Stewarding the Heart: Seek Him. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, March 17, 2019

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“If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:4, 5).

Solomon was the wisest man living in his day, and his admonition is proof. He was a man, though plagued with sin, as we all are, who knew what it was to seek after God. Solomon is the one who said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). It seems that he had a healthy obsession with godly wisdom.

Many are in hot pursuit of riches. Some spend almost all that they have on lottery tickets. Others invest large sums in the stock market and real estate. Still others dig in the earth with hopes of discovering some priceless artifact or precious gem.

Solomon is saying that the tireless energy we expend seeking the riches of this world, can be better used seeking God’s wisdom. It is in searching that we begin to understand reverence for God, and departing from evil. It is in seeking God with all of our heart, that we begin an intimate relationship with Him. Seek the Lord while he may be found. Search for Him and you will find the knowledge of God.

Welcome to the privilege of becoming faithful stewards of your hearts. Manage responsibly, in Jesus’ name.

Downtime Praise

“Stewarding the Heart: Taking Time to Praise. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday March 3, 2019.

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“I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.” (Psalms 9:1, 2).

Not Enough Praise

Whenever we think of something that the Lord has done for us, we should praise Him. I know that I do not praise Him enough, and neither do many others. When we open our eyes in the morning, we should praise Him. Whenever we drink a glass of relatively clean water, we should praise Him.

As we eat our first bite of food, we should praise Him. When we almost have a car accident, but don’t, we should praise Him. And, if we do have an accident and come out alive, we should praise Him.

Make A List. Check It Twice.

The angels in heaven praise Him, and they are sinless. They do not know what it is to have the King of the universe become one of them and die the second death on their behalf, yet they praise Him all day long. If the angels praise Him, how much more should we upon whom the ends of the world are come? If we do not praise Him, inanimate nature will take our place. I do not want the rocks and trees crying out in my place. Make a list of the great things He has done. Go through them one by one, and praise Him.

Now, when you are tempted to feel forsaken of God, remember these words: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (Psalms 22:1-3).

Welcome to the privilege of becoming faithful stewards of your hearts. Manage responsibly, in Jesus’ name.

How God Forgives and Forgets

Stewarding the Heart: Embracing God’s Forgiveness. Message Magazine’s Daily, Online Devotional for Sunday, March 3, 2019.

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“And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left” (II Chronicles 34:2).

The Bible has a way of revealing the character of God that we would miss completely if the Holy Spirit was not with us. One of the characteristics of God that leaps from the pages is His ability to forgive and forget. Obviously, forgetting does not mean that He miraculously gives Himself amnesia. It does mean however that He does not hold forgiven sins against us while we remain in good relationship with Him. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

I believe the Lord when He says that He forgives and does not remember, because God makes an interesting statement about young king Josiah. He said that he was right in the sight of the Lord just like His father David. Wait a minute! Is this a misprint? Did not David murder a man just to cover up his own lust and adultery? Did not David take the dead man’s wife as his own? How in the world can God say that David was righteous?

As is the case with all repentant sinners, God honored His promise to forgive those who repent and confess their sin to Him. You see, God’s accounting is not like ours. God’s love for the repentant sinner does not allow Him to keep a record of wrong. The simple fact is that God answered David’s prayer when he prayed, “Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” (Psalms 51:9).

Are there sins that you have confessed for which you feel unforgiven? Take a lesson from David’s experience with God. When he pursued God with his entire heart, all separation between them, including sin, was removed. Pray that the Lord will restore you through forgiveness, and you too will be called righteous. God’s ability to forget gives us the ability to live on streets of gold. Be sure to thank God for this blessing.

Welcome to the privilege of becoming faithful stewards of your hearts. Manage responsibly, in Jesus’ name.

God’s Name

Stewarding the Heart: Holy, Name of God. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, February 18, 2019

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“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

That Name

The name of God is holy. The ways in which He has revealed Himself throughout history, show us clearly, that He is no lightweight God. In His name judgments were pronounced, messages delivered, and vast armies defeated. Kings, pharaohs, and governors bowed under His name. In His name, diseases were cured, ailments sent to flight, and devils exorcised. The name of God is not to be treated lightly.

