Some of the words to the old gospel hymn “God Leads Us Along” are: “some through the waters, some through the flood…” Those words became reality for our church on the day the fire alarm sounded and a sprinkler head in the attic went off. Within a short time the carpets were saturated and the ceiling began to collapse. There was no fire and we very quickly got the water turned off and began moving things out of the affected area. A cleanup company was called and the work to get up and running again was begun. We were not able to occupy our building until the sprinkler system went back on line. We were able to have services at a neighboring church but this little event caused quite a disruption. As I evaluate this disaster I am reminded of what God’s Word assures believers in Rom. 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”. Our Heavenly Father has a divine purpose for His church through this disaster. I don’t know fully what God has in store for us but there are a few lessons that we can learn. The first lesson is that God is sovereign. He is in control of everything and only allows those things to come our way that will be for our good and for His glory. Another lesson we can learn is the fact that the church is not a building but a body. Those individual believers who are redeemed by the blood of Christ make up the true church. We love our building and the place we come together to praise Him but we had it confirmed to us that Peace River Baptist is really the people. One other lessons that perhaps we can learn is for us to see what is really important. Are we attracted to our facilities, or our technology, or our programs? What if these were gone, would we still be completely focused on worshiping and honoring Jesus?
We will get back up and running very soon. But we are reminded that even though we go through the waters, or through the flood Jesus is the One we love and He is the focus of our worship wherever that may occur.
I recently purchased a different car. I love the model and the color of my new vehicle. It gives me a comfortable ride with great gas mileage. I don’t know about you but as soon as I began to drive my new car, I started to notice other vehicles on the road of the same model, color, and approximate year. I am sure that there were just as many of this type of vehicle on the road as before I purchase mine. But the day I drove my car off the lot I began to notice my car everywhere. I wonder if it is just me or do others experience this same phenomenon of model recognition? Our eyes seem to be drawn to our own model, our own style, our own kind.
Model recognition can apply to fellow fans of a favorite sports team. It can be an affinity with others from the same state where we grew up. It can be a brotherhood in a favorite hobby. But there is another model recognition that is important for our spiritual lives. We who are believers in Christ need to be drawn to others who follow the same Savior. We are instructed to assemble with one another (Heb. 10:25). We are challenged to worship together, to love one another, to serve one another, and to greet one another. God’s Word describes this fellowship, this team we are in, in several ways. We are described as workers in the same harvest field (1 Cor. 3:9). We are called members of the same body (Rom. 12:5). And we are part of the same building (1 Cor. 3:9,10). So as we look at scripture we are not just to recognize fellow believers as we go through life and perhaps wave at them from time to time. We are challenged to cultivate this vital relationship, this sweet fellowship, and this family of faith.
It doesn’t matter what car you drive, what team you cheer for, or what hobbies you enjoy. But God’s people need to stick together in this family of faith.
Hurricane Irma left a path of devastation when it lumbered through Southwest Florida. It could have been much worse, nevertheless the hurricane made some lasting marks on our area. One of the victims of its wrath was the devastation on local boats that were not secured. Officials did their best to clean out the sunken or sinking boats that littered our waterways. They hauled the shipwrecked vessels onto a makeshift graveyard near the interstate. The word was put out that owners should come and take what they wanted from the shipwrecks before a certain deadline. They would then be destroyed. I feel sorry for those boat owners that lost so much in the hurricane.
Shipwrecks are tragic. However there is another type of shipwreck that is even more serious. The great apostle Paul spoke about the need for believers to practice self-discipline in their walk with the Lord. 1 Cor. 9:26-28: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. We can become careless in our spiritual walk and cause great damage not only to our own lives but also to those who are watching us. We can run aground in our morals, we can steer into the dangerous reef of a self-focused life, and we can break up our vessels with various addictions. We can become shipwrecked in our behavior but we can also become shipwrecked in our beliefs. Paul wrote to Timothy with the warning: “Having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19). There are so many siren calls that tempt us away from the straight course of biblical teaching.
The Christian life is not all smooth sailing. We must watch out for the dangers that can come our way. We must guard our beliefs as well as our behavior. The sight of that ship’s graveyard off the interstate is truly tragic. Let’s make sure that we don’t become a spiritual shipwreck.
My wife is an excellent cook. When she gets close to the end of one of her culinary masterpieces she will ask me to come for a taste. I of course readily comply. She will then look at me and often say: “something’s missing”. It may need more salt or a certain spice or even a little more time for the ingredients to blend. The missing ingredient makes the dish complete.
