Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Need A Tutor

Today, I started tutoring a few students at the high school who have previously failed the math portion of the Alabama Graduation Exam. The principal of the school called me about two weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to do it. The tutoring lasts 4 hours per day for a total of 8 days. When he asked me about doing it on the phone, and told me how much it would pay, I jumped at the chance! This pay is above and beyond my regular salary, and it is very good pay! For the past two weeks, all I have been able to think about is how I could spend the money. My daughter and I will be needing back-to-school clothes, I need (want) a new grill, a new big-screen TV would be nice, and...and..and..You know how it can be when you get some extra money in your pocket. For the past two weeks, I have been thanking God for the extra money and have really shared with people how He has blessed me financially with this tutoring job. But as I arrived at the school this morning, something hit me completely out of the blue.

This whole time, all I could think about was me and how much money I would be making. I never thought for a second about those students who may need me. Please don't let me sound boastful or like I am bragging, but just maybe, those kids do need me to help them. I mean, I know they need some teacher to help, but maybe it is ME personally that they need. I am fortunate to have a very high success rate when teaching students who have failed this major exam in the past. To date, my success rate is over 95% of students passing the Grad Exam. I have always believed that God called me to be a teacher, and I tend to be one of the students' favorite. That simply verifies in my heart that God is behind my teaching. So maybe it was God's plan that I personally take time from my summer vacation to help them. (Again, I pray that you don't think I am being boastful, just fortunate). But sadly, instead of thanking God for the opportunity to help these students, all I could think about was the money. I will earn $800 from this job. I have to admit that I did spend $200 today on a brand-new grill. But I have decided that I am committing the other $600 to God. Maybe you can comment on this devotion and suggest a good, Christian way I can give the $600. I know there is nothing wrong with splurging on ourselves sometimes, but I guess what hit me so hard this morning was my intent for taking on this job in the first place. I am ashamed. So if you have time, please suggest a way I can give the rest to the Lord.

Proverbs 22:9 says, "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

Father, forgive me for thinking more about the money than the students. I know You have blessed me with this abundance. Please direct me in the way You would have me share it. In Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'm Proud Of You

I think it is fairly apparent from my previous two devotions that I am a firm believer in Salvation by faith alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it very clear that our good works have nothing to do with our Salvation. So are good works even important? Oh yes, definitely. I grew up without my dad due to divorce, but I was very fortunate to get to know him in my adult life. He was a good man! I can remember how anxious he was to see me when I would make plans to visit him. He always made me feel welcomed in his home, which also included his wife and my three half-sisters. It brought me great joy to learn that my visits brought him great joy. My daddy was proud of me and the things that I had accomplished. I guess everyone wants their dad to be proud of them, even in their adult life. I loved doing things that made him proud of me even though I knew he would have loved me the same if I didn't do those things. I realized that even more when I became a daddy. I love my daughter Bailey more than anything in this world. There is nothing she could ever do, good or bad, that would make me love her any more or any less.

I think that is the way it is with God and His children. We could never do anything that would diminish the degree of love that He has for each one of us. But just as I tried to please my earthly father, I find myself striving even harder to please my Heavenly Father. I want to do great works that reflect my true dedication and love for Jesus. I'm not really sure if God looks at it in that same way, but I still find myself trying to please Him. There is no doubt that He can be pleased, for He announced at least twice how pleased He was with Jesus. I know I can never even come close to the Goodness of Jesus, but that doesn't make me want to try any less. When Jesus Saved me, He also empowered me with the Holy Spirit. It is this Holy Spirit who motivates me to do good works, and who convicts me when I don't. I don't want to simply be an "arm-chair" Christian. I always want my external evidence to reflect my internal conviction, even when it doesn't really matter.

James 2:14 says, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works?"

Father, teach me to do the things that please You. I know I can do nothing that is good without Your help. In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No Place For Guilt

If you worry about your Salvation or know somebody who does, please read today's devotion with an open mind and heart. I am not a preacher nor am I a Bible scholar. I have not been to theology school, nor do I attend church as often as I should. I don't read or speak a lick of Hebrew nor Greek, and even though my Bible is written in perfect English, I still find much of it over my head. But I am absolutely, positively convinced about one thing: If you believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on a cross and was resurrected, and you have asked Him to wash away all your sins, then you are Saved and have Eternal Life...Period! Please don't even give it a second thought. John 3:16 and at least 17 other Bible verses teach this simple but most critical Truth.

