Monday, August 31, 2015

Spirited Initiative

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Take a moment and read Daniel 1:1-14. I’ll wait.

Everyone has a circle of influence, some larger than others. Still, we have the power to impact others for better or worse. Whether it’s at home, in the church, on your job, or in the classroom, your life is on display for all to see. And even when you may not be aware of it, others are impacted by your words, attitudes and actions.

You just read about Daniel and his friends who were exiled to a far away country with a different culture. His influence reached a lot of people, from lowly servants to the king himself—and, eventually, other nations. What is so dramatic about this story is that he did it without compromising his convictions. He had confidence in the absolute truth of Scripture and he stuck with it.

It was his convictions, not his environment that determined his behavior. Like Daniel, we need the gumption to make up our minds ahead of time that we will stand firm—obedient to God’s word. Did I just say “gumption”? In case you’re wondering, it means, spirited initiative. 

Holding tenaciously to God’s truth is an anchor to the soul. It keeps us from being tossed about by every wind of opinion and wave of temptation. Remember, your unwavering stand for the truth of Scripture can powerfully influence others—just like Daniel!

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Daniel 3:8

Friday, August 28, 2015

Christ’s Purposeful Heart

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

My Father was fond of saying, “I’d rather shoot for the moon and miss it, than shoot at nothing and hit it.” I’d hate to think that was the testimony of my life; that I aimed at nothing in particular and achieved it. That certainly could not be said of Jesus. He refused to be guided by anything except His high calling. In other words, His heart was purposeful. So much so that His life can be summed up in a single sentence: He came to seek and save the lost. 

He was driven by that, so focused, that He knew when to say, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. But unlike many, whose attention is focused on a goal, it doesn’t appear that Jesus was unpleasant. It’s just the opposite. Children ran to Him, they couldn’t resist Him. He found beauty in His Father’s handiwork, delighting in lilies in the field and birds in the air. He spent some thirty years living among the sick, the weak, the whining, walking through the muck and mire of the human experience. 

Still, He never lost sight of His purpose. He saw in them something so valuable that He sacrificed His life for their sins. And YOUR sins. And MY sins.

The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The condition of your heart will determine how you hear from God. Soft-hearted Christ followers hear His voice and yield to Him in obedience. Hard-hearted Christ followers resist His warnings and instructions. Does this surprise you? When God speaks, Christ followers have different reactions. It all depends on your heart.

A hard-heart does not happen over night. It is a slow process. Because of that, danger signs may not be readily recognized. But you can rest assured that where a hard-heart exists, it will be accompanied by excuses and rationalization.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider the following characteristics of a hard-heart:

•  Insensitivity or resistance to what the Lord says
•  Refusal to put yourself under His authority
•  Disobedience to what you know God is instructing you to do
•  Justification of sinful conduct
•  Resistance to the reproof of others
•  Preoccupation with the things of this world 
•  Little interest in spiritual matters
•  Absence of private devotion 
•  Avoidance of corporate worship 

You can change the condition of your heart, if you want to. A hard-heart does not have to remain hard and brittle. Ask God to give you a new heart and the desire to know Him. The psalmist did that very thing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” [Psalm 51:10, 12],

And remember this, God specialized in “open heart surgery” [Jeremiah 24:7], and making all things new [2 Corinthians 5:17].

That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested Me in the wilderness. There your ancestors tested and tried My patience, even though they saw My miracles for forty years. Hebrews 3:7-9 [New Living Translation - NLT]

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Walk in Obedience

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I asked one of my Bible College professors to give me a simple definition of the Christian life. He said, “Rick, the Christian life is walking obediently with God.” I’ve never forgotten that. Obedience is important. So important, in fact, that Jesus modeled obedience His entire earthly life. Listen to what He said, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him" [John 8:28-29]. How I wish I could say the same!

That’s why we so desperately need to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s power. God sent His Spirit to enkindle and inspire our lives — to empower us. Trust me when I tell you, you can’t succeed without the Spirit’s help. He enables our consistent obedience through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead [Romans 8:11].

