Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ultimate Satisfaction

In the 1960’s, Peggy Lee sang a song with a very bleak outlook on life. It’s title? “Is That All There Is?” 

The refrain says it all:

Is that all there is 
Is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

Sound familiar? Apart from Christ, life is bleak. That’s because the satisfaction offered by the world is elusive. C.S. Lewis said it this way, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

He’s right! There’s joy, but no lasting joy in this world. There’s peace, but it isn’t long-lived either. What you get most from the world is despair. The world’s offerings will fall short every time. That’s because things down here rot and decay.

Jesus said it so beautifully, ““Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” [Matthew 6.19-20].

That’s where you’ll find ultimate satisfaction.

You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145.16

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Exercise Your Divine Privilege

God is not a vending machine, right? Frankly, it seems to me that we are living in a day in which God is viewed like a slot machine - I do my service for Him then wait to see what jackpot comes my way!

Your initial response may be, “You’ve got to be kidding, right, Pastor Rick?” Actually, I’m not. While it may not be as blatant as the example above, I think there are a lot of people who silently think that God is really lucky to have them on His team. 

The Bible has an different approach or way of thinking about our service to God. Rather than thinking we are “helping God out” when we serve Him, the Bible says that serving God is a privilege because we are in Christ Jesus. 

Therefore, give cheerfully. Serve humbly. In reality, we only have what He has given us to give to Him anyway. So, exercise your privilege of serving Him each and every day. And be sure to thank God for the wonderful blessings He has bestowed on you so that you may live for His glory. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12.1

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Seeing and not Believing

The great philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” He could very well have been speaking about the children of Israel. 

It had been only a couple of months since their deliverance from Egypt when they found themselves at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Remember, that’s where God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses. They resided there for eleven months when God said, “It’s time to get moving. The Promised Land is just over there. Get going!” [My loose translation of Deuteronomy 1.6-8; 19]

They took off and made their way to Kadesh Barnea on the southern border of Canaan. God assured them that the Land was their’s for the taking. He would allow them to possess wherever they put their feet down.

But something happened when they sent spies to investigate what the land was like. They came back with a glowing report of “a good land” [Deuteronomy 1.25]. However, they saw something else that disturbed them. “Giants are roaming around there. We’re like grasshoppers in their sight” [ Numbers 13.33].

What they saw made them disbelieve what God had promised. In fact, they claimed that God had brought them out there “to be slaughtered” [Deuteronomy 1.27].

At that moment, they were living by sight and not by faith. Sight sees giants. Faith sees the promise of God. Sight brings fear. Faith brings hope. Dear friends, let’s live by faith, OK, trusting in His promises.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5.7

Monday, August 20, 2018

Don’t Cross the Street

As we approach the mid-term elections, I’m reminded of a tow truck driver who was called to assist someone stranded on the freeway. When the driver pull up behind the car, he saw a bumper sticker for a candidate he disliked vehemently. He informed the driver that he could not assist someone who would vote for that candidate and then, simply, drove away. (The tow truck driver was later fired for his actions.)

Jesus told a parable somewhat similar. A Jew was traveling on a road when he was attacked by robbers. They beat him severely, stole his goods, and left him for dead at the side of the road. 

Two people, a priest and a Temple assistant, saw the man lying in the road and, rather than helping him, they crossed the street to pass him by [Luke 10.31-32].

Then a Samaritan man came along. He was the last person you’d expect to help a Jew as there was a long standing hatred between them. This Samaritan overlooked his prejudices and helped the badly wounded Jew. Knowing that he needed additional care, he took the man to the nearest clinic and paid for his care out of his own pocket. 

After telling the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three would you say was a neighbor?”  It’s obvious, right? The one who showed mercy. Then Jesus told them, “Go and do the same” [10.36-37]. 

There are many ways to be merciful to others so, when you see someone in need, do something other than cross the street. 

Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. Luke 10.31-32

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Record Yet to Happen

I don’t know how it is for you, but getting our family together for a photo is getting harder and harder to do, and there are only ten of us. That’s why I was amazed to read about 31,000 Chinese women who set a record for getting together and dancing the same way. According to the Guinness Book World Records, 31,697 Chinese women set the record for mass plaza dancing in multiple locations. The participants danced for more than five minutes in six different cities.

What a feat that must have been! That may have set a world record in our time, but I can tell you that it is small potatoes compared to a “record” yet to happen when believers, too numerous to count, will form a mass worship service in one location!

