Friday, August 29, 2014

Christ Followers’ Virtue

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Some things just don’t go together and, yet, they do go together. Take oil and vinegar for example. When left to settle, the two will separate, but when mixed together, they make a delightful dressing. The same could be said of labor and love. We tend to think of love as a spontaneous act, and labor a dry duty. It’s interesting how we separate these ideas from each another and, then, elevate the importance of one over the other. Over time, we tend to forget the one we think of as less important, and make it some kind of an enemy, as if duty could undo love or love could devalue duty. 

The apostle Paul didn’t see it like that. When writing about the Thessalonian Christ followers he said, We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father [1:2-3, emphasis mine].

They demonstrated three virtues that seemingly don’t go together: work of faith, labor of love, steadfastness [patience] in hope. Rather than exhorting them, Paul pointed out that each of their virtues was characteristic of their changed lives. For the Thessalonian Christ follower, faith, hope, and love were not merely feelings of the heart—they were demonstrated in concrete, visible ways. 

Paul gave us a clue as to how these virtues played out with them. Their “work of faith” included providing for orphans and widows, helping the poor, and giving hospitality to the stranger. Their “labor of love” involved self-sacrifice for the sake of brothers and sisters - Paul was a recipient of their generosity, even though they were actually poor! Their “patience in hope” was demonstrated in their steadfastness under the extreme burdens and trials they faced while waiting for the Lord’s return.

The early Christ followers didn’t set this good example merely through will power. No! They lived it out empowered by the Holy Spirit. The same is true for us. We have been touched by God’s grace, and the same gracious Holy Spirit works in us too!

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The human heart is an idol factory! From the earliest of recorded history to present day, we see evidence of idol worship. Anything and everything is suspect to becoming an idol in your life. An idol is more than merely a carved totem. It is anything that we make preeminent—a god. An idol can be a political cause, a hobby, recreation, sports, a celebrity—anything that pushes Jesus from the center of your life.

The really important question is not “Are you a worshipper?” But, rather, “Who, what, how are you worshipping?” The answer to the second question can be determined, and here’s how you do it: start keeping a record of your time, thoughts, energy, and money, and see where they are honestly going. 

Christ followers are thankful that Jesus came to enable us to worship the true and living God through Him. His was a sinless life that unceasingly glorified God. Through His death, burial and resurrection, God reconciles us to Himself. Because of Jesus, we can be worshippers instead of idolaters, and truly glorify God. Because of Jesus, we’re saved from worshipping God’s created things to worship God, Himself. 

As a Christ follower, you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sin [Ephesians 1:7]. So, look beyond the plight of your sin; look to Jesus, In Him you’ll find victory and freedom to be the worshipper you were meant to be!

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Christ Followers’ Joy

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We live in a great country, arguably the greatest that has ever existed. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and I know of none that have more potential for happiness than this one. It’s one of the foundational principles of this social experiment we call America. From its Declaration of Independence we read:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

While that is a famous verse, please note that happiness in not guaranteed, the pursuit of it is. Pursuing happiness is wide open. Any person can search for happiness anywhere, in anything, or anyone, within the limits of the law. 

So why is it that so many people are unhappy? A 2004 study of 14 countries by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School stated that the U.S. tops the list for major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression over the course of a year. [See]

It’s interesting to me that we Americans are free to pursue happiness, but many will not find it. The article goes on to offer a few reasons why this is the case, but as a Christ follower, I think it boils down to a singular point — we are pursuing the wrong things. 

Many tend to look for happiness in money [and what money can buy], status, and power. While they may offer a temporary feeling of happiness, they are just that, TEMPORARY. The simple truth is that nothing will satisfy the inner man’s quest for happiness until he pursues his Creator. We were created for God’s glory, and our hearts will remain dissatisfied until we find our satisfaction in Him. 

If you find yourself restless, dissatisfied, unhappy in life, I strongly encourage you to remember the true object of happiness—Jesus! Trust Jesus. Abide in Jesus. When your faith is in Christ, when you abide in Him, fullness of joy is possible. 

