Friday, June 29, 2018


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I have now travelled to about sixty countries around the world. In each of them, I've tried very hard to be a good representative of our nation. I did not want the title of “The Ugly American” to be applied to me. That’s because the actions and attitudes of any citizen, whether good or bad, positive or negative, will affect how people in other lands perceive your country. That’s also true if you claim heavenly citizenship. 

As such, we are Christ’s ambassadors. We have been given a tremendous responsibility to represent Him in the best possible way — to glorify Him in word and deed. It’s important to remember this as people are watching and making assumptions about what it means to be a Christ follower based on how we live. 

We are saved. We are accounted as righteous before God. We have peace with God through Christ, which allows us to work with Him in reconciling men to God. What an extraordinary opportunity! We are, indeed, His ambassadors. 

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  2 Corinthians 5.20

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sweet Surrender

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We don’t often think about it because we are not under the scourge of Roman domination. In those days, Caesar was deified, He was lord. Hence, it was a radical notion when the early Christ followers confessed that “Jesus is Lord!” That statement was an affront to Caesar’s power, and yet it stood at the core of their belief.  

I suggest that it should remain so today. The Apostle Paul said that God elevated Jesus to the position of highest honor and gave Him the name, “which is above every name” [Philippians 2.9]. The “name above every name” means that Jesus isn’t merely one name among many names; nor one noble ideal among many ideals, nor one lord among many lords.” He’s above all that. 

Our confession isn’t merely an abstract theological persuasion. It’s a strong conviction that affects the posture of our being. To honestly say “Jesus is Lord” means we bow the heart and bend the knee, surrendering all to Jesus. 

Jesus is our example of complete surrender to the will of His Father. He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a horrendous death on a cross [Philippians 2.8]. When we surrender to Jesus, the only things we lose are those things that bind us, that steal our joy, and that draw us away from the glorious kingdom of goodness and light. 

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2.10-11

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The “Record” Yet to Happen

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I don’t know how it is for you, but getting our family together for a photo is getting harder and harder to do, and there are only ten of us. That’s why I was amazed to read about 31,000 Chinese women who set a record for getting together and dancing the same way. According to the Guinness Book World Records, 31,697 Chinese women set the record for mass plaza dancing in multiple locations. The participants danced for more than five minutes in six different cities.

What a feat that must have been! That may have set a world record in our time, but I can tell you that it is small potatoes compared to a “record” yet to happen when believers, too numerous to count, will form a mass worship service in one location!

The Apostle John recorded this event long before it actually takes place. He saw people from every nation, tribe, and language worshiping God [Revelation 7.9]. With palm branches in hand, this vast group of people, along with angels, elders, and four living creatures will sing hymns of praise for the great salvation from the One who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. 

I believe that will happen one day. It won’t be to set a record, but to offer the glory due His name [Revelation 7.12].

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7.9-10


Encouragement for your daily walk with God  

“It is finished!” You may have said this many time during your life. After a final exam, it means, “I’m done with that class” or “I’m on to the next grade.” For an employee, it could mean, “I’ve completed my assigned task.” When you finally put that unassembled purchase together you may say, “I’m glad to be finished with that!”

In New Testament times, “It is finished” could have meant many things. For the religious leaders, it could mean they succeeded in getting rid of a radical Rabbi. For the Romans, it could mean they successfully completed another execution. For the disciples, it meant their hope of the Messiah was dashed.  

But, “It is finished” meant far more to Jesus. It meant, “My sacrifice for the sins of the world is complete.” 

Jesus had hung on the cross since mid-morning enduring the excruciating pain, indignity, and disgrace of crucifixion. It’s now 3:00 in the afternoon and Jesus was at the brink of death. He cried out, “It is finished” [John 19.28-30]. The door for us to be made right with God swung wide open [Romans 3.24-26]. 

The Father’s task for Jesus was complete, finished! Now, we can be reconciled with God [Romans 5.11]. The only word that comes to mind is, “Hallelujah!” — Praise the Lord!

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19.30

Friday, June 22, 2018

Joy and Peace are Possible

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Here’s what I think: Gratitude and a worry-free life are inseparably connected. 

When the Apostle Paul wrote the Philippian Christ followers and said, "Do not be anxious about anything…”, he was in prison and didn’t know if he would be liberated or executed. Adding to that he said, “… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

Gratitude, or thanksgiving, is a formidable weapon for overcoming worry. It has been my observation that grateful people always find joy and peace at hand. 

Dr. Brene Brown, who holds the Huffington Foundation — Brene Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work, has said: “I made a commitment to never talk about joy for the rest of my career without talking about gratitude. Because in 12 years of research, I have never interviewed a single person with the capacity to really experience joy who does not also actively practice gratitude.”

