Friday, July 31, 2015


Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  (Mark 13:26)

What’s this world coming to?  Have you ever heard that question?  Well, the Bible tells us!  The paradise that was lost be the disobedience of the first Adam will be reclaimed by the obedience of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.  Because the first man of the earth, Adam sinned, death came into the world and because the second man from heaven, Christ died and rose again, God’s eternal kingdom is coming!  But the birth of that eternal kingdom is like that of a woman in labor—whose birth pains intensify until the child is born (Mark13:7-8).  So it is that this world has experienced these pains and now as we are approaching the end, we are beginning to see them become more frequent and more agonizing.  Following the rapture of the church, seven years of wrath will come upon a Christ-rejecting world.  The last three and a half years—the Great Tribulation—are the worst ever known on planet earth (Mark 13:19-20). 

Mark 13 presents this period as a time of PERIL (v.14-23). The Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and enter the rebuilt temple and declare himself to be God.  The world will think their Savior has come.  Most in Israel will believe their Messiah has arrived.  Jesus warned that this would not be the case (v.5-6, 21-23).  If a Jew is to survive—he or she must flee Jerusalem immediately (v.14-17). 

This is a time of POWER (v.24-27).  God’s power will be seen in the shaking of the universe.  We have heard it said that the darkest hour is just before the dawn—and it will be true before the dawn of earth’s new age and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ as he comes back to earth in power and glory.  That is how it is portrayed here.

This is a time of PROMISE (v.28-31).  What a promise!  The faithfulness of God is seen in the fruitfulness of the fig tree (v.28-29).  We are told to be observant.  In the spring, we may not know the date of the last frost, but we can tell as the earth warms that spring is approaching.  No man knows the day or hour when Christ will return, but we should be able to discern the season!    

It is a time of PREPARATION (v.32-37).  The key thing about Christ’s return isn’t whether we get all the details right, but whether we are right with God.  Prophecy isn’t given to satisfy our curiosity but to move us to get ready!  Jesus didn’t tell us these things for information or even inspiration but for preparation.  The message over and over is, “Prepare to meet your God!”  (Amos 4:12)  God intended to leave a certain uncertainty about the timing so no one would presume on His grace (v.33-37).  What difference would it make if you knew the next 24 hours on earth would be your last?  They may be!

Thursday, July 30, 2015



Now it happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You will surely die!  (Jeremiah 26:8)

Several years ago, I helped my father remove some old brush piles.  When I jabbed one of the mounds of limbs with a pitchfork I felt something sting—suddenly, I was being attacked by a swarm of angry hornets I had disturbed!  Their assault was relentless and painful.  The black devils chased me all the way to the house, as I slapped them off me.  Similarly, when the man of God speaks the truth of God, he inevitably will gouge some who will react with anger.  There are those who hate the truth and all associated with it.  Jeremiah experienced this repeatedly in his ministry and we see an example of it in the twenty sixth chapter of his prophecy.

The passage opens with the Word of God coming down as a burden laid on the shoulders of the prophet that he is charged to unload on the wicked nation (v.1).  He is not to soften the blow by even a word (v.2), but be faithful to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, by the help of God.  The message will be a pitchfork jabbed into a hornets’ nest.  The intent, however, is not to do harm, but to hopefully lead the people to repentance (v.3), by clearing the brush pile of sin from the land.  Should they fail to heed the warning, calamity would befall them (v.4-6).  Jeremiah knew that their track record for repentance had not been a good one (v.5b).  Their response, however, was not his business.  What he must do is deliver the mail, whether they liked the contents or not.  This he did (v.7).

Their reaction was predictable.  It is why God warned his preacher to be faithful to speak every word.  The temptation when facing an audience who hates the truth is to hedge the truth.  Indeed the enemies of the Word of God come swarming out of their nest and engulf the messenger (v.8-11).  They hate the truth so much that they want to silence the preacher permanently by killing him!  Satan is both a hater of the truth and murderer of the innocent, therefore, we should not be startled that his spawn follow the same pattern.  We must be courageous to stand up and speak up in a world that seethes with rage against God.

Jeremiah does not back down in the face of the threat (v.12-15).  He knows God had sent him to proclaim the truth and so he does.  The civil authorities reject the demand for the death penalty that comes from the religious leaders (v.16).  Some of the older and wiser men remind the mob of the warnings of the prophet Micah in days gone by (v.17-19).  King Hezekiah and the people of that generation did not rage against God’s spokesman, but repented of their sin.  The current ruler, Jehoiakim, would do the opposite, hunting down another prophet named Urijah and killing him (v.20-23).  Jeremiah, however, was spared for the time being (v.24).  We are immortal until our work on earth is done.

