cut rate Christians???

December 31, 2016

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One prayer does not a prayer life make. Prayers without variety eventually become words without meaning. Jesus said that to pray this way is to pray in vain, for in the Sermon on the Mount he warned, “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6: 7).


The tragedy is that too often that’s the way it is with our own prayers. We believe in prayer, and the Spirit of God prompts us to pray, but because we always say the same old things about the same old things, it can seem as though all we do in prayer is simply “heap up empty phrases.” Although this drains most of the motivation from talking with God, we’ll dutifully try to grind out another round of prayer; yet our minds constantly wander from the words, and we condemn ourselves as spiritual failures.

Admit it, how many times have you felt prompted to pray and said “what’s the point?”

I don’t feel any different and God doesn’t seem to hear, I’m still sick, still poor, still discouraged, still stuck, still, still, still, you’d think God was in the moonshine business or blowing sunshine up your skirt.

Notice carefully— for this is very important— that the problem is not that we pray about the same old things. To routinely pray about the same people and situations is perfectly normal. It’s normal to pray about the same old things because our lives tend to consist of the same old things.


Doubtless everyone would pray about their future, perhaps asking for direction about some decision, such as a change at work or whether to move to a new place. Or their prayer might be about an upcoming event or some life change that’s on their horizon. It’s very likely all would pray about their finances, seeking God’s provision for that car, for those bills, or for school. Most would pray about their work, or if students, they’d pray in some way about their schoolwork. It’s normal for people to pray in regard to what they spend most of their waking hours doing during the week. Each of these believers would probably pray about some Christian concern, such as something related to their church or to a personal ministry involvement with someone. Possibly they would pray for a brother or sister in Christ who is suffering or for someone with whom they are trying to share the gospel. And then each one would almost certainly pray about the current crisis in his or her life. I have read that each of us experiences a relatively significant crisis on an average of once every six months or so. The matter may be a good thing or a bad thing, a birth or a death, a job change you want or one you don’t want, but it’s such a big deal that when you pray, it’s one of the first things that comes to mind.


This situation devours so much of your attention that you need no prayer list to remind you to pray about it. If you are going to pray about your life, these six things are your life, aren’t they? If you don’t think so, how much of your life is not at all related to your family, your future, your finances, your work or schoolwork, your Christian concerns, and the current crisis? These are the areas where you devote almost all your time.


Moreover, these are the great loves of your life, the places where your heart is. And, thankfully, these things don’t change dramatically very often. Families, for example, don’t experience the changes of marriages, births, and deaths month after month, year in and year out. While there may be frequent small changes in these areas, really big changes in our family, work, etc., usually don’t happen every week or even every month. So, if you are going to pray about your life, and if these six things are your life, and if these things don’t change significantly very often, that means you are going to pray about the same old things most of the time. That’s normal.

Therefore the problem is not that we pray about the same old things; rather, it’s that we say the same old things about the same old things. It seems that virtually everyone begins to pray this way sooner or later, and it is boring. And when prayer is boring, we don’t feel like praying. When we don’t feel like praying, it’s hard to pray, at least in any sort of focused, heartfelt way. That’s when we are tempted to think, It must be me. I must be just a second-rate Christian. The natural response to such discouragement can be, “Then stop it! Quit praying. Why do this to yourself? If prayer is so boring and leaves you so frustrated and disheartened, then don’t pray anymore.”


See that’s exactly the trap the devil wants you to fall into, it’s human nature (fallen human nature) to always want the enticing and the exciting.


Stay tuned for the answer, or pay 19.95 to get the book emailed to you (that’s a joke) there’s never a fee here, God paid for everything.

God bless from






Money, money, money

December 30, 2016

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October has always been our stewardship month, a whole month of preaching about money, attendance drops, people get surly, and the emails start to come; my favorite, “it’s none of your business what I do with my money.”

Since I don’t take a salary from the church (and they know that) I often counter with how do they handle bible references to finances, next to hell Jesus talked more about money that any other subject.

So put your money where your mouth is.

Paul uses a gauge for the maturity of our faith that tends to make us uncomfortable: Whether we express love for fellow believers in material ways. We might prefer to keep our money and our spiritual formation separate, but Paul doesn’t give us that option. He makes it clear our generosity stems from our devotion to Christ, and that if we truly love Christ, it will be shown in the financial support of fellow Christians.

Here are three truths we need to remember about Christian giving:

  1. Giving is expected—The idea that giving of our finances is optional is completely foreign to the teachings in the New Testament. Jesus expected that his disciples would give to the poor (see Mt 6:2). Paul also makes it clear that giving is a sign of our love for Jesus. Giving is therefore a sign of our obedience and an expression of our willingness to love others in the church.