Encouragement to be grateful and thankful fills the Psalms.

Psalm 7 - I will give to the Lord, the thanks due to His righteousness.
Psalm 9 - I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.
Psalm 28 - The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.
Psalm 30 - Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name.

In one way or another, you’ll find similar statements about gratitude and thanksgiving in Psalm 33, 44, 54, 57, 75, 79, 86, 92, 97, 100, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 111, 118, 122, 136!

Take time to read these Psalms. You’ll find that a grateful heart is a peaceful heart. When you thank God and praise Him, worry and fear melt away. Impossible, you say? Well, if God commanded us to not to worry about anything, it must be possible!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wise and Careful Living

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you seen the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri? It’s really something to behold. This stainless steel marvel rises 630 feet and is the tallest structure of its kind in the world. Built in the 1960’s, both “feet” of the arch were constructed simultaneously, and joined at the center. Had the engineers been off by just a fraction on either foot, the two sides would not have met perfectly in the middle. That feat required incredibly wise planning and careful execution. 

There’s a sermon in there, believe me. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian Christ followers, he said they were to be careful to live wisely in the world. Great words then and now. The motivation for living this way is to be an effective witness to the lost. We certainly don’t want to miss a single opportunity to share the Gospel [Colossians 4.3]. That kind of wise living will sweeten our conversation and make it gracious and attractive [4.6]. 

Living wisely and carefully in God’s wisdom and strength is a double blessing. Not only does it help us live separately from the world, but it also guides us in how to interact with it. 

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians  4.5

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Good Works are Necessary

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Make no mistake about it, you are saved by God’s grace when you put your complete confidence in what Christ did for you on Calvary’s cross, period. Salvation is not a reward for any good deeds which we have done [Ephesian 2.5, 8-9]. Saved by grace, through Christ’s work, is central. That being said, please don’t think that your good deeds are unimportant or unnecessary. 

The Apostle Paul has clearly taught that those who’ve been saved by Jesus will do works  God intended for them to do. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” [Ephesians 2.10]. 

John Calvin put it this way, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” I don’t think it is improper to call into question the one who says he or she believes in Jesus but fails to demonstrate their belief by doing good deeds God planned for them to do [see James 2.14-26].

To his friend and associate, Titus, Paul said Christ cleansed us from the stain of sin and made us His own, to make us “totally committed to doing good deeds” [Titus 2.14].

Why are good deeds so important? Jesus said they “glorify your Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5.16]. The author of Hebrews said it this way, “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God” [Hebrews 13.16].

[Jesus] gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2.14

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Transformed, Renewed Minds

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

My mother made a lot of Jello and Jello salads when we were kids growing up. Typically, she made it in 9 X 12 glass baking dishes. But when she wanted to get fancy-schmancy, she’d get out one of her molds. She could shape the Jello to look like a lot of things: flowers, grape clusters, even the State of California.

Shaping Jello is one thing, but the Apostle Paul warned against a kind of shaping that can really do great harm — conformed, shaped, or molded from “the pattern of this world” [Romans 12.2]. Molded by the world means living at odds with God’s kingdom. 

Paul suggested something better. Let God transform you by renewing your mind. This transformation is accomplished by the Holy Spirit as He recreates us from the inside out. He makes us a completely new person [2 Corinthians 5.17], able to resist the world’s mold and become more Christlike. 

Molded by the world isn’t merely an alternative lifestyle choice. It’s living at odds with the God who desires that all men would be saved. The more we allow God to shape us into the image of His Son, the more we learn God’s will. We begin to see ourselves and the world as He does. Truth is, it’s the path to real freedom.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.2

Monday, June 18, 2018

Prayerful Self-Examination

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Although they lived more than a century apart, and in very different contexts, both Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) and John Wesley (1703–1791) wanted spiritual transformation in their lives. Each created a means of self-examination to make it happen. Ignatius developed an “examining” prayer. He prayed it twice daily in order to discern if he was moving toward or away from God. Wesley developed a series of questions that he asked himself each evening. Among them, “Did the Bible live in me today?” And, “Am I enjoying prayer?” Oh that we would be like minded!

They weren’t the first to do it. Prayerful examination is rooted in the Bible. Israel’s King David is a prime example. In Psalm 139, he asked God to examine his heart inside and out. He wanted to draw closer to God, so he needed to examine his motives and behavior. He wanted God to identify even the hidden sins — anything that was offensive to God. Only then could he seek forgiveness and stay on the everlasting way.

