Friday, May 29, 2015

From Obscurity to Apostle

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Have you ever been surprised by God with an opportunity you never sought, expected or imagined? It’s really cool with that happens, especially in the middle of what we sometimes think of as a ho-hum life. There was a character in Acts who may have felt the same. His name was Matthias. We know he replaced Judas as one of the Twelve, but that’s about it [Acts1:21-22]. 

What we do know is that he followed Jesus from the beginning of His ministry until His resurrection without recognition. He wasn’t one of the men Jesus selected as a Disciple, but he followed Him anyway. And kept following Him. He listened to the Lord’s powerful Sermon on the Mount, and ate supper with five thousand  people with what started out as a handful of bread and fish. He rejoiced in amazement as people were healed in Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida. He shouted with praise as Jesus rode a donkey down the Mt. of Olives to His final Passover. And just a few days later, he watched his world turn upside down when the One he had been following over three years was nailed to a Roman cross. He was a witness to it all—yet in obscurity. His name is not mentioned until the book of Acts, but he was there on every page of the Gospels. 

We see this a lot in Scripture. People who serve the Lord faithfully in the background, obscure, until God expands their influence for His glory. People like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the three Hebrew boys. Women like Ruth and Esther. Obscure, faithful, then, at the right moment, hand-picked by God for something significant. 

We see Matthias’ name mentioned only in connection with the replacement of Judas. He was an obscure Christ follower, he emerged for a moment, then returned to obscurity. He was a virtual unknown who followed Christ with a single motivation—faithfulness.

Just like us!

The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”  Matthew 25:21

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where He Leads Me

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

For some, following God’s will is a wonderful thing as long as He is leading them in the direction they’re already going in. It’s much harder when God changes direction. That’s when they go into their “logical mode.” They find statistics to explain why it won't work. They’ll even search the Scriptures for verses that support their disposition. 

Do you remember when the Pharisees attempted to discredit Jesus? They claimed, “no prophet arises out of Galilee” [John 7:52]. True, or not? Well, the prophet Jonah came from Gath-hepher, a next-door neighbor of Nazareth. Both of these towns were in Galilee. 

Jonah is also a good example of someone who decided not to do the will of the Lord. He had no desire to see God’s forgiveness in Nineveh, so when the will of God led him in the direction of Assyria, he boarded a ship to Tarshish—the opposite direction!

In the series of events that followed, Jonah found himself in the bowels of a great fish. It was there he made a great confession, “Salvation is from the Lord” [Jonah 2:9 - meaning HIS salvation, not Nineveh’s]. 

I don’t have time in this short devotion for all the details, so take some time and read the story for yourself. God used a storm, a fish, a plant, a worm, and the wind to get him to change. 

We love God’s will when it makes us comfortable and safe. I’m glad Jesus didn’t cling to comforts when He came to do His Father’s will. He knew what Jonah learned: The difficulty of submitting to God is easier than the difficulty of running from Him.

Then I said, “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.”  Hebrews 10:7

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rise Up

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Sometimes life gets us down. It isn’t that difficult because we live in such a sin-sick world. Everywhere we look there seems to be crime and cruelty. Terrorism brings stories of barbarism from around the world on nearly a daily basis. Domestic violence seems out of control. I read an article yesterday from the Baltimore Sun that 28 people were shot, nine of them killed, over the Memorial weekend in Baltimore, adding to the already record-breaking violence. It’s enough to make you hang your head in sadness and frustration. 

Isaiah lived in such a day. Oppressed by Assyria, hearts were heavy, heads were hanging. To them, and by way of application to us, the Lord said, “Awake, awake…put on garments of splendor…shake off your dust…rise up, sit enthroned…free yourself from the chains on your neck.

Great encouragement, but how is it possible? Jesus! Jesus destroyed sin and death when He rose triumphantly from the grave. He would not live in the grave of doom, defeat, and despair, and neither should we. We are victorious by means of His victory. And to add icing to the cake, one day He will delivery us directly to heaven where we will experience a world and life that we only now see by faith. 

