Thursday, November 30, 2017

Growing in Wisdom

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

An ancient story tells of a man that searched diligently for the wisest person in the world. When asked asked how he became so wise, the sage responded, “I know that I always need more wisdom.”

I feel that way too. Don’t you? No matter your how much of God’s wisdom you have, there’s room for more, and we should hunger for it. The good news is there always more available to us. That’s why Peter said we should keep growing in the knowledge of Christ. The more we know Him - the more we are conformed to His image - our wisdom increases,  as does our holiness and our godliness. 

Do you want more of God’s wisdom? It won’t come passively, you know. You must GO FOR IT! But how?

Start with worship. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” [Proverbs 9.10]. Make a point of gathering with others in the Lord’s house regularly [see Hebrews 10.25]. And just as importantly, have a worshipful heart each and every day.

Add to that, prayer. James wrote, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask for it from God, the One who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” [James 1.5]. Asking God for wisdom one time isn’t enough. Make it a continual request.

Furthermore, be open to godly instruction. Part of our Christian fellowship is to encourage and edify each other. That’s why Paul told the Colossian Christ followers to “admonish and teach every man with all wisdom” [Colossians 1.28]. We become wiser when we receive instruction from someone who is wise.

Finally, study the Bible. Paul told Timothy to “work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who accurately handles the word of truth” [2 Timothy 2.15]. Make the study of Scripture a priority. That is the main way the Holy Spirit teaches you.

The wiser we are, the more we will be like Christ. Growing in wisdom means growing in Christlikeness.

Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.18

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Carpe Diem — Sieze the Day

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Carpe Diem. That’s a Latin term meaning, Sieze the Day. Paul told the Ephesian Christ followers to do just that, sieze the day. The KJV and NKJV render it “redeeming the time.” Most other translations say something like “make the most of your day” or “make the most of your opportunities.” The reason Paul gave this admonition was “the days are evil.” 

We, certainly can identify with that, can’t we! It only takes a minute of time to read a paper or listen to the news to understand that. Our generation is corrupt and getting worse. We live in debauchery, which is also getting worse. If debauchery isn’t a word familiar to you, substitue the word indecency, lewdness, wickedness, or depravity (there are many synonyms for it).

That’s why it’s important that we sieze the day. These are evil days and God gives us opportunities to do something that really matters; something that is good and righteous — something that honors Him. When these opportunities come, grab them for His name’s sake!

It seems to me that goodness is a scare commodity these days. Ask the Lord to make you aware of the times you can sieze to do something for Him. Evil days call for good behavior.

Make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Ephesians 5.16

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I write a bi-weekly piece for our local newspaper titled, “Religion in the News and Ask Pastor Rick.” The title of this eDevotion is a question I received from someone in our community: What does the Holy Spirit do? 

The simple answer to this question is, the Holy Spirit points people to Christ. That’s His “job.” Referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus said that when He [the Holy Spirit] comes, “He will testify [witness about] Me” [John 15.26].

The Holy Spirit always points you to Christ. The more you are filled with the Spirit, the more you will see Jesus.

In his book, Keep in Step with the Spirit,  J. I. Packer wrote: 

“The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ… It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me…’ but always, ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him, and have life….’ The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together forever.”

The Holy Spirit helps us to see that…

Jesus is full of grace and truth [John 1.14]
Jesus intercedes for us [Hebrews 7.25]
Jesus is our Brother [Hebrews 2.11]
Jesus is always the same [Hebrews 13.8]

And so much more!

It’s through the Spirit that we see Jesus more clearly. And when your heart is glad in seeing Jesus, when you are filled with the Spirit, God is glorified and well-pleased. When you are filled with the Spirit your vision and love for Christ grows richer and deeper.

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. John 14.16-17

Monday, November 27, 2017

Walk Worthy of Your Calling

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Paul instructed the Ephesians Christ followers to walk in a manner worthy of their calling [Ephesians 4.1]. In chapters 4 and 5, he described what a “worthy walk” looks like. It is a…

Humble walk: 4.1-3
United walk: 4.4-16
Unique walk: 4.4-16
Loving walk: 5.1-7
Illuminated walk: 5.8-14
Wise walk [5.15-17]

All of these are elements of a worthy walk. Remember, the idea behind “walk” here, is the way you live. Paul’s point is that Christ followers walk differently than the world. 

How can the world walk humbly when, in narcissism, it constantly fights for its own rights?

How can the world be united when it exalts its differences?

How can the world be unique when it is trapped in self-destruction?

How can the world be loving when it rejects God, the source of true love?

How can the world walk in light when it lives in darkness?

How can the world be wise when it walks as fools: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” [Proverbs 14.1].

