Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Today I Choose

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I don’t make New Year resolutions. However, I do rehearse these Christian values each New Year:

I choose to LOVE: I am loved by God and will love what He loves. I will only hate the things that He hates: sin, not His created beings.

I choose to be JOYFUL: I owe it to my Creator and His created beings to live joyfully. Anything less is a slap to His face. In order to be joyful, I must allow Him to be God in all my circumstances.

I choose to be PEACEFUL: I have been forgiven ALL my sin. I will forgive and be a peacemaker.

I choose to be PATIENT: Life is filled with inconveniences; I will neither curse nor complain. Instead of grinding my teeth, I will face every inconvenience with Christ at my side. If He doesn't complain about the circumstances, neither will I. 

I choose to be KIND: I will be kind to the lonely. I will be kind to the poor and rich. Furthermore, I will be kind to those who are unkind. God treats me with kindness.

I choose GOODNESS: I will go broke before desiring “filthy lucre.” I will stand in the shadows before I boast. I will remove the beam from my eye before I make an accusation about the splinter in yours. 

I choose to be FAITHFUL: My word is my bond, I will keep my promises. My debtors can trust me for payment. My wife need not worry of my love and affection. My children will never worry that Dad is not there for them.

I choose to be GENTLE: A soft answer turns away wrath, so I will raise my voice only in praise to God. 

I choose SELF-CONTROL: If I am drunk, let it be for joy. If I am passionate, let it be for the faith, once and for all time delivered to the saints. If I am influenced, let it be by God, not a modern-day guru. I will control what influences my life.

Did you notice anything about my list? If not, you can find it in the Bible!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

He Knows Me

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I’m touched, once again, in reading the book of Hebrews, which reminds me that Jesus understands me completely.  He knows me and understands my human frailty. Tears filled my eyes this morning as I read about our great High Priest, Jesus. 

I particularly like the way J. B. Phillips rendered Hebrews 4:15, “For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—He Himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that He never sinned.

Whether we say it or not, we sometimes act as if God doesn’t know what it’s like for us. It’s easy for Him because He’s up there and doesn’t know what it’s like down here. That’s why this passage is so helpful to Christ followers. He lovingly and boldly announced that He knows me, and He knows you too. 

He didn’t send an angel, ambassador, or emissary. He, Himself came. 

He didn’t almost, partially, nearly share our human experience. No! He shared it entirely; our hurts, aches and pains, disappointments—no exceptions! He did it to be our sympathetic High Priest. And one more thing, unlike us, He did it perfectly, without sin. 

I want to be more like Jesus, don’t you? It’s one of my goals for the New Year. To be like Jesus, that’s all I ask, to be like Him! 

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

Monday, December 29, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

This is the time of year when people either start thinking about New Year resolutions or start making a list of New Year resolutions. Since I’m a guy who doesn’t like to fail at things, I make resolutions that I can keep. Here are the first two on my list: January 1, 2015 - I’m going to procrastinate more … starting tomorrow! And, January 1, 2015 - I’m going to watch less TV … switching to 4.3 aspect ratio.

For the most part, people make resolutions for health, success, and prosperity. There is a permanent source of encouragement for these issues at our fingertips, the Bible. That’s right, God’s special love letter to you is a ready resource for the things that matter most, because it helps us to see important issues from an eternal perspective…God’s perspective. 

If you want to make a resolution that really matters, consider this one: Beginning today, I will spend more time in God’s Word. What difference will that make, you ask? 

For one thing, you will be a stronger person. King David said if a person delights in the Word of God, “…he will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” [Psalm 1:3]. 

That, in and of itself, should be enough to inspire a delight in God’s Word, but wait, there’s more! The author of Hebrews said it will help keep our thoughts and attitudes on track. Listen to this, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” [Hebrews 4:12]. 

Isn’t it great that we have at our disposal a unique, powerful book, this Bible! It is filled with everything we need to live godly in this world. Peter knew that only too well. He wrote “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises [found in the Bible]. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires [2 Peter 1:3-4].

If you’re going to make a resolution this year, make a life-changing one. Get wrapped up in God’s Word.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

Friday, December 26, 2014

More than a Babe

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I want to wrap up my 2014 Christmas thoughts with one more thing about baby Jesus. That’s how we mostly think of Jesus at Christmas, isn’t it? A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. But we must never forget that He came on a mission: to be the perfect sacrifice so that your sins and my sins could be taken away.

