationship with the Father, and to give man eternal life with Him and the Father in heaven.

In the original lyrics to this song, written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, the message of salvation is even more evident in some of the final verses, which are no longer included in the carol that we know and love today:

Come, Desire of Nations, come, fix in us thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman’s Conqu’ring Seed, bruise in us the Serpent’s Head.
Now display thy saving Pow’r, ruin’d Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join, Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Adam’s Likeness, LORD, efface, stamp thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above, reinstate us in thy Love.
Let us Thee, tho’ lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the Inner Man:
O! to All Thyself impart, form’d in each Believing Heart.

Christmas is all about God’s great love for us and the salvation that He has provided through His Son, Jesus (John 3:16). As we celebrate His glorious birth this Christmas, let us not forget the reason that He came—to restore our relationship with our Creator by taking our sins upon Himself through His death on the cross of Calvary.

Worship Should Be Evident in All I Do

Romans 12:1 tells me that my body should be a living and holy sacrifice to God. This is the way He wants me to worship Him. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus tells me that I must worship God with all my heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. That means that I should not just worship Him with my mouth, but with everything I have, with my life. 

So, what does that look like? How do I worship God with my life?

This kind of worship goes beyond worshiping with my church family on a Sunday morning. It even goes beyond my private worship at home during my quiet time with the Lord. To worship Him with my life, I must do all that I do for Him–the way I relate to my wife and my family, the way that I interact with friends, the way in which I do all of the things that I do as a part of my day and my week. I must do these things for Him, in a manner that He will find pleasing. Worship of the Lord must be evident in all that I do.
Lord, I desire to please You. Help me to live my life in a way that is pleasing to You. Help me to worship You with all that I am and with all that I do. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Jesus: The Perfect Example of Humility

God is speaking to me today about humility. One of the things I pray for every day is that He will help me always to turn from pride. My desire is to be humble, just as Jesus was.

The Word of God is very clear on the value of humility in God’s eyes. He cares for the humble, but keeps His distance from the proud (Psalm 138:6). He exalts those who are humble, but humbles those who exalt themselves (Luke 14:11; 18:14). He will lift up all those who humble themselves in His sight (James 4:10). Jesus said that the person who becomes as humble as a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4).

In Jesus, God has given us the perfect example of humility. Jesus is one with God the Father (John 17:21) yet, out of obedience to the Father, He humbled Himself by taking the form of a man and then willingly gave up His life through the shameful death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). The salvation of each and every one of us was more important to Him than His own life. He humbled himself and died for us so that we could have eternal life with Him in heaven.

The Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20) also gives us some wonderful examples of humility. Jesus is the Son of God and, as such, He reigns over the heavens and the earth. Yet, He came to earth as a tiny baby. He was not born in a palace, but in a dirty stable. He didn’t have an expensive crib or the finest clothes, but slept in a manger wrapped in strips of cloth. His earthly parents were not royalty, but a poor carpenter and his young wife. And His birth was announced, not to all the kings of the earth, but to a group of lowly shepherds.

Lord, I thank You for Your Son, Jesus, who came down from heaven and gave us the perfect example of humility. As we reflect on the story of His birth this Christmas, I pray that we will grow in our desire to be humble servants who strive to be like Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

God’s GPS

Several years ago, my wife and I were driving from New Jersey to upstate New York to visit our grandchildren. Now, we had been there before and sort of knew the way, but we had recently purchased a GPS device for our car and decided to try it out. We entered the destination and started the navigation.

As we followed the directions being given to us by the device, something just didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem like we were going the way we had gone in the past. But, figuring that a GPS system probably knows a better route, we kept following it. Before long, we found ourselves driving on the most treacherous road we had ever been on. It wound through the mountains and was one of those roads where, on one side of the road, there was nothing but a drop. To top it off, it was only one lane! And, since we had no idea where we were and could not back up or make a u-turn, we had to just keep on following this route. Needless to say, it was a harrowing trip! We eventually did get to our destination, but it took us way longer than it should have. We no longer have that GPS device.

God’s Word is our GPS for our journey through life. Unlike that GPS device I used, God’s Word can be trusted to lead us on the right path (Proverbs 3:5-6). It even lights the path, so we can easily find our way through life (Psalm 119:105). The satellite that my GPS device used was obviously not a good one. It led me down a treacherous path. That is what happens when we try to navigate life while focusing on the world. But, God’s GPS uses the best possible satellite for providing us a path through life–Jesus. Jesus himself tells us that He is the way (John 14:6). When we rely on Him, when we study His Word and do what it says, we can be sure of reaching our desired destination–eternal life with Him in heaven.

