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THE Falsehood OF The Heart

Meditative Verse:
“I will cut off them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham”
– Zephaniah 1:5 KJV

Such persons thought themselves safe because they were with both parties: they went with the followers of Jehovah, and bowed at the same time to Malcham. But duplicity is abominable with God, and hypocrisy his soul hateth. The idolater who distinctly gives himself to his false god, has one sin less than he who brings his polluted and detestable sacrifice unto the temple of the Lord, while his heart is with the world and the sins thereof. To hold with the hare and run with the hounds, is a dastard’s policy. In the common matters of daily life, a double- minded man is despised, but in religion he is loathsome to the last degree. The penalty pronounced in the verse before us is terrible, but it is well deserved; for how should divine justice spare the sinner, who knows the right, approves it, and professes to follow it, and all the while loves the evil, and gives it dominion in his heart?

My soul, search thyself this morning, and see whether thou art guilty of double-dealing. Thou professest to be a follower of Jesus—dost thou truly love him? Is thy heart right with God? Art thou of the family of old Father Honest, or art thou a relative of Mr. By-ends? A name to live is of little value if I be indeed dead in trespasses and sins. To have one foot on the land of truth, and another on the sea of falsehood, will involve a terrible fall and a total ruin. Christ will be all or nothing. God fills the whole universe, and hence there is no room for another god; if, then, he reigns in my heart, there will be no space for another reigning power. Do I rest alone on Jesus crucified, and live alone for him? Is it my desire to do so? Is my heart set upon so doing? If so, blessed be the mighty grace which has led me to salvation; and if not so, O Lord, pardon my sad offence, and unite my heart to fear thy name.
Copyright © Daily Searchlight 2019
All rights reserved.

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Don’t Let Go Yet

From the time I was a young boy, I attended church with my family. I still remember the Sunday school classes, the vacation Bible schools, the music and singing, and the many admonitions from the pulpit.

I remember the Wednesday night services before Thanksgiving. Often we, as a church, celebrated the Thanksgiving Holiday with a play (once I was a Pilgrim) and a time of giving thanks to God for the many gifts and blessings He had given us.

Sitting in that same church many decades later, I look around and memories flood my mind. I especially remember people who were there but now are gone. So many family and friends have passed and gone on to be with the Lord, whom we worshipped together, and I know they are happy now in heavenly bliss. But I ask myself the question, where are the others?

Where are all the kids and teens I grew up with? Some have moved away and live their lives elsewhere, but many have simply fallen away. The cares of this life and family situations have taken them from us. Some would still claim a strong belief and love of the Lord, but yet they leave and don’t come back.

I believe it’s heartbreaking to the Lord to have so many of His children living lives of solitude away from their Christian family. I know a man who is a very devout Christian but has one excuse after another to not attend church, and if you knew him you’d be shocked.

Many who leave do not make a firm decision to not come back, they just drift away. We live in such a fast-paced and busy world that we just don’t take the time. The Bible warns us in Hebrews chapter two not to drift away.

“We must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1 NLT)

A couple of verses later, it reads:

“What makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.” (Hebrews 2:3-4 NLT)

The same Lord who welcomes us into heaven welcomes us into His Church. There is so much growth that takes place in Church. Blessing and rejuvenation take place in Church. And there’s family. A church family.

I have a friend who had severe chest pains and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance on a Sunday. Immediately, as one person learned of the situation, social media posts went out for prayer in a spontaneous prayer chain. Later, several members of the church left the Sunday night service and rushed to the emergency room for support and prayer.

After test results showed that he was fine, the Doctor discharged him into the care of his church family. They returned with him to the church service and the congregation erupted into applause and praise to God for a miracle in their presence. Afterward, the Pastor had him pray for others, which he did one-by-one for nearly an hour. God brought him from the ER to the altar!

Please don’t miss out on your blessings. If you have been disappointed or hurt by something or someone at a church in the past, try and put it behind you. The writer of Hebrews spoke of Jesus this way,

“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18 NLT)

He will help you and he does want you. The Bible says,

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17 NLT)

The enemy of your soul, the devil, says “DON’T GO … to Church.