Those little baby hands that reached out to Mary and helped Joseph in the family craftsman business, were later hammered with nails to a cruel cross. His little feet that stumbled while learning to walk and later walked the dusty roads of Israel, would eventually walk up Golgotha and be brutishly nailed to a cross. That little little face so adored by His parents, would be beaten, bruised, spat upon, and adorned with a crown of thorns. The precious body of the baby so carefully wrapped and lovingly laid in a manger, would be pierced. 

Dear Christ follower, Jesus came as the substitute in death for your sins — never forget that! It has become critical for us to affirm that great doctrine. He was not, as liberal theology and some emerging churches teach, simply a martyr for God’s cause or merely an example of God’s love. His death made it possible that we could live with, and live for, God. 

No wonder the shepherds and wise men came to worship Him. Let’s do the same! 

For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 [New Living Translation - 2nd Edition]

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Wonder of Christmas

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

There was a heartwarming story in the November, 2013 issue of the Baptist Press. It was about a missionary in Southeast Asia who saw nativity sets being sold in an open marketplace. It was an unusual item in that the area was staunchly Buddhist with no knowledge of Christianity. The missionary talked with the vendor and was able to locate the family who made the nativity sets. She discovered that they started making the figurines after a tourist suggested it. They, themselves, had no idea of what the nativity was about or what it meant. It was merely a business opportunity for them. Since the family knew nothing of the Christmas event, the characters were made based solely on the description given to them by the tourist. 

The missionary became friends with that family and, over time, had the privilege of taking each character of the creche and, one by one, telling the family the story of Christmas. She continued doing so until now, the entire village is responding. 

When did you first hear the Christmas story? Was it so long ago that it has lost its wonder? God revealed in human flesh — “…and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us,” the angel told Joseph [Matthew 1:23]. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” Jesus told Nicodemus [John 3:16].

Keep the wonder of Christmas fresh in your heart. We have a Savior, Christ the Lord [Luke 2:11], who is worthy of our worship, and whose message is worth repeating!

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Luke 2:15-16

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Overcrowded at Christmas

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Yesterday Janet and I went to Costco to do our normal grocery shopping. I have only one word for that event—OVERCROWDED! We had to circle the parking lot a few times to find a place to park. When we did, it was in the row farthest from the store…about a mile away! Then we got inside. It was a madhouse! People everywhere, running up and down the aisles looking for, presumably, those last minute gift items. It was like electrons bouncing around the nucleus of an atom. I’m so glad that I finished my Christmas shopping in October this year. I was so proud. The only problem is that it was for Christmas, 2012!

That encounter reminded me of how overcrowded our lives can get at times, especially at Christmas time. We can rationalize and say, “It’s not my fault, it’s just the way it is,” but the truth of the matter is that we overbook, overspend, and overestimate all the time. The catastrophic result is that we are too overcrowded for Jesus.

There is no condemnation in that statement. I’m not saying we overcrowd ourselves with evil. We often fill our lives with many good things—too many! And before you know it, you find yourself saying, “Where did the time go? I missed my devotions today. I was so busy, I couldn’t take time to pray. I met with 20 friends today, but I missed my best friend, Jesus.” Christ followers need to understand that, when it comes to fulfilling God’s purpose in their lives, most likely you don’t have to do more; you have to do less!

Allow me to offer a little pastoral counsel. Enjoy the Christmas season. Wrap your gifts. Make your home festive. Make meaningful memories with family and friends. But don’t overcrowd yourself to the point that you miss Jesus. He is the “Reason for the Season,” you know. Long after the memory of this Christmas fades, worshipping Jesus will truly last!

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:7

Monday, December 22, 2014

It’s Worth the Trip

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I love the Christmas story because we learn so much from it. Take the Magi, for example. Here were some guys so intrigued by an astrological discovery, they traveled about 600 miles to see what it was all about. They knew it was significant—announcing a newborn king of the Jews—and they came to worship Him. Don’t read into the story that they came for a worship service…they weren’t Christians! The Greek word proskuneo is used when paying homage to a potentate as demonstrated by bowing to kiss a ring. What is significant here is that they diligently looked for, and didn’t miss Him.

