Thursday, May 29, 2014

Abba, Father

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

While the New Testament was written mostly in Greek, Jesus spoke the everyday language of the people, Aramaic. So instead of saying “Pater” (in Greek) for “Father,” Jesus would say “Abba” (in Aramaic). Interestingly, in Mark’s Gospel, we read both the Greek and Aramaic for “Father” when Jesus prayed, “Abba ho Pater,” [literally: Abba, the Father], in Gethsemane.

When faced with the enormity of suffering for our sins, in agony He cried out, “Abba, Father,” to see if it was possible to take that responsibility from Him. I think it was Mark’s way of portraying the agony of Jesus as well as His intimacy with God, His Father.

Paul used “Abba ho Pater” too, in Romans 8 and Galatians 4. In the Roman passage, he used both words to show that because we are the adopted children of God, we must act like children of God.

Some people mistakenly say that Abba suggests that we call God, “Papa,” or “Daddy.” But in the days of our Lord, that was not the case. Everyone, from little children to adults, used Abba for “Father.” And we can follow Christ’s example when we cry out to “Abba, Father” to express our intimacy with God. For Jesus, and for us, “Abba, Father” is prayer language. In prayer, we enter the very presence of God, submitting ourselves to His will, all the while knowing that He cares for us and knows us intimately. Therefore, we can say, as Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours, Father.”

“Abba, Father.” Let your intimacy with God fill your heart for the challenges you face today.

...but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, [Abba ho Pater] “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

Fervent In Spirit, Serving the Lord

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We don’t often study the period of time between the Old and New Testaments, but some interesting things happened during that time, which set the stage for the Gospel record. An impassioned revolutionary, Judas Maccabaeus, led a successful revolt against the Greeks serving Mithradates, whom we know as Antiochus III, or Antiochus Epiphanes.   

Those spirited revolutionaries lived by a motto found in an apocryphal book, which says, “Be zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant." [1 Maccabees 2:50]  At some point between that rebellion and the New Testament, those politically oriented guardians of Judaism became known as Zealots.

Jesus chose a Zealot to follow Him. His name was Simon, referred to in Scripture as Simon the Zealot. Before his commitment to Christ, Simon was one of those highly motivated activists. And surely he approached ministry with that kind of passion.

What interests me, for the point of this eDevotion, is the realization that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector, served in ministry together. Under normal circumstances, that would never have happened. Simon would have slit the throat of Matthew, having considered him a traitor to the Jews. 

But because they each committed their lives to follow Him, Christ broke through their differences and taught them to love each other and serve in ministry together for the glory of God. 

Christ transformed these men, and others who would also serve Him during His time on earth—people from different backgrounds, personality types, emotional characteristics, and more. And He asks the same of us. We would do well to follow the example of Simon the Zealot and Matthew the revenuer by fervently serving the Lord together! 

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord... Romans 12:10-11

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No Separation—NONE!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

There are some Scriptures that, when I read them, cause me to scratch my head and wonder, what in the world does this mean? Yet others, are crystal clear. Take Paul’s letter to the Romans where he said that “nothing is able to separate us from the love of God.” I don’t know of another verse as straight forward. It doesn’t present an interpretational difficulty in either English or Greek. So why do so many Christ followers struggle to live in the comfort that verse provides? 

Would to God that our theology was sound enough to realize that God loves us unconditionally. There can be no doubt of that because it was proven when Jesus offered Himself on our behalf on the cross. Therefore, it is not a knowledge issue, it is a heart issue.

It seems to me that Paul wanted this to be clear to the Romans because he went to great lengths to make a detailed list of things that can’t separate us from God’s love. And what a list it is—things which cause many to lose a proper perspective. 

Death is one of the things on the list, and it certainly can be unnerving. We seem to talk very little about death. Perhaps we don’t talk about it because we’re a little afraid of it. Even knowing that Christ defeated death, our uncertainty about dying remains.