There was a time when America responded to truth as Israel did to Micah—repenting of their sin and turning to God.  We are now in the days of Jeremiah when taking a stand is increasingly dangerous.  Let us speak truth anyway.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.  But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:24-25)

What if the local news headline read, “Minister Charged with Inciting Riot”?  Subsequently, the preacher was convicted and cast into prison.  If that minister applied for a position at your church, would you hire him?  Surely no respectable church would consider such a fellow!  Then a criminal by the name of the Apostle Paul could not serve at your church!  That preacher was a jailbird!  In fact, his ministry in a town often commenced with a riot, and concluded in a prison!

Christ came into this world with a life of love to share.  The world’s response was to nail Him to a cross.  He warned His followers that the servant is not greater than his Master.  Jesus was a polarizing figure who disturbed those slumbering in sin.  That is a mark of His followers.  Paul certainly fit the bill.  The servant of God is concerned with the applause of heaven and not the approval of humans.  The fact that many will spurn the message, does not mean that we do not speak the message, nevertheless.  Some will believe and be saved.  In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, we see a poor young girl held in the grip of demonic power—yet, she was set free by the surpassing power of the Gospel!  This was the spark that ignited the riot.  Her employers were more concerned with her making gold than her finding God.  So, the opposition arose to these “disturbers of the peace.”  Paul and Silas were beaten and bound.  We should be reminded that we have brothers and sisters tortured and slain in Islamic and communist countries for their faith.  How long before the wave of antichristian sentiment hits like a tsunami on our shores?  Hostility toward the church is not the worst thing—apathy toward us is, when the world feels no threat.

Paul and Silas, however, did not sigh or sob—they sung!  They started the first cell group and had a captive audience!  Instead of whining, they were worshipping.  They really believed that all things work together for good to those who love God.  Nothing is by accident in the believer’s life, but by appointment.  The adversity may well open the door of opportunity!

God is in the business of shaking things up.  He surely did at Philippi!  The devil builds his little playhouses and God delights to tear them down!  When the jailer who had so mistreated them was about to kill himself, we would have understood had the missionaries cheered him on—or at least stood back and let him.  They chose to intervene instead.  Love compels us to forgive and bless even those who are our enemies. 

The darkest night gave way to the brightest day!  That was not only true for the preachers who were freed from their stocks, but the jailer and his family who were freed from their sins!  Midnight had found the missionaries singing in bonds and morning found them shouting at breakfast!  How quickly God can turn things around.

What must I do to be lost?  Nothing.  We are born in that condition.  The real question is, “What must I do to be saved?”  The simple answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”  (Judges 11:30-31)
Oxymorons are figures of speech that express opposites.  For example, we refer to jumbo shrimp, the same difference, pretty ugly—and honest politicians.  It is sad when we associate politicians with broken promises.  In Judges 11, there is a politician who kept his promise—a man named Jephthah.  His entire life is an oxymoron—a study in contrasts.  He is listed in the rollcall of faith champions in Hebrews 11, but in Judges 11 he evidences several character flaws.  His greatest triumph led to his greatest tragedy.  It fits the narrative in Judges, however, for the book is filled with heroic successes and horrible sins—often in the same chapter and by the same character!

Jephthah’s past was filled with difficulty (v.1-3).  His mother was a prostitute.  He carried the stigma of illegitimacy.  How sad it is that children are often born into a hard situation—not because of their choice, but the consequences of adult sin.  That was true of Jephthah and we see much of it today.  Worse than any mockery he might have known outside the home were the taunts of his family.  Where he should have found shelter and acceptance, he had strife and anger.  Having his fill of it, he ran away from home.  He was a survivor.  The difficulties shaped him into a leader.  Jephthah attracted a number of other malcontents, and they became mercenaries.  The valor of Jephthah became renowned.  The reality is—by the grace of God—we can rise above our past.  A poor upbringing can be turned from a hindrance to a help.  Instead of it being a fire inside to consume us with rage, it can be a fire inside to ignite us to rise!
Jephthah’s resume’ would not have impressed someone looking for a leader.  God, however, delights to reach into the garbage dump, bring out a discarded and battered tool, clean it up, and make it useful again.  Most of us are reclamation projects (read 1 Cor.1:26-29).  When Israel needed help, they sought Jephthah to lead them in battle.  When God uses people like this, He gets all the glory.  The man did not seek the position, but the position sought the man.  It is your duty to prepare yourself for service and God’s responsibility to place you in service.

The Ammonites had declared war on Israel.  Jephthah tried to negotiate peace, but when that was rejected, he called the people to battle (v.12-28).  It was then that this politician made a promise he would keep, but one that he should never have made (v.29-40).  Jephthah had the Spirit of God with Him, and that was all He needed!  He was chosen by God and that was enough.  Instead, he makes a rash vow that will lead to the death of his young daughter.  God did not condone his action, Scripture simply records the folly of it.  He should have prayed what we need to pray, Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”  (Ps.141:3)  Jephthah had enough faith to lead an army, but too much folly to control his tongue. ' May the Lord help us!    

