Wednesday, January 31, 2018

From a Sheep Pen to a Palace

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It seems to me that God ignites a Christ follower’s heart in ordinary ways. Let me say it this way: Your burning passion for God is kindled in the routine “sheep pens” of life. Things like, a dead end career, making monthly house payments, building relationships, practicing an instrument, paying for car repairs — from these kinds of sheep pens, God calls us to greater things, higher levels of significance. That’s exactly what happened to David, King of Israel. 

David was called from his father’s sheep pen to a palace. A shepherd in David’s day was a thankless, smelly job. It was relegated to the “nobodies” of the day. But that is where God ignited the heart of Israel’s future King. 

He learned how to shepherd sheep, which helped him lead men into battle. He developed a heart of integrity, the same heart that led Israel to greatness. He learned how to nurture, protect, and care for his father’s sheep, which became a skill of leading a nation to worship God. All the things that made David great were learned in the sheep pen. 

Working with sheep in sheep pens is unpleasant and stinks! And, maybe you feel like you are alone in one, or feel you have been abandoned in one. Trust me on this, God doesn’t waste your time while in a sheep pen. He’s simply preparing you for tomorrow’s destiny. 

I think God does some of His best work in sheep pens. How about you?

He chose His servant David, calling him from the sheep pens. He took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants — God’s own people, Israel. He cared for them with a heart of integrity and led them with skillful hands. Psalm 78.70-72

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Enormity of Glory

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

As I read through the book of Romans yesterday, I paused to meditate on one of the great chapters in the Bible, Romans chapter eight. Thinking through the many powerful words God sent to us through the pen of Paul, I found myself attracted to verse 18. 

We know so little about the end of life and the end of the world. But God has given us enough in His Word that we can joyfully look forward. Paul must have been thinking the same thing. As he began to add up the events of his life, particularly the sufferings, the sum total couldn’t come close to the enormity of glory he believed was yet to come. 

“I reckon,” he said. That comes from a Greek accounting term, meaning he had made a spreadsheet of sorts. He had taken a thorough inventory of events. He had made precise calculations. He was careful that his balance sheet was reliable. And he came to the stunning conclusion that the trials, heartaches, losses, and sorrows of this world are small - not worthy to be - compared to the enormity of glory to come.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? How can one conceive of a joy and pleasure so glorious that all of our grief is swallowed up by it? It’s unfathomable, really. By faith, Paul believed it, and so do I. 

There is a glory coming; so enormous, it makes present day joy possible!

I reckon that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8.18

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Truth Shall Make You Free

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The famed Christian Missionary Alliance pastor and author, A. W. Tozer, once said, "If God gave you a watch, would you honor Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch." God has given us something far greater than a watch, He has given us His Word. I think of it as a human repair manual, which must be read and obeyed. Following its instruction leads us to the truth, and the truth sets us free.

In some places in the world, it is a death sentence to possess a Bible. Many saints today are martyred in astounding numbers over something, which many American Christians take for granted. 

We are blessed to have a Bible and the freedom to read it. So, may I ask, what do you do with yours? Does it sit on your desk or coffee table for quick pick up as you leave for a church service? Does it stand unused on a bookshelf? Since it is the best human repair manual, written by God Himself, read it. Study it. Apply it. It is the very words of God to you. 

Get into the habit of reading it daily. Be diligent to do what it says, and you will be amazed by the changes in your life and the blessings poured out on you. There is a blessing and a responsibility in having a Bible.

Then Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8.31-32

Friday, January 26, 2018

Full, Abundant Life

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One of my Scripture reading programs had me in the book of Proverbs yesterday. I love the book Proverbs. When the books of the Bible are divided into categories, Proverbs is listed as “Wisdom Literature.” And, rightfully so.

The Proverb that stuck with me all day was 3.1-2. It has to do with keeping the commandments of God and enjoying life. For some, those two things don’t seem to go together. I think they do! The author said that if we keep His commandments, “length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.”  

I opened my trusted computer Bible to find that the phrase “length of days” and ”years of life” is found only four times in the Old Testament. And, they are not the same thing. It’s like the guy who said, “Stop counting the days of your life, and enjoy the life in your days.” 

“Length of days” is so beautifully expressed in a passage about the Messiah. It says, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” [Revelation 14.15]. “Forever and ever” is a lengthy time, don’t you think?

“Years of life” is wonderfully described by Jesus when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (abundant life)” [John 10.10b].