Life is another thing on the list. Let’s face it, life can be complicated and overwhelming at times. Just reading the newspaper can cause uncertainty about the present and the future. Furthermore, sickness, broken relationships, and financial woes tend to be unnerving. 

Paul mentioned angels on the list. That might be a scary thing for some. 

The list continues, but I think you’ve got the point by now—there are many things that get thrown at us that can cause us to lose sight of God’s love. But Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, penned grand words of encouragement. Let’s take comfort that nothing [inside or outside of us] can separate us from God’s love. I cannot make God stop loving me.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Be Faithful

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One stormy night in Birmingham, England, Hudson Taylor was to speak at the Severn Street schoolroom. He was warned that no one would attend on such a stormy night, but Taylor insisted on going. "I must go even if there is no one but the doorkeeper." 

Rather than a packed house, less than a dozen people showed up. But more importantly, God showed up, and the service was marked with spiritual power. Half of those present either became missionaries or sent their children as missionaries; and the rest became faithful supporters of the China Inland Mission for many years to come. 

D.L. Moody once said: “God has called us to shine, just as much as Daniel was sent into Babylon to shine. Let no one say that he cannot shine because he has not so much influence as some others may have. What God wants you to do is to use the influence you have. Daniel probably did not have much influence down in Babylon at first, but God soon gave him more because he was faithful and used what he had."

One of my seminary professors was fond of saying, “God wants to use you more than you want to used, and bless you more than you want to be blessed.” I believe that is true of me, and YOU as well. Be a faithful Christ follower in all things, both big and small. He who called you is faithful. 

His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.Matthew 25:23 

Friday, May 23, 2014

"So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt"

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The subject for the eDevotion today reminded me of a song by Keith Green, So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt? It’s a great song about the Children of Israel in the desert complaining to Moses that they “Wanna Go Back to Egypt.” It starts with the following words:

So you wanna go back to Egypt

Where it's warm and secure

Are you sorry you bought the one-way ticket

When you thought you were sure?

You wanted to live in the land of promise

But now it's getting so hard

Are you sorry you're out here in the desert

Instead of your own backyard?

Eating leeks and onions by the Nile

Ooh, what breath but dining out in style

Ooh, my life's on the skids, give me the pyramids

Well, there's nothing to do

But travel and we sure travel a lot
[Copyright: Universal Music Publishing Group - Green Melody]

Rather than eating desert rats, or whatever you find to eat in the desert, you’d think the Israelites would be in awe of God’s continual, heavenly supply of manna [literally, what is this?] and quail. But it wasn’t long before God’s blessing became commonplace, or as young people like to say today, “boring!” Think about it for a moment, each and every day, they witnessed God’s miraculous provision right before their very eyes, and yet they longed for something else, something they thought of as better—even the “onions of Egypt.” (Those must have been some onions!)

A missionary friend told the story of being without a car for over a year. His family prayed earnestly, and one day, God provided enough funds that they could purchase an “oldie but goodie.” “Thank You, Lord,” they all cried out to Him! He then said that, in less than a month, they were already talking about how nice it would be to have something better.

Oh how quickly we get accustomed to our blessings! Perhaps today would be a good time for a little self-examination. And let the goal of it be to appreciate the goodness of God and His provision upon our lives.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Entrust Your Soul to God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

What is your reaction when fiery trials come your way? How do you respond when you have to suffer in this life? You have choices; you know that, don’t you? The Apostle Peter told the readers of his first letter [epistle] that the wise choice is to entrust your souls to God.

A modern missionary, Geoffrey Bull [1921-1999], author of When Iron Gates Yield - [Moody Press], epitomized what Peter said. At the age of 29, while serving as a missionary in Tibet, he was branded a spy and spent three years in a Chinese prison. He endured solitary confinement in a dungeon and humiliating questioning. Not only that, he was beaten, brainwashed, starved, and suffered other forms of physical and mental intimidation.

