Appreciated and Acknowledged

Where do we begin to . acknowledge people who care? Care about others. Maybe they didn’t start that way, but they got there anyway.

For Moses, it was a difficult journey. First, at age 40, he intervened to help a fellow Jew. When he did, the story got out, and he fled to another country. Then 40 years later, while tending Jethro’s flock, God spoke to him out of a bush. A burning bush, no less. Today, we would think Moses wasn’t right upstairs. But, God used this incident to get this humble man to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt.

God instructed the prophet Samuel the go and anoint the next king of Israel. Following God’s instructions, he arrived at the house with Jesse. When examining Jesse’s boys, seven of them, God said my choice is not here. Upon inquiry, the dad, Jesse, said I have one more boy, he’s the youngest, but he’s out taking care of my sheep. Samuel said, “Send for him.” As soon as David arrived, God said, “That’s the one,” the next king of Israel.

The first Christmas night, shepherds were doing what they do, taking care of their flocks. Then, out of nowhere, angels appeared and announced to these loners that the King of Kings, Israel’s Messiah, was born in a Bethlehem stable. So, the astute shepherds went to see baby Jesus.

These three illustrations have something in common. They are about caring people taking care of sheep. God is still using caring people today. We may not be shepherds, per se, but we still care about people. 

A thoughtful attitude is a prerequisite for God’s service. Ordinary everyday service. Caring for others is our way of demonstrating a Christ-like brotherhood.

Caring and helping are godly characteristics that the recipients always appreciate—and are acknowledged by our Heavenly Father.

One Big Eraser

My eraser wipes out my mistakes—even the big ones. Things thought to be incorrect, but later were found correct, can change our view of things. What about something not recorded, like our opinions, our words, or our actions toward others? Do they change with more information?

Our imperfect bodies are changing every day, sometimes, in a moment as fast as the twinkling of an eye (I Corinthians 15:52). Our blinks take less than a second. But, God works faster than a twinkle in changing the saints’ vile, sinful bodies into glorious heavenly ones.

There is a reason to believe all our deficiencies will disappear. They will not exist in our new bodies. So, how will we look? James tells us that we will be like Jesus (I John 3:2).

Yet, somehow, we will be recognizable. Will we bear the scars, hurts and deformities of this life? Probably not. Everything will be new and perfect. God will change us. However we are, it will be glorious.

One thing is for sure. God’s eraser is thorough, no smudge marks, no past sins remembered. They are gone as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). There will be no conversations in heaven about our past sins. All things are pure and holy there.

If only we could grasp that thought here in our present body. What a difference this world would be. 

Rejoicing in the presence of our Lord is beyond our mind’s ability to comprehend. Purity without the presence of evil. We will never experience that wholesomeness here. It is the fundamental element of heaven. A life we can cherish and enjoy in the presence of our Lord forever.

Seeing Clearly

What’s your job? Is it needed? What about eternity? Will your vocation be required in heaven? 

There is no need for doctors and nurses because there is no sickness with Jesus. How about auto mechanics. I never read there will be cars as a mode of transportation in heaven. Drug cartels and drug traffickers are not needed or wanted. Firefighters will no longer be needed; the only flames are eternal in the Lake of Fire. 

Preachers are not needed to proclaim the saving knowledge of the Lord; all the citizens already know Jesus. No personal workers, either, to supply tissue for the broken-hearted. Instead, God is going to wipe away all the tears, according to Revelation 21:4. 

The mortician business will not exist because there’s no more death. That also eliminates cemetery employees. Police and all the judicial officials will be gone, and crime does not exist in eternity. Electricians are a has been, Jesus is the source of light, meaning no more streetlights.

With my limited capacity to think, there may be one or two transferable vocations. Wait staff is my first thought. I don’t know who will serve at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but it could be those with experience here on earth. The second thought was maybe a seamstress. They may have an opportunity before the last trump of God to make the white robes for incoming saints. This vocation can fill a temporary need for eternal wardrobes. 