Relationships can resemble a meal that turns out being a tasteless disaster. Our marriages, our families, our government, our neighbors are all relationships that we must get right. However many times there is something missing. The absence of this missing ingredient generates conflict, anger, bitterness, distance, standoffs and a whole host of relationship breakers. What is this missing ingredient? It is love. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 13:4-8: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” The kind of love that is described here is selfless and seeks the greatest good of someone else. Think of how wonderful our marriages would be if we constantly added love to the recipe. Think of how happy our families would be if love was the overriding rule. Just imagine how much could be accomplished even in government if both sides would put into practice the love spoken about in scripture.
I realize it seems impossible for our sinful natures to love someone else selflessly. I agree. This kind of love can only come supernaturally. The Bible tells us that believers are given that capacity to love through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). We all can become master chefs in creating relationships that are delicious. All we need to do is add the missing ingredient of love.
I am many times completely unaware of the latest fashion trends adopted by the younger generation. I was in the mall the other day and witnessed a member of the younger generation wearing jeans that to me appeared completely worn out. Crossways rips up and down the front of the leg made the jeans to look like they had seen better days. Then someone else was wearing the same kind of jeans and then I realized that they didn’t wear them out, they purchased them with the rips already in place. Go figure.
Those jeans that looked worn out are a picture of what the Lord tells us about this world and its whole system. Heb. 1:10-12 tells us: “And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end”. Our clothing wears out, fashion trends are changed, buildings go up and then they are torn down. Communities change, countries change, and people change. Everything in this world is in a constant state of change and decay. Everything however, but God. He is still the Everlasting Holy God of the universe. His Son is still the only Savior who died on the cross. The Bible is still the inerrant Word of God. The gospel is still the only good news that can save a sinner. And faith in Jesus is still the only way we can ever expect to get to heaven. Our God is the everlasting and unchangeable ruler of the universe.
Where are you placing your trust? The attractive things that we pursue will one day end up in the landfill. The philosophical fads that are constantly being bandied about will all fade from popularity like a pair of worn out jeans. Only simple faith in God and His unchanging Word will endure.
I am sure that all of us have done things in our life that we are ashamed of and embarrassed by. When I was about 9 years old and mischievous I wanted to catch some birds. I thought about getting a cardboard box propped up by a stick but it didn’t quite work. So I got another idea. My dad had some steel traps hanging in the garage. So I waited until no one was around and took a trap out to the back yard and set it. I carefully placed some pieces of bread on the trap and went and hid. I watched and waited to see if my trap would be successful. I noticed that some sparrows landed around the trap and were pecking at the bread. Then I saw the trap spring. Excitedly I ran to the scene and picked up the trap. I caught a bird but the poor little sparrow hanging limp in my hands was dead, a victim of my devilish plot. It was then that it hit me. A wave of guilt and shame washed over me. I buried the bird and put the trap back on the peg in the garage. The deed was done but the shame and regret remained.
The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again (John 14:3). We eagerly wait for the Savior with anticipation and are looking forward to spending eternity with our Lord. However, living our lives for Him right now matters. It matters if we are doing things that are contrary to His revealed will found in the scriptures. We may be involved in some sinful activities that we know He would not approve of. It is possible there are some things that if Jesus would come right now we would be sorely ashamed of. 1 John 2:28 tells us: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming”.
The incident of the sparrows and the steal trap plagued my juvenile mind for some time until I confessed it all to the Lord. I wonder if we have any shame-producing deeds that need to be confessed and forgiven. Jesus will come again. Let’s not be ashamed at His coming.
I remember in elementary school I had to ride the bus. Each morning mom would pack my lunch and I would go to the kitchen window and wait with my eyes fixed on the road. As I waited in anticipation each morning my hopes were fulfilled when I saw that yellow vehicle appear as it crested the hill down that country road. I then ran down the lane to get on the bus that would take me to another day of school. My daily hope for the school bus was part of my childhood life.
Man needs hope to survive. He needs something to look forward to, something to anticipate in order to keep him going. There are plenty of things that can destroy our hope. We can experience the loss of our spouse or lose all of our life savings. We can contract a terminal disease or go through a family turmoil that destroys our prospects and hope. However the child of God is promised a hope that will never fail. This hope is also called the rapture of the church. It refers to the promise that Jesus made that He will return for all of those who have placed their faith in Him. He told us that when He returns He will take us to the Father’s House and we will always be with Him (John 14:1-3). This expectation of the return of Jesus is called the blessed hope (Titus 2:13). This hope is called a living hope in 1 Peter 1:3. It is called a sure hope in Heb. 6:19, a comforting hope in 1 Thess. 4:18 and a purifying hope in 1 Jn. 3:3.
