“ME, CRITICAL?”

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  Matthew 7:3 NIV

READ:  Matthew 7:1-12

 

I had a lady call asking me what she should do.  It seems she had ‘tried’ a dozen different churches and found they were all full of “judgmental attendees.”  She complained that not one church had the spirit of JESUS.  She seemed to ignore the fact that she in her observations could be as judgmental as those she witnessed.

How about you?  Are you ever critical or do you set in judgement of others?

Ultimate judgment is for GOD alone.   When we set in judgment of others, we need to judge with compassion.   Judgment as a discernment is necessary and is a great gift from GOD.  Discernment is something that most of us don’t have enough.   Yet, critical judgment is dangerous.

You probably know someone who it seems is always critical.  They always know more than anyone else and always have to get the last word in on any subject.   You can find them armchair coaching Sunday afternoon’s football game when they can’t even throw a football, arguing with their bullying son’s teacher or mumbling to others about what their pastor preached.

Luke 6:37 mirrors JESUS’ words of Matthew in our daily reading above.  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” 

 
It is so very simply written, how could we mess it up?  But we  do.

 
When you hear someone being critical, reach out to them.  Often, the one most critical of others is one whom is most unhappy with themselves.   Be less critical and more forgiving of others and of yourself.

 
Today, think before you speak.   Ask yourself…”Me, critical?”

 
Today’s Prayer:  “JESUS MY LORD, Thank you for forgiving me when I am critical and judge others.  Help me today to take the plank from my eye rather than complain about others.  Amen.”

   

 

“FREE FROM SIN?”

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6: 6-7 NIV

Read: Romans 6: 1-23

A young lady was excited about accepting JESUS as her LORD and SAVIOUR. Yet, she was confused as to why she had the same thoughts as she had before being saved. She was concerned about these old thoughts and desires becoming real. Her pastor told her there are times we all have sinful thoughts. Although we should turn from them, they are unfortunately all a part of being human. He explained; Now, she was free from acting on those sinful thoughts. She is free to give those sinful temptations to GOD. He reminded her that sin is all around us. Being ‘free from sin’ is a promise JESUS made to us.

When Adam and Eve took that first bite of the forbidden fruit, they brought sin to all mankind. We each carry their sinful actions today. A sinful thought is not to be feared as much as our reaction to it. If we acknowledge it and take it to GOD in prayer, HE can deal with it for us. We have to give it to HIM…all of it to HIM. If we act upon our sinful thought, we are playing into the devil’s plan.

No one on this earth is free of the temptations of sin. We all have those moments, even when we do our best to live our lives ‘free from sin’. We are never free from Satan’s temptations until we pass from this life to Heaven. Then we will be ‘free from sin’. Only JESUS CHRIST was totally free from sin and all temptations. To live our lives under the adage “what would JESUS do?”, should be our goal.

Though you are not ‘free from sin’ in your daily life, you can be free from the burdens of sin. No matter what you have done, you can ask GOD to forgive you. If you trust in JESUS in all things, you will be forgiven of your sins and you are free from the burden of your sinful actions. Forgiveness of sins also gives you freedom from the mental and spiritual burden of that sin…if you accept it . Of course, there may well be earthly problems and consequences of your actions. JESUS can even help with those as well. The more you give to HIM, the more free you will feel.

Live your life as close to being like JESUS as you can. You may not be free from sin daily, but you can be free from the burdens of sin.

Disappoint the devil. Free yourself from his grip by taking all your problems to GOD and leaving them at HIS feet. Free yourself from the burdens of sin by asking GOD’S help when first tempted.

 
Today’s prayer: “HEAVENLY FATHER, Thank YOU for taking the burdens of my sins from me and giving me YOUR precious peace. Help me turn from my sinful thoughts and help me help others in their sinful battles. Amen.”

“DO YOU KNOW SIN?”

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,… For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  Romans 6:12,14 NIV

 

Read:  Romans 6:1-18

 

Do you know sin?  ‘To see or know of sin and to ignore it is a sin itself.’   When we tolerate sin in any manner we are going against the will of GOD.   While we decide in our human nature that one sin is not as bad as another, there is no little sin.   Believing what you or others do are personal choices. Believing your  actions have no bearing or impact upon others is false.

