Friday, July 28, 2017

Choose Life

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Moses was about to deliver his last message to the Israelites. They had been out of Egypt for quite some time and they had many things to remember. Like the plagues that had been visited on the Egyptians that led to their freedom. Like walking through the Red Sea on dry ground. Like the daily provision of food in the form of manna and quail. Like divine guidance in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. Most assuredly it was their God who sustained them in the desert those many years. They were, indeed, the children of God.

And now, their journey had come to an end. Moses will address them a final time. “You’ve got a choice.” he told them. “You can choose life or death, blessing or curse. By the way, choose life.” Then, he told them how to do that, and it wouldn’t come just because God had been with them in the past. They had to choose Him now.

It’s the same with us. As Christ followers, a vital, vibrant spiritual life doesn’t miraculously happen because of something in your past. Maybe you said a prayer somewhere way back there and you think, “I made my God-choice, now I can live my life.” That isn’t the truth of Scripture. 

Like Moses, God invites us to choose Him daily, moment by moment. Choose life. Choose a godly life. A powerful life. A peaceful life. A contented life. A full and abundant life. 

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, you have an opportunity to choose God more fully than you’ve known Him before. Go for it with all your heart.

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him. Deuteronomy 30.19-20

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Young and Strong

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m troubled that many young people think they cannot be strong or mature or successful as a Christ follower until they are older. The Apostle John didn’t think so and neither do I. In his first letter, he told the young men that they had overcome the wicked one. I don’t know the age that he had in mind, but he singled them out just as he did the fathers [1 John 2.14].

So let me start with a strong word: It’s a MYTH that young people can’t be strong in their faith. The young men that John spoke about stood their ground against the false teaching and prevailing trends of their day. They didn’t back down. They weren’t intimidated. They prevailed against the bombardment of sinful influences.

How can that be? How could they be so strong? Where did they get such courage and wisdom? John said that it was because God’s Word had taken up residence in their hearts! The Greek word indicates that it wasn’t merely a visitor from time to time, but that it had settled in their souls.

Dear young one, there is no shortcut to spiritual strength. Your strength is a product of holy reverence and love for God and His Word. Perhaps the spiritual weakness so many young people experience is due to their unwillingness to exercise spiritual discipline. 

Weakness in not an inevitability because you are young. When God’s Word has settled in your soul, when your spirit and will submit to the application of God’s Word, you can be strong too. You can overcome temptation. You can resist the wickedness of your culture. 

Strong Christ followers read and obey the Word. They love the Word. And like the Psalmist, they think about it (meditate) day and night [Psalm 1.2].

I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. 1 John 2:14

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I love the New Testament Greek word translated proclaim. It is used many ways such as, to advertise or publish. Among its many usages is the idea to divulge, meaning, to make known private or sensitive information, in other words, to make something known that otherwise would be unknown. 

Whether it is to proclaim, advertise, or divulge, proclamation has always been an integral part of Hebrew worship. Hear the Psalmist proclaim “O my soul, bless GOD, don’t forget a single blessing! He forgives your sins—every one. He heals your diseases—every one. He redeems you from hell—saves your life! He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence. GOD makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet. He showed Moses how he went about his work, opened up his plans to all Israel. GOD is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love." [Psalm 103.2-8 The MESSAGE Paraphrase]

Every Christ follower has opportunities to speak for God as an ambassador [2 Corinthians 5.20]. When those times come, you have the privilege to announce the excellencies - the mighty, heroic deeds of God - who called you into His service.

And like the Psalmist, don’t forget the other benefits from God: security, care, affection, holiness, compassion, and so much MORE! You are an ambassador of the living God. What an honor to advertise, publish, and divulge the excellencies of the One who has granted us so much. 

That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Monday, July 24, 2017

How Great Thou Art

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

There are many good things about living in the little town of Julian, California. One of them is that it is considered a “dark zone.” That simply means that you have a grand view of heaven at night. With little to dim the twinkling of billions of stars, it’s easy to be overcome by the greatness of God and say, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” [Psalm 8:1.