The words of an old hymn are appropriate here:

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
(This poem, written by William P. Merrill, was first published in the Continent, 1911)

Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Jerusalem. Isaiah 52:1-2

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It’s What’s Inside that Counts

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It wasn’t an eye-catching container; rather ordinary, really. A young couple in Concord, California found it while rummaging through an abandoned storage unit. It was merely a container. If someone stole it, you’d just shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh, well.” If it broke, you’d throw it away without a second thought. If you lost it, you wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. 

But when they opened it, what a surprise! It was filled with rare, gold coins worth about a half million dollars. Now the container was extremely valuable. Not because it was so special, but but because of what was inside it.

Christ followers understand this perfectly. We are painfully aware of how ordinary we are in so many ways. Catch us at certain moments in our lives and we’ll tell you all of our inadequacies. That’s what sin has done to us. It has ruined us, and emptied us of any value. In and of ourselves, we’re just an ordinary container left abandoned. 

But Jesus changed everything. He lived, died, and rose again to cover our less than perfect, broken lives. We were made clean, made anew—forgiven. We are in Him, and He in us. That changes everything. In fact, it makes us priceless. Not because of what we are, but because of who is in us!

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Monday, May 25, 2015

Count on It

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

There are so many interesting characters in the Bible. As I was reading in my devotion time today, one such character stuck out in my mind; Naaman. He was an important man in the eyes of the world; commander of the army for the King of Aram. In those days, Aram was a strong nation. Soldiers under his command went into Israel, looting and taking prisoners. But something happened to Naaman. He got leprosy, an incurable disease in those days. 

One of his servants, a Hebrew girl, encouraged him to go to Israel and see a prophet there by the name of Elisha. I’m sure Naaman balked at the idea, but what other choice did he have? So off he went. 

He eventually got to the prophet’s house. Let’s pick up the story in our Bibles, 2 Kings 5:9-14: “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’ 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. 13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!’  14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. “

So simple, yet it worked. Why? Because God promised that it would work! God promised our sins were forgiven by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Count on it. He promised heaven to all who believe in Him. Count on it. He promised to work all things for our good and His glory. Count on it. Whenever God makes a promise, count on it. His promises are true!

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”  14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 2 Kings 5:13-14

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not So Great?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I read about a new church opening in San Diego, a rather large city compared to where I live in Julian, California [population less than 3,000]. The newspaper article gave the date and times of the first services, then added, “our special guest will be…” The special guest was a popular celebrity. Often, churches will do that sort of thing to draw a large crowd. It is a very common approach. 

When I look at the list of the twelve apostles, celebrity seems to be missing. None of them were famous, in fact, at least one of the names was infamous. In those days, I doubt anyone would come to the opening of anything if this man’s name was proffered. His name was Matthew. He was a despised revenuer, hired by Rome to extract taxes from the locals. In the mind of his countrymen, he was a traitor.

Tax collectors in his day were capable of accumulating an enormous wealth because the Roman tax system allowed them to keep anything they collected in excess of what was owed to Rome. That led to bribes, extortion, and other abuses. Those local tax collectors could levy taxes on anything they wanted to, such as, roads, animals, mail, merchandise - well, you get the picture.

Dear Christ follower, if you think God can't use you because of your past sin or because you are not famous, put that out of your mind immediately. God used Matthew and millions like Him, and He can use you too! Follow Paul’s admonition to live “soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age” [Titus 2:12], then allow God to bless your ministry as He sees fit. 

God can use you despite your sinful past.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.   [Matt. 10:2-4].

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Can Resist Anything Except Temptation

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Picture the day our Lord was baptized in the Jordan River by John. Scripture says Jesus saw the heavens “parting - NKJV, “splitting apart” - NLT, “torn open” - NIV. Then the thundering Voice, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased [Mark 1:11]. Do you have that picture firmly in your mind now? OK, if you didn’t already know the story, what would you expect to happen next? People bowing before Him in humble adoration? Crowds coming down from Jerusalem to present Him with a golden chariot, proclaiming Him to be “King of kings and Lord of lords?”

If that’s what your are thinking, you are sadly mistaken. According to Mark’s account, Jesus was immediately “driven” into the wilderness to be tempted. Battle lines were drawn and for the next forty days, Jesus withstood every temptation thrown at Him by the devil himself. The author of Hebrews said that He was tempted in every way as we are, “yet without sin” [Hebrews 4:15]. Jesus didn’t give in. He never threw in the towel. 

