Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lord of Good and Bad Days

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I read just about anything I can get my hands on. A lot of times it means I read stuff I don’t understand. A little while back, I read a couple of books by astrophysicists explaining the origin of the universe. It wasn’t easy reading, let me tell you. I understood so little of it that, afterwards, I thought, why bother? However, there were a couple of things that really got my mind in tune with God—just how immense and powerful He is!

Consider this:

The Hubble Space Telescope has sent images of faint galaxies to earth, which astronomers believe to be twelve billion lightyears away. For all you mathematical types, that’s 12,000,000,000 X 6,000,000,000,000 - in case I got the numbers wrong, that’s twelve billion times six trillion miles!

Or how about this “little” fact. There is a star out there that has a diameter of 100,000,000 miles. The star even has a name, Betelgeuse. It’s the ninth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in Orion’s constellation. Just how big is that? Well, if you put Betelgeuse at the center of our solar system, it’s surface would go beyond the asteroid belt, perhaps beyond the orbit of Jupiter. That means it would engulf Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars!

By now you may be rolling your eyes as I did while reading the books. But please hold on, there is a punchline. Why is the universe so immense? Why is it so vast, virtually unmeasurable? Let me offer two suggestions; one practical and one pastoral. Practical: For all intents and purposes, the universe has to be as large as it is in order to sustain life as we know it. Pastoral: The universe is so vast in order that you and I, daily stunned, can be stirred with the realization that the Lord of the universe is the Lord of my good and bad days!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

How about some good news today! Here it is. You are not stuck, you can change! 

You are not stuck with today’s personality. You are not stuck with your anger. You are not stuck with bitterness, which my dear Mother called “grumpydom.” You are not stuck with pessimism. Even if you have worried every day of your life, you’re not stuck to worry the rest of you life. Are you a liar? You needn’t die one. 

By the way, where do we get the idea that we can't change? We hear excuses about it all the time. Things like: “It’s just my nature to …” “I’ve always been …” or “I’m just that way.” Who said so? Think about it for a moment. We would never conclude, “It’s just my nature to have a broken arm, I can’t do anything about it,” would we? Of course not! Just like there is help for our broken bodies, there is help for our wounded, sinful hearts. That is good news! You don’t have to live another moment with a sour attitude or experience another selfish tirade. 

If you think that you can’t change, simply remember ol’ Pete — the Apostle Peter, that is. Impetuous, explosive, liar, betrayer! But he didn’t remain that way. The answer for him is the same for us; go to where Jesus is and get close to Him. Make yourself available to His life-changing power!

But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Put on Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I recently went to Disneyland and it was surprising how many people dressed up for the occasion. Mouse ears, T-Shirts with a Disney character or logo on it, and princess dresses, there were thousands of them—it was obvious that Frozen’s princess Elsa was the favorite!

It got me to thinking, I wonder if God cares about how we are dressed? Apparently He does and the Bible tells us exactly the kind of wardrobe God desires of us. The apostle Paul told the Roman Christ followers to, “…clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and forget about satisfying your sinful self” [Romans 13:14].

He also wrote this to the Galatian Christ followers, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” [Galatians 3:26-27].

It’s obvious that what I’m talking about has nothing to do with haute couture. Neither is it a matter of denim, cotton, or silk. It is a heavenly garment that only heaven can give, but its beauty is visible to all. 

I watched and heard several children that day, as they pointed to something being worn by someone else, “Mommy, Daddy! I want one of those.” I wonder if our garment is so enticing that others want to wear what we have on!

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD. My soul shall be joyful in my God for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation. He has covered me with the robe of righteousness… Isaiah 61:10

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guard Your Heart and Mind

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

For whatever reason, some Christ followers do not guard the door of their heart and mind, and their lives are trashed out. Let any riffraff come to visit, and they throw the door wide open. Anger drops by, and they say, “Come on in.” Bitterness needs a place to stay, they’ll pull up a chair. Pity arranges a party, they’re all in, and they invite many friend to boot. Lust rings the door bell, and they change the sheets and fluff the pillows. Have we forgotten how to say, “NO!”?

And what about those pesky thoughts! The thought of thought management is, for some, unthought of — pardon the pun. Maybe it’s time to start thinking more about our thoughts. We think about time management, weight management, and some even bother with scalp management; so why not think about our thoughts and manage them too. 

