Friday, July 29, 2016

Make a Statement

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

What statement is your life making? The real testimony of your life is how you live it out, not what you say. There’s an old saying that bears this out: Actions speak louder than words. In other words, a person testifies to his or her beliefs and priorities by the way they live. 

That’s why Jesus said that to a world watching us, believers should be salt and light, two items which simply cannot be ignored. When salt is added to food, it improves the taste; when light enters a room, darkness is dispelled. The character, conduct, and conversation of a Christ follower should make a loud statement, one that demonstrates the need for Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We learn how to live a life that brings glory to God through the study of Scripture. As we read and meditate on it, we lay hold of principles and priorities for godly living. We learn lessons by means of biblical characters. Their stories teach us how they coped with the difficulties of life, how they discovered and learned from their mistakes, and how they interacted with God.

From their stories, and from the teaching of the Apostles, we learn that God wants us to be like Him. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, every Christ follower is destined to be conformed to the image of Jesus [Romans 8:29].

Make a statement with you life today and always. Set an example of godly living, one for others to follow. Then you can say as Paul did, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” [1 Corinthians 11:1].

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fruit-bearing Christ Followers

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Every Christ follower should be a fruit producer. And, by the way, they shouldn’t be a “One-Crop-Wonder!” Bearing fruit is an ongoing process of the spiritual life. Peter wrote about this, and in essence said, if you are growing in your faith, you will produce fruit. How do we grow in faith? By adding things to it: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love [from 2 Peter 1:5-7].

Fruit-bearing is the best indicator that a person is the Christ follower they claim to be. It is the criteria Jesus used to distinguish true prophets from false prophets [see Matthew 7:15-20].

Fruit-bearing isn’t limited to one thing. Many righteous acts in the Bible are referred to as fruit — winning souls, ministering to the saints, support of ministry, lips of praise, and prayer — just to mention a few.

Undergirding our fruit-bearing is the Holy Spirit that produces fruit in our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — [Galatians 5:22-23). 

As the Holy Spirit keeps producing His fruit in us, and as we keep adding to our faith, as Peter said, we will never be useless or unfruitful; our faith will never be dead or ineffective!

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:8

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Walk with Confidence

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Even though we saw his inadequacies and limitations, Moses was mightily used by God. He was the vessel God chose to work through in delivering His children from bondage; to carry out the plagues over Egypt, divide the Red Sea, and lead a murmuring and complaining people through the desert for forty years — that’s pretty big stuff. Can you imagine being his successor after all that!

I wonder how Joshua felt when God selected him to fill those mighty big shoes. He had to have pondered, “How can I possibly live up to Moses?” That's when the Lord stepped in with some of the greatest words of comfort you’ll read in the Bible, “…as I was with Moses, so I will be with you!”

Amazing! We should also take these words to heart. All the men and women who have accomplished great things for God were just ordinary people — with a great God. The same God that walked with them walks with us. 

Walk with confidence. God is with us! He doesn’t abandon His children; He never leaves or forsakes them. Since He is with us, and for us, expect to do great things for God today. Remember, He demonstrates His love and power through ordinary people. 

There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not leave you, nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sowing and Reaping Law

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Laws of nature are not merely suggestions. Neither are they open for debate. Laws govern everything we do in life. Take gravity, for example. Discovered by Newton, it basically says that things tend to fall downward. We have a saying that more aptly describes it: What goes up, must come down. You can pretend it doesn’t exist, but you better not try to defy it. I discovered the law of gravity the hard way, when as a young boy, I tied a pillow case around my neck and jumped off the roof of our house thinking I would fly like Superman. Do I need to tell you the outcome?

Paul wrote to the Galatian Christ followers about a spiritual law; sowing and reaping. It follows a natural law that says if you plant tomatoes, you reap tomatoes, but it goes much further. It deals with sowing carnal things and spiritual things. 

Sowing carnal things reaps a harvest of corruption. Sowing spiritual things reaps a harvest of life. Dear Christ follower, don’t sow what the people of the world sow. If you do, you’ll reap the same thing.

Instead of sowing wild oats, sow spiritual seed.

Instead of sowing lies, sow love.

Instead of sowing parties, sow prayer.

Instead of sowing sexual pleasure, sow sexual purity. 

Instead of sowing hate, sow heaven.

Then, instead of reaping corruption, you’ll reap life!

It’s true, you reap what you sow. What kind of harvest do you really want?

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 (The MESSAGE Paraphrase)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Your Unique, Eternal Treasure

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

In case you have forgotten, or in case you didn’t know it, the corruption of sin applies to everything, not just people. Paul wrote to the Roman Christ followers reminding them of that very thing. The creation is “subject to futility,” he said, and it needs to be “set free from its slavery to [that] corruption.” To cap it off, he personified creation and said that it “groans and suffers” while it is waiting for the freedom of the glory of the children of God [see Romans 8:20-22].

The practical application of that is, all the stuff you are collecting right now is corruptible and will eventually vanish. If it’s an investment, it can crash and burn. If it’s cash, a recession can wipe it out. If it’s a thing, it can get rusty or be stolen. Even if you are fortunate that none of that happens to you, you will be separated from it by death. As the old saying goes, “You never see a U-Haul following a hearse.”

That’s why Jesus taught that we should not “lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal" [Matthew 6:19-20].