That makes me think of the many times I have struggled/battled with temptation. On many occasions, I fought valiantly for a while, only to eventually raise the white flag in surrender. At other times, it seems I offered no resistance at all. How unlike my Savior. Do any of you understand what I’m talking about here? Has that been your experience too? 

The war Jesus fought in the wilderness would eventually lead to the cross of Calvary. There, Jesus would settle the score once and for all. Not for Himself, though. For you and me! Listen to Paul’s exhortation to the Roman Christ followers, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” [Romans 5:19]. The Lord’s victory over sin was for the many to be righteous. He invites us into His kingdom whole, restored, redeemed, FORGIVEN!

Inspired and empowered by our Savior’s victory over sin, we can confidently face our temptations knowing that, pass or fail, He is with us — He paved the way.

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. Mark 1:9-13

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Watch! and Pray!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Simple, yet practical. Eyes open, alert. When you see something coming at you, duck. When you anticipate a compromising situation, turn around. When you sense temptation, turn, and run away as fast as you can. 

You could say it this way, “Pay attention.” No one knows your weak points better than you do. So when a situation arises in which your weakness is vulnerable, pay attention, be alert. And, most certainly, stay away! Don't give Satan the slightest foothold in your life. 

Watch! and Pray!

Prayer is not telling God what He should or shouldn’t do. Neither is it telling Him something new. If you are the saintliest saint, or vilest sinner, you’re not going to surprise God with what you have to say. Prayer is your invitation for God to walk with you on the dark paths in life. It’s asking for His help to watch for obstacles in your way. It’s asking for instruction on how to use His provided armor to thwart every fiery dart of the wicked one. 

Watch! and Pray! 

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Mark 14:38

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prayer for Unity

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

While Jesus prayed just before His crucifixion, He knew, in advance, a particular challenge His followers would encounter. It’s a problem they still face today. He knew they would be attacked by predators from without and within. Some would work at wiping the memory of the Christian faith from the face of the earth. Others would worm their way into the church with deceptive teaching [heresies], to literally tear believers apart. He also knew that the mortal enemy of the faith, Satan, would “tempt them to despair.” So our blessed Savior prayed for them, and us as well, because He is the “faithful High Priest, touched by the feelings of our infirmities.” He asked the Father to protect His followers from the enemies, which threaten the unity of the saints. 

In this prayer, Jesus announced the source of our protection: the power of God’s name. Yes, there is power in the name of Jesus! I don’t mean to say that His name is a mantra that is superstitiously repeated to ward off evil. No, it is the gracious revelation of who God is, and what He can do — and what He has done!

When Satan accuses a saint, we find comfort in the Savior who forgives sin and removes the shame of guilt. When false teachers bring their disruptive, half-truth teaching into the church, we run to the Words of Christ in the Bible. There we find the truth that straightens out every lie. It’s the truth that unites all Christ followers to each other. And even when imminent death threatens to wipe out the faithful [as we have seen in recent attacks of those who name Christ as Lord], we cling to, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:10]. 

As God in human flesh, Jesus revealed to us the very nature of the invisible God [Colossians 1:15]. He came as a “babe, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,” so that we would know that God will do the impossible to reconcile man to Himself. He healed the sick to show us how much He cares for each of us. He died and rose again to seal our future hope of heaven. And He prayed that we — all who name Christ as Lord — would be united, one, just as He is with the Father.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name—the name You gave Me—so that they may be one as We are one … My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one just as You are in Me and I am in You. John 17:11b; 20-21a

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Guarded By God’s Peace

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Everyone I know wants it. I’m talking about peace. Not a temporary, shallow peace. Not merely external peace—not just a cessation of hostility. What they are looking for is a peace that permeates their entire being and stretches from now to eternity. 

You won’t get that kind of peace from domestic or international diplomacy. It’s not part of a balanced stock portfolio. It doesn’t come from having the most friends on FaceBook. We have a tendency to think that, but it’s never the case. 

Such peace is God’s peace, therefore it only comes from God — through Christ. It comes when we, by faith, grasp hold of what Christ has done for us on Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb. 

His peace is beyond human understanding. It is incomprehensible. Try for a million years and you won’t be able to fathom the fulness of God’s peace. But we can experience God’s peace because of His grace. 