  2. Giving should be proportional—We are expected to give in accordance with what God has given us. Paul says, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (2Co 8:12). And in his first letter to the Corinthians he said, “Each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” (1Co 16:2). This means at least two things, says Ligon Duncan: “(1) since we are all supposed to give proportionately, those who have more money are expected to give more [we who are particularly blessed materially must remember this], and (2) the Lord never asks us to give what we do not have, or contribute beyond our means.”

  3. Giving must be done willingly—Paul says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2Co 9:7). We are expected to give—and expected to give willingly. Again, our giving is a matter of love of Christ. If we love Jesus we’ll give cheerfully to our brothers and sisters who are in need.

People may hesitate to give generously to God if they worry about having enough money left over to meet their own needs. Paul assured the Corinthians that God was able to meet their needs. The person who gives only a little will receive only a little in return. Don’t let a lack of faith keep you from giving freely and generously.

   2 Corinthians 9:7 A giving attitude is more important than the amount given. The person who can give only a small gift shouldn’t be embarrassed. God is concerned about how a person gives from his or her resources (see Mark 12:41–44). According to that standard, the giving of the Macedonian churches would be difficult to match (8:3). God himself is a cheerful giver. Consider all he has done for us. He is pleased when we who are created in his image give generously and joyfully. Do you have a difficult time letting go of your money? It may reflect ungratefulness to God.

   9:10 God gives us resources to use and invest for him. Paul uses the illustration of seed to explain that the resources God gives us are not to be hidden, foolishly devoured, or thrown away. Instead, they should be cultivated in order to produce more crops. When we invest what God has given us in his work, he will provide us with even more to give in his service.

     9:13 Paul wanted his readers to be generous on every occasion. As he appealed to the Corinthians to give sacrificially to aid the Jerusalem congregation, he reminded them that God is the source of everything good (9:10). Believers are called to be generous because of the example of the Lord of life. A stingy Christian should be an extinct species. Generosity proves that a person’s heart has been cleansed of self-interest and filled with the servant spirit of Jesus himself. That is why acts of generosity result in God being praised. Do neighbors see generosity in your actions?

God bless from

Hope you all have a happy new year and thanks for all the support and prayers and great comments, hopefully in 2017 we will give away twice as many bibles.


bite the bullet

December 29, 2016

I felt that it was important to post this devotion about suicide again, I wrote it for counselors, yet it is for any one that struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. Tonight I write again for myself, the holidays are always murder on me and I thought this year I had slipped through them, but late today and into the evening I am being hounded with these very thoughts. Part of the reason is I have been struggling with long some term illness and chronic pain, part of it is I tried to go through the day without all my medication and that was a big mistake. I know tomorrow the sun will shine and I’ll probably feel better. There are to many people that love me to keep me from the actuality, but the effort it takes is monumental. God bless and lift up someone today, call that person you’ve been meaning to call.

The desire or decision to kill oneself is in most cases the result is in most cases the result of a state of acute depression. It may be brought on by health problems, pain, or the inability to handle frustration. Irresponsible behavior may produce the strong desire to destroy oneself or to leave the world. Demon influences may be involved, as may cultic teaching that results in brainwashed behavior.

Our hopes in God and our strength is in him (Ps. 42:11). There are times when God seems far away and our prayers go unanswered, but the Bible teaches that God brings deliverance, healing, and eternal hope. Despair seems to be inevitable in every human life, but it need not persist, for we are assured that God loves us and gives our life meaning and purpose.

A suicidal person feels he has exhausted all his options. Life has no meaning, no purpose, no future, so why continue to endure its extreme unhappiness, anguish, hopelessness and despair? The obsession that nothing will ever change for the better leaves him feeling helpless, with the conviction that death is the only way out.

Such a person is a victim of depression, tortured with feelings of unworthiness, sin and failure, deep guilt, and the need to be punished. Many things condition this person for the depressed state that can lead to suicide or its attempt: anger, envy, jealousy, fear, guilt, self-pity, sexual deviation, drugs, alcohol, etc. It should be obvious to the counselor, then, that root causes leading to such a crisis are likely to be deep and possibly of long duration. Many of these do, in fact, reflect back to childhood and therefore point to the need for prolonged professional counseling with a Christian psychologist or psychiatrist.

In this situation we feel that although not all the problems involved are spiritual, the ultimate problem in life is separation from God, solved only through a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. Without this relationship to Christ, there can be no real solutions or healing. As a person experiences all that is involved in the “new life in Christ” (cf., 2 Corinthians 5:17) – forgiveness, freedom from guilt and fear, a sense of fulfillment and well-being, new orientations and motivations to live, etc. – forces for radical change are set in motion. This is where the counselor can be of real service: guiding the inquirer into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some persons threaten suicide in order to get attention and sympathy. They want someone to listen to their hurts and frustrations. Others are beyond this point and seriously have self-destruction in mind.