The question is not whether we stumble and fall on our journey. That’s a given. The real issue is the way your heart is bent. Is it inclined toward gratifying self or obeying God? Many of the biblical heroes failed in their obedience to God: Moses, Sarah, Peter, and David — yes, David, described as a man after God’s own heart [Acts 13:22]. How can that be, you ask? Even though he failed miserably, his heart was bent toward God. You hear it when he wrote, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" [Psalms 42:1]. 

Do you have a heart like that, one that yearns to obey God above all else? If you do, you can rest assured that He will show you the way—the Lord always honors that kind of hunger and thirst for Him.

Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 [Holman Christian Standard Bible- HCSB]

Pride and Shame - Not A Class Act

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Pride and Shame. I think it is safe to say that every Christ follower has experienced one of them. OK, in all honesty, both of them. They seem so different, don’t they? Pride puffs out its chest; shame lowers its head. Pride loudly boasts; shame quietly hides. Pride makes it a point to be seen; shame seeks to be invisible.

But don’t be fooled by these comparisons because both of these emotions have the same parentage and impact: They keep you moving away from the loving God who is reaching out to you. 

Pride speaks: You’re too good for Him.
Shame speaks: You’re too bad for Him.

Pride drives you away from God.
Shame keeps you away from God. 

Pride goes before the fall.
Shame keeps you from getting up after the fall.

Is there a remedy for either of these? I think there is. It comes from being right with God by faith in what Christ has done for us. Then we live in peace with God. When we are at peace with God, there is no competition for who is sovereign in our life. He controls it all so there is no reason for boasting. And since we have peace with God, there is the recognition that nothing can separate us from His love - no need of hiding. 

With Pride and Shame under control…peace with God!

Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. Romans 5:1 [New Century Version - NCV]

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Power of the Cross

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The cross is a paradox. It demonstrates the power of God in what appears to be our Lord’s weakest moment. Jesus looked helpless hanging there, His hands and feet nailed to rough wood. The jeering crowd that had gathered to watch the crucifixion thought the same. They yelled out mockingly, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” [Matthew 27:40].

Yet He didn’t. Strength is not always revealed in a dramatic display of power; at times, it’s demonstrated in just dogged endurance. Jesus could have spoken a single word and, in a nano-second, angelic help would have arrived to deliver Him [Matthew 26:53]. So what power held Jesus there? Why didn’t He speak the word to free Himself? Divine love kept Him there. Our eternal destiny was at stake, so Christ hung on the cross until it was secured.

That wasn’t the end of the cross’ power. Yes, by His death the door of salvation burst opened to all who would walk through it by faith — every sin forgiven and the assurance of a place in heaven. But as great as that is, there’s more. The power of the cross continues its work in the life of each Christ follower. How so? Transformation. Now free from the guilt of our sins, the cross continues it cleansing effect so that we can live victoriously in His righteousness.

Don’t restrict the work of the cross in your life. It is offered freely to all who believe in Him and walk in His ways. With each step of faith, the mighty work of God in us increases.

I want to preach it because I’m not ashamed of the good news. It is God’s power to save everyone who believes. It is meant first for the Jews. It is meant also for the Gentiles. The good news shows God’s power to make people right with himself. God’s power to be made right with him is given to the person who has faith. It happens by faith from beginning to end. It is written, “The one who is right with God will live by faith [Habakkuk 2:4].” Romans 1:16-17 [New International Reader’s Version NIRV]

Friday, August 21, 2015

God’s Love is Best

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It’s difficult, maybe even dangerous, to sum up a grand truth in a couple of sentences. It requires a lot of thought and discipline as well. I’m going to give it a shot, but you first. In a sentence or two, describe God’s loving desire for every Christ follower. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Here’s my attempt: God loves you just the way you are, but refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like His Son, Jesus.