After his release from prison in 1953, he told about how he managed to endure his great suffering. He established a daily routine, which included prayer, reciting the Bible from memory, singing hymns, meditation, and writing poems in his mind, which he later produced.

Here is one of those poems:

O Lord, Thy fingers fashioned Calvary's hill;
Those skull-like stones were surely Thine intent.
Well did'st Thou know, Thy Body dead and still
Would crown its slopes and ev'ry rock be rent.

O Lord, 'twas in Thy mind, the tree was born,

With living strength to point men up to Thee. 

Yet did'st Thou know, Thy members strained and torn

Would hang from lifeless wood, and lifeless be...

O Lord, 'twas Thou, who molded common dust;

Breathed forth Thy life into this house of clay.

Yet did'st Thou know mankind, corrupted, must

Thine own pure vessel mar and cast away.

O Lord, my parts were written with Thy pen,

Ere I was formed within my mother's womb.

Lord of my life, 'twas I who slew Thee then,

My sin and curse inscribed, which sealed Thy tomb... 

Enough O Lord! Thy conquest is complete.

Thy love foreknew yet bore the shame for me.

Mine outpoured soul shall lave [wash] Thy pierced feet;

Thy great forgiveness bind my soul to Thee.

That’s Geoffrey Bull, while in solitude in
 a Chungking prison, 1951.

What does it mean to “entrust?” Peter took an expression from the banking world, a word meaning, to deposit for safe-keeping. Who is better to keep us then the One who created us! We can thoroughly, completely, fully entrust our souls to Him. 

Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:19

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Let's Spice It Up

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

When I was in high school, it was required that each student take basic chemistry. It was not a favorite subject of mine, so I didn’t pursue any post-chemistry classes. Also, to be quite honest, I don’t remember much about what I learned way back then [about 45 years ago!]. But there is one thing that has stuck with me all these years, and it has to do with salt.

I learned that salt is a combination of equal parts of sodium and chlorine [NaCl]. When paired, we get the world’s most used seasoning. Sodium is a harmless active ingredient, but chlorine is not. In fact, chlorine is not found in nature by itself. It is a diatomic element, meaning it is always “attached” to another element. When chlorine is separated from its paired element, it produces a poisonous gas, which, when used even in small quantities, can be harmful, and in large quantities, fatal.

There are two words combined in Scripture that remind me of the chemistry of salt; those words are “grace” and “truth.” When a Christ follower presents truth, without grace, it often produces an offensive, poisonous effect on those with whom we share it. But when truth is combined with grace, it brings out the flavor of our faith. That’s why it is imperative that we live like our Lord, whom the Bibles said was full of sodium [grace] and chlorine [truth]. When we walk like our Christ, we, too, can be the spice of life!

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14   

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God Is With You Too!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

In both the Old and New Testaments, we read about great men and women of God. We watch as God mightily works in their lives, and maybe on an occasion or two, have even prayed that God would use us in the same fashion. But let’s be honest here. How can we possibly live up to the likes of Moses, Daniel, Peter, Deborah, Phoebe, et al. Like a child in their parent’s closet, the shoes are just too big to fill.

I’m sure that Joshua felt that way when Moses died. God had chosen to work through Moses to carry out the plagues in Egypt, divide the Red Sea, and miraculously feed the “evacuees” of Egypt for forty years. Those were some mighty big shoes to fill! But when the time came, Joshua was comforted by words from God, Himself, that he could count on God’s presence too.

Dear Christ follower, the same God who used the patriarchs and matriarchs is with you too. They were merely ordinary people with an extraordinary God. So let’s walk in confidence today. He is with us. He won’t abandon us. We can expect to accomplish great things—not because of who we are, but because of who He is, and what He can do! 

There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not leave you, nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

Monday, May 19, 2014

Can I Get a Witness?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I read an interesting quote in the Wycliff Handbook of Preaching & Preachers: "Millions of surveys which we have helped to take around the world indicate that approximately 98% of the Christians do not regularly introduce others to the Savior." 