God’s peace stands watch over your heart and mind. It protects you in times of anxiety and despair. When you struggle with financial or health issues, when your relationships are strained, when you face uncertainties, God’s peace stands guard. It settles your heart. God’s peace in you through Christ sends the devil packing. It fills you with a kind of life only Jesus has to offer. He said, “I am come that you might have an abundant, fulfilled life” [John 10:10]. 

Dear Christ follower, as you start this week, may the peace of God be yours!

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Friday, May 15, 2015

First the Word

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Do you sometimes think that God does things backwards? Take Israel, for example. God delivered them from Egypt and promised them a land “flowing with milk and honey.” But when the journey began, He didn’t take them directly there. In fact, He directed them to the southeast where they stayed for three months at Mt. Sinai. It was there that God gave them His Word, the Commandments. 

Let’s be honest here. God could have directed them straight to Canaan. Wouldn’t that have been the best place for them to receive His Word, in the Holy Land? The point is, God wanted them to have the Word before they experienced His future plans for them.

That principle hasn’t changed. It has to be that way: Sinai before Canaan. 

Just as the Israelites needed the Word of God before entering Canaan, we need the Word of God before running toward our objectives. As one of my Seminary professors was fond of saying, “Don’t race to find God’s will for your life until you have pondered God’s Word for your life.” 

The reason for that is clear; “[the Word] shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God [Deuteronomy 17:19].

Remember this: In every human endeavor, first the Word.

They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. Deuteronomy 32:47

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Un-Phony Faith

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Some Christ followers think that faith is denying reality. What do I mean by that? Well, when you pretend you don’t have a problem, and you do, that is not faith. When you are in pain but you tell people you’re fine, that is not faith. When you plaster on a “smiley-face” when you’re grieving inside, that is not faith. Real faith faces reality without losing heart because “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” [1 John 4:4].

Don’t buy into the brand of Christianity that says, “Deny your problems” or “Speak money into your checkbook.” That did not come from the lips of our Savior. Rather, face every challenge or difficulty with full knowledge that God can change your situation at any moment. You can build your family, your business, your life on faith, but you can’t build them on fantasy. 

Do you remember the story of Peter walking on water? He did quite well walking to Jesus until he focused on the waves of the sea. Only then did he begin to sink. Likewise, when you start looking at your problems, you’re sunk. But if you “turn your eyes upon Jesus” — if you focus on the Deliverer rather than the difficulty — you’ll make it. 

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Impart Grace

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I want you to do something today. Before you speak, ask yourself: Is what I’m about to say helpful in making others become stronger? Try it and see what happens. Perhaps you’ll choose to use different words or say things differently. Your words have the ability to build up or tear down. Your words can make a person stronger. 

Your words can be like food to a starving person. They can be like water to someone dying of thirst. You wouldn’t withhold food or water from someone in that condition, would you? Of course not! Well, your words can be the same—food and water to their hearts.

Encourage the discouraged. Affirm the downtrodden. Help the hurting. Choose your words carefully, words that encourage and edify. Believe in them just as God, in Christ, believes in you.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Never, Ever Alone

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

God promised that He would never forsake [abandon, leave, desert] His people [see 1 Kings 6:13]. Quoting the Old Testament, Christ followers received the same promise from the pen of the author of Hebrews [see 13:5]. The Lord is with us and that makes all the difference in the world. 

You do not face death alone.
You do not face unemployment alone.
You do not face financial struggles alone. 
You do not face marital problems alone.
You do not face failure alone. 

I could go on and on!

You don’t muddle through life alone. He is with you. The knowledge of that should brighten your day. Your family may turn against you, and your friends may forsake you — but God doesn’t. You may feel alone, but I assure you, you are never, ever alone. He is with you!

And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” 1 Kings 6:13

Your Path of Destiny

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

As a Christ follower, how can you explain yourself except that God designed you for your purpose? For example, how is it that you can diagnose the problem of your car’s engine by the noise it makes? Or, how can you make a mouth watering dessert without a recipe? Or, how do you remember the names of every person you just met at a conference? How do you explain such idiosyncrasies or quirks of skill? God!