OK, maybe it’s not the greatest statement, but it is the best I can do. It emphasizes God’s infinite love for you. God loves you just the way you are. If you think God will love you more if your faith is stronger, you’re wrong. If you think God will increase His love if you memorize 500 Bible verses, wrong again! Never confuse God’s love with human love, because people often extend love “if” or “because” of something. “I’ll love you if you get good grades” or “if you give me what I want.” Stay away from that kind of love, the conditions are too high. “I love you because you’re pretty/handsome” or “because you’re rich.” Stay away from that kind of love, because conditions may change. Human love often increases with performance or declines with failure. 

Not so with God. God’s love is best. He loves you just as you are. 

In your lives you must ·think and act like [have the same attitude as] Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5 [Expanded Bible - EXB]

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Take the “Hip” out of Hypocrisy

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

A rather pompous acting Sunday School teacher was trying to impress a Jr. Boy’s Class of the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do you think people call me a Christian?” he asked. There was a moment of silence, then little Johnny blurted out, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you!”

That reminds me of something Mark Twain once said, “We're all like the moon, we have a dark side we don't want anyone to see.”

Hypocrisy is a dangerous thing. It has turned many people from the Lord to search for answers elsewhere. It has the potential of ruining an entire generation, and perhaps more after them. If you are as old as I am and remember the 1960’s, a generation rose up that held those before them with contempt. Their motto was, “Never trust anyone over 30,” and they often pointed out the hypocrisy the generations before them.

Ours is a daunting task, to “make disciples in all the nations” [Matthew 28:19]. That is a lot easier done when hypocrisy is taken off the plate. Christ followers who know and love God must never stop Him from searching their “dark side” in order to serve Him more effectively.

Take a stand against hypocrisy — not just in general, but personally. Let God search your heart and thoughts as the Psalmist instructed. Then allow Him to uproot the things that need uprooting, especially hypocrisy. Think of it as a “hypocri-sectomy.” 

There's so much kingdom work to be done. So let’s drop the weight of hypocrisy; don’t carry it  around any longer. Praying as the Psalmist did is the best place to start.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:3-4

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Moody, Prayer, Revival

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

A biographer wrote about a sabbatical D. L. Moody took from his ministry in Chicago. He went to England. A local pastor met Moody and begged him to preach at his church. Finally, he prevailed and Moody went to his church the next Sunday morning to preach. That afternoon he recorded in his journal that it was the deadest crowd he had ever seen and the only thing worse than preaching to those people was that he had promised to speak again the same night.

That Sunday night, something happened. Hearts began to melt. Moody asked if anyone would like to become a Christian. So many people responded, Moody was taken by surprise, ”Maybe you don't understand what I am asking. So when we are dismissed if you want to become a Christian come over to this little room and meet with me." When the service was over, Moody went to the room and it was packed; and many people became Christ followers.

The next day, Moody boarded a train for Ireland. When he disembarked, a message was waiting for him, "Come back. Revival has broken out.” Moody turned right around and went back to the church. He preached for 10 straight nights and over 400 people came to faith in Christ. 

It was only later that he discovered that, before he had come to England, an 80 year old widow named Mary Ann Adeland had read one of his sermons in the newspaper and began praying every day that God would bring Moody to her church.

What a powerful thing prayer is. It’s really mysterious when you think about it…especially prayer in the secret place. How does it work? Why does it work? A widow's relentless prayer for her lost neighbors, changed the plans of Moody’s sabbatical. Or should I say, “adjusted” his plans for a God-orchestrated harvest. 

That’s why we pray for the lost; for a great revival!

Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation. Psalm 85:6-7

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

No Superhuman High Priest

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I’ve read or quoted Hebrews 4:15 more times than I can count. This week, though, I’ve been reading Hebrews from the Phillips Translation. When I got to 4:15, my heart skipped a beat. Listen to Phillips’ rendering:

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. 

It’s almost like he could read our minds … God, it’s easy for you since you are far away in heaven. You have no idea what it’s like down here.

But look again…

He Himself — No angel. No ambassador. No emissary. No other substitute. Jesus, Himself.

Shared fully — Not partially. Not nearly. Not mostly. Entirely! Jesus, fully invested.

In all our experience — Every heartache. Every pain. All the pressure. All the stresses of life. No exceptions.

