LIGHT – OR- DARKNESS?

MATTHEW 6:22-23: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have I had my spiritual eyesight checked lately? How do I see the world and others? What do I allow to enter into my life through the lamp of my eyes? As I read these verses I am moved to contemplate these questions.

Have you ever flunked an eye test? I have, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. It was the simple test – “Which looks clearer, A or B, 1 or 2.” I don’t know what was going on that day but the optometrist said – “We are going to have to start all over because your answers are all over the place.” I flunked my eye test!

I am nearsighted. When I take my glasses off I can only see things that are close up. Everything else becomes very fuzzy and indistinguishable. This is true in my physical life. Yet, it is also true in my spiritual life. My spiritual eyes can become cloudy and dim if I am not careful. Just as with my physical eyes, the issue is focus. Without my glasses, I lose my visual focus. Without understanding the words of Jesus, I can lose my spiritual focus.

We have two dominant senses. They are sight and hearing. The other senses are important but these two lead the way. And, of the two, I believe sight is the most important. We can hear a noise, but it is through our eyes that we gain understanding of what the noise is and where it is coming from. Our eyes truly are the lamp of the body.

What we give our eyes to will determine whether we are walking in darkness or light. What we look upon, what we focus on, what we read, these all have a dramatic impact on who we become and what we do. If we allow our eyes to look upon the wrong things then our thoughts will be focused in the wrong direction. And, what we think about we will eventually act upon. This is why Jesus said,

  • “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”

Being a child of God, and allowing our light to become darkness, is like being nearsighted and driving without corrective lenses. We lose our focus. We begin to allow thoughts that we should not allow to enter into our mind. Our convictions begin to weaken as our spiritual sight becomes dimmer. And, like a driver who takes his eyes off the road, we soon find ourselves driving off the side of the road and into a rut!

Job understood the importance of what he allowed into his eyes. When faced with the temptation of lust, Job proclaimed,

  • “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” Job‬ ‭31:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When I received my new Florida drivers license it specified that I need to wear corrective lenses when I drive. In essence, I made a covenant with my eyes to be given the privilege to drive. I know how dangerous it is to drive without my glasses. In the same way I need to make a covenant with my spiritual eyes. I need to give my eyes to the Lord and use them for His glory.

When I set my eyes apart for the Lord, when I covenant to use them for His glory, my mind, soul, and body are filled with light. His Word becomes my daily focus. His glory becomes my daily pursuit. His will becomes my daily prayer. If ever there was a day when I needed my spiritual eyes to be 20-20 – it is today!

Lord, help me to make a covenant with my eyes today. Help me to give my eyes to Your light. Fill my heart, soul, mind, and body with Your light and lead me in the pathway of Your righteousness. And, if my eyes begin to wander, convict me and correct me by Your Holy Spirit.

Let the light in me be Your light!

In Jesus Name!

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I WANT OUT!


PSALM 55:6-8: “So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. Selah I would hasten my escape From the windy storm and tempest.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: I want out! I want out of this relationship. I want out of this crummy job. I want out of this responsibility. I want out of this church. I want out of this marriage. I want out of this trial and struggle.

I WANT OUT!

Have you ever felt like this? Are you feeling like this now? What a wonderful comfort the Word of God is to us at times like this. It reminds us that we are not alone. Even a man after God’s own heart, King David, wanted out! If he could, he would be lifted up from all his problems on the wings of a dove, and just fly away from the windy storm and tempest he was facing.

YET, THIS IS NEVER THE REALITY!

We cannot escape our problems. We can try. Many people leave jobs, marriages, responsibilities, churches, relationships, and locations. They think they can simply run from the problem and get a new clean start somewhere new, or with someone new. Yet, they have forgotten one important thing. When they run away from these circumstances they run away with the same heart that they had in the circumstances they are trying to escape.

A HEART CHANGE IS WHAT IS NEEDED!

David was facing one of the greatest trials anyone can go through. It was the betrayal of a dear and close friend.

  • “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; Then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, My companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, And walked to the house of God in the throng.” Psalms‬ ‭55:12-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As a pastor I know this pain. It is one of the most painful experiences any pastor or person can face. Someone whom you have confided in, someone you have trusted, someone you have poured your heart and life into – becomes your enemy. Without explanation, without an apparent cause, you are suddenly cut off. All attempts at reconciliation are rejected. You feel alone, confused, deeply wounded, and lost.

In the ministry this is where many pastors leave their churches. Pastors are no different than anyone else. They think that a new opportunity will fix the problem. It doesn’t. We can never run from our problems.

WE NEED TO FACE OUR PROBLEMS!

When you read the remainder of Psalm 55 it has some pretty tough and raw language. David wants to see God judge those who are his enemies. This was common in many of the Psalms and it is an honest assessment of how we often feel.