Monday, July 27, 2015


“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1)
God has a special judgment for those who are unfaithful shepherds.  To whom much is given, much is required.  The degree of insight and influence which God grants to those who guide His people elevates the level of the pastor’s responsibility and accountability.  The more insight we have into the truth, the greater God holds us responsible for what we know.  The more influence we have, the graver God views our accountability for those we lead.

Jeremiah was a faithful shepherd.  It was not easy.  His message was hated by his generation.  His fellow shepherds were enjoying the favor of the people because they were telling them what they wanted to hear.  This is the theme of Jeremiah 23.

Woe is pronounced on those who scatter sheep rather than gather them (v.1-2).  Shepherds are meant to care for the flock—to lead, feed, guard, and care for the sheep.  It is not an easy job.  The faithless pastor is one who is focused on his concerns instead.  He is self-centered and not sheep-centered.

The Lord, our Shepherd, takes note.  He loves His sheep.  This is His nature.  God knows they are soon to be scattered in judgment when Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians.  It is not just the wicked in the city that will be taken, but when the city is sacked, the godly will be led away also.  God will not lose sight of His sheep, however, and will regather them and care for them (v.3).  His way of caring for them is to appoint over His flock some faithful shepherds who will feed them the Word of God (v.4).  I think of men like Ezekiel and Daniel—faithful shepherds to the exiles; Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—faithful shepherds to those who returned to rebuild Jerusalem.  The ultimate gathering of the Jews to Israel and outpouring of grace awaits the coming of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ (v.5-8).

The end of time is a day of hope for those who are prepared to meet the Lord.  The Apostle would later write of his anticipation of reward for all faithful shepherds like himself (2 Tim.4:8).  Paul knew there would be false teachers also who would tickle the ears of the people (2 Tim.4:3-4).  The end of time is a day of horror for those who are unprepared.  Faithless shepherds will face some of the hottest fires of hell for they have not only rejected God’s Word, they have actively led others into torment with them!  Jeremiah was heartsick at the thought (v.9). 

The spiritual leaders’ model and message—fueled by the lusts in their own wicked hearts—fed the flame of depraved desire in the hearts of the people (v.10).  God assures them of His wrath (v.11-15).

Their kind is growing like a cancer in the churches of our land.  Apostasy is a malignant evil afflicting the pulpit and killing those in the pew.  As those of Jeremiah’s day, the source of their message is their own perverse heart and not the Word of God (v.16).  They preach a false promise of prosperity and rock them to sleep with the lullaby of the damned (v.17).  Such are not God called, but self-centered (v.18).  Their doom will come (v.19-40).

The faithful shepherd knows the power of God’s Word (v.28-29).  It will be a fire to consume the chaff and a hammer to break stony hearts.  The shepherd’s call is to, “Preach the Word!”  (2 Tim.4:2)

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone.  But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself.  And all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king….  (Judges 9:5-6a)

Every tub must sit on its own bottom.  That is a quaint way of saying that we are responsible for our own actions.  That is not to say that others may not have an influence.  In particular, our parents can make a great impact—both a genetic and environmental aspect.  Exodus 20:5 tells us the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation.  We also know that godly parents make a difference in their children as well.  No force on earth shapes us more than our parents.  That is the sad case of Abimelech in Judges 9.  His father Gideon (referred to as Jerubaal in these verses) was a good man, but in later years strayed.  That had a devastating result in his family.

When Gideon succeeded—by the help of God—in driving away the Midianite invaders, the people responded by wanting him as their king (8:22-23).  Although refusing the title, he desired the trappings of royalty.  He did not want the position, but was glad to have the perks (8:24-26, 30-31).  He named one son, “Abimelech,” meaning, “my father is king.”  Often, what parents permit in moderation, children will practice in excess.  Abimelech apparently grew up with a lust for power in his heart.  He also had an environment that gave lip service to God, but became idolatrous (8:33-34).  Children who witness hypocrisy in their parents tend to reject such religion.

Abimelech was the son of a Canaanite concubine, so apparently never treated the same as Gideon’s other children.  He would have been a loner—an outcast with a smoldering hate of his siblings that one day ignited into mass murder (9:1-6).  That he slays them on “one stone,” suggests they were offered up as human sacrifices.  Abimelech becomes king over this area, doubtless with ambitions to rule over all Israel.  He established goodwill among the people by appealing to their self-interest.  He was an effective politician.