Guard your heart! Guard your thoughts! Like a trained soldier at a post of duty, stand guard over your heart and mind. Be watchful and alert to every subtle tactic of the enemy to infiltrate your life. Dress yourself in the armor of God to resist the enemy in the day of evil [Ephesians 6:13]. I particularly like The MESSAGE Paraphrase of that verse:

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet

Yes, you are up against a formidable enemy. But do not fear, dear Christ follower. Stand as a sentinel in strong faith, and make no room for the enemy. We are more than conquerers through Christ who loved us [Romans 8:37].

Be sober, be vigilant; because your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… 1 Peter 5:8-9

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bitterness Prison

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Bitterness is like a prison. Walk with me for just a moment and see what the dungeon of bitterness is like. 

The walls are slippery with resentment.
The floor is a sludge of anger.
The stench of betrayal burns the lungs and stings the eyes.
The fog of self-pity forbids a view of the exit.
Victims of bitterness are chained to its walls. 

Bitterness is like that, a dark, deep dungeon that welcomes you inside. It’s easy to go in, isn’t it? You’ve experienced enough hurt that you can, if you choose, be sentenced to a life-term of bitterness. 

Paul exhorted the Ephesian Christ followers to rid themselves of bitterness. It’s an exhortation we need to hear and practice as well. Perhaps your bitterness began when you experienced a hurt of some kind: an unkind word, physical or emotional abuse, an unwelcome sickness, a loss, et al. 

The best thing that we can do is to lay aside the hurts before they become hates. It’s a choice each of us has to make if we want to stay out of “Bitterness Prison.” It’s easier said than done, but we are aided by the Holy Spirit of promise to do just that. 

Dear Christ follower, please remember that what you have is more important than what has been done to you. You have Christ. More importantly, He has you! And like the old George and Ira Gershwin song says, “They can’t take that away from me.” 

Let all bitternessbe put away from you… Ephesians 4:31

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beyond Your Wildest Dream

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

This weekend, I’m speaking at a memorial service for one of our congregants who has received her eternal reward. It’s one of the many responsibilities of a Pastor, and one that, for me, helps to keep my mind from wandering too far from heaven. “Heaven is a wonderful place; I want to go there…” — words to a song we used to sing many years ago. 

It also reminds me that we often get accustomed to the false securities of earth. Rest on this earth is not rest. Beware of those who would have you think that you will find ultimate happiness here; your happiness is just a diet away, a marriage away, a job away, a toy away…

Instead, remember that the Lord is preparing a place for YOU! Try to imagine it, if you will. A perfect place; absolute peace, true holiness, meaningful work, perfect praise, the presence of our God and Savior, and much more! Do you have have it firmly fixed in your mind? 

OK, now exhale, smile, and remember that no one has ever imagined [it hasn’t remotely entered into the heart of man] “the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. 

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

With All Your Might

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Everyone knows a few of them. You know, little maxims or anecdotes that are held in your memory vault. Things like: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Or, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” One of my favorites is this one: “One good deed is more valuable than a thousand ideas.” 

It’s great that our heart has many useful ideas, but it really does no good unless those ideas are carried out in the real world. The wise Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” [Ecclesiastes 9:10].

Many Christ followers miss out on blessings because they are waiting for greater opportunities or a different kind of work, rather than the things they “find to do” day by day. This is a great place for another maxim: “There is no time like the present.” We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; this is what we have to deal with, the present. Now is the time to serve the Lord, dear Christ follower. And if you are going to do it, serve Him with a joyful attitude. [See Psalm 100:2] 

Serve the Lord; serve Him now, but be careful how you do it. Remember, Solomon said, do it “with all your might!” Whatever it is that your hand finds to do, throw your whole soul into it. And if you think you’re incapable of doing it, remember His strength is made perfect in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9]. 

Here’s something that may help you serve the Lord wholeheartedly today. The Christ follower’s strength is in the Lord, so:

Seek His help
Proceed with prayer
Work with faith

Having done these things, the things “your hand finds to do” will not fail in their effect! 

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1Corinthians 10:31

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Teach Us to Pray

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The disciples watched Jesus’ every move; after all, they followed Him everywhere. Perhaps that’s why I use the term Christ follower more than Christian when referring to people who have committed their lives to Christ. And there is no more important place to follow Jesus than in your prayer life! I’m convinced that the weakest practice among Christ followers is the discipline of prayer. 

The disciples wanted to be like Jesus, just as you do, so one day they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1]. And He did. He gave them a blueprint, a model prayer. We call it The Lord’s Prayer, but it’s really The Christ-follower’s Prayer. It’s found in Matthew 6, and I’m sure that most of you can recite it from memory. 