How about it, dear reader? The best thing we can do right now is to ask God to examine our hearts. Then, prayerfully consider how we can draw closer to the Lord throughout the day. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. 

Psalm 139.23-24

Friday, June 15, 2018

Your Work Matters

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” - - Eric Liddell to his sister Jenny in the movie Chariots of Fire. 

Eric Liddell was an Olympic champion in short distance and a missionary to China. His sister was urging him to go back to China, but Eric believed that his gift of running must be exercised. Convinced that he was called to be a world-class runner, he put off his return to China in order to run in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France. 

Maybe your calling isn’t quite as exciting as Eric’s, but the Apostle Paul would argue that whatever it is that you do, you do it with enthusiasm, as though you were doing it for the Lord. He reminded the Ephesian Christ followers to do the will of God with all their heart [see Ephesians 6.6]. Their fulfillment wouldn’t come because their work made them happy all the time, but rather in the fact that they were working for their real employer, Jesus! 

Your work matters to God, so remember whom you serve. There’s a great benefit for you if you do. Paul said, “the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do!” [6.8].

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Ephesians 6.7

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Our Humble Savior

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

You may not recognize him by his given name, but you know him: Gaius Octavius Thurinus. He worked behind the scenes to consolidate his power, and became the first Roman emperor. He later changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus after his adopted father. Eventually, he took on the title of Augustus Caesar, promoting the notion that Caesars are divine beings, worthy of worship as gods. 

He was merely a man who tried to elevate himself to divinity. What a striking contrast to Jesus who, “though He was God … did not think equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” [Philippians 2.6-7].

That’s our Savior! Rather than thinking highly of Himself, He humbled Himself. Born in a humble manger [Luke 2.7], He would later associate with those on the lowest rung of society. Even the religious leaders took note of it and asked why He would eat with the likes of them [Mark 2.15-16]. Jesus answered His critics by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” [Mark 2.17].

Do you see the irony here? Augustus was ruthless in his prideful declaration and attempt at divinity. He never got there. Not even close. Jesus, on the other hand, humbly emptied Himself and attained the name — the only divine name — by which we can be saved [Acts 4.12]. His is the example to follow.

And being found in appearance as a human being, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2.8-11

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Throw Off … Put On

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

OK, I’ll admit it. I love to watch home remodeling shows on TV. I have absolutely no skills in that area, so I’m in awe of how they transform an older (or very old) house into a beautiful, modern home. Seeing those transformed houses reminds me that God transforms us when we submit our lives to Him. 

There is a big difference between those transformed houses and our transformed lives. The houses can’t do anything about the transformation. They just exist and someone does all the work on them. In our transformation to Christlikeness, we have an active roll. Paul told the Ephesian Christ followers to, "throw off your old sinful nature” and to “put on your new nature” [Ephesians 4.22-24].

Here’s my take on it: keep embracing the new nature you have instead of holding on to the old nature you had before believing in Christ. The truth is, it’s easy to regress to our former state — old patterns, habits, desires, impulses, weaknesses — our old sinful nature. That’s why we must continually submit to the Holy Spirit’s transformation. 

And the really good news is this, as we continually put on the new nature, we become more like Christ moment by moment. In other words, we aren’t stuck in the muck and mire of sinful patterns of behavior. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in a “new and living way” [Hebrews 10.20].

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4.21-23

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Prescription for Sin

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I felt it immediately, a sting on my left arm. It wasn’t extremely painful so I thought the culprit was a harmless insect. I paid little attention to it until the pain became more intense. By that evening, the pain was nearly unbearable and my arm had swollen to nearly twice its size.  

I went to the emergency room of a hospital close by. After a careful examination, the doctor said I had been bitten, most likely, by a poisonous spider, perhaps a brown recluse. He gave me some very strong antibiotics along with the encouraging words that I would be back to normal in a two or three weeks. 

That painful and scary process reminds me of the sin that so easily besets us, or trips us up [Hebrews 12.1]. At first, you feel the sting of sin, but you don’t think of it as something serious to deal with. But some time later, it grows and becomes more painful, but by then, you are tripping over it time and time again. 

In his book, James offers an antidote, a prescription of sorts, for the people with “evil desires” and who were hurting others to satisfy those desires [4.1-2]. Here is that prescription:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” [4.7-10].

That’s God’s way. That’s the way to freedom, spiritual health and vitality. The Holy Spirit is our Helper here. He helps identify our sin, empowers us to resist temptation, and restores our friendship with God. Go after that freedom with all of your heart. As we do, the promise of God is spectacular. He will draw close to us, and He will lift us up!

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4.7