On a clear morning as the sun rises, the sky seems to be full of jet planes. At an altitude of five miles you don’t really see the planes, you only see the contrails they leave behind. And yet contrails are nothing but water vapors formed by the exhaust of the jet engines. Some contrails are long while others are short. Some spread out and last a while, but others disappear almost immediately. All contrails are different. But they all have one thing in common. They all fade away.
As I watch these planes in the sky, I know that they all have importance and purpose for being. Each one carries hundreds of people to their predetermined destination. Even so their greatest impression on the morning sky is nothing but condensed water vapor evaporating in the air. This reminds me that in spite of our importance and purpose, the Bible teaches that our lives are only a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
Someone once asked President Ronald Reagan how he wanted to be remembered after he was gone. His answer was, “ I don’t care, I won’t be there”. This great man understood that in the grand scheme of eternity even the actions of presidents will dissipate in the winds of time. You and I should also remember that our life on earth is like a shadow and like a cloud our works will fade away .
There is great good news for those of us who love Jesus with all our hearts. This great good news is that while men will forget we ever lived, our Omnipotent Father in heaven knows our name forever. Our goal on this earth should be to lay up treasure in heaven. Treasure in heaven is not silver and gold. No, treasure in heaven is the souls of men that are there because of our witness. It is a wise person who leads souls to Christ. The Bible says “Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens. Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.” This is a promise that will never fade away.
For years I have tried to start all my mornings early. It’s hard for me to lie in bed knowing that the world is turning. Life is to short and I don’t want to miss a thing. Usually I sit on my back porch reading my Bible and visiting with the Maker of all things.
Since my porch is facing to the southeast, I am able to watch the motion picture that is the rising sun and wakening day. This morning I am watching a doe and her two babies as they feed on the remnants of my garden. From the woods I hear chattering squirrels and all around me is the unmatched music of God’s orchestra.
I have things to do today, things I want to do. However, I am retired from my secular job and I no longer pastor a church, so I can sit here a little longer and enjoy another cup of coffee. From the Bible we learn that if we will just be still, we can know that He is God. So this morning I sit a little longer listening to the still small voice of my Father in heaven.
Now it may seem to you that I am bragging and I am. It may seem that my life is all sunshine and roses and it is. But understand this, the sunshine will burn you and make you sweat, while roses have thorns that often draw blood. My life has been one of sunburned skin and sweat soaked shirts. The roses of this life have often pricked my skin and my heart, causing both to bleed. However like the writer of Psalms 44, I will boast of my God all day long, and will praise His name forever.
I write these words as a praise to my Grand and Gracious God. I am blessed and I know it. He has been better to me than I deserve. However, I know that tomorrow everything could be taken from me, leaving me with just the air I breathe. If this happens God will still be good. As long as I am able, I will rise early to greet the day. Because everyday is a day that the Lord has made and they all start with a Good Morning.
This devotion is a audio podcast. Listen as I talk about the gift of being able to work for a living.
In Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 the Bible tells us “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor, it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He also gives him right to eat of it, to rejoice in the fruit of his labor—this is the gift of God.”
There once was a young man who was homeless. He lived on the streets. Finding shelter where ever he could he existed on food and clothing that others had discarded. He was hungry and cold, he was ragged and dirty and he smelled bad.
One day a very kind man saw him and felt pity for him. The man took the boy to his own home. He gave the young man use of his bathroom and provided him with everything he needed to be clean. The boy was then given new clothes and fed a good meal. At the end of the day, he was shown to a wonderful bedroom with a soft bed and fine linen. When he awoke the next morning he was fed a hearty breakfast and sent back out into the street. The young man was grateful for what had been done for him, but he was still homeless.
Now listen as I tell the story again. There once was a young man who was homeless. Finding shelter where ever he could, he existed on food and clothing that others had discarded. He was hungry and cold, he was ragged and dirty and he smelled bad. One day a kind man took the boy to his own home. He gave the young man use of his bathroom and provided him with everything he needed to be clean. The boy was then given new clothes and fed a good meal. After the meal, he was given a wonderful bedroom with a soft bed and fine linens to sleep in.
