Monday, September 29, 2014

You Have Life in Jesus

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

John built a strong case for the divinity of Jesus in his first letter or epistle we know as the book of 1 John. While building the case, he also exhorted the readers to KNOW Jesus and to TRUST in Him. Undoubtedly the readers had heard many accounts of Jesus that differed from what John taught about Him. I have no doubt that some taught about Jesus through ignorance, that is, they had heard about Him but didn’t really know Him. But John also wrote that many teachers lied about Jesus—false teachers who distorted the truth. 

John encouraged his readers to know the real Jesus, and by means of application from God the Holy Spirit, encourage you and me as well. While there is a distorted view of Jesus today, John made things really simple for you and me: If you have Jesus, you have life!

Here are a few questions I like to ask those who ask me, “How do you know if you know Christ?”

Do you trust in Jesus alone as your personal Savior from sin because of His life, death and resurrection? Do you seek to know Him more? Do you have an inner desire to love Him more? Is Jesus precious to you? Do you love and fellowship with other Christ followers who also confess Him as their Savior? 

If your answer is YES to these questions, you have life that only Jesus can give. Now here’s another “biggie!” Many people around you have a distorted view about Jesus, just like those in John’s day. The Bible refers to them as “lost,” they don’t know the way to God. You and I can be truth tellers just like John, sharing the Good News, the Gospel: Jesus lived perfectly in this world, He died for our sins and rose from the dead for our salvation [Romans 4:25].

By God’s grace, we’ll go to heaven, and take as many people there with us as we can!

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12

Friday, September 26, 2014

Real Guilt Is Priceless

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Real guilt is priceless! Yes, I know that may sound strange to you, but please hear me out. It is rare that we are so blessed to feel real guilt for our sin. 

A Christ follower can only experience real guilt when he has exhausted his skill of sidestepping, denial, suppression, blaming, down playing — anything except face up to his sin. When we have exhausted the craftiness of our heart and set every tactic aside, the horrible reality of our guilt meets us head-on.

At that eye-opening moment, we face liberating truth. The old spiritual got it right when it said, “It’s … not my father, not my mother … not my brother, not my sister … not the elder, not the preacher … but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

An Old Testament story bears this out [read Genesis 37-44]. Joseph’s brothers had committed a great sin. They sold their brother into slavery and let their father believe he had been killed by a wild beast. Through a series of events, they stood before Joseph, now a high-ranking Egyptian official, accused of being spies. 

With great wisdom, Joseph confronted his brothers with this question: “What is this that you have done?” It was Judah, seeing no option but to come clean, who said, “What can we say to my lord? God has uncovered [our] iniquity.

Their guilt was exposed and they bowed low before Joseph in surrender. What was the result? They were forgiven and fellowship with their brother was restored! 

That’s the way it works, dear Christ follower. When we experience real guilt for our sin, we won’t try to sweep it under a rug. Think about it, where can you hide your sin from our heavenly Father? The best we can do with the real guilt we feel for our sin is to confess it to the Lord. If we do, He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9].

Then Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has uncovered the iniquity of your servants. Genesis 44:16

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Kindness of Love

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

An ancient proverb tells the story of two men walking in opposite directions on an extremely narrow mountain trail. They met each other head on. They were unable to get around each other because one side was the sheer face of the mountain, and the other, a steep cliff. The more they tried to squeeze around each other, the more frustrated they became. It seemed like an insurmountable problem until one of the men simply laid down and allowed the other man to walk over him. That is an illustration of biblical kindness—service for the benefit of others.

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christ followers that love is kind, literally “useful,” “serving,” or “gracious.” We generally associate kindness with a sweet attitude; the biblical idea is being useful to others. 

The greatest example of kindness was demonstrated by God, Himself, who provided a means of salvation for sinners like you and me. Paul wrote to his good friend, Titus, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” [Titus 3:3-5].

Interestingly, when Jesus told His disciples to take up His yoke because it was easy [Matthew 11:30], it’s the same root word in Greek [crestos, pronounced cray-stos’], which means, fit for use, useful. 

The apostle Peter said that each Christ follower has tasted the kindness of the Lord [1 Peter 2:3 - again, crestos]. Because of that, let’s be eager to show kindness to others. We can do it, you know. But, like the Corinthians, we must repent of our selfish ways, and allow the love of God to dominate our lives! 

Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Your Good Spirit

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It was a day to remember in the history of Israel. They had returned to their land after many years of Babylonian captivity. On this particular day, the 24th day of Tishri [September-October on the Gregorian Calendar], after the celebration of Tabernacles, they gathered in sackcloth and ashes. For 1/4 of the day, they read from the Scriptures. For another 1/4 of the day, they confessed [presumably their sins] and worshiped God. That’s six hours of Bible reading and six hours of worship — so much for our 1 1/2 hours gatherings on Sunday!

Then a guy named Jeshua told the people to bless the Lord, and gave them the reason for doing so. You must read Nehemiah 9! What caught my attention this morning was a statement down in verse 20, “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them…” 

What touched me as I read this verse is that, too often, Christ followers forget about the Holy Spirit. God gave His good Spirit to the Children of Israel even as they wandered in the wilderness, and He gives His good Spirit to each of us. Let’s not fall into the common sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit. He is good!

He’s good because He is God. He shares the absolute purity, truth, and grace of Jehovah.

He’s good in His work among us. He tenderly bears our waywardness [as the song writer said, “Prone to wander…Prone to leave the God I love”]; He quickens us from spiritual death to life in Christ; He trains us for works of ministry and empowers us to accomplish each task. He is the generous, forgiving, and tender Holy Spirit. 

He is good in His official capacity of Godhood. Whether He acts as Comforter, Instructor, Guide, Sanctifier, or Intercessor, He does all things well. He works for the highest good to the Body of Christ. 

A Christ follower will never be all he can be until he reverently yields to the Holy Spirit. He is the “Good Spirit.” It is sad, indeed, and to our own detriment, that we grieve Him through our negligence. How good is the Holy Spirit of God!

You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:20

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Contentment Must Be Learned

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Contentment is not a natural tendency of man, it must be learned. Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as weeds and thorns in a garden. You don’t have to plant weeds, they grow naturally because they are of the earth. But if you want wheat, you have to work at it by preparing the soil, planting the seed, and cultivating the crop. If you want specific flowers in a certain place, then there must be a garden with a gardener’s care. 

Contentment is like that! It must be cultivated because it will not grow naturally. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned…to be content.” It implies that, at one time, he didn’t know how to be content. There is little doubt in my mind that it cost him many pains and sorrows to learn the mystery of that great truth. But when he finally laid hold of it, he could say, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” [Philippians 4:11]. By the way, when he wrote those words, Paul was locked up in Nero’s prison in Rome.

Learning to be content does not come effortlessly—and without some pain and sorrow along the way. It is not something that you will acquire instantaneously, but rather gradually. Christ followers know that from experience. 

So there is a great challenge before us. Let’s lay aside covetousness, and silence the murmuring, as natural as they are, and be a good student in the School of Contentment.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

Monday, September 22, 2014

Burden Bearer

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Walking in the Spirit makes Spirit assisted ministry to others possible. One of those ministries is to come along side of burdened people and be a burden-bearer. The apostle Paul said that when we do this [bearing the burden of others] we are fulfilling the Law of Christ. James may have had the same thought in mind when he wrote, “The royal law is found in Scripture. It says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you really keep that law, you are doing what is right” [James 2:8]. 

What is burden bearing? William Hendriksen wrote this helpful observation: “This does not merely mean ‘Tolerate each other,’ or ‘Put up with each other.’ It means: ‘Jointly shoulder each member’s burdens.’”  [New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Galatians]

The word Paul chose for “burden” refers to an extremely heavy and unbearable weight. It’s the same word Paul used to describe the “weight” of glory when he wrote, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” [2 Corinthians 4:17]. It’s the kind of weight one person cannot carry alone. That’s why God calls us to be in the ministry of burden bearing—mutual support.

The truth of the matter is that we shoulder some of the weight when we come along side of the burdened Christ follower, or unbeliever for that matter, and talk and pray with them about their burden and help measure their progress along the way.

It’s the start of a new week. Imagine the encouragement you will be as you go about your Spirit-filled walk, helping and upholding others who would, otherwise, bear their burdens alone. Burden bearing is one of the ministries we are called to be part of as we continue to walk in the Spirit day by day.

Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Friday, September 19, 2014

Our Guide, the Holy Spirit

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The Holy Spirit helps the Christ follower in many ways. In my thinking, His most practical ministry is how He helps us to know and follow God’s will—He is our Guide. It is one of the things Jesus predicted when He said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” [John 16:13a].  

We see evidence that He is our Guide in both the Old and New Testaments. The prophet Ezekiel clearly indicated the Spirit’s availability to lead the people of God [36:27].  And before him, Isaiah wrote about God who, “…put His Holy Spirit within them, who led them by the right hand of Moses, with His glorious arm…” [Isaiah 63:11-12].

In the New Testament we find a great example in Acts 15 at the Council in Jerusalem. It is an illustration of how the Holy Spirit guided the early church. They had gathered to determine what principles of conduct the Jewish leadership should put on the Gentiles who were coming to faith in Christ. After prayer, and prayerful debate, they unanimously determined that it was unnecessary for the Gentiles to adhere to most of the ceremonial practices of the Law of Moses. 

They wrote the details of their recommendation in a letter, which included these words, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these essentials…” [Acts 15:28]. Their decision was made with confidence because it was in agreement with the Holy Spirit as they poured over the Scriptures. Because of that, they knew it was the right thing to do, and in accord with God’s will. 

Dear Christ follower, please be encouraged that you are likewise being led by the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” [Romans 8:14]. When we are responsive to the Holy Spirit, and faithful to pour over Scripture, He will guide us in God’s perfect will for our lives!

And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:27

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Power Supply

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I’m not making light of the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christ follower, but I’m really glad that the Christian life doesn’t come with a disclaimer that reads: “Batteries Required.” What that means, in a practical sense, is that there is no power supply to operate what you have. Isn’t it great to know that the Holy Spirit of God empowers us with all the resources needed to serve and minister to each other! 

Paul told the Christ followers at Ephesus that they had everything they needed—every blessing—in Christ. Here’s how he put it, “How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ” [Ephesians 1:3]. Later he would tell them that the inner man was strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit [3:16]. 

Paul’s understanding of God’s power supply wasn’t merely theoretical—his was a hands-on experience. On many occasions he was stretched beyond limits both physically and spiritually. Yet he could boldly proclaim, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” [2 Corinthians 4:8-9].

And so, Christ follower, no matter the difficulty or discouragement you are facing now, or will face in the future, please know that we are sustained by the same power source as Paul’s, the Holy Spirit of Promise. When hindered we need not be frustrated. When puzzled, we need not despair. When persecuted, we don’t face it alone. When knocked down, we are not knocked out! 

The outer man may be hard-pressed, but we have the assurance of an infinite power supply—our inner man is renewed with fresh strength daily from the Holy Spirit [2 Corinthians 4:16]. I like the way that passage is rendered in The MESSAGE Paraphrase: So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace


Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Give God Your Best

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Some Scriptures are more sobering than others. That is, when you read them, you must mull them over in your mind and spirit, and ask yourself some hard questions. That happens with me a lot, especially when the Scriptures talk about total devotion to God. One way the Bible gets that message across is by reminding you about what God deserves. Just for being God, He deserves our best in worship. 

Israel was often chastised for its half-hearted worship. They demonstrated it by not giving the Lord God their best. During one of those times, the prophet Malachi accused the people of giving blind animals as sacrifices instead of unblemished ones as the Lord had instructed. Furthermore, when they were called upon to show God’s true worth in giving their time and resources, they merely gave God leftovers—the time and valuables they didn’t want or need.

Now before we go off on Israel, we have to do some serious self-examination of our own lives. Is it possible that we offer to God our energy, but only what is left after work, family, and fun? Is it possible that we offer to God our treasures, but only what is left after paying the bills and getting all the “toys” we want? Is it possible that we offer to God our time, but only what is left after the “big game,” the recital, homework, or any number of activities in our daily routine? 

Another Old Testament prophet explained why God deserves our best in worship. He said,  But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine [Isaiah 43:1].

So be stirred, aroused, inspired to think about what the Lord God has done for you in Christ. Let it propel you to true and spiritual worship [John 4:24] — not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to!

