Well Done, Faithful Servant

Read:  Matthew 25:14-30
 
Our church lost a good friend a couple weeks ago.  As I thought about this man and heard the words and tributes spoken, I realized that he epitomized the Christian life.  Joey Mocaby was known to all, but maybe not for the reasons one usually attains notoriety.  He wasn’t rich or powerful.  He didn’t drive a fancy car (he didn’t drive at all!) or live in a fine house.  The most outstanding thing about Joey was that he used the talents God gave him in a simple, unassuming way.  A friend of his, Kim Randolph, spoke at his funeral.  These are the words she used to honor his memory.
 
   Simple:  he had a simple life and a simple faith.  He simply loved God.
   Faithful:  he was faithful to the church and its people, especially the kids and youth.
   Genuine:  he acted the same toward church members as he did toward those outside the church.
   Humble:  he never talked about himself unless you asked him.
   Loyal:  from the time he joined the church, he was loyal to every staff member.  He was loyal to God.
   Appreciative:  he was always thankful for any gesture of kindness toward him, no matter how small.
 
In the above scripture passage, we read the story of three servants who were given talents to be used while the master was away.  Two servants used their talents to increase the wealth of the master. One servant did not.  He was afraid of the master and buried the talent he was given.  He had not done even the smallest amount of work to increase what he was given, thereby increasing the riches of the master. Joey, in his own way, showed us how easy it is to use the talents God has given us to increase His kingdom.  He did it in such a way that most might have thought he surely buried his talent.  His strategy?  He didn’t have one.  He simply used what God had given him in the course of his daily life.  He worked hard for each activity our church sponsored.  He greeted us at the door each Sunday, brightening our day.  He prayed for those in need and the needs of the various ministries of the church.  He was concerned for the people around him.  He loved and praised his Savior.  Most of all, he was a witness of God’s love.  He used his talent simply, but he enriched the kingdom of God mightily.  I am quite sure the first words he heard as he entered the gates of Heaven were, “Well done good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”
 
What about you?  What talents has God given you that are lying around unused or buried beneath the everyday busyness of life?  Or are you trying so hard to figure out how to serve God that you miss the simple everyday acts that could enrich the lives of those around you; kind words of encouragement, a caring spirit, love, work that eases the load of others and increases the kingdom of God?  Most of all do you have a witness in word and deed that draws others to Christ?
 
As you read through the scripture passage above, take inventory of your own life.  Make it your goal to use the talents given you to help enlarge the Master’s kingdom that you, too, may hear those precious words at the end of your journey here on earth, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Read more...

A Mouse or a Warrior?

Read:  Ephesians 6:10-18
           1 Peter 5:6-9
 
Most days at our house are pretty quiet.  You could say downright boring.  But last week, we had some excitement.  The first mouse of the fall season found its way into our house.  That’s when my Musophobia kicked in.  You can pretty much tell when I’m having a full-blown attack by the screaming.  The mouse ran behind a bookcase in the bedroom.  My mom went to set a trap while I kept my eye on our little intruder.  (I don’t set traps. Yuk!)  Every time he would come out, I would scream, and he would run back behind the bookcase.  Finally, mom got the trap set and put it next to the bookcase.  This time I controlled my phobia and waited–silent and still.  It only took two or three minutes before WHAM!  He was caught.  My mom emptied the trap.  (I don’t empty traps. Yuk!)  The end of his reign of terror.
 
Later I got to thinking about our little intruder.  There was really no reason for him to have gotten into that trap.  All he had to do was use what God gave him to get out of such situations: his speed and size.  He could easily have run right past me and been gone.  The fact is, the noise I made that scared him so badly was not the danger.  The danger came with the silence.  The trap was set, and I no longer needed to distract him.
 
Satan uses similar tactics in our lives.  He loves to distract us with problems, noise and busyness.  Things that keep us so focused that we fail to see the trap he has been setting for us.  Busyness that says, “you’ve got too much to do to spend time with God.”  Finances that scream out, “there’s not enough!”  Children that have drifted from God, and we hear, “they will never come back!”  Illness that says, “if God loved you, He wouldn’t allow this!”  The list goes on and on because the truth is, Satan is very good at what he does.  Once he has the trap set, we may no longer hear the “noise” and think all is well.  The fear is gone.  It’s safe.  But watch for these traps: Do we find that our peace is gone?  Our faith is weak?  We have allowed things to come into our lives that have moved us away from God and sin has become a dividing wall?  There’s no hope in our situation?
 
