Monday, April 30, 2018

God Moments

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I was working through a difficult circumstance once and there just didn’t seem to be a breakthrough. I went to a friend to talk about it and his response was, “Rick, you just don’t have enough faith. That’s your problem.”

Sure, I wanted “more” faith, who wouldn’t! But how?

I got my answer a day or two later, when reading a story about David in 1 Samuel. He wanted to fight a giant that had appeared on the scene. King Saul tried to talk him out of it but that didn’t settle well with David. His response to Saul revealed his faith. In essence he said that God delivered him from trouble in the past and He’ll do it again. Remembering God’s faithfulness yesterday gives us the confidence in His faithfulness today. Hence, stronger faith because faith believes truth.

Let’s call it the “God moment principle”. 

Faith isn’t a close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best thing. We call that “blind faith”. Rather, it’s confidence based on God’s interaction with you in the past. Neither is it mental gymnastics in order to make a spiritual claim. Rather, it’s knowing and believing truth based on past evidence. I’ll say it again, faith believes truth. 

Faith remembers the God moments from your past and builds on it. God moments — when He helped you, when He protected you, when He delivered you, when He redeemed you, when He comforted you, when He … 

The more you see God in your life, the more your faith will grow!

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, April 13, 2018

Fruit Bearing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

If you want to bear fruit for God, actually, if you want to accomplish anything for God, then live in Jesus. Or, as Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” [John 15.5].

What can we learn from that metaphor of vines and branches? For one thing, the branch depends on the vine for everything — its growth, its energy, its nutrients, its life. In the same way, our sustenance and life comes from living moment by moment in Jesus. 

Abandon everything that competes with Christ as your source for life and meaning. Prune away everything that draws you away from Him. Allow Him to live in and through you. Fruit will come.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15.1-5

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Love of Money

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Money is not the problem, the “love” of money is. When you love money and make it the central aim of your life, you’re guaranteed a life of stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction — even if you become financially successful.

CS Lewis wrote, “Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘Binding his place in it’, while really it is binding its place in him.” Truth! When the love of money gets into your heart, it replaces God in so many ways.

The love of money will cause you to lower the priority you put on your spiritual life. Sin won’t stress you as much as increasing your portfolio. Your main stress will then become financial issues. At one time your greatest thrill was the discovery of a new spiritual truth. The love of money will make financial success your biggest thrill.

There is no sin in wealth. Nor is money inherently sinful. But beware lest the love of money grabs your heart!

He who loves money will not be satis1ied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. Ecclesiastes 5.10-12

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Walk by the Spirit

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

You feel it, don’t you, that conflict between the Holy Spirit and your sinful nature? They are opposed to each other. That’s what the Apostle Paul told the Galatian Christ followers. You feel it when you want to follow your sinful, fallen nature, while God is in the process of renewing His image in you. 

One day, His renewal project will be complete. But in the meantime, we are still a work in progress. That’s why we need to follow the Spirit’s prompting to live in a way that honors God. 

To follow the Spirit’s prompting means to be responsive to His initiatives in your life. When He says stop doing something (we call that conviction), do it. Stop. When He puts something in your heart to do, get busy and do it right away. Follow His lead. It’s always for the best. 

Do you want to stop doing the things you don’t want to do and do the things you want to do? Then keep your relationship with the Holy Spirit healthy and vibrant. As you do, you’ll find godliness to be the natural outflow of your life. 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5.16-17

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Only the Lord Can Make Us Clean

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

If you know this old hymn, sing it with me:

What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus! 

Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow. 
No other fount I know;
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

When we first become Christ followers, there seems to be a heightened awareness of sin. There is a purpose for that, I think, even though it can weigh heavily on our minds. That heightened awareness of sin is to teach us a great truth: We are incapable of removing the stain of our sin. Only God can do that! It’s also true that we cannot heal ourselves of the shame of our sin. 

Sin is a grave ordeal, whether it is the sins we have committed or the ones committed against us. Sin is treacherous because it can leave you under a heavy weight of filth and shame. You want to be clean inside and out, but you just can’t do it. Hallelujah, God can! 