HOWEVER, DAVID NEVER TOOK ACTION ON HIS FEELINGS!

David entrusted His care and God’s dealings with those who had hurt him – to God alone!

  • “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; But I will trust in You.” Psalms‬ ‭55:22-23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

From a New Testament perspective we understand that we should pray for our enemies to be saved and restored. We don’t want to be like James and John, the sons of Thunder, calling down fire from heaven to consume them! Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Jesus also came to heal the broken-hearted. And when we are broken-hearted, when we feel like we are trapped in a corner, when there looks like no way out…

WE NEED TO CAST OUR BURDEN ON THE LORD!

David, in faith proclaims – “…And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” I have found that running from my problems never works. It only creates new and greater problems. Yet, when I cast my cares upon the Lord, when I determine to stand steadfast in the faith, and when I come to Him in humility and surrender…

HE ALWAYS MEETS ME WITH HIS GRACE!

Lord, this morning there are things that I wish I could fly away from. Yet, I come to You in humility and surrender and ask You for grace to cast all my cares upon You. And, as I cast my cares upon You today…

HELP ME NOT TO PICK THEM UP AGAIN!

In Jesus Name!

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THE GIFT OF REVELATION…

LUKE 24:45: “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: There is a difference between information and revelation. The world is filled with information. Yet, there is a dearth of revelation. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes all were masters of the Scriptures in Jesus’ day. Yet, they too were filled with information but lacked the revelation needed to truly see Jesus.

The greatest gift that we can receive from the Lord is revelation. The word revelation simply means to unveil something. It is not something that cannot be known. It is something that can only be known with assistance. It is like a grand sculpture, that is veiled from the public, and is just waiting for the artist to remove the tarp so all can behold what is behind it.

Following Jesus’ resurrection there were several encounters that Jesus had with his disciples and followers. In each of these encounters we find a common experience. They did not immediately recognize Jesus. It was not until He opened the Word of God to them and revealed Himself that they saw Him as the risen Christ. Such was the experience of the two men on the road to Emmaus when they met Jesus.

  • “And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Luke‬ ‭24:32-34‬ ‭NKJV

Then, as the disciples were gathered together, and as Jesus began to give them His final instructions, He opened their understanding to the Scriptures. He revealed the fulfillment of all He had taught them and He promised them that they would receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, so that they could walk in this gift of revelation as they fulfilled His call to proclaim the Gospel to the world!

  • “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke‬ ‭24:46-49‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In the Gospel of John, Jesus elaborated on this gift of revelation through the Holy Spirit.

  • “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John‬ ‭14:25-26‬ ‭NKJV‬
  • “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” ‭‭John‬ ‭16:13-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬

Why is it that there is so little transformation in the life of believers today? It is because there is so much information but so little revelation. We can attend church services, bible studies, go to concerts, and read book after book. However, if we are not abiding in the Spirit of God and receiving His revelation it is nothing but information. Information alone can never bring transformation. Only the Holy Spirit can bring the revelation of God that is needed for true transformation – into the heart of man.

  • “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”

Lord, this morning I pray for revelation. I pray for an unveiling of Your Word in my heart. I pray that I can see Jesus in every page of Scripture in all of His glory. I pray that my heart will be transformed and that my eyes will be opened to Your will for my life. Lord, open my understanding that I might comprehend the Scriptures.

In Jesus Name!

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IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!

LUKE 23:39-43: “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: It is never too late! These are the words that rushed to my heart as I read this familiar passage of Scripture. And, it reminded me of a story from my early days as a young pastor.

I was merely 23 years of age. Fresh out of college and filled with hopes and dreams of serving the Lord. A small community church in Mt. Baldy, California gave me the wonderful opportunity of serving as their pastor. When we started, there was only a small handful of faithful people who attended. Yet, the Lord began to do some wonderful things in this small church.

I will never forget one Sunday when I met a dear saint named Betty. She was a sweet spirit-filled woman, later in years, and she fell in love with our little church. She would drive from the valley each Sunday with a friend up the mountain to join us for worship. She would also join us for our weekly Bible study down the hill in Upland, California.

One evening Betty shared with our small study her deepest heart’s cry. For years she had been married to a man who she termed mean spirited and vehemently opposed to her Christian faith. She would constantly pray for her husband Bill, yet year after year it seemed her prayers were not answered. She asked us all to pray for Bill. As we did we encouraged her to ask him to come with her one Sunday.

I will never forget the Sunday I met Bill. For some reason he accepted Betty’s invitation. He really liked the mountains, so he thought – “Why not?”. As we worshipped, as we prayed, and as I shared God’s Word I could see something taking place in Bill’s life. We spoke briefly after the service and he said he enjoyed it and would be back. Then Bill began to come, Sunday after Sunday. He gave his heart to the Lord and I never met the old Bill that Betty had prayed for. My only privilege was to know the new Bill.

