GOD IS WITH US

Bob Russell in his devotional writes of peace on earth being very questionable.  Where is the peace that God promised?  Of course, the peace of which He offers is the harmony between man and God.  In Jesus, God has provided a peaceful solution for man’s rebellion.  Jesus Christ is God’s offer to us as His peace treaty.
Romans 5:10 reads, “for if when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more having been reconciled shall we be saved through His life.”

Bob tells of this incident:  “I’ve read that some Native American tribes once had a challenging rite of passage when their sons were ready to transition into manhood. The teenage boy was blindfolded and led into the woods at night and instructed to sit down by a tree. He was told to remain there until he felt the warmth of the sunrise. You can imagine the horror of hearing unfamiliar sounds that long night. The terrified young man must have envisioned a ferocious wild animal or a monstrous warrior from an enemy tribe stalking him. How petrifying to be all alone in a dangerous forest!
In the morning when the boy felt the first rays of the sun, he eagerly yanked off the blindfold. Then as he glanced around, he would spot his dad just a few feet away sitting up against a tree with his weapons at his side. His father had been there all night long keeping watch over him…and the boy didn’t even know it.

God has adopted us as His children, and He promises never to leave or forsake us. He’s going to go through our problems with us. “If God be for us who, can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). There’s no situation that you will ever face alone; your Heavenly Father is near. He will sustain you.  That’s why David could say with assurance, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4).
So, don’t churn over the turmoil that surrounds you. Sleep in peace. Take a deep breath and let the “peace of God that transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

I am blessed by Bob Russell’s writings.

CREATED EQUAL

“All Men Are Created Equal” This equality of all people is fundamental to our faith and our government. Michael Mason, former minister of the Cornerstone Christian Church in Jackson, Michigan wrote in his church paper of an incident in the Civil War that I want to share with you.

“It was a cold, wintry morning when the small congregation outside of Hickory Flat, Mississippi gathered for worship on Sunday. The congregation was made up mostly of women, children and elderly men as the younger men were off fighting in the Confederate Army. The service was beginning when there was a loud knock on the door. Everyone grew very quiet. Union patrols had been spotted in the area. Mothers pulled children close. Old men looked at each other with fear and apprehension. Finally a deacon said, “We had better see who is at the door and find out what they want.” When the door was finally opened, there stood a group of Union soldiers. Barely speaking above a whisper, the Union officer said, “Please don’t be afraid. We are not here to harm you. We would just like to come and worship the Lord with you. May we?” They were told that the congregation would have to talk it over. The door closed. No one knew what to do. Finally a deacon said to a woman dressed in black, “Betty, you have lost two of your loved ones in this war. You have suffered more than anyone else. What do you think we should do? Should we invite these soldiers in to worship with us?” Betty began to weep. Between sobs, she managed to say, “If we cannot worship with our enemies, then we can’t truly worship.” The soldiers were invited inside and shown to seats.
The service resumed. Songs were song. Scriptures were read. Prayers were offered. A sermon was preached. One of the Union soldiers even sang a solo. When the service was concluded, the soldiers thanked everyone for their graciousness. They shook hands and all wished one another God’s blessings.

What a marvelous testimony of the power of faith at some of the worst of times. The Civil War divided the nation and ripped families apart. Even churches were in turmoil creating conflicting theologies attempting to justify slavery in a nation dedicated to the equality of all people. In the midst of all the problems facing our nation today, the Church must and foremost be the People of God. We must never allow social agendas or political pressures to tarnish or impede the mission and ministry of the Church.

We must be a loving people loving people. We, as Christians, must be salt and light to a salt less and dark world. God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27               Thank you, Michael Mason, for this article.

FALLING IN LOVE WITH JESUS

This month of February is a month of LOVE.  Perhaps because Valentine Day is in this month, so we think more about loving.    Love is a many splendor thing.  It is difficult to define.  We know it when we see it and feel it.  We learn to love by being loved.  God not only tells us of His love but He shows us.

The Bible is God’s love story and His Son, Jesus is the picture of the love of God.  When you see Jesus, you see God, the Father.  Jesus said, “As the Father has love me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.”  John 15:9    What has to happen to please God is to fall in love with His Son.  How do we fall in love with Jesus?