Outside of the shepherds, the Magi, and a few animals, most others missed Jesus because they weren’t looking for Him. The inn-keeper and other businessmen missed Him as did the religious leaders. Herod, the reigning king, missed Him too. 

These Magi, also known as Wise Men, did a wise thing. They decided to seek out, or search for, the King. It’s a wise thing for us as well. There is a popular saying at this time of year: “Wise men still seek Him.” True!

They left the comforts of home for a long, tough journey across a vast desert. It took great effort on their part, but they had the right motive: they came to worship, pay homage to, the King. Now, that’s wise. It’s what we need to do as well. We can’t let anything get in the way of our worship of Christ. It’s the most important achievement in the world.

Later, Jesus taught a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. He said it was like a pearl of such worth, that someone would give up everything to find it. Evidently the Wise Men understood that long before the parable was told. 

What would you give up in order to worship Jesus? Whatever you have to give up to worship Him, it's worth the trip!

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 1:1-2

Friday, December 19, 2014

Perfectly Translated

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

My dear Janet and I were missionaries for four years in what was known then as West Germany. We traveled throughout Europe teaching and preaching and, believe me, we could tell you some interesting stories. But there is one that fits the holiday we are celebrating now, Christmas. 

I was in a service listening to a speaker and translator. The speaker was very animated, the translator, not so much. While he could translate the English words into his language, he didn’t always translate their meaning. At one point the evangelist said, “Give God a hand!” The translator repeated the words literally and the audience looked at one another with expressions of, give him what? The words were correct, but the meaning failed to connect. 

By now, you may be asking, how does this fit in with Christmas? Here’s how. Jesus came and was the perfect translator for God. He connected the message and the meaning. By being made flesh, Jesus put on “skin” to reveal God, who had been veiled in the Temple through ritual. Jesus translated God in perfect words, actions, and passion. 

Furthermore, He didn’t just come to translate God to men, but also to reconcile men to God. As the perfect Translator, He broke the barrier between man and God—our sin—and removed it by dying in our stead on the cross of Calvary. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” [1 Timothy 2:5-6].

From an eternal perspective, Jesus’ time on earth was a short-term mission trip. However, He left His disciples, and you and me, with a fantastic challenge. He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” [John 20:21]. Christ followers now continue the mission trip that God sent His Son on over 2,000 years ago. Let's be good translators!

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3a

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Devotion to Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Could you use a little more courage right now? I know I can. I think it is something all Christ followers need from time to time. You need it when making difficult life choices. You especially need it when you feel butterflies in your stomach about speaking out for the Lord.

The disciples must have been like that too. On many occasions we find the Lord telling them to, “Fear not!” It’s a message all Christ followers need because we are just like them. Oh, I know we often think of the disciples as “saints,” but before they appeared on stained-glass windows, they were next door neighbors. They were guys eking out a living, mostly by hard work as fishermen. They weren’t raised on supernatural milk. They weren’t graduates of the finest seminaries. They were men [humans] like you and me. It seems they just had an ounce more devotion to Christ than their fears, resulting in their doing extraordinary things!

Devotion is love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause. When our devotion to Christ supersedes our fears—if only by an ounce—we, too, will do extraordinary things for Him. 

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

No Cranky Christ Followers

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It’s Christmas time, I love it! I love the sights, sounds, and smells that comes with it! I celebrate both the secular and sacred — mostly sacred, though, because of the message it brings to the world. I love the words that are associated with Christmas and wish that they would be so apparent the rest of the year. Take the word JOY, for example. “Joy to the world,” announced Isaac Watts in 1719, “the Lord is come.” Long before him, an angel proclaimed, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” [Luke 2:10]. The apostle Paul summed up kingdom life in just three words: “goodness,” “peace,” and “joy” [Romans 14:17 New Living Translation].

To borrow from a famous commercial line: “Joy, don’t leave home without it!” In his book, Happiness Is A Serious Problem, Dennis Prager posits that you owe the world, and especially your Creator, a happy [joyful] spirit. When you go through life with a cranky attitude, it is a bad reflection on God. It makes Him look bad. 

Sure, it’s easy to lose joy. One phone call, one eMail, one conversation and, bam!, there goes the joy. One TV commercial which convinces you that you are sub-human because you don’t eat, drink, wear, or drive what they offer and, bam!, joy goes out the window. 

