Friday, November 29, 2013

Post Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving!

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

In America, Thanksgiving is a time that blends together the history and traditions that Americans hold dear, especially highlighting the home and family. Thanksgiving is synonymous with stuff that can be found at home – special meals with the wonderful aromas from the kitchen, kids and grandkids, long distance phone calls, family reunions, football games, family indoor and outdoor games, friends dropping by, abundant desserts, and meaningful fellowship.

In addition to that, for the Christ follower, it is a time of reflection and a special reminder that God has, again, been faithful to us. The sweet and simple things of life are brought into clear focus. The meals and memories have a way of blocking out selfishness and ushering in a sincere spirit of gratitude, love, and genuine joy.

It promotes a spirit of humility and gratitude to God for His mercy, His abundance, His protection, His favor. Thanksgiving is a day that simplifies life.  

Unfortunately for many people, Thanksgiving has become merely another day off work or break from school with no consideration of the central message of the holiday. So I propose POST THANKSGIVING - THANKSGIVING! As Christ followers, let’s praise and thank God. Let’s keep or rekindle the spirit of Thanksgiving in our lives, homes, churches and communities. 

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. Psalms 69:30  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Give Thanks, Rejoice, and Be Glad

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The Bible and history is filled with stories about God’s faithfulness. Whether it’s the account of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, or the Old Testament prophets; whether it is the account of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, or the Apostles and the early Church; whether it’s Martin Luther and the Reformation, or the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, it’s the same - generation after generation - it is the story of the glory and faithfulness of God. 

Thanksgiving is a time when we acknowledge that. It is an exercise in reciting the attributes of God, the works of God, the glory of God; exploring the depths of God. Thanksgiving is the very act of adoration and worship itself.

Dear Christ follower, this Thanksgiving season give thanks for the marvelous things that the Lord has done. Rejoice and be glad! Our God is good and He has done great things! 

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” Psalm 40:16

“Now What Do You Say?”

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I was in the check out line at Wal Mart the other day [yes, I shop at Wal Mart], when a young lad begged his Mother for money to play video games. She had already completed her purchase and everything was bagged and ready to go. When she told her son that she didn’t have any cash, the boy continued his request for money. A very nice lady handed the boy a dollar bill and told the Mom, “With your permission, let him have this for a video game.” The boy was smiling ear to ear. His Mother said, “Now, what do you say?” He replied, "Can I go play the game now?"

His response is indicative of our narcissistic culture. Have we really come to the place where we think thankfulness is beneath us, that we somehow deserve everything we want? 

It caused me to reflect on my attitude with God for all His blessings. As a Christ follower, I don’t want to come to the place where I say, in word or action, “I deserve what You have given me. Can I go play now?” The right thing to do is bow before Him and say in all humility, “Thank you for every gift from Your hand.”

The Christ follower has as his/her example none other than the Lord Himself.  And while I’m certain that He thanked His Father for many other things, the Gospels record at least four of them:
  • John 6:11 - for the Father’s provision of food
  • John 11:41 - for the Father listening to His prayers
  • Luke 10:21 - for the Father’s revealed will
  • Luke 22:19, 20 - for the Father’s redemptive plan
Thanks to my computer’s Bible software, I was able to quickly look up many passages about thankfulness. I was reminded that we are commanded to give thanks, and even how, where, why, and how often to give thanks. 

Let’s follow our Lord’s example and the clear teaching of Scripture and be thankful Christ followers. 

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1st Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, November 25, 2013

Keep “Thanks” In Your Thanksgiving

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I once read the story of a pastor and his wife who invited a new couple in the church over for Thanksgiving dinner. Entering the house, they were welcomed by the pastor, and the wonderful aroma of turkey and all the trimmings that came from the kitchen. 

