Monday, March 31, 2014

Connected to the Source

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Shortly after WWI, Lawrence of Arabia entertained some of his Arab friends while they were in Paris, France. He took them to the famous sites; the Arc d'Triumph, the Louvre, the Champs Elysees, and others. What do you think was the thing that impressed them the most? No, it wasn’t any of those places [as if I knew what you were thinking!]. It was the bathtub faucet in their hotel room! That’s right; they were astonished that you could turn a handle and get an unlimited amount of water.  

When Lawrence went to pick them up for their departure, he found them in the bathroom trying to disconnect the faucet. They told him how very dry it was in Arabia and they needed the faucets to get all the water they wanted. 

It took considerable patience on Lawrence’s part to explain that the water did not come from the faucet. After a considerable amount of time he convinced them that a faucet is nothing unless it is connected to a water supply. 

And that is true of Christ followers as well. Faucets, ornate or otherwise, are of little value unless they are connected — in our case, to the Holy Spirit of promise! And unlike the the limited supply of water in this world, there is no shortage on His infinite supply!

So, clear the pipelines and be all that you can be—a Christ follower endued with power from on high.

And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. Luke 24:49

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Deeper with God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Have you noticed that some Christ followers seem to have a deeper walk with God than others? How can that be? Does God show favoritism? Or could it be that some Christ followers will not stop with merely a superficial relationship with God—the ones who will not settle for anything less than a growing, vital relationship with Him!

The word that comes to mind here is DESIRE. It seems to me that much of our walk with God is determined by our desire for Him. Furthermore, we have an enemy that uses everything in his arsenal to prevent us from going deeper with God. And while he is a formidible enemy, he won't succeed if we follow the advice of James who wrote if we have the desire, if we will draw near to God, He will draw near to us [James 4:8]. 

Well, I want more, how about you? Let’s join together in setting aside every obstacle and push through—desire—a deeper relationship with God. His heart is infinitely loving and His mind is infinitely wise. There is nothing more precious than knowing Him—better and better! 

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:7-10

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I’ve Got Issues

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Is having issues a trendy thing right now? I was in Wal-Mart the other day, and I saw a T-Shirt with “I Have Issues” written across the front. Perhaps the world is coming to the sad realization that having issues is really an issue! 

Realizing that we have an issue is only half the battle. Unfortunately, many in our world stop there. It seems their attitude is, I have issues, don’t expect much from me! Or I have issues, deal with it! 

A true Christ follower knows that it is possible to be free from the issues we acquire from the sin-sick world we live in. Yes, deliverance is possible because of who God is, and what He can do! In fact, I think someone should come up with a T-Shirt which reads, “I Had Issues, But I’ve Been Delivered From Them All—And You Can Be Delivered Too!” 

Here’s the deal; when we get serious about getting free from our issues, God will get serious about setting us free! 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I just finished a fascinating book by Timothy Keller titled, Walking With God Through Suffering. In it, he writes about British shepherds that make their sheep go through a dipping trough, a huge vat filled with an antiseptic liquid. The animal must be completely immersed—including ears, eyes, and nose under the surface. One can only imagine how frightening this must be for the animal. And if any of them try to climb out too soon, the shepherd’s staff will force them back in.  

But as horrific as it must be for the sheep, without that periodic treatment, they easily become victims of parasites and disease. Being dunked is actually for their good.

A Christian writer who witnessed the process wrote: 

“I’ve had some experiences in my life which have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor rams—I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from the Shepherd I trusted. And He didn’t give me a hint of explanation. As I watched the struggling sheep I thought, ‘If only there were some way to explain! But such knowledge is too wonderful for them—it is high, they cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:6)

The words of David in Psalm 139 are good to remember when the Good Shepherd puts us through a dunking. He knows what is best for us infinitely better than we do because He has a better perspective, and a knowledge so vast, we can’t attain it. 

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.  Proverbs 3;11-12 

What A Difference A Day Makes

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One day in your life can make a world of difference. Take Joseph, for example. For all he knew, he was doomed to spend the rest of his life in an Egyptian prison. But one day, he was released and became a leader in the Egyptian Empire. 