Spend time with God’s GPS today. If you don’t do so already, study His Word. As you do, if you allow it to let it transform your heart and mind, it will change your life. A great way to study God’s Word is through tools like BibleGateway.com, a website that includes multiple versions of the Bible, as well as study tools.

All You Need is…

In the 1960s, love was a central theme among young people. Many songs spoke of love, often the love between a man and a woman, but sometimes love for everyone. Peace and love! Groovy, man! One of the many hits of The Beatles told us that love was all we really need. Although I’m pretty sure they didn’t intend it this way, you could say that they were telling us that God is all we need.

The word “love” appears quite often in God’s word. In fact, in the NIV, it appears 574 times! The Bible tells us that we should do everything that we do in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). Jesus commanded that we should love one another (John 15:17). Scripture also tells us that love will last forever, along with faith and hope. But of those three things, the greatest is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Love was created by God. As children of the living God, as His creation, we are able to love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). If we love each other, we are born of God and we know God, because love comes from God. God Himself is love (1 John 4:7-8).

So, The Beatles actually did get it right. All we need is love, because love is of God and God is love.

All you need is God!

When Should We Praise Him?

When should we praise the Lord? How often should we praise Him? Is praise something that we should just do on Sunday mornings? In Psalm 34:1, David supplies us with the answers to these questions. We are to praise the Lord at all times. Not just on Sundays, but on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays! His praise should always be on our lips; we should speak (or sing) His praises constantly. Not once in a while, not when the time is right, not when we can fit it into our schedules. We should be praising Him with our mouths and with our lives 24/7. After all, He is deserving of our praise!

Lord, You are worthy of our praise. Let our hearts always be turned to You and let our mouths and our lives praise You every day. We offer You our praise and pray that it will always be acceptable in Your sight. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Lessons from the Christmas Story

Christmas is just about two weeks away. Houses are lit up with lights, trees adorn our living rooms, Christmas meals are being planned, and shopping malls are jammed with people looking for the perfect gifts for loved ones. The Christmas season is a time filled with joy as we celebrate the greatest Christmas gift, the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem.

We all know the story of that first Christmas–the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, and the most important part, the baby lying in the manger, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, what lessons can we learn through those who played a part in the beginning of the greatest story ever told?

From the angels, we learn the importance of praise. On that first Christmas, after the angel messenger announced the birth of Jesus to a group of shepherds who were tending their flocks, the sky was suddenly filled with the sound of praise as a heavenly choir of angels appeared, giving glory and honor to God for what He had done. The angels knew what the birth of Jesus meant to mankind and, even though it wasn’t for their benefit, they praised God for it. Since we do benefit from Jesus’ birth, how much more should our hearts be filled with praise?

From the shepherds, we learn that we should put God first. After hearing about the birth of God’s promised Messiah and witnessing the praise of heaven, they immediately went to Bethlehem to see for themselves. They didn’t say, “When we punch out of work, let’s head over to Bethlehem to check it out.” They just dropped what they were doing and went. The shepherds also teach us about sharing the gospel–the good news. After they had seen what the Lord had done, they told everyone they met what had happened and what they had been told by the angel. Everyone they told was astonished. And they didn’t even know the rest of the story!

The wise men teach us the importance of seeking God, as well as the importance of giving. They traveled from distant lands to find the child whose coming was foretold in the Scriptures. They followed the star that led to Bethlehem and, when they found Jesus, they bowed down and worshiped Him. They then presented Him with gifts. We should always be seeking the presence of God and giving Him the worship that is due Him. And, in worshiping Him, we should give Him not just of our abundance, but of our lives as well.

From Mary and Joseph, we learn obedience. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that God had chosen her to give birth to His Son, how easy it would have been for her to say, “I appreciate that but look, I have a lot to lose if I do this. I mean, what will my parents say, what will people think of me if I show up pregnant when I’m not even married yet? And, what will Joseph think?” But Mary was obedient to God’s will. And, what about Joseph? It would have been easy, understandable even, for him to walk away from the whole situation. But, like Mary, he chose to be obedient to God’s will.

Finally, there is Jesus. We learn so much from Jesus, but one thing that stands out is love. Jesus came to the world as a tiny, fragile, vulnerable, dependent little baby. He stepped out of His heavenly glory to become like one of us, to feel the same pains and hurts that we do, to have the needs that we do. And He did this so that some 33 years later, He could give His life for us. Why? Because He loves us more than we can possibly imagine.