After a bit of fellowship, the table was set, and what a feast there was before them! However, they were taken aback by something that seemed so out of place. Right in the center of the table, amid the turkey, dressing, casseroles, and pies, were three Chinese takeout cartons and a plate of egg rolls.
"I know what you're thinking," the pastor said. "Why is there Chinese takeout on the table?"
Then he recounted the story. "23 years ago on Thanksgiving Day, my dear wife burned the turkey and started a fire in the oven. The fire spread and before it was extinguished, the kitchen and entire Thanksgiving meal were charred black!"
"So after the fire department left, we ordered Chinese takeout and that was our Thanksgiving meal. And every year since then, we've had Chinese takeout as a part of our meal to remind us to be thankful for what we have." 
A Christ follower knows that Thanksgiving isn’t merely a holiday, it is a way of life. First and foremost, we serve a loving God who sent his Son to die for our sins. 

Maybe you won’t put a representation of some blessing you’ve received on your table, but at least reflect on what you are thankful for this year — as well as all of God’s blessings in your life! 

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalms 118:1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

eDevotion
Encouragement for Your Daily Walk with God

What do you think God wants more of from us? 

More singing [hymns or contemporary]?
More prayer?
More witnessing?
More church attendance?

All of these things are well and good. It behooves a Christ follower to do them. [Did I just use the word behooves - yikes!]

Allow me to put something at the top of your list - THANKSGIVING! First and foremost He wants a thankful heart. In Old Testament times, thankfulness  was required, and was built into the sacrificial system in the form of the Peace Offering. 

NOTE: “There are three kinds of peace-offering: (1) the thank-offering; 2) the votive-offering; and (3) the free-will offering. The thank-offering is a response to acts of divine beneficence; the votive and the free-will sacrifices are connected with the expectation of benefit; but the significance of the thank-offering is wider than that of the other two.” [Quote from the Jewish Encyclopedia]

A sacrifice is something that takes effort; it costs us. Have you ever asked yourself why the Scriptures stress thanksgiving so much? It’s because thanksgiving comes as a result of having received something. Thanksgiving is the proper expression of a Christ follower who daily - and constantly -  receives the “good and perfect gift[s]” from God. [James 1:17]

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving: More Than the Launch of the Christmas Holiday

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Whether you think of thanksgiving with a capital T [the holiday] or with a small T [the expression of gratitude], THANKSGIVING is much more than  the beginning of the Christmas season! In fact, it’s much more than the madness of “Black Friday.” 

Theologically, thanksgiving is a state of mind or a condition of the heart. It is an attitude or, better yet, a lifestyle. There are many, many Scriptures to substantiate my claim, and here are just a few of them:
  • Psalm 100:4, 5 - we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving
  • Colossians 2:7 - we are to be rooted, built up, strengthened in faith while overflowing in thanksgiving
  • Colossians 3:17 - we are to do everything in Jesus’ name with thanksgiving
  • Philippians 4:6 - we are to pray with thanksgiving
  • Psalm 105:1, 2 - we are to call on His name, sing to Him, make His name known to the nations with thanksgiving
  • 1st Thessalonians 5:18 - we are to give thanks in every circumstance of life 
By now you get the point, don’t you? The life of a Christ follower is saturated with thanksgiving. Why is that, you ask? Essentially, the Christ follower understands his/her great relief — knowing that their sin deserved death as a payment, which has been PAID IN FULL by a God who is rich in grace and mercy. 

A Christ follower has much to be thankful for; not the least of which is getting to serve and love, and be loved by God! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful for “Precious” Things

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

There is an ancient Chinese legend about a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen who met to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to outdo the other in finding the finest, most costly tea leaves to create exotic blends that would impress and evoke the admiration of his guests. 

One day, they met at the home of the most venerable and respected elder of the group. In unprecedented ceremony, he retrieved a golden box and proceeded to extract the perfect measure of tea leaves. After drinking the host’s concoction, they praised it as a most exquisite tea.   

The host smiled and said, "The tea you have found so delightful is the same tea our peasants drink. I hope it will be a reminder to all that the good things in life are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly.”