One son of Gideon—Jotham—escapes the slaughter and speaks out against his brother and the men of Shechem who followed Abimelech (9:7-21).  It does not take long, however, for the king and his subjects to get sick of each other.  There is an uprising and Abimelech responds with vengeance.  The citizens of Shechem are slain and the city sown with salt to make the soil unfertile (9:22-49).  Abimelech—now drunk with power—pursues his dreams of conquest by attacking the city of Thebez (9:50-57).  God’s judgment fell on him from above—literally.  After a woman in a tower drops a stone on Abimelech’s head—inflicting a wound he knew to be mortal—his pride remains and he asks his armor bearer to kill him with a sword, so it would not be said a woman killed him with a stone!

How many Abimelechs is America producing today?  They are raised without love, without God, and having a callused conscience become cold-blooded killers.  We have sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind.  The seeds of our society’s destruction have been sown in the hearts of our sons.

Saturday, July 25, 2015



Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah.  And all Israel played the harlot with it there.  It became a snare to Gideon and to his house. (Judges 8:27)

Success is difficult to attain, but it is even more difficult to maintain.  That’s the problem with success.  You will find that one of the most perilous times in your life is in a period of prosperity.  We tend to become casual and then careless after a conquest and that leads to catastrophe.  Gideon had experienced a great victory.  The Lord had enabled him to lead 300 men to triumph over a horde of Midianite marauders.  He, then, was overcome by the problem of success.

It all began when he faced criticism (Judges 8:1-3).  The tribe of Ephraim had not participated in the initial combat—being summoned at the end to help “mop up.”  They let pride lead them to criticize Gideon for not inviting them to the battle earlier.  One of the problems with success is that you will find others envious of you.  They will seek to bring you down with a barrage of criticism.  The question is not whether you will be criticized for your work for the Lord—the only question is how you will respond to it.  In this case, Gideon responded with a soft answer that turns away wrath (Prov.15:1).  The wrong response is one of bitterness or anger—that is always a danger.

Then there was the problem of conflict (Judges 8:4-21).  Gideon and his soldiers were weary of their warfare.  They had not finished off the enemy, however.  There is always the danger in our spiritual warfare of resting after the initial successes, and not finishing the task.  When Gideon asks the citizens of Succoth and Penuel for provisions, they refused, thinking that Gideon’s small force could not finish the job.  These dwelt on the border with Midian and were fearful of retaliation should Gideon fail.  Gideon did finish the job, but also retaliated against those who did not help them.  It is possible that Gideon was too harsh—took it too personally.  Conflict seems to rise after success.  In the midst of battle, there is no time for fighting one another for we are too busy fighting the enemy.

Gideon would further face the problem of conceit (Judges 8:22-23).  There is always the peril of pride when the spotlight of success shines upon us.  Gideon refuses the accolades and offer for him to become their king.  There is always the danger of accepting the glory that belongs to God alone.  Difficulty has a way of driving us in desperation to God.  Prosperity presents the peril of pride that divides us from God. 

Gideon is at last overcome by the problem of complacency.  With the victory in hand, Gideon is ready to take a break, which will lead him to take a tumble.  He rejects the adoring masses adulation—at least, outwardly—but, inwardly he seems to think, “I should get something out of this.”  The more he has time to think about it, the stronger the temptation grows.  The complacent soul lets down his or her guard—then the enemy strikes!  He took their gold and fashioned an ephod which the priests wore and this became an idol.  Though Gideon would not take the title of king, he began to behave like he was one.  This man of faith fell—and so may we if we let down our guard.  This is the problem with success.

Friday, July 24, 2015


And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.  (Acts 11:21)

A church isn’t built with bricks and mortar; it is built of people.  Therefore, a church must give priority to reaching people. If it is truly a New Testament church, it will be an evangelistic church.  We see an example of an effective evangelistic church in Acts 11, in the description of the church at Antioch.

We observe their motivation (v.19-20).  Persecuted for their profession of faith, they proclaimed it anyway.  Not only that, they laid aside their prejudices to witness to the Greek speaking Jews (called Hellenists).  All this was preparatory to a full scale evangelistic thrust to the Gentiles.  What motivated them to overcome persecution and prejudice?

The lordship of Christ motivated them.  In Christ’s sovereign design for His church, He scattered them as seed across the soil of the region.  The opposition Satan inspired for his evil plan proved to be an opportunity God intended for His evangelistic purpose.  Dying churches see difficulties in every opportunity and dynamic churches see opportunity in every difficulty.

The love of Christ motivated them.  Jesus died to redeem sinners.  We are to live to reach them.  These believers were compelled by compassion to reach the lost.  How about our church?