The lover of your soul, Lord Jesus, says “DON’T GO … away from Church.

Which voice will you listen to?

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Don’t Forget

Every Autumn, just as the seasons are changing, I take a moment to bake something wonderful. It’s a special occasion, one that I hold close to my heart, and I mark it each year with a favorite confection, whether it’s cookies or cupcakes or a really big cake. I have some fun, pour my heart into my creation, and share it with my family and friends as a reminder of all that God has done for me and, really, for all of us.

I haven’t decided what I’m baking yet this year, but it’s been on my mind as the days have grown shorter and sweet memories begin to bubble up. A few years ago, I was miraculously delivered from a sin that I couldn’t manage to leave behind no matter what I tried. I prayed for years, I changed my habits, I talked with Christian counselors, but I had come to the point where I thought, “maybe this is just the thorn in my side that I’ll be fighting until I die.”

At the very least, I’d gone from believing my sin was too big for God to handle to realizing that God was willing to work with me. He was willing to transform me, and I was okay with taking time to do that. But then there came a night when I told a friend, “I think God’s gonna do it. He’s going to set me free,” and only a few minutes later, He did.

This was a moment I believed defined my walk with God. It was definitely a turning point, and in the years following, I’ve made a point not to forget it. It’s vital for us to remember that God is merciful to us, and to remember just how merciful he can be. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (NLT)

When God set me free, I told him that I would glorify His name. I told Him that if He did the impossible and broke a cycle that I was too weak to overcome, I’d tell other people that He can do that for them too. As it’s said in Isaiah 63:7,

“I will tell of the Lord’s unfailing love. I will praise the Lord for all he has done …” (NLT)

God tells us to remember the things He’s done. It’s easy to forget, and I’ll admit I have days when I don’t go out of my way to be grateful for how far God has brought me in my life. He’s done such incredible things for me, and if I can manage to mark these events and share them with others, I’ll go out of my way to do them! I hope you have something to celebrate this season, and that God’s goodness will be on your mind.

Father God, thank you for your goodness, grace, and mercy. Thank you for all you do in our lives and for the ways you work with us to make us holy and righteous before you. I lift up whoever is reading this and ask that you remind them of how You have worked in their lives. Give them the same abundant grace and mercy you have given me, and let them experience turning points in their faith that they can share with others to glorify You. Amen.

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Is This Love?

 

Meditative Verse:
“Wherefore I say unto thee, sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little”
– Luke 7:47 (KJV)

 
A sinful woman can teach us a lot about the Kingdom of God. The recognition of our need is the first step toward our entrance into Heaven. If we perceive we need to be forgiven little, we will love little.

A pharisee invited Jesus to his house for dinner. A woman of ill repute started to weep and wipe his feet with her tears. She anointed him with expensive perfume. The pharisee was upset that Jesus would let such a sinful woman touch him. In response to this pharisee, Jesus told him this story:

“A man loaned money to two people — 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon [the pharisee] answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. Luke 7:41-43 NLT

The woman saw her need and was broken by her sin. The pharisee only saw the woman’s sin and not his own. If we never grasp the depth of our sinful nature, we will never understand the enormity of God’s grace in forgiving us. Whoever sees no need for the cross of Christ, will never embrace it. Recognition of our need for forgiveness is the evidence of a repentant heart. By his attitude, it is apparent that the pharisee is trying to maintain his right standing with God through his self-righteousness. Pride blinded him to his sin. The woman’s actions indicated she realized that only Jesus could save her. Her reasonable response to this revelation was to love him. And love him, she did.

The woman in our story was closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than the pharisee in all his religious regalia. In this tale, Jesus was homing in on authentic faith, rather than the external trappings of religion. He paints a word picture of the contrast between a legalistic religious pursuit and a love relationship with our Savior. One of the players in this parable was motivated by love of self and other by the love of God. Fulfilling the law of love through faith saved the woman. The pharisee met the letter of the law but was far from righteousness.

