Have you ever heard a rooster crow? If you live in the suburbs or the city, probably not. If you live in the country, your chances are much better. A rooster crowing is one of the first sounds of daybreak, saying it’s time to get up and get going.

Many years ago, the events of one Jerusalem morning changed Peter for the rest of his life. About ten hours earlier, Jesus warned Peter. The Lord told Peter that he would deny him three times before daybreak. Of course, Peter denied it, saying no way could I ever deny knowing you. Later that Passover night, the arrest of the Messiah occurred. He appeared before various political figures, both religious and secular. The religious group was determined to end Jesus’ life, but Pilate found no reason to crucify Jesus. However, Pilate eventually surrendered to a political threat and ordered the crucifixion.

Peter followed, observing Jesus’ trials. During one of the events, a servant girl recognized Peter from the Garden of Gethsemane, and he immediately denied knowing Jesus. Peter went on to deny the Lord two more times. As the sun split the eastern sky, the rooster crowed. The sound of the rooster caused the Lord to turn. The Lord’s eyes met Peter’s eyes. It was then Peter remembered Jesus’ words of denial. The disciple quickly left the scene to weep in private and ask forgiveness.

Spiritual brokenness can do one of two things. The first is to turn our back on the Lord. The second can solidify our determination never to deny the Lord again. Peter chose the second. When the day of Pentecost arrived, Peter stood up to proclaim the Lord’s resurrection saving 3,000 souls (Acts 3:41). Peter’s denial made him spiritually stronger. Never again would this disciple deny the Lord.

Remember to ask forgiveness when we fall or keep quiet about our Lord. Strengthen your soul, then get up and serve the Lord.

God’s Promise

God has a way of making things beautiful; after all, he is the creator of all things. He does it with words like, ” He has made everything beautiful in his time” ( Ecclesiastes 3:11 NKJV). Our Lord also uses his paintbrush. After a spring shower, the covenant giver paints the sky. He places a multicolored arc across the emerging blue sky. The bow is a masterpiece painted by the hand of the Almighty.

Noah and his family were the first to see the rainbow decorate the sky in its inaugural appearance after the flood. It was a colorful sight to enjoy after a year inside the ark.

God didn’t color the sky only to look pretty, but also, as a reminder of the covenant he made with himself and humanity. Our Lord promised he would never destroy the earth again by a flood. His perpetual promise holds true today because God can swear by no higher power than himself. He is the only one who cannot and will not lie. The Lord’s word is true forever. The bow in the sky is an everlasting promise by our God to all flesh.

Every time it rains, there is a bow somewhere reminding God of his commitment never to destroy the earth again by a flood.

When the rainbow appears with its seven colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violent, it renews God’s promise. These seven colors represent completion in my mind, like the seven days of creation. God’s promise is final, never to destroy all humanity by another worldwide flood. History has nor will it ever record another all-ending catastrophic flood. So, when you see your next rainbow take a moment and thank the Lord for his divine protection and promise.

You Want to Smile

Loneliness is an uncomfortable feeling. No one to talk to or confide in. All your thoughts are bottled up inside you.

As a believer, you are never alone. The disciples were at sea with the waves crashing into the boat. When they saw Jesus walking on the waves, they were terrified. Then the Lord said, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27 ESV). The Lord is always near his children.

How would you respond if you were one of the following? Joshua needed encouragement (Joshua 1:9) after Moses’ death. How would you like to lead a million people in your first leadership role? David recognized the Lord as his light and was not afraid to be Israel’s second king (Psalms 27:1). Again, the psalmist wrote, “I will not fear, what can man do to me?” Psalms 118:6 ESV. That takes guts to say. Peter later wrote, “He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7 ESV).

Jesus always cares about his children. Immanuel, an Old Testament name for Jesus (Isaiah 7:14), means God with us. When the Angel appeared to Joseph, he told him it was okay to take Mary as his wife because she was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 7:14).

Move forward 2000 years. What does this mean to you and me? Simply, we are never alone.

When friends, family, and the world ignore you, you are never alone. Jesus is always with you, but He is not the only one. The Holy Spirit indwells every redeemed person. Flesh and blood may desert you, but God cannot. Why? Because He lives inside you.

All pity parties are self-induced. That may be hard to accept, but it is true. Stop for a moment and look up. What do your spiritual eyes see? Gloom or glory? Glory is there for all to see through the eyes of faith. There is a pearly gate waiting for your arrival.

Do you want to smile? Think about where you will spend eternity!

From Legalism to Compassion

Many times, reputations are based on opinions. Wrong, right, or implied without regard to the truth in some instances. Most of what is said today about Nicodemus leads people to form incorrect conclusions about the man.

Nicodemus appeared in three chapters of John. To understand Nicodemus, we need to remember his background as a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governmental body (a legalistic, self-righteous society). He first appeared to Jesus in John three. The nightly visit obscured him from his peers.

