Not Lion

A little girl came running to her mother and shouted, “Mommy! Mommy! There’s a lion in the front yard!” Her mother rushed to the window and looked out. Instead of a lion in their front yard, she saw a big, furry dog.

Disappointed in her daughter, the mother said, “I have warned you before about lying. You go up to your room right now and pray to God about this.” The little girl obediently went up to her room and prayed.

After a while the mother checked in on her daughter. She asked, “Did you pray about what you said?”

“Yes,” the daughter answered. “And God told me that the first time he saw that dog, he thought it was a lion too!”

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”—Ephesians 4:25.

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The Lord’s Other Prayer

We often refer to a familiar prayer in the Bible as the “Lord’s Prayer”. You know, the one that starts out, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” Some scholars suggest that perhaps we should call that prayer the “Model Prayer” because Jesus says that this is how we should pray. Maybe it would be better to call another prayer, the one found in John 17, the “Lord’s Prayer”, because this is a prayer that Jesus prayed for himself.

The prayer we find in John 17 is one that Jesus prayed toward the end of his life. He knew that he was about to be arrested, put on trial and crucified to pay for the sins of all humanity. As he approached his destiny on the cross, he offered up a prayer that consisted of three parts.

First, Jesus prayed for himself. He acknowledged that he was finishing the work that his heavenly Father had sent him to do. Now he prayed that the Father would restore the glory that Jesus had experienced with God before the world began.

After he prayed for himself, Jesus prayed for his closest disciples. They would soon face a heart-breaking challenge as their leader would be arrested and crucified. Jesus prayed that God would protect them and keep them united. He also prayed that they would experience the full measure of the joy of Jesus and that they would be sanctified by the truth of God’s word as they have been sent out into the world to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ building his church.

The third part of the prayer should be particularly interesting to us because here Jesus prayed for those who would believe in him because of the message of the apostles. That’s us! We have believed the gospel message that has been proclaimed throughout the ages, and Jesus prayed a special prayer for us. The main thing he prayed for is that we would be united so that the world will believe that God sent Jesus into the world out of his great love for his people.

It is a shame that there is so much division in the kingdom of God. This must disappoint Jesus greatly, because this is not what he prayed for. We can have differences of opinion on certain matters. Like someone once pointed out, “You don’t have to be my twin in order to be my brother in Christ.” However, on essential doctrinal matters, there should be no divisions. We should be as one. And the purpose of this unity is so that the world will believe our message of salvation through Jesus.

Let’s do all we can to strive for unity in the kingdom, so that the prayer of Jesus will be answered, and that the gospel message will be accepted by those who see the oneness of those who claim to follow Jesus.

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Cheating Death

A body cam picks up the moment just before impact

On Sunday, January 9, a single-engine plane in Los Angeles had engine failure during takeoff and went down moments later. The plane came to rest on some railroad tracks, the cockpit crumpled and the pilot bleeding from his injuries. Los Angeles police officers quickly arrived at the scene and began attending to the injured man. Their rescue efforts instantly became more urgent when they realized that a train was heading for them at full speed. Officers dragged the injured pilot away from the plane just seconds before the train barreled into it. One officer noted that the pilot had cheated death twice in the span of 10 minutes.

We may cheat death occasionally, but death will eventually catch up to us. However, for Christians, death does not mean defeat. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Different Views of Jesus

There are a lot of people talking about Jesus these days. However, I have to wonder if some of them ever bother to pick up a Bible. Because many of the modern day views of Jesus contradict what the Scriptures say about him.

Some will insist that Jesus only preaches on love. However, the Jesus we read about in the gospels also preaches on holiness and the wrath of God. He says in Luke 13:5, “…unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Many preachers today will tell you that Jesus promises prosperity—some call it “the health and wealth gospel”. They maintain that followers of Jesus can expect to have continual health and nice, fat bank accounts. Jesus doesn’t promise this. As a matter of fact, he says in John 16:33, “…In this world you will have trouble…”

Others claim that Jesus never says anything negative, that his teaching is always positive and uplifting. It is true that many of Jesus’ sayings are truly encouraging and inspirational. But it is also true that Jesus often warns against sin, judgment and hell. Consider Matthew 5:29-30—“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Some people believe that Jesus was universally loved and accepted by the world. But the Bible says that he came unto his own and his own did not receive him (John 1:11). Jesus himself warns in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Rather than being loved and accepted, Jesus was despised and rejected by the world.

There are those who think that Jesus only exists to serve their will. They treat the Son of God as if he were their own personal butler. But Jesus doesn’t serve our will; he serves the will of God. Consider John 4:34—“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Finally, many people are under the wrong impression the Jesus would never offend anyone at any time for any reason. The real Jesus offended a lot of people with his truth. You don’t get nailed to a cross because you never offended anyone!

Like I said earlier, there are a lot of people saying a lot of things about Jesus, and many of them simply don’t know what they are talking about. They have either invented their own “Jesus”, or they have bought into someone else’s distortion of who Jesus really is. Be very careful what you believe about Jesus! Don’t get your information about Jesus from sources that prove themselves to be unreliable. Let the Bible inform you about Jesus. We must take him for who he really is, not some fairy tale that others have chosen to believe. Devote your life to studying the gospels in order to become familiar with the real Jesus. Then you won’t fall for anyone’s false view about Christ.

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Playing with Fire

Fire in Philadelphia

Investigators suspect that a 5-year-old playing with a lighter set a Christmas tree on fire, causing a tragic blaze that killed 12 family members in a Philadelphia rowhome early Wednesday. This was the city’s deadliest fire in more than a century. Among those killed were three sisters and several of their children. The deaths are being mourned not only in Philadelphia, but all across the nation.

A lighter is a small thing, and has a useful purpose. But in the wrong hands a lighter can cause death and destruction. The same is true of the human tongue. James 3:3-6 says, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Don’t be like a 5-year-old with a lighter! Be in control of your tongue!

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Common Destiny

Not often does it catch us off guard when a person who is 99 years old passes away, but that is exactly what happened for many people when beloved actress Betty White died a few days ago. Expectations were high as she approached her 100th birthday, and big plans were made to celebrate that achievement. However, the popular entertainer passed away just 17 days short of that milestone birthday, leaving fans and friends feeling sad, and perhaps just a bit short-changed. Fellow actor Ryan Reynolds said, “She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough.”

Everyone has an appointment with death. It is our common destiny. Some live to be very old; others die relatively young. But we all have that appointment. For those outside of Christ, it is a dreadful destiny. However, for those who trust in Jesus for their salvation, death is not to be feared.

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”—Hebrews 9:27-28.

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New Prayers for the New Year

A new year is upon us, bringing with it a new outpouring of blessings and also a new set of challenges. Here are some suggestions for how we might pray as we head into the new year. (For this post, I borrowed heavily from a blog written by Kim Butts, co-founder of Harvest Prayer Ministries).

We could start off by giving thanks for our new birth. Jesus says that we must be born again (John 3:1-21). For those of us who have obeyed Jesus in this regard, it would be fitting to start the new year giving thanks for our new birth. Spend some time remembering your baptism, that time when the old you was buried in the waters of baptism, washing away your sins, and your emergence from that watery grave to live a new life in Christ. Give thanks to God that through Jesus you have been born again!

A second prayer could be for the new life we have in Jesus. Romans 6:4 says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Be thankful that you don’t live the life you lived before you came to Jesus! Pray that God will help you to bring him honor and glory through the new life that you live in Christ.

We could also pray about how God is working in the world around us. He proclaims, “…I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5). The ultimate fulfillment of this promise will come when Jesus Christ returns in power and glory. But in the meantime, God is constantly working to right the wrongs that have been imposed on the human existence because of the curse of sin in this world. Let’s be aware of what God is doing every day to reveal his glory and redeem his creation. Let’s praise God for the things that he is making new in our lives.

The psalm writer says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…” (Psalm 40:3). When is the last time you learned a new song? I love the old hymns as much as anyone, but when did God stop creating new music? A new song can inspire you to worship and pray in a way that will please God. Some people praise God with songs that he has given them, songs that no one else even knows! Let’s always be aware of words and rhymes that God puts in our hearts—often taken directly from Scripture—so that we can worship him in a new and wonderful way.

Isaiah 62:2 says, “…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.” Some believe that this prophecy was fulfilled when the believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Let us rejoice that we have been given such a prestigious new name, and let us pray that we will wear that new name in a way that honors the One who bestowed it.

Another prayer we could offer for the new year is to give thanks for the compassionate love that God renews every single day of our lives. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” No matter how badly we messed up yesterday, God’s love is available today. We can repent and turn to our loving heavenly Father, who will freely offer his forgiveness as part of the great compassion that he has for us, compassion that is offered new every morning.

Finally, we could pray a new prayer about the love that we have for our fellow Christians. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let’s pray that we will love our brothers and sisters in Christ more deeply than ever before.

These are just a few new prayers that we could pray for the new year. I am sure that you can come up with more. The important thing is that we continue to pray as we go into the coming year. May it be a great year of blessing for you and your family!