The implications of The Christ-follower’s Prayer are profound, powerful, and far reaching. When I wrote my book, But YOU, When You Pray, I ran across an anonymous piece, and I used it as the closing words of the book:

I cannot say OUR if my religion has no room for others and their need. 

I cannot say FATHER if I do not demonstrate this relationship in my daily living.

I cannot say WHO ART IN HEAVEN if all my interest and pursuits are in earthly things. 

I cannot say HALLOWED BE THY NAME if I do not give Him honor, glory, and trust. 

I cannot say THY KINGDOM COME if I am unwilling to have His Kingdom grow in my heart, my home, my church, my country, my world. 

I cannot say THY WILL BE DONE if I am unwilling or resentful of having it done in my life. 

I cannot say ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN unless I am truly ready to give myself to His service here and now. 

I cannot say GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD without expending honest effort for it or by ignoring the genuine needs of our brothers and sisters. 

I cannot say FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone. 

I cannot say LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted. 

I cannot say DELIVER US FROM EVIL if I am not prepared to fight in the spiritual realm with the weapon of the Word and prayer.

I cannot say THINE IS THE KINGDOM if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject. 

I cannot say THINE IS THE POWER if I fear what my neighbors and friends may say or do. 

I cannot say THINE IS THE GLORY if I am seeking my own glory first. 

I cannot say FOREVER if I am too anxious about each day's affairs. 

I cannot say AMEN unless I honestly say, "Cost what it may, this is my prayer." 

And all God's readers said ... "AMEN!" 

Let’s get to praying, Christ followers. And when you do, make His kingdom your focus. Make His power your strength. Make His glory your goal. If you do, the doxology of the prayer will resound as a song in your heart: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen! [Matthew 6:13].

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Monday, November 10, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I long to be a witness for Christ. How about you, dear Christ follower? The best book I’ve read to learn how to be a witness is the Bible, and the best example of a witness is Christ. It’s not that I learned “techniques” of witnessing by reading about Christ, I simply see Him being a witness. He was always witnessing; on a mountain, by the side of a lake, even on the lake, by a well, in the desert, at the temple, in a garden, while He was walking, sitting, and standing, in the morning, in the evening, He was vocal about the things of God in His daily routine. He talked about His God to religious leaders, a single woman, a small group, a large crowd, a governor and king. His witness was not diminished by circumstances; He witnessed to hostile crowds, in a mock trial, even while hanging on a cross to pay the price for your sins and mine. He was a witness by being vocal and by living righteously—He walked the talk, His testimony was clear. 

That’s the best way to be a witness for your Lord. Be clear about the things of God by means of your words and your actions. Be transparent of your heart’s love for God in word and deed. Take time to study the greatest example of witnessing we have, Jesus, and be filled with His Spirit. And remember this; you’ll need a lot of grace and humility if your witness is to be for your Master’s glory!

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Friday, November 7, 2014

Church Vitality

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I have been reading the book of Acts in my daily devotions recently and, quite frankly, I find it rather challenging. The church was alive, vibrant, growing by leaps and bounds, fearless…I could go on. How did they do it? How did they remain healthy amid the challenges of that day? The church faced various forms of persecution; Peter and John were beaten for preaching; Stephen was stoned to death; Paul was chained in prison; and more!

As I read Acts 9:31, the last sentence gripped my attention: And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. There are two things here that give us a clue as to the vitality of the early church; two things that caused them to grow in spite of their challenges. They “walked in the fear of the Lord,” and “they were comforted by the Holy Spirit.”

You may be asking, as I did, How do those two things work together to make the church what it was in the book of Acts? 

Here’s my take on it. Walking in the fear of the Lord meant that they feared God more than they feared their circumstances. That gave them immense power to endure whatever came their way. Furthermore, living in the comfort of the Holy Spirit meant that the Holy Spirit was alive, active, in their lives. He was fulfilling His ministry of teaching them the eternal truth of God’s Word, gifting them for every challenge they faced, and helping them joyfully anticipate their hope beyond this life.  

In light of these two things, they could be fearless, and that fearlessness produced in them a willingness to speak and to serve. When they spoke and served, the church was healthy. And being healthy, the church multiplied. 

It really made me think of what the church would look like today if we put those two things into practice. How about it, Christ follower. If the Christ followers in Acts could do it, WE CAN DO IT! Let’s pray to that end.

Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Legacies. We’ll all leave one, but what kind? How will the memory of your life be passed down in posterity? Perhaps it’s something one thinks about the older he gets. I know that is true of me.   

Perhaps you’re thinking “I’m a nobody, who cares?” Or, “I’m not a scientist, inventor, philosopher, politician, banker—I’m not a person of status—why does it matter?” The truth of the matter is you will leave a legacy one way or another!

