Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Walk in Wisdom

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Someone once said, “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, and wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” How does one get that kind of wisdom? More importantly, as a Christ follower, how do we walk in wisdom? Let's look at attitudes necessary for a consistently wise, Christ-centered lifestyle:

Determination - You don’t accidentally walk in wisdom, and it doesn’t come automatically. You must determine to wholeheartedly pursue godly living.

Focus - It’s easy to meander your way through life. To stay on track, we must focus on the Word, the Holy Bible. As we meditate on Scripture and absorb its truths, we begin to make wise choices in tune with biblical principles.

Spirit Sensitivity - The Holy Spirit is our Helper and Guide. He will never lead us down an unwise path. Develop sensitivity to His prompting. He knows the path to take. 

Trust - Our way and the Lord’s way is not always the same. Therefore, we must trust His perfect wisdom and walk according to His plan.

Perseverance - Perseverance means to stay the course. We often start out on the right path, but staying the course for the long haul is something else. That’s why we need to keep depending on God, so we can persist and choose wisely over a long period.

Let me repeat a previous statement: Wisdom does not come automatically. But it will come when we know and trust God, and listen to and obey His Word. A lifetime of godliness develops one wise choice at a time.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fiery Trials

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

When I was a “baby” Christ follower, my pastor preached a sermon about trials and tribulation. Afterwards, I told him I had never had such experiences as he was talking about. I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “Cheer up, you will!”

A Christ follower’s life is not carefree. The truth is, we experience trials that test our faith and trust in God. Maybe instead of the word trials, I should choose the same words as the Apostle Peter — “fiery trials.” Regardless of what you call them, God has a purpose in them, and has promised to see us through them [1 Corinthians 10:13]. 

I guess the big question is, what purpose does God have for the hardships we face? Here are a few things to consider.

First, God uses painful experiences to cleanse and purify us. If nothing else, fiery trials drive us to the Lord. As we fall on our knees, we begin to focus on Him. It’s then that we begin to see things from a different perspective and often become more aware of our fallenness.

Second, God may allow difficulties in our lives as a way of testing our faith, endurance, and/or devotion to Him. And don’t think it is for God’s knowledge of how we’re doing, it’s for ours. Listen to the word of the Lord to the Israelites, “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” [Deuteronomy 8:2-3].

Third, God often uses suffering to display His power to sustain us. What better way to demonstrate His glory than to bring us through difficult times! Beside what it does for us, it’s an encouragement to others. When they see that we have made it through a fiery trial, they witness God’s sustaining power and know that they can make it through as well.

Fourth, hardships strengthen our testimony. During our struggles, we often feel overwhelmed. But once the storm has passed, we can look back and see that the Lord’s hand has, once again, carried us through.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 1 Peter 4:12-13

Friday, September 18, 2015

Grace, A Teacher

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

When it comes to grace, I can’t think of a more grand expression of it than found in Paul’s letter to his friend Titus. Paul wrote, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” That’s good news; there is no better news than that!

Grace “appeared.” At one time, it was invisible and unavailable. Now, it is in full view. Furthermore, when it appeared, it wasn’t merely for the benefit of a few, but for everyone. It’s what Paul called “the power of God for salvation,” in his letter to the Roman Christ followers [1:16]. 

When some Christ followers hear the words, “the power of God,” they think of instant transformation and easy accomplishment. That’s why they are disappointed when they encounter painful experiences in their grace walk. But we must never forget that grace is a teacher, one that has a very specific set of instructions. Paul mentioned them to his friend Titus: “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.

That’s the lesson plan of the teacher, grace. We learn to say no to sin and the things of this world. We learn to live holy lives. We learn sensible ways to display our holy living to the world. And, yes, even in a culture that seems unreceptive. 