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Everlasting Arms

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Christ followers can walk with complete confidence because God Himself—the everlasting God—is with us. That is especially comforting when we find ourselves sinking in trouble. When I was just a young boy, I learned a hymn that, for many years, has served as a powerful reminder of that. The words are:

I was sinking deep in sin 
Far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within
Sinking to rise no more
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry
From the water lifted me
Now safe am I


There are times in the life of a Christ follower when he sinks in humiliation and sinfulness. Often at those times, the Christ follower feels worthless. This eDevotion is offered to remind you that underneath you are the everlasting arms of God! Your sin may drag you down in the sea of despair, but like a buoy, the everlasting arms of God will bear you up. 

Are you sinking today in a difficult trial or conflict? Have you been prey once again to that sin that so easily besets you? Are you enticed by the things of this world that draw you into its darkness? Are you at the point of desperation that you cry out like that old TV commercial, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?” There is Good News for you! Underneath you are the everlasting arms of God.

Everlasting arms implies enough strength, enough grace, enough power to see you through the dark days of life. David had that confidence when he wrote, “Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil because YOU ARE WITH ME!” [Psalm 23:4 - emphasis mine]

Dear Christ follower, do not lose heart. Be strengthened with the knowledge that you are upheld by the everlasting arms of God. And by the way, He is with you always because He does not faint nor grow weary.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Tabloid Love for Me

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

There is no question that 1st Corinthians 13 is the “Love Chapter” in the New Testament. The chapter ends with these compelling words: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love!

The King James Version of the Bible uses the word charity. When I was just a young boy, we sang a song about it. It goes like this...

Have faith, hope and charity
That's the way to live successfully
How do I know, the Bible tells me so

Do good to your enemies
And the Blessed Lord you'll surely please
How do I know, the Bible tells me so

Don't worry 'bout tomorrow
Just be real good today
The Lord is right beside you
He'll guide you all the way

Have faith, hope and charity
That's the way to live successfully
How do I know, the Bible tells me so

The point of this eDevotion is not to debate CHARITY VS LOVE. Rather, it is to point out the four ideals—the four essential qualities of love—bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things. Now before you run off thinking that love is a sentimental, wishy-washy, no-backbone-kind-of-a-thing, let me remind you that just before writing those words, Paul wrote that love rejects jealousy, bragging, arrogance, and other things [see 13:4-6]. So the bearing, believing, hoping and enduring must be things that are within the parameter of God’s Word. 

Love bears all things. There’s something protective in that statement. The idea of bearing is to protect or cover. That is the exact meaning of the Greek word stego [pronounced steh’ go], to cover. I think the idea here is to protect from further harm, which is the exact opposite of our tabloid-loving culture. In other words, love seeks to protect, not expose. While love confronts sin, it doesn’t broadcast the failures or wrongs. To quote a recent U.S. President, it “feels your pain,” it empathizes and bears the pain when necessary.

The wise Solomon wrote, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” [Proverbs 10:12]. The apostle Peter agrees, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” [1 Peter 4:8].

It’s the start of a new week. As Christ followers, let’s put love bearing into practice. Let’s “bear” all things, just as Paul wrote about, and just as Jesus did when He carried the weight of our sins to the cross. 

[Love] bears all things... 1 Corinthians 13:7

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fork in the Road

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Yogi Berra is famous for the statement, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” It makes no sense unless you know the context. Yogi lived on a road that split right and left, but eventually merged back together a short distance away. Therefore, it didn’t really matter whether you went left or right at the fork in the road because, eventually, you’d get to his house.

Metaphorically speaking, we come to many forks in the road of life. And just as with Yogi, it doesn’t really matter which road you take. Do I wear these shoes or those shoes? Do I eat Mexican or Italian for dinner? Do I buy the red one or the blue one? The majority of our choices don’t really have long term consequences, much less eternal consequences. However, there are some choices that will affect the course of our life and have long term consequences.

The people of Israel came to that fork in the road, and the direction they chose involved dramatic consequences. They had been visited by the LORD. They knew He was the true and living God. They had been delivered from Egyptian bondage as a result of His strong hand on their behalf. Now came the choice: Do they continue to follow God, or do they pursue other gods? Do they choose God’s way or their way? Do they choose life and its blessing, or death and its curses? 