You are different than the world, dear Christ follower. That is one of your greatest assets, not a hindrance. When you walk like Christ, when you obey Scripture, you are not walking like the world. By the way, the world will take notice of it, which creates opportunities to witness for Christ. So, “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5.16].

Living like Christ will set you apart from the world. When you walk worthy, you attract people to the light of Christ.

So be careful how you walk. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Ephesians 5.15

Friday, November 10, 2017

That’s the Book for Me

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Do you remember singing…

The B.I.B.L.E. 
Yes, that’s the book for me…

We sang it so enthusiastically as children, but I can tell you that it means more to me now than it did then. I have come to see the Bible as a faultless body of truth, a whole body of truth. “It cannot be broken.” Jesus said that. In other words, all the words stand together or fall together. 

Dr. Luke used the same Greek words in Acts 13.43 to describe  a crowd that “broke up” after a meeting, each going in his or her own way. The Scripture is not like that. Not a single word breaks away from the rest or expresses a different truth from the rest. Scripture is a perfect whole, and it is only perfect when it is whole.

Every aberrant teaching comes from affirming a part of Scripture, while ignoring the rest. That kind of interpretation always produces an unbalanced or lop-sided theology. Only as we make a thorough analogy of its words can we come to an accurate understanding of its message. 

We all have our favorite texts. Still, they shouldn’t be the only ones that shape our opinions about God or His Word. We must perform the diligent task of studying all the texts to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” [2 Timothy 2.15].

Since the Scripture cannot be broken, those who bend it, twist it, wrest it, do so to their own destruction [2 Peter 3.16].

Now, I can finish my song…

I stand alone on the Word of God
The B.I.B.L.E. 

And the Scripture cannot be broken… John 10.35b

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Come to God His Way

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

At the heart of all theologies is a means or a way to get to God — experience Him, know Him, relate to Him — whatever their term may be. Christ followers have taken Peter’s claim seriously to heart: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” [Acts 4.12]. Even a casual reading of that passage is enough to understand there is no other way to God.

In the beginning, long before Christ’s sacrificial death, there was a prescribed means of worship and sacrifice. “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” [Genesis 4.3-5a]. 

We’re not told the specifics beforehand. Evidently, there was a special time (literally: at the end of a certain period of time), and a specific pattern of sacrifice, otherwise Cain and Abel would not have known what to do, or how the sacrifice should be offered. 

In and of itself, there was nothing wrong with Cain’s offering. We know that grain, fruit, or vegetable offerings were included in the old covenant. The point is, Cain assumed he could approach God his way, on his own terms. He assumed wrongly. As a matter of fact, Cain’s name became a synonym for rebellion and apostasy [see Jude 11].

Approaching God through manmade schemes is ineffective. True worship requires coming to God on His terms.

God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. John 4.24

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Trustworthy Saying

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m preaching through the book of Titus on Sunday mornings at the church where I pastor. We are in a paragraph in chapter three, and I’m once again interested in Paul’s statement, “This saying is trustworthy…” [3.8].

This is the fourth time Paul made that claim:

1 Timothy 1.15: This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

1 Timothy 4.8-9: Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

2 Timothy 2.11: This saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.

Titus 3.8: This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to do good works.

I read these over and over and began to see a connection between them. The first one lays the foundation of our salvation by showing the mission of our Redeemer. The second one reveals that we are doubly blessed; blessed now and in the life to come. The third one shows the nature of our lives with God; we have died with Christ, and we live in Him. The last one sets the course of our service by investing our lives to good works.  

Paul and the early Christ followers proved these words to be trustworthy. They still are. Not one syllable is, or ever will be, untrustworthy. Not one word will fall useless to the ground.   They are worthy of all acceptance so, treasure them. Allow them to comfort, instruct, and guide your life.

This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to do good works. Titus 3.8

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Salvation for the Ungodly

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Salvation is for those without strength — spiritually helpless, powerless, and needy — the ungodly. If Christ had waited to come until people were strong and godly, we would still be waiting for Him. 

That is Salvation 101 and it needs to be taught over and over. No one is saved because of who they are or what they have done. Instead, they are saved in spite of who they are or what they have done. We could no more earn God’s favor for salvation than carry the Eiffel Tower on our shoulders. 

But we have good news, don’t we, Christ died for the ungodly! He didn’t die for the righteous, but sinners, the undeserving, the spiritual paupers — the ungodly. 

Paul told the Roman Christ followers that Christ came in due time. In other words, His birth was no accident. His life and death had purpose. He died on the cross to pay what would otherwise have been an unpayable debt. 

So, embrace His free gift of salvation and enjoy it. Here’s how I see it: Christ died for the ungodly … Christ died for me! 