All this rhetoric may get you to think. What are you doing to prepare for eternity? There will be no need for our earthly vocation. Only the things done for Christ here on earth will make a safe transition. Will that thought get you to do some self-evaluation?

I’m sure some of you will be able to revise this episode. And remind me of all the things of which I couldn’t think. We can continue this conversation in heaven when we all can see clearly.

Little Things

“In everything by prayer…with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” Philippians 4:6 NKJV

Do you feel your prayers go unanswered? Many people do. I was reminded of that today. I was in a place where I’d never been before sharing the Word of God. Before the early service, I started talking to a 76-year-old man who walked with a cane. It was a 2-minute conversation where I had to raise my voice because he was hard of hearing.

After the conversation, I continued greeting people—all nineteen of them, in the early service for this country church. After the service, this man’s sister talked with me to share her brothers’ thoughts. She said he liked me just because I took some time to be friendly. She shared her brother did not know the Lord. So, I reached into my Bible and pulled out a sheet of paper with scriptures on it to present the plan of salvation. I gave it to her and asked her to let her brother read it. She thanked me and went on to Sunday school. Afterward, she returned to say thank you again.

What I found was a compassionate Christian who was concerned about her brother’s eternity. She related she had been praying for her brother’s salvation for 25 years. Only heaven will reveal what the seeds of God’s word will yield. God uses ordinary people in unusual places to accomplish great works for his glory.

It was refreshing to reflect on the commonality of God’s tools of inspiration. When we examine the Bible, we realize God uses imperfect people in ordinary ways to do simple things for the glory of God.

Moses used the shepherd’s staff to divide the Red Sea. David used a sling to kill a giant. For Samson, it was a jawbone to slay 1,000 Philistines. Rahab used a red rope hanging out her window for safety. God used all these giants. 

It does not make any difference if you are a servant in prison like Joseph or a father with a godly family like Noah. You could be a Daniel in a foreign country or a Nehemiah who needs to rebuild the wall. Peter and John were two fishermen who wrote part of the New Testament. Maybe an Andrew who brought people to Jesus. You could be Ruth gathering leftovers for food to put on the table. Dorcas used her sewing to be a blessing. 

God looks past our circumstances and sees our hearts. It’s not the few pennies the widow put in the offering plate. It is the heart to put God first. The widow Zarephath gave part of her last meal away. All these examples render God’s richest blessings on them both here and for all eternity. Our God is in the small things.

Baseball and Christianity

Baseball and Christianity may be a strange comparison, yet there are some similarities. Most people watch the game from a safe distance. They are observing and examining to see if it piques their curiosity more. They tend to see if the participants are committed or casual players, whether a pick-up game or an organized game. If the latter, what are the expectations? How much is required? Those are basic observations.

In organized baseball, many begin with Little League, where you learn the basics. First, you develop elementary skills, then, you decide what position interest you. Lastly, you determine where you are the best fit. Do you like the coach? Is he a good coach for you?

Hopefully, as you participate, you learn not just the fundamental skills, but how to interact with your teammates. Then, as your skills improve, you must decide if baseball is for you or should you move on to another area of life. 

For those who go on, their commitment level deepens, and preparatory skills develop further. Not everybody has the deep-down desire to advance their skills. That is the leveling-off point of development.

These basic thoughts resemble believers. Some watch from a distance. Others show up in the Lord’s house occasionally. Others become committed spectators attending their place of worship faithfully. Some become deeply involved in serving in their range of interest. Then, others are growing in areas where they never imagined. The pool of growing committed Christians becomes smaller and smaller as time goes by. Over the years of dedication, the fires may flicker and cool off.

Busyness in serving is never a substitute for a daily time in God’s word. Seldom do people go an entire day without physical nourishment, but many believers will do it spiritually. Bible reading is a plate of spiritual food for nourishing your spiritual skills, which allows you to strengthen your church.