The LORD Almighty says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. I am your father and master, but where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have despised my name!” But you ask, “How have we ever despised your name?’ “You have despised my name by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.” Then you ask, “How have we defiled the sacrifices?” “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD Almighty. Malachi 1:6-8

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Matter of Perfection

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One of my devotional readings this morning was in Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount. I had to stop for a moment when I read the words, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” [Matthew 5:48]. I don’t know what you think about those words, but my heart skipped a beat or two. “Be perfect,” really? You’ve got to be kidding! 

Is there a little wiggle room in perfection for imperfection? Just a little? Not according to my computer’s dictionary. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, as you read one of its definitions:

• free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless:

There you have it. Perhaps now you can understand my trepidation. Jesus didn’t say, “Try to be perfect,” or “Do your best to be perfect.” No, He said, emphatically, “Be perfect.” But before we jump on the bandwagon of hopelessness and fear, we’ve got to consider a couple of things. 

First, don’t buy into the concept that as a Christ follower, you have to cinch up your belt a notch or two, try harder, or do more to earn your perfection! 

Secondly, the Lord’s jaw-dropping statement in verse 48, comes at the end of a reminder that those listening to Him put their confidence in the Law. “You have heard it said…” is a way of saying, “The Law teaches…” And, therein lies the rub. Trying to “perform” in order to be perfect in the Law leads to failure. The apostle Paul said it this way, “Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law” [Galatians 3:11].

The simple truth of the matter is that, on our own, we can't be perfect, but in Jesus, we can! In reference to the Law, Jesus said to them, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” [Matthew 5:17]. 

So take a deep breath, exhale, then rest in the glorious truth that you are perfect…not through your efforts, but through your identity with Christ! If you’re trying to be perfect by the keeping of the Law, you’ll never get there. The Law merely leads to death [2 Corinthians 3:6]. Real life—the perfection we long for— is in the Son.

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Indeed!

Encouragement for Your Daily Walk with God

I’ve been a Christ follower over 45 years now and there is something that is truly hard for me to comprehend — unhappy Christ followers! It seems to me that anyone who affirms that Christianity makes men miserable is utterly a stranger to it. I guess I could understand it if it made us wretched. But that is not the case! Christ followers hold a high position; joint heirs with Christ Himself, and sons and daughters of God. 

I have little reason to believe that God gives happiness to His enemies and reserves mourning for His saints; or that He lavishes happiness to His foes and takes delight in the sadness of His own dear family; or His enemies experience cheerfulness and joy leaving His own dear sons to languish in sorrow and wretchedness. 

Christ followers have every reason to rejoice in the Lord:

We have a glorious position in the Lord. Here’s how Paul described it, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” [Romans 8:15].

We have the support of the divine Comforter [John 16:15].

We are saved [Ephesians 1:7].

We are knit together with Christ [Colossians 2:2].

We have every spiritual blessing in Him [Ephesians 1:3].

We have had a “foretaste of glory divine” [Blessed Assurance, Fanny J. Crosby, 1873].

We would do well to remember what Moses’ said to Israel at Mt. Nebo just before they entered the Land of Promise...

Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD! Deuteronomy 33:29 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Roar of the Gospel

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Among my favorite verses in the Bible is John 3:16. Most Christ followers know it “by heart”. If you know it, say it with me: “For God so loved the world…”

There is another 3:16 verse that I like. It’s found in Leviticus, of all places, and the last line reads, “…all the fat is the LORD’S.”

In my devotional reading this morning, I ran across another 3:16 that is impressive, and the springboard for this eDevotion. This 3:16 is found in the book of Joel and is a part of his powerful, prophetic statement. I tell you that because I want you to know the context. After “multitudes and multitudes in the Valley of Decision,” and the sun, moon, and stars diminishing in light, the Lord will “…roar out of Zion and utter HIs voice from Jerusalem…”

I don’t want to diminish the prophetic nature of this passage, but it does remind me of another time the Lord “roared” out of Jerusalem. It was a thundering message of Good News to all people. Yes, I’m talking about the focal point of history: the death and resurrection of our Savior, the Christ!

While Jesus hung on the cross, we now understand God’s terrible roar when OUR SINS were punished in the horrific death of His perfect Son. But that’s not the end of the story! In His resurrection, Christ became, for all who would believe in Him, the “Door” [John 10:9] to a refuge from God’s judgment against sin—our entry point into God’s kingdom as friends and worshippers forever!