The Apostle John recorded this event long before it actually takes place. He saw people from every nation, tribe, and language worshiping God [Revelation 7.9]. With palm branches in hand, this vast group of people, along with angels, elders, and four living creatures will sing hymns of praise for the great salvation from the One who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. 

I believe that will happen one day. It won’t be to set a record, but to offer the glory due His name [Revelation 7.12].

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7.9-10

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Peaceful Sleep

What keeps you awake at night? Work deadlines? Soured relationships? An uncertain future? Do you find yourself tossing and turning, fretting over the challenges of the day? You’re not alone. The Sleep Health Foundation says that nearly one in three persons have, at least, a mild insomnia.  

Distress didn’t keep King David awake. In Psalm 4 he said people were ruining his reputation with baseless accusations, while others questioned his ability to rule. No doubt he was angry for being treated so unfairly. But that, apparently, didn’t stop him from sleeping like a baby. He said, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep” [Psalm 4.8a].

The great British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, commented on this verse: “There is something inexpressibly touching in this ‘lying down’ of the psalmist. In thus lying down, he voluntarily gave up any guardianship of himself; he resigned himself into the hands of another; he did so completely, for in the absence of all care, he slept; there was here a perfect trust.”

What inspired that “perfect trust?” Listen to David in 4.3: “Know that the LORD has set apart His faithful servant for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him.” That’s confidence right there. 

We can rest worry free when we truly believe the Lord hears our prayers and lovingly meets our needs. We are His children, We can confidently place our trust in Him.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4.8

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Silence is Golden

There have been a lot of humorous sayings written about the keeping your mouth shut. My Father was fond of saying, “Silence is golden. Shut up and get rich!” Both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain got mileage from “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” 

They weren’t the first to give that advice. Over three thousand years earlier, the wise Solomon wrote, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” [Proverbs 17.28]. Or how about this one as recorded in the New Living Translation, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut!” [Proverbs 10.19]. OUCH!

Words, our words, reveal something about us: we are a God-honoring person, or a foolish, vain, or evil person. That’s because “the heart of the righteous thinks carefully before speaking, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” [Proverbs 15.28].

Jesus talked about words that come from our hearts. They reveal us as being good or evil. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” [Luke 6.45].

One more thing, Jesus warned us that we will be held accountable for every idle word that we speak [Matthew 12.36]. That reminds me of a song we were taught in Sunday school many years ago. One verse went like this (if you know it, sing it with me):

Oh be careful little mouth what you say
Oh be careful little mouth what you say
For the Father up above
He is looking down in love
Oh be careful little mouth what you say

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4.29

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Our Future Victory

Do you remember the excitement in 2016 when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series? I think most everyone wanted them to win, although only a few thought they really would. It was the first time they won the series since 1908. Many people started chanting, “The curse is lifted.” What curse? Well, it is a common belief that it started in 1945 when William Sianis tried to bring his pet goat into Wrigley Field during a game. The guards denied them access and Sianis supposedly said, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more!” 

Now, I don’t believe curses like that have any effect whatsoever. I do believe in another curse, though. It was the result of sin in the Garden of Eden. Thankfully, that curse will not last forever as believers of all ages will live together face to face with Jesus — unthreatened by death, sickness, sorrow, and any kind of evil [Revelation 21.23-27].

I think what excites me most about heaven is that everyone, including the believers who suffered, struggled, and lost everything in this fallen world, will enjoy eternal life — free from defeat and failure. Oh, and one more thing, with God, we will reign forever and ever [Revelation 22.5]. 

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. Revelation 22.3

Monday, August 13, 2018

Watch Out When You Make Plans

It has been said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” That certainly is true in the case of Jeanne Calment and Andre-Francois Raffry. A story in the New York Times (1995) illustrates this point. 

At ninety years of age, Jeanne Calment offered her apartment en viager [for life] to Andre-Francois Raffry. All he had to do was pay her rent, the equivalent of $500 USD until she died. How could he pass on a deal like that! Well, the months turned into years — thirty of them. Jeanne lived to be a 120 years of age. 

What makes the story even more interesting, Andre died before Jeanne! He was 77 years of age and had paid the equivalent of $184,000 USD. His family had to continue the payments until her death. On her 120th birthday, she said, “In life, one sometimes makes bad deals.”

Life is filled with unbelievable events. Failed businesses. Accidents. Events happen, often for no apparent reason. What seemed like a great deal may become our undoing. After all, who could know that they were paying rent for the oldest person alive! 

That’s why it’s important to remain humble. Be careful, as James warned, to not boast about future profits because no one knows “what your life will be like tomorrow,” after all, it’s  “only a vapor” [James 4.13-15].