Just like we fall in love with another person.  We get to know them,  We associate with them.  We talk with them. We listen to them.  Slowly but surely, we fall in love with them.  How can you help but love Him when He has shown such love.

When I read about Jesus standing by a shamed woman, daring the self-righteous to convict her.  I imagined Him doing that for me and I love Him.
When Jesus stood at a well, talking to a woman everyone shunned, I pictured Him talking to me, despite my faults and I love Him.
When Jesus stopped and healed a woman who in faith touched His cloak, I knew He would stop  for me and I love Him.
When Jesus endured false accusations, was betrayed by His friends, rejected by His own, was beaten, crucified and even experienced separation from His Father, He did all that in order to set me free from the curse of sin, I love Him more.

There is much more that could be said about this Jesus that just makes me love Him even more.  Do you see, we have to know Him to love Him. That is what the Bible is all about.  It is all about Jesus, God’s Son, through whom He has given us the opportunity to be saved.   First John 4:9-10 reads: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.

 

HOW DO WE GET THE HOLY SPIRIT?

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within His followers.  He did this after His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.  Jesus told His Apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy
Spirit, Power from on high.  The Holy Spirit came to them to enable them to teach/preach God’s divine message of salvation.  This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.   Acts 1:4-5  The demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and giving them the message from God is seen in the 2nd chapter of Acts climaxing with 3000 people believing and being baptized.  At the conclusion of the first gospel sermon Peter told the convicted Jews, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (forgiveness) of sins and to receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.”  Acts 2:38

Now this is different than receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In only two instances is the work of the Holy Spirit called a baptism.  On the day of Pentecost as described in the 2nd chapter of Acts and the outpouring of the spirit on Cornelius, a Gentile, in the 10th chapter of Acts.  I conclude that the Holy Spirit given to the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost was so they could deliver God’s message and the
Spirit given to Cornelius and the Gentiles was so they knew that the message was from God.  All of this proved the authenticity of the message  through the Apostles and that the Gentiles had the right to this God-saving message.

We must acknowledge that God wants His children to have His Spirit.  Listen, “If by the spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:13-14  The Spirit is absolutely necessary.  “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  Romans 8:16  In fact, Romans 8:9 states, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

God’s Spirit, Spirit of Jesus and the Holy Spirit all work together to bring salvation to every human being who will believe the message. Faith comes by hearing God’s message from His book, the Bible.  We are save by grace through faith.

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

We need a greater understanding of the Spirit that is holy,  Holy Spirit.  What does He do?

In the 16th chapter  of John’s gospel, verses 8 through 11, we are told that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND JUDGMENT.
What sin?  The sin of unbelief in Jesus being God’s unique Son, Messiah, God in flesh.
Whose righteousness?  The rightness of Jesus, His perfect life, His sinlessness.
The judgment is against sin and death which was accomplished in the life and death of Jesus.  The cross defeated Satan, sin is doomed, God and God’s people are victorious.

The chief work of the Holy Spirit is God’s agent to bring about belief in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), Lord (Master), and Savior (Save His people from their sins).
The means by which this is accomplished is by the Spirit in the minds and hearts of people through the Word of God, the Bible.  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

The task of the Holy Spirit is to EXALT JESUS.  The Holy Spirit’s testimony regarding Jesus is found in the Bible.  It is from this testimony that we believe.   The Holy Spirit has NO NEW TRUTH.
The Spirit has guided the Apostles into all spiritual truth. We have that truth in the pages of the Bible.

We do NOT  need the Holy Spirit to receive knowledge.  We have God’s truth in Scripture.  We need the Holy Spirit to empower (enable) us to live lives of holiness.  The Holy Spirit was sent to be the Christian’s helper. The word, “HELPER” means “one called alongside us.”  He stands beside us to help us, that we fight no battles alone.  Someone has said, “If you have the Holy Spirit on the inside, you can stand any battle on the outside.”