We note their message (v.20b).  The subject and simplicity of their message is seen in that it centered upon, “the Lord Jesus.”  In Him alone is salvation found.  One of our problems in reaching people is that even if we get up the courage to speak to them of spiritual matters, we talk about the church and what it offers rather than Christ and His claims.  Promote the pastor and fault can be found in him.  Push the church and fault can be found in it.  Publicize the programs and fault can be found in them.  Preach the Savior and no fault can be found in Him!  These first century saints shared what Christ had done for them. We can do the same.

We witness their might (v.21).  It wasn’t the strength in their hands, but the Almighty hand of the Lord that made them effective.  The Book of Acts documents the work of Christ through His body, the church.  We are extensions of His hands to reach the world.

A poem says it like this:

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.  (Annie Johnston Flint)

When we witness in the power of the Holy Spirit there will be those who will turn to the Lord.  Many will turn away—that is true—yet, some will be saved.  Our business is to do the sharing, and God’s business is to do the saving. 

The effective evangelistic church has individual members who have embraced God’s call on their lives.  Our witness corporately will be no stronger than our outreach personally.  If I want our church to be evangelistic, I must begin by looking in a mirror and praying, “O God, give me your heart for a lost world!”  Join me in that prayer today!

Thursday, July 23, 2015


And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit….  (Mark 5:2)

There has never been anyone like Jesus.  He stands unique—astride over history and eternity—being wholly God and fully man.  There has never been a time that He was not and never a time that He will not be, yet, He had a birth and death in this world.  God became flesh and revealed His glory to us in the thirty-three years that Christ walked the shores of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem.  Those who met Him, met the Master—the Lord of glory dwelling among humanity.  When they met Him, they were never the same.  Those who do so today experience the same life-changing Person.  In the fifth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we see three examples of those who met the Master.  What a difference it made for them!

There was a man who met Jesus as the Master over demons (v.1-20).  Here was a tortured soul—a man possessed by a legion of demons.  A legion of Roman soldiers could contain six thousand men!  This fellow was in a horrible state, banished to a life in a cemetery, uncontrollable, self-destructive, and naked. We do not know how he gave himself to such evil, but somehow he opened the door to his heart and these malignant spirits invaded and took over.  Everything was about to change as he met the Master.  No demon—not a legion of them—could resist the authority of Christ!  He commands them to come out, and they must.  This man would never be the same.  Jesus still sets souls free today.  The dark forces that can bind us tremble before Him and flee.

There was a woman who met the Jesus as the Master over disease (v.24-34).  Wherever Jesus went, He was engulfed by masses of people.  They were drawn to Him in their need for they knew He had power like no other to meet those needs.  They hung on His every word for they knew that He spoke like no other with wisdom from heaven above.  There was a woman—plagued by a persistent loss of blood, with its physical impact and social stigma—that believed if she could just get close enough to touch the hem of His robe, she would be healed.  Somehow, in her weakened state, and despite the wall of humanity in her way, she reached out and her faith tapped into Almighty power conquering her disease.  Jesus still can heal the sick today.  Nothing is too hard for Him!

There was a family who met Jesus as the Master over death (v.21-23; 35-43).  Jairus, a ruler of the local synagogue, sought Him, desperate for his little daughter who was dying.  In fact, before Jesus arrives at the home, the young girl dies.  The sounds of grief greet Jesus and the disciples as they walk up to the house.  “It’s too late!” they say.  That might be true for somebody else, but Jesus was not just somebody else!  Jesus broke up every funeral that He attended.  He restores breath to the girl and in the process takes the breath away from all those who were there!  The power of death had to yield to the Lord of Life!

Have you met the Master?  I have—and it is always life changing!  You can meet Him today.  I promise you will never be the same.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!”  (Jeremiah 18:6)

I took two years of art in High School, and then a couple of years in distance learning beyond that.  It has been a long time, in the hectic pace of life, that I have used that ability.  I spend much of my hours painting word pictures rather than landscapes!  One of the areas of study was pottery.  We had the opportunity to sit at a wheel with a lump of clay and shape a vessel.  Little did I know at the time that the experience would afford an illustration of spiritual truth, but that is the substance of these devotional thoughts. 

In the eighteenth chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy, we take a trip to the potter’s house because God has a word for His messenger—and for us (v.1-2).  Jeremiah observes the potter sitting at the wheel, shaping the clay, with the pressure of his hands as it spins.  Suddenly, it begins to come apart.  The moist clay will have to be broken down and reformed—nothing else will do (v.3-4). 

I can recall the feel of that wet clay as I applied the pressure, and up and up the walls of the vessel would begin to rise as I pumped the wheel with my foot to make it spin.  Then, to much disappointment, it began to unravel before my eyes!  There was a small piece of grit—an impurity in the clay—that necessitated removal.   After breaking down the vessel, the process started all over.