A pastor from Sweden, Carl Boberg, was overcome too. He sat down and wrote a poem to express his worship of God’s majesty. It came to us in English through Stuart Hine and is a beloved hymn — How Great Thou Art. If your church has a hymnal, pick it up and read each stanza. If you can’t find a hymnbook, Google it. Each line reveals his “awesome wonder” as Pastor Boberg considers God’s creation, His might and power, and His wonderful works. 

Singing How Great Thou Art is one of the ways I maneuver through the mess of human life. When life gets messy with its hurts and pains, disappointments and failures, betrayals and brokenness, I lift my eyes and, yes, my hands, to the One whose power and love for me never changes. 

We are safe in the arms of God! If you know it, sing it … 

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art

Friday, July 21, 2017

When You Pray

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Is there a Rule Book for prayer? In my lifetime, I’ve read many books on prayer. I’ve even written a book about it: “But You, When You Pray.” It contains my thoughts about the Lord’s Prayer. Rather than rules, here are some guidelines that will help you if prayer has become a burden rather than delight.

Be aware of to Whom you are speaking. Think about it this way, it’s easy for the mind to wander if you’re in a conversation with someone you find boring, isn’t it? In prayer, you’re in the presence of the Almighty. How could that ever be boring! I would argue that it is insulting to God to be bored in His presence. So, set your heart and mind as befitting those who enter the presence of ultimate greatness.

Don’t ask God for what is improper. It’s profane to implore God’s blessing to fulfill sinful desires. God doesn’t want everyone driving a Rolls Royce! 

Pray with passion. Cute little prayers repeated perfunctorily will get you nowhere. People who pray this way often feel they are fulfilling an obligation to God. Prayer should never be considered the performance of a task to God. 

Accompany your prayers with repentance. I call this being submissive to God. John Calvin said that submission “casts down all haughtiness, [and] we have numerous examples in the servants of God. The holier they are, the more humbly they prostrate themselves when they come into the presence of the Lord."

When you pray, remember who God is and remember who you are. If you keep these two things in mind, your prayers will be characterized by adoration and confession. Prayer is a priceless treasure that God has offered to His people.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 1 Peter 4.7

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rejected by the World

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

An old, country proverb goes like this: You can judge a man’s character by who his enemies are. It’s a spiritual truth as well. The “world” loves its own. When you became a Christ follower, you came “out of this world.” And since you are no longer “of the world,” it hates you [John 15.19].

This shouldn’t take any of you by surprise. The “world” has always been like this. It showed its hostility toward Jesus, you should expect the same. 

Unrighteousness has always hated righteousness. The Apostle John relates the tragic story of Cain and Abel in which Cain killed his “righteous” brother [1 John 3.12-13]. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, accurately summarized the treatment of righteous prophets by Israel who killed the prophets and stoned the ones sent to her [Matthew 23.27]. Peter went so far as to say the reason unbelievers malign and denigrate Christ followers is because they won’t participate in their excessive debauchery [1 Peter 4.4].

Perhaps this hatred is caused by holy living and sound doctrine. The righteousness of a Christ follower is a living rebuke of their sin and a reminder of a coming judgment when all will give an account to God for their lives on earth. 

Have you experienced that? When Jesus spoke for God and exposed the utter unrighteousness of people, He was resented, resisted, and rejected. Christ followers will experience the same. But please remember, you may be rejected by the world, but you are accepted by God. 

Not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you. 1 John 3:12-13

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Let's Eat

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

My Mother told me about a time she was babysitting our son, Greg. She and my Dad had gotten busy doing something and didn’t stop for lunch. Some time in the afternoon, my son pull on my Mom’s dress and said, “Grandma, let’s eat!”