It is only natural if you feel inadequate when confronted with this kind of challenge; however, you should attempt to help, remembering that our resources come from the Lord. He will be reaching out in love and power through you. Be motivated by the promises of Scripture that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, KJV), and “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God. . .and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NIV).

Christians are not immune to suicidal thoughts or attempts. Unresolved or unconfessed sin, or a crisis situation such as a deep disappointment, the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of employment, loss of health, a nervous breakdown, etc., can precipitate depression severe enough to lead to such and attempt.

  1. Remind the Christian that God always loves and cares.”. . .for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5, KJV).

  2. Remind him also that we are God’s children. (Quote John 1:12.)

  3. Tell him that God still forgives. Share “Restoration.” Emphasize Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9. Confession results in forgiveness and restoration fellowship.

  4. Suggest that he look only to the Lord and not at the problems and circumstances around him. (See Matthew 14:27-32 and Proverbs 3:5, 6.)

  5. Suggest that it is important to get into God’s Word: hear, read and study, meditate, and memorize.

  6. Suggest that prayer is a valuable resource and forms and essential part of a Christian’s life. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Philippians 4:6,7.)

  7. Remind him that identity with a Bible-teaching church is an important factor in recovering emotional stability. Such identity permits fellowship with caring people who worship and work together.

  8. Pray with the person that God will come to him with new meaning, filling him with hope and renewed trust.

Remember the sun does come up tomorrow, you don’t have to be alone, walk into an all night diner, police station, fire station, but reach out. If you have planned you suicide get rid of the object that is going to be used, the gun, the knife, the poison, the car.

It’s important during the holidays to not be alone.

Remember if you have been talking to someone that has been depressed and suicidal and suddenly they are euphoric, that is the most critical moment to intervene.

God bless from


how much do you believe?

December 28, 2016

Noah’s ark has lost none of its fascination. Despite political difficulties, not to mention severe logistical problems, expeditions still endeavor to climb the icy slopes of Mt. Ararat on the borders of Turkey, Armenia, and Iran in the hope of finding the fossilized remains of Noah’s masterpiece. Whether or not they will be successful is open to question; in fact there is some doubt if they are even looking in the right place since some scholars suggest that the mountain we know as Mt. Ararat gained its name relatively recently.

The extent of the flood has also been subject to much debate. Was it a universal catastrophe or a local inundation covering parts of Mesopotamia? The language of Genesis certainly lends itself to a “universal” interpretation. We read: “All the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. And all flesh died … and every man … only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Gen 7:19-23). Yet this interpretation is by no means trouble free. If the writer of Genesis meant that the waters reached a depth of fifteen cubits over the peak of Mt. Everest it is estimated that the water required to achieve that end would be eight times the normal water content of the world. Where all this water came from and where it disappeared to is a mystery to many people for which no satisfactory answer has been found. Furthermore it has been pointed out by geologists that while there is considerable evidence for numerous floods there is no uniform evidence for a flood of universal proportions. There are at least ten traditional arguments for a universal flood but there are an equal number of responses from those who hold to a local event (see Ronald Youngblood’s treatment in his book, How It All Began ).

Whatever conclusion we reach concerning the geographical extent of the flood, we should not allow the debate to obscure the facts of God’s judgment and grace which are powerfully demonstrated in this traumatic event. Neither should we overlook the remarkable life of the central figure—Noah. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). There is much to learn from his faith life.

Faith—A Response to Revelation

We know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), but there are few more striking examples of what that means than Noah. Out of the blue he was told about a cataclysmic flood and he believed God. He was informed that the end of all flesh was at hand, and he believed that, too. Told to build an ark the length of one and a half football fields and to fill it with animals because all the animals would be destroyed, he believed it! And when he was invited by the Lord to “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation” (Gen. 7:1) he took what must have been a very difficult step out of all that was familiar and understandable into a situation which was incomprehensible except to the eye of faith.

Faith—A Relationship of Trust

When Noah took his big step of faith into the ark, “the Lord shut him in” (v. 16) suggesting that Yahweh was gently but firmly assuring Noah that he had done the right thing and that he was indeed secure. But Noah’s faith had already been in evidence for a considerable period while the ark was being constructed. And his faith had to persevere during the year-long flood because strangely there is no record of God speaking to Noah during that period. He had to go on trusting through thick and thin, whether he could see and understand or not.

Faith—A Readiness to Obey

James reminds us that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). By faith Noah set to work building a mammoth ark. He gathered “seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth” (Gen. 7:2-3). If the flood was universal then the task of gathering animals from all parts of the globe is mind-boggling, not to mention feeding and cleaning up after them! One ancient writer solved this problem by asserting that they all hibernated so they only needed feeding once! If the flood was local then the task was not as great but was still immense. Neither was Noah overwhelmed with the responsibility thrust upon him. He took that in his stride of faith too. And he was clearly not at all deterred by the apparent incongruity of what he was doing. In other words, his faith worked!