There is a sense in which an obedient Christ follower receives full days as well as long life (although that long life is not the same for everyone). Maybe that’s because an obedient Christ follower’s time is more productive for the Lord. He or she will work for the Lord “while it is still day” knowing that a time is coming when “no man can work.”

I pray your day is filled with God’s work!

My son, do not forget My law, but let your heart keep My commands; For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Proverbs 3.1-2

Thursday, January 25, 2018

“In the Moment” Prayers

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

While reading the book of Nehemiah yesterday, I was arrested by the last phrase in 2.4 - So I prayed to the God of heaven. Now, before you ask “What’s the big deal,” let me set the context for you. 

Nehemiah was in a state of mourning, grieved that the city and walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins. As King Artaxerxes’ wine bearer, Nehemiah was often in the presence of the King.  At some point, the King saw that his countenance was sad. So, the King spoke to him about it. Nehemiah had already been fasting and praying prior to the King’s question, so when the King asked him about it, he told the king about the deplorable conditions in Jerusalem.

The conversation could have ended there, but the King went on to ask, “What do you request?” And, here is what caught my attention. Nehemiah said, “So I prayed to the God of heaven,” then made his request. 

This doesn’t appear to be a passionate, fervent, righteous prayer. He didn’t lock himself away to travail before the Lord. To me, it sounds like he shot up an “in the moment” prayer — a brief, but important talk with God. We don’t know the content of that prayer. Perhaps it was for direction and guidance. Maybe he asked for protection as he spoke to the King. Who knows? But in Nehemiah’s mind, he didn’t want to move forward until He talked with God about it. 

I’ve prayed that way many times. I’ve sat with unhappy couples as they tell me their woes and desire for divorce. While they were talking, I shot up an in the moment prayer, “Lord give me wisdom. Help me say the right thing.” When speaking to a businessman about helping with some humanitarian projects in Africa, I shot up that in the moment prayer, “Lord, give me favor in his sight.”

God responded to Nehemiah’s prayer. Artaxerxes allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem with safe passage and materials to rebuild the walls of the city. Every request from Nehemiah was answered. 

In the moment prayers may be small, but they are mighty. 

Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Nehemiah 2.4-5

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Powerful Praise

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Today’s eDevotion is intended to be a “praise report” of sorts. It comes from an update that I get from Open Doors Ministry. At one of their seminars held in Central Asia, people mostly from Muslim backgrounds shared their testimonies. Most of them said they had been following Christ for nine years. When asked about that, they said that nine years earlier, there was a vicious religious war in their villages, which caused them to follow Christ for the following reasons:

LOVE - Jesus of the Bible teaches and exemplifies love and compassion.

WORSHIP - They were attracted to the Christian love of singing and worshipping God with praise and joy!

FORGIVENESS - Jesus shows how to forgive our enemies; feed them and give them water to drink.

JESUS’ LIFE - Jesus’ teachings and His example are very attractive.

WOMEN - Jesus holds women in high esteem.

FAITH - Jesus claims to be the way, truth and life. Salvation in Christ is by faith alone. No works or rituals or rules can save us.

TRUTH - The Gospel of Jesus Christ is “Good News” because He is the Truth. The Gospel is based on Truth.

LIBERTY - Christian expression is based on freedom and liberty in Christ. The Bible teaches the basis for such liberty.

What a testimony! If someone were to asked you “Why are you following Christ,” what would you say?   

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14.6

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Irreproachable Witness

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It seems to me, sometimes, that people try to see just how close they can get to sin without doing anything wrong. The Apostle Paul challenged early Christ followers to not live that way. Not only did he tell them to keep from committing the “big” sins, but he also told them to refrain from anything that may lead to sin, or look like sin to others. His desire was to make our Christian witness irreproachable. For Paul, sin was nothing to be played with or ignored. It must be avoided at all costs. 

While I know it’s easier said than done, the best approach to sin is to abstain at the beginning. It’s easier to snuff out a flickering candle than a raging forest fire!

Here is a little pastoral advice this morning: Avoid all appearance of evil. And for sure, don’t be quick to judge the besetting sins of others while defending your own. All sin is unacceptable to God and should never be downplayed. In either case, whether a sin is public and discernible, or private and indiscernible, it must be intentionally avoided and fought. 

When you turn your back to sin, and turn your heart and mind to the Lord, you will live above reproach and bring glory to God.  