There are many killjoys in life so you must work hard at being joyful. The place to start is where King David started when he was at a low point in his life, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and sustain me with a willing spirit” [Psalm 51:10, 12].

No cranky Christ followers, please, because “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” [Nehemiah 8:10]. Go ahead, say it, “Lord, YOUR joy is my strength.” Don’t you feel better already!

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 [New Living Translation].

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why I Hate Sin

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Sin is a killer. Sin does to your life what scissors do to a rose. Cut the stem of a rose and you separate it from its source of life. Sure, when you see it immediately after the cut, it will still look beautiful. Its color will be vibrant, and its petals strong. But just give it a little time. It won’t be long before the color fades, the leaves wilt, and the petals fall off. And think about it for a moment, no matter what you do, you can’t make that rose live again. Water it all you want. Replant the stem. Super glue it to the rose bush. You can even baptize it in fertilizer if you wish. No matter what you do, the rose is dead.

Sin has that effect on the soul and that’s why I hate it so much. When we are cut off from God, our life-giving source, the soul withers and dies. The consequences of sin is deadly, that’s why I hate it so much. The result of sin in your life is not just a bad day, or a bad mood, no! The result of sin is death—a dead soul. 

You can be sure of a dead soul because there is evidence: cursing lips, poisoned mouths, feet that lead to cruelty, and eyes that look to anything but God. When sin completes its work, all that remains is a dead soul. James wrote, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” [1:15]. That’s why I hate sin so much. 

True, there is no remedy to bring new life to a rose that has been cut off from the bush. But that is not true of Christ followers because, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9]. I say, “HALLELUJAH!” What do you say?

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Romans 6:23

Monday, December 15, 2014

Your Face, His Glory

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I reconnected with a high school chum the other day on FaceBook. When I saw his name I immediately remembered him, but I wouldn’t have recognized him by his profile photo. I remembered him as he was in high school. I took my dusty Samuel F. B. Morse High School Year Book from the shelf and began a little walk down memory lane. 

It stuck me that the year book was filled with faces. Now, I’m certainly glad for that, because that is mostly how we are known. It didn’t show our hands or feet, but the most recognizable part of who we are - our faces.

So why am I talking about faces this morning? Well, it so happened in my devotional time this morning, in 2 Corinthians, that the subject of faces came up. It made me pause and think about how worship effects our faces. Scripture often speaks about our “countenance.” And I think one of the things that true worship does is to change it.

It did Moses’ when he ascended the mountain. When he was in the presence of God, his face reflected God’s glory to the people. It shone so brightly, he had to wear a veil to keep from blinding the people. 

It did Jesus’ when He ascended the mountain. When He appeared to His disciples, His face shone like the noon day's sun.

And that’s what worship does for the Christ follower. The connection between the face and worship is not a coincidental matter. Our face is the most public part of the body, covered less than any other area. When we are exposed to true worship, God takes this most memorable part of the body, and uses it to be a reflection of His glory and goodness.

Forget about looking like a famous sports figure, TV or movie personality, singer or dancer. Instead, worship God and be a reflection of His dear Son, Jesus. That’s what really matters!

All of us, with no covering on our faces, show the shining-greatness of the Lord as in a mirror. All the time we are being changed to look like Him, with more and more of His shining-greatness. This change is from the Lord Who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 [New Life Translation]

Friday, December 12, 2014

Godly Communication

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Living in a small, mountain community has its perks, but good cell reception isn’t one of them. Sure, we get reception, but calls are often dropped, or you often hear or say, “You’re breaking up on me!” Good cell reception depends on where you are “on the hill.” Christ followers have that problem with God, sometimes. “Can You hear me now,” is a phrase that comes to mind when you aren’t correctly positioned to communicate with God. 

There are many things that mess with godly communication. The Bible is filled with statements and stories that illustrate that fact. Here are two of the “biggies” — two things which harden our hearts or makes us unwilling to listen to Him:


Pride: Pride is that ingredient that makes you think you can handle things on your own, that you don’t need God’s input in your life. It keeps you from openness to the possibility that God really does have something to say about your circumstances.

Bitterness: Bitterness is when you keep holding on to the pain or hurt you have experienced. Left alone, bitterness will harden your heart, make it cold and defensive. It is like a fence that blocks out the warmth of God’s love.   

