Wednesday, August 29, 2012

“Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”

The Republican convention is being held this week and the Democratic national convention will take place in early September. The political polsters are hitting the phones. The political ads on TV are ever-present. Soon we will be electing our President to serve the next four years. 
As election time nears we are not only bombarded by thousands of adds, paid for by candidates and their supporters, we will also hear lots of promises made by the candidates. Each one will tell you what things they will do to make our nation better and stronger. “If I am elected, I promise to……” Then comes their commitment, one which is meant to entice you to give them your vote. 
If this election is typical, we will hear promises to reform the tax system, fix social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We will hear talk about cutting spending, balancing the budget, getting rid of the deficit, reducing unemployment, and addressing the subject of illegal immigration. 
We all know how much stock we can place in such promises. They are not worth much. Seldom are such promises ever kept. This is true for many reasons. They may be unrealistic, face opposition of the opposing party, or simply be too ambitious. 
What a difference it with the Lord. When God makes a promise, he keeps it. When he says that he will do something, you know that it will get done. It may take a while but it will be done when the time is right. What also makes God’s promises so amazing is that from a human perspective the things he promises to do would be impossible for us to accomplish.
Take God’s promises to Abraham. God told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation; that all people would be blessed through him, and his seed would be as numerous as the stars of the sky or sands of the sea. How could this be since Abraham and Sarah had no off-spring. 
Finally, when Abraham and Sarah were “old and well advanced in years and Sarah was past the age of child bearing” (Gn18:11), God told them that within a year Sarah would give birth to a son. How could this be? The answer is found in verse 14a, “Is there anything too hard for the LORD?” This was a rhetorical question. The answer was not up for debate. There is nothing too hard for the Lord.
What a comfort it is to know this truth as we face the problems and challenges of each day. The Lord has promised to help us in time of need, to answer our prayers, to use all things – even trials and troubles, for our good. He has promised to return on the Last Day, to raise the bodies of all people who have ever lived, to take those who believe in Jesus as their Savior to glory for all eternity. As impossible as it may seem God has kept and will keep every promise he has made. 
“Is there anything too hard for the LORD?” The answer is no. Trust in his promises. He’s given you his Word.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Confession is good for the soul.

I recently read this story which makes a good point. Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, confess sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul.” In due time all agreed. One confessed he liked to go to R-rated movies. He knew it was wrong but went anyway. The second confessed to liking to smoke cigars. The third said that he liked to gamble and play cards. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, “Come on now, we confessed ours vices, so what’s yours?” He resisted for a while but finally confessed, “I like to gossip and I can’t wait to get out of here and tell everyone what you guys just said.”
It’s a funny story, isn’t it? Yet it reveals a truth about us that is not so funny. The truth is that we are all sinners. Every single one of us sins in one way or another. We have sins that are evident to others and those that aren’t. Aren’t we all ready to admit this truth? That doesn’t stop us, however, from trying to find an excuse for our sin. We want, in some way, to excuse our selves from responsibility for the sins we commit.
Over the years I have done quite a bit of marriage counseling. The couples begin to talk about the problems they are having and then it starts – “The blame game.” Each will confess that they have done something wrong. “I know I lose my temper but…..” “I know that I am not working as hard on my marriage as I should. I would if my spouse…” “I want to change but…” Then comes the excuse. “I would if my spouse wasn’t so ……” “I would if I they would listen to me.” 
What’s the common denominator here? There is the confession of sin, of failing to do what should be done. Then comes the excuse which is given to relieve them from responsibility. “I would do it if…” In other words – “It’s not my fault.” Not a very good confession as far as I am concerned.
How often haven’t you heard some politician, movie star, or pop singer, come on TV and make a confession. Maybe they’ve gotten a DWI, made racial comments, or visited a prostitute. They appear on TV to do ‘damage control.’ “I’m sorry,” they say, “for hurting my family,” “for disappointing my fans,” “for letting down my supporters.” It sounds good but there is no real confession of wrong doing, no admission that what they did was wrong, only that it hurt others.
God wants our confession to be sincere, to accept responsibility for our actions, and make no excuses. We are sinners. Admit it. Then ask God for his forgiveness. God’s already told us we have it. When Jesus went to the cross, he was punished in our place and died for our sins. For his sake, God has forgiven our sins. They are forgiven. 
Listen to what the Apostle John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8, 9). 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who is the wisest person you know?

Who is the smartest person you know? That’s a tough question, isn’t it? If you asked someone in grade school, they would likely say that it is their teacher. If you ask a five year old it is likely Mom or Dad. If you are older, you might pick some scientist who has done groundbreaking research in genetics or came up with the plan to put the latest explorer vehicle on Mars. 
A tougher question is this – who is or was the wisest person in the world? If one does an intranet search on the subject, you find names mentioned like the philosophers Aristotle and Plato, or men like Ben Franklin or Confucius. Who can question the age tested wisdom of old Ben’s maxims. ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.” “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
One name that comes up is one we might not think of at first. It is the name of a man who lived several thousand years ago. Yet, he is still known for his amazing wisdom. His name is Solomon. Solomon was the third monarch of the nation of Israel. He followed his father, David, who was famous in his own right. 
Shortly after Solomon became king the Lord came to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted, anything at all. Solomon could have asked for wealth, victory over his enemies, peace for his nation. Instead Solomon asked for wisdom. 
“O  LORD  my  God,  you  have  made  your  servant  king  in  place  of  my  father  David.  But  I  am  only  a  little  child  and  do  not  know  how  to  carry  out  my  duties.  Your  servant  is  here  among  the  people  you  have  chosen,  a  great  people,  too  numerous  to  count  or  number.  So  give  your  servant  a  discerning  heart  to  govern  your  people  and  to  distinguish  between  right  and  wrong”  (I  Kings  3:7-9).
God gave Solomon what he asked for. Listen to what the God says in I Kings. "God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand of the seashore.  Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.  He was wiser than any other man....(4:29-31)."
God blessed Solomon with wisdom and because he made a choice pleasing to God, God blessed Solomon with great wealth, prosperity, and peace as well.
The wisdom Solomon possessed was not just his ability to know what to do, to solve problems, and make good decisions. Solomon’s wisdom went beyond that. He rightly says in the book of Proverbs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov 9:10). 
The greatest wisdom one can possess is knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Such wisdom understands that we are sinners who cannot save ourselves. Doing good works can never make up for our sins. True wisdom come from God through the Holy Spirit. True wisdom looks to the cross and the Savior for salvation. 
Who is the wisest person you know? It is one who knows and trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. It may be someone who became a champion on Jeopardy or one who never finished grade school. It may be a seasoned senior citizen who has lived a long life in the service of the Lord or the small child who sings, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
Like Jesus says, “The wise men builds his house on the rock” (Mt 7:24). That ‘rock’ is Jesus and all he stands for. Seek such wisdom. It is found in God’s Word.  Pray for such wisdom. The Holy Spirit will give it to you. Treasurer such wisdom and you will be blessed now and forever more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

