Friday, March 30, 2018


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

What would you expect to experience if you were in the tomb where Jesus lay? Death. Stone, cold death. Lungs with no air in them. A brain with no activity. Fingers with no feeling. Just death. A lifeless body that remained on a stone slab just as when it was put there.  

Jesus was dead. There can be no doubt about that. The Roman soldiers in charge of his death were masters of execution. There was no doubt in their minds. Had they the slightest thought that He might still be alive, they would have broken His legs to hasten the inevitable. But that wasn’t necessary; He was dead. Blood and water from a spear wound made it clear; He was dead. So, when their job was done, they pried Jesus’ body from the cross and gave it to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

They must work quickly to get the body of Jesus in the tomb before Passover began. So, they did what you’d expect someone to do with a crucified body. They washed Him to remove caked on blood. They didn’t have time for the traditional spices and ointment. That would have to be done later. They merely wrapped Him with clean linen and placed Him lovingly in the tomb. 

A great stone secured the tomb. Roman guards were stationed in front of it. A Roman seal was set on the stone for added protection. No one can go in or out of the tomb without grave consequences. 

What happened early that Sunday morning no one really knows. There wasn’t anyone in the tomb with Jesus to witness the actual event. But something truly miraculous happened. Dead lungs began to expand and contract. Rigid joints began to bend. Silent lips opened. Death gave way to life, and the world has stood in awe ever since. 

There is a special joy in the life of a Christ follower because of the resurrection. It’s because we were stone cold dead spiritually. There was no breath of God in us. Great scholars have called it TOTAL DEPRAVITY. The Apostle Paul said we were “dead in trespasses and sins” [Ephesians 2.1].

But there came a day when, because we put our faith in Christ who rose from the dead, we came to life, full spiritual life. Let me quote the entirety of Ephesians 2.1, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Our once dead lungs now have the breath of God in them. Our once dead bodies are alive in Christ. All because of the resurrection.

No one comes to that kind of life without the resurrection. It’s the constant on which the salvation stands. Paul said it this way, “That if you will confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” [Romans 10.9].

Because of the resurrection, there is complete salvation for you and me. All I can say is “Hallelujah!” 

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. Romans 6.5-9

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One thing I remember about raising our two kids was their boundless energy. It’s almost like their little bodies manufactured energy. And they seemed to have only two speeds: faster and fastest. I remember saying to one of them, “Do you want to take a nap?” “NO, I NOT TIRED!” So, I literally had to drag the child to the bedroom. “Not sleepy, not sleepy.” I had no longer than put the child in the crib, covered her up, kissed her on the forehead, and she was already asleep. Scripture says “even the youths shall faint and be weary.” 

Well, I don’t have to say too much about the rest of us here. We adults certainly have constant reminders of our weariness. It seems the older I get, the more times of refreshing I need. That’s because God didn’t create us as self-contained, autonomous creatures. 

That’s also true in the spiritual realm. I don’t know of anyone who walks this earth in self-sustaining satisfaction. We keep looking for that “fountain of youth,” a renewal place that we can return to often to recharge our batteries. 

I have come to know that place! Those who “wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” He is the source of life that is never empty. You don’t have to wait around for Him to charge up. His supply never runs out. Come to Him in any condition. Young, old, rich, poor, sick or well. He will supply the strength you need, not just for that moment only, buy also over and over throughout our lives. 

Don’t be like the child who denies they need rest and strength. Go to God and wait. Wait for His good purpose. His good timing. His good supply. Lay your head on the pillow of grace and find the deep, much-needed renewal that He provides.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40.30-31

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

They Comfort in Vain

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

My text this morning is Zechariah 10:1-2. As I was reading through the book yesterday, a little phrase popped up and caught my attention. When Zechariah mentioned idols and psychics, he said “they comfort in vain.” 

There are a lot of things that comfort in vain. Take cosmetics, for example. Consumers in the  U.S. spend approximately $16B a year to look good and smell great. But they are not the “fountain of youth” they claim to be. They comfort in vain. Same goes for the car you drive. No matter how European it is, you’re not any sexier for owning one. They comfort in vain.

False teachers fit into this category too. They pretend to have a new revelation from God, a new teaching, a new way. But they are just as blind as the millions of people who follow after them. They comfort in vain.

There is only one true promise of comfort; His name is Jesus, because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the source of soul-filling, need-meeting, and pleasure-supplying comfort.