- - Really? 

In a Billy Graham training session for his crusade, participants were asked, “"What is your greatest hindrance in witnessing?" 

0% said they don't care 
9% said they were too busy 
12% said their lives were not as consistent as they should be  
28% said they lacked enough real information to share 
51% feared the reactions they would receive

- - Honestly?

One day, Isaiah was in the Temple praying. Recognizing the God of heaven, he admitted his sinfulness, and was cleansed when an angel touched him with an ember from the altar of sacrifice. Then a most interesting conversation took place. The God to whom he just admitted his unworthiness to, asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Immediately Isaiah responded, “Here I am, send ME!” — “I’m available, work through me. I’ll do it for Your sake!”

How about it, Christ follower, are you one of the 98% who seldom give a witness for your Savior? Are you one of the 9% that are too busy? The 12% with inconsistent lives? The 28% lacking information? The 51% fearful? Or are you like THE CLEANSED ISAIAH, READY AND WILLING TO SPEAK UP FOR YOUR SAVIOR!

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?Then said I, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Grander Accolade

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Some months ago I read an interesting account of a corporal in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. During a battle in Europe, Napoleon lost his grip on the bridle of his horse while he was looking through some documents. At that precise moment, the horse reared itself, and the Emperor lost his balance. The corporal quickly leaped forward, catching the bridle just in the nick of time. The horse was steadied, which saved Napoleon from possible injury.  

Napoleon saluted the corporal and said, "Thank you, Captain!" 

"Of what company, Sire?" asked the corporal. 

"Of my guards," replied Napoleon.

The young corporal immediately took his musket and laid it aside. He walked across the field toward the Emperor's staff, at the same time tearing off his corporal's stripes. He took his place among the officers, and one of them asked, “What are you doing here, lad?”

“I am the captain of the Emperor's Guards,” he replied. 

"By whose order?" 

"By the order of the Emperor himself," he replied!

A man of less faith might have returned to his ranks, happily boasting the rest of his enlistment how the Emperor once called him “Captain.” But not this soldier. No! He took the Emperor at his word. 

While Christ followers have never been called “Captain,” we have accolades of a grander sort: chosen, elect of God, sons of God, joint-heirs, saints, holy, sanctified, and many, many more!

Let’s choose not to return to the ranks of the “old man,” but rather put on the “new man,” fashioned after our Savior, Christ the Lord. [Colossians 3:8-10] 

We are Christ’s; sons and daughters of the living God. Let’s live accordingly!

[Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. Romans 4:20-21


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

During his graduate study at the University of California at Berkeley, George B. Dantzig [1914–2005] arrived late for a statistics class. He saw two problems on the blackboard, and, without benefit of instruction, thought they were a homework assignment. So, he copied the problems and took them home to begin working on them. They were extremely difficult, but nonetheless, he solved them and turned in the assignment a few days later. A few weeks after that, his professor came to him with a manuscript. As it turned out, the two problems on the board were the professor’s example of unsolvable problems! The manuscript of Dantzig’s work was edited and prepared for publication. Because he solved the unsolvable, he later was known as the father of linear programming.

It struck me that if he had gotten to class on time to hear the professor say the problems were unsolvable, he might not have tried to solve them, just like the other students in the class that day. 

It also strikes me that some Christ followers have a tendency to give up too easily. When someone says, “That’s unsolvable,” we take for granted that it can’t be solved, and often go on our way without so much as giving it a second thought. A word comes to mind here that I heard my Father use - “chutzpah.” It’s a Hebrew word that means, gall or nerve. There are some things in life that require it, chutzpah, that is.

Has the Lord directed you to do something to which others have been, shall I say, less than encouraging? Then I say, show a little chutzpah! Go for it with boldness. Don’t let the nay-sayer convince you that your problem, or your dream, or your vision is an impossible task. You can do it, you know, because the Lord is with you!   

