Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Ephes. 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, [3] being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; [5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

In the late 1800’s there were two deacons in a small Baptist church in Mayfield, KY. These two deacons didn’t get along and they always opposed each other in any decision related to the church. On one particular Sunday, one deacon put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the preacher could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged that he had not been consulted. People in the church took sides and eventually there was a spilt. To this day, they say you can still find the Anti-Peg Baptist Church in Mayfield, KY.

One of the worst things that can happen in a church is when God’s people begin to fight instead of working together. Yet it happens all the time. History is full of sad stories about Christians fighting among themselves. Let me share one that I recently read.

Tradition claims that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the cave in which Christ is said to have been buried. In July 2002, the church became the scene of ugly fighting between the monks who run it. The conflict began when a Coptic monk sitting on the rooftop decided to move his chair into the shade. This took him into the part of the rooftop courtyard looked after by the Ethiopian monks.

It turns out that the Ethiopian and Coptic monks have been arguing over the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for centuries. In 1752 the Ottoman Sultan issued an edict declaring which parts of the Church belong to each of six Christian groups: the Latins, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Copts, and Ethiopians. Despite the edict, conflict over the church remains.

The rooftop had been controlled by the Ethiopians, but they lost control to the Copts when hit by a disease epidemic in the 19th century. Then in 1970 the Ethiopians regained control when the Coptic monks were absent for a short period. They have been squatting there ever since, with at least one Ethiopian monk always remaining on the roof to assert their rights. In response a Coptic monk has been living on the roof also, to maintain the claim of the Copts.

This brings us to a Monday in July 2002, when the Coptic monk moved his chair into the shade. Harsh words led to pushes, then shoves, until an all out brawl ensued, including the throwing of chairs and iron bars. At the end of the fight 11 monks were injured, including one monk unconscious in hospital and another with a broken arm.

How tragic that a church which serves as a memorial to Christ is the scene for such bitter conflict among those who claim to be his followers. This is a far cry from Christ’s call to love one another, turn the other cheek, and his prayer that his followers might "be one".

When the church is divided it always produces tragic results. On the other hand, when the church is unified it unleashes a power that cannot be stopped. In the book of Ephesians, more than any of Paul’s letters, he calls the church to unity. Paul mentions the unity of the church 18 times in this letter. You see, unity is essential in the church because it brings glory to God and it reflects one of God’s key attributes. Moments before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed for the church that would be established after his death and resurrection. He didn’t pray for large buildings or church growth. He asked for only one thing: “I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” If we’re going to be the kind of people God intends, then we need to be unified.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.

This verse doesn't teach that we should seek popularity for its own sake. In fact, popularity can disappear just as quickly as wealth. Neither does it counsel us to continuously wonder what other people think of us or labor to get them to like us. Popularity can be a stumbling block in fulfilling God’s will. Note Paul’s words in Galatians 1:10. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Today’s verse means we should live consistent lives that are above reproach. This applies particularly to money; we must be seen to be honest in the way we acquire it and wise in the way we use it. As Christians we bear Christ's name and his reputation is linked with ours. People are prone to judge our Lord by us.

May God grant us the grace and the wisdom to seek a good name over riches. Having a good name and reputation because of good character is to be valued far above having much wealth. Riches are useless if in gaining them one ruins his character.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

James 1:19-27 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; [20] for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. [21] Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. [22] But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. [23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. [25] But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. [26] If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

I believe James’s teaching in this passage needs to be proclaimed in every church in America. God is not fooled by people who come to church, listen to the Word of God proclaimed, and yet never act on what they hear. God is not fooled by people who claim to believe His Word when in fact their lives remain unchanged.