Faith—A Release of Blessing

The blessing Noah’s faith released in his own life (in a very real sense he was saved by faith) also spilled over into his family’s experience. “Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (v. 23). The faithful expression of his faith as he preached righteousness to his contemporaries “condemned the world” and that was a blessing, because the people were exposed to truth even though they chose to ignore it. Then there is the benefit we receive from his faith as we read the account and are led to examine our own faith. Like Abel, “he being dead still speaks” (Heb. 11:4).

Faith—A Resource of Power

Noah’s power to live triumphantly among his unbelieving contemporaries was a triumph of grace and faith. No man could be expected to find in himself the resources to live as he lived. He had the power to take decisive action as his society drifted toward self-destruction. He exhibited the power to make incisive declarations to those who did not heed what he was saying. He kept on saying it nevertheless. He had the power to show an alternative attitude to that which prevailed among the people of his day. He walked a lonely road. Many years ago I saw a magnificent tapestry in a home for recovering alcoholics in Germany. It was a picture of a stream with a shoal of fish heading one way and a solitary fish swimming in the opposite direction. Underneath were the words: “Any dead fish can float downstream—it takes a live one to swim against it.” Noah through his faith had resources of strength to be a live one!

Faith—A Rebuke to Unfaithfulness

Noah was described by God as “righteous before Me in this generation” (Gen. 7:1). This was a delight to God but in all probability an irritant to Noah’s society. It is impossible to please God without sometimes displeasing those who are opposed to Him. Paul said, “We are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

My dad often used to observe, “Isn’t it strange that the same sun that melts wax, hardens clay?” He would hasten to explain to me that the sun’s properties do not change but the properties of the different materials on which the sun shines are revealed by its heat. In the same way Jesus showed that the same seed scattered on different places will produce entirely different results. Not because the seed alters but because the seed reveals what kind of soil it has landed upon. Whether it be the sun shining, the seed landing, the word being preached, or the glowing testimony of a believer the same rule obtains. There are those who will warmly respond to the vibrant testimony of a Godly man or woman, and there are others who will become infuriated by the same testimony from the identical person. This is a demonstration of what is inside the heart of the hearer and observer of the testimony and also an indicator of the spiritual destiny of those whose hearts are either warm or cold to the truth however presented.

All of us would much prefer being a “fragrance of Christ” rather than an “aroma of death,” but unfortunately we are not free to choose which we will be because this is determined by the reaction of others to what we say and do. By building his ark Noah offered salvation to those who would respond in faith. To those who entered with him it was a blessing and a delight, but to those who refused it must have been the most awful statement of loss and dismay as it disappeared into the mists.

Faith—A Reminder to the Faithful

The Lord Jesus said that in the days of Noah the people were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38). In other words they were just getting along with their lives, ignoring the strange little man in their midst who was building a massive boat with nowhere to sail it. Perhaps they had grown used to seeing him working and preaching, and as nothing ever seemed to happen they had chosen to assume he was wrong about his dire predictions. But the judgment fell and as the Lord Jesus reminded His hearers, “so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:39). Noah’s faith and faithfulness are powerful reminders to God’s people to look for the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus. Noah still has something to say to God’s people when they are tempted to settle into lives just like the unbelievers!

So the righteous judgment of the offended Lord fell. But in the midst of the horror sailed a man and his family secure in the serenity of a faith which had released the resources of grace. So has it ever been throughout human history.

Many centuries after Noah’s voyage another man of faith set sail in very different circumstances. William Carey was a pastor and a shoemaker (presumably he thought that if tent-making was good enough for the apostle Paul, shoe-making was good enough for him). He had published a remarkable tract with the resounding title, “An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens,” and followed it with deeply felt sermons seeking to awaken the churches to the needs of the unreached peoples of the earth. He had been roundly criticized for his efforts by church leaders but undeterred he set sail for India on the premise that he should “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” He had very little formal education but this did not stop him from teaching himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, and French before setting out for India where he subsequently learned Bengali, translated the entire Bible into Bengali, and helped in producing Scriptures and related materials in no less than forty different languages and dialects. During his forty years’ ministry he buried his wife and all his children in India, but he persisted in his conviction that God had called him, that he should obey and trust Him, that he should use his God-given skills for the blessing of God and man, and that one day he would land safely on the shores of Glory as surely as he had previously landed in India and Noah before him had landed safely on Mt. Ararat.

One of the great advantages of men of faith like Noah and Carey is that they inspire others to learn what it is to trust and obey in order to discover the riches of blessing that are stored up for those who will launch out into the deep.