He knows what is most needed and designs people with varying abilities to meet those needs. God knew that Israel needed a code to live by, so He gave Moses a burning love for the law. He knew that Gentiles needed a fiery evangelist to awaken their need of a Savior, so He set Paul’s heart ablaze. He knew the doctrine of grace would need an advocate, so He reformed the heart of Martin Luther. God knows just what this generation needs too, so He designed you! The way He designed you is the path of your destiny. 

Never doubt for a moment that God made you exactly the way He wanted you to be—the way He wants you to minister in this sin-sick world.

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 4:11

Monday, May 11, 2015

In Your Very Midst

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

You would be hard pressed to find a more comforting thought than the last six words of Hosea 11:9, “… I’m here—in your very midst.” Do you believe that? Do you really believe He is near? That’s what He declared to Israel in the Old Testament, and to Christ followers in the New Testament. In fact, He’s so close that Paul said, “…in Him we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17:28]. That’s near, don’t you think! 

God is right in the middle of everything. He didn’t choose to live in a galaxy far, far away. He didn’t turn His back on history. And He certainly didn’t exile Himself to a throne room in heaven either. 

He is near! He is present in every heartbreak you experience. He is present in every funeral home around the world. You’ll find Him right in the middle of every traffic jam too. I know you find that hard to believe, but it’s true. He’s just as near to us on Monday as He was on Sunday. He’s in your home too, just as near your coffee table as the Communion Table. 

Rejoice Christ follower. God is near—as close as your next breath.

I am God and not a human. I’m The Holy One and I’m here—in your very midst. Hosea 11:9 [The MESSAGE Paraphrase]

Friday, May 8, 2015

Worry: Irrelevant & Irreverent

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I think if Christ were to have chosen two words to describe worry, they would have been irrelevant and irreverent. In His famous Sermon on the Mount, He asked, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” [Matthew 6:27 - NASB]. Worry is irrelevant.

No matter how much you worry, it doesn’t alter a thing. Let me emphasize it with this question: When was the last time you solved your problem by worrying about it? Think about it for just a moment. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I got behind in my bills so I worried my way out of debt. Glory to worry!” Well, have you? When was the last time you heard a testimony like this: “I had a few sleepless nights and about a week of puking my guts out with worry. I wore blisters on my hands from wringing them so much. I popped a few pills, drank myself into a stupor, and yelled at my family and co-workers. And, glory to worry, money appeared in my checkbook!” Well?

It doesn’t happen that way, does it? Worry doesn’t change a thing; it is irrelevant. You can’t add a single day to your life, or life into your day, no matter how sincerely you worry. Truth is, the only thing worry does is earn you heartburn, nothing more. 

Not only is worry irrelevant, because it accomplishes nothing, it is also irreverent, because it distrusts God!

Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Colossians 4:2 [The MESSAGE Paraphrase]

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Done Deal and A Daily Development

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It seems like only yesterday that my dear Jan and I walked down the aisle of the chapel at West Coast Bible College promising our lives to each other. That “yesterday” was nearly forty-two years ago. I was thinking about that yesterday while waiting for her to finish an appointment she had. You’d think that after 40 plus years, we’d be more married than we were as a young bride and groom. 

On the other hand, how would that be possible? We have a marriage certificate. That certificate is not like a Promissory Note that matures. But, most certainly, our marriage has, and therein lies the difference. In a technical sense, we are no more married now than we were when we promised our lives to each other before the minister, our friends and family, and God. But after living together these many years, our relationship has radically changed—our relationship is completely different, matured.

The same is true with each Christ follower and his “marriage” or walk with the Lord. Are you more saved now than the moment you committed your life to Christ? No, that is not possible. You are just as much saved now as you were then, but your relationship with Him has matured. It’s just like marriage: it’s a done deal and a daily development.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Philippians 2:13

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Easter Joy Remains

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Just a month ago, April 5th, Christ followers all over the world celebrated the seminal event of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus. We call it Easter, and unfortunately for many, Easter is already ancient history. I was in a store the other day and they still had PEEPS for sale at a discounted price. I wish our memory of Easter lasted as long as the shelf life of that concoction! The joy of Easter never ends, because it is the foundation for all that God has promised to His children. 

As Jesus went to His cross, He told the disciples they would see Him no more, and then after “a little while,” they would see Him. Their excruciating sorrow, fear, and loneliness would only last “a little while.” Then, the joy would return and remain.