Do you know that 60 percent of Americans claim to be “born again” believers? Listen, if this were actually true America would be a different country. The sexual immorality, materialism and selfishness that presently pervade this nation would be greatly diminished. Our politicians and judges would not get away with calling good evil and calling evil good. Over 50 percent of all marriages would not end in divorce. If 60 percent of Americans were truly Doers of the Word righteousness would prevail in America and spill over into uttermost parts of the earth. As it stands today, America’s greatest export is filth and wickedness.

What about you this morning? Are you a Doer of the Word or merely a hearer who has deluded yourself? Are you a person who claims to be believer, but yet your life remains unchanged? Is your faith dead or alive? Folks this is so important! Listen, church goers do not inherit eternal life. Hearers of the Word only do not inherit eternal life. So called believers with dead faith do not inherit eternal life. Only Doers of the Word inherit eternal life! That’s why I am sharing this message. I want each and every one of you to inherit eternal life. My Heavenly Father desires that none should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth! Please hear and respond to His Word this morning.

Now I want you to understand that James is not saying and I am not saying that you earn salvation by doing. Salvation comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. If you have faith in Jesus Christ you will become a “Doer of the Word.” Saving faith changes your life! Dead faith leaves you just as you are!

Christian, are you a Doer of the Word or a forgetful Hearer? Do you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in continually stripping off the old humanity? Are you humbly receiving and submitting to the Word. Is it your “how to guide for life?” Or are you conveniently picking and choosing what you’ll obey and what you’ll ignore. To do so is the height of pride. As James will say later “God gives grace to the humble but He resists the proud.” Do you feel like God is resisting you? Maybe you need to examine your life more closely this morning. If God is resisting you it’s due to the fact you have been to proud to do things His way. Are you abiding in the Word? Is your life marked by self-control, acts of service to meet the needs of others and holiness? Are you a Doer of the Word? Don’t be deceived! Only Doers of the Word inherit eternal life because their faith is genuine!

Folks let me clear up any confusion you might have. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. But if we are truly saved then we shall be Doers of the Word! If you are a Hearer only and not a Doer your lost! If you claim to be believer and there is no fruit or “works” to use James’s words, to verify or prove genuine your faith then you’re lost! So I ask again; are you a Doer of the Word? If not, then the first step in becoming a Doer of the Word is believing in the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Will you turn away from your sin and believe in Jesus Christ? Will you become a Doer of the Word?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Proverbs 20:9
Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart,
I am pure from my sin"?

This proverb is put in the form of a question: "who can say?" Of course the answer is “no one”. This proverb proclaims the universal sinfulness of the human heart. This sad reality is confirmed in other Scriptures such as Romans 3:10 which says, “There is none righteous, not even one.”

You’ll notice the proverb is in the first person singular because each of us individually has to realize and acknowledge our sinfulness. Many struggle with the concept of total depravity in our politically correct and theologically inept society. But total depravity alone explains why behave as we do. There is no other explanation. Those who are bewildered by humanity’s deceitfulness, selfishness and violence have never faced up to this horrifying truth.

The bad news is “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The good news is, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26)

Do you want to have a cleansed heart? Keep looking to Jesus!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Don't Blame God

Proverbs 19:3 NLT People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.

This truth of this verse has been confirmed often in my ministry. I have known many people who have chosen to live as if God did not exist or like He is irrelevant. They foolishly chose to ignore God’s revelation and they rejected the wisdom of His Word. Eventually they reaped the results of their rebellion and folly; a ruined life.

Some of those shattered souls cried out to the Lord for forgiveness, accepting responsibility for their sinful and foolish rebellion. In His mercy and grace, the Lord forgave them and slowly rebuilt their ruined lives. But far too many became angry and bitter at God. Instead of asking for forgiveness and repenting of their folly, they angrily cursed Him. They blamed God and anyone else within pointing range for the destruction caused by their own foolish choices. Their bitterness separated them from the only One who could repair their broken lives.