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Middle Age

Check out some of these quotes on middle age:

Forget about jets, race cars and speed boats. Nothing goes as fast as middle age.—Anonymous

Middle age is that time of life when a man will let his wife go anywhere, just as long as she doesn’t insist on his coming along.—Anonymous

Middle age is when you have two temptations—and you choose the one that will get you home by nine.—Ronald Reagan

Middle age is that difficult period between adolescence and retirement when you have to take care of yourself.—Anonymous

Middle age is when you try to find out where the action is so you can go someplace else.—Patricia Leimbach

Now for my own thought about middle age. This is the time of your life when you can be most effective for Jesus and his church. You have a lot of experience that you can use to disciple others, and you probably have some energy left to do just that.

The apostle Paul was probably middle-aged when he wrote these words—“He (Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Col.1:28-29).

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When You are Lonely and Discouraged

The Christmas holiday season brings a great deal of happiness to many people. The festivities, the family gatherings and the celebration of the birth of Jesus bring good times and fond memories. However, this time of year can also be a time of struggles for many. Perhaps it is their first Christmas without a loved one. Maybe they are facing a serious health issue, an economic crisis or strife in the family. When the Christmas decorations are put away for another year, the stark realities of life set in, and many find it hard to cope. The season that brought such joy and peace can quickly fade into a season of despair and inner conflict. What can we do to find help when we are lonely and discouraged? The Bible provides some answers.

The apostle Paul was near the end of his life when he wrote his second letter to Timothy. He was in prison when he wrote this letter, and there are some hints that Paul was feeling lonely and discouraged. This man who urges us to rejoice always (Phil.4:4) had some times of despair in his own life. (See 2 Cor.6:3-13 for one example.) Even the most mature Christians are not immune from feelings of discouragement. How do we deal with this? 2 Tim.4:9-18 gives us some good teaching on this matter.

First, Paul realistically addresses the situation. Demas has deserted him. Other friends and co-workers have been called away on kingdom business. Paul must have been cold and bored in prison, because he asks Timothy to bring him his cloak and some reading materials. He points out that a man named Alexander had done him a great deal of harm. Paul lists here a number of situations that have caused him to be discouraged. He did not try to paint a rosy picture. So the first thing you need to do when you are feeling lonely and discouraged is to plainly lay out the truth. However, we can’t just wallow in self-pity. Paul also gives us some ideas about how to cope with feelings of despondency.

He starts out in v.9 by asking Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible. Don’t wait for others to come and alleviate your loneliness. Reach out to them. Tell someone that you would greatly appreciate a visit from them.

Secondly, Paul points out that he is not completely alone. Luke is with him. When we are feeling down we tend to overlook the good things and good people that we do have in our lives. It is good medicine to be thankful for the ones who are involved in our lives and are very helpful to us.

Then Paul shows a spirit of forgiveness. He asks Timothy to bring Mark with him, because he had been helpful in his ministry. Paul had earlier been down on Mark because he had bailed out on a missionary journey. However, Paul later was willing to give Mark a second chance. We must never underestimate the value of forgiveness in maintaining our mental well-being.

Then Paul asks for some creature comforts. Perhaps he was not given time to gather his belongings before he was whisked away to prison. In any case, he asks Timothy to bring his cloak and his reading material. Wearing the cloak would help ease the misery of a cold, dreary prison cell. Reading the scrolls and parchments would help take his mind off of his current situation. I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to say that perhaps the best thing we could do when we are feeling down is to wrap up in a warm comforter (hot beverage is optional, but recommended!) and enjoy some of our favorite reading material.

Finally, Paul shows that he is placing his full trust in God. Even though Alexander had done him a great deal of harm, he does not suggest any kind of payback. Instead he says that the Lord will repay him for his treachery. Paul then credits the Lord for standing by his side and giving him strength. He closes out this section of Scripture in v.18 with this powerful declaration of trust—“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

That’s the biggest key to getting through a time of loneliness and discouragement—trust that the Lord will see you through anything you have to face in life. And trust that he will bring you safely into his heavenly kingdom as well!

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Unusual Messengers (Part 2)

Luke 2 records the account of an angel of the Lord appearing to shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks at night. He told them about the good news that had happened in Bethlehem—a Savior had been born to them.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”—Luke 2:13-14.

It is interesting to note that the word “host” can also be translated “army”. Isn’t it just like God to send an army to announce peace!

And it is only through Jesus that we can have peace with God. Jesus can take away the sin that separates us from God. Through Jesus God reconciles us to himself so that we can have true and lasting peace with him. The world can only offer partial and temporary peace. The only peace that matters in the end is the peace that God offers us through Jesus.

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