Abstain from all appearances of evil. 1Thessalonians 5:22

Monday, January 22, 2018

Watch the Giants Fall

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One of my Bible reading programs had me in 1 Samuel this morning. It was a familiar story, one I learned in Sunday School at an early age. The story? David and Goliath. Even people who don’t believe in the Bible often use the term “David vs Goliath” referring to a time when you’re attempting to do something against all odds. 

One important lesson we learn in this story is how to fight giants. Giant fighting is neither easy nor pleasant. Facing a giant whose weapon is bigger than you can be rather intimidating. But when you have faith in what you have and what you’ve learned to do, you can face them with confidence. Can I get a witness! 

What did David have? God on his side. What had he learned to do? Kill things with a slingshot. Those things were far greater than the armament of the giant. Others tried to convince David that he needed more armor to protect himself. Things that he didn’t know how to use or that didn’t fit him properly. That just wouldn’t do. He had to make do with what God had given him. 

That is a lesson we all must learn. Trying to fight giants in other people’s armor will not lead to victory. When you’re facing your giants, bring your slingshot, rocks, and confidence in God. Then, watch the giants fall!

Moreover David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17.37

Friday, January 19, 2018

Befitting Sound Doctrine

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m teaching through Titus in the church I pastor. We’ve been into it about twenty-two weeks now. One of my Bible readings this morning was from Titus chapter two. I was reminded of something that Paul said to Titus, his apostolic representative on the island of Crete. He told Titus to speak things which befit sound doctrine.

Would you agree with me that sound doctrine is, well, sound doctrine? I’m not trying to be funny here. It’s just that a lot of the stuff I hear coming from the mouths of some preachers is far from sound, and far from biblical doctrine. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to be relevant in communicating the true Gospel of Christ, but in their attempt to do so, they have diluted the message. 

Perhaps they don’t want to seem to harsh or make it sound that God is “unfair.” A woman called me once after hearing one of my sermons from a CD. She went on and on about how I wasn’t inclusive of all religious thoughts. Then came those dreaded words, “You’re too much of a hater for my taste!” 

I’m not a hater. I’m simply a messenger! Friends, we must try our best not to distort the Gospel for the sake of palatability, which may end up leading people to believe the wrong things. We mustn’t allow a pursuit of relevance to compromise the proclamation of biblical truth.

Do we need to be relevant? Sure, but not at the cost of compromise! If people are going to stumble, let it be for the message of the Gospel. Let the Bible speak for itself and do its work in the hearts of people. Let’s take up Paul’s challenge to Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” [2 Timothy 4.2].

But as for you, speak the things which are befitting sound doctrine. Titus 2.1

Thursday, January 18, 2018

One Thing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

If you really want to take a good photograph, you’ve got to get the main object of the picture in focus. The same is true in life. Your life needs to be focused too. I don’t know about you, but my most unproductive and dangerous times are unfocused times, and they can happen rather easily. Activities and responsibilities pull us in many directions and, before you know it, things get out of focus. The famed preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Divided aims tend to distraction, weakness, and disappointment." Been there, done that!

As King of Israel, David must have had a lot on his plate. But he focused his sight on “one thing.” He wanted a heart that burned with passion for God all the days of his life. His quest wasn’t to merely read about God, or think about God, or talk about God. He wanted a vital, personal every day experience with his Lord. 

That focused passion is not hidden away. It finds its way into the every day activities and responsibilities of life. That ignited heart has a passionate desire to stick with the Lord through the hazardous twists and turns of life. It makes the hard climb up and down mountains and valleys. It runs full speed when necessary and stands still when necessary. In the old days, we called that being “on fire” for God.

“One thing,” Oh God, let the fire burn!

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple. Psalm 27.4

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

God is in Control

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Sages, philosophers, and theologians have, for centuries, debated God’s involvement in history. It’s a simple argument for those who don’t believe in God. God cannot be involved if He doesn’t exist. Others accept the God of Plato, who set the world in motion (the unmoved Mover), then sat back to see what would happen. Then you have those who believe that God is intimately involved, directing history to a predetermined climax.

Do you fit in one of these categories? The Apostle Paul surely did. He believed that everything would one day be resolved in God through the work of Christ. He said to the Colossian Christ followers, “… and by [Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Someone asked me the other day if I was worried about a nuclear holocaust with North Korea. Well, there is plenty of unrest in the world, North Korean notwithstanding. I’m going to stick with Paul and say that everything is working toward a God ordained climax. Events, whether we fear them or not, or whether like them or not, do not catch God by surprise, they all fulfill His purposes. Everything is under divine control and, one day, He will end the evil and make all things right in His Son, the Christ.