The reason I chose to write this devotion today is because I keep running into people who are afraid they have messed up too much for God to accept them or that they are afraid they don't do enough good deeds to keep their Salvation. First of all, the Bible tells us that God will never, ever abandon His children. If you accepted Him, you are "stuck" with Him...praise God! There is absolutely nothing you can do, now or later, that will ever sever the love that Jesus has for you. So shake off any worries that you are too "bad" for Him. There is nothing so bad that His blood and Goodness can't cover. Thank God for that, or I would be heading to hell on a sliding board. And also don't worry that you don't do enough good things to keep your salvation. Whether you do 1 million good deeds or no good deeds, you are still saved and on your way to heaven. Those who think good works are necessary for Salvation, I ask you two questions: 1. Which good works? and 2. How many good works? No, Salvation is based totally on our faith in Jesus Christ, and that is a gift which can never be earned. Please don't get me wrong. Good works are a regular part of our Christian life. But we do Good works BECAUSE we are saved and not IN ORDER to be saved. Have you accepted God's free and powerful gift?

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Father, thank-you for your Son Jesus. I have accepted your gift of Salvation, and I pray for all those who have not. In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Salvation By Faith Alone

The more I learn about Peter, the more I like him. We all know of how he denied Christ on the night Jesus was arrested. We also know of how Jesus forgave Peter. Peter was the sort of man that I would like to be, that is when he was wrong, he was quick to admit it and to start doing the right thing. In the Book of Galatians, again we see Peter doing the wrong thing. He had shifted from preaching Salvation by grace to Salvation by works, namely, the works of the Jewish faith in the Old Testament. Paul called him on it. In fact, Paul confronted Peter in front of "them all". Again, Peter saw the errors of his ways and repented. Lord, teach me to be more like that when I am wrong.

This debate of salvation by works and salvation by faith is one of the biggest dividers among Christians today. Because of what I have read from God's Word, I am a firm believer that we are saved by our faith in Jesus, and not by any good works we can perform. We do good works because we are saved and not in order to be saved. Paul states in Galatians 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified." In other words, we can not be saved by going to church, being baptized, giving to the poor, keeping the 10 commandments, or any other good work. Sure, we should strive very hard to do these things, but these things don't "earn" us everlasting life. In fact, Eternal life can not be "earned" at all. It is simply a gift from God. And the only way we can accept that gift is by accepting Christ as our Personal Savior. Have you accepted God's free gift? I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, "Jesus Christ: Our get out of HELL free card."

Father, thank-you for drawing me to accepting Christ. I pray for those who have not accepted Your free gift. Please draw them too, Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jesus Struck By Lightning

Yesterday in Ohio, lightning struck a 6-foot tall statue of Jesus, destroying it in a matter of seconds. I saw this story on Yahoo News, and there always follows comments from viewers. I was not surprised by the negative and blasphemous responses from people. One person wrote that this lightning strike "proves that even God is tired of Christianity". Another wrote that the strike was yet another "proof that God does not even exist". Although not surprised, the comments still hurt me as a Christian. Somebody wrote that some of the greatest thinking minds in the world have already dismissed Christianity as a hoax, and those who still believe continue to show their ignorance. I would like to give my 2-cents worth on this subject.

First of all, God normally works within the very laws of nature that He created. Sure, He can perform miracles outside the norm, and He does on a regular basis. But for the most part, He allows things to happen naturally. The lightning strike that destroyed the Jesus statue no more proves God doesn't exist than a strike on a statue of Satan would prove that He does. I still remember a tornado touching down in Piedmont, Alabama on a Sunday morning, destroying a church and killing several members who were there worshipping God. Sad, yes, but it happens. Pertaining to the lightning strike that destroyed the statue of Jesus, maybe it was a miracle after all. For all we know, that lightning bolt could have been heading to a person or to a family, but God redirected it to save their lives. Just think, maybe Jesus "died" yet again to save another person. So what does the lightning strike prove? Probably nothing. Strike or no strike, my God still lives, and He still saves anybody who asks Him and believes that Jesus is His Son.