 
Do you know sin?  Perhaps, the better question is when were you first introduced?   You probably first sinned when you proclaimed “NO!” to your mother or father as a toddler.   Through out your life your were re-introduced to sin in increasing numbers.  You learned to cheat at a childhood game.   You were introduced to sin when you told your first lie.  As you grew, you shook the hands of lust.  And the sins continued with fabrications on a resume or falsehoods on a tax return.  For many, there is so much sin in their lives they can no longer tell the difference.

 

So, think back.   When was the last time you sinned?  For a few, it was only seconds ago as you dismissed your latest sin. ‘To see or know of sin and to ignore it is a sin itself.’

 
We all have an opportunity to influence everyone we come in contact.   Some of our thoughts and beliefs are passed onto others.  These may be major influences or extremely subtle…but still influences.   How are you influencing others?   If your neighbors see you washing your car on Sunday morning instead of being in church, you have influenced them.   If they see you with your Bible getting into your car going to church, you have influenced them and had a positive impact upon them.

 

While our influences can have life changing effects upon others, our greatest influences of right and wrong are upon ourselves.

 
Do you know sin?  ‘To see or know sin and to ignore it is a sin itself!’

 
Today’s Prayer:  “LORD JESUS, Thank you for giving your life to take on all my sins.  Help me today to shed the urge to sin and to help someone else in their efforts to remove sins from their lives. Amen.”

“AMERICAN BANDSTAND!”

“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13 NIV

Read: Jeremiah 10-14

 
If you are old enough, you may remember ‘American Bandstand’ or maybe you have seen re-runs. Dick Clark hosted this program during the phenomenal growth of early rock and roll. When introducing a new song, a small group was asked what they thought of the new song. Often, the response was “I did not pay attention to the lyrics, but it had a good beat and I could dance to it.”

 
Is that the way you are living your life? Are you not paying attention to the lyrics, but you dance to the beat? As we travel the roads of this earthly life, we are overwhelmed by Satan’s lies. His messages seem to have a ‘good beat’ and it is so easy for us to ‘dance’ to his songs filled with deceit.

 
It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘dancing with the devil’. So many of our friends, neighbors and relatives have fallen victim of ‘this is all right’, ‘it doesn’t hurt anyone’ and ‘no one will ever know’. They have unknowingly sold their soul for the ways of the world.

 
Unfortunately, our world today is no different than the the world of the ancient Israelites. When Moses came down from the mountain from his fellowship with GOD, he found the people dancing and worshiping the false god in an image of a golden calf they had created. They were dancing to the beat of Satan.

 
There is a better way.

 
There is joy in dancing to the songs of GOD. By asking HIM to protect us in this evil world we can avoid the snares of Satan. Don’t just dance to any music. It is not good enough to hear a good beat and start dancing. Listen to the lyrics. The HOLY SPIRIT will guide you. Be careful of the deceit and lies of Satan. Wait until you hear the words from GOD. GOD’S words will be secure and honest to guide you in HIS ways. Hear your LORD, then dance your heart out!

 
Today’s Prayer: “Dear GOD, Thank you for forgiving me when I have followed the ways of this world rather than YOU. Let me feel YOUR presence as I dance in delight of all YOU have done and will do for me. Amen.”

“PRAYER, NOT PRIDE!”

“This, then, is how you should pray…” Matthew 6:9a NIV

 Read:  Matthew 6:9-13

 He told me: “I don’t need your prayers.  I know I am going to hell.   No, he is not a hardened criminal.  He is a very successful business man.  He says he does not need GOD.  He has a tremendous ego and pride believing he alone is responsible for his financial success.  Again, I offered to pray with him.  His pride would not allow prayer.

Prayer should come from your heart.   Is your pride keeping you from praying a prayer from your heart?  If your heart is full of pride, you can’t pray from your heart.   It takes a humble heart to pray the prayer you should pray.  How can you expect GOD to hear your prayers if they are from your pride and are not humble?