Is your life a mess? Don’t give into the temptation to angrily blame God for your foolish choices. Instead, confess your folly and seek His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Col. 2:16-23 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. [17] These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. [18] Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, [19] and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. [20] If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— [21] "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Some time ago, I was watching the TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. One of the questions was how did God first appear to Moses. The man correctly answered in a burning bush. The shows host responded, “That’s right yes He did.” Then she said, “Actually we don’t know if God is a man or a woman.” Her remark is representative of the religious confusion in our country. Most people in this nation have no idea who God is or what He requires of them. I refer to God as He because this is how the Bible refers to Him. It is true that God is not a man. The Bible says God is spirit. John 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

I told you this story because it exemplifies what is happening in our nation. Unfortunately it also exemplifies what is taking place in the church. Many people are being led away from faith in Christ by false religious teachings and philosophies. These false teachings and philosophies are not new. The church has had to deal with them from its beginning. In fact, every book in the New Testament except Philemon mentions the dangers of false teaching. In Christ’s letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation He warned and rebuked the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira because they had allowed themselves to be influenced by false teachers. I wonder what Christ would write to the church in America today. I am sure He would also rebuke and warn us!

Man is a very religious creature. He is going to worship something even if it means worshiping himself. Because of man’s religious nature and his sinfulness many religions have been developed. Unfortunately these religions serve as religious substitutes for the true faith in Christ. Many of these substitutes are very deceptive because they use Christian terminology. We must not let this fool us. False religion will always provide some other way to God than Jesus Christ. My goal in sharing this devotion is to help you recognize and avoid these religious substitutes. This morning’s text describes three specific religious substitutes for faith in Jesus Christ. They are legalism, mysticism, and asceticism. Every false religion or philosophy is based upon one or a combination of these religious substitutes. Dear People of God, beware of any so-called religious substitutes for Christ!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Partnership for the Gospel

Philip. 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

This morning's devotion will focus on Greek word koinonia from Philippians 1:5. In the NIV, RSV, NAB and HCSB this word is translated partnership. In some other versions such as the KJV, ASV and NKJV the word is translated fellowship. In the NASB and NET, koinonia is translated participation. In the NRSV the word has been translated sharing. In the NLT the word has been translated as partners spreading. My point in sharing with you how all the different English versions translate this word is to show the difficulty in translation. This is why it's important that you look at several English translations when studying the Bible. When several translations disagree then it means the word or phrase likely has several different meanings. This is the case with the word koinonia. In fact, koinonia has even more meanings than reflected in this text. It can also refer to an offering or collection. This is this word from which we get our word coin

I believe the best translation of koinonia is partnership because it best fits the context of the letter. Paul and Philippian church were fellow participants for the advancement of the gospel. In other words, they were in partnership. Their partnership was marked by an intimate relationship with one another. It was based upon mutual love, respect and the common goal of advancing the gospel.

Why am I talking about partnership this morning? Our LVCC family has been granted the incredible privilege and opportunity to enter into a partnership with some dear friends for the advancement of the gospel in Central Asia. I pray that each of you will answer God's invitation to participate by praying, giving and going!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Love your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's. These tumultuous years were marked by the cold war with the former Soviet Union. In grade school we used to have drills in preparation for a nuclear attack by the Soviets. I hated the Soviets because I believed they wanted to destroy our country. This hatred and animosity intensified when I joined the Air Force. All Air Force personnel were shown films about our enemy’s intentions and efforts to destroy our way of life. I took that threat very personally and seriously. I viewed the Soviet Union as an evil empire and a godless people.

This past week I did something that I never thought possible. I spent a week in a Russia and I worshipped God there. I worshipped God in the land of my former enemies and the hatred in my heart has been transformed to love. What an amazing glorious God we serve! He changes the hearts of people and makes former enemies brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dear people of God love your enemies and overcome evil with good. When we respond this way we are imitating our Heavenly Father. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Friday, May 05, 2006

1 Tim. 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, [2] older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.

