Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fully Charged

The evangelist picked up the wireless microphone, turned to face the congregation, and began to speak. The crowd looked at him blankly as no sound whatsoever came out of the speakers. With a quick glance at the man working in the sound booth, he checked the mike in his hand and tried once more. Again there was no sound. Soon it was determined that the battery in the microphone was dead, and the search began for a fresh one to replace it.

How sad if we in the church likewise find ourselves with a message to share but no power to deliver it! The Holy Spirit is the power source that takes mere words and shoots them like darts past listening ears to find their mark in the hearts of those who hear them. All of us believers are ministers of God’s grace to the people around us. Yet if we’re not full of the Holy Spirit our evangelistic efforts fall as flat as if we’re using a microphone with a dead battery.

In the week following this incident I bought an extra battery and stuck it in my purse in case we should ever encounter the same situation in church again. It reminds me that it’s my responsibility to stay full of the Holy Ghost - fully charged - that I might have the power to minister effectively whenever the occasion arises.

“Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame…”
(2 Kings 19:26 NIV)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Full Assurance

Finally admitting to myself the need for more exercise in my life, I’d gotten into the habit of walking a mile or two every day. On one particular day I found myself with an hour to spare before the evening’s church service started, so drove to the park and began to hike. The day was warm, the exercise strenuous, and I soon found myself sweating as I made my way at last back to the car for the drive to the church building. With neither time nor opportunity to shower again before the service began, I found myself keeping my distance from people and reluctant to hug their necks, fearful that I might offend somebody with possible body odor.

Perhaps that’s why we’re sometimes hesitant to draw close to God. We know where we’ve been in life and what we’ve been doing, and we’re afraid that God might find us offensive as a result. So we keep our distance, worshiping him from afar when He longs for us to draw close enough to be touched by His love.

The solution in both instances is simply to wash ourselves clean. Just as a little soap and water take care of the problems caused by sweating on a hot day, the Blood of the Lamb likewise washes away our sin when we confess our need of cleansing and ask God to make us right with Him once more. Then we can draw as near to Him as we desire and be assured of being pulled into His warm embrace.

“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22 NIV)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The First and the Last

The cardinals are the first hungry songbirds to visit my birdfeeders each morning. Daylight is usually still moments away when I first see them hopping from branch to branch, looking for leftover birdseed from the day before and checking to see if the feeders have yet been refilled for the day ahead. They’re likewise the last birds to come by at night, looking for a last snack before heading to their nests for the night. Day or night, they’re my favorite of all the birds that come to feed each day. Their brilliant red coloring and saucy crest attracts me like none other.

God is also the First and the Last in my day. Early in the morning, before the sun is up, I find Him eagerly awaiting our time together. He provides me with the nourishment I need for that day alone, promising to meet me again on the morrow with grace for that day, as well. He is also the last thought on my mind at night, the last person I speak to as I voice my thanks for the day’s blessings, answered prayers, and the sacrifice that was made on my behalf. My sleep is sweeter when it begins with whispered words of love to the One my heart chooses above all others.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13 NIV)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pizza Party in the House of God

Tuesday night is pizza night at our house, and as I entered our local pizza parlor to pick up our order, a sign on the door caught my eye. “Come in hungry,” it said. No problem there – my stomach had been growling for food for the past thirty minutes. Pizza is great anytime, but it’s especially satisfying when one’s body is calling out for food.

Come in hungry. What a great message that would be to post on our church doors, as well! Having recently started a new job that requires me to work on Sundays, my attendance of late at our regular services has been sporadic at best. As a result, I know what it’s like to be hungry for a good worship service. This negative aspect of my otherwise enjoyable employment has been found to have a definite up side – I appreciate the opportunity to be in church like never before! While I was careful to read my Bible, pray and listen to preaching tapes when I couldn’t attend, I found that there is nothing like corporate praise, prayer and the preaching of the Word to satisfy a spiritually starved soul.

There are certain aspects of church attendance that I no longer take for granted. I hug necks and spend extra time in conversation with people that I used to just wave to in passing, as I find that I’ve been craving the fellowship of other believers. I delight in the nuggets of truth God sets before me to feast on in the pastor’s message. And I feed off the excitement, inspiration and joy to be found in our worship service like never before. Spiritual food simply tastes better when you’re hungry for God.