Here’s how the Lord’s half brother put it, Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen! [Jude 24-25]

That’s how powerful God is. He can joyfully present you and me blameless before Himself because of what Christ has done for us at Calvary’s cross. 

Incredible? Yes. So what do we do about that? I suggest you bow your knee humbly before the Lord. Or try this: Raise your hearts and hands toward heaven in worship and thanksgiving!

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3.4-7

Monday, April 9, 2018

God, and None Other

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

In my nearly sixty-eight years of living, I’ve come to believe that everyone worships something. Everyone has some set of beliefs, some allegiance. We love and need to be loved, and that drives us to the feet of one god or another. 

I said that not too long ago to a person and their immediate response was, “I don’t worship anything or anyone.” My parting remark as we ended our conversation was, “Make a serious inventory of your life and see who or what drives you to your knees.” 

Some people have compulsive eating disorders or any number of addictions because they are driven to the feet of “the perfect body, feel-good-about-yourself” god. 

Some are swept into workaholism, stealing or perpetual lying to appease “the good life” god.

Some worship “the black-sheep-of-the-family” god and slavishly live their lives playing that role.

That’s why the first of the Ten Commandments is so important. It says, “You must not have any other god but Me” [Exodus 20.3]. And as if that weren’t enough, God repeated the command after the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but Me” [Deuteronomy 5.6-7].

If you have a desire to live according to God’s design, start right there. Recognize Him as God alone. No other gods of any kind. If you give Him that proper place in your life, all of His other commands should follow naturally. 

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. Matthew 22.35-38

Friday, April 6, 2018

You Do the Math

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

There are some Scriptures that, when I read them, I shake my head and say, “Impossible!” If it’s not number one, it’s way up there, when James wrote to count or consider every trial as joy. Seriously? I know the words were inspired by the Holy Spirit. I know it’s what God wants. But honestly, does the math add up?

Maybe the problem is we confuse joy and happiness. I don’t know, but it may have been harder if James had written, “Be happy about your trials.” Happiness is so fickle. It comes and goes with my emotional state. It’s an in-the-moment feeling.

Joy is a different thing altogether. You can’t conjure up joy at your whim. Joy comes from God. In some ways, joy is supernatural. It is a fruit of the Spirit, right?

That’s why I think only Christ followers would ever count trials as joy. It seems to me that if life were only about happiness, then trials would make no sense; they would be worthless. But if you are living for a higher purpose, if you see this short life from an eternal perspective, and if you understand that God is working in every circumstance to conform you more into the image of His Son, then you can get to that place of joy — no matter what!

Count it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face various kinds of trials. James 1.2

Thursday, April 5, 2018

No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When God says something, take it at face value — no ifs, ands, or buts. His promises, His forgiveness, His provision, His love, His constant presence, His protection from the clutches of death and hell are crystal clear. There’s no catch; no fine print. Just His truthful word. 

You’d think after reading the Scriptures concerning His steadfast goodness and faithfulness that we would simply walk in confidence that He is true to His word. But sometimes, Christ followers kind of tilt their heads sideways with that questioning look in their eye that suggests uncertainty. 

Well, you’re not alone! Jacob was resting on the roadside one night and had a marvelous vision of what has been called the “Stairway to Heaven.” God spoke to him and said, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” [Genesis 28.15].

Jacob’s response was right on, “Surely the Lord is in this place … How awesome is this place … this is the gate of heaven” [Genesis 28.16-17]. I guess so!

The next morning, as Jacob prepared to leave, he made a standing stone and called the place “Bethel.” It’s what he said next that really intrigued me. “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Did it strike you too? 

If. If? God had just told him the night before, “I’ll be with you.” Now here he is, just a few hours later, “If God will be with me…” Wow!

I want to stick with the Apostle Paul here. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ” [2 Corinthians 1.20a] . 

God’s promises. No need to worry. No need to wait-and-see. No bargaining. Just receive them and go on your way rejoicing!