God has given us what we need to stand against Satan and his tactics.  It’s full-on, battle-proof armor.  Not only has God given us this armor, he tells us exactly how to use it in the above passage of Scripture.  You see, Satan does go about as a roaring lion, making a lot of noise.  He wants to devour us!  He’s powerful and will certainly “devour” us if we try to fight against him in our own might.  But the armor we have as God’s children is completely trustworthy.  God never meant us to go into battle with Satan alone so He provided all we need to be overcomers.  To stand firm as the battle heats up.  Each piece of armor has a specific use and when all six pieces are in place, there is no area of your life where Satan can gain the victory.  We are protected against his traps.
 
Are you tempted to believe his lies?  Put on the belt of truth and the helmet of salvation.  Is he attacking your faith?  Pick up the shield of faith.  Is he trying to steal your peace?  Put on the shoes of peace.  Is he tempting you live an unrighteous life that doesn’t line up with God’s expectations for us?  You need the breastplate of righteousness.  And don’t ever go without the sword of the Spirit.  Always keeping your armor shined up with prayer.
 
The war rages.  The traps are set.  So, keep that armor on and never forget that as adopted sons and daughters in the family of God, we stand firm in VICTORY!

Read more...

Dead Trees and New Life

Read:  Colossians 3:1-17
 
I love trees.  When we moved into our house there were only two or three very small trees, years away from providing any shade.  I love sycamore trees.  I’m not sure why.  I’ve always been intrigued by those big leaves.  Maybe that’s it.  Anyway, I started my husband on a program of tree planting for the first few years we lived in our home.  He was thrilled with this project.  (Of course, he wasn’t!)  Our yard now has several trees that provide a fair amount of shade.  He is thrilled with the fact that he now has some shade when he mows!
 
My favorite tree in the yard happens to be a sycamore.   Most of the trees in our yard have been transplanted from other parts of our property, and this is one of the transplants.  When I spotted this one, I asked if we could plant it right in front of the house where it would be the focal point of the yard.  It was a perfect sycamore.  Already growing straight and with a beautiful shape and covered with those big leaves. But something went wrong.  It died.  Just like that.  One day it was wilted. Then it was dead.  Before we had a chance to take it out, some friends of ours were visiting and saw the tree.  “Don’t take it out, just cut the dead part off and let it grow back from that little shoot growing at the bottom.  It will make a great tree from that.”  I didn’t see how it could.  It was surely going to be crooked and not amount to much.  We would be cutting the whole tree off!  But, with nothing to lose, we took his advice and cut the main tree off and left the little shoot.  Funny thing.  He was right! That tree is straight as an arrow, it is 20 feet tall or more and has the biggest leaves on it.  It’s beautiful and giving some pretty decent shade.
 
This tree is my favorite because it reminds me that new and beautiful growth can come from getting rid of the dead.  In the above passage Paul tells us to put to death what belongs to our earthly nature:  sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.  We are no longer to walk in anger, wrath, malice, slander and filthy language.  We are not to lie, we are to put off the old self with its practices.  All these things are disobedience which lead to God’s wrath.
 
We are to put on a new self.  We are to be renewed in the image of our Creator.  Our new selves have a whole different look:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.   What a difference.  We are God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved!
 
Our new self should be filled with love.  Christ’s love.  What a difference His love makes.  When we allow ourselves to be renewed into the image of our Creator, a new and beautiful life emerges.  This new life is filled with the Peace of God.  There is no understanding it, but you can experience and feel it!  This is a life that draws people to its “shade” where we can share with others the abundant life available through our loving Savior.
 
The tree we planted had the potential to be a beautiful tree. But it was only by cutting away the dead could the beauty emerge.  How about your life?  Is it filled with God’s love and peace or are there dead areas that need cut away?  Let Him make you over in His image that you may become more like Him.  No matter what it may look like now, there is a beautiful life waiting for you through the work of God’s Holy Spirit.

Read more...

The Last Chapter

Read:  John 3:16
           Matthew 7:13-14
           John 14:5-6
           Romans 3:23-24
           Acts 16:31
 
My granny loved to read.  I, also, love to read and can remember many enjoyable days I spent sprawled on her couch or on the floor reading while she did.  She had what I thought was a peculiar way of reading a book.  She would read the last chapter and then go back to chapter one and read the entire book through to the end.  I, on the other hand, did not read the last chapter until I had read all the chapters that came before.  Then I would read the final chapter in its proper place!
 