Do you see the illustration?  God is the Potter.  Israel is the clay.  His intent for His people has been marred because of their resistance to His shaping.  The only way the Jews could be mended is by breaking them down and beginning again.  God will use the Babylonian empire to accomplish that painful discipline (v.5-17).

Do we understand that this is eternal truth and speaks to us today?  Certainly, the unchanging character of God means He will deal with our nation as He did with rebellious Judah, for He consistently judges any nation that resists His will, while offering blessing to the people who submit to His hands (v.7-10). 

Let me be even more direct.  I am a lump of clay in the hands of a sovereign God.  He has an intended result He wants to accomplish as He shapes me.  The pressure of God’s hands molds us.  Those pressures come in many forms.  The circumstances of life whether physical affliction, difficult people, financial stress, and a host of other possibilities may be used of God to shape us for His purposes.  I find myself to be as dull of understanding as a lump of clay, however.  I want the pressure gone—without realizing I cannot be what God intends apart from it.  When I resist His work—when an unyielding lump results—He will break me down.  It is not that He is cruel—quite the opposite.  Impurity in my life will necessitate that God break me down and keep working with me. The Potter is intent on molding us into a vessel to use here and display as a trophy of grace and glory for all eternity.  We live life forward, but understand it backward.  Today, may we be pliable clay, praying, “Not my will, but Yours be done!”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.  (Acts 8:4)

Today’s climate for evangelism is inhospitable.  There is increasing hostility to the Gospel.  Yet, our mission remains unchanged.  It is encouraging to note that the first century church flourished in an unfriendly environment.  They faced obstacles, but were able to overcome them.  Acts chapter eight affords us several examples.

They were able to overcome persecution (v.1-4).  While they might have been paralyzed by fear, they overcame in faith.  This opposition came as a backlash from the church’s militancy in its mission.  Satan’s kingdom was threatened and so he launched a counterattack.  Instead of stopping the advance of the Gospel, the persecution aided it.  They disciples were scattered like seed, and God caused them to bear much fruit.

They were able to overcome complacency (v.4).  Jesus sent them into all the world, but they settled down in their comfort zone in Jerusalem.  That was to be the base of operations, but then the saints were to go to Judea, Samaria, and, ultimately, around the globe.  God used what seemed to be evil to produce something good in allowing persecution to propel them out of their complacency.  God can make you love to do what you ought to do!  There is opportunity in every difficulty.

They were able to overcome prejudice (v.5).  The Gospel went to Samaria—and that was a big barrier broken—the race barrier.  Samaritans despised the Jews and the reverse was true as well.  Racism is not a new phenomenon.  The challenge to make a difference in a people who are so different is an obstacle to overcome.  Philip was a Jew and his audience was Samaritan, but the moment they responded to the Gospel, they became brothers and sisters in Christ.  Heaven will not be segregated—the church ought not be!

They were able to overcome limitations (v.6-8).  The power that enabled them to rise above their human limitations came from heaven.  It did not matter how weak they were, God was mighty to save!  He still is.  God has not changed—we have.  These saints rested in the power of God and miracles happened.  Philip not only preached that Jesus was alive, it was apparent in His supernatural activity!  It takes the power of God to overcome such obstacles, but that power is available still today.

They were able to overcome hypocrisy (v.9-25).  The charge is often leveled at the church that it is full of hypocrites.  That accusation must be overcome.  The reality is that there are hypocrites in the church—there always have been.  The example we note in this chapter is a man named Simon—who had been a sorcerer.  It becomes apparent that an improper motive yielded an insincere commitment.  He saw the power of God at work, and wanted to get in on the action.  His occult powers were nothing compared to this.  He saw the business opportunity of a lifetime if he could get hold of this power.  Peter demanded that he repent or perish!  That is still the church’s message.

The obstacles to evangelism are nothing new.  When the church invades enemy territory, the Devil will fight back.  Christ has founded a church, however, equipped to assault the very gates of hell, and see them fall!  That is our heritage; it is our hope!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan….  (Judges 3:1)

If you go to the churches in Europe today, you will find them mostly dead and empty.  They bowed before the altar of rationalism—a spiritual malignancy that killed them.  From compromise of the truth, they moved to conformity to the world.  Today, a handful of very old people may attend, but the youth are gone.  The church is unnoticed, unmentioned, an archaic relic irrelevant to modern life.  America is pursuing that same suicidal course.  The conditions of ancient Israel bear eerie similarities during the days of the Judges.

Dickens began the novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with this line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  What is described in Judges is only the worst of times.  Israel had failed to drive out the enemy—first trying to make them serve them, and then settling with coexistence, until being enslaved by the enemy.  Little by little, they were corrupted and drawn into paganism.  There was a leadership vacuum.  Joshua was dead, and those who would follow were not of the same spiritual caliber.  The people abandoned the Word of God—objective truth discarded for moral relativism.  The key phrase in understanding these horrible days is, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  This kind of ethical anarchy is what we are approaching in America today.