The wicked flee when no man pursues them: but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mountaintop Praying

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One of the things that captures my mind when reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus, is how often He separated Himself to be alone with His Father in prayer. And it seems that one of His favorite places to pray was on a mountain.  

I would never presume to understand the Lord’s motive for praying on a mountain, but I really like the imagery of it. Think about the shape of a mountain, for example. It’s broad at the bottom and narrow at the top, right? The higher you go toward the top, the better it is to stay at the center because there is a lot less territory to roam to the right or left. And as you get closer to the top, there is less ground to be compromised. In other words, there is less room to fool around. Furthermore, when at its pinnacle, you must remain focused as there is no room for distractions.

Another thing that comes to mind is that it is not easy to reach the mountaintop. It is hard work. A Christ follower must exert a lot of energy to reach it. Mountaintop praying is not necessarily a casual experience. 

While we are encouraged to “pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17], we should, like our Savior, find the time and extend the energy to do some mountaintop praying. There is a lot to benefit from it, not the least of which is the power and blessing you can share when you come back down.

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Transformed Life

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Here’s a question for you. What kind of person does God choose to do His work? The one with: the right education? the right pedigree? the right nationality? the right heritage? If that were the case, then none of Christ’s original disciples would have stood a chance. 

God works differently than we do. He takes the raw material [anyone that comes to faith in Christ], and exposes them to experiences that will teach them the exact lessons they need to be His disciple. That’s what He did with the original disciples, and the results were astonishing. Take Peter, for example. Look at what he experienced to become the great leader he was in the early church, as recorded for us in the book of Acts:

He led the meetings which replaced Judas with Matthias. He preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost, leading thousands to Christ. He was involved in the healing of a lame man at the Beautiful Gate. He stood up the the religious leaders and continued to preach, even when forewarned that doing so would have punitive results. He confronted the hypocritical Ananias and Sapphira. He encountered Simon the magician. He was involved in raising Dorcas from the dead. He was the first to take the Gospel message to the Gentiles. And to add icing to the cake, he authored two letters—epistles—to comfort believers who had been displaced by the Roman diaspora. 

If you need an example of a transformed life, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better example than Peter. He was a model of spiritual leadership in both life and death. You won’t find this in the Bible, but according to church history, Peter was forced to watch executioners crucify his wife. While she endured excruciating agony, Peter stood at the foot of her cross and encouraged her by repeating, “Remember the Lord! Remember the Lord!”

When the time came for his execution, also by crucifixion, Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. God transformed that impetuous fisherman into a mighty disciple. And if God can do it in Peter’s life, He can do it in ours as well...if we, like Peter, remain faithful!

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. Philippians 1:6 [from The MESSAGE Paraphrase]

Friday, May 9, 2014

Peter and Me [and YOU]

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Examining the lives of our Lord’s disciples, I find none so human, in every respect, as Peter. The gospels and Acts are full of narratives about him. He is named more than any other disciple of Jesus in the gospel record. He speaks more often than any other disciple. I think in many cases he wished he hadn’t! Jesus spoke more frequently to him than any other follower, often in applaud, and often in admonition. When we read the biblical account of his life, not all of it is flattering.

There is a description of another biblical character that pictures Simon perfectly. That characterization was given nearly two thousand years before Simon was born, and was spoken by the patriarch Jacob. He had gathered his sons before him to pronounce the blessings of his “last will and testament.” And it was to his firstborn son, Reuben, he said, “…Unstable as water, you shall not excel…” (Genesis 49:4)

Unstable as water – that’s exactly what Simon was like. Is there anything less stable than water? I can’t think of a more fitting description for Simon Peter, the son of John. Jesus knew it, of course. He saw right through all his faults. Jesus didn’t miss any of his fears, foibles, or flaws, and he loved him just the same. He chose this unstable-as-water-Simon Peter, as His very own disciple. 