One more word about bitterness: If bitterness is killing you, let it go. Not for their sake, but for yours. Bitterness/Resentment is a self-inflicted wound in which you allow people or experiences of the past to continue to hurt you in the present. Let it go!

How, is the question. How do we battle the giants of pride and bitterness? Let me suggest a single, yet powerful word: Humility! Humility puts us where we need to be for “good reception.” Humility means to drop your pride. In other words, stop trying to figure things out on your own. Humility means that you release your bitterness. Stop pointing fingers at everything and everyone and recognize that God has a way, a plan, a goal in mind for each of us.

Granted, God’s way is not always our way, but it is the best way!

Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. James 1:21 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

All Wrapped Up

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Christmas has its own character. For Christ followers, it’s about “A Savior is Born!” In the business world, it’s about stuff. And all that stuff has to be wrapped up. I’ve had stuff so beautifully wrapped, I didn’t want to tear the paper off. On the other hand, I’m rather embarrassed at my gift of gift wrapping. I’m a lot like the Staples Christmas commercials that show gifts under a tree. The items are wrapped so that you can immediately identify them: an electric drill, a doll, and my favorite, a dog…with its tail wagging!

A good question to think about this morning is, how are you wrapped up? I humbly suggest that you wrap yourself up in Jesus [my loose translation of Romans 13:14 - Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. [NIV]

A Christ follower so clothed is not self-centered, but other-minded. An other-minded person is a blessing to others as Christ would have them to be. John Ruskin is said to have come up with this little quip, "A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small package." Small, indeed, and of limited value to others.

A Spirit-filled person is not wrapped up in himself. Timothy was such a Christ follower. Here’s what Paul said about him, “I have nobody else with a genuine interest in your well-being. All the others seem to be wrapped up in their own affairs and do not really care for the business of Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved his worth, working with me for the Gospel like a son with his father" [Philippians 2:20-22, Phillips Translation]. 

We would do well to be like Timothy — wrapped up in Jesus!

[Timothy] is the only one who shares my feelings and who really cares about you. Everyone else is concerned only with their own affairs, not with the cause of Jesus Christ. And you yourselves know how he has proved his worth, how he and I, like a son and his father, have worked together for the sake of the gospel. Philippians 2:20-22 [Good News Translation]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Noble Minded

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I just finished a 75-page Study Guide for a trip I’m hosting to Turkey and Greece in 2015. While writing the project, something sparked my attention. It happened on Paul’s second mission trip and it has to do with a compliment he gave to a group of people.

It was about the Christ followers in Berea. They were eager to hear what Paul and Silas had to say, but they tested everything by Scripture [the Old Testament because the New Testament had not been written at the time] before accepting it as a message from God. Only after careful examination did they hold fast to the truth [1 Thessalonians 5:21]. For that, Paul referred to them as “noble minded.”

That kind of nobel mindedness is lacking among many Christ followers today. I am often appalled at the lack of discernment concerning biblical truth. Many believers are duped by clever and false teachings. I also find that they are typically the first to be “tossed to and fro by waves, and carried away by every wind of doctrine” [Ephesians 4:14]. I, for one, am praying for “new” Bereans—those who stand on sound doctrine and refuse to compromise.

Don’t be afraid of the term sound doctrine. Sound doctrine comes from the infallible, inerrant, authoritative, inspired, sufficient Scripture. Sound doctrine will help you to be strong in the Lord. We need that more than ever. Let’s commit ourselves to become modern-day, noble minded Bereans! 

[The Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Acts 17:11

Friday, December 5, 2014

It’s A Hard-Knock Life

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I was watching a promotional piece for Annie, the new Sony Pictures movie to be released in mid December. It was a very entertaining scene in which Annie and the orphans danced around the orphanage singing, “It’s a hard knock life for us…” [words and music by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin].

I enjoyed watching the kids singing and dancing, but then something struck me: life is hard in this old world of sin. And the truth of the matter is that we humans have been trying to fix it for thousands and thousands of years. We can’t fix it because WE are the problem! From the moment that Adam and Eve went their own way, it’s been a hard knock life [my loose translation of Romans 5:12 - When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. NLT].

Before we point the finger of death at Adam and Eve, let’s do a little truth telling. They weren’t the only ones who made the choice to sin. I made it; you made it; everyone—we’ve ALL made that choice. Paul put it this way, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23].