When the people suffered at the hands of the heathen, they would cry out to God, and He would raise up a judge—a champion to deliver them.  Three unlikely leaders are found in Judges 3.

There was THE IN-LAW (v.7-11).  Othniel had great potential.  He was out of good stock.  His uncle was the heroic Caleb, and Othniel married Caleb’s daughter.  Othniel won his bride by defeating the Canaanites at Kiriath-sepher.  He would lead the revolt against the oppressive regime of Cushan-Rishathaim.  Here was the secret of his success: “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him….”  (v.10)  God works through those yielded to and empowered by His Spirit.

Then, we see THE SOUTHPAW (v.12-30).  I heard of a sermon on these verses entitled, “When Lefty Let Old Fatty Have It!”  The Hebrew suggests that Ehud was left-handed because his right was useless.  His disability became his possibility. Eglon was built like a sumo wrestler.  God’s message to him was pointed!  Ehud was the instrument, but the hand of deliverance was God’s (v.28).  God knows our limitations, and can use our weaknesses to manifest His power—and that is always for His glory!  Stop making excuses.  God does not want your ability so much as He desires your availability!

Finally, there was THE HITMAN (v.31).  Shamgar was “a good ol’ boy.”  He was a redneck renegade with an ox goad instead of a spear.  He was untrained in swordsmanship, but used what he had at his disposal.  What is the supreme credential for our call to serve?  God’s touch upon us!  The mighty Spurgeon started his ministry as a teenager with no seminary training, but God was on him!  Education can be useful, but having more degrees than a thermometer doesn’t mean you have the anointing of God!  It is not a question of whether God will use you, but a matter of your willingness to be usable—holy and humble; dependent and devoted to God.


Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  (Mark 1:11)

It is difficult to end up in the right place, if you don’t start out on the right track!  A key to finishing well is beginning well. What we find in our text is the beginning of Christ’s public ministry.  The events recorded here provided the point of departure on a course of obedience to His Father that would lead Him to say, “It is finished”—the race is run, the journey is done, and the victory is won!  That is how I want to end!  Jesus shows us how to get on the right track.

There was THE WITNESS THAT HE SHARED (v.9-13).  If we are on the right track, others should be able to see it!  The witness wasn’t merely declared by His lips, but demonstrated by His life.

We observe the witness of His virtue (v.9-11). “You are my beloved Son….”  From the time of Christ’s appearance at the age of twelve in the temple to his baptism at the age of thirty, there are eighteen hidden years of maturing. He passed that part of His schooling!  God doesn’t develop His leaders in a microwave, but a crock pot!  Then He steps into public view. Baptism was a testimony of His identification with sinners and mission to die and rise again.  It was another step of obedience. 

We note the witness of His victory (v.12-13) “tempted by Satan….”  This was the biggest test yet.  Jesus passed with impeccable credentials!   He was with the wild beasts as the Last Adam—in harmony with earth.  The angels come and ministered to Him after this great battle—He was in harmony with heaven.

There were THE WORDS THAT HE SPOKE (v.14-15).  If we are on the right track, we should be able to tell others how to get on it!  From out of the fountain of His pure heart, flowed these powerful words from His mouth. 

Consider the source of the message (v.14) “the kingdom of God….”  The kingdom of God is the rule of Heaven over all.  As in every kingdom, there are laws, which govern the conduct of the citizens.  Notice that John had been proclaiming that message and now that his voice is soon to be silenced in death, Jesus will take up the message.  God always has someone to lead us on the right track.  In every generation, He raises up witnesses to the truth.

Furthermore, we find the substance of the message (v.15)“Repent, and believe….”  This is the core message of the Bible.  It is still our message for today. Being on the right track means that both repentance and faith are present in order not to derail!

There were THE WORKERS THAT HE SUMMONED (v.16-20).  Being on the right track means we show it by our life and share it with our lips, but also, that we summon others to join us on the trip.

We hear a call to follow (v.16-17a; 18-20) “Follow Me….”  To follow Him is to forsake all else (v.20).  There is just one right track—everything else is a detour.

We have a call to fish (v.17b) “I will make you fishers of men.”  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He calls us to fish for souls of men!  There are plenty of fish.  The Gospel is the net.  Apart from Him, we cannot catch men, but apart from us, He will not.  This is our job.  Bring them in!

Saturday, July 18, 2015


“When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them.  But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.”  (Jeremiah 14:12)

There is a point of no return.  That is true of an individual.  One can so harden their heart until it is set as concrete against God, so that judgment is inevitable.  We cannot toy with God and presume grace to be available on our schedule.  It is a frightening truth.  Joseph A. Alexander expressed this in his hymn, “The Doomed Man.”