This is where the story changes. The next morning after sharing a good breakfast with the young man the host said “I have something to tell you. Son, if you choose to stay you will never have to go back to your old life. Because I am offering you a new life. From this day forward everything I have will be yours. My home will be home now. From now on you will be my son and I will be your father. You will never be homeless again.”
This is the message I want you to receive. In the first story, a homeless man was shown pity. In the second, Grace was given. In the first story, the boy was given temporary relief. In the second he was made permanently whole. You should know that God is a giver of Grace. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” God the Father with His Marvelous Grace is saying to everyone “Come with Me and all I have will be yours. I will be your Father and you will be My child. And you will never be homeless again.”
Summer is coming to an end. Every day now the sun is a little slower to rise above the trees in the morning and quicker to sink below the horizon in the evening. The days are still hot but the mornings and evenings are cool and pleasant. As I listen to the birds, it seems that their songs have a slower tempo and looking at the trees, I see that their leaves are a lighter shade of green. Every year it seems that summer tries to sneak away without being noticed, but I am fully aware that soon the 65th summer of my life will be gone.
The changing seasons remind me that the most consistent thing this world has to offer is inconsistency. Great buildings require constant maintenance to keep them from crumbling. Junkyards are full of rusted automobiles that once symbolized someone’s status. Somewhere there is a shower of birdseed as a bride and groom rejoice in their future. But the future comes quickly, and soon one of them stands old and bent by the grave of their loved one.
This is an unyielding truth, time is a great threshing machine that is harvesting the days of our lives. The Bible teaches that our life here on earth is like a vapor that quickly fades away. If we only have hope in this life, then we are most miserable. The good news is that our joy and purpose is not found in this life only. Jesus has promised us that if we hear His voice and follow Him, then He will give us life that will never fade away.
Here today and gone tomorrow is our life on this earth. Yes life is brief, but everlasting hope is found in Jesus. In Him we can find the Way we can travel, the Truth we can believe and Life that is eternal. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts. The Lord is near to all who call out to Him. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him. He hears their cry for help and saves them. The Lord guards all those who love Him. Let every living thing praise His holy name forever and ever.”
In Joshua 13:1 we read these words; “Joshua was now old, getting on in years, and the Lord said to him, “You have become old, getting on in years, but a great deal of the land remains to be possessed.” Now I wonder, was God displaying a sense of humor here. Really, as Joshua stood there with all the aches and pains that come with age and the long years of service to God, do you think that he needed God to tell him that he was old? No, i don’t think so,I really think that God may have chuckled when He said this.
I have had a good many birthdays. When I crawl out of bed in the morning my bones creak and pop. Then I reach for my glasses because the years have blurred my eyesight. Old wounds and scars I have accumulated throughout the years remind me of some of the dumb things I have done to myself. So if God where to say to me, ” Doug, you are old and advanced in years” I would chuckle and say, ” you think.”
Now, when God told Joshua that he was old, He also told him that there was a lot more land to possess. In other words God said, Joshua you are old, but you ain’t done. So rub some oil on those creaky old bones and get up and get busy.
In my years on this earth I have seen a lot and done a lot. But I am not finished yet. There is still a lot more to do and see. I believe that God has said to me, Doug, you are old and advanced in years but you ain’t done yet. There is more work to do, so get up and get busy.
Now many of you like me, have had a lot of birthdays. All those birthdays are making your bones ache and your muscles hurt. However if you have pain that is proof that you are alive and if you are alive that is proof that you ain’t done yet. God is saying rub some creme on those old muscles then get up and get busy. Remember, make plans for the future as if you have many tomorrows, but live today as if you have none.
I confess, like most people, sometimes I miss important words in the Bible. For instance in Matthew 11:11 Jesus says “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” As often as I have read that passage of scripture until recently I had not seen the word, “risen.” This is important because John was not born great. Jesus is telling us that John the Baptist rose to greatness.
Yes I know that the circumstances of John’s birth were miraculous. However, that was not what made him great. John became great when he rose up and unashamedly preached the need for repentance. Pointing to Jesus he joyfully proclaimed that He was the Lamb of God. Then John rose up and fearlessly pointed out the sins of King Herod. After this he relentlessly clung to the Kingdom of Heaven even as the axe separated his head from his body. No, he was not born great, but by his faith John ascended to greatness.
