Monday, May 14, 2018

Choose Contentment

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

A legend has it that a king was looking for contentment. His advisors told him that if he wore the shirt of a contented man for a week, his discontent would go away. So, he sent his men throughout the land to get the shirt from a contented man. His men searched high and low, but returned empty handed. The king was furious. In their defense, they told the king, “We found a contented man, but he didn’t own a shirt.”  

Pastor Ray Stedman wrote, “Contentment is not having all that you want. True contentment is wanting only what you have.” G.K. Chesterton said nearly the same thing, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” Amen to that. It teaches us that contentment is something we choose. 

The Apostle Paul didn’t live a charmed life. When you read about him in Scripture, it becomes evident that he was called to suffer for Christ [Acts 9.16]. Still, he “learned how to be content … in every situation” [Philippians 4.11-12].

How did he do it? How could he find contentment experiencing all the things he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11.23-28? His immediate response, “…through Christ who gives me strength” [Philippians 4.13].

Regardless of our circumstances, we can also experience calm contentment based in the power that Christ provides. In Jesus, we have all we need [2 Corinthians 12.9].

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4.11-13

Friday, May 11, 2018

One King

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One of the titles of Jesus is, King of the Jews. A notice stating that was nailed above His head when He was crucified. There was another king in Jesus’ day. He was a madman. His name? Herod. Or, as he is commonly known, Herod the Great. 

He was a great builder. But he was also a great killer. He murdered many of his family members because he feared they were trying to usurp his power. It is said that Octavian (Caesar Augustus) joked about his killing sprees: “It’s better to be one of Herod’s pigs than to be his son.”

Shortly before his death, Herod ordered a stadium to be filled with Jewish religious and political leaders to have them slaughtered at his death. It’s said the order was given so that someone would at least shed real tears when he died. Thankfully, those instructions were not carried out. 

Herod was a madman, but he wasn’t crazy. He understood that there can only be one king. When it was reported to him that a king of the Jews was born in Bethlehem, he ordered the “slaughter of the Innocents” [Matthew 2.16].

Herod’s twisted rule reveals a sobering truth about Jesus. He didn’t enter our world to prop up our own fragile kingdoms. He didn’t come to “rubber stamp” our plans, fragile egos, or whatever our desires compel us to do. He came to rule: King of the Jews — and of you and me! Defeating all kingdoms was His way of “saving His people from their sins” [Matthew 1.21]. That’s why the Apostle Paul could say that when Jesus came, He “rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins “ [Colossians 1.13-14].

Don’t expect Jesus to share His sovereign rule with lesser powers. He loves us too much for that. His presence challenges anything that would try to have dominion over us. There can only be one King to rule your life. 

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2.2

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Death Destroyer

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’ve only watched one episode of it. I’m talking about the TV show “Undercover Boss.” I thought the premise of the show was interesting, but it didn’t hold my interest long. It’s about company bosses that disguise themselves as regular employees to learn what the employees think about them and what their day-to-day jobs are like. Maybe it was the disguise that did it in for me. I thought, “How could those employees be fooled. The disguise looks like the Groucho Marx glasses and mustache toy!” I did appreciate, however, how they came to better understand their employees, making them better bosses as a result. 

Now, I realize there is no real comparison here, but that show somewhat reminds me of what Jesus did when He came to earth. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Philippian Christ followers, told them that Christ was God Himself, but He came to earth [2.6-7]. That is what theologians call the incarnation

The author of Hebrews talks about the reason the Son became flesh; that He could fully relate to us, the chosen, and to call us brothers and sisters [2.11]. What an encouraging thought!

But wait. There’s more! He didn’t merely come to display humanity, He also came to die and rise again. And through the resurrection, He displayed His ultimate power over sin and death [Hebrews 2.14-15]. That’s the Gospel; He shattered death and destroyed the power of Satan. 

Because of that, we now may live in a new reality: If the Death Destroyer is for us, who, then, can be against us! [Romans 8.31]

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Hebrews 2.14

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Honest Doubts

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The novelist Flannery O’Connor once referred to faith as “a way of walking in darkness, a determined insistence on moving forward even when we’re uncertain what lies ahead.” There’s a mountain of truth in that statement. And, it resonates with someone we are familiar with in the New Testament, John the Baptizer. He was shackled in a dingy jail, weary and disillusioned. The circumstance he was in threatened to rob him of his faith and hope. 