Why? So that He could “sympathize” with your/my [our] weaknesses. 

That Jesus sympathizes with our weakness is no reason for a “pity-party.” It’s to help us understand that we can go to Him for help. He understands and knows what we need to make it through every trial, every heartache, every burden, all of our stress and anxiety. 

That’s the kind of High Priest we need, approachable. Phillips tells us why in the next verse, 4:16: Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.

Jesus was fully committed to us as the “faithful High Priest” [Hebrews 4:17]. Let’s be fully committed to 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. Hebrews 4:15

Monday, August 17, 2015

Only A Perfect Sacrifice Will Do

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

You’d be hard pressed to find a stricter rule from God than those regarding the sacrificial animals. Each and everyone one of them had to be perfect. Perfect! No defect of any kind. In fact, the Lord called the Israelites out when they tried to offer blind, lame, and sick animals for sacrifice. Just listen to His words as recorded by Malachi:

And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? says the Lord of hosts” [Malachi 1:8].

Why perfection? Because the system of spilling blood to cover sin was a foreshadow of God’s ultimate plan of redemption: His Son Jesus, as the Savior of the world.

The early animal sacrifices had to be perfect and the final sacrifice had to be perfect too. Jesus was the unblemished Lamb, perfect in every way [see Hebrews 4:15]. That’s why John the Baptizer could say of Him, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29].  

God accepted, or fully approved, the sacrifice of His Son. And because of it, we can lay claim to His sacrificial offering by putting our complete confidence in His finished work at Calvary. That’s what it means to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” [Acts 16:31].

Our salvation depends upon Jesus’ perfection because, as God made clear to the Israelites, only a perfect sacrifice will do. Oh, how I love Jesus — the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘If any of you—either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel—presents a gift for a burnt offering to the Lord, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the Lord to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. Leviticus 22:17-21

Friday, August 14, 2015

He Shall Sustain Thee

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One of the most difficult things to do is to follow the words of an old hymn, which says, “Leave it there, leave it there. Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” What most of us do is to take our burdens to the Lord, then bring them back with us. 

I once read a biography about Hudson Taylor, one of my heroes of the faith. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Hudson Taylor led a great awakening in China, which continues to this day.

At one point during his ministry, he was deeply distressed by many burdens. He poured out his heart to God for many days asking for strength to carry on. Then one morning something happened. He was reading in the Psalms and came across the words, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.”

The words pierced his heart like an arrow. He sprung to his feet and cried out, "This fear-allaying truth has evaded me too long! I see it all now. If we are obeying the Lord and still run into difficulty, the heavy responsibility rests with Him, not with us!" 

He then fell on his knees and prayed, "Lord, you shall carry all the burden! At your bidding I will go forward, leaving the results with You!”

With the burden lifted from his shoulders, Hudson Taylor went on to establish a great work in China.

What burden are you carrying that should be left at the Lord’s feet? Whatever it is, let it go. Peter told his readers to, “Cast all your cares upon Him” [1 Peter 5:7]. Let God do the heavy lifting. He’s able, you know. While He carries the burden, you are free to serve Him with His peace and His power.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Few Words...Mighty Results

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Jonah preached an eight word sermon and the Ninevites were struck with the fear of the Lord and moved to complete repentance. When was the last time you heard a sermon like that?

The king stood up (a sign of his serious intent), removed his royal robes (a sign of humility), covered himself with sackcloth (a sign of mourning), and sat in the dust (a sign of repentance). Then, according to the King's edict, every soul in Nineveh responded with desperate fasting. It's hard to imagine that level of conviction coming upon an entire city. Impressive!

By way of application, our world is going the way of Nineveh. Wickedness and moral erosion surrounds us in horrifying proportions. Can God’s judgment be that far away? What are the chances of salvation? I’d like to think that if Nineveh was reachable, so is our world. 

The prophet Daniel gave us a clue how that can happen: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. It took some time for Jonah to get there, but he did finally shine for God “like the brightness of heaven,” and led many people to righteousness.