The body needs food for strength. It’s the same with your spirit. You need spiritual food to stay strong. The best food you can “eat” is the Bible. In it’s pages, you’ll find water, milk, bread, and meat (the Bible is called all of these things) for your spiritual life. It provides everything you need for sustenance.

Maybe the reason some Christ followers have so little success in winning spiritual battles is they are starving to death. It’s critical that we feed on the Word of God. What I find interesting is that when I eat food, I get full. But when I eat the Word, I get hungrier! The more I “taste and see that the Lord is good,” the more of Him I want. 

So, how do you fill up on God’s Word? Here are a few suggestions:

Receive the Word with your ears. Go to church and listen to the Word of God as it is taught by gifted teachers.

Read the Word with your eyes. Find time every day to get away with your Bible and read the text. If you start with just 5 minutes a day, it won’t be long until you’ll crave more. 

Write the Word with your hands. As you study, take note of what God teaches you. Write the lessons down. Tell your loved ones and friends what you are learning.

Reflect on the Word with your mind. Stew on it. That’s an old fashioned way to say, meditate on the Word.

Remember the Word with your heart. Commit God’s Word to memory. You may not have a Bible handy when you need it. 

Search for the LORD and for His strength; always seek His presence. 1 Chronicles 16.11

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keep Listening

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

You wouldn’t have expected to see him there - in a cave miles away from home. But there he was, trying to warm himself. Fresh on his mind was Queen Jezebel and her violent threats against him. By then, it seems Elijah had forgotten the spectacular miracle on Mt. Carmel and the victory gained there. At the moment, he was hiding in fear. [Read 1 Kings 19]

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been in that cave before, and pretty much for the same reason. God came through with an answered prayer leaving me nearly breathless. But soon afterward, a little sign of trouble popped up and I became an emotional train wreck. Instead of sleeping soundly, my mind tossed back and forth… will He help me? 

Elijah’s first mistake (and one of ours too) was to believe he had the only pure heart before God. That kind of pride often leads to those hated feelings of fear, loneliness, and discouragement. As he waited, God came to Him. But first, there was a powerful wind. Then, a mighty earthquake. Then fire. God always shows up in fire, doesn’t He. Not this time! Finally, in a whisper, a still, small voice, it was God, and the prophet sensed it. 

God could, if He wanted to, merely snap His fingers and, POOF!, all your problems disappear. Perhaps as He so lovingly did with Elijah, God allows the wind to blow, the earth to quake, and the fire to fall to get our full attention. When that happens, remember you have a loving heavenly Father who desires that you draw close to Him. So, worship Him. And be sure to tell Him that you’re listening for His voice.

When thoughts of fear surround your life, remember, God is still on the throne. 

When Elijah heard [the still, small voice], he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19.13

Monday, July 17, 2017

Now I Belong to Jesus

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you heard this old hymn?

Jesus, my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no pow'r of evil can sever,
He gave His life to ransom my soul;
Now I belong to Him;

Now I belong to Jesus,
Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone,
But for eternity.  
(1938, Now I Belong to Jesus, Norman Clayton)

I woke up this morning with that hymn in my heart. It wasn’t long before one of my favorite Scriptures came to mind:

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,” Jesus said [John 10.14]. I belong to Jesus. I am His own. He is mine. I don’t know if I will ever grasp the depths of that, but I am in awe at the thought. 

Everyone is a child of God in a general sense. After all, we are His creation. But there are some that are uniquely His because He redeemed them. Peter said we are “a people for God’s own possession” [1 Peter 2.9]. He used a Greek word that means, to acquire at a price.

Listen to the Apostle Paul:

He told the Ephesian elders to "shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" [Acts 20:28. 

He asked the Corinthian Christ followers, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" [1 Cor. 6:19-20]. 

He told his disciple Titus that Christ "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem [purchase] us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession” [Titus 2.14].