So, he sent some friends to find Jesus. They were told to ask a vital question, “Are you the Messiah or should we keep looking?” He must have been in a dark place. I’m not referring to the darkness of the jail cell, but rather the darkness of doubt. “Are you the One?” “Why aren’t you doing what the Messiah is supposed to do?” “Why am I here waiting again?” “Did I just believe in a fairy tale?”

I don’t want to get carried away with John’s doubt. In fact, I find some comfort there. Here’s a guy who was faithful, knew the Scriptures, was bold in his faith, who even baptized Jesus. Still, he had fundamental doubts!

One thing that strikes me here is that Jesus didn’t unleash a scathing, theological treatise or rebuke John’s friends. Instead, He told them to return to their friend and tell him what they had seen: ”The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” [Matthew 11.4-5]. In other words, He was doing the very things Isaiah said the coming One would do [Isaiah 35.1-6; 61.1-7]. 

John had not been deceived. He hadn’t believed a lie. The Anointed One was here!

Perhaps you, too, experience doubt and confusion while waiting on the Lord. It’s nothing new. Just keep moving forward through your uncertainty. Throw all your doubts and concerns to the Lord. He will answer in time. He is the One who never fails. 

“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Matthew 11.3

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Never Changing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I read just about anything. The other day, I read an article about quartz watches. I had no idea of the technology behind a quartz watch, so I found the information fascinating. 

In a quartz watch, the battery sends an electric signal through a tiny piece of quartz, which vibrates at a very precise frequency, exactly 32,768 times per second. The watch uses that fixed vibration rate to keep time. Because the vibration rate is always constant, quartz time pieces are highly dependable—much more accurate time-keepers than many other types of clocks and watches.

The quartz watch may be reliable, but I know something (I should say, Someone) that is more reliable — absolutely reliable. His name is Jesus, and He’s the same, always. He never changes! [Hebrews 13.8]. His timeless nature is just as important to us today as it was to the early church. 

We are bombarded daily by social media with the latest fads: How to train your mind. How to organize your closet. How to eat what cavemen ate. Interesting? Maybe. But, as we know, these things change with the next “greatest” thing to come along. So, it is far better to focus on the unchanging character of Christ. He has withstood the test of time. All the rest, not so much. 

Put your complete confidence in the One who never changes and against whom even the gates of hell cannot prevail [Matthew 16.18].

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them. Hebrews 13.8-9

Monday, May 7, 2018

Voice Recognition

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Researchers at Stanford University conducted a study to measure voice recognition. Twenty-four children were involved. They each heard three audio clips, each clip lasted only one second long. Two clips were random women’s voices and one the mother’s voice of each child. Although the clips were very brief, the children identified their mother’s voice 97% of the time!

Of course that made me wonder how well we know the Savior’s voice. Jesus spoke about this very issue in John’s Gospel, where He said sheep know the voice of their shepherd. On one of my trips to Israel, I saw a large flock of sheep grazing on a hillside. Several shepherd boys were looking after them. All of a sudden, the sheep began to move, separating into different groups. It started when the boys began talking to the sheep. As the boys kept talking and walking away, the sheep followed them. 

One day, Jesus spoke to a group of religious leaders and He used this same imagery. “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them from my hand” [John 10.27-28].

Jesus is the “good shepherd” [John 10.14]. As we listen to His voice, we will naturally disregard the voice of all false shepherds. We belong to Him and gladly follow His wise and loving guidance. 

And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10.4

Friday, May 4, 2018

Come Back and Live

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

You’ve got to hand it to the Old Testament prophets, they didn’t mince their words. They just opened their mouths and let it rip! Maybe that’s why I enjoy reading the Old Testament. You don’t have to second guess where they were coming from.

