Monday, April 25, 2016

God Orders Our Steps

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

In preparing for a mission trip to Africa, I’ve been reading about Paul’s missionary journeys. I’m reminded how differently we will travel than he did. We will board a plane and in about 30 hours, we’ll be at our destination. He, on the other hand, spent weeks aboard a ship to reach his destination. That’s quite a difference!

One thing hasn’t changed, though - Not everything goes smoothly on a mission trip! Take Paul’s trip that we read about in Acts 27. A group of 276 men (Paul, Julius the Centurion, the Roman soldiers, the ship owner, the captain, the sailors and other prisoners) set sail from the Fair Havens port to the Phoenix harbor on the island of Crete, a mere 40 miles away.

It was an epic voyage to say the least. A terrible storm sent them off coarse. In order to stay afloat, they had to jettison their cargo, equipment, and food. Fourteen days later, while maneuvering into an inlet, they ran aground on a sandbar. The ship was torn apart. All of those onboard either swam or floated on pieces of the ship’s debris to get to shore. 

Nothing like that has ever happened on any of the mission trips I’ve been on. THANK GOD FOR THAT! However, I have experienced plane changes, missed connections, weather delays, location detours, transport substitutions, and other obstacles. 

When those kind of things happen, rather than become frustrated and upset about itinerary modifications and loss of time, I’ve asked our group to do what Paul did… 

Pray and continue believing God’s promise
Paul accepted the Lord’s message of their safe delivery with faith. His certainty in God’s word provided encouragement to his fellow travelers [see Acts 27:23-35].

Worship and give thanks to God
Paul publicly acknowledged God was the source of their provision. With a thankful heart, he honored and magnified the Lord [see Acts 27:35].

Be a witness to unbelievers
Paul’s confidence was a sharp contrast to the distressed men on the ship who served pagan gods. 

Missionary work is not an exact science. We make our plans and set our itinerary, but God orders our steps!

He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heaven and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.  What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation. Psalm 107:25-32 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

World Missions and Expectations

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I am getting ready to embark on a two-week mission trip to Africa with three other like-minded saints. I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do as we work with people with a different language and culture. 

Mission trips, both long and short term, have the allure of a grand adventure; new sights, new smells, new food, new culture. Adventure may play a role in missions, but it is not the primary reason for doing so. A mission trip is not a little get-away, vacation, or retreat. The heart of any mission trip should be to share the love of Christ as a team and as individuals, and, in doing so, to aid in the work already being done by the local missionaries, pure and simple.

In his book, Serving with Eyes Wide Open (2006, Baker Books), David Livermore wrote about the “fun-filled, adventurous mindset” concerning  missions. He said, “[…that kind of mindset] is quite a contrast from the thousands of young, aspiring missionaries in China who are ready and expecting to die for the gospel during their mission sojourns. In their words, ‘The Muslim and Buddhist nations can torture us, imprison us, and starve us, but they can do no more than we have already experienced in China…We are not only ready to die for the gospel, we are expecting it.’” [p. 52]

Where we are going is not as hostile to Christianity as some countries are. Regardless, whenever you work at advancing the Kingdom of God, you will come up against opposition. Therefore, we are going, keeping three things at heart: SPIRITUAL FOCUS, TENACITY, and PASSION.

Our team appreciates and treasures your prayers on our behalf.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It's one thing to affirm the Gospel in our heads, but it's entirely another thing to be gripped by it to the point of action. If we truly believe that people who do not know Christ are lost without Him, then certain implications follow. 

As Christ followers, it’s not enough that we check off the “I’m Saved” box and leave it at that. Nearly 1/3 of the world’s population claim Jesus as their Savior, yet by some estimates, 1/3 have no access to the Gospel at all. Some mission agencies tell us that there are more than six thousand unreached people groups.

If we are to truly embrace the Gospel, it must change the urgency of our mission. Rather than endless debate about the fate of the “heathen,” we need to get busy telling others about who Christ is and what He has done. 