An old Yiddish proverb says it all, “Man plans and God laughs.”

We may be surprised with the twists and turns in life, but God isn’t. His plans “stand firm” [Psalm 33.11]. Therefore, always consider what you do prayerfully, knowing that you are secure in God’s hands. 

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4.14

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Drought is Over

The drought was finally over. With little or no rain between 2013 and 2016, death was visible everywhere in South Africa. Rivers and streams dried up. Livestock perished. Crops withered on the vine. The people suffered terribly. But when the rains finally came, grass and crops pushed their way through the dry, cracked earth. It wasn’t very long until the country was beautiful again. 

That is somewhat a picture of ourselves before we came to Christ — dead, dried up in our sinfulness, desperately needing the Water of Life that only Christ can give. Paul wrote that we were foolish, disobedient, misled, and slaves to our lusts and pleasures. He didn’t stop there. He went on to say that we were full of envy hating one another [Titus 3.3].

The Lord took care of our drought by washing away our sins, that is, giving us a new life through the Holy Spirit [Titus 3.4-5]. We were brought from death to life, and that life is in abundance [John 10.10].

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3.4-5

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dearly Loved

I’m not a big soccer fan, so I’m amazed how passionate fans around the world are about their teams. I was recently in an airport in Ethiopia. While walking around the terminal, I was momentarily stunned by a loud “roar” of people. I mean it was really loud — a wall shaking, whip your head around, kind of loud.  

I discovered where the noise came from. A restaurant/bar was two shops away. There was a large group of people with their eyes glued to a TV screen where two soccer teams were at it, and one had just scored a goal. It was a hand-clapping, back-patting, foot-stomping, yell at the top of your lungs minute. Nothing says, “We love our team” like losing your voice at a bar in Ethiopia!

This “over the top” enthusiasm reminds me of how God lavished His love on His Son during Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came down and settled on Him. But that wasn’t enough. There was more to this remarkable display. God gave a shout from heaven, “This is my Son, chosen and marked by My love, delight of My life” [Matthew 3.17 - The MESSAGE Paraphrase).

What a revelation of God’s character! No, God is not the cosmic killjoy. Neither is He cold, distant, and indifferent. And, what a joy it is to know that He loves all His children with such passion. Just think, He loves us the same way as He does His Son [1 John 1.3]. He loves His children and affectionately displays His love in every way possible!

And a voice from heaven said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.” Matthew 3.17 - NLT

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Of Humble Beginnings

I recently read the short biographies of the richest people in the USA. I was surprised at how many of them did not come from “old money.” Take Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, for example. He was raised in Bayview, a housing project in New York City. Rather than resenting his upbringing, he says it kept him grounded and connected to the poor around him. 

When I read his story, I was reminded of another person who was raised in a New Testament “project” - Nazareth. Philip told his friend Nathaniel that he found the Messiah, Jesus, and that He came from Nazareth. Nathaniel’s disdainful response? "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Who, in their right mind, would think that the Messiah would come from such a backwater village! 

Well, it wasn’t an accident that Jesus came from Nazareth. Nazareth demonstrated the central role humility would play in His life — the humble Servant who came to serve, not to be served — Matthew 28.20. 

Some Christ followers disdain the humbling seasons of their lives, as if they are best forgotten and left behind. I suggest that our humble circumstances remind us that humility is what God is growing inside us, to make us more like His dear Son. 

And Nathanael said to him, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1.46

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Faithfulness to God

Since reading about the 1967 accident that left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic, I am amazed at her persistent faithfulness. You’ll have to do a lot of searching to find someone in her condition that radiates the joy in Jesus that she does — even in her suffering. 

It has been over fifty years since that tragedy struck her life, yet she continues to exhibit tireless faithfulness. Her example reminds me of the faithfulness spoken of by the prophet Habakkuk. 

God’s judgement was just around the corner. The Babylonians were on their way to world domination. So, Habakkuk spoke out, announcing that righteous people would live by faithfulness to God [2.4]. The Hebrew, emunah, in this text, is a word that means, firmness, steadfastness, fidelity, hence, faithfulness. 

Life is sometimes painful and filled with difficulties. It just can’t be avoided. But that doesn’t mean we lose hope or dare to live faithfully for God! Our hope stems, in part, because we know that a better place awaits the faithful. The Apostle Paul described it this way: “No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it —  What God has arranged for those who love him” [1 Corinthians 2.9 - The MESSAGE Paraphrase].

Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God. Habakkuk 2.4

Monday, August 6, 2018


I don’t qualify as a “geek.” But, at my age, I’m very interested in new words that describe our technological world. I just ran across this one last week — “PHUBBED.” If, like me, you have no idea what it means, you’ll get it from this question: When was the last time someone looked down at their cell phone, or answered a text, while you were talking with them? You just got phubbed — snubbed by someone whose attention was arrested by their cell phone.

Phubbing happens! But, it isn’t kind. While the gift of attention doesn’t seem like much, it certainly is gaining importance in our technological world. Our attention simply says, “You matter more to me than my ringtone.”

I don’t like being phubbed and, most likely, you don’t either. Does the Scripture forbid such action? Well, phubbing wasn’t an issue with the people in biblical times. However, it does speak to it in principle.

Romans 12.9a: Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. [NLT]

Philippians 2.3-4: Don’t be selfish … be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. [NLT]

God keeps His eyes upon you. You are an object of His attention — the “apple of His eye.” You have never been phubbed by God. Never! And you never will be. 

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12.10

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Ultimate Ruler

It’s always striking to see photos after an election. One picture shows an exuberant person with a mile-wide smile. The other photo shows another person slumped over, and you may even see a few tears tricking down their cheeks. You know immediately whose candidate won the election.

In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed it’s the same everywhere; there are differing opinions about who is best suited to rule their country. And in some, those differences are met with violence. That’s why, for me, it’s comforting to know that regardless who is elected, God is the ultimate authority. 

One Old Testament king found this out the hard way. His name was Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon. He was uprooted from power after an incredible dream he had about a fruitful tree being cut down. Unsettled by the dream, he sought the interpretation from his trusted advisors. They were of no help. He finally came to know of a man who might help him. His name was Daniel. 

Empowered by the Spirit of God, Daniel interpreted the dream. Nebuchadnezzar would be humbled, but his kingdom restored if he acknowledged that God was in charge —  that “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men” [Daniel 4.25].

Everything happened just as Daniel said. Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and then restored when he acknowledged the powerful rule of God.  

There are no perfect rulers in the world because the world is filled with imperfect beings. There is one ruler, however, who is absolutely perfect, completely holy, and unquestionably fair — God. Aren’t you glad that His rule is everlasting!

The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people. Daniel 4.17

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The World Made Right

I don’t want to sound like a killjoy here, but I think we’ve about come to the end of good governance. The world seems to have been turned upside-down. In general, we are struggling with world leaders that we cannot trust. I don’t know about you, but I long for those who would govern for the good of all — not merely for those who hold the purse strings or are powerful. 

Israel struggled with one king after another who ruled with rampant greed and abuses of power. They should have established justice and helped their people not to stray from the living God. Instead, they brought shame. 

The prophet Isaiah told of a day when a Leader would come, bringing with Him justice, equity, and mercy. He is known as the Messiah, the One who will restore hope to the world. 

Messiah will be empowered by God [Isaiah 11.2] with:

wisdom and understanding” — the ability of applying knowledge, coupled with a keen sense of right from wrong;

counsel and might” — wise and thoughtful deliberation, coupled with a fierce tenacity to withstand adversity; 

knowledge and fear of the Lord” — a stedfast awareness of truth, coupled with absolute submission to God. 

It was seven hundred years before we knew whom Isaiah was referring to — Jesus. He was the long-awaited, yet rejected King. So, they had Him crucified. He arose and ascended to His Father, and now we are awaiting Him again, anxious for the world that Isaiah said this good Ruler would bring [11.6-9].

What a day that will be. The Day when everything will be made right!

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. Isaiah 11.2-4a

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Image of the Invisible

After the third or fourth try, I’ve quit looking at those “Magic Eye” stereograms. You know, those posters or pictures that supposedly reveal another image in the background if you stare at it long enough. My grandkids see it. “Look at it, Pop. It’s a number,” they say! I usually start with the number one, then start counting upwards. I figure I’ll get the number sooner or later. In a way, that’s how it is in our attempts to “see” God. No matter how hard we try, we are ill-equipped to see Him. 

The transcendent Creator is outside our grasp. As He proclaimed to Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” [Exodus 33.20]. In a similar fashion, the author of Hebrews refers to Him as the “One who is invisible” [11.27].

How remarkable, then, are Paul’s words to the Colossian Christ followers that Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God.” Did you get that? Jesus is the means to see what can’t be seen — the invisible God!

In Christ, we see what God is like. Listen to Him by reading the Word. Meditate on His actions. When you encounter Jesus, you encounter God. Of course, a lot about God and faith is unfathomable. However, we don’t have to grope for Him as if we are in the dark. We see Jesus!

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation. Colossians 1.15