God’s people have associated names of God with important junctures in their lives. In the case of Abraham on Mount Moriah, God was the Provider. In the case of Moses facing the charge to begin the exodus, He was the Lord; the one who is with you. In the creation,the Almighty One established the worlds.

On The Lips

Looking closely at these realities gives us a view of why it is no small matter to misuse His name. Sometimes I watch shows on cable that are good in general, but I have noticed that even in the least offensive of them, people treat the name of the Lord lightly. One example is in all of the home makeover shows that I have seen. Invariably, when homeowners see the great job the designer has done, they begin to repeatedly use God’s name, not in worship or adoration, but in superficial surprise with no regard for His holiness. This neither pleases God nor does it bring Him glory.

Another way that may be more offensive is when we wear the name of God, and then chronically do things He disapproves of. Does He get any praise when we claim to be His, yet do not allow Him to control our lives? A whole world is watching even when we are not aware, and they blaspheme God when they recognize hypocrisy. Let us accept the name of God in our lives as it is our privilege to, and worship Him as He deserves. We can win many people to the Lord by simply living as those that reverence His name.

Protect The Power of That Name

Welcome to the privilege of becoming faithful stewards of your hearts. Manage responsibly, in Jesus’ name.

First in My Heart

Stewarding the Heart: God Comes First. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, February 17, 2019

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“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

Put God First in Your Life

Every responsible human being is faced with the task of prioritizing, daily. Whether it is related to tasks at work, school, or in relationships, we all must make decisions about what is most important to us, and how to organize them.

God has said in His word in so many instances, that He demands to be number one in our lives. His purpose for this is not rooted in selfishness. He is not merely saying that He wants us for Himself for some shallow or arbitrary reason. His love says that He cannot live without us. He knows that if we do not keep Him in a position of preeminence in our lives, we will never live with Him eternally.

Sin has mixed up the intended order of things. We have been programmed to think that the first priority should be self-satisfaction. The pursuit of riches, notoriety, and lofty educational attainments has, in many cases, dethroned God in our soul temple.

Closely associated with God’s command to keep Him first is His resume’ of gifts to us. He has made every provision necessary for our freedom from the power and presence of sin; therefore, it should be an act of gratitude to make Him Lord of our every detail.

Jump Start

In the practical things of life, we can begin to put God first by jump starting our day with Him. Through worship, prayer, and Bible study we can bring what really matters into focus. When we have the right focus from the very beginning of our day, the enemy has less access to our lives, and the Lord is able to fight our battles for us. When we meet with God in the morning, we give Him permission to support or change anything we have planned. Make, and keep the Lord first in your days, and He will remain seated on the throne of your life. Welcome to the privilege of becoming faithful stewards of your hearts. Manage responsibly, in Jesus’ name.

Acute Eyesight of The Humble

“Stewarding the Heart” Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Friday, February 15, 2019

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“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11).

True Reflection

Self-appraisal is impossible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who brings conviction to the heart and shows us where we need improvement (John 16:13). Whenever we attempt to see ourselves in our true light without His aid, we will invariably minimize our need. We will think of ourselves more highly than we should.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5, 6). These verses give an accurate picture of our being, without the Lord.

A religious zealot stood up in the temple, the Bible says, and prayed with himself that he was holy, unlike the publican who was nearby. The wording in the King James Version of the Bible is interesting. I am not making a doctrine out of the wording, but it is interesting. It says that the Pharisee prayed with himself and then the verse continues. When we have a false sense of our righteousness and then venture to pray, giving our spiritual resumes to God, it is as though we are praying to ourselves. We have made ourselves gods. The God of heaven neither hears nor answers proud prayers.

God-Given Humility

The publican received the power of the Holy Spirit to see his exceeding sinfulness. “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:13, 14). It is a blessing to know that the Lord is not impressed by our proud self-appraisals, but by our God-given humility. He is anxious to answer the prayers of those who humble themselves before Him.

May the Lord give us acute spiritual eyesight that we may see as He sees. May we be brought to humility, thereby bringing us into a close relationship with Him. “Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD. Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” (Psalms 138:5, 6).

Welcome to the privilege of becoming faithful stewards of your hearts. Manage responsibly, in Jesus’ name.