And when it comes to the Great Commission, don’t pray, “Lord, I’ll go if you tell me to go,” rather pray, “Lord, here I am, send me! Use me as harvest hands.” And by the way, you don’t have to leave your community to do that. You can stay right where you are witnessing to those around you, and at the same time support those who take the Gospel abroad. It’s the urgency that matters.

Dear Christ follower, don’t neglect, ignore, or downplay the Gospel. Affirm it and surrender to the Lord’s global mission project.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Catch Me

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

In his book, Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel tells the story of a walk he once took with his young son, Zac. There were in the countryside climbing some small, rocky cliffs. They had stopped for a short rest and, while Tim was looking around, he had his back to his son. All of a sudden the boy yelled, “Hey Dad! Catch Me!” Tim whirled around just in time to see that his son had launched himself in his direction. He was able to catch his boy, but that didn’t stop him from a near heart attack. 

As you can imagine, he was shocked and barely able to talk. Finally, he got his voice, “Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that?” Calmly, the boy said, “Sure, because you’re my dad.”

That’s childlike faith, the kind that will get you into the Kingdom of God [Matthew 10:15]. As far as Zac was concerned, his dad was trustworthy. He didn’t think anything about it, he simply believed that His dad would catch him. That’s it.

Christ followers would do well to trust like that. We carry around a lot of things that burden and weigh us down. What we should be doing is launching ourselves into the arms of God. Remember, God sacrificed His Son to adopt you into His family. You are His child and He is your heavenly Father. “I’m worried about that lab result, catch me.” “I’m getting old, catch me.” “I lost my job, catch me.” “I don’t want to be alone, catch me.”

Now listen, I’m not suggesting that you jump off the cliff for no reason and expect a safe landing. Not at all. But what I can say is, you are God’s sons or daughters. Stop being fearful and cast yourself on Him. He will NEVER fail to catch you. 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:9

Friday, April 15, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

As Joshua prepared to enter and conquer the Promised Land, he received the command most often repeated by God, “Do not be afraid.” Joshua needn’t be afraid because God would be with him through thick and thin. Jesus also repeated this command. His disciples, like us, were prone to fear, whether under the shadow of death, bearing witness to their Lord, or living with the disfavor of men. There are many reasons to be afraid.

That’s why we need, and have been given, the “Comforter” — the Holy Spirit. What comes to mind when you hear the word Comforter? Do you think of a fluffy bed covering, something to snuggle up in? In English, comfort and consolation go hand in hand. I hope that isn’t your only thought about the divine Comforter. 

I like to think of Him with two foreign words, one Greek and one Latin.

The Greek word paracletos translated as comforter, literally means, one who comes along side to assist. A helper. An advocate. 

The Latin words cum forte translated as comfort, literally means, with strength.

The Comforter isn’t someone who only comes to console us after a battle, trial, or discouragement. He is there with strength and power before, during, and after each and every event. Because Jesus has already overcome the world, we have reason to “be of good cheer” [John 16:33], and live fearlessly as “more than conquerors” [Romans 8:37] because we have a divine Comforter.

Comfort: divine help and strength in every situation. “Do not be afraid,” God speaks today. You are a Christ follower. And regardless what your are facing, you have a divine Comforter, our gift from God through Christ [John 14:15-17].

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Study the Word?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The title of this eDevotion may seem like an odd one to you because, most likely, you wouldn’t be reading this devotion if you didn’t think it was necessary or, at least, profitable. Unfortunately, some Christ followers come up with excuses for not doing so. Among the most common are, “It’s too difficult to understand,” and “It’s boring.” 

First, you don’t have to be a skilled theologian with Seminary training to be equipped to study and understand the Scriptures. Frankly, I think that is a weak excuse to soothe the conscience from neglecting the duty to study.

Now, don’t let this big word scare you, but the Reformers answered excuses like this by advocating the perspicuity of Scripture. What is that? It means that not all the Bible is equally clear, but the basic message is very clear. In other words, if you read the Bible, you can grasp the essential elements of it. 