If your fire for serving is flickering, reexamine your time in scripture and prayer. Usually, there is a correlation.

May the Lord keep your spiritual fire burning brightly for him.

Lesson From A Four-Year-Old

While watching my four-year-old grandson, I remembered a lesson I learned long ago. As I observed him run and play, I wished I had that energy. My legs do not run like a four-year-old now. But, they do still work. They work for my morning walks and the steps I climb.

Our four-year-old takes for granted that his legs can run and jump. They never consider how blessed they are to have legs that move with ease. So, when he trips and falls, he can get up and run again. Many a grandparent envies their ability to respond quickly.

The art of getting up and continuing with life is not the thought of a four-year-old. For older folks; however, getting up after a fall is a slow process.

Somewhere between youth and older adulthood, getting up seems more challenging. That is true physically, emotionally as well as spiritually.

We’re kicked and tripped throughout our lives. But, it seems that those who keep going are the ones who make a difference in someone’s life.

When life is cruel, or the body does not work as well as it did in your younger days, you can still go forward. However, you might need help to stand again. Your legs may be wobbly, but stand you must if you want to keep going. The pace can be slower, but the effect can be powerful.

Whether you’re young or old, don’t let the circumstances of life keep you down. Do not give in to the cruel intentions of others. Instead, stand with all your might. Stand determined to do what God intended for you to do. Never quit. Even if you move slowly, the God we serve said he would never leave us nor forsake us even when we are old.

Stand. Pick yourself up if you are down. Go forward while you stand and praise the Lord. He can keep us moving for him. 

Get up like a four-year-old and keep going. You have permission to cry a little. Wipe away the tears and keep going.

Who Is In Your Boat?

Why are you so fearful? Mark 4:40 NKJV

Did our Lord get tired of serving? You bet he did, at least physically. But not spiritually.

The day Jesus got in the back of the boat and went to sleep reminds me of the Lord’s humanity. This event happened after a long day of serving others. He had dispensed the crowd (Mark 4:36). Jesus needed to recuperate physically. So, he and the 12 were going to the other side of the lake for some rest. Once they set sail, the Lord settled down for a rejuvenating nap that turned into a deep sleep. 

Suddenly, a storm swept down from the surrounding hills. The wind was so fierce that it stirred up huge waves that tossed the boat. So much so, the experienced disciples, some of whom were ex-fishermen, were terrified of sinking. So, they did the only thing they could do. They went to the Lord.

When the storms of life are raging about you, don’t forget the Lord. Trying to bail yourself out of any situation may not be the answer. Praying and waiting for the Lord is the better solution. It’s not always easy to do because his timetable may not match yours. Nevertheless, he always knows what and when is best.

It’s hard to see the hand of God working and doing what you asked. You may have even asked yourself, “What is he doing?”

Only trust and experience will settle your heart. In time, all things, yes, all things, will turn out for the best. All things work out for good, only if you wait and trust the Lord.

Your situation may be an opportunity for self-examination regarding your love for God, a love that loves in all circumstances. Pay attention to who is in your boat. It is the Lord, not the water, to which you give your attention. Disregard the waves. Go to the Lord. He is with you. Storms are still subject to his command regardless of the amount of water in your boat.

Scripture Still Wins

The Lord will always lead you. Isaiah 58:11 NCV

How is your memory? Great, poor, or so-so? The answer depends upon the individual. Can you return to places you visited in the past? Maybe.

What about standing at the fork in the road. Which way is the right way? Do you ponder because you don’t remember the instructions? Sound familiar?

Such is life at times. What to do or when to do it? What time is the appointment? These are questions you may ask yourself. The answer is always a prayer away. 

I met with the publisher about a book I wrote three years ago. They were interested in publishing it. But I didn’t know what to do. During my devotion time, the answer came, or should I say it hopped off the page. The verse begins, “It is not yet time,” and several lines later, “Wait for it” (Habakkuk 2:3 NCV). The last three words resounded in my ears. The Lord said, “wait.” That is what I’m doing. How long is the wait? I have no idea. One thing I have observed over the years is not to get ahead of the Lord. King Saul did, and it cost him his throne. 