God bless from

the donkey

December 27, 2016

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God tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14: 1, 53: 1). Apart from the terrible eternal consequences of unbelief, the clear, comprehensive, and compelling nature of the evidence renders all unbelief blameworthy and foolish. I can remember one particular encounter with an unbelieving friend in a beautiful backyard garden, complete with flowers, trees, sunshine, and food on the grill. As we spoke, using the mind and reasoning God gave us, breathing the air God created, in an amazing body He formed in the womb for us, in a beautiful setting where the creative genius of God was most pointedly displayed, my friend challenged me to provide evidence for God’s existence. And so it is with all unbelievers. They breathe and see the trees bending in the wind and ask for evidence of air. Where in the universe does evidence for God not exist?


Unbelief is sin and reveals a heart in need of repentance and faith because it is a choice of the will contrary to the evidence. To the extent that unbelief arises from a lack of evidence, it would be reasonable and innocent. The blame for unbelief would lie with God’s inadequate provision of evidence and not the unbelieving response in the heart of the unbeliever. However, Scripture clearly teaches that the responsibility and guilt of unbelief lies with the unbeliever’s rejection of the truth from hostility toward God and dislike of the implications of His existence and demands on their life. Therefore, all arguments for the existence of God, like the evidence of God that constantly surrounds the unbeliever at all times, will be viewed in a manner that justifies unbelief. And while belief in the specifics of the Gospel of Christ requires the special revelation of Scripture, the rebel’s unwillingness to worship, give thanks, or actively pursue a right relationship with God is willful and blameworthy. Unbelievers know better, despite their objections to the contrary.

It follows, then, that how one views and interprets God and His universe are moral issues, determined by one’s nature. Believers love the display of God’s power and genius in His world and gladly accept the implications of our dependence on God in all things. Unbelievers, however, wrongly suppress the evidence of God and His truth in Scripture from hostility toward God. The desire to be one’s own authority and independent from God prevails in the heart of unbelief. The marks of God’s genius and lordship in the universe continually call this evil desire to account, reminding would-be-independent sinners of their responsibility before God and their crime of ignoring Him. Yet, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1: 32).

Don’t get frustrated in witnessing and having no results, there is an eternal result each time you share, you may not see it, but it is happening in their heart, and not always in ways we understand, but in the cosmic scheme of God’s plan it is happening. Be bold, be brave.


God bless from





ouch, it hurts so good

December 26, 2016

“Before I was afflicted l went astray: but now have I kept Thy word” (Ps. 119:67)

The head-knowledge of Spirit-taught study becomes the heart-knowledge of Spirit-led life, via Romans 8:28 and 29. How good it is to have a sovereign Father controlling all!

“You will find that no one learns truth easily. He who built on the rock was not secure merely because he built on the rock; but he also digged deep. What springs up quickly has no root. The more you understand the nature and scope of the Word, the more will you see the demand it makes on you and how unreserved must be your subjection to it; while as you are subject to it, you learn the blessedness and virtues of it.

The true value of anything is known only when it is wanted. For this reason bright days must be succeeded by dark ones. In the dreary and desolate hour to nature, we begin to know the value of the truth communicated to us in the bright day. The learning is at one time, and the proving at another. In fact, we ought to be prepared for the dark hour; so that, though it be dark, there is something so blessed, so suited, pouring its comfort and sustenance on our souls, that, after all, the dark and dreary hour becomes a more really festive time to the heart, because of the virtues of the truth now made known, than the time of its reception, which was so happy and exhilarating.

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while . . . stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Pet. 5:10).

God bless from

johnny fever

December 25, 2016

Exploding head

To prevent spiritual burnout, depend on the continual supply of God’s Spirit.

This vital truth is seen both in the symbolism of the olive trees and in the direct word of the Lord to Zerubbabel (4:6), “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” Jesus Christ (pictured by the two anointed ones, 4:14) mediates His Spirit to His people so that they will burn brightly for Him. Three observations:

  1. We must ask God to open us to the supply of His Spirit.

There are two ways to work for God. One is “by might and by power” (4:6). This refers to human energy and effort. G. Campbell Morgan paraphrases it, “Not by resources, not by resoluteness” (The Westminster Pulpit, Vol. VI, p. 53).

That is to say, you can utilize your human talent and be as determined as a bulldog and you will see some results. But when you stand before Christ, it will be as wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor. 3:12), because it came from the flesh. When you work in the power of the flesh, you get the credit because the results were due to your ability and your hard work. God may get a tip of the hat, but He was not at the center and so He is robbed of glory.

The other way to work for God is “‘by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (4:6). This does not imply that there is no toil and sweat when you labor in the power of the Holy Spirit. Zerubbabel and his men still had to clear away the same mountain of rubble and lay the same heavy stones. But when God’s Spirit motivates and energizes the work, there is conscious dependence on Him, and He gets the glory.

The story is told of an old woodsman who came into town for supplies. He needed several items, including a new axe. On the counter of the general store was advertised a new chain saw which was guaranteed to cut down twice as many trees in one day as any previous one. He eagerly purchased the saw.

