Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sacred Places

In my travels around the world, I have visited many places of worship — places that are considered holy, or sacred. Israel had its sacred place, the Temple in Jerusalem. Each year, there were three festivals for worshiping God; attendance required! {Deuteronomy 16.16]

Israel had its sacred place, but so did the Samaritans. In a conversation with a Samaritan women, the subject of a designated place of worship was brought up. She commented to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [Gerizim], and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” [John 4.20].

In His response, Jesus redirected her from a place of worship, to the person of worship, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” [4.23]. 

Gerizim and Jerusalem were no longer to be considered an imperative. True worship now consisted of approaching the Father in spirit and in truth — Truthfully. Wholeheartedly. Going forward, it would not be the sacredness of places of worship, it would be the holiness of the worshipers that mattered. 

That’s why worship, for a true believer, is not merely a few hours spent in a building each week. It’s living a godly life 24/7 [1 Peter 1.15-16].

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3.17

Monday, July 30, 2018

Still Under Construction

In recent days, there have been a lot of “Construction Zones” in the area I live in. “One Lane Ahead.” “Be Prepared to Stop!” “Watch Out for Flagmen.” “Road Temporarily Closed.” Nearly everywhere I drive, I’m thinking, “Will this work ever be finished?” Sure, I know that it can’t stay under construction forever, but it’s really painful when the traffic slows to 10 MPH or stops completely. 

I sometimes feel that way about the world, and about myself, too. I feel like I should be wearing an “Under Construction” sign. And the world? Yep, that too!

When I walk by sight and not by faith, it seems that everything is forever needing repairs. Conversely, when I walk by faith, I know the Lord is already making things new [Isaiah 43.19]. I don’t perceive it all the time, but I do sometimes, and it’s just enough to give me hope. 

You, me, the earth — everything that exists — God is making new, whether I perceive it or not. One day, we’ll all look back and realize that God was true to His word. We don’t have the final say on this, our perceptions notwithstanding. God does!

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! … I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43.18-19

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pangs of Disappointment

I’m not a gambler, neither do I recommend gambling. But you’d think that when you hit a jackpot, especially a big one, you’d walk away a rich person, right?. Well, not so fast. In August 2016 a lady playing a slot machine had an unusual experience. Katrina Bookman hit a jackpot. The slot machine spit out a cash ticket for $42,949,672.75! The casino’s response was, “Sorry, ma’am, you didn’t win $43M. There was a machine malfunction. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you!”

She didn’t go away empty handed. The casino offered her a steak dinner. That’s what I call a pang of disappointment.

Solomon observed some disappoints too: fast runners who didn’t finish first, strong warriors who lost the battle, skilled people who went broke. It seems that life’s disappointments are unavoidable. 

From a human perspective, much of the blame is placed on luck or chance. Solomon offered a different one: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” [Proverbs 16.33]. There you have it, God is in control.

Jesus knew only too well the pangs of disappointment. Let down by the denials of Peter, betrayed by His close friend, Judas, an envious mob choosing a known criminal to be released and having Him crucified — He gets it!

The disciples were deeply hurt on Good Friday, but Jesus did something about it. He rose from the grave three days later, reversing the pangs of disappointment. And one day, He’ll wipe away the tears of our disappointments too! [Revelation 21.4]

I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
Ecclesiastes 9.11

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Undespised Youth

I’m a big fan of Shark Tank. Some of my favorite episodes have to do with children who pitch their business to the Sharks. Most of the time they get really good advice from the Sharks, but sometimes, the Sharks bite. Take Mikaela Ulmer, for example. She pitched her lemonade business, BeeSweet Lemonade, and Daymon John took the bait. 

Her recipe is a combination of mint, flaxseed and honey-sweetened lemonade, which she copied from her great-grandmother, Helen. She recently signed an $11 MILLION dollar deal with Whole Foods to place her special lemonade in fifty-five stores. Did I mention that Mikaela was only nine years old when she went on Shark Tank? Now, at age eleven, she’s worth millions!

Mikaila’s ambition can point us to the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth” [1 Timothy 4.12]. 

Perhaps Paul thought that some people in the congregation would think Timothy was not mature enough to lead them and ignore his teaching. While Timothy couldn’t control what people thought about him, he could control his response to them. 

That’s why Paul would tell him not to prove himself by being a forceful leader or name-dropping his association with Paul. Rather, he admonished Timothy to reveal his maturity by using kind words, loving others, and demonstrating a deep spiritual life — a vibrant, and blameless life. Who would discredit such a leader

Age shouldn’t have the final say when it comes to influencing others for Christ. Young or old, let’s continue to ask God to shape us for a work of ministry. Whether we are nine or ninety, God can equip us to serve others.

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4.12

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Seek Wisdom

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I just encountered a new word: adulting. I had to ask my young friend what it meant. If I got it right, it’s slang for taking on adult responsibilities. Things like: paying bills, maintaining an automobile or house, cooking, and planning. It kind of makes sense. When I was younger, I thought all of the things my parents did would come naturally with age. Boy, did I ever have it wrong! Not only did it not come naturally, but it was a lot of hard work!