That’s our challenge too. Our modern cities are filled with cynicism, apathy, and unbelief just like Nineveh. How will they come to righteousness? When Christ followers rise and “shine like the brightness of heaven” and engage them with the truth of the Gospel. It didn’t take much for Nineveh to repent; eight words spoken with the power of God behind them. Eight words, mighty results. 

When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: 

“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” Jonah 3:5-9

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Do It for the Right Reason

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

We walked out of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on our 2015 trip to Israel as I have done many times before. But that day was different. As some of us turned around for a final look at the church, a large banner had been strung across the sidewalk picturing 21 Christians martyred in Libya. It was a sobering moment to say the least. 

Paul made a remarkable statement about martyrdom in his letter to the Christ followers in Corinth: martyrdom without love is useless!

In Paul's time, a common practice was the branding of slaves with a hot iron for identification. Some think that is what he referred to when speaking about giving your body “to be burned” [1 Corinthians 13:3]. Others think he referred to being “burned at the stake,” a death suffered by many Christ followers. 

Death by burning wasn’t the most common form of persecution in Paul’s day, but I think that is what he had in mind because he often used extremes to make a point. Just look at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 to see that: speaking an angelic language, understanding all mysteries, knowing everything, mountain moving faith, giving away every possession you own—death by fire is consistent with those extremes. 

Even though Jesus said that martyrdom was the greatest expression of love [John 15:13], Paul indicates it isn’t always a godly or loving thing to do. Why is that, you ask? Because you can be a martyr for lessor reasons. How about Kamikaze pilots in World War II, or someone who sets himself on fire in protest of an injustice? 

Christ followers aren’t exempt from doing things with a wrong motive. Historians report that many people in the early church developed a “martyr complex,” desirous of death to become famous like martyrs before them. In those cases, their deed, though looking sacrificial, was anything but that. Why? They were acts of pride.

Paul’s point is clear, sacrifice without love is useless, but love sanctifies everything. Wrong motives rob even the greatest sacrifice of its spiritual benefit.

If I surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3b

Monday, August 10, 2015

Run for Your Life

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The Christian life is often described as a race—one designed by God. The purpose of the race to become more Christlike and bring God glory. 

If you’re going to run the race, the first thing you need to know is the route. That’s where the Bible comes to play. It’s a lamp to our feet and light to our path, says the Psalmist. In other words, it serves as a map or compass. You could call it the infallible manual for living, something that is much needed in our secular culture. 

During the race, we need perseverance and endurance because we will encounter obstacles along the way; hindrances like…

Criticism, which may come from believers and/or pagans
Opposition to make a clear stand for Jesus
Uncertainty when the way isn’t clear

We have help in overcoming obstacles like these and others, the precious Holy Spirit who strengthens us as we study God’s unchanging character and timeless promises.

We’re beginning a new week. Let’s run the race well. And please remember we have a running mate, Jesus, Himself, who is right beside us, neither leaving us nor forsaking us. We know that through the Scriptures and are encouraged by it as well. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Friday, August 7, 2015

Idols and Idolatry

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Have you picked up on our culture’s view of idols? The word “idol” has been completely disassociated from the word “idolatry.” Christ followers cringe at the mention of idolatry. It reminds us of golden calves or other created things that are worshipped by heathens. We think idolatry is sinful because our worship is to be directed to God alone. But let me ask you an important question: Do you feel the same way about idols?

We have a lot of idols in our culture, don’t we? Hollywood stars, beauty queens, sports figures, radio and television personalities all vying for our attention. So, in return for all their “hard work,” we give them exactly what they want — our attention.

We’ll sit for hours in front of the “boob-tube” [that's what one of my former pastors called the television] to watch anything that features our favorite personality. We follow their every Tweet and FaceBook post. Back in the 1950’s, we had a term that characterized that mindset: a “teen idol.”

We need to be reminded just what an idol is. It isn’t merely a false god to whom we bow down in worship. An idol is anything we value more than the Lord Jesus Christ. By its nature, an idol is a distraction; whatever lures our eyes away from God. Of course, when we turn our eyes away from the true and living God, our lives begin to spiral out of control. 