Impatience is one of man’s weaknesses, and I definitely have a big dose of it. So, when God says wait, there’s a reason. However, it usually tries our patience. But those who wait on the Lord always realize things work out for good in his timing. 

If you think the Old Testament example doesn’t apply to us today, think again. Trusting the Lord is always the right thing to do. Whenever, wherever he chooses, it’s always the right place and the right time. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and don’t depend on your understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NCV). This verse is still true today, just as it was thousands of years ago.

When It’s Time

Time is in the Lord’s hands. The steps of a believer “Are ordered by the Lord”(Psalms 37:23 NKJV). “The day is at hand” (Romans 13:12).

God’s plan belongs to him, but his plan usually involves an actual person. Sometimes the individual is ready and willing. Then, there are other times when a person is reluctant to obey the Lord. We’ve all been there and experienced those dubious times. It seems like we set our eyes on different priorities. We are in trouble. Situations happen in a way to get our attention. Some may be severe. 

The following adverse events are God’s hints for us to obey his leadings.

God told Jonah to go to a specific location and share the gospel. The Bible uses the word “now” four times in the book of Jonah. Why is it important for the word “now” to appear?

The first “now” (Jonah 1:1) was a directive to go to Nineveh. The city was heavily populated (approximately 120,000, Jonah 4:11) and most did not know the Lord. The Lord wanted them to hear about salvation. 

The bottom line, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. So, he went in the opposite direction. But, on his way, the Lord once again got his attention. Then, God caused a storm to erupt on the sea. So, the sailors threw him overboard. Now, God intervened again; a giant fish swallowed Jonah, and he spent three days surrounded by partially digested food before he decided to pray.

God caused the fish to vomit Jonah on dry ground. Onshore, God now told Jonah to go to Nineveh, again. So, Jonah preceded to the great city. Upon his arrival, this reluctant servant started witnessing. The metropolis believed his message and sought the Lord resulting in a tremendous spiritual harvest.

But there’s still a fourth “now.” Jonah was angry about the results. This blessed servant wanted to die. Our Lord tried to comfort his anger, but to no avail. Jonah didn’t care about God using him or converting the city. 

Sadly, the scriptures are silent about the rest of Jonah’s life.

The point of this blog is simple. Are you ready to let God use you? Are you happy that the Lord is using you? Are you willing to be available for God to use you, again, when it’s time?

Jewels of Humility

Humility is hard to define. Many times, it is impossible to recognize. Those possessing strong personalities consider others as weak individuals. Yet, there is something special about the one who has such a simple trait. Words cannot identify or describe such a person. They can be famous or nobody. Maybe they serve in places of honor or obscurity. Their deeds may be seen or never known. Those honored by others are famous to the crowds, but the platitudes are frivolous words inside their hearts.

Moses was unmatched in spirituality. God describes, “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3 NIV). Likewise, John the Baptist did not toot his kinship to Jesus but said, “I am not worthy to carry his sandals” ( Matthew 3:11). The Messiah later described John as the greatest born of women (Matthew 11:11).

These examples demonstrate humility is lived, not taught. Observed but not bragged about. So many grateful recipients of grace shared what they have, even to their detriment. Lottie Moon, an American missionary to China, was a remarkable example. Reportedly, she starved herself to death by giving her food away during the famine in north China. Humility comes from the heart, not from recognition.

Humility and generosity may come with a price, at least here on earth. Most practitioners are unknown or never recognized by churches, neighbors, or society as someone special. But to the Lord, they are his shining jewels of humility. They serve with a pure heart. They are secure within themselves, totally relying on God, not looking for fame or fortune, but service opportunities. They are quietly praying, doing the Lord’s bidding, desiring to remain unnoticed.

May our churches have more of these humble Saints for heaven’s glory.

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