Another example is Jesus. Those who hated Him had Him killed. His body was left to decay in a dark tomb. But one day, He supernaturally came out of the grave in newness of life, after which, He ascended to heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father. 

What a difference a day makes!

As a Christ follower, we have had a one day experience as well. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, then one day, we were made alive in Christ [Ephesians 2:5]. There was a time when we walked in darkness, but one day, the Light broke through [Isaiah 9:2; 1st Peter 2:9]. 

The world desperately needs to see the one day experience of every Christ follower, so live it out — or as I like to say, “Let ‘er rip!” Live in the realization that you are a child of God. Who knows, perhaps the Lord will use you to help a lost soul have their one day experience. 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesian 2:4-5

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Daily Bread

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to ask the Father for “daily bread.” I can’t remember ever asking God for bread. To be honest, many of my prayers are requests to Him for self-discipline to avoid eating too much bread! The point of praying for bread in Matthew 6:11 is not merely about food, but a strong statement about our dependency on God. It is to acknowledge that all of life’s necessities are part of His loving provision.

Unfortunately, some Christ followers pray only as a means of self-fulfillment. A person stopped attending the church I pastor after telling me that I wasn’t fulfilling my obligation as a minister to teach people that they should “demand things from God.” 

I have chosen a different path in that regards. I find great joy in allowing God the right to glorify Himself by meeting my needs in whatever manner He pleases—whatever glorifies Him [see John 14:13].

David G. Myers said it best in his book The Human Puzzle (1978): "Some petitionary prayers seem not only to lack faith in the inherent goodness of God but also to elevate humankind to a position of control over God. God, the Scriptures remind us, is omniscient and omnipotent, the sovereign ruler of the universe. For Christians to pray as if God were a puppet whose strings they yank with their prayers seems not only potentially superstitious but blasphemous as well.

"When prayer is sold as a device for eliciting health, success, and other favors from a celestial vending machine, we may wonder what is really being merchandised. Is this faith or is it faith's counterfeit, a glib caricature of true Christianity?"

So pray for your “daily bread.” As a Christ follower you’ve been invited to approach the almighty God and receive of His bountiful, gracious provision. But be sure to guard your words! When you pray, keep His glory as your highest goal.

Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Love Would Be Enough

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I once read a legend about the apostle John. In the story, John constantly repeated the words, "Little children, love one another." He said it so often that his disciples became weary of the phrase. Toward the end of his life, he was being carried to the assembly when his disciples asked him, "Why do you keep repeating the same words?" John’s profound reply was, "Because it is the Lord's commandment — and if only this one were fulfilled, it would be enough."

Isn’t that the truth! Our greatest witness is not our eloquent words of wisdom, though they may be sublime. It is not our knowledge of Scripture, though it may be vast and profound. It is not our material giving, though it may be very helpful. 

No, the greatest witness we have is a demonstration of love, because “love never fails” [1st Corinthians 13:8]. Unfailing love can change the world. It can change darkness to light and enemies to friends. 

If your desire is to be a witness for Christ, the best thing you can do is start loving others the way the He loves you.  

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you: continue, all of you, in My love. John 15:9 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Special Interest Group

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Our culture is preoccupied with special interests. On a national level, each political party warns its constituents about the special interests of the other parties. The religious and non-religious have their own special interests as well. Special interests groups come in all shapes and sizes—all pushing for public acceptance of their particular agendas.  

Paul has a word of caution for Christ followers concerning their own special interests. He said be careful to “not merely look out for your own personal interests.” That’s right, you are not to be narrowly preoccupied with your activities. Rather, we are to have serious and caring concern for the interest of others. The best way I know to do that is to take our eyes off ourselves and the disproportionate concern we have for our own self-esteem. 

What did Paul mean by the word “interests?” It’s a non-specific word that has a variety of implications: goals, responsibilities, needs, tasks, gifts, character, ministries—all of which, Paul said, we are to give equal consideration to others.  

That is a high and lofty goal, but one that every Christ follower should pursue. The closer we get to the goal, the less we will be plagued by unscriptural competitiveness and the pride of our personal interest.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Go Deep

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The captain of a submarine was once asked, "How did the storm last night affect you?" The officer said, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!"

My Uncle, a naval veteran, told me about an area beneath the surface of the ocean known to sailors as the "cushion of the sea" There, the waters are not agitated, regardless what may be raging above. 