The Story of The Final Fashion Statement

“The Gospel According to Matthew.” Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, December 16, 2018

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“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests” (Matthew 22:9, 10).

When The Invites Went Out

Jesus spoke a parable about a special wedding for a king’s son. The king told his servants to invite people to the wedding. He made certain that everything imaginable was prepared, so that all would have a wonderful experience. Imagine the king’s dismay when those he invited would not clear their schedules to show up, and others beat and killed his servants for inviting them. He instructed the remainder of his servants to execute swift justice.

Another invitation went out, and the same provisions for the enjoyment of the guests were made. This time, many people came and that made the king happy. When the king came in to see his guests, he saw one who was clearly out of place.

“And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:12-14).

One may infer from the text that since the king was so generous in providing so much for the wedding that he also provided the guests with appropriate clothing. This is why the king was so angry. How could someone accept the invitation, but rudely refuse to wear the appropriate clothing, when it was provided?

Good Question

This is a picture of the gospel call, as well as a judgment. Notice that the king was excited about inviting guests to spend special time with his son. Is the Lord happy to invite us into relationship with Himself and His Son Jesus? When the king came to see his guests, He was expecting to see appropriate attire. What better attire is there than the garments of Jesus’ righteousness to cover a multitude of sin (Isaiah 61:10; Philippians 3:9)? When He did not see the garment representing the righteousness of Christ, He did the only thing He could do. He ordered the condemnation be executed that the man brought upon himself.

Notice, the only people the king saw in sort of an investigation were those who initially accepted the invitation. This is the case today. The Bible says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

Only those that have accepted Jesus Christ, at least once, appear in this special judgment. In the parable, the only one specifically mentioned at the feast, was the man who neglected to put on the appropriate garment. Based on his punishment, this means that everyone else was safe because they had on the garment representing the righteousness of Christ. This judgment was never intended for condemnation, but God gives us the opportunity to choose whether we will continue in the faith, or take off the righteousness of Christ by returning to our own ways.

Tailor-made Fit

There is an investigation of God’s people going on today. This is how He is able, at the second coming of Jesus Christ, to bring His reward with Him. He is determining whether we are continuing in the faith or have chosen another way. When He comes to your name, will you be found faithful? When His work is finished and the book of life is closed, He will soon appear in the clouds. “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).

This has been the gospel according to Matthew. Be transformed by it.

The Rock Upon Which Beauty Is Built

“The Gospel According to Matthew.” Settled and sure, and you can rest in this Rock. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

This Rock Is Jesus

One day Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He was. They responded that some thought He was John the Baptist, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or another prophet. Jesus asked them who they thought He was. Peter, being the impulsive man that he was, and quick to speak, said that Jesus was the anointed Son of the living God. With joy, Jesus said that no human could have revealed such an incredible truth to Peter. In fact, the Lord revealed this to him. Jesus continued by saying that the church would be built upon this rock and the gates of hell would not be able to withstand or defeat it. The church was built upon Jesus.

There has been confusion since the time of Christ concerning His identity. Some say He was a good man. Others say that He was a prophet like Moses, or in their view, Muhammad. Still others consider Him an ordinary man; a mere human who may have done some good things. The Bible teaches that Jesus was no ordinary man. Rather, He was Emmanuel, that is to say, God with us (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus, Himself fully God, revealed the Father to the world. It was upon this firm foundation, this rock of Gibraltar, that the church was built. Hence, the name, Christian

No Other Name

Can you imagine how unsettled and shaky the Christian church would have been if it a human being established it? Take Peter for instance. Could the church have survived on him? Did the gates of hell ever prevail against Him? “And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew” (Matthew 26:73, 74).

Although in the end, Peter emerged a very faithful apostle, the church would be in trouble if we implicitly followed his or any other faithful person’s example. The foundation of God’s church must not only be faithful, but all-powerful and eternal.

Solid Rock

Suppose the church was built upon Christ. Would the foundation be stable and secure? Was Jesus ever overcome by the powers of darkness? “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18).