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5.6

Monday, November 6, 2017

Keep Preaching

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One thing that Jesus taught His disciples is, being a Christ follower doesn’t always win friends and influence people. As a matter of fact, Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated because He was hated [see John 16.16; 15.23-25]. That’s because we preach a gospel that exposes the nature of their sin, and darkness just doesn’t like it [John 3.19].

Paul experienced this very thing. When he gave his testimony in Jerusalem, some Jews were ready to tear him limb from limb [Acts 23.10]. Roman soldiers, who had been given authority to watch over the Temple area, heard the commotion and rescued Paul from the angry crowd by arresting him and putting him in jail. 

In the meantime, forty men made a pact that they would not eat until Paul was dead. When the commander of the guard was made aware of the plot to kill Paul, he took the threat seriously. It was his duty to keep his prisoners safe for trial. So, he gathered 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen to guard one preacher! Then, in the cover of darkness, they took Paul to Caesarea, the Roman capital of Judea, about 75 miles away.

As I think about that account in Paul’s life, I’m reminded that when you preach sound doctrine, or give your powerful testimony of the saving grace of God, you can’t expect the world to love you. The world stands against God and will have nothing to do with Him. No, preaching the gospel doesn’t win friends and influence people. It rubs people the wrong way. Don’t let that stop you, though. Keep preaching the Word - in season and out of season!

And he called to him two of the centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.” Acts 23,23

Friday, November 3, 2017

Never Changing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Yesterday was Throw-Back-Thursday in FaceBook language. I posted a picture of myself from 1968, a throwback to when I was 18 years old. There were several comments that followed, but the most truthful response came in a private MESSAGE: “Boy, you’ve really changed!” 

Change! Everything has changed or is changing. Even the sun is getting dimmer with age. And it was Jesus, Himself, who said, “Heaven and earth will pass away” [Matthew 24.35]. There is, however, an immortal One, in whose person there is no change, and of His years there is no end. James said that with God “there is no variableness, neither is there shadow of turning” [James 1.17].

Whatever God was in the past remains the same. Whatever attributes were His in the past, they are now: His power, His wisdom. His justice, His truth, His love — all the same. He was, and now is, the refuge of His people, their stronghold in the day of trouble, their steadfast Helper.

One great truth that brings joy to the heart of every Christ follower is that God loves His people. One prophet said it is with “an everlasting love” [Jeremiah 31.3]. He loved His people then, He loves them now; His love “endures forever!” [Psalm 136.18].

For I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3.6

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fellowship of His Sufferings

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

As I read the Gospel of Matthew in my person devotions, I was once again impressed with the number of women at the foot of the cross. Many were there. Of the men, only John is recorded as being at the cross. What I gathered from the reading is that the women were willing to stay, watch, and weep. One might say that they shared in the suffering of Jesus, like Paul said in Philippians 3.10. Literally it says, koinonia - true fellowship - of His sufferings.

I once read an interesting story about singer, songwriter, Tommy Hicks. He attended a professional golf tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. Fans had gathered at one of the tees to watch Ernie Els, many of them hopeful to get his autograph. They called his name, holding out their programs and pens. But Els paid no attention to them. He was intent on his practice.

But all that changed when Tommy called out, “Mr. Els, you and I have something in common. My son has autism.” Without another swing, Els handed the driver to his caddie and went straight to Tommy. The two talked for quite some time sharing stories. Mr. Els had established a foundation for autism research because his son has autism too. 

While the fans were unable to get the golfer’s attention, the man who shared in the fellowship of his suffering got his immediate attention. 

To have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ doesn’t mean you have to experience everything He did to be identified with Him. It simply means that whatever you are suffering, Christ is in true communion - fellowship - with you all the way! 

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Matthew 27.55-56

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

His Work Alone

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Having grown up in America, I was told, early on, that I could be anything I wanted to be if I was willing to work hard for it. Were you told that too? Never give up on your dreams. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Make something of yourself, no matter your background.

You can do those things and make a better life for yourself, however, they will do nothing for you at all when it comes to eternal life. Why? Because heaven is unattainable on your own. You’d have a better chance of landing a spaceship on the sun than getting into heaven by your works.

Man, left to himself, is prideful, stubborn, sinful, and utterly hopeless. To be honest, the best 10 minutes of your life, no matter how good they were, will not gain your entry into heaven. Not even close. Thankfully, God can/will remove your sin by what Christ did for you on Calvary’s cross. He bore your sin and shed His blood to provide eternal life, even though we don’t deserve it. 

Sin has destroyed any chance of getting into heaven on your own. But since Christ was victorious over sin’s power, put your faith in Christ — not yourself, not your works — because His work alone can save! 

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: Romans 3:21–22