April 30 – Devotional: Zombies or Christ?

I find it a little odd that in a time where zombies are found to be so popular that belief in the resurrection of Jesus is at an all time low. A recent survey revealed that those who believe Jesus came back to life has dropped from 77% last year to 64% this year.

april 29 zombie

Surveys can be tricky because of the phrasing of the questions, the sample groups or even the fickleness of the ones being questioned.   All these factors can effect the results of the survey and it’s conclusion.  People today are watching the dead coming back to life via TV all the time. Some are even taking part in zombie obstacle course events. The concept of a human coming back to life has become more make-believe than ever.

As believers in Christ, we believe that the dead will come back to life because Jesus was the first.  In fact, without the resurrection, Christianity will make very little sense, at least that is according to Paul, he said, “12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ has perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus?  I sure hope you do, because if you don’t following Christ won’t make much sense.  Next time you see a commercial for a new zombie show try and use it as an opportunity to share your faith. Tell someone that you believe that the dead will really come back to life, just like Jesus did.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 New International Version (NIV)

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ is lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

 

April 29 – Devotional: Why Isn’t Life Easy?

Recently, on a brisk winter night, my wife walked into the living room as I was writing a devotional and grabbed the remote control.  She wasn’t turning on the TV, but actually the fireplace!  Yes, I know, my church pays me way too much if I can afford a remote-control fireplace.  How wonderful it is on those cold evenings to just click the button for instant fire and it’s always ready at a moments notice.

april 30 fireplace

Before we installed the fancy fireplace we had a wood-burning stove.  It worked great and kept the house warm. But everything was a lot of work. You had to get new wood from outside, then get the wood into the stove and light the wood.  After it finally got going you needed to try to keep it burning by adding more wood and then wait for the cast iron to heat up. Finally the ambient heat to provide warmth in the house. But now, it is just click and like magic, instant fire and there are no ashes to clean up!!!

Don’t you wish everything in life was so easily accomplished?  What if we had things like: instant work-out, instant clean laundry, instant dinner, instant weight-loss, and even instant compound interest applied to all my financial accounts.  Unfortunately, that is not the way life works.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had it made. Yes they had work to do but the garden grew and blossomed bringing forth fruit all year long.  They decided to disobey God and afterward, everything changed. God said to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat.”  Life was going to be tough. Everything would be difficult.

Everyone knows that earning a living is tough.  Growing your own food is from hard hard work. You can easily put in an 8-hour work day and only get 2 hours worth of work done.  The more meaningful parts of living well it is even tougher.  Developing deep relationships with family and growing in spiritually with God; those kinds of things take energy, effort and time.

Frankly adding a modern convenience like a magic fireplace to your life is easy. The reality is that the most valuable things in life won’t be easy. Take courage in the fact that God has made a way to help us in our journey.

Genesis 3:17-19 New International Version (NIV)

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

April 28 – Devotional: Acts of Kindness

Have you noticed how things have changed?  Seems like, as I am getting older, things just aren’t the way they used to be.  Take for instance this past Easter, I read of several people getting egged.  Now when I was growing up getting egged meant that someone threw eggs at a person’s house and it was very hard to clean up.  So when I first heard about this, I was outraged, until I found out what they meant.

april 28 eggs

Being egged today means that you first sneak around in someone’s yard hiding the plastic Easter eggs with candy in them.  Next you leave a note that says something like, “You have been egged, and we have hidden 12 eggs in your yard.  Enjoy the hunt, but don’t be discouraged when you find one empty egg.  It’s a simple reminder of Jesus’ empty tomb, for He is risen.”

What a cool idea and a much better way than the old fashioned egging.  A simple act of hiding a few plastic eggs, just kind of reminds me how a little kindness can go a long way in making a person’s day.  Proverbs 12:25 says,  “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”  So how are you doing with spreading your kindness both in word or deed to those around you?

You don’t have to go hide Easter eggs in their yard to be kind, but what other act or word of kindness could you come up with to surprise somebody this week? You might pay for a person behind you in the fast food drive-thru, or call an old friend and encourage them.  You will be surprised what your little effort can accomplish.  If you do decide to hide some Easter eggs for a friend; just make sure they are plastic in case you hide them too well.  Your acts of kindness can cheer a burdened heart.

Proverbs 12:25 New International Version NIV

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

April 27 – Devotional: Time To Clean Up

Recently I was watching television when one of those cheap commercials came on the channel.  The kind that does not fill the screen, and the lighting is not well done. Even the graphics and dialogue were cheesy.  The pitch began an offering of a website to clean your personal computer.  Considering we now live in a mobile world to it may speak to its irrelevance.  Does anybody really have a personal computer anymore? The product promises to clean up your dirty old computer’s system and make it fast again.  I admit that from time to time, I have suffered from a slow computer and it seemed like the service was legit.

April 27 snow

I began to wonder how a much better offer would be to provide a way to clean the heart and soul of people.  It seems like every now and then we can use a good cleaning of our lives.  Actually we don’t need to go to a website because God promises that He has the best way to clean us up.  If we are willing to repent, and believe in His son Jesus, confessing our sins knowing that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins then we can be as clean as we can get.

