Archive | January, 2014

A Broader Selection

January 13, 2014

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The Calling of Matthew - 1502 - Vittore Carpaccio (1466–1525)

The Calling of Matthew – 1502 – Vittore Carpaccio (1466–1525)

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” – Matthew 9:9

When Jesus looked at Matthew, he saw the man. He didn’t see the publican, the dregs of society, nor a soul that should be overlooked.

As the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is recorded, we see him taking every opportunity to heal and teach. He doesn’t pick out just the more desirable people. He doesn’t even pick out those he knows would be appreciative or obedient to him afterward.

I realize am making a simple observation based only on my small portion of the world, but Christians probably need to get better at looking beyond the exteriors and seeing the people within. If we are to follow Jesus perfect example, then we need to see every soul as one with the potential to be saved.

There is plenty more that could be said, but I want to plant the idea like a seed to see where others would go with it. The challenge: How can we be better at introducing Christ?

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The Influence of Godly People

January 10, 2014

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Godly People will find favor from God and man

Godly People will find favor from God and man

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man. – Proverbs 3:3-4 ESV

Godly people should be living with an attitude of mercy and truth (Proverbs 3:3 KJV). It’s not genuine until it is rooted deep in our heart and reflected the actions that others can see.

Godly people not only try to love the sinner, they try to help them see the truth of their sinful ways

Godly people not only try help the unfortunate ones with their physical needs, they try to help them with their spiritual needs.

Godly people not only work quietly serving him, they make sure God’s light is very visible.

Godly people not only want to please God, they try to influence others to please him.

God need his children to do the work during this earthly lifetime. The “finding of favor in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4) sounds a lot like Luke 2:52 where Jesus growth caused him to increase in statue in the eyes of God and men. We can see then, that not only is it Godly to be influential – it is Christlike.

What are some ways you can become more Christlike in the eyes of your peers today?



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How to Build a Rock Solid Foundation

January 9, 2014

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Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890) - The Sermon On the Mount

Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890) – The Sermon On the Mount

Christ tells us in Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone that says they are living as a follower of Jesus will make it into heaven.

We have to be doing his will.

The thought of that should scare more people. Really, the thought of that should concern everyone that believes God is righteous and just. Both the saved and the lost will have been held up to God’s standards, so it is important to make sure we know exactly what those standards are. To some of us he will have no choice but to say “…depart from me, I never knew you …” (Matthew 7:23)

Thankfully, Jesus goes on to tell us how to avoid that – he says to “hear these words of mine and do them!” He likens that act to building a rock solid foundation that will support us throughout this earthly lifetime. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Here are a few random ideas for building a rock solid godly lifestyle:

  • Avoid screen time (T.V./Computer/Smartphone) that feeds you with “off-color” suggestive programming – they dull your senses to offensive material
  • Spend more time with people also trying to get to heaven – It helps control temptation
  • Challenge or research teachings that are different from what you are used to hearing – You will either learn from or correct someone what the Bible says

Obviously, I can’t leave off more Bible study. That alone should be the greatest portion of your foundation building activities. Knowing what the Bible actually says and not taking another’s word for it is critical to your salvation!

What are some things you can change to build a better foundation for you and your family?



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How God Answers Prayers

January 8, 2014

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God wants us to be in continuous contact!

God wants us to be in continuous contact!

One thing that God has made clear throughout the Bible is that he wants us to depend on him. If we look closely at Matthew 7:7-8 we have the essence of how Christ expects us to be able to live out his commandments.

  • We need to ask, and keep on asking –
  • We are to seek, and keep on seeking –
  • We should knock, and keep on knocking –

The Sermon on the Mount is a challenging lifestyle change for many, especially those in his audience at the time. He wanted all to know that God is listening and is ready to help us.

As a prayerful people, we will come to understand how God answers prayers. The first thing we might notice is that his response isn’t exactly a direct one. We should remember “No” is an answer too. Anything we pray for has the same possibilities as any other request. A prayer can be answered…

  • Gradually
  • Literally
  • Negatively
  • By giving us what we actually need
  • With delay

With a quick look around the Bible, we can know the proper attitude we should have to approach God in prayer:

  • We should not be living in sin (Psalm 66:18)
  • We need to have faith in the prayer and that God is listening (James 1:6-8)
  • It needs to offered the way God said to offer it (1 John 5:14)
  • We should do it persistently (Luke 18:1-8)
  • We should do it sincerely (Hebrews 10:22)

Today, take a close look at your prayer life. Is it one that let’s God know you need him and trust him?

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How to Give Better

January 7, 2014

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Selfless giving is required by Christians

Selfless giving is required of Christians

When I compare fund raising spectacles or events against Matthew 6:1-4, I wonder how much value they have as far as God is concerned.

On one hand, an event is paid for by someone with lots of money who intends to raise even more money for the cause the event is meant to support. On the surface it seems like a great way to make one’s money work even harder than it would if it had been given outright.

One the other hand, Matthew 6:1-4 says not to let attention be drawn to our giving.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Let me just throw out a few fast points about giving in no particular order:

  • We never see in the Bible where the source of giving or sacrificing came from anywhere other than personal possessions.
  • We do see where God has consistently expected people to be very generous.
  • The Bible teaches a balance of secrecy and letting our light shine.
  • Matthew 6:2 uses the word “when” not “if” regarding giving.

From what Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:1-4, the reward for those big showy charity events is self-contained. God doesn’t acknowledge them because of the pure self-serving nature of them.