Joshua spoke to Israel at one of those critical fork-in-the-road times. They were at the point of crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Land “flowing with milk and honey.” He told them to “throw away the gods that are among you. People from other lands serve those gods. But you, incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.” [24:23]

Christ followers find themselves at that fork in the road many times in life. We know that we have been delivered from sin’s bondage by the powerful hand of God. We have come to faith in Christ, brought to God by the Holy Spirit of promise. But do we choose to continue in His way or choose our own way? Do we live for Him or live for ourselves? Do we incline our hearts toward God or follow the idols of the heart? In all of these, our choice has long term consequences. 

Thankfully, the LORD is present with us and willing to help when our “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!” Can I get an AMEN? Furthermore, we have His sure Word, the Bible, from which also we draw strength; “Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You!” [Psalm 119:11]

When you come to those fork-in-the-road times, choose Christ! Choose God’s way! His is the way to life eternal.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:15-20     

Thursday, August 21, 2014

God’s Tattoo

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m not a tattoo kind of guy. Some argue that tattoos are foolish, while others are covered with with. I often think of high profile personalities that have the name of their “significant partner” tattooed on them for all to see, only to have it removed and replaced by the next one. I had a dear friend, John, now deceased, who, at the age of 16, self-tattooed an eagle on his chest. He did it thinking that it would make him look older so that he could enlist in the military during WWII. It worked! Not only that, it really was a good looking eagle!

Seven hundred years before the advent of Christ, Israel had forsaken their love and worship of God. The prophet Isaiah warned them that they would be conquered and taken as captives by their enemy should they not repent. And sure enough, because of their rebellious hearts, it happened just as the prophet said. While in their captivity, the people lamented, “The LORD has forsaken and forgotten me,” as if it was God who had abandoned them. 

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever cried out to God, “Where are You when I need You the most? Did you think that God had forgotten and forsaken you?
God’s reminder to Israel, and to us, is a powerful thing, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.” We, like Israel, may forget and forsake our God, but He NEVER forgets His people! He wants us to understand that and take it to heart. The writer of Hebrews so vividly reminded us of those comforting words, “I will never fail you; I will never forsake you!” [Hebrews 13:5]

As Christ followers, how do we know that He won’t forsake us? Easy! He died with outstretched hands on the cross, hands etched with our names on them! 

Sing, O heavens!  Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Soon your sons will come back, and all your destroyers and devastators will depart from you. Isaiah 49:13-17

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Things First

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Most people have a gem of wisdom that they regularly use, something they rely on. I happen to like “First Things First.” It’s a common phrase that emphasizes the need to set priorities, and then address them according to their importance. 

Putting first things first brings a sense of order and balance to life. That is especially true in the spiritual realm. Spiritual things are easily overlooked and often omitted. Let’s be honest, there is so much to living out our daily lives that it’s difficult, at times, to get our priorities straight. I have to balance work and home, parent and spouse, leisure and rest, and so many other things. 

That’s why the simple words of Jesus to “seek first...” are so important. Please note that the Lord didn’t say, “Ignore everything else.” He emphasized the principle of first things first. Here’s how that works for me:

A solid foundation in the Bible - daily reading, studying, meditating [with prayer] on the Word, then applying it to my life.

A contrite heart - daily repentance and acceptance of the benefits of Christ’s suffering and death on my behalf.

A recognition of the peace He offers - daily trusting in his unfailing promises.

When I put first things first — put the Lord first and seek what He offers as my top priority — I more readily put the rest of my life in order, enabling me to face the challenge of each day with calm hope. 

When it comes to first things first, as Paul said to “set our affection on things above” [Colossians 3:2], Christ tops the list!

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

If you are a fan of reading, as I am, you probably love a great adventure story. I’ve got one for you; Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, a master storyteller. The main character of the book is Louie. He was a thief until he discovered running. He ran so well that he qualified for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He met Hitler. He stole a Nazi flag right from under the noses of Nazi guards. He joined the military and became a bombardier. After a plane crash, he and two other survivors were adrift in the Pacific for 47 days until they came to the Marshall Islands, only to be captured by the Japanese. And from there, the story goes into overdrive!

Well, believe it or not, Unbroken  is not a work of fiction. The main character was Louie Zamperini who died on July 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 97.