The conversation included several profound statements about man’s position before God. First is the introduction of the phrase born again (v-3), then an invitation for salvation (v-15), and finally, verse sixteen is the most quoted verse in the Bible, in which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about God’s love. He solemnly warned that without Jesus as savior, one’s eternity is condemned.

The second appearance of Nicodemus in scripture happened when the Sanhedrin was condemning Christ without a trial. As a member, Nicodemus boldly reminded the council of scripture. “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51 ESV quoting Deuteronomy 1:16,17; 17:6). The Sanhedrin ignored Nicodemus and disregarded scripture in condemning the Lord.

Sometime after meeting Jesus at night and before the Pharisaical council meeting, Nicodemus must have accepted Jesus as his Savior, although scripture is silent as to when. There had to have been a change in the heart of Nicodemus for him to stand up for the Lord.

This change explains his participation in Jesus’ burial (John 19:38-42). Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea jointly prepared the Lord’s body for burial. Nicodemus came prepared, bringing seventy-five pounds of burial spices for the Lord’s body. He and Joseph gently prepared and placed the Lord’s body in a borrowed tomb.

So, the next time you think of Nicodemus, remember he was a changed man. He counted serving the Lord with compassion better than his political life. Consequently, Jesus first is Nicodemus’ lasting testimony.

Faith In Action

He made them in the likeness of God    Genesis 5:1 NKJV

Before your parents brought you home from the hospital, someone compared you to one of your relatives. Maybe you have the eyes of an aunt or uncle. Your complexion resembles a grandparent. Before you started walking or talking, a family member compared you to another relative.

Did someone say God created you in his image? You were. You are a descendant of Adam—many generations removed. You have some divine characteristics. Your generosity is a heavenly gift; your caring spirit has its roots in the divine. You get your height and hair color from a relative, but your goodness is God originated. Though some will try to deny it, it’s still true. You are in God’s image.

If that reality sinks in, your life will change. You may even realize you are the only godly person a neighbor or coworker will ever see. What you do and say represents godliness to them. That’s scary for most of us because we know we’re not perfect, God will enable you if you let him be his example of Christ in you (Colossians 1:27).

Put one foot forward and then another. Speak a word of kindness to someone. Be honest about who you are. That’s God in you. Of course, truthfulness doesn’t mean perfection. You can’t reach that pinnacle here on this earth even if you try. But by God’s leadership, you can live one day at a time for Jesus. It’s called faith in action. Put your trust for each day in the one who holds tomorrow. By doing this, your life’s journey will be about God’s grace. His heaven awaits you and will be sweeter as a result.

Don’t Give Up

Discouragement was a perpetual cloud hanging over the man by the Pool of Bethesda (John 5). Day after day, others received blessings. Their prayers and dreams came true, but his didn’t. Still, for years, his family brought him to the place of miracles. He watched. Then he even got angry. Others experienced joy, and he was disappointed. Not once, but often, too often.

Occasionally, you pat yourself on the back thinking, I’ve been faithful. If nothing else good happens to me, the least I can do is be faithful.

Those were some of the thoughts of the lame man, at least, on the good days. But then, there were other days when hope wavered. He thought maybe tomorrow or next week, and my waiting time will be over, no more what-ifs but a hallelujah.

Well, one day came for this invalid man. The Savior asked, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6 NKJV). The man didn’t answer the question. Instead, he related his dilemma, saying no one would help him. “When I put forth my best effort, someone else gets the blessing.” Jesus listened for a bit and then said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk” (John 5:8 NKJV).

Faithfulness consistently exceeds expectations. Maybe not the way you wanted nor the way you expected. Sometimes not even in our lifetime. God has a way of keeping records. One thing is for sure, God will never be in debt to you, so don’t give up. There is a reward someday for you.

One further thought is that the healed man was found by the Lord in the temple worshipping God. So, like the healed man, if we can’t do anything else, we can worship.

Simplicity and Faith

Believers and nonbelievers have something in common. They don’t understand what God wants. Why? People have different priorities. God made each of us unique. The Bible uses the term peculiar (I Peter 2:9 KJV). We are one of a kind, special in someone’s eyes. Strange in others.

David faced the same dilemma in I Chronicles fourteen—the Philistines. The neighboring adversary heard that David was the new king of Israel. So, they thought in his newness that he would not be prepared to defend Israel. The Philistines thought David would be weak. So, they attacked Israel. David asked the Lord for direction, should I attack the Philistines? God’s answer was a yes, and the Lord gave Israel victory over the enemy.

The stubborn Philistines decided to raid Israel again. David’s response was the same, ask the Lord. “What shall I do?” Our all-knowing God answered David with specific instructions this time. Circle behind them and wait until you hear the wind in the tops of the balsam trees, then attack. The result was the same, victory.