How can Christ followers remain silent in light of what He has done for us? As I tell the people in the church I pastor, “Let ‘er rip!” Maybe I should start saying, “Let ‘er roar!” Be bold in your proclamation of the Gospel because if you don’t, rocks may start roaring instead! [Luke 19.40]

The LORD roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel. Joel 3:16

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

There is a danger in complacent hearts; they are neither stirred by what God is doing, nor affected by what He promises to do. At best, a complacent heart leads to a wasted life, and at worst, to a tragedy of eternal proportions!

That’s why the Scriptures repeatedly say to live with thankful hearts [see Isaiah 51:3; Psalm 50:23; 100:4]. When the heart is not saturated in thanksgiving, it immediately begins to dry out, harden, and fail.

The Scriptures also teaches us to repent—arguably the best antidote to complacency! Repentance leads to exuberant celebration of the grace and mercy of God, while a complacent heart refuses to flinch or bleed.

A complacent heart will not soak up God’s love nor bask in His forgiveness. Repentance and thanksgiving revives us and quickens the thrill and wonder of humble worship to the Lord our God.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, the LORD will do nothing, either good or bad. Zephaniah 1:12 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Root of Our Joy - JESUS

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I woke up very early this morning. Didn’t want to; it’s just the way it is for me at times. And, as is my routine at times like that, I rolled out of the sack, got a HUGE cup of “Joe,” and opened my Bible to hear from the Lord. Am I glad I did! In fact, I was overjoyed. So joyful, I made JOY the subject of this eDevotion.

While my day started with an extreme burst of joy, I know that many Christ followers will not experience joy for one reason or another. Over time, I’ve heard some of the following words as people have described their lives to me: mechanical, empty, isolated, void, numb, depressed, and others like them. As you can see by the list, they are all attached to “feelings.” It’s understandable, normal, and human to feel this way at times. Every Christ follower I know has gone through them. But I remind you, as I’ve reminded myself at times, real joy is not rooted in emotion, it is rooted IN CHRIST!

How so? Our hope is Jesus, and in Him, there is no reason to continually live a lifeless life [see John 3:29; 15:11; 16:24; 17:13]. Our life is engaged in His. We are interacting with His resurrection power [see Ephesians 1:18-20]. Rather than letting circumstances or emotions to be the deciding factor of our joy, LOOK TO JESUS, THE ROOT OF REAL JOY! 

Joy is part of His birth: Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. [Luke 2:10]

Joy is part of His forgiveness: Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. [Luke 15:10]

Joy is part of His words: These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. [John 15:11] 

Joy is part of His death: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1-2]

Joy is part of His resurrection: So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. [Matthew 28:8]  

Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. [John 16:19-20]

So rejoice, dear Christ follower. Again I say REJOICE! Those words are not original with me. They were written by Paul a long time ago, but are just as vital today!

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! [Philippians 4:4 - New Living Translation]

Monday, September 8, 2014

If My People Will...Then I Will...

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Those of you who know me know that I tend to notice things like syntax — a fancy word for the order and arrangement of words. So when I read verses that are conditional in structure, I look for the stated condition (usually starting with “if”) and the result (usually starting with “then”). The intent of the condition is to show the relation between the two.

One of the more famous conditional clauses in Scripture starts with, “If My people will...then I will...” [2 Chronicles 7:14]. Before I go any further with this, I want to emphasize the importance of not taking the passage out of context, something we are prone to do. We must consider who spoke to whom, and why. So here, God spoke to Solomon after the dedication of the Temple. It concerned how the Israelites were to relate to God, and how God would respond to them: they would humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from wickedness, then God would hear them, forgive their sin and heal their land. 

Over the course of time, Israel did not meet the required condition and so God, true to His word, did not hear them, forgive them or heal their land. 

By way of application, fast forward to Jesus. Thankfully, He came and did what Israel didn’t do — He humbled Himself, prayed, sought the face of God, and suffered for OUR wicked ways. So when we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, He hears us, forgives us, and heals us from sin’s sickness.  