What a great story! But Christ followers know of a greater story, a rescue mission of eternal importance. It’s found in the Bible and the main character is Jesus. The plot line goes like this: He was God, the resident of a perfect place, knowing the inhabitants of earth were in dire straights. They needed to be rescued from their sins and no one was able to do it. So He voluntarily left His home and took up residence on earth as a human to live among those He came to save. 

But He was despised and rejected by men. They loved the darkness of their sin rather than the glorious light of Salvation. Rather than admire Him, they humiliated Him and eventually put Him to death, the horrific death by crucifixion. And that’s where the story really kicks in! After 3 days in the darkness of a tomb, He came to life—resurrection. He accomplished His mission of salvation by overcoming death and the grave, and He is alive today. 

How does the story end, you ask? With our victory in heaven with Him for all eternity.  

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16

Monday, August 18, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Mosquito bites! Am I the only one that hates them? They are no fun and difficult to get rid of. I’ve tried a lot of things to rid myself of the itchy bites, and I’ve found that time and patience [and a lot of lotions] are about the only answers to make the itch go away. 

The apostle Paul trained Timothy to deal with a situation much worse than mosquito bites. He told Timothy about false teachings that infect the heart — things that go far beyond irritation — things that hurt saving faith.  

He went on to tell him about a time when people would no longer have a desire to hear about the Lord, especially what God had to say about sin—a time much like today. And because the people wanted to indulge in their sin without being made to feel guilty about it, they would surround themselves with like-minded teachers who would affirm their sinful lifestyles.

Those were prophetic words about the time we live in, and it’s rather interesting how he described the people of that day: people with “itchy ears!” They have come up with a remedy of sorts. They don’t want to be accountable to God, so they try to calm the itch by reducing God to nothing more than merely a lucky rabbit’s foot or a curse word, but it isn’t effective at all.  

Fortunately, there is a cure for the itch. Paul gave the prescription to Timothy; “Preach the Word!” Proclaim the entire Bible. Let God work through His Word to set the record straight. Earlier [3:16], Paul told Timothy that God’s Word was profitable for such things as reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness - all of which will heal the itchy sickness of our sin. 

We’re starting into a brand new week. Let’s be faithful servants; faithful to the Word and faithful to proclaim it “in season and out of season.”

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 

Friday, August 15, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The famous reformer, Martin Luther, lived around the time of Christopher Columbus. He was a gifted man, remembered by most as a Christian pastor, teacher, and writer. Arguably his greatest gift to the Church was to bring people back to the basics of salvation through faith in Christ alone. But very few people recall another of his valued teachings, vocation — the many ways that God works through people in their different occupations to accomplish his will.

I have a perfect example for you. You are reading this eDevotion that I wrote about 5:00 this morning. While it is considered my intellectual property, I needed the help of many to get it to you. I’m sure I won’t list them all, but consider these: the company and people that made my computer, the company and people in the communication business that allowed it to go out via the Internet, the utility company and people that supplied the electricity to make all of this happen. And while that is soaking in, think about this; even though all these people, and many more, played a part in getting this eDevotion to you, it could be truthfully said that God sent you this eDevotion, He just used all of us to make it happen.  

The unbelieving world doesn’t see things that way. There is a story in Acts 14 that illustrates the point. Paul and Barnabas went to Lystra, a city in Asia Minor, now modern day Turkey. They were involved in the healing of crippled man.    

The people at Lysta misunderstood the miracle. Instead of thinking about the greatness of God, they thought about the greatness of Paul and Barnabas. They even went so far as to call them gods, Zeus and Hermes! It wasn’t true, of course, and Paul immediately pointed the people to the true God, the One who showed kindness in His creation and who wanted to make their lives joyful. 

That has been a way of God throughout history. It is not customary that God, Himself, comes down in every event in the human experience. Most typically, He uses ordinary people like you and me for His purposes. When God wanted to ultimately show His love for mankind, He did it through a Man, Jesus Christ. Paul would later write to the Romans, “But God demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [5;8] 

As we start into this weekend and our normal worship activities on Sunday, would you take a little time to consider how our great God serves you through the work of others. It is mind boggling how well He take takes care of you through the service of many.