As Christ followers mature, they find a place like that in the Lord. It’s a place of refuge when the storms of life are raging. Christ called it a place of rest [Matthew 11:28]. Paul called it a place of peace [Philippians 4:7]. 

There is a place of “perfect peace” for the Christ follower who is willing go deep—the ones who trust in God and keep their minds focused on Him. 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.  Isaiah 26:3

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Blessed for Fear and Delight

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One of my seminary professors was fond of saying that God wants to bless us more than we want to be blessed. I used to shake my head at that one because I really desire the blessing of the Lord in my life! That’s why the Psalms have become precious to me over the years. They are filled with statements of how God’s people have experienced His favor. 

Psalm 112 is one of those Psalms; it lists specific blessings one can expect from God, and what it takes to be a recipient of those blessings. They key is found in verse 1:

Blessed is the man who fears [trusts, honors, stands in awe of] the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments [takes pleasure in what God says and obeys Him].

When a Christ follower adopts that kind of attitude toward God, blessings are on the way! Now I’m not sure how all the blessings in Psalm 112 work out in our lives, but the potential is amazing. Look at them: his descendants will be mighty on earth [vs 2], wealth and riches will be in his house, [vs 3], there arises light in the darkness [vs 4], he will never be shaken [vs 6] his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD [vs 7].

How about it, wouldn’t you like to live under the umbrella of those blessings? We can when we honor the Lord with our whole heart, and delight in obeying Him!

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments. Psalms 112:1 

Monday, March 17, 2014

According to His Will

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It is characteristic of Christ followers to identify with God's purposes and conform their will to His. Learning to pray according to God’s will is a major step in that process. For one thing, it drives you to the Word. Not only that, but also it confirms a humble and submissive heart. 

Daniel is a great example. He accepted God’s will concerning a 70-year captivity, and literally prayed for its fulfillment. He didn’t fall into the trap of passive resignation as if it was a fate beyond his control. He never tried to change the will of God but did everything he could to see it come to pass. That, dear Christ follower, is the essence of praying according to the will of God!

Jesus stressed the primacy of God's will when He prayed. Listen to His truthful confession to the Father, "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" [John 6:58]. Even when facing the dread of the cross, Jesus didn't waver. Instead He prayed, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42 - emphasis added).

When you pray like that, you can be confident that God hears you. When you pray like that, you can live in confidence, period [1 John 5:14-15]. Live in that confidence today!

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why, God?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Life is filled with questions. Quite often, things happen that leave us scratching our heads. And to top that off, Christ followers believe that God is ultimately in control of all things — even those head-scratchy-kind-of-things. So at some time or another, we fire our questions to Him. Haven’t you? Haven’t you at some point looked up to heaven and asked, “Why, God?”

The disciples were not any different from us. In John Chapter 9, they saw a blind man while walking the streets of Jerusalem. That’s when the “Why?” question came up. Why did God allow this man to be born blind? Was it because of his own sin, or was it punishment for something his parents had done?

Their focus was merely on the consequences suffered in life alone—an earthly perspective. But Jesus opened their minds to see a greater, eternal agenda. Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” John 9:3 NKJV

God allowed this man to be born blind, knowing it would serve as the backdrop for an enduring lesson. And beyond that, this miracle would lead to a greater work in this man’s life, as he placed His faith in Jesus as the Son of God (John 9:35-38).

God allows confusing things to happen at times, things that will be best for us in the long-term, even though it doesn’t seem like it in the short-term. So the next time God allows a confusing turn in your life, remember that He has an eternal agenda. You can completely trust that it’s for your utmost good—and His glory!

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2 NKJV

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Treasures Found In Drought

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

A remarkable discovery was made in 1986 during a three year drought. It happened at the Sea of Galilee when two brothers noticed something glistening in the sun, covered in mud. It was a boat — a very old fishing boat. When archaeologists were called to the scene, they determined that the boat dated to the first century, the time of Christ. In fact, that boat is displayed at the Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, and is called, The Jesus Boat. It is the only object in the museum.  

The boat had been hidden for centuries and the only reason for its discovery was a severe drought that had lowered the water level of the lake. Even though no one was actually looking for it, because of the severe conditions, the treasure was unexpectedly discovered. 