The inheritance you have from God is not like earthly treasures. Peter said that your eternal inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unchangeable [1:4].

Imperishable means your inheritance is secure. It comes from a word that was used to describe a territory that had never been invaded, ravaged, or plundered by a foreign army. No intruder - not even Satan himself - can pick the lock and get in. 

Undefiled means that is not, nor ever will be, polluted by sin. 

Unchangeable suggests that it will never lose its beauty or luster. Peter used the same word to describe the unfading crown of glory that will be given to faithful elders [see 1 Peter 5:4].

What a unique treasure we have! It can’t be stolen. It remains in beauty. And sin can’t touch it. Think about it, this treasure is yours to enjoy throughout eternity. Don’t get sidetracked by the pursuit of perishable things. Enjoy your eternal treasure.

And we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, imperishable and undefiled, beyond the reach of change. 1 Peter 1:4

Friday, July 22, 2016

Add to Your Faith

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

God has given us everything we need to live godly in this world [see 2 Peter 1:3]. When some people hear or read that, they think nothing is expected of them; that God will do everything for them. That idea might be expressed by the motto: “Let go and let God.” Interestingly, when biblical characters “let go and let God,” they were still actively engaged. Take Gideon, for example. He “let go and let God,” but then had to fight the Midianites with 300 instead of 10,000 men. I think if we were to ask him for a motto, it would be: “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

There are many struggles in life, battles if you will, in which Christ followers must make every effort to equip themselves with godly virtues. That was Peter’s advice [command in Greek] to his flock. He wrote about it in his second letter to them, making a list of things they needed to continually add to their faith in order to “never stumble” (from the Greek, ptaio, to fall).

The first on the list is “moral excellence.” It comes from the Greek, arete, which can also mean, virtue. In ancient literature, it referred to the performance of heroic deeds. It also referred to a quality that made someone or something to stand out. For example, an arete sword was one that was sharp and well balanced. An arete horse was one with endurance. An arete soldier was one who followed orders and was effective in battle.

Moral excellence or virtue is not an attitude, it is an action. Some commentators suggest it has the idea of “energy” — the energy which produces power to do excellent things. We need look no further than Christ for an example of that. He “went around doing good…” [Acts 10:38].

Be stedfast in your pursuit of moral excellence. And you would be wise to follow Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonica Christ followers to “excel still more” [1 Thessalonians 4:1]. God’s provision does not preclude our responsibility.

In view of all this, giving all diligence, add to your faith moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge. 2 Peter 1:5

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Revive Us Again

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I remember what it was like to be a teenager in 1968. Three words have been used to describe that time - sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll. Well, I guess that's really four words, but who’s counting anyway!

It was a dark time in our country. There was a drug epidemic, particularly among the teens. And talk about social unrest, there were riots on top of riots, which produced a foreboding hopelessness. Sound familiar? I could be talking about life in 2016.

There is a big difference, though. Today, there is an ever increasing move toward the secular; a move toward godlessness. In 1968, it was near the height of the Jesus Movement. 1968 is the year I fully committed my life to Christ, and so I got to see, first-hand, what it was like to live in a REVIVAL! It was a lot different back then, especially when it comes to gathering together in church services. Back then, when the church doors were open, you went to church!

And while we enjoyed our worship activities, we never went as spectators. We were engaged. We expected something to happen in every service. Honestly, there was a spine-tingling anticipation that God was going to do something. Annie Dillard said that if we were praying right, when we got to church “we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews!” (Quoted in Darrell Johnson, Fifty-Seven Words that Changed the World, pg. 41)

Another thing I remember about those days is that the Word of God was systematically taught. That kind of teaching lent itself to our stability and spirituality. No “sermonettes for Christianettes" in those days! You went to church with the biggest Bible you had and a pocket full of pens. That way, if you ran out of ink while marking up your Bible, you’d instantly have a replacement.

Another thing about those days was an expectancy of the Lord’s return. “He’s coming back!” We heard that nearly every week. And we believed it.

Well, I’m a grandparent now, as are a lot of that generation, I expect. Wouldn’t it be great to see another revival? One that would grab hold of our hearts, and the hearts of our kids and grandkids. I’m ready. How about you? It has to start somewhere. Here I am, Lord. You can start with me!

I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

Friday, July 1, 2016

What do you live for?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Everyone lives for something. What do you live for? What is it that gets you pumped up? What lights your fire? 

I can tell you what it was for the Apostle Paul because he wrote to his friend Timothy about it. “But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is; my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance” [2 Timothy 3:10 - emphasis mine].

Now there’s a guy who lived with a purpose! What’s yours? I can tell you what it is for some, not by what they say, necessarily, but by how they live: 

Life is about having fun 
Life is chasing after pleasure
Life is about making money
Life is about relationships
Life is wielding power
Life is about getting high

Everyone lives for something, and usually it has to do with an attempt to make themselves happy. Dear Christ follower, don’t seek to be happy, seek to be holy. The people I know that seek to be men and women of God, testify that happiness (Christian joy) abounds in their lives as a by-product of holy living.

Rather than seeking pleasure, seek purpose. Rather than seeking success, seek significance. The happiness god, or any other false god, will not be with you in your hour of need, but God will. Wherever you go, He is with you. You have His promise.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5