Eugene Peterson’s rendering of Zechariah 10:1-2 is very insightful. He wrote, “Pray to God for rain—it’s time for the spring rain—to God, the rainmaker, Spring thunderstorm maker, maker of grain and barley. Store-bought gods babble gibberish. Religious experts spout rubbish. They pontificate hot air. Their prescriptions are nothing but smoke. And so the people wander like lost sheep, poor lost sheep without a shepherd” [The MESSAGE Paraphrase].

You’ll search in vain to find real comfort outside of Jesus Christ. Flee to Him. Ask for His tender mercy and complete forgiveness. You will not be disappointed because His comfort in NOT in vain!

Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone. For the idols speak delusion; The diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; They comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; They are in trouble because there is no shepherd. Zechariah 10:1-2

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Daily Praise

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you ever given thought to thank God for each element of your dinner? Wait, I’m serious. My Jewish friends tell me that they have specific blessings to say over specific foods. There’s one for fruits, wine, things made with flour other than bread, vegetables, et al, and a general blessing, which covers anything missed. If it were me, I’d say the general blessing and get on with it! 

But after thinking about it, I can see the benefit of such blessings. Each item that we eat has something different to be thankful for. Whether biting into a sweet apple, or eating a slice of whole grain bread, or biting into a crisp carrot, or drinking a glass of cold water, each has its own sensory experience, and is a reminder to have an attitude of gratitude for the many ways God blesses us daily.

That’s the idea behind Psalm 68.19: Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. One of my Hebrew translations says, “Blessed is the Lord, day by day. He provides for us, the God who delivers us, always.

“Day by day.” Each day. Every day. If I get this right, the idea is that each day’s gratitude is to be different. Today’s gratitude should be different than yesterday’s. Today’s gratitude should be different than tomorrow’s. Because each day brings a new experience with the “God who delivers us, always.” Isn’t that the truth behind Lamentations 3.22-23? “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” 

New mercies each new day. Wow! There are so many things to be grateful for. Don’t miss them. Look for them. Find the new mercies of the Lord daily. Once you’ve discovered it — or I should say “them,” rejoice! Praise God for them!

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68.19

Monday, March 26, 2018

Ministry = Good Works

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Good works. Don’t shy away from these great biblical words. If they bother you, substitute the word “ministry” for them. They are one and the same thing. We were created in Christ to do them [Ephesians 2.10]. Ministry is designed to benefit others while God is glorified publicly. That’s what Matthew said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” [5.16]. The author of Hebrews challenges the church to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” when we come together for fellowship and worship [10.24].

A good deed is anything done in the name of the Lord. Giving a cup of water in the Lord’s name constitutes a good deed [Matthew 10.42]. Whatever the good work, large or small, it’s done in Jesus’ name so that HE receives the credit.

While we are blessed when we do ministry, it really is for the benefit of others, not ourselves. That’s why so many verses in the Bible talk about ministering to the poor and needy {See Deuteronomy 15.11 and Proverbs 19.17]. There’s an interesting passage in the letter to the Galatians that says we are to “share all good things” with those who instruct us [6.6].

Let’s not forget about ministry to the lost. The principle is the same; we share what we have received from God with those who desperately need the Gospel. While men can recover from earthly circumstances, there is no eternal solution outside of Jesus. 

It’s critical as we come together as the Body of Christ, that we encourage one another to good works. Our churches should be a place of ministry, not merely a place of gathering.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2.10

Friday, March 23, 2018

Touch of the Master’s Hand

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When I went into my home office this morning for my devotional time, I reached up and grabbed one of my old Bibles from the shelf, one that I hadn’t opened in many years. A poem fell from its pages. Many years ago, I could quote the poem by memory, but not today. 

It reminded me of a story I once heard about a master violinist. He walked onto a stage and lifted his violin. Before he began to play he told the audience, “This violin is a Stradivarius, one if the most valuable violins in the world.”

He then proceeded to play the part of the concert that led to intermission. At the end of music, the concert hall was filled with applause. Everyone was on their feet. And then, to their amazement, the maestro pounded the violin on the stage floor, breaking it into a hundred pieces! Then, he quietly walked off the stage. 

What an intermission that must have been! No one was late for the final set of music. Everyone was in their seats, almost breathless to see what might happen next. When the maestro walked on stage, he addressed the audience, “Let me put your minds to rest. I didn’t actually break a Stradivarius. I bought that violin today at a pawn shop for 40 dollars. But I did this to make a point: the violinist is much more important than the violin.” With that, he brought out the real Stradivarius and finished his concert.