A week later he was back in the store, demanding his money back. When asked why, he said that before he was chopping down ten trees a day with his axe, but that now with much more effort he was lucky if he could fell one or two. The store owner looked the machine over very carefully. He checked the chain and the spark plug. He could find nothing wrong with it, so he flipped the switch and pulled the cord to start it. As it roared to life, the woodsman jumped back in surprise and exclaimed, “What’s that noise?”

We’re often like that woodsman. We’re gutting it out for God and using some of the tools that are available. But we need to ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit.

To use the lampstand analogy, the power for light does not come from the wick, but from the oil saturating the wick. As long as the wick is saturated, it will burn brightly. But if it closes itself off from the supply, it will smolder, char, and go out. Even so, we must allow God’s Spirit to saturate us so that we will burn brightly for Jesus Christ.

  1. We must open ourselves continually to the supply of God’s Spirit.

A woman asked D.L. Moody once, “Why do you talk so often about the need for being filled with the Holy Spirit. You always are stressing the need to be filled again and again. Why isn’t once enough to be filled?” Moody replied, “I leak.”

Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2,3). But we must learn to walk by means of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), continually, repeatedly depending on Him.

In this vision, the angel had to awaken Zechariah from a sleep-like condition and then direct him to the vision by asking what he saw (4:1-2). Later, Zechariah has to ask twice regarding the meaning of the two olive trees (4:11-12). The trees provided a continual flow of golden oil to the lamps so that they did not burn out. All of these features are designed to show us that we must depend on God alone and that we must do so continually.

  1. B. Meyer (The Prophet of Hope [Christian Literature Crusade], p. 58) observes that the wick is dependent on the source of oil moment by moment. It has no storehouse or backup supply. It is always on the edge of bankruptcy, but always supplied.

  1. We must allow the supply of God’s Spirit to benefit others through us.

What good is a light under a basket, as Jesus observed (Matt. 5:15)? The whole point of a lampstand is to give light so that people will not stumble in the darkness.

Dr. Charles Feinberg (God Remembers [American Board of Missions to the Jews], pp. 74-75) points out the appropriateness of oil as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. He lists seven functions of oil. First, oil lubricates, thus minimizing friction and wear. Second, oil heals. The Spirit of God heals hearts wounded by sin and the sorrows of life. Third, oil lights. The Spirit illumines God’s Word and gives us direction in life. Fourth, oil warms. The Spirit melts cold hearts that are unresponsive to God. Fifth, oil invigorates. The Spirit gives divine energy and strength. Sixth, oil adorns. In the Old Testament, it was used to adorn the body at a time of joy. Even so, the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is God’s joy. Seventh, oil polishes. The Spirit smoothes the rough edges from our lives as He produces His fruit of kindness and gentleness in us.

As we continually open ourselves up to the abundant supply of God’s Spirit, we will be used of God to impart the benefits of the Spirit of God to others.




flame out

December 24, 2016

Exploding head

1. To prevent spiritual burnout, see the importance of God’s work.


We tend to burn out when we lose motivation, and we lose motivation when we lose perspective on the importance of the work to which God has called His people. That work involves being God’s lampstand to the world (see Rev. 1:12-20). It involves building God’s temple where His light shines forth. The world ought to see Christ, the light of the world, both in Christians individually and in the church corporately.


That is no insignificant task, because it involves displaying the light of God’s glory to a world that loves darkness rather than light! The apostle Paul said that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The only way that such blind people can see is if, as Paul goes on to say, God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness” shines into their hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” God does that by putting His treasure in earthen vessels, “that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:6-7). Our task, as God’s people, is to be His lampstand, shining forth with His glory to this sin-darkened world.


But there are some negative things that can cause us to lose sight of the importance of God’s work.


A. We must be aware of some seeming negatives in God’s work.


(1) God’s work seems beset with problems.


“What are you, O great mountain?” (4:7). This refers to the mountain of difficulties that Zerubbabel faced in rebuilding the temple. There had been opposition from enemies without. There was spiritual lethargy and discouragement among the Jews within. But God promises Zerubbabel that this mountain of problems would become a plain and that he would complete the temple by bringing forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it.” All that we accomplish for the Lord is by His grace!


But God didn’t remove the mountain in one magic moment! Zerubbabel had to keep working for about four more years before the temple was finished. And then there was the further problem of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, which didn’t get completed until Nehemiah’s time, almost 100 years later.


The point is, you will always encounter a mountain of problems when you seek to build God’s temple. Commenting on this point, Dr. James Boice said, “As I counsel with people in our day, many of them young people, I am convinced that one of their biggest problems is that they expect shortcuts” (The Minor Prophets [Baker], 2:510). He goes on to say that people want some simple principle to understand all the Bible apart from diligent study. They want some experience that will transport them effortlessly to a higher spiritual plateau, without daily discipline. They want a nearly perfect church, without the hassle of working through difficulties. But that is not the way God gets His work done.