And one last thing; don’t forget how God has touched you through the service of His Son, Jesus. Because Jesus served the ultimate purpose of God, He died and rose again to secure your eternal salvation. 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jesus: All the Light We Need

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Darkness. Sometimes we forget how dark darkness really is. I’ve never been in a place as dark as in the bowels of the Hoover Dam. Our family went to the Hoover Dam on a vacation when I was just a kid, and I still remember the piercing darkness as the guide took us down inside the dam to a small room and then shut off the lights. I know exactly what someone means when they say, “I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.” It’s interesting that now, some 55 years later as I am writing about it, I can almost feel that pressing darkness.

Thanks to Mr. Edison, very few people experience total darkness. However, there is a darkness that Edison’s invention cannot penetrate, the darkness of our sin. Often in Scripture, sin is likened to darkness and salvation is likened to light. I’d like you to ponder that for a moment. When a person lives in sin, he/she walks in darkness; stumbling, falling, and often, as I was in the darkness of Hoover Dam, fearful. 

Even sadder is the fact that out of that darkness only comes more darkness. The darkness of our sin produces the darkness of despair, bitterness, guilt, anger, fear, and more. So it doesn’t help to look within ourselves to be rid of spiritual darkness. From the darkness of our sin we only find more darkness.

The answer to spiritual darkness is Jesus, the “light of the world.” He conquered the darkness of sin through the cross and and the empty tomb. When you have Jesus, you have the light of salvation, really, all the light you need. 

Is it enough light to dispel the darkness of sin? I should think so! In the book of Revelation, John saw a heavenly city that didn’t have the light source of the sun, moon, or stars, and yet they had all the light they needed because Jesus lit the city with His presence. Jesus is all the light we need! 

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. Revelation 21:23

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Freedom Proclaimed

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you watched the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart? It is loosely based on the life of William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish highlander who led the Scots in their first war of independence against England’s Edward I. In one of the final scenes he shouted out the word, “Freedom!” Then, very literally, he gave his life in an effort to rid his country of England’s rule. War continued. Sure, there were times of freedom and peace, but history records centuries of continued struggle. 
700 years before He came, the prophet Isaiah spoke about the work of the coming Savior, Jesus. He was to be the suffering Messiah. His death would result in free and full forgiveness of our sins. That, my dear Christ follower, is freedom! That’s the good news that “binds up the broken hearted,” “frees captives,” and “releases prisoners from [spiritual] darkness.” Like rays of sunshine, these words pierce the darkness of our sin-sick souls.

Now and forever, we can proclaim that we are, “Free at last!” We can walk daily with a clear and clean conscience, confident in God’s proclamation of complete forgiveness through faith in Christ.

What a wonderful gift! “...the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Paul wrote in Romans 6:23. And like any wonderful gift, what better way to show our sincere thanks for the freedom we have received than to give a shout out to the well as to share the “Good News!” with others. 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn [Isaiah 61:1-2].

Monday, August 11, 2014

Important News Must Not Be Kept Silent

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you ever had such important news that you couldn’t keep quiet about it? Like Ellen DeGeneres’ “selfie” at the Oscars [the most retweeted message on Twitter - as of March 2014]. Or when anything political happens, you can rest assured that someone on the “other side of the aisle” will get the spin out right away. Or how about my grandson when he got his Millennium Falcon Lego set. Everyone in his world immediately heard about it. Celebrities, politics, presents - they take up so much of our time and amass so much excitement!

The prophet Isaiah had some incredible news that he couldn’t keep silent about as well. It had nothing to do with the celebrities of his day, politics, or presents. His was more spiritual in nature. It had to do with the gift of God’s righteousness. 

What makes God’s gift so amazing is that we are completely undeserving of it. Our sins make us filthy in His sight, they are an affront to God. Our rude and hurtful words, our selfishness, greed, and lust are things deserving of eternal doom. But instead of eternal separation, God, through Christ, has another “S” word in mind: SALVATION!

The gift of salvation means that God takes away our sin and replaces it with the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. So let the nations see and hear about your righteousness — actually, not yours, but Christ’s perfection. That is something really newsworthy and should not be kept in silence.

We’re entering a new week. Be aware of opportunities to “let your light shine.” There are many people in your sphere of influence who need to hear this good news. 