Amos is one of my favorites. Amos was God’s messenger at a time when Israel worshipped at altars and shrines to false gods. God longed for His people to turn back to Him, but He stayed true to His loving covenant with them: blessing when they obeyed and discipline when they didn’t [Deuteronomy 28.1, 15]. So, we’re not surprised that the Children of Israel suffered famine, drought, mildew, locusts, plagues, and death as punishment for their unfaithfulness [Amos 4.6-10].

Eventually, God would speak through His messenger. And when Amos opened his mouth, he voiced God’s greatest desire for His people: “Come back to the LORD and live!”

When we, like the Israelites in Amos’ day, stray from our single-hearted devotion to God, when our hearts are not inclined toward Him, we may also suffer the painful consequences of our sins. Let the words of Amos thunder from the past, “Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed” [Amos 5.14]. 

Never doubt the love that God has for you. Don’t become bitter in the pain because of your sin. Instead, “Come back to the LORD and live!” Healing and restoration awaits those who do.

Come back to the LORD and live! Otherwise, He will roar through Israel like a fire, devouring you completely. Your gods in Bethel won’t be able to quench the flames. Amos 5.6

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Real Peace

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Pax Romana [Latin for “Roman Peace”]. Wikipedia says of Pax Romana that it “was a long period of relative peace … a span of roughly two hundred years.” The Roman Empire was subject to riots and rebellion. Because it covered such a vast area, Rome was known to devastate conquered nations in the name of enforcing pax. All who opposed Rome paid dearly for it. The first century Roman historian Tacitus wrote, “They create desolation and call it peace.”

Over 700 years before Tacitus, the prophet Micah declared a time of peace. It would be found in the Messiah. Micah prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and Samaria, after which he said that “out of you [Bethlehem Ephrathah] will come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel … He will be the source of peace” [5.2-5].

One of Micah’s contemporaries was none other than the prophet Isaiah. Of the same Messiah Isaiah wrote, “And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” [9.6].

As He prepared His disciples for His impending departure from earth, Jesus comforted them with this, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” [John 14.27]. 

Try as they may, the Caesars could not give their empire peace. You can’t give away what you don’t have. Our world is the same. Rather than peace, we have strife, unrest, and wars. But don’t lose heart! We have steadfast peace because we know the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus, the Lord. He is the source of our peace, so let it rule your heart and mind [Colossians 3.15].

Then His people will live there undisturbed …  and He will be the source of peace. Micah 5.4-5

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Fear and Great Joy

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Fear and Great Joy

His ravaged body was placed in a cold, dark tomb after the cross had finished its cruel work. Then night fell. Eerie silence followed. Where were His followers now? Most likely huddled together in grief and confusion. What else do you do when your world collapses? Every hope crushed while His body lay stone cold in the grave.

The morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the tomb to finish the traditional burial process. On the way, the earth began to shake. An angel appeared. The stone that had once separated the living from the dead was now rolled away [Matthew 28.2-3]. The angel announced that Jesus was no longer dead, “He is not here for He is risen, just as He said” [28.6].

Matthew described the emotion of the women as they rushed to tell the disciples of the impossible. The women were very frightened and filled with great joy simultaneously [28.8]. Fear and great joy just don’t sound like they go together, right?

There is a fear that debilitates. There is a fear that ravages. But there is another kind of fear, a holy fear. It neither debilitates or ravages, but rather evokes humility and awe. Instead of cowering in fear and terror, in bends the knee in humility and shakes the soul. It removes all the false fear replacing it with profound hope and joy. 

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. Matthew 28.8

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Any Time, Any Place, Any Where Worship

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m heading back to Israel this November and one of the sites we will visit is Mt. Gerizim. It’s near Sychar where Jesus met the woman at the well. As I was reviewing Scripture about that event, I was reminded that, as important as physical spaces are, true worship isn’t dependent on a specific building or location. When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus, “So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” [John 4.19-20 NLT], Jesus responded, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem” [v. 21]. 

What a shock that must have been, considering the Temple was the center of worship at the time. So Jesus continued, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way” [v. 23].

What a marvelous truth! Worship can’t be confined to this place or that place — here only, there only. When we stand before God, hearts filled with the Holy Spirit, any time, any place, any where becomes the place of authentic worship.

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4.24