Psalm 27:13 says, "I am still confident of this: I will see the Goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

Father, forgive those who have not accepted Your Son. Show us Christians how to spread the Good News about You. I know if You can save me, You can save anybody. In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Don't Let It Grow

I once heard a story about an old tutor and his young student. They were walking in the woods when suddenly the old tutor stopped. He pointed out four plants to his student. The first one was barely visible above the ground, the second one was about 2 inches tall, the third one was a medium-sized bush, and the fourth one was a tall tree. The tutor told his student to pull each one out of the ground. The first two plants were easy for the student to pull out of the ground, but the third one, the bush, was very difficult. After some fighting with it, he finally managed to pull it out of the ground as well. But then he attempted to pull up the full-grown tree. He wrapped his arms around the tree but with all his strength, he was unable to even shake its leaves.

This lesson is simple. Bad habits are easy to uproot from our lives when they are new. But the longer they take root, the harder they are to destroy. I have learned that either you can destroy the bad habit, or it can destroy you. I had to deal with a couple bad habits this past summer, and with God's help, I was able to defeat and destroy them. So I am now a witness to God's enormous strength. Maybe you are fighting some "large trees" in your life. No matter how hard you try, you can simply not defeat them on your own. But God sure can! Further, He wants to help you. Consider doing what I did..I let go, and let God! It made all the difference in the world. With God's help, you can even uproot a giant Redwood!

Psalm 72:12 says, "God will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help."

Father, thank you for destroying my addiction this past summer. I ask you to encourage others who may be facing some bad habits to turn it over to You. You are God Almighty! What is too tough for you? In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spin That Ball

Although I have seen them on TV a thousand times, I still enjoy watching the Harlem Globetrotters every time they come on. In fact, I watched them yesterday. These guys are not only the most talented basketball players in the world, they are also just down-right entertaining! I am amazed at their level of athleticism and dedication to perfecting their craft. Yesterday, I watched their leader, Special K, spin the ball on his finger for over 30 seconds. Not only on his finger, but also on his head, his knee, his back, and his foot. Amazing!

As I watched him, I thought about God holding our spinning world on his finger. One can't help but to watch the News on TV today and get the sense that our world is all but spinning out of control. Earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and more seem to be increasing all around our globe at an alarming rate. It is like "Mother Nature" has gone postal. But we have to remember that our precious and all-powerful God still has the world under His control. He made this world, and He controls this world. And even though God's Word warns that things will only get worse before they get better, we should not fear. God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of strength. That strength comes from God's Son Jesus Christ! But we are only human, so fear and worry is a part of our lives, especially in the face of tragedy. But we can draw on Jesus for His perfect strength anytime we feel the need. Remember, He holds this spinning world on His finger. We can think of Him as being the leader of the "Heaven Globetrotters"! Now that is one show I would love to see!

Isaiah 41:10 says, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Father, thank-you for creating this world and for giving us the strength to live in it. Help us to remember that no matter how rough things may get in our lives, that You are right there protecting us. In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Steady As She Goes

I apologize for not writing any devotions recently. I really have no excuses, or at least I should I have no good excuses. I have missed writing them very much. Like reading God's Word and praying, expressing what I feel in my heart through writing devotions helps me to grow as a Christian. Actually, it just makes me feel good. If you have ever considered writing devotions, allow me to encourage you to do so. There is no better feeling in the world than to connect with Christ! Writing these devotions makes me feel connected to Him.

I also wanted to share some other news with you that makes me feel good. I got some great health news from my last doctors visit. For the past couple years, I have been experiencing high blood pressure. This past Friday, my BP was the best it has been in a long time. I also got the results of some lab work that I had done a couple weeks ago. I am thrilled to report that not only is my BP lower, but my cholesterol is also better than it has been in a long time. In fact, the lab work showed that I am much healthier than I have been in a while. This, coupled with the fact that I have been losing some weight and getting a little exercise, has made me feel wonderful! I thank Jesus for helping me to get healthier. The Bible says that all good things come from Him, and I think this is something that is very good. I just wanted to share my fortunate news with you, and to also let you know that I will start back to writing devotions. Thank you for reading my devotions and for encouraging me all the way. You all are very special to me!

Psalm 30:2 says, "O Lord my God, I called to you for help, and You healed me."

Father, thank-you for making me healthier. Please help those who are also in need of healing. In Jesus name, Amen.