Friday, October 20, 2017

Prayer Should Not Be a Last Resort

"The only thing that we can do now is to pray."

Have you ever said that? I know that I have. Usually, that statement is made when we or someone close to us is facing a challenging situation. But, why do we use those words? Isn't that making prayer kind of a last resort? When we used those words, it's like we're saying, "Well, we have tried everything else and nothing has worked. Guess we just have to pray." The things that we have tried are likely things within our own power and that's probably why they didn't work. So, now that we have tried everything else, we go to prayer.

When we leave prayer as the last resort, we are not acting in true faith. When we don't act in true faith, what does that say? Do we have doubts that our prayers will be answered? Or, are we relying on our own resources or our own abilities, rather than relying on God. A person who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed by the wind. When we doubt rather than have faith, we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-8). And, when we are relying on our own resources and abilities, we are placing our trust in ourselves rather than in God.

Prayer should be the first thing we turn to in times of need, the first thing we turn to when someone close to us is facing difficulties. God is merciful and faithful. When we do not doubt, choosing instead to believe that seeking Him in prayer is the best way to deal with the situations of life, we will receive an answer to our prayers (Mark 11:23). When we trust in the Lord, seeking His direction rather than leaning on our own limited understanding, He will direct our paths and show us the right way to go (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Spiritual Heart Transplant

In Cape Town, South Africa, Lewis Warshansky became the first person to receive a human heart transplant. Mr. Warshansky was a South African grocer who was dying from chronic heart disease. His heart was dying and the prognosis was not good if he continued to live with the same heart. A 25-year-old woman named Denise Darvall had been fatally injured in a car crash and it was her healthy heart that would be given to Mr. Warshansky. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the revolutionary procedure and on December 3, 1967, Mr. Warshansky had a new heart.

God's Word tells us that we must always guard our hearts because it is from our hearts that the springs of life flow (Proverbs 4:23). If we allow things like arrogance, pride, and self-reliance to take root in our lives, our hearts can become hardened. If our hearts are hard, we become unable to respond to God in the way we should. When this happens, we need a heart transplant. We need to allow God to do open heart surgery, to remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Our new hearts must belong to Him. They must follow after Him and treasure Him (Matthew 6:21).

It is important to keep our hearts healthy. For our physical hearts, that means eating right, feeding our bodies with healthy foods. It means being disciplined to exercise our bodies. It means staying away from doing things that can damage our hearts, like smoking. We need to take care of our spiritual hearts as well. We need to feed our minds and our souls with healthy food - the Word of God. We need to be disciplined in spiritual exercises such as worship, prayer, and Bible study. And, we need to avoid the ways of the flesh, the things that lead us into sin and away from God.

When we make sure that our hearts are healthy, we may never need a spiritual heart transplant. But, if we ever do, we can rest in the assurance that we serve a God who loves us and is always ready to remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I Love to Tell the Story

Henry Plona, my wife's father, was a great storyteller. Whenever we were together, he never missed an opportunity to tell me a story about his past. Of course, I heard some of his stories more than once. He'd usually start by saying, "Did I ever tell you about the time...?" The likely answer to that question would invariably be, "Yes, you did." But I never responded in that way. Instead, I would let him tell me the story again. Truth be told, now that Henry is gone, I miss hearing those old stories.

When it comes to telling stories of things that have happened in the past, God's people should be like my father-in-law, ready to tell the stories to anyone who is willing to listen and as often as necessary. In Psalm 78:4, the psalmist declares that God's instructions, deeds, power, and wonders should never be hidden from our children, but should be told to all generations. The amazing things that God has done in our lives should be told to our children so that they can tell their children, on and on through generations to come (Joel 1:3).

Perhaps the greatest story that we can tell is the story of the love that God showed for all of us when He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sins. He did this so that, if we believe in Him, we will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). The story of Jesus - His sacrifice for us, His birth, His life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection - is the greatest story ever told. It is a story that we need to tell, not just to our children, but to anyone and everyone who needs to hear it.

One of the verses of the beloved hymn, I Love to Tell the Story, says:

I love to tell the story; 'tis pleasant to repeat

What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

The story of Jesus, the message of salvation from God's Word, is a story that we should never tire of telling, a story that we should tell over and over. As the refrain to the hymn says, telling His story, the story of His love, should be our "theme in glory."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Want Good Relationships with Others? Sow the Right Seeds!

Have you ever had a vegetable garden? Many people love to grow their own vegetables, to be able to go out to their yards and gather up what is usually the freshest and best tasting produce you can find. Sowing seeds and having them grow into delicious produce is quite rewarding. Of course, you have to make sure that you sow the right seeds. You can't sow pumpkin seeds and expect to reap tomatoes. You can't sow tomato seeds and expect to reap string beans. If you want tomatoes, you sow tomato seeds. If you want string beans, you sow string bean seeds. The bottom line is that you will reap what you sow.

The concept of sowing and reaping, of reaping what you sow, applies to life as well. In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul wrote, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7, ESV) When we sow to the flesh, engaging in immorality, impurity, and sensuality, we will reap corruption. But when we sow to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8).

The concept of sowing and reaping also applies to our relationships with others. In those relationships, if we sow words that are hurtful, critical, or filled with contempt, we cannot expect to reap love and respect. If we act in ways that are prideful or hateful, we cannot expect to reap a healthy, positive relationship with others.

If we want to reap a harvest of good relationships with others, then we must sow good, positive seeds in those relationships. The words that we use and the things that we do must reflect love, respect, and caring. How can we ensure that we are sowing those kinds of seeds? Colossians 3:17 tells us that whatever we do and whatever we say should be done in the name of Jesus. If we follow that principle, making a concerted effort to do or say only those things that we would be willing to do or say in His name, then the seeds that we sow will be good seeds. And the result will be that we will reap a harvest of good relationships.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Good News

When you look at a newspaper, watch the news on television, or read the news on the internet, there is not much that you can call good news. The news is filled with stories of disasters, terrorism, threats of war, violence, and hate. Our minds are bombarded with endless stories about the things going on in the lives of celebrities, sports stars, and politicians. And then, of course, there is gossip and even "fake" news. There seems to be very little news in the world that you can honestly call good news. So, where can you find good news?

God's Word is filled with good news. It's the good news of our salvation from sin, the good news that there is a Savior who has set us free from the penalty of our sin. That good news is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The good news begins with God's plan to redeem us through the promised Messiah, the suffering servant (Zechariah 3:9; Isaiah 42:1-4)). The good news continues with the birth of a child, a child born of a virgin fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2). The good news goes on to tell us that this child grew to be a man who sacrificed His life, taking upon Himself the penalty of our sins and restoring our relationship with God (Isaiah 53:12). The good news is Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of God's great love for us (John 3:16).

But, the good news doesn't end there. Jesus did not just die for us. He also rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, providing salvation for all who believe in Him throughout the generations, past, present, and future (Romans 10:9). The good news has no end. The good news will go on through eternity. When we receive this good news, we need to tell it to others, so that the good news that we receive can go throughout the world. The good news of Jesus Christ has the power to change lives through those whose lives have already been changed when they not only heard but also understood the truth about God's wonderful, amazing grace (Colossians 1:6 NLT).