Our two dogs, when not sleeping, will sit and watch for my wife to come home. When they see her car pull into the driveway they will bark, spin in circles, run to the door and even scratch at it. They just can’t wait for me to open the door so they can go out and greet her. Even though I can’t seem to cure them of this behavior I have learned a lesson from our two anxious pugs. Perhaps all of us should learn to be excited for when God opens a door for us.
Paul spoke about his open doors of ministry several places in the New Testament. He says in 1 Cor. 16:8, 9: “But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries”. Even though he would face difficulties, God had given Paul opportunities to share the gospel with many people in that city. One time Paul asked people to pray for him even while he was chained in prison to open doors for him to share Christ. When he returned from a successful missionary journey he reported to the church in Antioch: “…all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). God is in the business of opening doors of ministry for His servants. He wants us to take advantage of those opportunities to witness to the lost, to encourage the saints, and to spread everywhere His love. The trouble with many of us is that we are sleeping while the door is open. We are oblivious to the day to day opportunities that God brings our way.
The New Year is upon us. Along with it our Lord will bring across our path many opportunities for impacting people with the gospel of Christ. Door after door will be open before us. May we be so excited that we are spinning in circles. May we all have that can’t-wait anticipation that we too are just scratching at the door.
Have you noticed how some buildings that were started never got finished? On the outskirts of Natchez Mississippi deep in the woods stands an unfinished mansion. The building began to be constructed in 1860. The beautiful octagon structure with a Byzantine-Moorish dome was to have 32 rooms. Cotton magnate Haller Nutt and his wife Julia were anticipating finishing their home when the Civil War broke out. The Philadelphia construction team working on the house dropped their tools to go back up north and take up weapons. Mr. Nutt never did finish his home and died in the basement of his unfinished mansion in 1864. The official cause of death was pneumonia but the legend says he died of a broken heart.
It is sad to see a building unfinished but it is tragic to have a life that is unfinished. Some who began with a solid pace of following Christ have sadly slowed down. Perhaps they have even ended up sidetracked in the ditch of sin. Maybe they have allowed some harsh criticism or tragic circumstance to get them off track. The testimony of Paul should be a challenge to all of us to finish the race of the Christian life strong. He speaks to us in 2 Tim. 4:6,7: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Paul defended the faith with passion. He was always engaged in getting out the message of the gospel. And he could testify that he finished his personal journey of faith strong. Jesus Christ paid in full for our salvation and gave us assurance of heaven. Nothing can take that away from a true believer. But Paul tells us that a crown of righteousness also awaited him after he finished his race. We too can enjoy the rewards of a faithful finish.
Visitors who tour the unfinished mansion in Mississippi wonder what might have been. Don’t settle for a might have been race. Finish strong!
Peace has been described as that brief period of time where everyone is reloading. It does seem that there is so little peace in our world. Nations are battling nations. Various factions within countries are at war with each other. We have unrest in our political parties. We have conflict in our government. We see violence on our streets and shootings in our schools. We have strife in our homes and turmoil in our personal lives. Where is this peace on earth that the angel announced at the birth of Christ so many years ago?
When Jesus came to this earth as a baby He brought with Him a peace that the world desperately needs. However this peace which came to earth is described in the English Standard Version of Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” The peace is not universal but personal. Those who acknowledge the Savior as their own will have that peace. Those who have bowed before the Prince of Peace will be the ones that can experience a peace that passes all understanding.
The Christmas season is supposed to be a season of peace on earth. However, it is not so peaceful for many. Perhaps you are experiencing the stress of attending too many Christmas events, spending too much money, and trying to meet everyone’s expectations. Perhaps your holiday is not so peaceful because you have lost that special person, or you have to spend Christmas away from family. It is precisely at this moment when we need to understand that for the child of God our peace only comes when the Prince of Peace is reigning supreme over our lives. Our peace is not tied to holiday celebrations or giving the perfect gift. Our peace is not a season, it is a person.
Are you are feeling a little harried and overstressed during this Christmas season? Why not look for a little time of peace by spending it with the Prince.
I was wondering what all the commotion was about outside our local McDonalds. A family was looking underneath their car and trying to hear something. Then they saw a small kitten run out from under their car. They just discovered that the kitten had climbed into the engine compartment without their knowledge and had traveled 70 miles, riding under the hood. Only when they had stopped for lunch did they discover the kitten, frightened but still alive. I don’t know the rest of the story since I had to go home but everyone seemed to be very concerned about the little cat and his ride too far.
Sometimes God’s children climb aboard a vehicle that is headed far away from home. They may think that they can get off any time they want before something tragic happens. They soon discover that their sin has taken them farther than they wanted to go. I think of Jonah’s rebellious departure from God. He ended up in the belly of a whale. I think of David’s adultery with Bathsheba that resulted in the unintended consequences of pregnancy, manipulation, murder, and the death of a baby. Jesus told a story about a prodigal son who willfully left home and spent all of his money on pursuing as much pleasure as possible. He ran out of money and friends and found himself in the pig pen. Sin had taken all of these Bible characters farther than they wanted to go.
I am so glad that Jonah, David and even the prodigal son all found their way back home and to fellowship with God. I don’t know what happened to the kitten who hitched a dangerous ride 70 miles from home. I don’t know if someone adopted it or took it back. However, I do know that God welcomes back all of His children who stray away. Paul said: “…But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20). How about you? Are you miles away from God and a lifestyle of joyful obedience? Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go but God’s grace will abound more than you can ever imagine.
The Christmas season is upon us once again. Have you noticed that it seems that every year there seems to be more of a push to secularize the celebration of the birth of Christ? Even the holiday greeting of: “Merry Christmas” has fallen on some rough times as of late. I heard of a Seattle area school district that recalled its December lunch menus for 23 elementary schools because they were printed with the greeting “Merry Christmas”. The greeting on the 11,500 menus was changed to “Happy Holidays” at a cost of $494. We need to go against this secular flow and greet people with a good-hearted “Merry Christmas”.
Did you know that on that first Christmas, God sent angels to greet several people with the first: “Merry Christmas”? His greetings brought them more than good cheer and warm fuzzy feelings. God announced to Joseph, the coming birth of His Son through the virgin Mary. Joseph was to fear not and take Mary as his wife. God also sent an angel to greet Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. God sent angels to greet the shepherds also. They were told to make a personal investigation to see where the baby was born. They also made a verbal proclamation to everyone they met that a Savior has been born in Bethlehem. God also gave a special Christmas greeting to the whole world in Luke 2:10,11: “Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord”.
Merry means to be happy, to be blessed. When we wish someone a merry Christmas we desire that they would be cheered and encouraged by the message of that first Christmas. I know of no better way to have a merry Christmas than to accept the gift that God gave to the world so many years ago. Receive Jesus as your Savior and you will be sure to have a merry Christmas.
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