If you are a Christ follower, God has chosen you as His own possession. He gave His Son to purchase your salvation at the price of His precious blood. Now you belong to Jesus.  Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity. Rejoice! And live accordingly in such a privilege. Since God paid the price to redeem you, you belong to Him. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2.9

Friday, July 14, 2017

Choose Wisely

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One of my Bible College professors was fond of saying, “Life is a series of choices.” He was right. And, when as Christ followers we are confronted with decisions, temptations, and priorities, we can choose wisely or unwisely. No one has a perfect record when it comes to making the “right” decision. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes so that, in the future, we make better choices. 

Choosing wisely:

Leads to eternal blessings rather than short-term happiness 
Leads to peace and contentment rather than misery
Leads to success rather than failure

Ultimately, choosing wisely will glorify God and expand our faith. One of our greatest choices is to obey Christ in all things. Obedience doesn’t come naturally, even to Christ followers. We choose to follow Christ every day in order to live a life of faithfulness to God. That means we must choose:

To make time to pray
To feast on God’s Word
To walk by faith 
To witness for Christ
To live for Christ and not ourselves
To make God our top priority

Now the big question: What kind of choices are you making? Are they earth-bound or kingdom oriented? Your choices reflect your faith in God. Do your choices reflect a weak or strong faith? If the answer is “weak,” confess it right now. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in making wise choices and to give you strength to step out in faith.

Then they will call on Me, but I will not answer; they will seek Me diligently but they will not find Me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD. Proverbs 1.28-29

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Your Speech and Your Heart

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

If you are a Christ follower, there should be a connection between the purity of your heart and your external activity. There are some, unfortunately that are deceived or confused about this. Maybe they have confused their love of religious activity with love for God. In other words, their religion is strictly ritual. They may attend church services, give money, read a daily devotional, but the truth of the matter is their hearts are far from God. 

Our Lord’s brother, James, wrote one of the books in the New Testament. In it, he disregards claims of Christianity that aren’t followed by obedience to the Word of God. You might call them “tests of Christianity.” And, hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, one of them has to do with how you talk. The test goes like this: If you think you’re religious, you’ll bridle (hold in check, restrain) your tongue. 

Why a test of the tongue, you ask? Because that little object is like an Xray of your heart. Jesus said, “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” [Matthew 12.34]. Godly speech displays a godly heart. Righteous speech displays a transformed heart. Corrupt speech betrays an unregenerate heart. It doesn’t really matter how orthodox your theology is, if your tongue is out of control, your religion is useless!

How about it, Christ follower, do your words reveal a pure heart? The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian Christ followers to “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” [4.29]. 

That exhortation is good for us too! Oh that we would be people with the grace of disciplined speech! Keep in mind, today and everyday, your speech reveals the condition of your heart. 

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. James 1.26

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Feeling Is Not Worship

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you ever felt like this? “You wake up one morning and all your spiritual feelings are gone. You pray, but nothing happens. You rebuke the devil, but it doesn’t change anything. You go through spiritual exercises . . . you have your friends pray for you . . . you confess every sin you can imagine, then go around asking forgiveness of everyone you know. You fast . . . still nothing. You begin to wonder how long this spiritual gloom might last. Days? Weeks? Months? Will it ever end? . . . It feels as if your prayers simply bounce off the ceiling. In utter desperation, you cry out, ‘What’s the matter with me?’” (Floyd McClung Jr., Finding Friendship with God; Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, 1992; 186).

There are times in the life of a Christ follower when God seems far away, distant. When it happens, a common thought is that He is angry with you, or punishing you for some sin. It’s true there is a disconnect from intimate fellowship with God when we sin. But sin is not always the case. 

Sometimes, the feeling of estrangement is a test of faith. Ask any Christ follower. I don’t know of one who hasn’t felt abandoned in their relationship with God. The question is: Will you love Him, trust Him, obey Him, serve Him, and worship Him even when there is no visible evidence of His work in your life?