 Is your heart humble or is it full of pride?   Do you reject others because you know more than they know or you have a position of authority or are socially above others?  Do you ever feel you simply are smarter than others?  If you ever answer ‘yes’ to these type questions, ask yourself if pride has replaced a humble heart.

Jesus told us how to pray.  HE gave us a wonderful prayer as an example of how to pray.  Often called “The Lord’s Prayer”, it set out the stepping stones of how to pray.

First is to give honor to our LORD.  Then be thankful for those things we often take for granted which GOD has provided.  You can thank GOD for the new job or new car, but a humble prayer for our basic needs should come first.  Being sure to ask GOD to forgive you of your sins is necessary.  Be humbled from your pride so you can have a heart to forgive others.  Jesus closed with ‘lead us not into temptation’.  We need to be aware that Satan’s snare is close at hand and we need GOD’S help to avoid temptation.

Pray with a humble heart, not a heart of pride.

Today’s prayer:  “LORD GOD, Thank you for loving me and providing all I have.  Forgive me of my daily failures.  Help me be more forgiving of others and avoid Satan’s temptations.  Amen.”

 

“OOPS!”

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  1John 2:2 NIV

Read 1John 2:1-2

“What you think you heard me say was not what you think I meant when I said what I said, so what I meant to say could have been said differently so that I was more clear and then you could have understood what I really intended in the first place instead of what you think I meant by what I said.”

What???

You can tell we are in the political election period!   The double talk is daily.

It is not just politicians who can say the wrong things.  We can all err when we say something.   A wrong choice of words can cause confusion and can lead to devastating results.   We have an obligation to ‘set the record straight’ when we are not clear or use the wrong choice of words.

When was the last time you said something you really did not mean to say?  Have you ever said anything and thought; ‘I could have said that differently’? 

Last week the prayer in the devotional contained wordings which could be misunderstood.  I chose words and they need to be clarified.   ‘Thank you for helping me carry the weight of my sins and the wrongs of others today’ appeared in the closing prayer.   This was not setting a limit on GOD’S ability.

GOD is not a helper as your assistant to situations.  The words were not intended to say that GOD would carry only a part of the weight.  GOD can and will carry the full weight of ours sins and the wrongs of others when we turn them over to HIM.  HE will carry as much weight as you give to HIM.

Many are guilty of turning our problems over to GOD (I sometimes do) in our morning prayers and slowly taking them back during the day.  When you turn the weight of your sins and problems over to GOD, HE will carry them all…not just help you carry a part of them.  GOD’S help is taking all of the burden from you…without any restrictions.  When we turn all our problems over to GOD, we are free of them.

GOD has no limits.  We put our own limits on GOD in our own hearts and minds.   Accept GOD’S full authority.  Don’t try to put your self imposed restrictions on your FATHER.  HE can do more than we can ever imagine!

Today’s Prayer:  “LORD GOD, Thank you for being a forgiving GOD.   When I err in words or actions, help me see the errors of my ways.  Amen.”

 

 

“ARE YOU AS PERFECT AS MOSES?”

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,”  Deuteronomy 34:10 NIV

Read:  Deuteronomy 34:1-12

It is a real question.  Do you feel you were as perfect as Moses or more perfect or less perfect?  It depends on where you set the standard and how much you know of GOD’S faithful servant. Born a Jew and raised in Egyptian royalty, his life was unique to say the least.   Moses witnessed one of his people being beaten and he killed an Egyptian.  Have you ever killed anyone?

Moses and his wife, Zipporah, quarreled over the circumcision of their sons.   Have you ever quarreled with your spouse?

Moses was 80 years old before accepting GOD’S plan for him.  Two Thirds of his life was over.   Have you ever delayed accepting GOD’S plan for your life?

Moses showed anger in destroying the first tablets of the 10 commandments when the people of Israel worshiped idols of gold.  Have you ever showed anger?

Moses was displeased with GOD when he was overwhelmed with the duties over all the people during their desert wanderings.  Have you ever been displeased with GOD and argued with HIM?