Selfless giving is a requirement of Christianity. Liberal giving builds up credit in ways we’ll never fully grasp during this lifetime.

What can you do to improve your giving this year?

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Get Busy!

January 6, 2014

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The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew - between 1886 and 1894 -  James Tissot (1836–1902)

The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew – between 1886 and 1894 – James Tissot (1836–1902)

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus chose busy people when he selected his disciples?

A deacon that I used to go to church with often said, “If you need something done around here, ask a busy person.”

Peter, Andrew, James, and John were busy working the day Jesus called them. (Matthew 4:18-22) There is a lot of information to be gleaned about the disciples from that event:

  • They were hard workers
  • They knew people
  • They understood how to deal with challenges

By reading Matthew alone, it looks a little like they just dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus. But, If we look at all four Gospels we know they were familiar with him and knew his teachings. By this we know he doesn’t want us to be novices.

If we take a little time to look at the book of Hebrews, we see the writer addressing lazy Christians. (Hebrews 5:11-6:20) They weren’t spiritually growing and maturing so they were not growing the church – many were even backsliding! Our Christian growth never stops, much less the day we get baptized.

Being a Christian is a full time job. By looking at the kind of people that Jesus chose to work with him, we know he expects a few things from us:

  • We are to be diligent (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • We are to influence others (Matthew 5:13-16)
  • We are to be problem solvers (Romans 5:3-5)

So here is a challenge: Do a self-assessment and come up with some ways to improve these areas in yourself.

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How to Beat Satan

January 3, 2014

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“Again it is written …”

When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness he gave us this phrase, which might be the most important phrase in the Bible. (Matthew 4:7) When responding to a question about the Scriptures, we should be using the Scriptures!

Temptation of Christ - 16th Century - Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561)

Temptation of Christ – 16th Century – Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561)

The account of the temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) is a short one, but it holds some very heavy lessons. What jumps out at me is how powerful Satan really is. When Satan was tempting Jesus, he gave us an example of how well he can misuse the Scriptures.

It still happens all the time – Satan helps God’s enemies misuse the Scriptures. Those who wish to defend God often cannot, because their knowledge is not strong enough to stand against the attack on their beliefs. We’ve all heard the common ones:

  • Judge not lest ye be judged
  • Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake
  • Eat, drink, and be merry!
  • Be not overly righteous

The pro-gay community is getting really good at deflecting the Bible’s prohibition against homosexuality.

It is important that a Christian is able to respond to such temptations (or tests of our knowledge) with “It is written … ”

He must also be able to do so in context, and in the spirit the text was written.

If you are a Christian and desire to respond the same way Jesus showed us when he was tempted, there are some easy steps you can take:

  • Begin a daily devotional reading program.
  • Take extra time to study on a regular basis
  • Attend Bible classes at every opportunity
  • Set a goal to become a Bible teacher

Doing these things over the years will make you good at using the Bible the way God intended for it to be used.




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Free Advice

January 2, 2014

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The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:books

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:1-7


Off and on over the years I have followed an old suggestion that one should read a chapter of Proverbs a day. On the first day of the month read Proverbs 1, one the second day of the month read Proverbs 2, and so on. I especially did this when I was self-employed because I wanted to run my business with literally, the Wisdom of Solomon.

To finish the exercise, it is important to try and make application of some portion of the day’s reading. The opening lines of Proverbs tells us exactly the benefits of this wisdom to how we live and how we do business. The writer promises us most of what any self-help book published today tries to deliver:

  • Wisdom and instruction
  • Understanding
  • Wise dealings
  • Discretion

Often, what was given as a warning or suggestion in Proverbs, is found in the New Testament as a commandment. This is excellent reassurance that God had only the best intentions for us when He gave us His laws.

Solomon, through his God-given wisdom, knew all the answers. He left us with advice that can make us successful and productive. It’s no wonder that so many of Proverbs verses have a direct connection to the Apostle’s teachings!

If you have extra time beyond your current Bible reading plan, or if you are still trying to build a daily reading habit, try the “Proverbs chapter a day” plan for a few months.

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A Time for Everything

January 1, 2014

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I have been setting my goals for the year in December for a few years now. Some years are better than the others as far as sticking to them, but I like January 1st for no other reason than the clean slate I have ahead of me.

Lofty goals take time, planning and effort to reach them

Lofty goals take time, planning and effort to reach them.

Since Genesis 1 is listed on the first day of just about every published daily Bible reading plan, that clean start feeling is enhanced by reading it on January 1st. God’s creation is complete and is in the same state as our new goals (or resolutions):

  • The world is fresh and new
  • Adam and Eve haven’t had to make a critical decision yet
  • Nothing but perfection is visible

Keeping up with our goals is easy in the beginning. In the beginning nothing has caused us to choose between sticking to the plan and chasing another temptation. In the beginning, it looks like we’ll easily develop our new goals into lifelong habits.

Goals, like ideas, look great on paper. Goals, like ideas, without a plan to carry them out will most likely remain on the paper. Goals and ideas on paper aren’t worth very much.

Solomon reveals the basic philosophy behind making things happen. He tells us that there is a time for everything. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) Meeting goals requires prioritizing everything into its proper time.

Let me repeat that:

Meeting goals requires prioritizing everything into its proper time.

What that means is that items at the bottom of the priority list will probably not happen. The bottom of that list is where the time wasters belong – not the activities required to meet our goals.

Solomon said there is a time for every purpose – so for me, I want to ask myself more often if what I am doing has a purpose.

Have you set any goals for the year? Remember to plan sufficient time to work on them.

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