In case you haven’t noticed, the world is becoming more and more spiritually dry — a drought of sorts — a spiritual drought. And perhaps you’ve wondered if anything good can ever come from the mess. Well, I think there can! 

In the dryness of drought, and when least expected, God can allow you to discover a treasure that was hidden until the conditions were just right. A new friendship, a deeper insight, a powerful encouragement...the possibilities are endless. Keep looking for them. They are out there, even thought they may appear when we least expect it.

Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, And the strength of salvation; The fear of the Lord is His treasure. Isaiah 33:6 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Danger - Mine Fields

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

In my many travels to Israel, I have yet to feel insecure—not even one time! Having said that, however, I am reminded of certain dangers when touring in the north where the borders of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon meet. At times you see barbed wire fences and just beyond them, signs which read: DANGER - MINE FIELDS. DO NOT ENTER! During wars with its neighbors, the enemy planted mine fields, intending to destroy Israel’s armed forces.

Destruction is a tactic of the enemy. Christ followers have an enemy bent on their destruction. In one passage of Scripture, Jesus called him “the THIEF,” and he comes “to kill, to steal, and to destroy.”

He uses many tactics from his well-stocked arsenal, not the lease of which is to get people to think he has a better plan for their life than the Savior; that his way is more liberating, more fun, more fulfilling. Don’t be duped by his tactics. It’s like walking through a mine field except there are no warning signs posted!

Don’t walk in his mine field. Reject his truth claims. Choose, rather, the Savior’s truth claims — that we are loved, protected, and blessed with every spiritual blessings from the heavenly realm in Christ. [Ephesians 1:3]

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One of My Heroes Has Fallen — Despondency

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Yesterday my mentor, Dr. Horace Ward, former President of my alma mater, West Coast Bible College, passed away. There was a part of me that wanted to rejoice—he’s now in heaven, completely whole—and another part of me that was despondent. 

I'm thankful for the active presence of the Holy Spirit in times like this. Every Christ follower knows that life is not a party all the time. The wise Solomon reminded us that "to everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die...a time to weep, and a time to laugh..." [See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]

I was reminded of John Bunyan’s classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. The book is about a character named “Christian” and his journey from the “City of Destruction” to his heavenly destination, the “Celestial City.” 

At one point in his travels, Christian and a companion fell into the “Swamp of Despondency.” His traveling companion somehow managed to get out, but returned to the City of Destruction without the slightest effort to give aid to Christian. 

Left alone, Christian began to sink deeper into the mire. But someone came along just in time. His name was “Help,” an allegorical figure of the Holy Spirit. Help pulled Christian out of the Swamp of Despondency.

Christian inquired of Help how it was that the swamp hadn’t been cleaned up so that poor travelers might have safe passage to the Celestial City. Help responded, “This miry slough is such a place that cannot be mended."

How true. Swamps of despondency are a reality of life. No matter how hard we may try, we cannot avoid them. And it really doesn’t matter if you are a young or mature Christ follower...swamps of despondency are inevitable, and we all struggle through them!

Charles Spurgeon wrote in his book, Lectures to my Students

"Fits of depression come over most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron…but surely the rust frets even these."

Life is a struggle sometimes. But praise be to our God - He has provided us a “Helper” for our time of need! We can trust the Holy Spirit to rescue us from the dreadful swamps of life, and set our feet back upon the Rock—Christ, the Rock of our salvation. 

Since we aren’t alone there, it is appropriate to look around for others who may be struggling in the Swamp of Despondency. And rather than abandoning them as Christian’s friend did, we can come along side of them and help them on their adventure to the Celestial City. 

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.  Psalms 107:2-6

Hold the Fort!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

During the Civil War, a fierce battle took place in October, 1864, known as the Battle of Allatoona Pass. It was a key supply point for the Union Army, containing some 1,000,000 rations. A division of Confederate soldiers under Major General Samuel G. French, attacked a garrison of Union soldiers under Brigadier General John M. Corse. In the course of the battle, over 1,600 men [706 Union and 897 Confederates] were killed and it seemed only inevitable that the Union soldiers would be forced to surrender.  