I am very encouraged by that because He knows me too. And He knows you as well. He knows all about us. He knows our sins, our failures, our shortcomings, our idiosyncrasies – every stupid thing we have ever done! He knew, for instance, that I would be fearful, wishy-washy, weak, indecisive, hesitant; yet He called me to be His own. It’s just as if He said, “I know you, you’re called Rick; but you’re going to be called Rock!” I can only say, “Hallelujah!”

He knows me and He knows you too. He knows everything about you. He knows the stuff you anxiously hope no one ever finds out! But He loves you just the same. And, likewise, He calls you to be His own. 

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13

Thursday, May 8, 2014

United in Purpose

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Just like the human body, there are many essential elements for a church to have life. Unity is one such element. With unity, a church can accomplish much for Christ. Disunity can cripple and even destroy it. I’ve seen it happen many times as a Christ follower. No church is immune to its subtle attack, that’s why we must work to have unity among us. And as much as I hate to admit it, disunity often centers around egos and pride rather than doctrine. 
Some Christ followers think that every Christian has to think alike, talk alike, eat alike, walk alike, dress alike — well, you get the idea. If being alike were essential, then Christ made a huge mistake in choosing His disciples. You could not find a more diverse group than they:

Peter was impetuous; James and John were passionate and power hungry [Sons of Thunder]; Matthew was a money-hungry revenuer; Simon was a political activist [the Zealot]; Judas, a turncoat; and while we don’t know as much about the other six disciples, you can rest assured they had their issues as well. 

The potential for disaster in a group like that is easy to understand. What kept them together? May I suggest that one component was their common purpose, which transcended their individual personalities and differences. The disciples are a powerful example of what unity can do!

Dear Christ follower, we are disciples of Christ as well — not THE disciples, but HIS disciples nonetheless. And our common enemy will daily work at sowing discord among us. Let’s strive to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:3 - ESV]

You have been chosen by Christ to be a part of a select team of workers to accomplish what Jesus began to do here on earth. If we are to complete the task, we must be united in purpose.

...make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:2 NASB

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Humble Pie

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Have you ever heard the expression “humble pie?” To eat it means, to apologize and face the humiliation for a serious error. It evolved from a French word, nomble, which means, deer innards. Centuries ago, those in extreme poverty would literally make a “pie like” dinner filled with a deer’s innards—the leftovers after all the meat had been stripped from the animal by the wealthy. But I digress! 

When speaking about humility in sermons, I’ve tried to take the edge off the sobriety of the subject by saying, “If you want get the upper hand on humility, then read my book, YOU, TOO, CAN BE HUMBLE!” Or, “Humility; the minute you think you’ve got’ve lost it!” But all joking aside, humility is a serious problem, especially in light of Paul’s admonition that Christ followers “Be completely humble...” [Ephesians 4:2a - NIV] 

Where do we begin? How do we start the process of driving pride from our lives and living with a humble spirit?

One thing we can do is to look at ourselves honestly. Sometimes, we disguise who we are and try to convince ourselves, and others, how good and wonderful we are. The apostle Paul didn’t see himself that way. He referred to himself as the foremost sinner [1 Timothy 1:15], and that he had not yet achieved his goal of Christlikeness [Philippians 3:12-14]. So whenever you’re tempted to be proud, remember you haven’t arrived yet spiritually.

One more thing, don’t fall into the trap of comparison with others. Listen to Paul’s warning to the Christ followers in Corinth: 

I don’t dare to compare myself with those who praise themselves. I’m not that kind of person. They measure themselves by themselves. They compare themselves with themselves. When they do that, they are not wise. 1 Corinthians 10:12 - NIRV

Humility starts when we rid ourselves of self-love, and recognize we are unworthy sinners. 

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

Monday, May 5, 2014

Slow to Anger

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I have been a Christ follower over 45 years. During that time, I have made great efforts in reflecting the character of my Lord, and my God. If the truth were told, I could make a fairly long list of things I still need to work on to be more like my Savior. 