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28.15

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Obedience — Just Do It

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

There comes a point when the cheerleading ends. Vision casting is over. No more planning. It’s time to, as the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!” That’s especially true when it comes to obedience. 

I don’t know what it is when Christ followers hear the word, obey, but it’s like the air leaks out of the tires for them. Obedience is like the fine print that no one reads in the instruction manual. But if we ever intend to abide in Christ’s love, then obey we must. Jesus said it would take obedience to “abide in My love” [John 15.10].

Perhaps this is just what you needed to hear today. There is no secret plan here. The key to abiding in Christ is obeying. And abiding in Him leads to obedience.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve discovered that gritting my teeth and willing myself to be more obedient just doesn’t work. I’ve also found that all my promises to be more obedient haven’t worked very well either. What has worked is Christ’s way; abiding in Him, resting in Him, casting all my burdens onto Him, leaning on the everlasting arms — that’s where I’ve drawn strength, and found the energy to obey!

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15.10

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Thanksgiving is Good for You

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Over the years, I’ve read from studies done at universities in the US and England that show thankfulness (gratitude) is good for you. There is a link between good health and thankfulness. 

One such study showed that people who journaled their gratitude had fewer physical sickness symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic about the future. 

I think there is a theological reason for this. Thankfulness is powerfully linked to grace. 

Let me show you the connection. Well, let’s let the Apostle Paul make the connection. He wrote to the Corinthian Christ followers, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” [2 Corinthians 4.15 NIV - emphasis mine].  

The first underlined word is grace. It comes from the Greek word, charis. The second underlined word is thanksgiving. That comes from the Greek word, eucharistia. Do you see it? Grace - charis - is right in the middle of thanksgiving - eucharistia.

Let me say it this way: Grace is at the heart of thanksgiving. A grateful heart is keenly award of grace. When you habitually thank God for His interaction in your life, grace takes center place. When your mind is filled with grace thoughts, your whole life, body, soul, and spirit, begins to flourish. 

While many think of thanksgiving as a holiday, Christ followers know that it is the key to an abundant life. Thanksgiving is good for you. 

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Monday, April 2, 2018

God Eternal

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

As I grow older, it’s getting harder to remember things about my childhood. I can remember some very specific things because they had a dramatic effect on my life. I also remember some general things, like walking to school barefooted in the snow — uphill, both ways! Wait, I think that was my Dad! 

While things like that are getting harder to remember, some things are getting easier to understand, like understanding there were hundreds of generations that lived before me and will live after me, should the Lord tarry His return. 

That’s why I’m comforted to know One who “lived” in years past, “lives” today, and will “live” in the future. He was there to witness my birth in 1950. He saw the first man step onto the moon’s surface in July of 1969; the sinking of the Titanic in1912; the nailing of the 95 theses to the Castle Church’s door in 1517; the crucifixion of His Son, the crossing of the Red Sea; the Garden of Eden. Yes, I’m talking about the One who existed in perfect satisfaction even before the world began — the eternal God!

As Francis Schaeffer’s book title reveals, He is “The God Who Is There.” He’s always been there. He predates time and will be there long after time no longer exists. There is no beginning or ending with Him. The Psalmist knew that. “From everlasting to everlasting,” he said of Him. And, then he added a little more to it. Not only has God existed forever, but He has always existed as God.

He didn’t have to climb a ladder of success to get to be God. He didn’t have to beat out another god to take His position. He didn’t have to wait His turn to be God. He didn’t earn the right to be God. He just is — God. Everlasting. Always.  

I find great comfort in that. God was fully God when I was young, and He will be fully God when I’m elderly (that’s not too far ahead of me!). He will be fully God as my children grow old, as my grandchildren grow old. His dominion, power, love, wisdom, and goodness will not diminish in any way by time, circumstances, or world events. He is God. That’s it!

It was such an encouragement to me today as I read from the Psalms. I know, I believe, I trust a God who, from everlasting to everlasting, is fully God. 

From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. Psalm 90:2