Learning doesn’t come magically, it is a process much like the time we spend in school. And even though it takes time and effort, the progress we make is also a tribute to God’s grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Titus 2:11-12

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Delighted with God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

The Psalmist proffered a great challenge to every Christ follower: “Delight yourself also in the Lord” [Psalm 37:4]. I did a quick check of my computer’s dictionary to find that the word delight means, to gain great pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness. My heart cried out, “Yes! Yes! That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with God” — one where each of us enjoys time spent together. If that sounds good to you, then I have great news today. God also wants it as well; friendship that is developed through commitment, trust, and patience.

COMMITMENT: First, commit your ways to God. Invite Him to examine your heart. Then, be willing to change every desire and intention that doesn’t fit His purpose or advance His plan for your life.

TRUST: Second, put your full confidence in God. Who is more worthy of your trust than the One who gave His Son to save sinners? If He did not spare His only Son, you can be sure that He will provide all that His children needs [Romans 8:32].

PATIENCE: Third, rest in God. When we are anxious about an issue, or fret over something that we deem important, we are neither committing ourselves to the Lord nor trusting in Him. Remember, our viewpoint is extremely limited, so waiting patiently is not easy. God’s viewpoint is different. He knows, when circumstances and timing are perfectly aligned for His will to be done.

No relationship with the Lord should be drudgery, though it can be hard work. The work, however, is a labor of love. We have been designed to derive joy and fulfillment from being in God’s presence. How could we not be delighted when we are walking hand in hand with a Father who adores us!

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. The Sovereign Lord will show His justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise Him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring with plants springing up everywhere. Isaiah 61:10-11

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We Can Work It Out

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Would you agree with me that God’s gifts are wonderful? Can I get a witness? Would you also agree with me that God’s gifts often require a lot of work on our part? That is a paradox that some Christ followers haven’t figured out yet. 

Let’s take Israel as an example. After God delivered them from Egypt, He led them to the Promised Land. It was a land “flowing with milk and honey,” which He was going to give to them. In just a short time, they realized that His gift of that Land was going to require a lot of work on their part. There were battles to be fought and fortified cities to overtake. Sure, God promised that He would be with them in their battles, but even with that divine advantage, they still needed to fight.

I’m thinking they would have preferred that God just give them the gift without any work on their part. You know, like a gift; to merely walk into already built cities and houses without any conflict or opposition or labor. That was not the case because God desired their full cooperation. They had to personally take on the responsibility for the gift He had prepared for them. It’s how He intended their faith to grow.

Do you see it now, dear Christ follower? Although the gift of salvation is free, the Lord requires us to work it out — with fear and trembling. Sure, we have divine help, but we are not automatically or supernaturally filled with knowledge of the Bible, or faith to move mountains, or the power to pray without ceasing. Instead, we discover that we have to fight for the faith [1 Timothy 6:12], taking serious responsibility for the gift He has graciously given to us.

If you are discouraged because the walk of a Christ follower is more challenging than you imagined, don’t be! God doesn't keep you like a helpless infant who has no part in shaping his/her life. Rather, He treats you like a growing adult, which is hard work, believe me! So rejoice. Your are participating with a loving and powerful Creator.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Total Cleansing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Tonight at sunset, the Jewish New Year came to an end. Rosh Ha Shannah, Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets is over for 2015. Don’t think of trumpet here like a horn you see in a band today. In biblical times, it was a ram’s horn, or shofar. It makes a unique sound. It’s unmistakable. And at the celebration of Trumpets, the sound of the shofar was a call of warning for the celebrants to repent from their sins and be clean. It was a wake up call to all who heard it. 

I took my ram’s horn and set it by my computer as I wrote this eDevotion. It’s interesting to look at - but I’m going to wait for a while to blow it; I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate a shofar blast at 5:30 in the morning!

As interesting as a shofar looks, if it has not been cleaned properly, it has, by far, one of the most putrid, revolting, rancid smells you can imagine. I have purchased several of them on my trips to the Holy Land, and I made absolutely sure that they were thoroughly clean before I took them out of the shop. By the way, it’s not the outside that smells, it’s the inside. Remember, the horn was taken from an animal, and if it has not been completely cleansed, it may still have decaying sinew, muscle, or bone left inside of it. Total cleansing is vital. 