Second, how can anyone legitimately claim the Bible is boring or they need someone to make it come alive! The Bible is filled with drama, passion, crime, intrigue — scheming, conniving, double-dealing underhandedness. You know, the kind of stuff you watch on television every day! Although the setting may be foreign to us, the issues biblical characters faced are common to us.

Why study the Word? To keep growing! Our goal is to ultimately become more like Christ and be pleasing to God in all of life. It is a life-long goal, but it is achieved when we patiently, and daily, study the Word. 

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Keep on Believing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

He was so hopeful. His daughter was deathly ill, but a Healer was on the way. There was a short pause as He dealt with another, a woman who had a continual flow of blood for twelve years. As the Healer announced good news to the woman, “You are free from your affliction,” bad news came from the house of Jairus, “Your daughter is dead.”

With that, the synagogue leader went into transition mode. Putting his arms around Jairus, he said, “I’m sorry for the loss of your daughter. We need not bother the Healer any more” [my paraphrase of Mark 5:35]. 

Then the Healer, Jesus, said the impossible, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” A more literal translation is, “Don’t be afraid, KEEP ON BELIEVING.” 

It must have been hard for Jairus, and it’s hard for us too. But we must keep on believing. After all, we’ve staked our eternal destiny on His promises. That’s why Hebrews 11 is such a blessing to us. It records men and women who trusted in God’s goodness and faithful promises when, from the human perspective, it seemed like nonsense. 

Nonsense is what the professional mourners thought when Jesus finally arrived at Jairus’ house. After assessing the situation, He announced the girl wasn’t dead, merely sleeping. Nonsense, they thought, so the mocking laughter began. Unlike Jairus, they had no faith in the Healer at all. 

With that, Jesus said, “Tabitha, cumi” [“get up…arise”]. And she did! The impossible wasn’t so impossible after all.  

Faith keeps our eyes on God, not the impossible. Unbelief scoffs at the possible. Christ followers know there is nothing more sure than the Word of the Lord. So whatever it is that you’re facing, “Only believe — KEEP ON BELIEVING.” And if you think you are falling short on persevering faith, remember the prayer of another man who was asked to believe the impossible. He said, “Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24]

But when Jesus overheard what was said, He told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” Mark 5:36

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

More Growing? More Word!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Reading your Bible and prayer are the two most essential elements if you are going to grow (keep growing) in Christ. In all honesty, I feel closer to God when reading the Bible than I do at any other time. I’ve even written a book about it titled, A Word about THE Word.

The Bible gives us an accurate account of God’s character, action, and purposes. In other words, it tells us about who He is and what He can do. It also reveals what man is like, and what man needs the most. When read together, the Old and New Testaments teach us that mankind’s problem is sin. It goes on to say the only remedy for that is faith in Christ because of what He did for us at Calvary. As we read it, the Bible explains what happens when we are “saved” — the wages of sin is paid in full, sin’s power over us is broken, and the Holy Spirit becomes our constant Companion. 

Our faith becomes useful as the Holy Spirit dispenses spiritual gifts so that we can accomplish the task that God has for us. That’s His plan for you and me [see Romans 12:4-6; 1 Peter 4:10]. When you read the Word, and take time to ponder/meditate on it, you’ll come to know that our task is like our Lord’s task — to do the Father’s will.  

So now comes the big question: What place does the Bible have in determining the course of your life? Here’s what I suggest as my encouragement for you today… Take time to read and meditate on the Scriptures EVERY DAY! Over time, it will orient your mind to God’s will, His priorities, and thinking.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

Monday, April 11, 2016

Grow in Knowledge of the Lord

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

First a story, then an application.

The Law distinguished between the clean and the unclean. Those classified unclean were forbidden to join the community in Temple worship. Sometimes the uncleanness was temporary in nature. Childbirth is an example of that. However, after a short time, the woman could become ceremonially clean and join with others in the community [Leviticus 12]. Other forms of uncleanness were permanent. Incurable diseases are an example of that [Leviticus 13].