Listen to what Isaiah writes in chapter 1 verse 18 and following, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: 
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; 
though they are red like crimson, 
they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, 
you shall be eaten by the sword; 
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

To repeat that phrase it says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”  God provided a way to become clean and it’s not through a website, but through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  You must believe in Jesus and receive Him into your life to experience it.

John upon seeing Jesus said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away this sin of the world.”  Do you know this Jesus?  Do you have a personal relationship with Him? If not, you can by crying out to Him in your time of need and be changed!   If you do know Him then you should confess your sins and He will make you as clean as the freshly fallen snow as well.

Isaiah 1:18 – New International Version (NIV)

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

 

April 26 – Devotional: Called To Be Different

In the book of Leviticus we find the Lord speaking to Moses, and saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God.”

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If you have ever been around teenagers you know comparison is a way of life.  You hear them say, “Mom, I have to get those jeans, because everyone is wearing them.” You may hear, “Dad, I need an iPhone because everyone has an iPhone.”  It seems like we have this innate desire to be just like everyone else.  As parents, we try to be prepared for that conversation with this stunner of a reply saying, “Well Johnny, (whatever their name is) if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump off the bridge too?” Which the kid replies, “We are not talking about bridges here, we are talking fashion and getting those jeans.”

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to fit in and we want to be just like everybody else in order to do that. But as followers of Jesus, we are called to be different.  It does not necessarily mean we have to dress differently and if you want to that is fine.  We do have to live differently and not be caught up in being liked by everyone.  It is true that many of yesterday’s moral standards are either eroding or gone and they are probably not coming back.  Rather than letting our lives sink down to worldly standards we should strive to live for God’s standards.  It’s not about the choice jeans or a particular phone but it is about living to please God and not worrying about pleasing people.  We should make that choice even if that makes us the only one in our school, business or even church to do so.

So, remember to live according to God’s word, because you believe He is the Lord our God, who is the great I am.

Leviticus 18:1-4 New International Version (NIV)

18 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God.

 

April 25 – Devotional: The Calm Before the Storm

Having spent four years living in Oklahoma, I came to realize they really only have two seasons.  There is football season and tornado season.  Each season receives about equal news coverage on local television.  And you know you can’t have a good tornado without a few good thunderstorms.  I admit that I kind of like the experience of a good thunderstorm.  We had our first one of the season a few days ago. It came in just about the time the sun was setting.  You could see the dark clouds through the fading sunlight and they looked more menacing than they really were.  After that came the first flash of lightening and then the boom of thunder.  Finally you could hear the sound of the wind and the rain hitting our rooftop.  I was glad to be inside during the storm.  I much prefer inside to outside when it comes to a thunderstorm.

april 25 storm

Have you ever been caught out in a thunderstorm?  It can be pretty scary, but the worse place I could imagine being caught in a thunderstorm would be on a lake.  We have plenty of beautiful lakes around here and from time-to-time people get caught in their boat during a storm.

Talking about storms makes Mark’s account of Jesus calming a thunderstorm on the lake with his disciples even more compelling.  Obviously Jesus knew the storm was coming, it wasn’t that he failed to check the weather channel that morning.  He was taking them out in a storm with a purpose and for a reason.  You see the disciples were new to following Jesus, and they weren’t completely sure who He was at this time.  After the storm came and he literally stopped it with his voice, things were different.  They even said to each other, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

It might be why God has allowed a storm in your life recently. Like the disciples who cried to Him for help, God wants you to cry out to him so He can demonstrate his power in your life.

Mark 4: 35-41 New International Version (NIV)

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

 

April 24 – Devotional: Do You Have A Close-Friend?

My son wanted a friend to come over and spend the night at our home.  It was late Friday afternoon, and I was thinking that everybody would already have plans so we agreed.  We sent a text to the dad and he replied back within just a couple of minutes.  His phrase read, “On our way over.”   There is nothing like having a friend ready in a minute’s notice.After he came over, within an hour, every light in the house was on. There were nerf-darts everywhere, chocolate shake cups were in the floor and it was way past normal bedtime. “To be young again”, the cliché goes.

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Friends are so important at that age, and they really should be for the rest of our lives.  The Bible speaks to the importance of friendships in lots of places. Jesus gathered 12 friends around him and they lived together for 3 years.  Jesus called for them to be close by to him in the garden on the night of his betrayal.  Sometimes a friend is not close by. They live somewhere else and you lose contact.  While a few minutes on Skype or well-timed text message can do wonders for the soul, you really want someone to be there in person.

When we invite Jesus into our life we get that opportunity.  We get a sticky-friend that doesn’t just come and go. On top of that they are not limited by location.  We get someone who is always there for us no matter what we go through.  In the book of Proverbs we are reminded by this verse, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, 
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Companionship is one thing, but a true and deep friendship will get you through the tough times.  Casual friends or companions will come and go, but Jesus “sticks” close by.  As the verse says, “Even closer than a brother.”

When my son asks me at the last minute for a sleepover, I may go against my natural instinct but I will be happy that he has a friend to build memories with.  And even more important, I am happy that he has invited Jesus to be his sticky-friend.  My question for you is, “Do you know that sticky-friend?”

Proverbs 18:24 New International Version (NIV)

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.