Has anyone ever told you, “Don’t worry, things will get better” or “Time heals all wounds” or “Suck it up for now, everything is going to be all right.” How do they know that? 

Well, Jesus knew what His death and resurrection would do for His disciples in the present and future. Their hearts would be filled with anguish, but they would soon have joy that could not be taken away. But that joy would come afterwards.

The resurrection of Christ validates that our sins have been forgiven, that we have peace with God. Paul said, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace through our Lord Jesus Christ” [Romans 5:1]. That means that as we live in our “little whiles” of pain, loneliness, anguish, suffering, and sorrow, we have joy — true joy in the resurrected Jesus — the kind of joy that no one can take from you!

In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again…20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. John 16:16; 20-22

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Greatest Reward Is Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

What is the greatest reward for going to the Grand Canyon? I saw a young child wearing a T-Shirt that announced, “My parents went to the Grand Canyon and all I got was this T-Shirt!” The greatest reward for going to the Grand Canyon is not a collectable, it’s the Grand Canyon. It’s that eye-popping, mind-blowing realization that you are standing at something so splendid, so beautiful, so vast, and yet, there is no hand of man involved with it. 

What is the greatest reward of a Christ follower? Is it not Christ? Some think it’s a car in the garage or money in the bank. Others think it’s health and well-being. But in the eternal scheme of things, they are of minor significance.

Knowing Christ is that heart-stopping, mind-boggling realization that in Him, you are part of the endless, the unfathomable, the unstoppable. Christ is the reward of being a “Christian.” And what really blows my mind is that the One who can dig a Grand Canyon with mere finger play, thinks you and I are worth His death on an “old, rugged cross.”

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. Philippians 3:8

Monday, May 4, 2015

Later than You Think

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Captain Sampson of the British navy witnessed one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in history, the Krakatoa eruption of 1883. It was so powerful that the explosion was heard on the Rodriquez Island about 3,000 miles away. Ash from the eruption fell on Singapore about 525 miles to the north, on Cocos Island 720 miles to the southwest, and on ships over 3,500 miles to the west-northwest. Darkness covered the Sunda Straits from 11:00 AM until dawn the next day.

Swanson wrote in his ship’s log, “I am writing this blind in pitch darkness. We are under continual rain of pumice-stone and dust. So violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half my crew have been shattered … I am convinced that the Day of Judgment has come.”

He and his crew had witnessed something so extraordinary that it caused them to stop and think — is this the end of the world? Clouds of smoke and ashes. Darkness. They must have thought the sun had become like sackcloth.

Well, I believe we are living in extraordinary times. Violent eruptions are taking place all around us. Not the volcanic kind, rather, massive eruptions of iniquity. Do you recognize them, dear Christ follower? Do you see them as a wake-up call from the Lord? Jesus predicted extraordinary times as the end of the age draws near. It may be closer than we think. 

Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD’S fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’S anger. Zephaniah 2:1-3

Friday, May 1, 2015


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I was an Elvis fan. He had 18 Number 1 hits. Among them was, Stuck on You. It was his 13th Number 1 single, his first Number 1 single of the 60’s, and his first Number 1 single after his two years of active duty. “I’m gonna stick like glue, yeah, yeah, because I’m, uh, uh, stuck on you.” They don’t right songs like that anymore!

Stickablility. It’s a good thing when you want it, but where do you find it? Well, you could go to your neighborhood market and get “Gorilla Glue” or “Super-D-Duper Glue.” Stronger still are crustaceans like barnacles and mussels. Perhaps you’ve seen them fastened to rocks along the shoreline or on the hulls of ships. You talk about stickability! MIT researchers are studying these shellfish hoping to develop a waterproof glue so strong that it can repair ships. [1]

I know something stronger. It’s the love of God. It’s so strong that nothing can separate us from it [Romans 8:39]. According to the Bible, if you are a Christ follower, God has poured out His love in your heart [Romans 5:5]. And think about this, as Christ followers, we are stuck together in that love. Paul said it more eloquently when he told the Colossian Christ followers that we are “knit together in love” [Colossians 2:2].

The Body of Christ is made up of believers from every walk of life. And it is the love of Christ that unites us—glues us together. In a day when our culture has marginalized the Bible and its message, we need to stick together. Nothing can make us more stickable than our common love of Christ.

But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:14