And His Name Shall Be Called…

…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

These are the names attributed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6. I have read these words many times. I have sung them and heard them sung by others. Today, the Lord wanted me to really think about what they mean.

Wonderful Counselor. Jesus is a source of guidance for us. His words provide us wisdom and counsel. And, since we read in John 1:1 that Jesus is the Word, that applies to every word of the Bible. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is our guide. He shows us how we should live. As the Word of God, He is a light to our path. Jesus truly is a Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God. Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Through Him, all things were made. Although He was born as a human child, with all of the frailties we humans have, He was also God incarnate. He has the power to heal and the power to restore. Even in His earthly form, He was able to heal the sick, raise the dead, restore sight to the blind, and enable the lame to walk. He defeated the powers of darkness. Jesus is a Mighty God.

Everlasting Father. This name puzzled me a bit. Jesus is the Son of God. The Father is the first person of the Trinity. So, how could Jesus be the Everlasting Father? As I thought about this, I was reminded of what Jesus Himself has told us. He said that He and the Father are one and that the person who has seen Him has also seen the Father. Jesus points the way to the Father. As part of the triune God, Jesus is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is eternal. Jesus is the Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace. Jesus brings us comfort and peace. When we seek Him through any trials and tribulations that we face, He brings us peace. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble, tribulations, and trials, but in Him we have peace. Why? Because He has overcome the world. Jesus reigns and He is the Prince of Peace.

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word, for Your Son, Jesus. Thank You that He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Does God Cry?

“Does God cry?” That was the question asked of us by our worship pastor at a choir rehearsal one evening. One response was that we know Jesus cried (John 11:35) and, since Jesus is one with the Father, then the answer must be yes. But, Jesus was also human. Couldn’t it just be the human part of Him that cried? Another response was that, since man was created in God’s image, and we know that man cries, then God must cry also. When the discussion ended, we had come to the conclusion that Goes does cry.

The next day, I decided to search Scripture for an answer to this question. While I could not find a Scripture that said definitively that God cries, I did find one that hints to it: Genesis 6:6. In that verse, we read that, due to man’s rebellion, God was sorry He created him. In one version of the Bible, it says that it broke His heart; in another it says that He was grieved in His heart. I pulled out my thesaurus and discovered that a synonym for the word “grieve” is “cry.” So, if God grieved, it is quite possible that He cried.

I would like to believe that, when we cry, when our hearts are broken or we are grieving, God cries along with us. Since God loves us, it makes sense that He would cry with us. A song by the Gaither Vocal Band says that when we cry, God cries, and when we hurt, God hurts. I believe that is true.

The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. Since we know that to be true, wouldn’t it stand to reason that, if David cried, then God must cry, too? 1 Samuel 30:4 says that David and his men wept aloud to the point where they had no strength left to weep any more. 1 Samuel 20:41 says that both David and Jonathan wept together, but it was David who wept the most. So, I believe in my heart that God does cry.

Quiet Time with God

This morning, I read a devotion about spending quiet time with God. I am blessed to be able to do this on a daily basis. For the past several months, I have made it a regular part of my day to spend time with God. My day doesn’t feel complete until I do.

The Holy Spirit reminded me today that spending time with someone with whom you have a close relationship is important. Spending time with that person is vital to making the relationship grow. But, it should also be something you desire.

I am blessed to be married to a wonderful woman. Our relationship is important to me and so is spending time with her. It is something that I desire greatly. I love every minute that I spend with her. Nothing makes me happier in our relationship than just being with her. We don’t need to be doing anything special. Just the fact that she is there with me is enough.

That is what a relationship with the Lord should be like. We should look to spend time in His presence, happy just to know He is near. Psalm 16:11 says that fullness of joy is found in the Lord’s presence. I can say “Amen!” to that as it has become very true for me. I feel joy when I spend time with Him–worshiping Him, talking to Him, listening for what He has to say to me, or just sitting in His presence.

I read Matthew 6:6 today and found it to be very enlightening. Jesus says that, when our Father in heaven sees what is done in the secret place (our quiet time with Him), He rewards it openly. I have seen the truth of these words in my own life. As I have spent time in the secret place, God has rewarded me by enabling me to touch others with the thoughts He gives me. That is a true reward!

Thank You, Lord, for Your presence in my life!

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