A Christ follower knows that the best things in life are right in front of us; precious things, like our redemption, our spouses and families, our church families, the gift of life - and SO MUCH MORE! 

Our loving God has given us many “precious” gifts. They are everywhere around us. Let’s be thankful and cherish them as such.  

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [Ephesians 5:20].

Monday, November 18, 2013

Be Humble and Give Thanks

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I've traveled to Africa on several occasions and love learning about its unique, tribal culture. One thing that impressed me is the remarkable way some tribes express their gratitude and/or thankfulness.  

The Masai tribe expresses thanks by placing their foreheads on the ground and saying, "My head is in the dirt." Another African Tribe communicates gratitude by sitting for a long time in front of the hut of the individual whom they want to thank, saying, "I sit on the ground before you."

These tribes practice what many in the West have forgotten: A core attitude of thanksgiving is humility. Their way of expressing gratitude clearly represents that.

There is a strong connection between thanksgiving and humility which, perhaps, is often overlooked. Thankful people recognize their need. They are humbled by the generosity of the giver. 

A Christ follower understands this as well. Recognizing their need, and the generosity of THE Giver, they are humbled by every “good and perfect gift” that comes “from above...from the Father...” [James 1:17].

True humility will be accompanied by gratitude, and the grateful will grow in the attractive characteristic of humility.  

And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. Revelation 7:11-12 

Be Wise - Be Thankful

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

A man went to a wise sage and complained, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?"

The sage told him, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man was incredulous, but the sage insisted. "Do as I say and come back in a week."

A week later the man came back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he told the sage. "The goat is filthy."

The sage then said, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week."

A radiant man returned to the sage a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat — only the nine of us."

My way of describing the scenario above is the “doughnut hole syndrome.” Rather than being thankful with what they had, they focused on what they didn’t have, making them unhappy.

I learned this lesson long ago when my parents taught me this poem:

As you go through life
Make this your goal;
Look at the doughnut
And not the hole!

Thanksgiving—the Holiday is swiftly approaching. I like to say, thanksgiving day is here. It’s good for you to be thankful [Psalm 92:1]. The people I know who are thankful are joyful people - and joyful people are better people.

As Christ followers, make it a practice praising God in thankfulness for who He is and what He can do. He’s deserving of our praise regardless the circumstance. 

I will bless the LORD at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalms 34:1

Friday, November 15, 2013

Eyes on the Lord and His Word

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Sometimes the Scripture makes a statement that seems simple yet it is difficult to carry out. Take Paul’s directive to the Galatians Christ followers:

Walk by [means of] the Spirit...’ Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? We all know what walking is and how to do it. But when combined with the spiritual, we find it difficult to do. 

The structure of the Greek word, peripateo┼ô, means to “keep on continually walking” in the Spirit. And from the text we understand that the main opposition to that is our own flesh [Galatians 5:17]. 

So we need a strategy to “keep on walking in the Spirit.” What I am about to suggest is nothing new. It’s the age-old discipline of “eyes on the Lord and His Word.”

Strategy 1: A Daily Intake of the Word

The Psalmist declared that the favored man on a godly path delights himself “in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night” [Psalm 1:1-2]. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything but read the Bible. The idea is a patient and thorough reflexion of Scripture. That will go a long way in sealing the Word in our heart “that we might not sin against Him” [Psalm 119:11].

Strategy 2: A Renewed Focus on God

The key here is “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” [Romans 12:2). A Christ follower with a renewed focus on God will be the one who worships God - in spirit and in truth. One of my Bible College professors was fond of saying, “Show me a worshiper of God, and I will show you a Christ follower who’s controlled by the Spirit and ready to experience the present hour refreshed from above.”

Walk by the spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Win Them Over

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Between the years of 1861-1865, the United States found itself in the midst of a bitter civil war over many serious matters including the issue of slavery. By the time the South surrendered, over 600,000 lives were lost. Many in the North were so embittered, they wanted the South to pay dearly.