Moses was told by GOD to pray over a rock the second time the people came to him for water.  Instead, he failed to follow GOD’S instruction and was forbidden to enter the Promised land.   Have you ever failed to obey GOD?

Looking at this list, how perfect was Moses?  As we see, Moses was not perfect at all.   Neither are you.  How many of these items were you imperfect as Moses?

As imperfect as we are, isn’t it wonderful to feel the forgiveness and blessings of GOD when you fall short, make bad decisions or ignore GOD and do it your way?  Know that GOD does not like the things you do when you fail to obey, but HE still loves you.  Take your wrongs and lay them at GOD’S feet.

Today’s prayer:  “LORD GOD, Thank YOU for loving me when my actions are imperfect and not lovable.   Help me today to do as YOU would have me do and be less of my imperfect self.  Amen.”  

 

“WEIGHT LIMIT”

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 NLT

 

Read:  Matthew 11: 27-30

 

If you cruise the back roads of most states, you might find yourself on a narrow road with an old one lane bridge.  There is likely a sign warning you of the ‘weight limit’ of that old bridge.  As old as some of these old bridges, the signs may be less than accurate.   With sagging timbers and rotten wood, these old bridges may not be able to carry the weight displayed on the sign.

Our lives are a lot like those old bridges.   What we once were capable in our prime is not necessarily true physically, mentally or emotionally.  Just a few years sometimes makes a tremendous difference.  We also cannot carry the weight when we are not depending upon GOD.

Many blame GOD for the weights they carry.  We only need to go back to the creation of man in Genesis.  GOD created a perfect garden for Adam and Eve.  They were given all they would ever need, yet they wanted more.  Satan did not make them take the forbidden fruit.  He only tempted them.  By their own action, they accepted the weight of sin.   From their actions we are carrying the weight of our sins and others’ sins today.

Scripture explains the weight of situations often as burdens.  When our burdens seem to overwhelm us, we feel the ‘weight’.  Our ‘weight limit’ is measured by our faith.

It is during these times we are reminded there is no weight too large for GOD.  The weights and burdens put upon us in our daily lives are not from GOD.   They are from life itself.   Some we cause by our own actions, while other burdens are the results of the actions of others.  No matter why we are burdened by these weights, the load upon us is lighter when we ask GOD to help carry them.

Ask GOD to help you carry the weight of your burdens today.  HE will.

Today’s prayer:   “LORD my GOD,  Thank you for helping me carry the weight of my sins and the wrongs of others today.  Help me understand the more I depend upon you, the lighter my burdens are.  Amen.”

 

“HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?”

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”  Psalm 9:9 NIV

Read:  Psalm 9:7-12

If you were to eat an elephant, it would take careful planning.   First, you would have to skin and clean it…an enormous task.  Then you would have to find a mighty big stove to cook it.   Of course, to go through all the preparation, you would need a huge appetite!

After preparing it, how do you eat an entire elephant?   One bite at a time…

Our lives have several elephants along the way that have to be eaten.   When was the last time a problem presented itself that seemed impossible.   Some problems are so overwhelming, our first response may be to run away or just give up.  Just like a giant elephant, a giant problem can be solved one bite at a time.

No matter your problem, GOD has seen it before.   It may be a new problem you feel you must deal with alone.   Not true.  There is nothing you have to deal with alone.   GOD is there.  It is up to you to allow HIM into your life during these difficult and seemingly impossible times.   You don’t have to deal with these elephant sized plans alone.

GOD is there for you when problems attack you.  Today’s verses from the book of Psalm tells us of GOD’S faithfulness which we can always depend.  GOD is “a stronghold”.  GOD is your stronghold.

If you are dealing with an elephant sized problem, ask GOD to help you deal with it.  There are no problems…any size…to big for GOD.  With HIS help, you can eat your elephant sized problem one bite at a time.

Today’s Prayer:   “LORD my GOD,  Thank YOU for always being there for me.  When I am overwhelmed with problems that seem too large, remind me of how much I can depend upon YOU.  Amen.”