I've read that standing on the South Pole is like being in the ye of a hurricane - it's deceivingly calm.  As you stand on that frozen tundra, there is no wind, no severe weather.  The quietness seems inconsistent with the fact that mighty winds originate there.  How is this possible?
Warm air from the equator cools over the ice and descends, becoming cold and dense.  Gravity then violently pulls the heavy air down the slopes toward the oceans, picking up tremendous speed.  Eventually it is heated by the sun and begins to rise, creating a circular pattern which drives our earth's weather machine.
I'm no meteorologist, even though weather phenomena have always interested me, so I don't no how reliable this information is.  But the phenomenon given here is in some respects like that of prayer.
When a person prays it may seem like nothing is happening.  We offer our prayer.  We look around and everything seems to be the same.  As a result, some wonder if prayer even does any good.  These feelings may no only be expressed by the critic of Christianity but may also be felt by the believer.
Maybe it is something like this; "God, help me" or "Lord, protect me."  Yet many give up on prayer because nothing seems to happen.  We want action and we want it now!  It's hard to wait to see what God's answer will be.  The end result is that we often worry and fret over that which we have committed to the care of our Lord.
Prayer is like standing on the South Pole.  Try it sometime.  Find a quiet place and calmly offer a prayer to God.  Then get up off your knees and listen.  What will you hear?  Nothing, right?  But the unbelievable winds and power originating from the South Pole are nothing compared to the prayer you just prayed.  For even though it seems as if nothing is happening, that things are quiet, God is powerfully answering your prayer.  Many times you won't hear it or see it, but things are happening - awesome things!
Jesus Christ, God's Son once said, "If you have faith and do not doubt... you can say to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."  With a faith in Jesus as Savior and a real belief in the power of prayer we can move mountains in our lives that we thought were immoveable.  God listens to and answers our prayers.
Prayers are powerful when placed before the almighty Lord of heaven and earth.  Don't underestimate their value. Don't be fooled because it appears, at first, that nothing is happening.  God's workings are often behind the scene but He works none the less in His own time and in His own way.  But let there be no doubts in your mind - prayer does work.  It works powerfully!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jesus gives hope to the hopeless.

Six hundred years ago, the situation in Judah looked hopeless. The Babylonian army, under the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar, invaded the land of Judah. The land was pillaged; ten thousand of the land’s prominent and gifted individuals were deported. Among them were the prophet Daniel and also a young priest by the name of Ezekiel. A short time later, the city of Jerusalem itself would lie in ruins. Its wealth deposited in the vaults of Babylon. The walls which provided safety for centuries were destroyed. The temple of Solomon, where sacrifices were once offered to God, was demolished. The situation looked hopeless.
That’s when God took Ezekiel out to look at a valley covered with bones (Ez. 37). They surveyed the valley several times and saw myriads of bones which were very dry and bleached by the sun. The Lord asked Ezekiel if it were possible for these bones to live. From a human point of view, there was no way! Ezekiel knew that God could make it happen and replied, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
It wasn’t long before the bones began to move and connect themselves together. Tendons, sinew, and muscles made the joints secure and skin once again covered them. Then the Lord gave them life. When he did, an army stood before Ezekiel ready for battle.
The Lord told Ezekiel that these dried out bones were the people of Israel. They were dead spiritually and politically. The ten tribes which made up the Northern kingdom of Israel were taken captive 150 years before. Judah to the South lay in ruins and its people deported. In spite of this, God would bring them back to life. 70 years later, Cyrus would allow Jews to return home, rebuild their walls, the city, and the temple. Things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed.
300 years after that, the Savior would be born in Bethlehem of Judea in fulfillment of God’s promises of a Savior. He gave those promises to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and many more. On Pentecost Sunday, he turned a small band of disciples, 120 in number, into a large and growing army of witnesses as the Holy Spirit brought 3,000 to faith in one afternoon.
When we look at the spiritual decline in our country, at the vast number of unbelievers in the world, we may feel like our situation is hopeless. “How will things ever change” we might ask? When we look at our how lives, we may feel the same way. “My life is just not turning out the way I thought it would and it doesn’t look like it will get any better.” “My marriage is just not working.” We tried to raise our children right, but they rebelled. Did we fail? Will they come back?
We face situations all the time that leave us discouraged, disappointed, depressed, and hopeless. Truth is – they are only hopeless if we leave God out of the picture. God shows us throughout history that he can and will help us. That truth gives us hope. Thank God!