A persistent story is told that General William Tecumseh Sherman signaled the post at Allatoona to “hold the fort; I’m coming.” Encouraged by the news, the Union soldiers continued to hold on, and when the Confederates heard of the report, they soon retreated.                                                                  

From this Civil War engagement, a famous hymn was written in 1870 by Philip P. Bliss titled Hold the Fort. The refrain draws from the legendary story of General Sherman’s signal and says:

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

There are times when the battles of life seem overwhelming — surrender inevitable. Perhaps you are in a trial or time of discouragement. You feel besieged on every front. HOLD THE FORT! Don’t stop fighting. Keep on keeping on. The Savior is coming with assured victory in hand. 

He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. Luke 19:12-13 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Words of Encouragement

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

William Wilberforce was instrumental in Britain’s abolishment of slavery back in the 1800's. At one point during his intense efforts, Wilberforce became desperately discouraged, and felt he had no strength to move forward. He was on the verge of giving up when John Wesley heard about his distress. At the time, Wesley, himself, was near death, but took pen and paper in a quivering hand and wrote these words to William: 

"Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? Oh be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery shall vanish away before it."

Wesley died less than a week after sending his note. But William Wilberforce, encouraged by his friend, continued his fight nearly forty-five more years. In 1883, Wilberforce witnessed the abolition of slavery in Britain and died three days later.  

Dear Christ follower, do not grow weary in well-doing even when your situation seems hopeless. Do not despair or lose heart because in our hopelessness, and helplessness, God has the opportunity to display His mighty power.   

The more biographies I read of great men in the past, I see that even they needed words of encouragement now and then. So, be encouraged — and be an encourager. Who knows how your words may inspire someone to keep pressing on — or how that may change our world! 

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Love One Another

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 
One day, a man was walking across a bridge and saw another man standing on the edge, about to jump off. He immediately ran to him and said, "Stop! Don't do it!" "Well, why shouldn't I?" he replied. The other said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" "Like what”? "Well … are you religious or atheist?" "Religious." "Me too! And are you Christian or Jewish?" "Christian." "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" "Protestant." "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” "Baptist." "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?" "Baptist Church of God." "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" "Reformed Baptist Church of God." "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?" "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!" To which he said, "Die, you heretic!" and pushed him off the bridge.

The body of Christ is one big family. And like many families, when we get together, our discussions often turn into arguments on a variety of topics. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase: two Christians, five opinions? I think we’d be better off if we laughed at ourselves instead of keeping score who argued the best. If we did, we might actually learn from one another.  

To be sure, we differ in opinion on some, even many, issues. But we are going to be together in heaven for eternity so why not learn to live in peace with one another now! It’s something the world needs to see in us. If they saw Christ followers truly loving one another, it would make a difference!

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Common to Us, Uncommon to the World

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

There is a common benediction that Paul wrote in his letters to the Christ followers of his day. Because it was prevalent in all his writings, it must have been close to his heart. The benediction? Grace and Peace!

Many people have set out to describe grace. One of my Bible College professors said it this way, “Grace is the outpouring of God's goodness on undeserving mankind.” That lines up with Scripture nicely because every benefit and provision to Christ followers is by God's grace. Peter called it the “manifold grace of God.” [1st Peter 4:10]

As we go though life, our trials are manifold and multifaceted. And so is God’s grace! That’s why Paul could say in all honesty that God’s grace is sufficient — God's multifaceted and all-sufficient grace is available to sustain
you. [1st Corinthians 12:9]

Peace speaks of the calmness and absence of strife that characterizes a true Christ follower. Interestingly, the New Testament also links peace to mercy, hope, joy, and love, all of which are part of the “manifold grace of God.” When a Christ follower experiences those graces, he/she experiences true peace.

I once read that some Bible translators were searching for a word or phrase for "peace" in the language of the Chol Indians of Mexico. They settled for a word that meant, "a quiet heart." That seems like the perfect word to me because God’s peace guards the soul against anxiety and strife.