In First Timothy chapter 5, verses 1 and 2, the apostle Paul advises Timothy on how to relate effectively to individuals who make up various groups in the church. Paul’s advice was that Timothy handle people in various age groups as he would members of his own family. Once again, we see that the home is the training ground for relationships and ministry in the church and the world.

It is so important that we learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships in our homes. If we fail to learn these lessons at home, it will greatly diminish our ability to relate properly to others. This is why we who are parents must faithfully teach our children these skills if we want them to succeed and prosper in life. I have seen very gifted and talented people fail to reach their potential because they could not get along with others.

This morning I would like to recommend an excellent resource that will help you in developing and maintaining healthy relationships in your families. It's entitled Peace Making for Families by Ken Sande. The book is primarily a Biblical guide for handling family conflict. More than that, it will teach you how to relate to your family in ways that are Spirit led and glorifying to God.

Healthy families are the foundation of a healthy church and they bring God glory. I'm praying for your families (LVCC). May God be glorified in your homes through healthy relationships!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Psalm 34:1-3
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
[2] My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
[3] Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

Dear people of God, how different our lives would be if we would follow David's example in Psalm 34:1-3! So often our focus is on ourselves and our circumstances. Sadly, our natural nearsightedness keeps us from recognizing and acknowledging the incomprehensible goodness and greatness of our LORD.

What would happen if we deliberately chose to praise Him in every circumstance whether good or bad? If we truly believe in God's Sovereignty this should be an easy choice to make! Furthermore, if we believe that God is good and loving then we should be able to praise Him at all times! His praise should always be on our lips!

Romans 8:28 says: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Everything that happens in our lives passes through the hands of our Lord and He is working it out for our good and His glory. We may not enjoy or even understand what's happening in our lives, but we can always praise God because we know it's for our good! Folks don't listen to your feelings! Trust in God’s Word and give Him praise! It will change your outlook on life. I guarantee it.

I know someone who is enduring terminal cancer who would testify to the truth of these words. I know another who needs a heart transplant who would shout “Sure enough!” I know a third person who is facing Alzheimer’s who would also agree. Most of you know the folks I’m talking about. They are praising God in the midst of great adversity. His praise is always on their lips. Many lives are being touched by their faithful endurance as they rely on God’s enabling grace. I have personally heard each of them boast in the Lord in the midst of their suffering.

Father, I thank you for these three and their testimonies. Please continue to sustain them with your grace! Please continue to fill their mouths with your praise. Your power is perfected in weakness and your grace is sufficient for every circumstance. Help the rest of us to learn from their examples. Amen.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [6] In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Each day we are required to make many decisions. Hopefully, our desire is to make decisions that are pleasing to God and fulfill His will and purpose for our lives. How do we go about making wise decisions? Over the years I have leaned on the wisdom packed into these two short verses.

The first key to making wise decisions is to trust God completely. He delights in giving us guidance and direction. He wants us know to know His will and purpose more than we desire to know them. Bit if we fail to trust God, for whatever reason, we will not be blessed with His guidance. Remember, He reserves His wisdom and guidance for those who seek Him. If we truly trust God, we will ask Him for wisdom, wait for his answer and refuse to develop an alternate plan.

This leads to the second key for making wise decisions. Do not lean on your own understanding! I cannot emphasize this point enough. God is omniscient and we are not. In other words, He knows everything and we know very little. So does it make sense to depend on our own limited understanding when we know the One who knows everything? Folks, leaning on our minute understanding is what gets us into trouble! Think of the number foolish decisions you have made because you chose to depend on your own wisdom rather than God’s. Ouch!!

The third key to making wise decisions is to acknowledge God in all your ways. Another way of communication this would be to say, “be so intimate with God that you talk to Him about even the smallest details of your life and then submit to His will.” No detail of you life is too small for God’s concern!