Dr. James Moffatt [1870-1944], a distinguished theologian, pastor, and professor, once said, "Death is never the last word in the life of a [saint]. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”

We can go back to the beginning of human history to witness that truth. Here are two names: Cain and Abel. If you are a Christ follower, and have read the biblical account, you know their legacies, don’t you?

Cain was the first to take the life of another. He was the first who attempted to please God apart from faith by offering a sacrifice of his own choosing. Abel, on the other hand, was the first man of faith, offering the appropriate sacrifice to God. Even in his brief time on earth, the Bible affirms his righteous life [Hebrews 11:4]. 

Cain left a legacy alright; one of rebellion, heartache, and judgement. Abel’s legacy was righteousness and saving faith. Now comes the big question: What legacy will you leave for future generations? The character of your life will determine the legacy you leave to others.

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Everlasting Arms

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

God is, Himself, our support at all times. Whether we sink in humiliation, or are beset in deep trouble, or fallen in sinfulness, or feel a sense of worthlessness; when we are at our worst and lowest, underneath you are the everlasting arms of God. By the way, Christ follower, that you are undergirded in His everlasting arms implies that even though you fall to the uttermost, to the uttermost He saves. This is how the author of Hebrews said it:

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. [Hebrews 7:25 - emphasis mine]

What assurance; what support; what comfort! It implies sufficient strength for each and every day; sufficient grace for every need; sufficient power for every task. Like David of old we can proclaim that, “I will fear no evil for You are with me!” [Psalm 23:4]

From our first day as a Christ follower until the final breath of our last day as a Christ follower, we are upheld by the “everlasting arms.” Arms that neither faint nor grow weary! [Isaiah 40:28]

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, “Destroy!” Deuteronomy 33:27 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Yesterday, I started thinking about what I’m going to preach this Christmas to the congregation I pastor in Julian, CA - Hillside Community Church. For me, it’s a process. I start reading and re-reading the biblical record, the stories relating to the first coming of our Christ to earth as a man. 

It was in my third or fourth reading that a phrase struck me. I don’t know if it will be the core of my sermons, but at least it’s the thought for today’s eDevotion. It comes from Luke’s account, and is a quote from Jesus. He talked about the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him, and as a result He came to “proclaim liberty to the captives.” [Luke 4:18]

When it comes to the real liberty we need, only He can provide it. We were captives to sin, and no one but Jesus can give liberty to people captivated by sin. Why by Jesus only, you ask? Because it has been dearly purchased! Christ can speak about liberty because He has the power to liberate, but He purchased our liberty by His blood. You are liberated from sin because He suffered in your place. And if the Son has liberated you, you are completely liberated [adapted from John 8:36].

The enemies of God and man may come against your liberation with fury, but if He has liberated you, who is he who condemns? [Romans 8:34]

Now comes the punchline. Our liberty must be exhibited in how we serve the living God. We serve Him with GRATITUDE and DELIGHT! “You have set this captive free. What will you have me to do?”

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because 
He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. Luke 4:18-19

Monday, November 3, 2014

Soul Food

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The Bible is to our soul what food is to the body. In fact, the Bible describes itself in food-like terms: water, milk, bread, meat. In other words, the Bible is everything we need for our spiritual sustenance. So, just like we need food for strength to accomplish physical tasks, we need to “eat”—take in—the Bible for spiritual strength. 

Every Christ follower should know that we will not succeed in winning the spiritual battles of life if we are starving to death. WE NEED THE WORD OF GOD! Perhaps Paul had that in mind when he wrote to the Colossian Christ followers, “Let the word of God dwell in you richly…” [Colossians 3:16 - emphasis mine].

Two words that stand out in this text are dwell and richly. The Greek word translated dwell,  means, to take up residence. The Greek adverb translated richly, means, abundantly. Another way to see it is that God’s Word should be fully at home in us in a bountiful, intense, and life-giving way.  

For the Word of God to dwell in you richly, let me suggest these four things:

1. Receive the Word with your ears — listen to God’s Word being faithfully preached

2. Read the Word with your eyes — have regular, daily devotions in the Word [I suggest that you read the Bible in its entirety each year] 

3. Reflect on the Word with your mind — meditate on what you read in the Bible

4. Remember the Word in you heart — commit the Word to memory

By the way, one of the greatest deterrents to sin and temptation is to be full of the Word of God. The Psalmist offered this testimony, “I’ve hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You!” [Psalm 119:11] 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16