Bill lived a few years after that and then went home to be with the Lord. When I think of Bill and Betty I think of the thief on the cross. No matter what the circumstances look like in life it is never too late! However, I am also reminded that Betty had a great part in the end of this story. What if Betty would have given up? What if she would have stopped praying? What if she never crossed the doorway of our small mountain church?

Betty kept seeking, knocking, and praying. She grew discouraged over the years – but she never gave up. She knew in her heart that with the Lord – it is never too late.

I know that I am about to move into an area of speculation here, yet I am willing to take the chance. The great John Wesley once said – “God does nothing but through believing prayer.” In the story of the thief on the cross there is one person we never hear about. It is the person who kept praying for this thief. The person who would not give up. The person who knew that with the Lord it was never too late. The person who’s prayers ushered this man into the arms of Jesus and into Paradise!

We are like the disciples in the garden. We grow weary and tired. Yet, Jesus calls us to watch and pray. He calls us to persevere in prayer. He calls us to a heart filled with faith. There are many thieves and many Bills still destined for the Kingdom of God. Faith does not respond by what we see. Faith responds in obedience to God’s calling and promises. And, his calling is to watch and pray! Nothing is impossible, nothing is beyond the Grace of God – to those who believe!

Lord, grant me the grace to persevere in prayer for those you have placed in my life. May I never give up praying for those who have strayed, those who are struggling, and those who desperately need a healing touch from You! May I look at the mountain of circumstances that say it is impossible and cry out –

“With my Lord Jesus Christ – IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!”

In Jesus Name!

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THE WIDOW’S TWO MITES…

LUKE 21:1-4: “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: What is the significance of the widow’s two mites? This passage has always intrigued me whenever I have read it. Recently, while having lunch with a friend from church, I was given a widow’s mite from Israel. He indicated that it was still in circulation today and that he had purchased a bag full of them for about $2.00. As I placed this mite in my pocket I again wondered – “What is the significance of the widow’s mite?”

This passage of Scripture has been misused by some to extract an offering from those who either were not willing or were giving their offering for the wrong reason. Jesus was not focusing on the relative amount of the offering compared to the person’s resources as much as the motivation of the offering compared to the person’s heart.

The rich were contrasted with this poor widow. The rich were there giving their offering out of the abundance they had and for a show of piety before others. The widow was giving up her last two coins out of her poverty and her need. The motive of the rich was to receive the praise of men. The motive of the widow was to quietly worship the Lord.

It is important to note how truly poor this widow was. The mite was the smallest coin in circulation in the Roman occupied territory. Some give it a value of 1/5 or a cent. What would two mites buy? They would not even be enough to buy a turtle dove to give as a free will offering. In fact, two mites would possibly be able to purchase 2-3 grapes. That was the extent of their worth.

Why was this widow’s offering such an act of worship? Why did Jesus take time to note her and use it as a teaching example for us all? The widow had a choice as she came to worship. She could cling to her own resources or she could place her entire life on the altar – placing her full trust in the Lord for his provision.

The widow chose to cast all her cares upon the Lord! She knew that He alone could sustain her. For her to put her trust in a two mere mites was nothing but foolish. Yet, to let go of those two mites as she cast her cares upon the Lord was an act of sacrificial worship.

It takes an act of surrender and faith to let go of everything we are holding onto. Yet, this is exactly what worship is. It is laying down our life, our rights, our hopes, our dreams, on the altar of God, in absolute surrender. It is saying – “Not my will, but Your will be done.” It is taking up our cross daily and following Jesus. It is living for God’s glory, not for the glory or praise of man.

I believe no one else noticed this poor widow except Jesus. To others she was invisible. This is because they did not see with eyes of faith as Jesus did. While the crowd praised those who made great pretense about their offering, this poor widow simply came and went without any show or recognition. In fact, if it was not for Jesus we never would have known about her.

As I reflect upon these verses I need to ask myself – “What is my motivation in worship?” Am I coming to the altar so that God will do something for me? Or, am I coming to the altar to lay down my life so that I can do something for God? These verses are not about extracting the last two coins from the poor and needy. They are a reminder of the call to worship and surrender for us all!

As I think about the widow and her two mites I am reminded of Peter’s exhortation.

  • “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:5-7 NKJV

The widow gave all she had in absolute surrender and humility. Lord, give me the heart of this widow. Give me the grace to humble myself today, to cast all my cares upon you, and to lay down my life for You.

Lord, help me release the two mites that I have clenched in my hand.

In Jesus Name!

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AM I A PHARISEE?

LUKE 18:9-14: “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Am I a Pharisee? Do I look at others with a sense of superiority and disdain? In the divided country that we live in, do I find myself mocking those who do not agree with me, or do I find myself praying for them?