God’s peace is the only way we can live out Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:6 to be “anxious for nothing.” Why? He told us in 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

"Grace and Peace," common to Christ followers, but not to the unbelieving world. I think the world desperately wants it. I think it is what the world is truly seeking for — but in all the wrong places. The best way for the world to see it is when it is lived out in the lives of Christ followers because only those who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ receive His Grace and Peace.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus ChristPhilippians 1:2

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice

Encouragement for your daily walk with God
Saul, Israel’s first king, learned first hand that ‘obedience is better than sacrifice.’ Even if you give Saul the benefit of the doubt that he had a pure motive, his disobedience brought great sorrow to him, his family, and the nation of Israel. Here’s the short version of what happened:

God told Saul to slay the Amalekites and take no prisoners, not even a single animal. He was to wipe them out completely. Although Saul was victorious in the battle against them, he allowed King Agag to live, and took the best of the cattle to sacrifice to the Lord.

But because of his disobedience, the prophet Samuel informed Saul that his family would no longer reign over Israel. That’s when he heard those profound words, “obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Even though he offered the very best animals as a sacrifice to God, it failed to excuse his disobedience. And the consequences were enormous. Not only did Saul lose his right to be the King, but also later in Israel’s history, the infamous Haman, an Agagite [Esther 3:1], rose to power and tired to destroy the entire Jewish population of Persia.

If Saul had only obeyed! Saul isn’t the only one who needed to learn this lesson. Every Christ follower should take it to heart. There were immediate and long-term consequences of his disobedience—his sin. So it is with us. Those “little” sins [if there is such a thing as ‘little’ sins], turn into footholds that, if not dealt with completely early on, lead to strongholds that threaten to destroy your walk with God, your calling, even your life.

God forbid! Dear Christ follower, “take no prisoners” when it comes to sin. You have a precious relationship that was purchased at great cost.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2nd Corinthians 10:3-6

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Draw Near

Encouragement for your daily walk with God
A true Christ follower will have a desire to be close to God; maybe I should say have a close relationship with God, that way, I’m not talking about a location. Therefore the first sentence in James 4:8 becomes of paramount importance. It says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the people of Israel and in particular, the priesthood. In Old Testament times, the Levitical priests stood before God, representing the people. In order to do that, certain rituals of cleansing had to be performed. Prior to “drawing near” to God’s presence, the priest had to be ceremonially clean, meaning, taking a bath [ceremonial washing], wearing the approved garments [ceremonial garb], and offering a sacrifice [ceremonial cleansing] to make his heart right before God. Only then could he “draw near.”

The Hebrew word to “draw near” eventually came to apply to anyone who would approach the presence of God in worship. Isaiah made it clear when he said, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…” Isaiah 29:13

Worship with “hearts far removed from Me,” is not the kind of worship God is looking for in Christ followers. Jesus told a woman in Samaria that God is looking for people to “…worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

The author of Hebrews used Old Testament language to say the same thing. “...let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22  

To “draw near” to God is a good thing. And isn’t that what you really want – to be near to God! 

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all Thy works. Psalm 73:28

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Petrified by Possessions

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 
Pompeii was a flourishing city in Southern Italy until 79 AD when, suddenly, Mt. Vesuvius erupted for two days, completely destroying it. The city was covered in meters of ash and pumice until it was discovered in 1748. When archaeologists began their excavations, they uncovered a petrified woman clutching a cache of jewelry, some of the finest recovered from the ancient world. She was apparently attempting to flee the doomed city holding desperately onto her prized possessions.

During its heyday, there was a lot of “pomp” in Pompeii. It was a magnificent city — doomed to destruction — much like our world today. We don’t know when it will happen, but Peter, the close disciple of Jesus, warned us about it with this prophetic statement, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” 2nd Peter 3:10 – NIV  

So much for worldly possessions! And just like the “petrified lady” of Pompeii, we can make the mistake of clinging tenaciously to our “treasures.” Unfortunately, earthly treasures break down, rust out, become obsolete, decay, and will eventually be brought to nothing.

There is a better way for Christ followers. In many of His parables, Christ declared that we are stewards of God's possessions — not hoarders of our possessions — and that we are to use the things God has entrusted to us with His interests in mind, to further His Kingdom.

Don’t be “petrified,” clinging to your possessions. Greed/lust for things, and fear of the loss of things, cause many to be “petrified,” preventing the eternal work they were ordained to do, and stealing their eternal rewards. 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20