Total cleansing is what we need too. The stench of sin reeks inside us. It’s putrid and revolting. It is an offense to God. Many Christ followers spend a lot of time trying to improve and beautify their outward appearance. There is nothing wrong with that at all. But the shofar blast reminds us to seek inward beauty — cleansing from our ignorance and rebellion against God and His ways.

There is much kingdom work to be done. It won’t be accomplished by mere outward beauty. We need inward beauty; hearts that are pure, totally cleansed from sin. Let this eDevotion serve as a shofar blast, a wake up call. Let’s pray as the Psalmist did and ask God to search our hearts for anything that needs cleansing [Psalm 139:23].

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Walking in the Spirit and Prayer

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I hope you can tell by these daily eDevotions that I’m devoted to the Scriptures. Daily Bible reading is a must for me, and to be completely honest with you, I often can’t tell when my reading ends and meditation begins, or when meditation turns to prayer. I think true devotion to the Word is like that—a seamless process. I’m not alone here, right? 

Scripture, meditation, and prayer are the essential components in our strategy to walk in the Spirit. Anything that leads us to prayer is a huge asset because the attitude of our moment-by-moment prayer life (patterned after Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]), will help us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. 

When I say, “pray without ceasing,” obviously I don’t mean that every waking moment is spent in formal prayer. I think what Paul had in mind was in reference to recurring prayer, not ceaseless words. In other words, bring every temptation before Him. Give thanks for every good gift He gives from above. Ask for His help when you have an opportunity to share your faith. Turn to Him as the great Deliverer whenever you experience a trial. 

This helps us to see that walking in the Spirit is a lifestyle of continual prayer. Every thought, every action, every circumstance becomes an opportunity to talk to God; to thank God; to praise God; to petition God. 

Paul’s advice to the Ephesian Christ followers is good for us too. He said, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” [Ephesians 6:18].

Spending time with God in prayer is a crucial element in walking by the Spirit.

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 1 Peter 4:7

Friday, September 11, 2015

Harvesters Wanted

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I guess I have some explaining to do. A couple of days ago, I wrote an eDevotion titled Happy New Year! I’ve had several questions via eMail as to why the Jews celebrate the New Year (Rosh Ha Shana), in September — this year, September 14-15.

What's interesting about Rosh Ha Shana is that it doesn't fall on the first day of the first month like our January 1st. It actually falls on the first day of the seventh month on the Jewish Calendar. 

When we understand how the Jewish year begins, and how God outlined the ages according to the Jewish feasts, it all makes sense. The first month of the Jewish year begins with Passover. Two thousand years ago, the new age began with the crucifixion of Jesus on Passover. Next, Jesus rose from the dead precisely on the day of First Fruits. Then, fifty days later, the Feast of Pentecost began the celebration of the harvest season. That day marked the beginning of the first harvest in Jerusalem as three thousand souls came into the newly establish church.

Now, here we are, in the midst of the summer harvest, a harvest of souls, awaiting the sound of the trumpet. When the trumpet sounds, another age will begin; an age when "this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

The celebration of Rosh Ha Shana or Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), is a reminder that this age is coming to a close, harvest ended. It compels us to keep-on-keeping-on while we can. Don’t put off doing good — do good now. Don’t put off forgiving one another — forgive now. Don’t put of witnessing for Christ — witness now. Don’t put off living for God — live for Him now.

We are living in what has been described as the final days of the harvest. The “fields are ripe,” Jesus said. Let’s answer the call of “Harvesters Wanted.” In other words, let’s get ready for heaven and take as many people with us as possible!

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet will sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blessed with Power

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I hate it when I hastily buy toys for my grandkids and not take the time to read all the info on the box. It’s frustrating to get home and find out that “Batteries Are NOT Included!” Without a power source, the toy is useless.