What was true of that old violin is true of Christ followers. It’s not about us, it’s about being used by the Master. As the great Bill Gaither once sang, “All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife. But, He made something beautiful out of my life!”

Here’s the poem that fell from my Bible.

'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"

But, No,

From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.
"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

"And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

- Myra Brooks Welch

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatian 2.20

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Blueprints and Plans

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

My Father was in the construction field for many years. One thing I noticed while growing up was that he never built anything without a blueprint, sketch, or plan. For him, it was absolute. His rationale was any time a problem or question would arise, he could turn to the blueprint or plan for the answer. For every question or perplexity, the answer was always there.

I did not follow in my Father’s footsteps. You can’t get me far enough away from construction! But his principle of a plan, a blueprint, has stuck with me since I was a kid. It fits perfectly in life:

If you want to build a sound, financial future, you must have a plan.
If you want a life of married bliss, you must have plan
If you want a growing faith, you must have a plan.

No profession builder I know starts building something without a plan. He doesn’t just reach out for any scrap of wood and begin to cut it randomly. He doesn’t haphazardly nail things together. And yet, I’ve seen many people go through life cut, cut; nail, nail; cut cut glue, glue, and even when things seem to crumble all around them, they don’t go back to a plan … because they never had one!

Sadly, some Christ followers fall prey to that concept. They don’t grasp the importance of a plan, a blueprint, upon which to build their lives. Consequently, when problems arise, they have no place to turn for reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness [see 2 Timothy 3.16].

We have a blueprint, God’s blueprint, so readily available to us. It’s called the Bible. I often refer to it as The Human Repair Manual. The Bible is God’s blueprint for success, happiness, fulfillment, complete and unspeakable joy! When something is not right, we should immediately consult the blueprint, trust its integrity, and build on it. Apply its truth to any error clouding your thinking. It will change your life forever.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  . . .  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6.11, 17

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Peace from God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

My devotional reading this morning was in the book of Romans. I’ve seen it many times, and have even thought about it on many occasions. But again this morning, I was struck by Paul’s repeated phrase, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I quickly looked through some of his other epistles and found the identical phrase in Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. 

There are few more comforting words than “peace from God.” If you are a Christ follower, you know exactly what I mean: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” [Romans 5.1]. 

Peace with God comes from the realization that you have dealt with your sin problem as God prescribed — through Jesus Christ. Peace from God is different. Peace from God is the sense of living in the Shalom of God. 

I just returned from a trip to Israel, and everywhere we went, we were greeted on the streets by shop owners with, “Shalom! Shalom!” Shalom isn’t merely peace, it carries the idea of complete wholeness and well-being. 

Peace from God is the sense of living in an ongoing, covenant relationship, realizing that your present life and future is filled with His grace to you, having made peace with God through faith in Christ.

Keep that in mind today, and every day! Remember what He has done for you - Christ made peace with God possible through His work at Calvary - and what He has given you - wholeness and well-being - the Shalom of God.

He’s given you peace.

To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1.7

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Holy Spirit’s Greatest Gift to You

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The Holy Spirit is actively involved in the life of a Christ follower. And while there are many things He does in our lives, I can think of no greater gift than when He reveals to us that we are a child of God. What a precious and powerful revelation. When we put our trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, from that very instant, the Holy Spirit begins His work of convincing you that you are a true son of God. You have a new identity.

That’s Pauls argument in Romans 8.15 -  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” A more literal rendering would be, “You received adoption as sons.”

Let’s not get caught up in the gender neutral language of today. Paul is referring to something of importance in the Roman culture. A firstborn son received two thirds of family inheritance. That way, he could oversee his father’s estate. He was the crowning prize of the family. He was celebrated by the community. Don’t think for a moment that Paul is excluding or downplaying women here. The point is, our spiritual adoption is that special. We are now the sons of God and we can cry out to Him, “Abba, Father!”

The Holy Spirit indwells every Christ follower, without exception. How precious, then, is the fact that among the first things the Holy Spirit does is to confirm your permanent place in the family of God!

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Romans 8.16-17

Monday, March 19, 2018

Restorative Prayer

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Every time I read Psalm 51, my heart breaks for David. The nineteen verses of this chapter contains his gut-wrenching petition for forgiveness — forgiveness over his sin with Bathsheba. The prayer is words of a broken heart, bursting with desire for restoration. It is arguably the best prayer of remorse you’ll find anywhere. 