I’m not sure why she did this.  Maybe it was more enjoyable for her to know if the hero would get his lady love in a romance novel or if he would survive until the end of the book in a thrilling mystery.  But whatever the reason, that was how she enjoyed reading a book.
 
As I was thinking about this the other day, I thought about a phrase we hear in relation to the Bible, “We know how the story ends!”  How true that is, and it’s a comfort to those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus to know exactly how the story DOES end.  In His Book, God has made sure that we are aware of His plans and the eternity He is preparing for us.
 
How many people will tell you they know how it all ends and where they will spend eternity?  They are aware of a heaven but have no idea what is required to enter there.  They may think that an eternity in heaven is theirs because that’s where “good people” go, and they are “a good person”.  Unfortunately for those who believe that way, heaven is not entered by just being good.  There is a requirement to live there for eternity.
 
Jesus told his disciple Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”.  One of the foundational verses in the Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  There is only one way to heaven and that is by placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, accepting him as Lord of your life and his blood as atonement for your sin.  A debt none of us could ever pay without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
 
The Bible makes it very clear what we must do to have eternal life in heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  There’s nothing wrong with reading the last chapter of a book to try and gauge how enjoyable the book will be and if it’s worth investing the time to read it.  But eternity is too important to base your decision on partial or even false information.  Don’t get to the last chapter of your life and find that you skipped over the most important chapters.  When eternity comes, you don’t get to go back through the chapters of your life and rewrite the ending.  Your eternal decision has already been made.

Read more...

Fool

Read:   Luke 12:13-21
            Matthew 6:19-21
 
Back in the late 70’s I went to visit my cousin in Southern California.  We took a tour of the Universal Studios backlot.
 
We saw the fishing village and the shark from “Jaws”, the house the Munsters lived in, the street used in the filming of the movie “The Sting” (you have to be pretty old to remember that one) and a town square that had been used in lots of TV shows and movies and would soon become even more famous in the “Back to the Future” movies.
 
I had so much fun that I still remember it today.  But the main thing I remember from that tour was this:  It was all fake!  I could be the Incredible Hulk in Hollywood.  Those huge boulders were styrofoam!  I could have wrestled the “Jaws” shark and won.  He was a rather cheap looking, overgrown mechanical fish!  When our tram made a turn, there was nothing behind all those storefronts on that backlot street.  Nothing was real!  There was no substance to anything there.  It was a facade, all smoke and mirrors.
 
In the passage of scripture mentioned above, the Rich Fool was very wealthy.  He was also greedy.  He had so much he needed more storage for his wealth.  Funny how there’s no thought that he might share from his abundance with those who were in need.  In his heart, he had no thought of God or his fellow man.  In verse 14 Jesus says, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”  His prosperity had choked out the Word of God in his life, it had created a snare and temptation to him, and most of all, given him a false sense of security.
 
He had put his trust in his possessions.  In verse 19 he says, “Then I’ll say to myself, ‘you have many goods stored up for many years.  Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.'”  It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be fooled into putting our trust in a job, bank account, relationships, those tangible things we can see.  These things aren’t bad.  In fact, they are good, even necessary for our earthly existence.  But what happens when we have placed our trust in things of this earth and paid little heed to eternity?  The Rich Fool placed his trust in his financial success and the things he had accumulated. Then in verse 20 we read, “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life is demanded of you.  And the things you have prepared–whose will they be?”
 
How sad.  Since the book of Luke was penned, this man who thought he had it all has been known as a Rich Fool.  What about you?  Where are the treasures you have stored?  Will you be labeled like this man was?  A fool?  Verse 21:  “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”  The tragedy of this is that this man left great wealth behind where it could do him no good, and faced an eternity without God.
 
Take inventory of your heart today.  Are you storing up treasure in heaven “where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal”?  Is your life built on a facade (an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.)  Or are you rich toward God, cultivating eternal treasures?
 
 
 
 

Read more...

That Three Letter Word

Read:  Luke 12:22-31
 
Have you ever noticed how the tone of a conversation can change when one little three letter word is used?
 