That is never the case with Christ followers. When the Spirit secures our new life in Christ, He also empowers and strengthens us with every spiritual resource to serve Christ and minister to others. Paul said it this way, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” [Ephesians 1:3 - emphasis mine]. Please note that that you lack nothing—you have all the power you need.

Paul experienced first hand God’s infinite power supply. He went through circumstances that stretched him physically and spiritually to the limits [see 2 Corinthians 11:23-29]. Still, he would powerfully proclaim, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” [2 Corinthians 4:8-9]. We can attribute his inner perseverance to his power source—the Holy Spirit.

We have the very same Holy Spirit in us. We have all the power needed to navigate through any circumstance that comes our way. Are you being hindered? You need not be frustrated. Are you perplexed? No need to despair. Persecuted? You’re not alone. Though hard-pressed, we have the assurance of being renewed with fresh, daily strength from the Holy Spirit, as Paul said, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” [2 Corinthians 4:16].

God never leaves His children powerless. He gives us all we will ever need to live the Christian life through the Holy Spirit.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Happy New Year!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Happy New Year may sound strange for the title of a devotion in September, but that’s my greeting to you today. Yes, I know it’s September, but in just a few days (September 14-15, 2015), the Jewish New Year begins. We know it as Rosh Ha Shannah, Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets. At the end of summer, the Hebrews were commanded to blow the shofar — a ram’s horn (trumpet) — all day long. It was to sound an alarm. It served to mark the end of the summer harvest and to announce that the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is near. It’s time to stand before God.

For Christ followers, the Feast of Trumpets is amazingly prophetic. We are living in the time of harvest, the interval in which God is “harvesting” souls for the Kingdom. According to Scripture, the sound of the shofar is the next major event, just before that great, and notable Day of the Lord. 

There is a message to each of us within the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s a wake up call of sorts: The harvest will soon be over, make yourself ready to stand before God. How, you ask? Paul told the Corinthians what to do, and it is good advice for us as well: “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” 2 Corinthians 7:1.

The “summer harvest” is nearing completion, dear friend. The Day of the Lord is near. Rosh Ha Shannah — Happy New Year!

Blow ye the trumpet (shofar in Hebrew) in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is near at hand. Joel 2:1

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Green Pastures

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

He makes me to lie down in green pastures”  is a famous line from Psalm 23. The typical Christ follower in America who reads it, sees wide areas of unending soft, green grass. But that certainly is not the case in Israel. You need to rid your minds of acres of rolling hills of soft grass just waiting for hungry sheep. 

Long ago, the shepherds of Israel learned to find grass where most people wouldn't think to look. Here, green pastures are created as the breeze from the Mediterranean Sea brings moisture into the arid climate. It is from that moisture, that dew settles on the sides of hills creating little tufts of grass — some just big enough for one day's feeding for a flock of sheep. The shepherds would lead their flocks through the hot parched desert in search of pockets of “green pastures.” It's no wonder the sheep obeyed the shepherd's voice. They learned to depend on the shepherd to daily lead them to their sustenance.

How many times have you felt like you were walking through a barren wilderness? It can seem that way when going through a trial or testing. But keep in mind that while walking through the desert, our Shepherd is leading us to green pastures. Like sheep, we must depend on Him to lead us to the places where we find our “daily bread.” 

Don't despise those desert walks with the Shepherd, and don't be afraid. A green pasture near.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside still waters. Psalm 23:2

Friday, September 4, 2015

Praise Worthy

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

If you are unsure of how to praise the Lord, then the book of Psalms is for you. It’s like a praise manual of sorts. It’s filled with instruction on praise. The psalmist presents praise as both an action and attitude of the heart. 

One lesson I’ve learned from the psalmist is that we praise God when we submit to Him. Psalm 100 is one of those instruction sheets. The psalmist suggests three acts of submission that offer our praise to God. 