As I exited the pizza parlor with two steaming boxes in hand, I noticed that the reverse side of the sign on the door said, “Come back soon.” Next Tuesday I may find myself back at one or another of the many pizza places in town…but next Sunday will definitely find me back at church!

Thankfully I don’t have to wait a week to taste again the presence of God. The door to His heart is always open, and He always has something wonderful to bring to the table when I come to visit.

Come in hungry. Come back soon. You’ll be glad you did.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

(Psalm 34:8 NIV)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fight to the Finish

It was a rather gruesome discovery. A landowner in northern Ohio was walking a trap line on his farm when he came across the bodies of two deer that had died after locking their antlers together in what was probably a territorial dispute. The smaller buck had sustained several severe injuries in the fight, including the broken neck that had killed it. But the larger of the two animals, although apparently winning the battle, lost his life as well. Unable to free himself from his opponent, the dead weight of the other animal on his head had forced his face and nostrils into the dirt, suffocating him.

Too often we do battle with others over what we perceive to be our rights or concerning issues that are insignificant in the long run. In the ensuing skirmish we may be victorious over our enemy and yet lose our own spiritual lives as well. The resentment we feel becomes a dead weight from which we are unable to shake free and which eventually smothers the very life of Christ in us. Just as the deer were unable to separate their antlers to free themselves, neither will we escape what we have coming to us if we harbor malice towards others.

The next time we're tempted to "lock horns" with someone we should remember that it could very well be a fight to the finish... for both of us.

"But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court..."
(Matthew 5:22 AMP)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eternal Consequences

I looked out the window and gasped. The snow that had blanketed the ground in an unbroken carpet of white now lay heaped in two ridges on either side of my newly plowed driveway! Using his bladed 4-wheeler, my neighbor had freed our vehicles from their weather-inflicted imprisonment in the garage.

I called to thank him and he brushed me off, reminding me of how I used to baby-sit his son in years gone by. Stunned, I protested, "But that was 15 to 20 years ago!"

A single dad fighting a bitter custody battle, he didn't want to leave his son unattended at morning bus stops or home alone on days when weather emergencies prompted early school closures. He'd asked if the boy could stay with me at such times. It was an easy way to help him out of a tough spot.

And now let a mere inch of snow fall from the sky and he plows it out of our way. Fruit baskets appear at our door every Christmas; mums and painted pumpkins come in the fall. He's watered our gardens and watched our pets when we've left town on vacation. He can't forget a simple kindness done for him so long ago.

If our actions in the physical realm have such far-reaching implications, imagine the result of the same in the spiritual one. My neighbor's favor will last only until we no longer live across the street from each other. But the rewards for good deeds done during our brief stay on earth are ours to enjoy all eternity long.

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

(Matthew 10:42 NIV)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Enemy at the Door

The church service was glorious as the ministry team worshipped the Lord in song, inspired the congregation with their testimonies, and later laughed and talked as they enjoyed punch and cookies in the fellowship hall. It was a wonderful night until one of the visitors tripped over the porch step as she was leaving the building, severely injuring her ankles. Moments later the joys of the evening were swallowed by the scream of the approaching sirens and the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles. Later someone mused, “The devil couldn’t get in the building, so he waited just outside the door.”

This woman’s physical experience can happen to us spiritually. We revel in the love of God in our lives or delight in His presence in our various ministry activities. The devil has no opportunity to harm us when we are so covered in God’s glory. But the minute we step from that spiritual experience into more secular surroundings we find that sin is sitting on our doorsteps, waiting to trip us up in some way. If we’re not careful we may take a fall that cripples us temporarily from walking in the gifts and callings that God has placed upon us.

The woman who fell didn’t know the porch step was there, nor did she see it as she exited the building. And so perhaps our best defense against the devil’s wiles is to be aware of our surroundings and to know that he’s out there, looking to bring us down. We’ll walk more carefully as a result and are more likely to remain standing on our spiritual feet.

"…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)
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