David’s secret is also our secret. Ask God for guidance and wait for his answer. Then proceed as he leads. Impulsive behavior may not render the best solution. Punishing the disobedient is God’s business. Don’t tread there without a Bible principle or direct encouragement from the Almighty.

These principles sound so simple. God works with simplicity and faith. Cooperating with God is always best. Independent thinking may be spiritual disobedience resulting in a catastrophe.

David chose to ask God for guidance, resulting in the neighboring nations respecting and fearing Israel under David’s leadership.

When godly people realize there is something special about how you follow God, they respect you. But the enemy will be jealous and try to sidetrack you, which is impossible if you listen to God.

Our Eternal Good

The Lord says… “Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you cross rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flames hurt you …Because you are precious to me… Don’t be afraid, because I am with you.” Isaiah 43:1-5 NCV

Why are we afraid? Is it the fear of the unknown? Could it be we are not in control? Maybe we do not respect someone else’s authority, or we do not trust the authority figure’s decision-making ability.

The book of Isaiah looks to the ultimate authority, the Messiah, where He calls us by name and reiterates, “You were mine. You belong to me and no one else. You are mine for all eternity.”

With Jesus as our Savior, who else should we look to for our spiritual guidance? The question is spiritual, and the answer is spiritual also, Jesus should be our guide. 

When we are in a dilemma, which we often are, we should look to the Lord. Unfortunately, many times, we do not. We wait until we are over our heads in difficulties we cannot solve. Then, we go running for help because we are terrified. The events are beyond our management abilities.

It is interesting that verse two states, “I will be with you.” The Bible doesn’t say, “I will bail you out of your trouble.” Instead, the scripture reminds us; that the Lord will be with us in the deep waters of life. He will comfort, guide, and walk with us. 

Why doesn’t he just solve the problem? Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do? Not necessarily. He is our companion. He knows what is best for all eternity. Sometimes, it means the result may not be what we first wanted, but the final result is for our eternal good. When we see as he sees, we will be at peace with ourselves and those around us.

Encouraging Others

He walked everywhere he went and ate whatever was available. His diet was not extravagant but simplistic. He never owned a home, although he did visit some of the finest homes in the land.

At times he would be on a lonely hillside praying. He often arrived before midnight and stayed until the break of the day. He didn’t pray to impress others. Instead, his words came from the heart. Usually, he was petitioning God for the need of others.

Some followers witness him walking on the sea. Who was this man who could step on the crest of the waves? His friends didn’t recognize him. Only his voice identified his presence.

Another time, after a long day, he fell asleep in a boat while it tossed about in a storm. When awakened by fearful companions, he stood and commanded the wind and the waves to be still. Still, they were. In contrast, he rebuked the boat’s occupants. Why are you so fearful? I’m here with you.

On shore, he was able to heal the sick and cleanse the lepers, causing the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. 

While holding the attention of crowds for days, he could pray and multiply a few loaves of bread to feed the audience of thousands. Mud was his ointment of choice for a blind man to see. 

He was always giving, making everything better and people whole. He just had that way about him. He was always caring for others.

Maybe we should follow his example. We may be unable to make the blind see or the lame walk; however, we can get alone on our hillside or in our closet and pray for others.

We can encourage the disadvantaged and give of our time to comfort the hurting. That’s what Jesus would have us do.

His Promise Is True

Life is hard at times. It isn’t very encouraging. Are you having a bad day? You may be experiencing a month of problems. But, on the other hand, your sadness could be longer, even years.

The prayers you utter seem to bounce off the ceiling. It looks like God doesn’t hear, or He is tuning you out. The Almighty doesn’t seem to be almighty anymore. 

In your hurt and disappointment, you give up on God thinking he doesn’t care or love you anymore. He hasn’t answered your prayers lately. In your frustration, God, church, and Christians are off limits. 

Others have been there. God, in his honesty, recorded some disappointed people in the Bible. Elijah comes to mind after calling down fire from heaven; he ran to the backside of the desert and wanted to die (I Kings 19:3,4).

Mary and Martha were sad because Jesus didn’t show up when they wanted him to. Consequently, their brother Lazarus died. But, when Jesus arrived, events changed. Lazarus lived again. 

Peter, one of the twelve disciples, lost hope after the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. Peter went fishing, his previous vocation. He felt alone, though other disciples went with him.

God used the Apostle John, to author the book of John, and First, Second, and Third John. Then, he was exiled to the island of Patmos to silence him. But, God had other plans. So, the Lord used John to pen the Book of Revelation as an old man. 

In the darkest of times, when you feel all alone, you are not alone. Friends, family, and fellow believers may not be beside you, but you’re not alone. Jesus is with you. Turn and look with curious, searching eyes; he’s there. The Holy Spirit will help you see him. God follows you everywhere you go. He’s there always, whether you recognize him or not. He promised never to leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8, I Kings 8:57, Matthew 28:20). His promise is true. Always.

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