Mark 5 describes a woman who, for all intents and purposes, was permanently unclean. She had a discharge of blood for twelve years. She was desperate for many reasons, not the least of which was being an “outcast” all that time [Leviticus 15:19-30]. She had spent everything in her attempts to find healing. Now penniless, she heard about Jesus and His miraculous healing power. And He was coming her way.

She sought Him out, and Mark explained that her goal was to touch the Lord’s clothing, believing that contact with it could heal her. In those days, people thought they received benefit by simply touching a person’s garment. It is likely that her pursuit of Jesus was not free of superstition. 

Regardless, Jesus healed her, which was a demonstration of His grace. He accepted imperfect, but true faith. That is good news for us because none of us will have perfect faith this side of heaven. Let me be clear, imperfection is not permission to hold on to superstitions and false belief. God wants you and me to keep growing in our faith and knowledge of Him and His promises.

When we first come to Christ in faith, it is imperfect and may be filled with many errors. Overtime, however, the Holy Spirit helps correct those errors. He helps us grow in what is true and right. 

Like the woman in Mark 5, keep pursuing Christ. Keep reaching out to Him for a greater appreciation of who He is and what He can do.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Kingdom—Slow and Steady Growth

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Jesus used several farming analogies to teach us about the Kingdom of God. The Parable of the Sower [or Parable of the Soils] is among the most famous. There is another, however, that captures my attention. Commentators call it “The Parable of the Growing Seed.”

It starts the same as the famous parable with the planting of the Kingdom by scattering the seed of God's Word on the ground. From that point on, it stresses the mystery of the Kingdom’s slow, steady growth. 

The sower does his job of scattering the seed, then he goes about his daily routine. He gets up in the morning and goes to bed in the evening. While he is doing that, the seed germinates and slowly grows, unseen by him. Sure, he can measure the growth of the plant, but he cannot see it growing. Then, he waits patiently.

Please don’t mistake patience for passivity. Paul told the Corinthian Christ followers there needed to be planting, and watering, but God was the One that caused the growth [see 1 Corinthians 3:6]. In other words, the farmer has little to do with the harvest. That’s the point Jesus emphasized in this parable. The sower doesn’t make a seed grow. Likewise, we who labor for God’s Kingdom don’t make the Kingdom mature. That is God’s work.

Let me say it this way: Most often, we don’t know what God does with our labor in the “field of harvest.” We plant the seed then go about our business. We get up in the morning and go to bed in the evening. And while we are doing these mundane things, God germinates the seed of His Word, which eventually produces a harvest.

Our job is to plant the seed, God’s job is to make it grow. In a similar way, we are tempted to try and “grow the Church [Kingdom].” Some do it by making the Gospel less offensive or exclusive. Some try attracting people to the Kingdom by means other than the simple sowing the Word. 

My encouragement for your daily walk with God is, keep on sowing [preaching] the Word. Preach the Gospel faithfully, then trust God for growth. The harvest will come and with lasting results.

[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Firm and Secure Hope

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m finding that the older I get, the less I want things to change. Change is unsettling. And it seems to me that we are living in a time of unprecedented change. Technology is changing so fast that the electronic gadgetry we buy is nearly obsolete by the time we exit the store. Education has changed. It used to be “Readin’, Writin,’ and ‘Rythmetic. I don’t know what to call it today, except, maybe, social manipulation. Wages have changed drastically. When I got my first job, the minimum wage was $1.25 per hour, now it’s $15.00. From the way we work to the way we relax, everything is changing. I want, no, I need something that doesn’t change, something to rely on.

The author of Hebrews wrote about this very thing. He told us that we have a “hope” that anchors our soul: Jesus, slain for our sins, and risen for our rescue from eternal separation from God. 

An “anchor for the soul.” That’s what we need. That’s what brings comfort. An old hymn from 1863 captures this truth…

In ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.
When ev’ry earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
From William B. Bradbury’s, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, 1863

Steadfast. Firm. Secure. The author of Hebrews went on to say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” [13:8]. Our hope is anchored in the changeless One. Nothing can undo what He has done to redeem us. Nothing can change His love for us, and nothing can ever separate us from that love. Our steadfast hope, our only hope, is Jesus!