My father was a gifted operatic tenor. His passion was to sing for the Lord. One of his favorite songs was the Tax Collector and the Publican. Whenever he sang this song at church I could sense that it was more than a song to him. It was a profession of his faith and his understanding of his brokenness before the Lord.

Brokenness is something we lack in this day of division and hatred. It is easy to name call and to compare ourselves with others. Yet, it is difficult to look squarely in the mirror and take an honest look at ourselves. I think the truth is we are really afraid to do so.

When I read this parable of Jesus I don’t know who to identify with. I don’t want to be like the Pharisee who was focused on his own self-righteousness. I also don’t want to be like the Tax Collector who was focused on his brokenness. In a sense I feel lost between the two.

As I read this parable again this morning I pondered over this dilemma. I want to be humble before the Lord. Yet, I don’t want to be satisfied with living in my sin. There has to be something I am missing. And, what I am missing is the true focus of this parable. The true focus is not on the actions of these two individuals. It is on their heart.

One heart was filled with pride. The other was filled with humility. One came boasting. The other came repenting. One came to show his piety. The other came to discover it. One left justified and cleansed. The other left bound in his brokenness.

When I humble my heart before the Lord I realize – “…but by the grace of God there go I.” Whatever victory in my life I have experienced, it is by the grace of God. Whatever cleansing I have received, it is by the grace of God. When I stand before Him I am humbled to be reminded that everything I am is because of Jesus.

This parable was not condoning a lifestyle, or encouraging someone to be content with living in their sin as long as they go to church each Sunday and say a prayer. This parable was calling us to live in recognition of the grace of God in a spirit and posture of humility. It is by grace that we have been saved. It is not of any work or merit that we have offered or done.

Pharisees come in all shapes and sizes and in all political parties. Tax collectors are rare in our day. To walk in humility and recognize our own brokenness calls us to have compassion on others as God has had compassion on us. Can you imagine what would happen in the public arena if we walked in humility one with another?

Humility is not the call we shout to the crowd. Humility is the call of God to one heart, and one heart’s response to this call. While it is true that there is a lack of humility in our society, it is not my call to tell others to be humble. It is my call to humble myself under the mighty hand of God and walk in love towards others. I am always one step away from being Pharisaical. I need God’s grace each and every day.

Lord, help me to humble my heart before You today. Help me to walk in humility toward my fellow man. Give me grace to love everyone with the love that You have given me. In this broken world filled with hate, help me to live as a beacon of Your light, Your life, and Your grace.

In Jesus Name!

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AND THE WINNER IS…

LUKE 17:7-10: “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” NKJV

OBSERVATION: And, the winner is… It is award season again. It is that time of the year when the world gathers to watch the elite of our world shower each other with praise and give away a statute or plaque that symbolizes their great achievements. As the music crescendos, and the camera pans, we hear,

“And the winner is…”

To be honest, I have stopped watching these shows a long time ago. My wife likes to watch the red carpet preview to see the gowns the women are wearing, Yet, after a few minutes into most of these award shows we usually turn it off. It is not merely because of the sense of peer worship that is going on. It is mainly because what they are celebrating is so diametrically opposed to our values.

What is the takeaway from these experiences and the teaching of Jesus that is noted in this passage from Luke? The servant of God is never to make their personal reward or recognition the goal of their service. A servant of God is to be joyful simply to serve – even when there is not thanks or recognition that follows.

  • “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”

This runs counter to how we are wired. We all like to be thanked and appreciated. In fact, when we are not recognized we can get downright mad. All we have to do is think about the example of Martha and Mary. Martha was busy preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples, while Mary simply sat at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching. Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s unwillingness to help. However, I think it was more about Martha not getting an accolade from Jesus than not getting help from Mary.

We set ourselves up for disappointment in life when we do things for others in order to receive something back in return. If we give something with such an expectation it is really not a gift at all. In Jesus’ example he notes a servant that simply does his duty without expecting anything in return. Why? Because it is his duty. He is faithful because that is what his calling is. He is not employed to receive accolades and praise. He is employed to serve.

Some may cry – unfair! Doesn’t the Lord appreciate me? Doesn’t anyone care? The Lord does care. He watches us and never forgets one act of love, service, or sacrifice that we make. And, He holds for those who are faithful servants an eternal reward that is not made of metal or plastic. It is not tied to this life. It is tied to the life to come. And, nothing will ever take this reward away!

  • “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10 NKJV
  • “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV
  • “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” I Corinthians 9:24-25 NKJV
  • “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:23 NKJV

Lord, as the world praises itself again this year, may I find joy in simply serving You out of faithfulness and love. May I look toward the heavenly reward that will not fade away. May I long to hear Your voice as You say,

“Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

In Jesus Name!

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