We never want to take for granted the blessings from the local church. We thank God for a wonderful Sunday school class, and then the worship service yesterday. We enjoyed a musical by the Dogwood Kids last evening: "DONKEY TALES". The kids visited a Dude Ranch where there were no horses, just donkeys, and learned many stories from the Bible that included the donkey. One was about Balaam who seemed to be straddling the fence. And what God-given talent those kids all displayed for us. I believe there will be some ministers in that group; some ministers wives, or maybe some missionaries, or teachers, or ministers of music. God blessed us through them last evening.
A thought for us today as we go on with our day-to-day lives, can come from the story of Balaam. Do we find it so difficult to live a consistent life, and struggle to get to church three or four weeks in row? If you are up and down in your relationship with Christ, in deliberate sin, then repenting, and find yourself living below what you really want, could it be a lack of a totally committed heart? Let's look at some promises from His word. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;....." Galatians 2:20a.
This tells us now, that God is aiming to reproduce in us the pattern which has already appeared in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Christian life is not an imitation of Christ, but a direct new creation in Christ, and the union with Christ is so complete that He imparts His own nature to us and lives His own life in us. Peter had a very clear understanding of this, and was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write of it: 2 Peter 1:4 "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." This, then, is not an imitation but simply the outgrowth of the nature implanted within.
We live Christ like because we have the Christ-life. God is not satisfied with anything less, why would we who love Him want anything less. He requires it from us, and He does not, in the process of grace, reduce the standard, but He brings us up to it. He does not let down the righteousness of the law, but He requires of us a righteousness that far exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and then He imparts it to us. He cleanses us, and He says of the new creation, through John, the disciple He loved: "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous." I John 3:7.
We have here the same message from the inspired pen of Paul, Peter, and John, so why would we try to live a life below what is available to us? No, we will not settle for a life like that of Balaam!
God's blessings on you today, as you die to yourself and let Christ live out His life in you.
Peace Before the Battle
Have you ever been astonished by your own emotions? I can't help but believe that Gideon was shocked when the peace of God flooded his heart. God had ask him to lead his nation against a great army. Gideon, I'm sure was terrified, and told God he was the least in this family, which was the least family in the tribe, which was the least tribe in the nation of Israel.
"And the Lord answered him, saying: "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man...'and the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee: fear not; for thou shalt not die.'"
Then Gideon believed the Lord; and, although the battle had not yet been fought, and no victories had been won, with the eye of faith he saw peace already secure, and he built an alter unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom, meaning, "The Lord our peace." Most times we can't find peace unto the battle is over, the storm has passed, the mountain is crossed; then we have peace. However, peace from God is can come before all that, as it did with Gideon.
I don't know what battle you have before you today, but Jesus can bring us peace now, in front of our conflict. Listen to His promises:
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
"These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God . And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Yes, these are familiar passages, but don't let them become just clichés to you, they are precious promises from our loving Lord. And when you come to believe the Lord, as Gideon did, you may be astonished by the peace that floods your heart. You may not build an alter, but you will return to the place where God answered prayer, and brought the peace you needed before and during the storms of your life. Trust Him!
"He never has failed me yet. He never has failed me yet
I have proven Him true; what He says He will do.
He never has failed me yet."
God bless you and yours today, and always know that you are loved!!!
The Father's Most Important Joy
"The words I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." John 6:63
Our God is always faithful to His word, and so He was there with us yesterday as we gathered to worship Him. Don't you appreciate the fact that preaching is the main ministry of the church, with many other ministries to support it? The word of God was proclaimed in the Sunday school classes, in the singing, and finally in the preaching. His word is irreplaceable, as the chorus that started our worship service declares.
"Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you,
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart"
If you were a father in the service yesterday, I'm sure you felt the challenge to step up and fill your role as the pastor of your home. As Anthony studies and prays to prepare himself and keep himself prepared to be our pastor, so must the father study and pray to equip himself to be the pastor of his home.
Those ancient words are still true today, and will change you; and as you then share them with your family, your family will be changed.
"Sing them over again to me, Wonderful words of Life.
Let me more of their beauty see, Wonderful words of Life."
Listen again to what Jesus, the One behind the words, is telling us: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." So, study to equip yourself for your most important joy.
My the Lord bless you and yours today, and as you start your week always remember that you are loved!!!
Humility and Happiness
When God speaks of Himself as the God of all comfort, we are the subject of His comforting, because we are the weak ones in need of comfort. When He speaks of being our Shepherd, we are the sheep, the weak ones in need of His help just to survive. God also describes Himself as being our Heavenly Father. We are the children, the weak ones in need of a strong loving Father to take care of us in every way.
This matter of accepting our position as subordinate, and weak ones before Him, has been from the beginning of man, his greatest hindrance in his relationship with Christ. Paul, one of the most powerful and influential men of all times, found his strength in Christ when He was able to acknowledge his weaknesses before Jesus. What a difference we would see in the homes and families today if Dads were able to humble themselves before Christ, acknowledge their weaknesses, and then find their real strength in Christ Jesus. Nothing would have a more lasting impression, for spiritual good, on his wife and kids, than for Dad to display real comfort and happiness in the Lord.