Let’s break it apart and see the powerful example it is for us. 

First, David doesn’t draw attention to himself. He doesn’t approach God by saying, “See how sorrowful I am?” Or, “I’m normally a good guy so, forgive me this one little mistake.” Rather, he flings his broken life to the grace of God. In essence he said, “All I have to offer You is a broken life and a crushed spirit.” In common day language, David understood and yearned for God’s grace. 

Second, notice that nowhere in the prayer does David attempt to cleanse himself. Although David was profoundly sorrowful and penitent, he didn’t even offer the customary sacrifice. “Cleanse me.” “Wash me.” “Create in me.” “Cast me not away.” “Restore to me.” All of these were things that only God could do. David’s remorse for his sin put his heart in touch with his deep need for God. His broken heart made him hunger for God. 

Finally, this prayer is about hope. You get the idea that David thought he could be restored, thus a right relationship with God and a purpose for the future. “After You’ve restored me, and with Your sustaining help, then I will teach other sinners to return to You. Then I’ll use my tongue to proclaim Your praise.”

What hope! The darkest past could not hold back a bright future. Isn’t that just like our God? When we are at our worst, God and His grace are at its best!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51.10-12

Friday, March 2, 2018

Empty Vessel - Miracle of Oil

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Elisha’s ministry was full of miracles. There’s one that touches a tender spot in me because it has to do with a widow in need. She was completely broke as her husband had passed away and she had no income to stay off her creditors. In desperation, she cried out to Elisha. She was down to her last jar of oil. So, Elisha told her to gather as many empty vessels as she could from her neighbors. The empty vessels were important because the miracle of oil kept flowing as long as an empty jar was available. 

One of my mentors was fond of saying that God is drawn to our emptiness. He quoted this powerful statement from Charles Spurgeon:

“My Lord Jesus does not want your help. Abstain, resolve, repent, advance—do what you will. But do not join these poor things to His great salvation. Give up once and for all depending upon what you have done, even when you have done all—as an unprofitable servant quit all claims of wage and appeal to mercy only. Dismiss the proud notion of containing anything in yourself which comes of your fallen nature and yet can be acceptable with God. … Empty buckets are most fit for the well of grace—these shall be filled while the full ones stand idle at the well’s mouth.”

Too many Christ followers want to bring their merits to God to get a blessing in return. But as Spurgeon said, “Empty buckets are most fit for the well of grace.” You’re better to bring your emptiness and just say, “Fill me.”

The miracle of oil didn’t run out until there were no more empty vessels. The oil of the Holy Spirit, likewise, keeps filling as long as there is receptivity in your heart. Your emptiness doesn’t disqualify you from God’s blessing; it attracts it.

And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” 2 Kings 4.2-4   

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Just a Hint of God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I don’t want to do it. In fact, I try desperately not to. What, you ask? To take a quick peek at the end of a mystery novel to see where it ends up. It’s like I want a little heads-up to know where the novel is going. 

In a similar way, Moses wanted to know about the God who was “going with them” as they made their way to the “land flowing with milk and honey.” Think about it for a moment. God had already revealed Himself in spectacular and powerful ways — burning bushes, staffs to snakes, hail-fire and brimstone, bugs, flies, and frogs, parting waters — what more could you ask for! Still, Moses said, “Show me Your glory.”

Thankfully, God said, “No,” otherwise, the story would have ended right there. The “no” was for good reason. To see the unbridled glory of God was to go beyond the boundary of human understanding. God told him, “You cannot see My face [My glory], for no one may see Me and live” [Exodus 33.20].

That is what’s behind the word Almighty. We can grasp mighty, but not Almighty. Almighty takes us from finite to infinite, and we just can’t go there. Graciously, God did allow Moses to get a glimpse of Him. Just enough to satisfy, but not obliterate [Exodus 33.22-23].

Today, we are like Moses in the cleft of the rock. We can know about God, and we can know Him personally. However, in so many ways, He is completely and absolutely unknowable — infinitely beyond our comprehension.

Is that partial revelation enough? I say, “YES!” With our minds filled with the Word of God, and our hearts filled with His Holy Spirit, we can see Him enough to:

Respect Him greatly
Revere Him continually
Replace Him with nothing

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” … Then Moses said, “Now show me Your glory.” Exodus 33.14, 18