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness. Isaiah 62:1-2

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Simple Message for Difficult Times

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Last night I read through the book of Jonah again. There are so many lessons to be learned from the story, but the thing that captured my attention last night was the simple message that Jonah preached. In English, it was only 8 words [in Hebrew, 4 words]. The New King James Version records it like this, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” That’s his entire message. By the way, I’ve never preached an 8 word sermon in my entire ministry! 

And it was not a very positive message at that. He didn’t proffer wealth or even God’s love. His wasn’t a message of “God loves you and so do I,” or “God wants you to be rich,” or “Your best life now.” None of that. It was an 8 word message of impending judgment and nothing more. It was urgent and to the point. And what did the king of Nineveh and his people do? They repented!

Nineveh wasn’t won by a spectacular “OPERATION NINEVEH!” campaign. There wasn’t an advanced PR team to plaster Nineveh with posters or place ads on billboards. There was no social media hype — I know it’s hard to believe, but he didn’t start a FaceBook page or Tweet anything! There weren’t any “Nineveh for Jesus” T-Shirts printed. He didn’t train any counselors, rent a stadium, buy TV time, print follow-up materials, arrange press conferences, organize a choir, hire the latest and greatest singer, or raise 5 million shekels to pull it all off. 

He skipped all of that and went to Nineveh, looking half dead, and preached his 8 word, negative sermon. And Nineveh repented! Jesus did him 2 words better; He had a 6 word message, “Repent ye and believe the gospel.” [Mark 1:15 - King James Version]

We live in difficult days. Sometimes it’s really hard to know what to say. We’d be hard pressed to find anything better than to preach repentance. 

Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Jonah 3:2,4,5 

A Safe Place

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

A friend of mine living in Israel has kept me informed of the circumstances he deals with daily during the current Israeli/Gaza/Hamas conflict. Recently, there have been rocket and mortar attacks less than 25 miles from his residence in southern Israel. He told me in an eMail that what is going on is merely skirmish, and only time would tell if it would escalate into a full-scale war encompassing the entire Middle East. 

I asked the question I know many others have asked him, “Are you afraid of living in Israel right now?” His answer, while no surprise to me, was revealing:

Truth is, there aren’t any real safe places in this world anymore. The only truly safe place that I know of is in God’s perfect will. We are striving to remain there the rest of our earthly days.”

I shout out a resounding amen to that! Whatever God is calling you to do, wherever God is calling you to go — to a foreign land to serve the nations, or across the street to serve a neighbor - it’s easy to get wrapped up in their fear, anxiety, and criticism. So, chose the Lord, chose His will. He will not leave your side when you are doing great things on His behalf.

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? Psalm 118:6 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

No Ordinary Birth

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

News of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem was not really noteworthy. It was ordinary; mothers had babies all the time. Furthermore, these parents were ordinary people, craftsmen from Nazareth. The child wasn’t born in a clinic, merely a humble environment, not so unusual in those days. 

But for some reason, the baby born to Joseph and Mary has captured the hearts of millions upon millions. Luke gives us a clue as to why. The birth of Jesus was no ordinary birth. It was of such majesty angels couldn’t keep the news to themselves, and neither could the shepherds who left their flocks at night and ran to worship Him. 

Why was this birth different from any other birth? God became one of us to rescue all of us! Finally, a faithful high priest who, in service to God, would make atonement for the sins of mankind. 

No wonder the excitement! The author of Hebrews got it right. He wrote that God became a human to die on our behalf in order to break the power of the Devil and death. He didn’t do that for angels, but for humans—you and me. Later Jesus would reveal His mission: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die...” [John 11:25-26]. 

God, the creator of mankind, became a man to rescue mankind — to redeem it. That is extraordinary news. Angels and shepherds were excited about it, and so am I. 

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We all know that Jesus came to help the descendants of Abraham, not to help the angels. Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:14-17

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Once Upon A Time

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I think I already know the answer to this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Have you ever read a story that began with the words, “Once upon a time...?” They are familiar words, which usually introduce a fable or tale whose reality could be questioned. Factual or not, the stories are often entertaining.