Another common mistake among Christ followers is seeking an experience with God that produces feelings instead of seeking God. They look for those experiences, and when and if they happen, their conclusion is, “I’ve really worshipped God today.”

Don’t be fooled. Seeking a feeling, even the feeling of closeness to God, is not worship. Worship happens when in our public, family, and private life — in all of life — we glorify God, feelings notwithstanding. 

I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed. But he knows where I am going. Job 23.8-10a (NLT)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Life with Meaning

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’ve been reflecting on my reading of Ecclesiastes. It’s an interesting book, written by an interesting man — a king, the son of David. He was a man who had everything and nothing at the same time. The book is like a reflective journal of his pursuit of meaning and purpose. And like the majority of people, his search led him to all the wrong things in all the wrong places. 

He was wealthy beyond imagination. But wealth did not fill the hole in his heart. 

He was a king. But all his power left an empty taste in his mouth.

He had more women than he could handle. But their beauty left his emotions cold. 

All of these paths led to dead-ends. He came to the only logical conclusion: “Meaningless!” (Vanity, KJV). 

“Everything is meaningless,” he said. While his life was overflowing with everything he could possibly want (and what many today are seeking after), his soul was empty. Thirty-five times in Ecclesiastes he described his life’s effort as “meaningless.”

After all his extravagant life, Solomon came to a simple realization: “Fear God” (worship), “Keep His commandments” (live a holy life), and “Remember, judgment is coming” (we will give an account of our life before God). By doing that, life transforms from “meaningless,” to “meaningful.”

That’s where Solomon should have started. It’s where we should start too.

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12.13-14

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Precious Blood of Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It’s horrifying to look at, but please don’t turn your eyes away. You’re at the cross of Calvary and crimson rivulets of blood are streaming down. It isn’t merely blood, it’s “precious” blood. Peter called it “the precious blood of Christ.” 

Precious because it redeems. Precious because it atones. Precious because it reconciles. Precious because it cleanses; “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” [Isaiah 1.18]. Redemption through His blood means there isn’t a spot or stain of sin remaining in the life of a Christ follower. That alone should motivate us to holiness. 

The precious blood of Jesus is unstoppable. It’s how we overcome the accuser; “and they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 12.10-11]. Wow, the one who fights with the precious blood of Christ does so with a weapon that doesn’t know defeat.

Oh, the precious blood of Jesus! Sin stops at its presence. Death bows to its power. Heaven's gates will one day open to those whose sins are covered with it. 

Oh, the precious blood of Jesus! It has not lost one bit of power since the day it was shed for you and me. The songwriter said it well: “The blood that Jesus shed for me… will never lose it’s power!” 
(© 1966, The Blood will Never Lose Its Power, Andre Crouch)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1.18-19

Friday, July 7, 2017

I Know My Redeemer Lives

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

“I know my Redeemer lives.” You would think these words were spoken by a Christ follower. The truth is, they came from the lips of an Old Testament character we associate with suffering: Job. 

Job’s comfort lies in the little word “my” — “MY” Redeemer. “A” Redeemer, or even “THE” Redeemer, is of less value than when He is your personal Redeemer. It’s like gold in a mine. It’s nice, but when you possess the gold, when it is in your pocket, it is of much greater value. A Redeemer who has not redeemed you personally, what benefit is that?

That's why you should never be content until you can say with all confidence, “I’m my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” [Song of Solomon 6.3].

But let’s not overlook two other important words, “I know.” Notice it isn’t I “think” or I “hope.” To reach Job’s level of confidence, we must proclaim “I know… no ifs, ands, or buts!” When you know your Redeemer lives, then dark is a lot less dark. Life, even with its hurts, is a lot less painful. 

If Job could come to that conclusion ages before Christ intervened in this world, how much more can we? “I know my Redeemer lives!” A Redeemer who is truly mine, is joy unspeakable. 

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth. Job 19.25