The next time we are tempted to judge someone without first looking at our sin, we should remember, but for the grace of God there go I. Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much.

Copyright ©Daily Searchlight 2019
All rights reserved

THE WEAVER

Text: Matthew 23:13-15

Meditative Verse:
“They weave the spider’s web”
-Isaiah 59:5 (KJV)
See the spider’s web, and behold in it a most suggestive picture of the hypocrite’s religion. It is meant to catch his prey: the spider fattens himself on flies, and the Pharisee has his reward. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot always escape. Philip baptized Simon Magus, whose guileful declaration of faith was so soon exploded by the stern rebuke of Peter. Custom, reputation, praise, advancement, and other flies, are the small game which hypocrites take in their nets. A spider’s web is a marvel of skill: look at it and admire the cunning hunter’s wiles. Is not a deceiver’s religion equally wonderful? How does he make so barefaced a lie appear to be a truth? How can he make his tinsel answer so well the purpose of gold? A spider’s web comes all from the creature’s own bowels. The bee gathers her wax from flowers, the spider sucks no flowers, and yet she spins out her material to any length. Even so hypocrites find their trust and hope within themselves; their anchor was forged on their own anvil, and their cable twisted by their own hands. They lay their own foundation, and hew out the pillars of their own house, disdaining to be debtors to the sovereign grace of God. But a spider’s web is very frail. It is curiously wrought, but not enduringly manufactured. It is no match for the servant’s broom, or the traveller’s staff. The hypocrite needs no battery of Armstrongs to blow his hope to pieces, a mere puff of wind will do it. Hypocritical cobwebs will soon come down when the besom of destruction begins its purifying work. Which reminds us of one more thought, viz, that such cobwebs are not to be endured in the Lord’s house: he will see to it that they and those who spin them shall be destroyed forever. O my soul, be thou resting on something better than a spider’s web. Be the Lord Jesus thine eternal hiding-place.
Copyright ©Daily Searchlight 2019
All rights reserved.

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Eye’s-Off

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:11-12 (NIV)

The story in Exodus 3 and 4 is fascinating. Moses, tending his sheep in the desert, sees a burning bush, but the bush isn’t consumed. He goes closer to check it out and hears a voice. “Moses! Moses!” It’s God. Realizing he’s standing on holy ground, Moses removes his sandals.

Then God reveals his great plan: “I’ve seen the misery of the Israelites. I’ve heard them crying because of their slave drivers, and I’m concerned about their suffering. It’s time to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Good news, Moses! I’ve chosen you to make this happen.”

If Moses hadn’t been barefoot, he’d be shaking in his boots. “Wait a minute, God. You’re sending me? Who am I to do a job like that? I’m just a grownup basket case. I can’t do it. Can’t you ple-e-e-e-e-a-se send someone else?”

God’s response? “I will be with you. It doesn’t matter who you are, Moses. It matters who I am.”

Once Moses took his eyes off himself, he accomplished amazing things for God.

I’ve had many “Moses moments” in my life. When asked years ago to play piano for Bible Study Fellowship, I questioned why God didn’t choose a better musician to do it. “I’m a scriptural pianist, Lord. My left hand doesn’t know what my right hand is doing.” God reminded me that he didn’t call someone else; he called me.

When God made it clear he wanted me to write, I said, “Lord, how am I supposed to write? I can’t even talk without problems.” God reminded me to trust him.

When God wanted me to become a speaker, I protested. “But Lord, don’t you remember the excuse I gave for not writing? You know how I get tongue-tied.” God reminded me of the time he used a donkey to get his message across.

Each time I’ve feared my inadequacies, my underlying thought process was: “What if I fail or look like a fool?” And God reminds me that it’s not about me; it’s about him. If it’s about him and for him and by him, doesn’t it just make sense that he will help me do his work?

God doesn’t need our help. He can get the job done with us or without us, but he chooses us to carry out particular works so we might be blessed and bless others. We can take courage in the fact that God never gives us a job without equipping us for it. He doesn’t want our competence. He wants our obedience. And if we walk forward, hand in hand with him, he will come through for us every time. Guaranteed.