One of the things on my list is anger. Nahum said the Lord is “slow to anger.” [Nahum 1:3] Not me! I’m rather quick—actually, I’ve faster than a speeding bullet when it comes to anger!

I find that I am particularly quick in anger when my pride has undergone assault. Regardless, I’ve found that my anger accomplishes nothing good. It really makes me wonder if Jesus was considered a “friend of sinners” because He was slow to anger, interacting with them with grace and acceptance. 

God is especially slow to anger with regards to the unrepentant, desiring their repentance. Peter reminded us of that: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering [slow in anger] toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. [2 Peter 3:9]

We would do well as Christ followers to share in that longing rather than looking forward to their punishment. Responding to the ungodly with love and grace will enhance our message, one that should be heeded. Likewise, it will show that the Gospel message is truly GOOD NEWS!

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. Psalm 145:8  

Put the Pedal to the Metal

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Race car driving champion Bill Vukovich won the Indianapolis 500 race twice in a row [1953, 1954], a record of success few others have achieved. Many drivers of his generation have referred to Vukovich as the greatest ever encountered in American motorsports. When asked about the secret of his success in racing, Vukovich simply replied, "There's no secret. You just press the accelerator to the floor and steer left."

I know there is much more to winning the Indy 500 than that, but I like his answer because we have a tendency to complicate things, especially when it comes to serving the Lord. So I want to draw from the question and Bill’s answer with a slight change: What is the secret of success in serving Christ? There is no secret. You press the accelerator to the floor and steer “right!” 

What’s “right,” you ask? Simple: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and soul, and mind, and with all your strength. Oh, and one more thing: Love your neighbor too.

Are you with me in the race? If yes, then “...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us...” [Hebrews 12:1] We’re in this together, for the win!

Don’t you know that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. 1 Corinthians 9:24 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Our “Light” and “Momentary” Afflictions

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Every Christ follower experiences times of trials and affliction. When they come, a simple question seems to follow, “Why?” “Why is this happening to me?” If you’ve asked that question in times of difficulty, you are not alone, and you won’t have been the last one to ask it!

The first hurdle a Christ follower must overcome is that trials and affliction are part of the Christian life. It’s part of the make up of living in a fallen world. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, yet it seems to be implied in the question, “Why?”

We have been given ample warning in Scripture about this. Here are just two examples:

For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward. Job 5:7

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation... John 16:33 [Spoken from the lips of Christ, Himself]

When I was in Bible College, I would often travel with different professors when they were guest speakers at various churches throughout California. One of them repeatedly said, “Our precious Lord Jesus promised tribulations in this fallen world. But you might be saying, ‘Well, I haven’t had any trials and tribulations!‘ Cheer up. You will!”

So be ready. Don’t allow trials and affliction to catch you by surprise, make you angry, or leave you perplexed. They have a role to play in our lives. They are part our sovereign God’s incomprehensible plan.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 2Corinthians 4:17 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

From “If” to “I Will”

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It happened roughly 3,000 years ago at the end of a Sukkot festival. [Sukkot is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Festival of Booths. It is one of the four Water-Drawing Celebrations of the Jews. It lasts for a week and is celebrated in the month of Tishrei. Depending on the New Moon, that would be in Sept/Oct.] It was just after King Solomon dedicated the newly built Temple in Jerusalem—the Lord came down and His glory filled the Temple. What interests me for the purpose of this eDevotion, is what happened afterward. Here is the account from the Chronicler: 

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. [2Chronicles 7:12-14]

In this brief encounter, God told Israel’s King how to gain the “ear” of God. It involved humbling, praying, seeking, and turning. 

A Christ follower knows that those four things are essential in our ongoing relationship with God. So let’s keep living them out. Stated positively: I will humble myself; I will pray; I will seek Your face; I will turn from my wicked ways. As we do...God will hear us!

...if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14