At the end of the war, a group of Southerners gained an audience with President Abraham Lincoln. His gentle, kind and friendly personality quickly softened their hearts, and they left the interview with a deep respect for the President, their former, bitter enemy. Not long afterward, a northern congressman criticized Lincoln for "befriending the enemy." He suggested that they should have been hung as traitors instead of welcoming them.

I love Lincoln's response. He said, "Am I not destroying my enemies by making them my friends?"

There is a great lesson to be learned here. As a Christ follower you will have your share of enemies. In bitterness and anger you can seek their demise. But there is a better way. Retaliate - not with hatred but Spirit-empowered love! Win them over. There is so much work to be done, we need all the help we can get.

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:20-21

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Expect Great Things from A Great God

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

A philosopher in the court of Alexander the Great was a man of outstanding ability, but little means. One day he asked Alexander for financial help and was told to draw whatever he needed from the imperial treasury. So, the philosopher made his request - $50,000! Alexander’s treasurer refused to authorize the large sum saying he needed verification from Alexander. When he asked Alexander, the ruler replied, "Pay the money at once. The philosopher has done me a singular honor. By the largeness of his request he shows that he has understood both my wealth and generosity."

Could it be that we honor the Lord when we humbly come to Him and ask for great things? Let’s do it, shall we? Let’s ask, then believe God for great things. He has the answer in store!

Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Psalms 36:5 

Do We Overlook Sin?

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Do We Overlook Sin?

The simple answer to this important question is YES and NO. Yes, we tend to overlook it in our personal lives and no, we don’t overlook it in the lives of others. We easily discount our sinfulness and elevate the sinfulness of others. Likewise, my sins are usually “average or low-grade,” while yours, on the other hand, are, without a doubt, “abominable to God.”

My sins are easily forgivable. They are simple mistakes and can be rectified with a little more effort on my part. All I have to do is try a little harder. Your sins are not like that. No efforts of self-correction will make up for your horrible missteps. 

I’m allowed to have relapses of the same sinfulness because, you know, it happens to sincere people like me. You, though, have one chance, and one chance only. 

You get the point. We see another's sin as blatant disobedience to God. Our own we tend to discount as not trying hard enough. We simply vow to do better.

Jesus said something very interesting about looking at sin this way. It was in His famous Sermon on the Mount. 

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

How do we move on, then? Let’s go to the Cross. The Cross always has a message. Excruciatingly, the Son of God bled for all sins because there was not a single sin that was not devastating.

When we gather at the Cross, sinner after obnoxious sinner finds grace to keep moving on - not perfectly, of course - but certainly forgiven one more time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Through the Lens of Love

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. What a blessed thought! No matter what comes our way, it cannot disconnect us from His love. He has the sufficiency to see us through!

One benefit of that is that I don’t have to comprehend God’s love for me by circumstances alone. And that is a temptation, isn’t it? “God, if You really love me, why did this happen to me?” 

While He didn’t promise that we would escape difficulties and hardships, we have His promise that His love will be greater than them all—His love will endure.

Consider Jesus - He didn’t escape the excruciating experience of the cross, yet He was the Beloved of God. And so are you! So the next time you find yourself in dire straights, evaluate your circumstances from God’s point of view—His love for you. Love is God’s main motive for everything that happens in your life.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Secure the Gates

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It stretches over 4,000 miles and was built to protect China from the barbaric hordes to the north. The designers of the wall made it high, thick and long to prevent enemy troops from going over, through or around it. 

However, history records that in the first hundred years of its existence, China was successfully invaded three times, and the wall had neither been climbed nor breached. How is that possible, you ask? Simple - it was the gatekeepers. In each of the three invasions the barbarians simply bribed the gatekeepers and the enemy just walked right through.