Next question. Are you aware that some people believe that is how one should consider the Bible? Their claim is that the Bible is merely story book, a collection of tall tales and fanciful fables, or as country folk might say, a “good yarn” spun and embellished over time. With that kind of belief, why should anyone believe what the Bible says?

Before I can answer that question, consider this. When Luke, the physician/historian, introduced his account of the God story (the books of Luke and Acts), he stated that he had thoroughly investigated historical events. In his own words, “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you...” [Luke 1:3]. 

In other words, “Once upon a time” was not good enough. He recorded an accurate account of real people who lived at a specific time and place in history, which can be substantiated by history. Facts — factual and trustworthy. The events he recorded didn’t happen “in a galaxy far, far away.” It doesn’t “prove” the Bible is true, but it makes it a trustworthy document.  

That’s the point of this eDevotion. You can trust in the trustworthiness of God’s word. Because of that, I accept God’s invitation to repent, confident there is full, free, and complete forgiveness. I accept that my redemption offers power over the world, the flesh, and the devil. I have complete confidence in the resurrection of Jesus that secures my salvation and offers a reward of heaven.

Once upon a time is a good start to a child’s fable or tale, but I need more than that. I need a truth that saves. That’s why I turn to the Bible. God’s Word is my confidence and my hope – I can depend on it’s trustworthiness. 

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke 3:1-3

Monday, August 4, 2014

Timing Is Everything

Encouragement for your daily walk with God
Timing is everything. Our varsity baseball coach used to tell us that all the time. “It's not how hard you swing, it's timing,” he'd say. I think he got that from Yogi Berra, who said, “You don't have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it'll go.”
I took his advice to heart and worked hard at timing pitches for maximum impact. Then I found out that timing was also the object of pitchers. In his biography, Warren Spahn, the great Hall of Fame pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves said, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” So much for my strategy!
Timing is important to God as well. He waited for the perfect moment to send His Son, Jesus, into the world. When Adam and Eve sinned, God promised a Savior. Scholars point to Genesis 3:15 to substantiate that. That promise was not filled instantaneously. Rather, God waited thousands of years for the right time. In the meantime, He guided history until that perfect moment came —then He sent us Jesus.
Make no mistake about it, dear Christ follower; God is guiding your life just as carefully. There are no accidents or coincidences with Him. He brings people and things into our lives at the right time to keep us on the straight and narrow. I think it is not an accident or coincidence that I wrote this eDevotion today. For some, it is the perfect moment for God to remind you of His watchful care.

God's timing to send His Son, Jesus, was perfect. You can trust His timing in your life too! 

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. Galatians 4:4-5 [from The MESSAGE Paraphrase]

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rise and Shine!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I woke up long before daylight this morning, which is not unusual for me. I’m not asking for pity, it’s just the way I am. After getting my first cup of coffee, I went to my home office to begin a devotion time. Today’s Bible reading started with Isaiah 60, and as I read it, a special memory came to mind. 

My dear Mother was the personification of an alarm clock. When we were elementary school age, she would come into our room to wake us up. I remembered that often she would say, “Rise and shine!” I wonder if she got that from the text in Isaiah! 

Although Isaiah was writing about Jerusalem, the application is relevant to every Christ follower. Rise and shine! He wrote about darkness that covered the land, and deep darkness experienced by the people who lived in it [60:2]. However, people would experience the light of God’s glory as it came upon Jerusalem, and gentiles would come to it [60:3].

God often manifested Himself in light, many times referred to as “the glory or the LORD.” Sometimes it terrified people, and sometimes it comforted people. Terror came as dark sins were exposed by the light of God’s glorious judgement. God has every right to do that — to expose and condemn sin. Comfort came in the knowledge that His glory takes away the darkness of our sins so that we can walk in the light of His grace. 

Christ followers know that Jesus is the “brightness of God’s glory” [Hebrews 1:3]; the “light of the world” [John 8:12]; the “true Light,” which gives light to everyone in the world [John 1:9]. And because we know Him [have put our complete trust and confidence in Him], we have experienced the “glory of the LORD.” As John wrote, “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] 

Well, the sun is peeping over the horizon. It’s time to rise and shine. How about it, dear Christ follower, won’t you rise and shine as well! 

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. Isaiah 60.1