Submit to God as your Creator - “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” [vs. 3]. We should never forget who God is. Satan wants you to think he is God. If you listen to some people, they think they are God. But the Scriptures will have none of that! [See Isaiah 46:9; Psalm 46:10; 1 Chronicles 16:25]

We are not self-made, God made us. A guy once told his girlfriend, “I’m a self-made man.” She replied, “It’s right of you to take the blame.” Man is a mingling of dust and deity because we have been made by Him—in His likeness.

Submit to God as your Father - “We are His people” [vs. 3]. We have been chosen by grace. When we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, we become part of a spiritual family, with God as our Father—adopted into the family of God [Romans 8:15].

Submit to God as your Shepherd - we are “the sheep of His pasture [vs. 3]. Just like sheep, we need a Shepherd, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd [John 10:11], the Great Shepherd [Hebrews 13:20], and we are His sheep [see also Psalm 79:13].

Submit to God as Creator, Father, and Shepherd. When you do, you are praising God. Submission to Him means you are aligning your will to His will through obedience to His eternal Word. 

Think of it; God is your Creator, Father, and Shepherd. Now that is praise worthy!

Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:3-4

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Prepared for Battle

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

If war teaches us anything, it’s that thorough preparation of both soldiers and machinery are indispensable for victory. That’s why the armed forces put on mock battles. They know that if you enter the battlefield ill-prepared, victory is unlikely. With that understanding, Generals do everything possible to prepare their men and women for victory.

The same is true in spiritual warfare. Your victory is directly proportional to how well you are prepared. Paul told the Ephesian “soldiers” to find their strength in the Lord [Ephesians 6:10], and to put on His armor [6:11]. To be victorious, you must rely on Him and fully appropriate His spiritual resources.

When spiritual battles come your way, and they will, it’s too late to prepare. There are no mock battles in spiritual warfare. If your armor isn’t in place, you are vulnerable to the “fiery darts” of the enemy [6:12]. If you neglect prayer, worship, Bible study, accountability, and the other disciplines of faith, what expectation can you have to be victorious when spiritual skirmishes arise?

What soldier worth his salt would go to a battlefield unprepared? None who value their life. Shouldn’t that be true of Christ followers too? How much more should we prepare to fight against the schemes of the devil? Sure, the Bible declares that ultimate victory is ours. But you will lose many individual skirmishes if you are unprepared. The truth is, you may even languish in long periods of spiritual lethargy, impotence, and ineffectiveness, which is opposite of our mandate to “fight the good fight of faith” [1 Timothy 1:18].

Don’t be caught unprepared. Be on guard. Armor on. Weapons ready. Always be alert to the advances of an enemy described as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” [1st Peter 5:8].

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

When Faith Wavers

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Faith. One of my Bible College professors called it the heart of our Christian life. Let’s take a moment and think about the impact of faith in the life of a Christ follower. It is the means by which we are saved, receive forgiveness for our sins, enjoy a personal relationship with the Lord, and have the assurance of our salvation. By faith, we are at peace with God. It’s through faith that we live daily in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Unfortunately, our faith wavers, doesn’t it? We don’t like to admit it, but there are times when faith seems like a “pie-in-the-sky” kind of thing. Why is that? What causes our faith to waver? Here are a few things that diminish our faith:

When we always apply human ingenuity to our circumstances. There are times when God requires us to do something that goes against human reasoning.

When we follow our feelings instead of faith. Feelings are not the best measure of faith. We really get tripped up because of that. 

When we fail to see that God is at work in all of our circumstances—what we deem as God’s inactivity. For many Christ followers, that is the “crack in the door” that allows doubt to flood in. 

When we remain guilt ridden over past sins. We will never have or operate with strong faith while we languish in guilt over past wrongdoing. 

When we take the lies of Satan over the truth of Scripture. Satan is the “father of lies,” and he has an agenda. His objective is to have us reject God’s truth and accept his deception instead. 

The author of Hebrews said that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. That confident faith is available to each Christ follower. Avail yourselves of it, and rejoice in it.

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 [The MESSAGE Paraphrase]