We are secure in Jesus, knowing His church stands upon Him. Jesus is the foundation of the Christian church. With this firm foundation, there is no way that the devil can prevail. It’s no wonder that throughout the ages, every attempt to destroy the church has failed. The devil could not kill it by murdering its Shepherd, inflicting twelve hundred sixty years of persecution, or infiltrating it with false doctrine.

Christ, The Cornerstone

The Holy Spirit, through the word of God, brings the insidious nature of lies to light. We are secure with Jesus as our foundation. He is the rock. “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12).

This has been the gospel according to Matthew. Be transformed by it.

Mighty Mind-When You Need A Spiritual Supercharge

“The Gospel According to Matthew.” When you need the mental might to stay in the fight, God will provide. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, December 10, 2018

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“But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 13:11).

Super Strength

After a great discussion with a friend concerning our need for the power of the Holy Ghost, and complete reliance on Christ, something dawned on me. I thought back to my elementary school science classes. In those classes, we learned about the so-called fight or flight response. When certain stressors threaten us, adrenaline, noradrenalin, and cortisol are secreted into our bloodstream. The blood rushes away from our digestive organs, our pupils dilate, sight sharpens, and overall awareness is keener. In this state, we are physically stronger and able to move faster than usual. Our heart rate speeds up and to a large extent, we lose pain sensitivity. This is why a petite mother of a young child in danger, can literally bench press a car, if necessary, to rescue her child. Under normal circumstances, that same loving Mom may have difficulty opening a jar of pickles.

All of this neurophysiological stuff made me think of God’s willingness, and ability to supply us with what we need, at the very moment that we need it. The analogy may not correspond directly, but this is the way I see it. When we love the Lord and spend time with Him in daily devotional Bible study and prayer, He has promised many things. One such promise is that when we are faced with strong spiritual opposition and have to give an answer for our faith, He will speak through us. He said that we should not practice or specifically prepare, because it is God that speaks.

Spiritual Adrenaline

In the fight or flight response, the one stressed cannot prepare for the activity at hand. They cannot prepare to run more than twenty miles per hour. They cannot prepare to move a one ton vehicle without the aid of a tow truck. All of these abilities are given to us by God in the moment they are needed. Can you imagine what it would be like if we stayed charged by adrenaline all of the time? We would become overcharged and probably have a heart attack. The point is this, just as God put a mechanism in place for our physical protection, He did likewise for our spiritual well-being. Just as we must trust Him to activate the systems that He put within our bodies, we must trust Him to do likewise within our minds.

It is wonderful to know that God gives us instantaneous help when we need it. He is never too late, but always on time.

This has been the gospel according to Matthew. Be transformed by it.

Suspicious Worshippers

The Gospel According to Matthew.  The Path of Feigned Worship. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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“Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.” After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him”” (Matthew 2:7–8, 13, HCSB).

Wily Worshipers

Worship is not a joke! We were born to worship. Unfortunately, some worship self, money, unholy pleasures, sexual habits, entertainment, people, false gods, and the status quo. Some who claim to worship God, really are antagonistic to all that is godly and are displaying “… a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Today’s theme passage chronicles an example of what lies, deceit, and hatred produces in those who claim to worship God. We all have heard the story during the holiday season. Herod felt threatened by baby King Jesus, feigned worship, and sought to kill Him instead. Is there any principle we can learn from this story?

While none of us are probably insecure monarchs who feel our thrones are threatened or are willing to commit mass murder to protect our legacies, some of us fear our pride will be dismantled by God, so we keep up appearances like we are true worshippers, but we really are not. In fact some of us have actually experienced the power and presence of God, but turned away from Him; and by virtue of that fact, “…seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:6). Pretending to worship God, but living in un-repentance is just like crucifying Jesus.

Hope for Prideful Pretenders

Yes, stories like Herod’s are interesting, and even may provide information for our understanding, but we must adapt them so we can apply godly principles to our lives. Among the many principles we can apply from the story, one bubbles up to the surface: false worship or pretend worship of God leads to a host of atrocities. Therefore, it is our privilege to get to know our Creator and not give in to pride, fear, or self righteousness. We can commit to asking God daily to introduce His beauty and character to us, so love, power and trust will result. Remember, it’s a daily journey, and God is with you every step of the way.

This has been the gospel according to Matthew. Be transformed by it.