Stop the distractions! Repent and forsake them. Pray that you won’t be blind sided by idols that deter you from joyful communion with our holy God, His dear Son Jesus, and the powerful, eternal Holy Spirit. 

You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.  Exodus 20:3-6

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How to Build Up Your Faith

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Dear Christ follower, it is critical that we reinforce our faith so we’ll be able to stand firm against the subversive pull of the world. But how? How can we build a stronger faith? The short book of Jude provides some answers to that question. 

First, saturate your mind with the holy, unchanging Word of God. That’s how the Holy Spirit refreshes you and brings new insight while you are becoming more mature. 

Second, pray by means of the Holy Spirit. We can trust the Spirit to guide us in our prayers, leading us with regard to what, when, and how to pray. Paul told the Ephesian Christ followers to “pray by means of the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” [6:18]. 

Third, keep yourself in the love of God. Never take the Lord’s amazing grace for granted. Be like a sentinel and guard your closeness with Him. You can ensure your closeness as you spend uninterrupted time in His presence.

Fourth, eagerly await the Lord’s return. From the Christ follower’s perspective, the Lord’s second coming is the most anticipated event in history. So keep your eyes on the goal. The thought that Christ could return at any moment is a purifying realization for the believer. The beloved apostle said, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” [1 John 3:2-3].

There is no “quick & easy” or “magic formula” for spiritual growth. But these encouraging and exhortative words, laid out for us in Jude 20-23, can serve as a guide while we strive to protect our faith from the snares of the world.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Both now and forever. Amen. Jude 20-23

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More than Able

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

People fail. That’s just the plain, honest truth. We do not like that reality, but there are times when, no matter how hard we try or how talented we may be, we simply blow it. What is the solution for our foibles? For Christ followers, the answer is to live out a radical faith in the knowledge of our God who's is willing, and able, to overcome our weaknesses.

One of my Bible College professors constantly told us, “95% of our problems come from a misapplication or misunderstanding of who God is and what He can do.

Remember Sarah? She laughed when she overheard the prophesy that she would become pregnant and bear a son. The Lord asked Abraham, “Is there anything too hard for Me?” Well, the answer to that question became obvious about a year later! At the ripe age of 90, she gave birth to Isaac. God was able to accomplish the unimaginable. 

It was pretty much the same with Moses. God told him to go to the mightiest king on earth at that time and demand that he “let My people go.” “Who am I,” Moses asked, “that I should go to Pharaoh?” The answer to that question came a short time later when the Hebrews were released, which God did in a most miraculous way. Once again, God was more than able.

But what about us? Well, it’s the same. When we operate in the will of God, we have access to a limitless source of strength that far exceeds our comprehension. The Chronicler said it well, “Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all”  [1 Chronicles 29:12].

Forget the flesh; put your complete confidence in who God is and what He can do. You’ll soon learn that He is able!

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.

Jude 24-25

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Created for Good Works — Service

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, died in 1917 at age 43. His influence, however, lives on. Nearly a century has past and God is still using his book to speak to hearts; I am one of the many convicted by his words. One reason his message has lasted is because he gave priority to things of eternal value rather than temporal, worldly things.

Sadly, many people choose an existence with no lasting significance. Their goal is temporal; to make as much money as they can, or self-indulgence. Worthwhile living involves giving ourselves unreservedly to God. The biblical phrase is to make Him the Lord of your life so He can use us in any way He sees fit. People who do that make a lasting impact in their sphere of influence, because they have a passion to serve the Lord. They look for ways to express their love and devotion to Him.

As Christ followers, our job description should read, “servant of almighty God.” If you are serious about working for the Lord, He will help you find ways to be useful for the kingdom, with tasks of eternal value. Be sensitive to people in need. Share your faith with those who hurt. Make yourself available to individuals who need help. Tell others what the Lord is doing in your life.

Each of us has been called to serve. Listen to Paul’s instruction to the Galatian Christ followers, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ“ [Galatians 6:2]. Let’s get busy. There is much to be done.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10