This story may help illustrate this point: Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball.  Breaking the baseball color barrier was difficult as he faced jeering crowds in every situation. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error.  The  fans began to ridicule him.  He stood on second base, humiliated while the fans jeered.  Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him.  He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd.  The fans grew silent.  Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

The Holy Spirit is there for us when we feel alone, discouraged, a failure.  He places His arm around us to hold us up, comforting, strengthening us and through the Scriptures to guide us.  Our acceptance of Jesus brings us forgiveness of our sins and the indwelling of God’s gift, HIS SPIRIT THAT IS HOLY.

 

COMFORTER POMISED

Lightning struck the steeple of a church and the village atheist went out to watch it burn.  He was reproached by the minister with the words, “You never came to our church before.” The man replied, “Your church was never on fire before.”
If the church is to carry out its task, it must be set afire.  Now, I don’t mean that you actually torch the building because the building is not the church.  You see, it is not the structure that needs the fire but the members.  It is not the institution that needs power, but the individuals who make it up.  We need to be set on fire by the Holy Spirit of God through His Word.

The 14, 15, 16 and 17 chapters of John are the after dinner remarks of Jesus to His disciple in the upper room or on His  way to Gethsemane.  He told them that He was going to leave them. That He was going back to the Father who sent Him into the world.  The disciples thought only of themselves as to what His leaving would do to them. Jesus was very disappointed for He said, “and none of you asks me, where are you going?” Jesus told them that it was necessary that He leave them and that His leaving was best for them.  How could this be?  Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless” literally meaning, “I will not leave you orphaned.”  Jesus is leaving this world physically so He could send back the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said about this Spirit that is Holy: “He shall be with you,”  “He shall abide with you forever,”  “He shall glorify Me,” and  “He shall guide you into all truth.”                                                                                             Now, remember that Jesus is speaking to the Apostles.  God through the Holy Spirit would reveal  to them divine truth.  His message through them would be the keys of the Kingdom of God.

A story is told of a young boy whose mother asked him, what the preacher preached about in his sermon that morning?  His answer was, ‘that the preacher said that the Lord was going to give us a warm blanket.’      The mother said that she had never heard a sermon like that.  So, the mother telephoned a neighbor and asked,  “What did the preacher preach about in the morning service?”  The neighbor replied, “He preached about Jesus giving us ANOTHER COMFORTER.”

As Christians. we have that Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us through the Bible, God’s word.

I pray that we will be so full of the Holy Spirit that if a mosquito bites us that it will fly away singing, “There is power in the Blood.”

 

TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN

To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a final exam.
To realize the value of one month, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of a week, ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train or bus or plane.
To realize the value of one second, ask a person who survived an accident.
To realize the value of one millisecond, ask a person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.
Time waits for no one.  Treasure every moment you have.                 Selected

Time is a gift.  We do not deserve it nor have we earned it. What an important gift. Because, time is the very stuff out of which life is formed. Too often we measure time by years, months, days or hands on a clock. But, time ought to be measured by heart beats, breaths and dreams.
Time is an opportunity.  Within time, decisions are made. And, in decisions destiny is decided. God gives each of us this precious raw material out of which choice is made.  Time is your opportunity, do with it what you will.  But, just remember this, good things are paid for in advance and bad things are paid for afterwards.  Make time do for you, don’t just do time.

Determine with the Apostle Paul, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”          Philippians 3:13-14

It is the response we make to Jesus Christ in time that determines our eternal destiny.
God has given us the Bible so that we might make our decisions in line with His will.
Make right use of time for His glory, to honor Him. With our faith in Christ, we can face time and eternity without fear, knowing that God is with us both now and forever.
                                                                                 Happy New Year

“I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY”

Story Behind the Song: ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’
Tragedy struck in the Longfellow home on July 9, 1861. His wife, Fanny, was near an open window placing locks of her daughter’s hair in a packet, using hot sealing wax to secure it. It was never known whether a spark from a match or the sealing wax was the cause, but suddenly her dress caught fire and she was engulfed in flames.
Longfellow, sleeping in the next room, was awakened by her screams and dashed in to rescue her. He was severely burned on his face and hands as he tried desperately to extinguish the flames and save his wife. She died in the fire and his burns were so severe he could not attend her funeral.  He seemed to lock the anguish within his soul. His family could see his suffering in his eyes, and they observed his long periods of silence. The burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible, thus, the white beard.