My heart cries out with the songwriter of old:

Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus
Because he first loved me

If my people who are called by my name 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 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let’s Please God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Every Christ follower must answer a basic question on a regular basis: Who am I ultimately trying to please, God or man? The answer to that question has consequences. If the answer is, I want to please God, then it will lead to confidence and peace. If the answer is, I want to please men, then it will lead to anxiety and frustration.

The apostle Paul probably knew this better than anyone. First, it needs to be mentioned that he penned a verse in the New Testament about it [1 Thessalonians 2:4]. But even more than that, he endured extreme hardships in life because he desired to please God by spreading the gospel to unreached people. He wrote about some of those hardships to the Corinthians Christ followers. During his time as a Christ follower, he had been shipwrecked, stoned, beaten, often without food and more! [2 Corinthians 11:25-27]

In the midst of his trying times, Paul remained confident, knowing that God’s grace was sufficient for him [2 Corinthians 12:9]. He understood that when the object of our motivation isn’t Jesus [to please God], we get off course, and the side effects make us weary and frustrated at best. How wonderful to know that God is aware of our motives—He sees right through us—and loves us anyway! That’s just one more reason to please God!

For we speak as messengers who have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He is the one who examines the motives of our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4   

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Lord Loves You

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I was thinking this morning about a time in Youth Camp where I made a special commitment: to completely surrender to the will of God. I felt so close to the Lord at that moment. It was a “high” of sorts, the likes of which I have rarely experienced since. Perhaps you have had that kind of experience when you, too, felt exceptionally close to Jesus.

As great as those moments can be, they are unsustainable. God didn’t create us with the capacity to remain on such a “high” as that. The feelings subside and often we find ourselves longing for that feeling to return. Unfortunately, some Christ followers misinterpret the lack of feeling; they suppose the Lord doesn’t care for them or love them any longer.

The Israelites experienced those same feelings. They had been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years until God did something huge! He rescued them, and they returned home. And just like my “camp experience,” they felt a closeness to God: they were overjoyed and worshipped God because He had shown His love for them by taking them home. 

The next thing in the storyline is a nation of people that worshipped the Lord like never before. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story: they rebuilt the Temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the walls around the city. And, hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, some of their worship services lasted ALL DAY! On certain occasions, Ezra literally preached for hours on end, and the people fell on their faces to repent and worship God. They felt close to Him. They felt loved by God. 

Then the inevitable happened. You guessed it, the feelings wore off. After all the excitement, work, and worship, Israel began to feel that God hadn’t shown up for a while, therefore, He didn’t love them anymore. God had to speak to them and He asked them a serious question, “I have loved you, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” [Malachi 1:2]

The audacity of their question is beyond credulity. They questioned the love of the God who called them as a nation, who redeemed them from Egyptian bondage with a mighty show of strength, and who had just set them free from the mighty Babylonians! But before we rebuke them, let’s remember that their sentiment is normal. I think all of us can relate to those feelings. In fact, some among us may be feeling that way right now!

God has a word for anyone with feelings of doubt and abandonment. It is simply this, Remember what I have done for you! 

If you are feeling far away from God’s love: 

* Remember that Jesus died for you 
* Remember that He saved you by His grace and nothing else 
* Remember that the Lord is no farther away from you now than the last time you felt close to Him 

I have loved you, says the LORD. But you ask: “How have You loved us?” Malachi 1:2a

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Supernatural Help

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

If you listen to the pundits of today, it doesn’t take long to realize that we live in a natural world, a world of change with its uncertainties. Fluctuating economies, workplace unemployment, terrorism, social unrest, environmental change—I could make a pretty long list, but you get the point. That’s why it’s good to know that we have supernatural help; a promise that Jesus made good on when He ascended to His Father.

The promise was made in the Upper Room discourse, some of the final words of Jesus recorded on the night before His death. I’m confident they comforted the disciples, and still comfort Christ followers today. What is the promise, you ask? It was the sending of a Supernatural Helper, the Holy Spirit. 

Supernatural help! Just what we need today. This eDevotion is too short to fully develop the idea, so I’ll just offer a few things to make the point.