"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weakness, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor.12:9-10).
The following is from Andrew Murray:
"The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility. Oh that every Christian who seeks to advance in holiness may remember this well! There may be intense consecration, and fervent zeal and heavenly experience, and yet, if it is not prevented by very special dealings of the Lord, there may be an unconscious self-exaltation with it all. Let us learn the lesson--the highest holiness is the deepest humility. And let us remember that it comes not of itself but only as it is made a matter of special dealing on the part of our faithful Lord and His faithful servant."
May the Lord bless you and yours today, and may you always remember that you are loved!!!
If Sheep Could Talk
Let's imagine there are two flocks of sheep that meet at the end of winter to compare their experiences. One flock fat and strong and in good condition, and the other poor and lean and diseased. If they could talk, would the healthy flock brag about themselves: "See what great care we have taken of ourselves, what good strong, wise sheep we must be?" Not hardly. Wouldn't their boast be in their shepherd? "See what a good shepherd we have had, and how he has cared for us. Through all the storms of the winter he has protected us, and has defended us from every wild beast, and has always provided us with the best of food."
How about the poor, wretched, diseased sheep; would they blame themselves and say, "My, what wicked sheep we must be, to be in such a poor condition?" No they blame their shepherd, "Oh, our shepherd was very different from yours! He fed himself, but he did not feed us. He did not strengthen us when we were weak, nor heal us when we were sick, nor bind us up when we were broken nor look for us when we were lost. It is true he stayed by us in clear and pleasant weather, when no enemies were near, but in times of danger or in storms, he left us. Oh, that we had had a good shepherd like yours!"
It's all about the shepherd! Sheep cannot take care of themselves, and must depend upon on the good shepherd. Can you imagine them saying, "We have a good shepherd, who says he will take care of us, but we are unworthy and afraid to trust him. We are good-for-nothing creatures and dare not enter his fold, nor feed in his pastures; and we are doing the best we can to take care of ourselves/" No, if sheep could talk, we would never hear them say such a thing.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want......" The world is looks on to see what the Lord Jesus Christ is able to make of us, and what kind of sheep we are, whether we are well fed, and healthy, happy, and filled with comfort. If you enter into this relationship with the Good Shepherd, and really allow yourself to become a helpless, dependent, trusting sheep, and will believe Him to be your Shepherd, caring for you with all the love, and care, and tenderness that the name involves, you will soon lose all your old spiritual discomfort, and will know His true enter peace and comfort.
May the Good Shepherd bless and keep you today, and always remember that you are loved!!!
Children and Their Great Need
Each week at Dogwood Community Church we see new families attending our services. We had a near capacity congregation yesterday that heard some good music and a great message from Acts 15. This was followed by two men at the alter seeking help from the Lord.
It's wonderful to see Moms and Dads with children in attendance, but our thought for this Monday morning is going to deal with the day to day responsibility for parents in leading their children to Christ.
"And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart – and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deut. 6:6-7).
It's a wonderful thing to bring your kids to church and Sunday school, but God's word tells us that it's the responsibility of the parents first to rise their children for Christ.
Can I share with you the following study on parenting, from Arthur W. Pink?
"First, this work is far too important to allocate unto others. Parents, and not Sunday School teachers, are divinely required to educate their little ones. Nor is this to be an occasional or sporadic thing, but one that is to have constant attention. The glorious character of God, the requirements of His holy law, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the wondrous gift of His Son, and the fearful doom which is the certain portion of all who despise and reject Him, are to be brought repeatedly before the minds of the little ones. "They are too young to understand such things" is the devil’s argument to deter you from discharging your duty.
Second, good instructions are to be accompanied by good example. That teaching which issues only from the lips is not at all likely to sink any deeper than the ears. Children are particularly quick to detect inconsistencies, and despise hypocrisy. It is at this point parents need to be most on their faces before God, daily seeking from Him that grace which they so severely need and which He alone can supply. What care they need to take lest they say or do anything before their children which would tend to corrupt their minds or be of evil consequence for them to follow! How they need to be constantly on their guard against anything which might render them contemptible in the eyes of those who should respect and revere them! The parent is not only to instruct his children in the ways of holiness, but is himself to walk before them in those ways, and show by his practice and demeanor what a pleasant and profitable thing it is to be regulated by the divine law. In a Christian home the supreme aim should be household piety – the honoring of God at all times – everything else being subordinated thereto."
Some thirty years ago, when our children were young, I read a book by Andrew Murray, "HOW TO RAISE YOUR CHILDREN FOR CHRIST", and the central message of the study was simply; Parents if you want to raise your children for Christ, you must live for Christ.