(2) God’s work seems incredibly slow in its progress.


Zerubabbel must have been thinking, “This project will never get done!” The work had begun over 20 years before. It would still take another four years. But God assures Zerubbabel (4:9) that his hands, which had laid the foundation of the temple, would finish it. Eventually, it was completed.


As I read the Bible I am amazed at how long God takes to accomplish His work through His people. God appeared to Abraham and promised to make him the father of many nations and to bless all nations of the earth through him. I wonder if Abraham thought, “Wow, I’d better start building a baby crib and Sarah needs to start sewing some baby clothes.” If they did that, those baby items sat around collecting dust for 25 years before Isaac was born! Isaac spent his life digging some wells out in the desert and raising Esau and Jacob. Jacob spent about 20 years working for Laban before he finally got back to the land of Canaan. But then the small clan moved to Egypt where they were enslaved for 400 years. Then came 40 more years in the wilderness. Later there was the Babylonian captivity and then 400 years without a word from God. He didn’t send His Messiah until 2,000 years after His promise to Abraham! Obviously, God isn’t in the hurry that we are in!


If you’re going to commit yourself to building God’s temple, the church, be prepared for the long haul! Just about the time you think you’re getting somewhere, the key disciple you’ve been working with decides to move! There are many other setbacks. You never reach a point in the local church where you can stand back and say, “It’s all done!”


(3) God’s work often seems insignificant.


As we saw in our study of Ezra 3, many of the old timers wept when they saw this puny temple because they compared it to the glory of Solomon’s temple. God refers to this group in verse 10: “For who has despised the day of small things?” From the perspective of world history and the then-mighty Persian Empire, of what significance was this little band of Jews who were attempting to reconstruct a place of worship out of the ruins of Jerusalem? Their project certainly would not have made any headlines!


It’s easy to get discouraged by thinking, “What difference does it make that I teach Sunday School or come out for a work day at church or take a meal to a family going through hardship or share Christ with my neighbor?” If we think that way, we’re more likely to burn out than if we see the importance of God’s work.


In contrast to these seeming negatives that can obscure the importance of God’s work, there are some sure positives that will impress on us the importance of His work.


B. We must keep in mind the sure positives of God’s work.


(1) God’s work is the focus of His delight.


God is saying to Zerubbabel (and us) that small is great if God’s eye is upon it. The seven eyes of God (4:10) signify God’s full attention and care. The point is that God, who sees everything on the face of the earth, takes note of Zerubbabel’s building project and that God delights in it.


If you are committed to building the church by winning people to Christ and helping them to grow in Christ, God delights in what you are doing. You’re doing what Jesus said He will do, namely, “I will build My church.” What could be more important than to commit yourself to doing what Jesus Christ is doing?


(2) God’s work is a worldwide work that will prevail.


The Lord is referred to as “the Lord of the whole earth” (4:14). He promises Zerubbabel that what He is doing will get done in spite of the mountains of opposition. God’s purpose is that the knowledge of His glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). There will be some from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation around God’s throne (Rev. 5:9). We have the great privilege of joining in God’s worldwide cause that will certainly prevail! We are His lampstand, the light of the world (Matt. 5:14).


(3) God’s work is the work of revealing God in and through us.


That’s what the lampstand and temple were all about. Everything in the temple pointed people to God. We now are God’s temple and His lampstand! By our lives and our verbal witness, we should point people to Jesus Christ. His presence and very nature should be displayed in our lives, beginning in our homes and extending to the world. Although we are just earthen vessels, we contain the treasure of Jesus Christ that the world so desperately needs. Keep in view this vision of the importance of God’s work and your individual role in it and it will help you not to burn out.

God bless, it’s almost Christmas, I’m looking forward to the fellowship of family.




December 23, 2016

knock you down

When I began to serve as a pastor 41 years ago, just six weeks shy of my twentieth birthday, I was extremely unsure of whether or not I could do it. I didn’t know whether I could prepare new sermons each week without running dry after a short while. I didn’t know if I could handle the other aspects of the ministry: providing leadership and vision for the church, giving biblical counsel to those in need, working graciously with difficult people, discipling current and future leaders, conducting weddings and funerals, and handling day to day administrative tasks.


That church was small and had never supported a full time pastor before, and so there was the added concern of whether or not the finances would be there week to week to meet our needs. And so with some anxiety and an overwhelming sense of personal inadequacy, I said, “Lord, I’ll try this for three years and then we’ll see where we’re at!”


By God’s grace alone, here I am 41 years later, still with some anxiety and an overwhelming sense of personal inadequacy, hanging on! I am not exaggerating or being modest when I say that if God pulled the plug on me tomorrow, I wouldn’t last a month in this ministry. I have often felt like Peter, walking on the water, thinking to myself, “What am I doing out here? Why did I ever get out of that boat?” and at the same time praying, “Lord, if You don’t hold me up, I’m going under!”