For example:  We have a leak in our roof.  It’s not to the point we have to get out the buckets to catch the drips, still its’very annoying.  I asked my husband if he could fix the leak.  “Sure,” he replied.  “I could fix it.  No problem.”  This was just what I wanted to hear!  Until “the word” entered the conversation.  “But, I can’t find it.”
 
There it was.  The game changer.
 
The word “but” is a conjunction.  It connects words, phrases and clauses.  Sometimes it connects two main clauses and sometimes it connects a main clause and a subordinate clause.  It doesn’t really matter if we understand the usage of the word.  It does matter that we understand the importance of what comes after that little conjunction.
 
In the above scripture passage, verses 22-30, Jesus has just told his disciples that they are not to worry about the necessities of life.  He instructs them not to worry about what they will eat or wear.  Then he describes how God provides for the ravens and wildflowers.  Wildflowers don’t spend time working or spinning thread.  (Then my favorite part) “Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these.”
 
Yes!  God will supply all my needs.  I love reading that.  Then there it is.  Take a look at the last verse in the passage.  Verse 31 says, “BUT seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.”  The little conjunction “but”.  God desires that we have our eyes fixed on him.  That we put his kingdom first.  If we are focused on the things of this world, will we spend so much time worrying about losing those things or worrying about not having them or worrying that what we have is not enough that peace will become nonexistent in our lives?
 
God tells us to focus on him and his kingdom.  Seek him.  The word “seek” actually means to continually seek.  Don’t stop.  When we take our eyes off ourselves and turn them to God and his kingdom, then we will begin to look at the things of this world with a different perspective.  They will lose their importance because God and his kingdom will take the prominent place in our lives.  We will gain the peace that God desires us to have.  Worry and peace cannot exist together.  One will rule over the other.  Which would you rather have?
 
One little three letter word, and it is a game changer.  In this passage it reminds us that, yes, our needs are important, and we have a God who can provide for every one of them!  BUT we must seek his kingdom.  Don’t stop.  “And these things will be provided for you.”

Read more...

SURE STEPS

Read:  Isaiah 30:21
           Psalm 119:105
           Jeremiah 29:11
 
There are two things my husband really likes. It’s a mystery to me, but to him, they are very important.
 
The first one is the maps app on his cell phone.  With these maps, he can go virtually anywhere and his chances of getting lost are minimal.  It even tells him when there is a backup on the highway and where to turn to detour around it.  When we travel, he will ask me to check the information given on the map and tell him where his next turn is.  Why is it necessary to know that you will need to exit right in 157.9 miles?  Doesn’t he have plenty of time to get in the correct lane?
 
God has a travel plan for us too.  He has a path for us to follow.  It was set in place before we were even born.  That plan will get us where He desires for us to be.  However, He doesn’t show us the end from the beginning. He doesn’t tell us when our next turn will be.  He doesn’t even tell us how long the trip is!  He shows us one step at a time.  Which brings me to the next thing my husband really likes…flashlights.
 
In our home we have big flashlights, small ones, those that are very, very bright and some that are not so bright.  When the power goes off in our house, from the outside you wouldn’t know our power was out.  If he has to go outside at night, his way is clearly lit for several feet in front of him.
 
God lights our way on the path He has chosen for us.  However, He only lights one step at a time.  In the Psalmist’s time they used a clay dish with oil to light their way.  This didn’t provide much light–only enough for a step or two at a time.  Obviously, it was in the best interests of the traveler to take slow, sure steps.  The Psalmist didn’t have a clue about GPS or LED flashlights.  But he did know how God guides us on our journey.
 
Often we are tempted to run ahead of God’s leading.  The situation we are in seems unbearable, and the sooner we get out, the better.  If we think there is a detour around our situation that will make things easier, are we not willing to give it a try?  Even though God knows what is best for us is the path He has planned.  How hard to slow down and take one steady, sure step at a time.  How hard to stay on a path that seems too steep, too difficult.  Yet, God has told us in His Word if we will have faith in Him, trust Him, obey His Word and follow His leading, though it seems impossible, He will lead us through.
 
Steps taken too quickly often lead to a fall.  A detour can extend the length of our trip or cause us to lose sight of the path altogether.  Follow God.  Trust the leading He provides through His Word and time spent in prayer.  He wants what is absolutely best for us.  Remember He works in the realm of PERFECT, and He wants His perfect will to be active in our lives not just for us, but for others to see and for His glory!

Read more...