That’s what gives me peace in this sin-sick world - “Christ in you, the hope of glory” [Colossians 1.27]. 

having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. Ephesians 1.9-10

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Let’s Worship God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Let’s begin our week with a time of worship — Let’s Worship God!

Worship God because He is eternal. He always existed in the past, and He will exist always in the future. His throne has never been relinquished any time or anywhere. He was the Sovereign before the world began, and He will be the Sovereign when this old world passes away. He was King of the 1st century, the 21st century and throughout eternity.

Worship God because He is immortal. This stems from a Greek word, which means incorruptible. Just think, the eternal God will be the same. Neither will He diminish in any aspect, nor will He decay or change, not even one little bit. 

Worship God because He is invisible. While that may sound a little strange to you, consider this: We don’t wrestle with flesh and blood (things we see), but rather spiritual wickedness in high places (things we don’t see - read Ephesians 6.12). And our eternal, immortal, invisible God gives us the victory in our struggles.

Worship God because He is the only wise God. You won’t find His wisdom any where else. You won’t find His wisdom in any one else. He is the fount of all wisdom, and deserving of our praise.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Keep Believing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

According to some popular, contemporary theology, your life should be pain-free. I haven’t found that to be true in my experience. In fact, life is sometimes difficult and full of pain. That being said, God has promised to always be present with us in the midst of our circumstances. Do you believe that? I mean, do you really believe it? If you do, you can have comfort and hope no matter what you face.

Sarah and Abraham are a prime example. God had been promised them a child. How many years of heartache had they experienced before having that child? Year after year, decade after decade, their hope and dreams of a child were crushed — over and over and over again. Now, at age ninety-nine and eighty-nine, would they risk hoping again? The answer is “yes,” and what a payoff!

What are you facing today? Does your future look bleak? Then unleash the truth to your soul that God is with you! Believing that, really believing that, gives you confidence and comfort in the midst of life’s difficulties. 

Against all hope he [Abraham] believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.”  Romans 4.18

His Name

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When I was a kid, I heard all kinds of jokes about people with funny names. Names like:

Hedda Haire
Sandy Beech
Art Major
Clay Potts

Maybe you've heard about people whose names fit or don’t fit their occupations. Like the dentist in Dallas named Dr. Toothman, or the Hollywood plastic surgeon named Yul Hurt. 

Names can be strange and silly, but when it comes to the name of God, it’s neither! His name is to be taken with all seriousness. In fact, one of the Ten Laws for mankind is to keep the precious quality of His name: Do not take the Lord’s name in vain [Exodus 20.7]. We’re not talking about cursing here. Rather, it means that we are not to use His name for our vain purposes. 

A name represents a person’s character and reputation. That’s why the author of Proverbs said, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” [22.1]. I particularly like Eugene Peterson’s rendering of this verse, “A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich” [The MESSAGE Paraphrase].

When I say the name of God, I’m thinking about His personality, His reputation, His character. There’s glory and authority in His name. That’s why I ask Christ followers to never speak of God as “the big guy in the sky,” or “the old man upstairs.” The name of God is precious, to be spoken in reverence. 

The Lord’s name is great and mighty. Use it wisely.

You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts.  Jeremiah 32.18

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Happy New Year!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

How many times did you hear it between Christmas and January 1st? Nearly every cashier, every server, every attendant, every friend, ended their encounter with you by wishing you, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

It’s nice to hear, but I often think it isn’t really a heartfelt greeting. So, for my first eDevotion of the New Year, I want to greet you with the words the Lord spoke to Joshua about 3,500 years ago. 

Joshua was about to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. He had every reason to be afraid. An enormous task awaited him. He was well aware of the dangers that he and the people faced. So it was that God spoke very encouraging words to him, to the effect that, “I will be with you in what lies ahead."

Those are encouraging words to us as well. We are entering a New Year. Will my health hold out? Will my job last through the year? Will I get accepted into the school I want? Will the economy improve? Will terrorists strike closer to home? Will a natural disaster wipe out everything we have accumulated through the years?

The Lord God said, “Don’t be discouraged. I will be with you.” Whatever happens this year will not come by accident. Nothing that touches you will do so by chance. Many years later, the Lord Jesus made the same promise when He said, "I am with you always” [Matthew 28.20]. 

With that, I can wish all of you, HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1.9