That is one of the reasons life is so hard. Sin has infected our marriages, our health, our finances, our thinking, et al. When we understand that, we are no longer surprised by the hard knock life. We now understand that our sin against God has managed to break everything. 

The answer to this dilemma is not to try to fixed every broken thing, but to repair our relationship with God, through Christ. Paul wrote, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” [Romans 5:1]. Once our peace with God is re-established, we can begin to honestly deal with the broken issues of life.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” [Isaiah 53:6 New Living Translation]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Your Gratitude and Faith

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Thanksgiving day was only a week ago, and yet it already seems so far away. Sadly, so is a lot of our gratitude. It’s too bad that many focus their thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. Christ followers know that gratitude should be evident as a lifestyle because it is a command from God. Paul wrote, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” [1 Thessalonians 5:18].

You may be asking, do you really expect me to express gratitude in every circumstance of life? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Not for everything that happens in your life, but in all your circumstances be thankful because gratitude develops your faith. 

Gratitude demands your attention turn from your circumstances to God—who He is and what He can do. That is how your faith develops. When times are tough, when your prayers seem unanswered, when life doesn’t make sense—in other words, when life stinks—with hearts of gratitude you can say, “I know that God in control and I’m thankful that He is bigger than my problems.”

It’s not a big deal to thank God only for good times. Anybody can do that! But if you learn to thank God in the worst of times, your faith will grow stronger. Take Habakkuk, for example, when he said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” [Habakkuk 3:17-18].

Gratitude is the ultimate test of your faith. When thankfulness is a lifestyle, you honor God, your relationship with Him deepens, and your faith is strengthened.

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Do the Best Thing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One thing that I admire about Jesus is that He was able to say, “No,” to a good thing in order to say, “Yes,” to the best thing. It happened once in Capernaum just after He returned from His 40-day wilderness experience. He preached in the synagogue and continued His ministry among the people; a ministry of healing and deliverance. The people did not want Him to leave. But Jesus told them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”

He resisted the pull of the people by keeping to His purpose: to seek and to save the lost everywhere. Suppose He hadn’t. Where would we be if He had set up shop in Capernaum? Suppose He thought, “Everyone wants me here. All these people can’t be wrong, can they?”

Well, the truth of the matter is, yes they could! So Jesus said, “No,” to a good thing in order to say, “Yes,” to the right thing, the best thing: His unique calling. 

You, dear Christ follower, have a unique calling as well. You have been shaped by God for a special purpose and no one else can do what you can do! So anchor yourself in that calling. You will be happier and the Kingdom of God will be enhanced if you do. It was the apostle Peter who taught, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

You are uniquely called!

Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” Luke 4:42-43

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On Your Marks; Get Set; WAIT!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Is it just me, or have you discovered that it is difficult to think straight or make good decisions when you’re anxious? You’ve probably been there; thousands and thousands of thoughts are swirling around in your mind, so you try to grab the one that flies by at the moment. 

I’ve found that when that is the case, the best thing to do is to wait silently, patiently on the Lord. The truth of the matter is that most of us don’t know how, or don’t want to enter the silence. There is a statement from Jeremiah, which is a help. It’s from his book titled Lamentations. I particularly like The MESSAGE Paraphrase of the verse:

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The ‘worst’ is never the worst” (Lamentations 3:28).

Unfortunately for some Christ followers, the silence only adds more anxiety. We don’t like to wait in silence because we want to be in control. But I suggest it’s the best thing to do. Sit, close your mouth, and listen. It’s perfectly fine to read your Bible and pray, that’s a given. But most of all, quiet your soul before the Lord. 

Anxiety is the by-product of not “waiting for hope” to appear, as Jeremiah said. God speaks. He gives the answers and the hope we crave, but we’re too busy reaching, grasping for anything. We’re way too busy trying to figure it all out. My Bible College friend use to describe it, “I’m having a sensory overload!” 

Perhaps Jesus had that in mind when He told His disciples not to pray like the hypocrites, but to go in their closets for some one-on-one time with God. [That’s a rather loose translation of Matthew 6:6.] Again, I like The MESSAGE Paraphrase of that verse:

Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.

Whatever you are facing today that makes you anxious, God will time your next move perfectly if you will only wait, and listen.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25-26