If you’ll apply these three keys, then you can count on the promise contained in these verses: He will make your paths straight. God will remove the obstacles, make a smooth path and bring us to the appointed destination. I like what Eric Lane says about this promise:
Most people would give a lot to be sure of this. For us creatures of time the future is at once a reality and an uncertainty. We know there is a future but we don't know what it holds. God offers us a future in which we can see our way ahead clearly, like a straight road with no obstacles to hinder us (cf. v.23, 4:11f). This may sound too good to be true — like an offer of infallible foresight combined with a cosmic bulldozer to cut out all the corners and flatten all the bumps. This is not what it means or even says, for it is he (God) who makes our path straight. A path is only a way to a destination. Our destination is sure — final glory, to which we are predestined’ (Rom. 8:29). It is what happens on the way that is uncertain. The bus to London has its destination on the front, but what sort of journey will it be?
A journey is marked by many decisions along the way. I urge to trust God for the wisdom to make each one!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

1 Tim. 3:5 For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

This verse is from a passage that details the standards for elders in God’s church. I review it often because it reminds me not to neglect my responsibilities at home. It doesn’t matter how well I take care of God’s church if I fail to manage my own household. Failure at home disqualifies me from shepherding God’s people. This makes perfect sense! If I cannot love, serve and nurture the three people who live with me, how I am going to minister to God’s people? All ministry begins at home and our homes are the training ground for ministry. This is God’s design.

Folks, this principle is not just for elders but every Christian. Our effectiveness in ministering to others will be largely determined by our faithfulness at home. If we fail to love our husbands, wives and children, can we really love those outside our families? If we neglect the development of healthy relationships at home isn’t it foolish to assume that we will be able to do so with other people? If we neglect to nurture and disciple our families do we have the credibility to teach others?

I recognize that learning to manage our homes is a life long process. None of us have it all together. But are we cooperating with the Holy Spirit? Are we becoming “Doers of the Word” and not “Hearers only?”

Before any of us contemplate becoming involved in ministry to others we need to ask ourselves this all important question: Am I managing my responsibilities at home in such a way that God is glorified and my family is edified? I challenge you to ask you spouse and children that same question. Most importantly, ask your Lord.

16 years ago, I resigned from the pastorate to care for my wife Melinda who was seriously ill. I resigned because of 1 Timothy 3:5. I found it impossible to properly care for her needs, raise my son and meet the demands of shepherding a church. I continued to serve God’s people, but in less demanding ways. I thank God I made that decision and I’m certain I was in the center of His perfect will.

After Melinda passed away, the Lord reopened the doors to the pastorate. The church that called me did so not because of my education or abilities but because of my faithfulness at home. I give God all the credit for my testimony. I would not have been faithful apart from His enabling grace. I was tempted to give up many times but I thank God His power was perfected in my weakness.

The Lord knows that I am not trying to discourage any of you from ministering to others! There’s so much ministry that needs to be done! But the Bible teaches that ministry begins at home. Be faithful at home and God will expand your ministry in His time.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Traveling Mercies

Psalm 121:1-8
A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
[2] My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
[3] He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
[4] Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
[5] The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
[6] The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
[7] The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
[8] The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

As many of you know, I’m about to take a long trip. For the first time in my life I’m going to leave the borders of North America. I’m going to a country that was once our country’s greatest adversary. My purpose for going is my Dad’s business. He has people there He wants to invite into our family.

I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that every once in a while I feel some apprehension. For example, I don’t particularly like to fly. This trip requires that I spend almost two entire days on an airplane. My prayer life always radically improves when I fly!

I found great comfort and assurance in this morning’s Psalms. As is my habit on the first day of the month, I read Psalm 1,31,61,91 and 121. The last four Psalms happen to major on the theme of God’s protection. I found verse 8 of Psalm 121 particularly comforting. “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

This verse goes beyond guaranteeing traveling mercies. Someday it will be time for me to make the journey from this world to the next. In fact, that day is already on God’s calendar. This verse promises that the He will see to it that I safely reach my destination!