God, I have big problems when my eyes are on myself instead of on you. I see my insecurities, my weaknesses, and my shortcomings, and I forget that it doesn’t matter who I am. It matters who you are. You don’t want my competence, and you certainly don’t want my excuses. You want my willingness to do what you ask. So rather than questioning, “Who am I?” like Moses did, would you help me to say, “Look who God is”? Lord, I want to accomplish big things for you. The only way for me to do that is to step out in obedience and to trust you for the results. 

Power Statement: When God asks me to do something, I will say yes, even if it’s scary. Who I am doesn’t matter. Who God is, does.

Reflection and Response: Has God ever asked you to do a particular task that was scary, or that you didn’t feel competent to do? What was it? How did you answer God and how did it work out? What is he calling you to do right now?

Don’t Be Too Sure!

Every day I walked along the concrete walkway that led from our condominium unit to the stairway. And each day I was annoyed by the sight of a bedraggled, overgrown plant hanging over the edge of the walkway above, down to the second floor where I lived at the time.

“Why doesn’t David do something about that thing?” I asked half aloud. “It’s an awful sight and it’s practically dead anyway.”

I complained to my wife about it.

“Don’t look at it,” she said. “It’s his. Leave it be.”

I should have listened, but I didn’t.

Later that week, I could no longer resist the urge to clip, clip! So I did. I reached over the railing with my pruning shears and snapped them shut around the ailing limb. It dropped into my free hand and from there I sent it down the trash chute! I felt better–almost heroic. I had put this poor thing out of its misery.

I went on with my day. About 11:00 I returned home from some errands, picked up our mail, and ran through the tetraces, suddenly stopped by the sound overhead of a man crying. Then I heard the soothing words of another woman. I looked up and there stood David, my neighbor on the third floor. His neighbor Nancy stood with him, as the two commiserated about the plant that had been pruned.

I felt like a criminal. My heart pounded so fast, I could hardly talk. But I knew what I had to do. I had to confess or someone else in the building, and I knew who it might be, would receive the blame for something I had done.

I ran up to the third floor, breathless. “David,” I said, “I’m the culprit. I’m the one who cut your plant. I’m so sorry. I should have asked first. But I thought it would be okay to prune it a little since it was hanging over the railing all the way down to the second floor…and….”

I couldn’t stop. I was mortified, embarrassed, apologetic, and defensive all at the same time! How right the Bible was in reminding me that

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 (NIV).

David stood listening with eyes wide in disbelief. And Nancy didn’t know what to say. I stopped. David spoke. He told me how she had worked so hard to get that little plant going. She couldn’t imagine why anyone would be so cruel. Of course he was right. It was a cruel thing to do–even though I didn’t see it that way at the time. I was so caught up in my opinion of what looks good that I took action regardless of how it might affect another person. I certainly did not consult with the Lord about what to do. I simply had done what I wanted to do.

I apologized profusely, hoping David would understand that I wasn’t motivated by spite (though I wasn’t sure at that point). I was only tidying things up a bit!

He thanked me for being honest, dried his eyes, and we parted. The rest of the day was pure misery for me–not so much because of the plant. I knew it would keep growing. I hadn’t destroyed it. But I had hurt a neighbor. Someone I like. A person who lives close by.

I couldn’t let it rest. I prayed about what to do. And the Lord spoke clearly. I needed to make amends. There was no second guessing his guidance. I ran downstairs, jumped in the car, and drove directly to the local nursery. I spent some time selecting a beautiful, thriving, flowering plant that looked similar to the one I had cut. I bought it, wrote a note on a card, acknowledging my fault once again, and asking for David’s forgiveness.

Within moments of leaving the gift at his doorstep, I received a phone call. David accepted my apology and thanked me for such a thoughtful gesture. I was stunned at how easy–and how difficult–that experience had been.

That day had turned out differently than I expected, but still, it had turned out. I had made things right when I had been wrong—by asking for and receiving forgiveness–and in turn, my neighbor did something for me. He, like the Lord, gave me the gift of a second chance.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” Luke 6:37 (NIV)