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Behold the Lamb

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Scripture is filled with descriptive titles for Jesus. You’ve read many of them, I’m sure: Lord, Messiah, Son of Man, Teacher, and many more. One that I’m particularly fond of is LAMB. If you don’t have a Jewish background, perhaps you are limited in your understanding of this title. Israelites in that day understood it perfectly — lambs were for sacrifice.

Sacrifice. That is how God has always dealt with sin and transgression. Through the blood of a sacrificial animal. 

Adam and Eve sinned and an animal was slain to cover their nakedness [Genesis 3:21].

On the original Passover, the blood of a animal covered the doorway, making a family safe [Exodus 12:1-7].

On the Day of Atonement, the blood of an animal was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat (the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant) to atone for the sins of the entire nation of Israel for a year [Leviticus 16:15].

And ultimately, we see Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In every instance, an innocent animal died in the place of the guilty. That’s exactly what Christ did for mankind. “The Just for the unjust,” as Peter said [1 Peter 3;18], to bring us to God. His perfect life was the perfect sacrifice. As He hung on the cross, the Lord laid on Him “the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. The Lamb of God was sacrificed and the wrath of God against sin was satisfied. 

Honestly, I don’t think we can fully understand all that the Lamb of God endured to bring us salvation. However, we know enough that we owe Him our very lives. He gave His life for you, so give your life for Him!

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

Monday, April 4, 2016

Encounter with Legion

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

In my role as a Pastor, I’m often asked my opinion about demon activity. Fear of demons and spirits is seen in every culture, and with good reason. After all, from what we read about them in the Bible, they are vastly more powerful that human beings. It’s easy, then, to understand mankind’s superstitions about freeing themselves from demonic influence. 

Listen up! Superstitions have no effective power over Satan, but the Lord does! That is the main lesson we learn from Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac from Gerasa [Mark 5:6-10]. The demons even recognized it because they called Him “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” [Mark 5:7]. 

In that day, people commonly believed that to say another person’s name would give the speaker some advantage or power over the named person. And Legion laid it on thick, calling Jesus by His name and title -“Jesus, Son of the Most High God.”  

Of course his attempt was hopeless. No power or authority equals that of the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Hence, we believe that the whole of Satan’s kingdom is subject to the authority of Christ. 

Then it happened, not by a prolonged ritual, merely a spoken word, “Come out of the man.” And they did. All of them. No wonder the the “spirt world” trembles at His name [James 2:19].

Christ followers need not fear demons or the spirit world. Not because of who we are, but because of who He is and what He can do. You can put your full confidence in His power over the spirit world, and His ability to preserve you forever in His kingdom.

And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Mark 5:7-9

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter People

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Paul made an astonishing statement to the Ephesian Christ followers. He wanted each of them to know the exceeding power of God working in their lives. How exceedingly powerful, you ask? The same power working “in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” [Ephesians 1:19-20]. That is exceedingly powerful!

Resurrection Power! Fifty days after the resurrection, on the day we call Pentecost, God sent a wonderful gift; He sent the Holy Spirit to those who would believe. How strange it would have been if the Holy Spirit would make the new church God founded that day more fearful. More timid. More hesitant. What would have happened if the Holy Spirit’s power was a spineless power? 

Paul described the power to Timothy: A spirit of power, of love, and sound judgment.

POWER - It was the power God used to raise Jesus from the dead after paying for our sins. That’s power enough to overcome the struggles of life. Power enough to resist the evil one. Power enough to put off our rampant sinful nature: anger, hate, envy, et al. 

LOVE - It’s power to love as Christ loved.

SOUND JUDGMENT - It’s power over self-indulgence. That kind of power helps us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and be a Christ follower. 

With that kind of power, we can live an Easter Sunday life throughout the year. Better yet, an Easter life. We are Easter people, after all!

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. 2 Timothy 1:7