Let's do what we can to be in Sunday school and church, and have our children with us while they are still under our control, and will obey and follow us. Dan is teaching a class from Mark 10 next week, that can lead you to be more like Jesus, and equip you to lead your children's hearts to God. Plus they will have the benefit of their own Sunday school class. Look ahead to next week and purpose in your heart to attend with your family, so you will not be one looking back in a few years with remorse.
May the good Lord bless and keep you today, and may you always remember that you're loved!!!
The Gift to Help
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul listed many of the gifts the body of Christ have been given: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps,........"
HELPS? Yes, some have been given the gift of helps. The ones who pitch-in and extend a helping hand, those who support, most times behind the scenes. Those who seem to just have a heart to HELP.
We at Dogwood, have one great opportunity to help a new family move into the area. Dr. Matt Waldron has talked to Pastor Anthony and said there is a new doctor moving into his home in Paoli and was wondering if anyone would be available to help them unload tomorrow evening. If you can meet at the church at 5:30, you will not miss this privilege of helping.
May our Lord bless you today, and never forget that you are loved!!!
He Covers Us with Prayer!
Go into your Tuesday with the assurance that Jesus is still praying for you, as He did just before He was arrested. This is from John 17:
13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
May the Lord bless you and yours today, as you remember His love for you.
We had another great Sunday at Dogwood. The scripture says, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise." From the praise and worship team, to the special by Bruce, to the mediation by Steve, and the sermon by Anthony, it was what we needed.
Now it's Monday morning. The economy is not improving, but going down more! The war in the middle-east is not improving, for we just lost a helicopter and thirty-eight troops this week-end! Perhaps your personal finances, or your health, or your relationships are are not good! It is sometimes very difficult for us to look up. I have suffered many times with what we could call the BBB syndrome. Never heard of it? Well it is about three of God creatures; the buzzard, the bumble bee, and the bat. Place a buzzard in a fenced-in area eight feet by six feet with an open top and he is trapped. He needs at least ten feet to run before he can fly. Place a bumble bee in a cylinder with an open top and he will buzz around the bottom trying to find a way out until he dies. Place a bat on the ground and he will not be able to fly. He needs to be elevated on the side of a tree or cliff, for he must jump downward before he can start to fly. Let's not be guilty of always looking laterally but let's you and I look up.
It is the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self and surroundings, to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, "Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you don't have the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus." Ever heard that before? I have! All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within. The "Comforter", the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that "Christ is all in all". Jesus says, "I am rest for the weary; I am peace for the storm-tossed; I am strength for the strength less; I am wisdom for the foolish; I am righteousness for the sinful; I am all that the neediest soul on earth can want; I am exceeding abundantly, beyond all you can ask or thing, of blessing, and help, and care."
Jesus said of the Holy Spirit in John 16: "....for He shall not speak of Himself;...." then our Lord went on to say: "He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you."
Let the "Comforter" help you look away from self and circumstances, and look up. Look up to Jesus.
What's in a Name
What's in a name? How did you decide on a name for your children? I was named after my Dad's twin brother, who was names after my great-grandpa, Henry May. That's not as common today as it was. Many today give their children a name because they like the sound, or African American's give their children a African name, and those converted to the Muslim faith, give their children a Muslim name. In Bible language name always means character. Names are not given arbitrarily there, as with us, but are always given with reference to the character or work of the person names.
"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?"
Have you every though, why would the children of Israel need to ask Moses what God's name is? Remember they had been in Egypt's captivity for over 400 years. In Egypt, they had gods for everything, with many different names. By their question, they were asking Moses: "What is His name?, Who and what is this God of whom you speak? What is His character; what are His attributes; What does He do? In short, what sort of a being is He?" A close study of names given to God throughout the Old Testament does answer each of these questions. But at this point in time, God Himself answered this question for the Israelites. "And God said unto Moses, "I am that I Am"; Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you; this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." In this He was saying, I am everything to you, and for eternity. I am unchangeable, and that is what a God must be.
We find this in our Lord Jesus. In the Gospel of John Christ adopts this name of "I am" as His own. When the Jew were questioning Him as to His authority, He said unto them: "Very, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was I am." And in the Book of Revelation He again declares; "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." Now throughout the New Testament, and especially what He the does and what He teaches in the Gospels, we find what His name means; what His character is; what His attributes are; what does He do? In short, what sort of a being is He?
When we are faced with life's situations, and we ask, "What would Jesus do", we need to know Him personally, and then we need to know all we can about Him. Dan is teaching from the Gospel of Mark, chapter by chapter. If you have not been attending, let me encourage you to start. It has been great, and I learn something new each week about Jesus, His character and His attributes, who He is and what He does. Please join us at 9:45.
May God bless your Saturday, and always remember that you are loved!!!
Henry D. is from Southern Indiana and writes these wonderful daily devotionals to encourage those at the Dogwood Community Church located in Paoli, Indiana. Henry has graciously agreed to share these wonderful devotionals here at Without Excuse Ministries to encourage you our valued guest!