A Supernatural Helper: Jesus said He would send “another” Helper. In the Greek it means, “another of the same kind, or identical.” In other words, Jesus would send us exactly the same kind of Helper He was. The difference being that Jesus lived “among” men for a short time, but the New Helper would reside “in” men their entire life. [John 14:17]

A Supernatural Teacher: This is a vital aspect of the Helper’s ministry. He will teach us the truth about Jesus, part of which is our complete dependence on Him. [John 14:26]

Supernatural Peace: I can’t say enough about the importance of Supernatural Peace. This Helper’s peace aggressively and emphatically engages our daily trials, tribulations, and troubles, and helps us to remain joyful. [John 14:27 and Philippians 4:7]

As a Christ follower, the promise of supernatural help—the Holy Spirit of promise—is available to you. Never underestimate what He can do in your life!

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth. John 14:16-17

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Prone to Forget

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Well, it happened again, and it probably won’t be the last time either - I forgot where I left my cell phone. Fortunately, it wasn’t that difficult to find. I used the house phone to call myself. As soon as I heard the familiar ring-tone, I said to myself, “Of course, that’s exactly where I was when I put it down!”

We are prone to forget things at times. While some items aren’t as critical as others, still, it’s rather frustrating! It can happen with the Gospel as well. Christ followers are prone to forget its powerful message. I’m not the first to mention this. Paul made it clear in writing to the Corinthians, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel…” 

Knowing our human condition, let me remind you of some things lest we fall into the same cycle of forgetfulness.
Because we are caught up in thinking about so many things, our families, friends, education, jobs—the things which make up our lives—we forget about Jesus. It’s not that we don’t know Him, but we are forgetful of Him.
Likewise, we can forget about the Christian community. Over 50 times in the New Testament you’ll find the words, “one another” — serve one another, love one another, et al. We are not to go at it alone, we need each other. 
We can also forget about the Scriptures. There are some Christ followers that will go days, weeks, and even months without picking up their Bibles. I like to refer to the Bible as The Human Repair Manual. The more we dig into it, the more likely we’ll run on all cylinders.
Don’t forget about sin as well. Apart from faith in Christ, we are sinners. When we are mindful of that, we know our daily need of a Savior.
Finally, don’t forget that you are forgiven! You are a new creation in Christ. Don’t fall into the trap that you are above forgiveness. Since God has forgiven you, then you are forgiven — end of story!
One way to fight forgetfulness is to remember Jesus. Make it a habit to remember that He lived for you, He died for you, He rose from the grave for you. He did it in order to forgive your sins and make new life with Him possible. 

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Go to Christ First!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

You have to use your imagination to put yourself in their position and see their condition. They were tired and grumpy, and hot and hungry. There were no Starbucks around to get a quick fix of caffeine. There were no convenience stores to pick up an energy drink. Not one physical therapist was close by to message their tired and strained muscles. And now, after another long day of ministry, they found themselves in the middle of the night rowing against a monstrous storm. Who am I speaking about? The disciples and Jesus. 

It had been many days of ministry with Jesus. Neither He nor His disciples had had a break, and they were exhausted. They had been preaching, teaching, and tending to crowds of people, as well as taking care of the elderly and children. 

After another long day, they got on a boat for a short get-away—a little R&R. That evening, while rowing to their destination, a storm threatened to capsize them, so they fought desperately to stay afloat. It was pitch black - no lights on their boat, no lights from the nearby shoreline to illuminate them; even the heavens refused them light. It was a losing battle and they were at the end of their rope. They didn’t even get help from Jesus because, in exhaustion, He had gone below to take a nap and was sound asleep. 

Finally in a moment of desperation, the disciples awakened Jesus from His sleep. “Wake up, Jesus! The boat is taking on water and we’re about to go under!” [my loose translation of Luke 8:24]. Jesus woke up and went into action, rebuking the wind and waves. The storm didn’t passively die down. No! It came to a screeching halt! 

There is a lesson for every Christ follower here.  Life and ministry can be exhausting at times. We try to balance so many things; family, work, church, ministry, leisure, and more. And we become weary and exhausted, much like the disciples. And then, out of no where, calamity strikes! A storm of life threatens to take us under. And like the disciples, we labor desperately to stay afloat. We work at it and worry ourselves sick until, in a moment of desperation, we call out to Jesus. 

Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Go to Jesus first! Go to Him in prayer. Go to Him in Scripture. Why go to Jesus first? Because He created and rules the universe, and He is willing to help. 

But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” Luke 8:25