Our hopes for something better that may come to us in this life may not happen. Our anticipation for more excitement, more security, and more comfort may absolutely fail. But those who know Christ have the sure promise of Jesus that will never be canceled or never die or never expire. Instead of fixing my eyes on the road for the yellow school bus, I now look to the skies for the blessed hope, the return of Jesus.
In the mid-1960s, researchers at the University of Florida developed a drink to replenish electrolytes, sugars and minerals that their athletes lost during strenuous physical activity. The drink, which became a mainstay on the sidelines of Florida Gators football games, soon became known as Gatorade. This idea that started in research labs at the University of Florida grew into an entire industry. Gatorade has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. One of Gatorade’s most well-known slogans is the simple question, “is it in you?”
As we launch into this new year another question needs to be asked: “hope, is it in you”? The apostle Peter challenges all of us with these words in 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”. Our faith in Christ is the hope which anyone can have residing in them. This faith in Christ is such a precious gift that we need to be always ready to share it with others. Because of our faith in Christ our past is forgiven. We no longer have to worry that our sins will be held against us. They have been washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ and will never be held against us. Because of the hope that in us our future is secure. The Lord has guaranteed His followers that He will return for us and we: “…shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). No matter what may happen in the turbulent climate of political and world events those of us who know Christ have that unshakeable blessed hope. Because of the hope that is in us our present makes sense. We are here in this world with a glorious purpose. We are to live our lives for the glory of God and use our gifts and talents to serve our Lord and introduce people to Him.
We may never be asked to do a Gatorade commercial. However each of us need to ask ourselves the question: “hope, is it in you?”
Hide and seek was one of those childhood games we used to play outside. When the one who was “it” had finished counting to 100 he would have to shout out: “ready or not, here I come”. We are hard up against a new year. 2018 is right on our doorstep with all of its challenges and heartaches, with all of its opportunities and obstacles. It will come whether we are ready or not. What attitudes should we as God’s people have to be better prepared for this new year?
We need to approach the new year with a sense of anticipation. God is always looking to further His work in the world and by His grace wants to use us. He has big plans for us if we will be like Isaiah who simply said: “here am I, send me” Isa. 6:8. Another attitude that will help us properly approach 2018 is having a rugged steadfastness. Paul challenges us in 1 Cor. 15:58: “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…”. Things may get tough for us this year. It may involve physical affliction or emotional turmoil or family struggles. We need to be ready to stand strong in our love for the Lord and our faithful walk with Him no matter what may happen. I believe we need to have another attitude in place at the edge of the new year. We should be looking toward the skies with a ready expectation. 2018 may be the year when our Lord fulfills His promise of returning to the earth to receive those who believe in Him. This could be the year when we experience the promise found in 1 Thess. 4:16,17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord”.
January 1 is upon us. Perhaps this is the year we will hear our Lord say: “ready or not, here I come”.
One of the traditions that my wife and I enjoy during the Christmas season happens on Christmas Eve. After everything is settled down we get our pile of Christmas cards that we have put in a basket under our tree. One by one we look at the beautiful designs on the front of the card. We methodically take in the picturesque scenes of churches, snow, Christmas trees and of course the wonder of the nativity. Then we read the greetings, poems and messages on the inside of the card. However our favorite part of our annual tradition is to read the personal greetings from our friends and loved ones.
God sent us a wonderful Christmas card that glorious night in Bethlehem. On the cover we see a beautiful picture of angels in the sky with an assembly of shepherds in awestruck wonder below. What a masterpiece of heavenly artwork God composed in painting that scene. However the best part of God’s Christmas card was the message that those shepherds received. The first line of God’s Christmas card read: good tidings of great joy. The birth of God’s only Son washes away all of the bad news in the world and promises everyone who hears can be in the possession of great joy. The second line read: a Savior is born. God knows that whatever else we may need as we travel this road of life our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins. We needed someone to die for us and save us. The angels sang the third line of the greeting: glory to God in the highest. Christmas is a time for us to honor and praise and glorify God for giving us the greatest gift in human history, Jesus. Finally we read the last line of God’s Christmas card: peace on earth goodwill to men. With war, violence, and hatred everywhere we certainly need peace on earth. This peace will reign when the Prince of Peace returns. But we can enjoy peace in our own heart when we receive God’s Son.
My wife and I look forward to reading our Christmas cards on Christmas Eve. Why not take some time this year to carefully and thoughtfully contemplate God’s Christmas card to you?
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation