Friday, March 31, 2017

Beyond Bunnies

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Most churches are in full swing to get ready for Easter celebrations. Special clean up crews, cool banners and decorations, spectacular music, egg hunts - all kinds of neat stuff. I’ve often wondered why we try so hard to get people to come to church on Easter. It’s typically the one time each year when most — even those who really don’t believe in God at all — go to church. 

For me, Easter is the reason I go to church every week. It’s the foundation of my faith. I learned this from the Apostle Paul who said that everything we do is vain, if Christ didn’t rise from the grave [1 Corinthians 15.14]. That’s why Easter is more than bunnies. It’s about true death, sorrowful burial, and certain resurrection. If not, you would never see me in a church again.

Bottom line: the resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in human history. Let’s make it personal: it’s the most important event for you and me. It’s the source of our hope for forgiveness, new life in Christ, and eternal life with God. 

Because of that we can sing with great enthusiasm…

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
(Charles Wesley, Christ the Lord is Risen Today - 1739)

True Christ followers don’t worship bunnies at Easter. We worship the One who gave us new life — Jesus Christ!

Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. John 14.19

Thursday, March 30, 2017

No Angels at the Cross

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When you read the accounts about Jesus in the Gospels, it’s common to see angels at critical moments in His life. For example, at His birth, in His temptation, in His agony. That’s why it’s startling that they were absent at the cross. The great commentator Matthew Henry suggested that when the Father forsook the Lord at the cross, the angels withdrew from Him also. 

Once Jesus died, we see angels again. In fact, it was an angel that rolled the stone away from the cave door and was found sitting on it. Jesus could have done that Himself. He had plenty of power, right? 

I have a theory about this. You won’t find it in the Bible, it’s simply my observation of the event. Jesus didn’t roll the stone away Himself in order to show that His resurrection wasn’t a “prison break.” He had to pay the full price for sin, and when the sentence was satisfied, an officer of the court was dispatched to open the prison door. He was free to leave because full satisfaction of the judgement against sin had been made. 

The enemies of Christ had sealed the tomb. It was their hour and they seemed mighty. But an angel, dispatched from heaven, broke the seal and rolled the stone away. Thus, the captives of the mighty were released by the Almighty!

There he was, sitting in triumph on the stone he had rolled away, as if defying any power to try and cover up the mouth of the cave again. Having frightened away the Roman guards, he sat ready to give the women who came early that morning the wonderful news, “He is not here, for He has risen just as He said” [Matthew 28.6].

Where are those angels now? Well, now that Jesus has resumed the glory He had with His Father before the foundation of the world, the angels are there worshiping Him.

Let’s do the same!

And they sang a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5.12

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Easter Gives Meaning to Christmas

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Many great events are celebrated on the liturgical calendar. I think it safe to say that the two great religious holidays are Christmas and Easter. For the most part, Christmas is celebrated in a much bigger fashion than Easter, right? Christmas is “that time of year” when families gather, carols are sung, trees are decorated, and gifts exchanged. It comes each December 25th, and is the climax of the year. 

Easter? Well, you go to church on Sunday and pick up some hard-boiled eggs, That’s about it. It almost seems to be viewed as a second-rate holiday. 

I think that is a big mistake. From a theological perspective, if Christ is still in a grave, Christmas has no meaning. If the tomb is not empty, the manger makes no difference. If Jesus is dead, He was merely another Rabbi with delusions of grandeur. If the resurrection is a hoax, then Christmas is merely a story of a birth in a hole-in-the-wall town in an obscure country two thousand years ago. Easter gives meaning to Christmas.

Christianity doesn’t hinge on the Virgin Birth, but it rises or falls on the resurrection. That’s why you see it repeated again and again in the New Testament. When the early Christ followers preached, they rarely mentioned Bethlehem. Their messages were filled with the empty tomb. It’s like they never got over that Sunday when they went to the tomb and Jesus wasn’t there — gone: “He is not here for He has risen just as He said” [Matthew 28.6].

And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4.33

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Kind of Person was Crucified?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Plutarch, the famous essayist and philosopher (c. 46-120 AD), wrote an interesting account of the time Julius Caesar, then 25 years old, was captured by Cilician pirates. Early in his political career, Gaius Julius was hated badly by the Romans. He thought it best to leave his beloved country, so he set sail for Rhodes. While on the Aegean Sea, his ship was attacked, and he was kidnapped. 

According to Plutarch, the pirates at first didn't know they had captured Caesar (although they figured him to be a man of means). When it was finally made known that he was Gaius Julius Caesar, they demanded a ransom of 20 talents of silver (about 620 kg, roughly $400,000 in today’s market). Caesar laughed and demanded that they ask for 50 talents because of who he was. 20 talents of silvers was simply not enough.

One of Caesar’s staff was sent to Rome to make arrangements for payment. It took over a month for the transaction, all the while, they held Julius Caesar captive. He would often tell them that one day, he would find and crucify them. They were amused and dismissed his threats. 

Caesar was released when the payment was made and the first thing he did was to gather an army to pursue the pirates. True to his promise, they were captured and crucified.

That was Rome’s attitude toward crucifixion. It was a cruel death reserved for the worst of criminals. The pain and humiliation of crucifixion had no parallel. It was designed to show extreme contempt for the condemned.

Jesus suffered that pain and humiliation at the hands of the Romans about 2,000 years ago. As Christ followers, we understand His horrific death, yet we rejoice in that “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” [Romans 4.25].

He died for the sins of mankind, even those who tortured Him and nailed Him to the cross, even the likes of you and me! That’s why we want to tell others about Him. There is life in His name!

[Jesus said]: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5.24

Monday, March 27, 2017

Celebrate Resurrection

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It was a dark day. Not only was the brightness of the sun hidden from view, but also it appeared that spiritual darkness prevailed. Having been crucified, and completely dead, they took the body of Jesus and put it in a cave tomb. A large stone was set at the mouth of the cave, and a Roman guard was posted in front of it. They did not want that corpse to leave that grave. 

He wasn’t coming out, they thought. Little did they know! But, you know the story. At Easter, we don’t memorialize a martyr, we celebrate a risen Savior!

We have four Gospels — historical documents, and there are plenty more! — that recorded His resurrection. Later, through the pen of the Apostle Paul, we learn that Jesus showed Himself alive to specific people, and to groups of up to 500 at one gathering. Can you imagine seeing someone walking down the street that you saw buried just three days before? Amazing!

Mockers at the cross asked, “If You’re God’s Son, prove it. Remove Yourself from the cross. That will show us if You’re really His Son or not.”

Indeed, He could have. But he had something even more spectacular planned. “I’ll show you that I am the Son of God. Not by merely coming down from the cross. I’m going to let you bury me for three days, then I’m coming out. You want proof? I’ll give you undeniable proof. I will rise from the dead in three days!”

They mocked. He did. And we are still celebrating it today!

The Good News is about His Son. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1.3-4 (New Living Translation, 2nd Edition)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Walk Humbly with Your God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The Lord was about to do some great things through Paul, but there was something of importance first. He was put on hold, waiting in Tarsus. Seems strange, doesn’t it? Not when you consider that he needed to be prepared to write a letter to the Romans. Or to confront the backsliding Corinthians. Or to mentor Timothy for a strategic ministry in Ephesus. Those, and many other things, needed the right temperament and a depth of character learned by dependence on God and others.

Later, God would put Paul in the limelight, but for now, he needed to walk humbly with his Lord. No self-promotion. No “climbing the corporate ladder.” No name dropping or whispered hints. Let God do the promotion.

If you have a ministry that needs to be up front, trust me, God will get the word out, but in His time and way. If you are needed for God’s plan, He will see that you are in precisely the right place at just the precise time. It’s His work, start to finish. 

Yours may not be a ministry under a spotlight or on a big stage. God may have as your part to be a lesser-known cast member, one of those who makes the difference for someone else. So, what is your part in any of this? Humble yourself, pure and simple.

Rather than going through life according to your own understanding, thinking that you only need to climb just a few more rungs on the ladder, just be right with the Lord. Learn what the prophet Micah learned—that we need to walk humbly with our God.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6.8

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Think About It, But Do Something

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you ever just sat down and thought about the coming of the Lord? Critical thinking is a difficult matter and it takes time. And we should think about the coming of the Lord. He is coming, you know?

Scripture says He’s coming like a nighttime thief and will catch many people unprepared. That’s the big picture we need to think about. Some Christ followers think about it but do nothing. Don’t let that happen! Knowing that Jesus will come again should impact your life, if you’re thinking correctly. So, sooner, rather than later, get up and do something about it. I guess the big question is, what should I do?

That’s what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christ followers about. In the 5th chapter of his letter, he gave them specific instructions. We would be wise to take them to heart. He urged the brothers to…

Warn those who are idle
Encourage the timid
Help the weak
Be patient with everyone
Not pay back wrong with wrong
Be kind one to another
Rejoice always
Pray continually
Be thankful in all circumstances
Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire
Don’t treat prophecies with contempt
Test everything
Hold on to the good
Avoid every appearance of evil

If you have any questions about what you should be doing today, start with this list. It will keep you occupied for quite a while. My guess is you won’t complete everything on the list so, pick out a few of them and go for it! 

May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5.23-24

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I was reading through 1 Samuel last night. In doing so, I read an account when David blew his stack, literally! Now, you don’t have to answer this, I think I already know the answer to what I’m about to ask:

Have you ever overreacted? Blown up? Had an emotional tsunami? Perhaps you were hanging tough through a difficult time when something happened — the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back — and you cut loose; you let it rip. 

Well, that’s what happened with David. He and his small army had been running from Saul in the Desert of Moan. There was a wealthy man in the area named Nabal. While he was tending to his property and possessions near Carmel, it appears David watched over his flocks so that nothing was stolen before he returned. David sent a few men to ask him for some supplies. Nabal refused, giving them a rather off-the-cuff remark. The men reported back to David and that’s when he had a melt down. 

He sent 400 soldiers to kill Nabal and all his employees. Talk about overkill; that’s like killing a gnat with a 5 lb. sledgehammer! Thankfully, Nabal’s wife intervened, stopping the inevitable massacre.

While running and hiding from Saul, David spent a lot of time on the emotional edge, just as we do sometimes. Add to that fatigue, disappointments, stress and you have a recipe for a volcanic-like eruption. 

Be careful, though. Reactions, especially overreactions, often create collateral damage. During stressful times, keep your trust in God. You can depend on Him in pressure cooker situations. He’s always there in an emotional furnace. 

David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow [Nabal]. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!”  1 Samuel 25.21-22

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

God’s Name is Holy

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name” [Matthew 6.9]. Hallowed isn't a word frequently used in our vocabulary. It is usually associated with the ivy-covered walls of Yale, Cornell, Harvard, or Colgate Universities. I’m thinking that Halloween came to some of your minds, right?

Well, those are a far cry from the biblical meaning. Hallowed comes from a Greek word, which means holy/separate. In the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed by Thy name” could mean to regard His name as holy, or a request for God to make His name holy. Either way, it means to set it apart from all things common. To be set in the place it deserves.

A question that comes to mind is, how do we do that? How can we hallow His name, giving it the proper place it deserves?

First, we must believe He exists. The author of Hebrews wrote, “…Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists…” [11.6]. That’s where we start. 

Apart from belief, we must also have the right concept of God. Many people hallow their God/god, but is it the God of the Bible? When the Israelites bowed before the golden calf at Sinai, Aaron told them, “This is your god!” [Exodus 32.4]. The religious leaders in the days of Jesus claimed to worship the true God, but Jesus called them “children of the devil” since they disavowed God’s Word [John 8.44, 47]. A sound doctrine of God is imperative if you want to hallow His name.

Another way to hallow His name is to be aware of His presence. If we constantly think of His presence with us, we will prioritize our lives by focusing on what He wants us to do. Perhaps that’s what David had in mind when he said, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” [Psalm 16.8].

Another way to hallow God’s name is by obedience. You may have an impeccable theology and be aware of His presence, but if/when you disobey Him, you have brought dishonor to His name.   

Hallowing the name of God sets you apart from all unbelievers, so let’s do it. God is holy and deserves your highest respect and your humble obedience.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of His holiness. Psalm 29.2

Monday, March 20, 2017

You’re Only a Boy, David

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When the young lad David wanted to fight the giant, Saul told him, “You’re only a boy.” Back to that in a moment. Do you remember the song about David? Perhaps you sang it as a child. If you remember it, sing along…

Only a little boy David
Only a babbling brook
Only a little boy David
And five little stones he took
One little stone went in the sling
And the sling went round and round (repeat this line at least 10 times!)
One little stone went up in the air
And the giant came tumbling down (sung in your lowest voice)

OK, one more time, with the motions!

You’re only a boy,” Saul said. That’s true, it certainly was factual. Unfortunately, that was also Saul’s assessment of David’s ability. You’re too young. You’re too small. You’re not strong enough. You don’t have the experience you need to fight Goliath. He has been fighting since he was a boy, and “you are only a boy, David.”

This is a man’s work. Let the men handle it. But that was also a problem. The men weren’t handling the situation. That was the reason for the situation in the first place. Every time Goliath took a step forward, the men took two giant steps back!

I hope you know the rest of the story. David met the giant armed with a few stones, a slingshot, and faith in His God. It was sufficient for the task as he slew the giant that day. The moral of the story is obvious, isn’t it? God chose to work through the “boy” to demonstrate His awesome power. 

Don’t sell yourself short either. God still works through anyone who will put their confidence in Him. Always has…always will!

Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." 1 Samuel 17.33

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oh, I Want to See Him

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When I was a kid, we sang an old hymn, Oh, I Want to See Him. The refrain went like this:

Oh, I want to see Him
Look upon His face
There to sing forever
Of His saving grace
On the streets of glory
Let me lift my voice
Cares all past
Home at last 
Ever to rejoice

It will be a great day when we see God “face to face.” There are times I wish it could happen now, while I’m living, but it is not to be. For one thing, His dazzling glory is too bright for our present fallen state and we could not bear the sight of Him. Even if the veil covering our view of Him were to be lifted for a nanosecond, we would perish instantly. 

But one day — not in a dream or vision — we will see Him. That’s a promise. And when we do, there will be no fear of being consumed. Our “Oh, I want to see Him” will be fulfilled!

Scholars call that the “Beatific Vision.” Remember the Beatitudes of Jesus? One of them was, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” [Matthew 5.8]. Undoubtedly, in heaven we will be pure in heart. Undoubtedly, we will see God. 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 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 1-3

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Check Your Mail

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Part of the duties of my great Admin Assistant is to go to the Post Office every day and pick up the church’s mail. Exciting? No it isn’t. Important? Indeed! Sure, there’s a lot of “junk mail” to be thrown away, but we also get communication from our missionaries and other important stuff. 

Hold on to that for just a moment.

I read the book of Lamentations last week and couldn't avoid the truth that Jeremiah was in the pits, literally. His “lament” in chapter 3.19 is heart-wrenching, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me." I think in Hebrew that means, "In the pits,” right? 

From that pit of despair, Jeremiah revealed how his hope is restored. “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope” [v. 21]. Whatever it is that he calls to mind must be a valued truth. Here it is [vvs 22-24]: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”

Are you limping along these days? Are you in a pit of despair? The hope of Jeremiah is YOUR hope too! A pastor friend of mine told me that, as daily discipline, he read this passage, then prayed concerning it every day. He would lift his hands palms down to the Lord, symbolizing the release of yesterday. Then, he would would turn his palms upward to receive what God would give him that day. That’s really not a bad idea. Drop yesterday’s accumulation; received today’s strength. And he would always say, “EVERY MORNING!”

May I encourage you this morning by saying, “A once-a-week fill up at a worship service just won’t do.” And some don’t always make it to those services making it weeks or even months before their “fill up.” What happens between those times? A growing mountain of stress, frustration, paralysis, frayed nerves. 

OK, remember my Admin Assistant going to the Post Office? That’s her first responsibility every day. She gets the important communications the church needs, and it comes daily. That’s what we need to do with God. We come to Him daily for that important message He has for us. It renews our hope. God has a new mercy for you each day. Be sure you stop and pick it up before rushing into your day!

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Lamentations 3.22-23a

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

While We Wait

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The tag line of eDevotion is, Encouragement for your daily walk with God. I have that in mind as I write each and every eDevotion. Sometimes it comes in the form of edification, sometimes exhortation. But encouragement is always at the heart of it. 

Today, I want to encourage those of you who are waiting. It goes to the issue of patience. Let’s face it, it’s just really hard to be patient. So, what’s happening during the waiting periods? If we are waiting in/on the Lord, most likely He is preparing us for ministry. Let me suggest four things about this.

Waiting cultivates patience. Patience is a problem for everyone, young or old. We live in what has been described as an “instant” society. Therefore, waiting in extended periods of time (developing patience) is an essential quality.

Waiting cultivates humility. It seems to me that while we are waiting, the Lord reminds us that we are not the star of the show. We are not indispensable. When we understand that, it makes for genuine humility. It took a while for Paul to become the great leader that he was. At first, though, he waited while others - Peter and Barnabas, for example - were in charge. In due time, he would rise in leadership. The timing was up to God, not him. 

Waiting cultivates depth. While we wait, we gain new insights about God and ministry. Those insights take us deeper in Christ. Let’s be truthful here, we don’t need smarter people today for ministry. We need deeper people! That happens as we wait on the Lord. 

Waiting cultivates effectiveness. I think of this as the “surprise” factor in ministry. “Me? Are you sure you want me, God?” There are always people that have greater qualities than you have. It’s refreshing to know that God will use us anyway. As a result, we walk in thankfulness and humility, amazed at the way God uses us. 

Maybe that’s the key. The best person for a ministry may be the one who’s amazed that God could use them. He can use you, too. Wait patiently on Him.

but those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40.31

Monday, March 13, 2017

You Can Trust God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself is, “Who are you going to trust?” The answer to that question is the determining factor for many issues in life. Like, your happiness, your success, your friends, and a host of other things. 

I’m sorry to say that there is a lot of misplaced trust these days. Some put their trust in government. Not a good idea as its credibility is at an all-time low. Some put their trust in the media. Again, bad idea because it’s hard to separate “fake news” from “real” news. Some put their trust in the court of public opinion. If you do that, you’ll be changing your opinion well, every five to ten seconds. 

How about yourself? Is that a place to put your trust? I don’t think so. If you do, you put yourself at the behest of your changing moods. 

I contend the best place to put your trust is in God. The Psalmist had it right, “For the word of the Lord is right and true, and we can trust everything He does [Psalm 33.4 - emphasis mine].

When God says something, you can rely on its truthfulness. His words are never shaded, filtered, or diluted. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear. It’s always trustworthy. And the best part about it is that His truth “will set you free!” [John 8.32].

Everything God says is true. Everything God does is right and good. You can trust God.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20.7

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I don’t know the first thing about farming from experience. I’m what you might call a “city boy.” Green Acres is not the place for me! But I do know some principles about farming from talking with a few in my lifetime, and by reading about them. Scripture deals with principles of farming as well.

One of the main things we learn from Scripture is that a harvest does not come without diligent effort on part of the farmer. There are things a farmer must do if he or she expects to reap a bountiful harvest. Things like cultivating the soil, planting seed at the right time, and nurturing the plants to maturity. Each and every step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Bearing spiritual fruit is the same. It is not a haphazard process. One must pursue the knowledge of God’s will, which is revealed in the Word. Paul had this in mind when he prayed for the Colossian Christ followers to increase “in the knowledge of God’s will” [1.9]. 

Grammatically, one could say “increasing IN” or “increasing BY.” Both are acceptable renderings of the word. “In” emphasizes the need to grow and “By” emphasizes the means by which one grows. 

One of Satan’s tactics to impede spiritual productivity is to get us preoccupied with bankrupt substitutes for God’s truth. In Colosse, he planted false teachers that said knowing God’s will was inadequate for spirituality, that they needed more, which could only be taught to them by those same false teachers. But Paul would not let them get away with that. He told them that in Christ are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” [2.3]. Christ is all you need. 

We must grow in the “grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 3.18]. That’s how we can expect a bountiful, spiritual harvest. Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1.10