Although a literary giant, Longfellow still needed the peace that only God can give to his children. On Christmas day in 1863, he sat down and desperately tried to reflect on the joys of the season. He was never considered a hymn writer, however, the poem he wrote on that day was later set to music by Englishman John Calkin. The result is one of our most popular Christmas carols.
“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

As he came to the third stanza he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Civil War was in full swing. The battle of Gettysburg was not more than six months past. Days looked dark. He must have asked himself, “How can the last phrase of those stanzas be true in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” However, he continued:
“And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

Actually, he could have also been writing for the present day. Then, as each of us should do, he turned his thoughts to the one who solves all problems. From his pen flowed…..
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

Millions of children and adults, the world over, love this carol. Peace and goodwill shall one day come to us when the Prince of Peace shall reign.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14

“Mary, did you Know?”

One of my favorite songs at Christmas time is this one, “Mary, Did You Know?”   Please read it thoughtfully and receive the great meaning.

“MARY DID YOU KNOW?”
“Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary. did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand”
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby you’ve kissed the face of God.

The blind will see.  The deaf will hear.  The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.  The dumb will speak the  praises of the Lamb.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the Great I Am.

(Lyrics by Mark Lowry.  Music by Buddy Greene)

Of course, Mary couldn’t possibly know all that was to come to pass by her son.
It is stated in Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
She had a heart full as she watched her child grow.  She knew in her heart that this child was of God
The miraculous conception was evidence that Jesus, her son was the unique Son of God.
She was faithful to Him, loved and worshipped Him.

We know so much more about Jesus because of the divine record from God, the Bible.
May this time of year draw us closer to Him.  May we love and worship Him.

I am at Tim and Deborah’s house in Milledgeville, Georgia celebrating Christmas with them.  I am so thankful  for all you who read my devotionals.  I feel like I am continuing my ministry through them.  I pray they bless your life.
I want to wish you and yours a MERRY CHRISTMAS.

 

SOMEONE WITH SKIN ON

I want to share with you my favorite Christmas story. This is a repeat from my book, Max Speaking  Devotionals From My Heart.  You will find it on page 31 in the book. I hope that you will enjoy the story of Christmas again, as I enjoy telling it.

A little girl had been tucked in bed one night after the family prayers. It was a stormy night, the lightning flashed across the sky and thunder shook the house. The youngster endured this as long as possible. Then, she scurried to the living room and threw herself into her mother’s arms exclaiming, “I am afraid.”  The mother quieted the child as she put her back to bed saying, “Remember, honey, God loves you and He will keep you safe.”

But, no sooner had the mother returned to the front room and seated herself comfortably, than the child appeared in the doorway crying, “Mommy, I’m still afraid.”   Mother put the child back to bed telling her, “Honey, you must stay in bed, you are perfectly safe, I told you that God loves you and He will take care of you.”   The little girl replied, “I know God loves me mommy, but, when it is thundering and lightning, I want someone with skin on to love me.”

Jesus was God in human flesh. He put skin on in order for us to know Him.

What was God like as a baby? Go to Bethlehem and stand by the cradle of the child, Jesus. What was God like as a growing boy? Go to the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth and see Jesus as He learns the carpenter’s trade from Joseph. What was God like in temptation? Go into the wilderness and share in the fierce attack of the devil upon Jesus.

What was God like in making decisions? Go to Gethsemane and hear Him pray, “Not my will but your will be done.”  

What was God like in suffering and dying? Go to Calvary and see Jesus hanging upon that cross, dying for sinful humanity.

What was God like in victory? Go to the empty tomb and hear the angel declare, “He is not here, He is risen, even as He said.”

We can know what God is like. He is like Jesus. Only Jesus could say, “The Father and I are one. When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

May Christmas mean this to us, that the coming of Jesus is God’s unmistakable revelation of Himself to us.

He became like us, so we could become like Him.