Strangely enough after Jesus honors the greatness of John, He then turns to you and I and says “He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.” I believe that through these words Jesus is issuing a challenge to all of us. This is the challenge; Godly men must stand up for the Glory of God and by faith cling to the kingdom of heaven.
This time we live in is strange and terrifying. This world has a need for great men who will stand up for righteousness and the Kingdom of God. These men will not come from the entertainment or sports venues. Nor will they come from the pulpit or political world. The Holy Sprit is looking for ordinary men who will sink to their knees in prayer and stand on their feet to do battle with the enemy.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren, it is time for ordinary men to cling to the Kingdom of Heaven and by faith rise up to greatness.
He is most well known for being the son of Abraham and the father of Jacob. Some commentators have referred to him as a mediocre son of a great father and a mediocre father of a great son. I think this is unfair to Isaac. I believe he admirably fulfilled his place in history. He was not born to be an Abraham nor was he born to be a Jacob. He was just Isaac.
Every where you go you will find men with the spirit of Isaac. Most people unfairly consider them to be just mediocre. For instance, you might see a man at the little league game in grimy clothes. His clothes are dirty because he came straight from work to watch his child or grandchild play. You might also see him in those grimy clothes at church on Wednesday night. He wants to be an example for his children and grandchildren so he also came there straight from work. He will probably never be great in the world’s eyes, but he loves his family, does his job and worships Jesus. He will never be seen as a V.I.P. But neither was Isaac.
On Sunday a bivocational pastor will step into the pulpit to preach a message that God has given him. Many nights he has been up past midnight praying and laboring over the sermon. He pays the bills by working all day. He then rushes home, cleans up, and spends the evening visiting his small congregation. The members of his little church love him but the denominational leaders don’t know him. Although his sermons are better than most of the big shot preachers, he will never be asked to preach to large crowds. He is just a simple man doing what God called him to do. Just like Isaac.
Throughout history a handful of great men have done great things for God, and we all know their names. However the Bible teaches that in Heaven the first shall be last and the last shall be first. By far the men who have done the most for the Kingdom of Heaven are the simple men whose names are not known. On earth they never hear the applause of men, but in Heaven a great cloud of witnesses will greet them with a standing ovation. With dirty hands and calloused knees they are simple but faithful servants who do their jobs well. Just like Isaac.
I recently acquired some chickens. Seven fat hens. I am responsible for their safety, so I built a secure pen for them. It has a top to keep out hawks and is reinforced around the bottom to keep out varmints. Daily I make sure they have fresh water and plenty of food. They are safe, well fed and have a warm dry coop to sleep in. Everything a chicken could want.
Everything a chicken could want, except they want out. Whenever I go to feed them, they are standing at the gate hoping I will let them out. They are glad to exchange the free food for food they can find for themselves. They are also happy to swap the safety of the enclosed pen for the wide open freedom of the yard. When a hawk flies over they hide under a bush and when a varmint comes around they fly into a tree. They don’t need me to take care of them. They are willing to take care of themselves.
It occurs to me that my chickens are exhibiting the true American spirit. True Americans don’t sit around waiting to be fed, they take care of themselves. True Americans will not trade freedom for safety. True Americans will not be told when, where and how to worship. They will worship how, where and when the God of all creation calls them. True Americans don’t depend on the government but will lift their eyes unto God in whom they have placed their trust.
The Declaration of Independence declares that it is evident that we are endowed by the Creator with the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It appears that many people are willing to trade these rights for the dubious promises of corrupt politicians. I am not! I know that Jesus Christ died on the cross to free me from my sin. And brave soldiers died on the battlefield so I can live in freedom. Satan cannot steal my salvation and I will not sell my liberty. I will stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made me free, and will not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. I was set free to live in freedom and I will be free.
Setting by this fire and praying early in the morning. I know I can sleep late, but when the sun rises I think I should also. The hands on the clock and the days of the calendar seem to be moving at warp speed and life is short. I don’t want to miss a thing. I need to hear all the birds sing and feel every breeze.
Like the wisp of fog that lingers over the water so is life. Only a vapor that fades in the morning sun. I will treasure every minute because every minute is gift from God.