The Great Wall was only as secure as its gatekeepers; and therein lies our lesson. Each Christ follower has "gates to keep" . . . our eyes, and our ears, and our mouth! No matter how strong we think we are, we can never forget that these points of entry are evident to our enemies and there will be attempts to bribe or seduce us so they can walk right in. We must not allow the "barbaric hordes" to invade our lives by failing to keep careful watch at these entry points – our integrity and our authority depend on the security of our gates!

But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths. Ezekiel 33:6

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Word about Character



eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Bobby Jones was a great golfer and had the reputation of being very competitive. He may best be remembered for winning the "Grand Slam" of golf — winning all four major tournaments in the U.S. and Britain in a single year.

A story is told about something that happened early in his career. It was 1925, and having reached the final playoff in the U.S. Open, Jones was setting up to strike his ball, which was in the rough just off the fairway. His iron accidentally touched the ball. He immediately became angry with himself, turned to the marshals, and called a penalty on himself.

But the marshals had not seen the ball move, so they left the decision to Jones, whether to invoke the penalty — a two-stroke penalty. Bobby called the penalty on himself, not knowing that he would lose the tournament by a single stroke.

Jones may have lost the tournament, but his character was legendary and today the United States Golf Association's award for sportsmanship is known as the "Bobby Jones Award."

A Christ follower knows that we face lots of decisions—many of which are made when no one is watching, at least no one we can see. So the right thing to do is to do the right thing - because character truly counts. The rewards for good character many not be realized immediately, but rest assured that God is keeping track of our decisions, and He will make good on every one!

The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. Proverbs 11:3

Citizen of Two Countries

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I’ve been teaching the book of Colossians at the church where I pastor in Julian, CA. Paul greeted those Christ followers with these words, “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae . . .” 

The translators were a little open with the English because in the Greek, he used the same preposition to indicate that the believers in Colossae were both in Christ and in Colossae. I’m confident that the translators used the word “at” in front of Colossae to make it sound less awkward.

It reminded me, though, of the Christ follower’s dual citizenship. We live in a certain country but we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. We live in this world but we know that this world is not all there is.There is an old gospel hymn that says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through!” 

We answer to a higher authority, and earthly authorities sometimes take exception to that. We should not be shocked, then, when we are ridiculed, and neither should we feel uncomfortable because we do not automatically accept their remedy for solving the problems around us.

Our dual citizenship is problematic when the two kingdoms are in conflict. In those times, we have to make the choice to reject some aspects of our culture, and to speak out against it—but always in love [Ephesians 4:15]. Truth and love must be operative when we confront any aspect of our culture.

All creation is groaning in anticipation of the time when the rightful king comes to make everything right [Romans 8:22]. Until then, we are both in our “Colossae” and in Christ. Our citizenship may be divided, but our loyalty cannot be. We must choose which of the kingdoms gets the priority.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness... Matthew 6:33

Monday, November 4, 2013

One-A-Day

eDevotion
Encouragement for your daily walk with God
When I was a kid, I told people that I wanted to be a vitamin when I grew up. When asked why, I said, “I walked past a drug store one day and there was a sign in the window: Vitamin B1. OK, after the groaning stops I hope you’ll finish reading this devotion!

I don’t know about you, but when I take a vitamin, I don’t feel an extra rush of energy. In fact, I really don’t feel much of anything. I don’t take vitamins for their immediate impact. I take them their long-term effect.

In some way, that is how I feel about my daily Bible reading. On certain occasions, there are some “Aha” moments, but most of the time it’s like taking a vitamin—I know in the long haul it is good for me. 

What’s the point? Taking a vitamin will not produce a sudden burst of adrenaline or bolt of energy, but over time, taken regularly, vitamins will strengthen your immune system and improve your general health and well-being.

A daily dose of God's Word is the same. The long-term effects of regularly digesting Scripture, will promote your spiritual health and well-being. Though it may not be like a bolt of lightening every time you sit down, you can be certain it will boost your immunity to the fiery darts of doubt, disbelief, and deception!  As the scripture says, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!" [Romans 10:17] 

So by all means, take your "vitamins" today.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalms 119:103