Charles Simeon (Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible [Zondervan], 10:460) said it well, “We see how dependent a little infant is on its mother; and such must we be in the arms of God. We must undertake nothing in our own strength: in no circumstances whatever may we lean to our own understanding: whatever is devised, or whatever is done, the creature must be nothing; but God must be all in all.”


We hear a lot today about stress and burnout, especially in ministry. It’s a complex problem that includes many factors that I cannot delve into in this message. Sometimes burnout stems from faulty time management or from being over-committed. Sometimes it results from trying to do it all yourself and not delegating properly. Our text does not deal with these aspects of the problem, nor will I. But it does give us two principles that offer significant help in preventing spiritual burnout:


To prevent spiritual burnout, see the importance of God’s work and depend on the continual supply of His Spirit.


The work that God gives us is to be His lampstand, both corporately and individually. The only way that we can fulfill that task is by depending on the continual supply of the oil of God’s Spirit. In that way, we will burn for God without burning out.


Zechariah’s fourth vision (chapter 3) encouraged Joshua the high priest with the message: “God will cleanse His chosen people through Messiah and use them to serve Him.” His fifth vision (chapter 4) encouraged Zerubbabel, the civic leader, with the message: “The temple that you have begun will be completed and My people will become a light unto the nations under Messiah. This will not be accomplished by human effort, but by My Spirit.” In the fourth vision we saw the cleansing that is necessary before anyone can serve God. In the fifth vision we see the testimony that results from a cleansed and Spirit-filled life. While our text will ultimately be fulfilled with Israel in the Millennium, it also applied to God’s people in Zechariah’s day and it applies to us as we seek to be God’s light to the nations.


Zechariah saw a lampstand of gold with seven lamps and a bowl at the top, which served as a reservoir for the oil. Two olive trees, each with a branch, stood beside the lampstand. A golden pipe extended from each branch to the bowl so that the golden olive oil poured from the tree. Out of the reservoir or bowl (according to most commentators) came 49 spouts or pipes, seven to each of seven lamps on the lampstand. This lampstand was similar to the one that stood in the holy place of the tabernacle, with three exceptions: (1) the bowl on top of it; (2) the seven pipes to each lamp; and, (3) the two olive trees. These additions point to the abundant, continual supply of oil to the lamps. In the temple, the priests had to keep the lamps full of oil, but in this vision, the supply of oil flowed constantly without help from any man.


The lampstand signifies the important task that God gives to His people to be a light to the nations, to reveal God and His truth to those who walk in darkness. The oil that flows in continual abundant supply so that the lamps can go on burning symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The two olive trees represent the priestly and kingly offices in Israel, with the two branches being Joshua and Zerubbabel. Together these two anointed ones were a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in His offices of Priest and King. Jesus is God’s Anointed One (that’s what “Messiah” or “Christ” means), who provides the Holy Spirit in abundant supply to His people.


The Lord encourages Zerubbabel (4:7-9) by assuring him that in spite of the mountain of problems in rebuilding the temple, he would finish the task. This would confirm to all of God’s people that He had sent His Messiah-Servant (“me” in 4:9b), in the person of the angel of the Lord, to His people. The old timers, who were disparaging this temple in comparison to the former one, should not despise the day of small things (4:10). Under God’s perfect providence (the seven eyes of the Lord, which range over the earth to watch over His people), the project will be completed. With that as an overview, tomorrow let’s look at the two main principles.


God bless from

Pray for Scott, a young man who had a serious stroke

Pray for Lois that is having memory loss

Pray for Nathan and Katie, a young Christian couple trying to work hard and be successful in their new business



best use

December 22, 2016

praying mom

Most believers never get serious about prayer until a problem occurs in their lives or in the life of someone they love. Then they are inclined to pray intently, specifically, and persistently.



Are you guilty of praying generic prayers, saying the Lord ’s Prayer because it sounds good, now I lay me down to sleep, or the odd bits of scripture you have memorized, or are you just ‘claiming’ stuff.



How many times have we heard in church; “I have an unspoken request”; it’s not because God is hard of hearing, but he wants to hear the real spoken need.



Intently; clearly, planned, stated with purpose



Specifically, it’s my foot not my head, not just ‘healing’ but what kind of healing.



Persistently, wow, that’s probably the one we fall short of the most, in this day of instant. I surprised someone hasn’t started a drive thru church, (I know there is a drive in church). You know like McDonalds, but only church; ‘could I have a bucket of blessings please, or one communion to go’; or we pass out squirt guns for baptism and tell them “make sure the top of your head gets wet or it’s not like immersion.



Spending time with God, what a novel idea, gee, what will they come up with next.

God bless.