There is a time, we know not when,
A point, we know not where,
That marks the destiny of men
To glory or despair.

There is a line, by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God's patience and His wrath.

Oh, where is this mysterious bourn,
By which our path is cross'd?
Beyond which, God Himself hath sworn,
That he who goes is lost.

How far may we go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end, and where begin
The confines of despair?

An answer from the skies is sent:
“Ye that from God depart,
While it is called to-day, repent
And harden not your heart.”

Twice, I have with a broken heart, known men I believe reached the point of no return—and had God whisper to me, “Do not pray for him any more.  It will do no good.”  A chill ran up my spine.

What may be true for an individual is certainly true for a nation.  That is where Judah has come in the fourteenth chapter of Jeremiah.  God tells the prophet it is pointless to pray for them—judgment is inevitable (v.11).  Not even the intercession of a Moses or Samuel would avail (15:1).  In the midst of the calamity that would befall, when the Jews would call with fasting and prayer, their pleas would meet deaf ears.  They were unrepentant!  Would the Jews be sorry?  Of course—yet, not sorrow for the cause of their calamity, but sorrow for the consequences.  Judas Iscariot had regret after betraying Jesus (Matt.27:3-5), but it was remorse only and not repentance.  He is in hell.

Has America reached the point of no return?

I have visited the sick whose immune system had been breached by infection.  Antibiotics became ineffective.  The infection spread, hit the bloodstream, and the doctors were suddenly fighting a wildfire with a water pistol.  The body’s systems began to shut down—cascading one after another—until the doctors told the patient’s family there was no hope.  The next time I would see them would be the funeral home.  That was what happened to Judah in Jeremiah’s day. 

I cannot but wonder if we are not at that place.  It seems that every week, the conditions worsen, as sin rages like an out of control contagion.  The rebellion against God is arrogant and defiant, exponentially increasing by the day.  It broke Jeremiah’s heart (v.17-18) and it ought to break ours.

Perhaps there is still a sliver of hope.  Maybe we have edged up to the line, but not crossed it.  Thus, we should cry out urgently, desperately, while we may!  God will preserve His remnant for the glory of His name (v.19-22; 15:11, 19-21).  They will find deliverance in the midst of disaster.  God will bring his elect through to heaven—and that is as inevitable as His wrath on the wicked.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  (Acts 4:32)

Have you heard an orchestra warming up before a concert?  It is the most horrendous sound.  There is no rhythm, no tune—just noise.  Everyone is doing his or her own thing in a kind of musical anarchy.  When the conductor steps up and raps the baton, everything changes—as the percussion, woodwinds, strings, and brass blend in beautiful harmony.  God has designed the church with diversity—some are cello players, others hold cymbals, and some clarinets, yet in following our Great Conductor, and reading from the same sheet of music—the Word of God—there will be heavenly harmony.  Sadly, many churches are more like the orchestra warming up with awful, discordant notes!  We discover the difference in the latter portion of Acts chapter four.

Harmony comes in PRAYER (v.31).  Something happens when people bind themselves together in a chorus of corporate prayer.  The church was birthed in prayer at Pentecost, and now we see them bound in prayer here.  Likewise, the glory of God came down, and His power was manifested in a remarkable manner.  The filling of the Spirit was evident, and their witness to Christ was courageous.  How we need such a move of God today!  Until God’s people unite their voices in prayer, the church will lack power.

Harmony is nurtured in PURPOSE (v.32).  We move forward together when we focus on a common goal.  They shared a common faith—their shared belief in Christ united them in the same family, and their shared beliefs in conviction united them in the same faith.  They had a complete fellowship—their hearts knit together in grace and generosity.

Harmony yields a credible PROCLAMATION (v.33).  The Great Commission was their assignment and they refused to be sidetracked.  Any church that permits the Devil to detour them from evangelism and discipleship will soon find itself in the quagmire of division over lesser things.  A congregation hot after lost souls has no time to get hot with each other in anger.  Such will be a great church for they have tapped into great grace!

Harmony leads to sharing POSSESSIONS (v.34-37).  Talk is cheap.  If we love someone, we will put our money where our mouth is!  They laid their possessions at the feet of God’s men, signifying their submission to God’s will and dedication in God’s worship.  Our giving ought never to be an afterthought, but an act of adoration.  It involves worship.  They gave all.  While God may not call us to share everything we have, He does call us to surrender all we have.  The needs of others are met when we do.  One of us cannot fund the missions and ministries of the church, but pooled together we can do all God wants.

If we are not in harmony with our fellow believers, we are not in harmony with God.  Let us look to the Conductor, get on the same page, and make music that will wow the world!