There’s something else we need that doesn’t come naturally: wisdom. The author of Proverbs urged his listeners not to forget the beauty of wisdom [Proverbs 4.21]. Over and over again, he advised his readers to pause and reflect on how we live our lives. His main point was that we should not mistake our assumptions for wisdom, but daily rely on God [3.5-7]. 

He went on to describe wisdom as a treasure to be sought after with all diligence [2.1-5]. I have come to believe that if you are really going for it, that is, seeking wisdom with all your heart, you will come to know Jesus, the One who fills our hearts with life, hope, and power. 

How do we get wisdom? 

Solomon wrote: For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright [Proverbs 2.6-7].

James said if you lack wisdom you can “ask God who gives it generously” [1.5]. 

There is a lot of wisdom right there!

Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Proverbs 4.7 [The MESSAGE Paraphrase]

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Stranglehold of Sin

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Pythons killed with nearly unimaginable force, so says the National Geographic. They are capable of killing animals many times their size! How do they do it? They literally squeeze the life out of their prey. 

The Bible says that sin is like that; a powerful force that squeezes the life out of us. It’s so bad that “no one calls on [God’s] name” or “stirs himself to take hold of [Him]” (Isaiah 64.6). Sin is as deadly as a python, and it will not let go. Don’t you find it strange that when we find ourselves in “sin’s dread sway” that we neglect crying out to God for help as we should? 

Thankfully, no matter how much we have resisted Him or how far we have run from Him, when we finally call on His powerful name, He remembers that we are His beloved children. With tender mercy He reaches out to break sin’s grip on our life and to pour life back into our hearts.

You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But You have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? Isaiah 64.5

Monday, July 16, 2018

Salt of the Earth

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Can you imagine people fighting over salt! Sounds rather strange, doesn’t it? For just a few cents, we can go to our nearest grocery store and buy a bountiful supply of it. Yet, nations have fought over salt for thousands of years. Some governments tried to control the sale of it. Back in the 1400’s, Venice and Genoa went to war over it. During their retreat from Moscow, many of Napoleon’s troops died because their wounds wouldn’t heal from a lack of this medicinal agent. Mahatma Gandhi led over 50,000 people on a 240-mile “Salt March” in protest of Britain’s monopoly on sale of this important element.

Let me say it this way: there is something very special about salt and its many applications. Not only does it make food taste better, but it also slows the decaying process, and triggers the appetite. Used in correct dosages, it is a great fertilizer. And, while our bodies can’t produce sodium, our muscles and nerves don’t work without it. 

Salt is an important and versatile ingredient. That’s why Jesus used it to illustrate the influence His followers would have in the world. Salt brings out the best in everything it touches. 

Whether it’s a cleansing agent, a preservative, or a flavor enhancer, let’s be the salt the world so desperately needs. We can be “salt of the earth” through the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5.13

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Shout Out to Mothers

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I woke up this morning thinking about my Mother, who passed from this life in 2011. Would you agree with me that Mothers are very special people? Can I get a witness? I realize we are far from Mother’s Day, but I can’t help writing about it this morning.

Thinking about my Mother, I was reminded of another noteworthy Mother, one who is truly worth knowing. Her name was Jochebed. She lived during a horrible time when the law of the land required Hebrew babies to be drowned. With the help of brave mid-wives, and a deep faith in God, she had the courage to disobey Pharaoh’s command [Hebrews 11.23].

How Moses was spared from death as an infant is truly an amazing testimony of God’s providence. Not only was he spared (unbeknownst to Pharaoh), but his Mother also became his nursemaid. As Moses grew, he was “taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians”[Acts 7.22] and lived with privilege as a prince of Egypt [Exodus 2.7-10].

But things changed when Moses became an adult. He turned away from the power and pleasures he had in Egypt, choosing instead to suffer with the Jews. How did he know the history of “his people?” How did he develop such deep convictions and faith in God?

It had to be from his nursemaid, his Mother, Jochebed. She is the one who had the opportunity to recount the stories of Jehovah and of His people. It was her godly influence and faith that left its mark in his heart 

Moses wasn’t an only child. He had a brother and sister. The way these children turned out is a testimony of the kind of Mother she was. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam became the leaders of the Israelites early on in the Exodus. 

The name Jochebed means, God is her glory. If anyone ever lived up to her name, it was Jochebed. We are about ten months away from Mother’s Day. But I think it’s OK to celebrate godly Mothers today. I already have, and I’ve thanked God for a Mother who pointed me to Jesus and who lived out her faith in His strength. 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22.6

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Gift We Needed

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When I read or listen to news reports from around the world, it’s easy for me to think the world has never been as divided as it is now. How do we deal with the troubling wars in the Middle East? How do we help struggling refugees? It seems that every day, we are inching our way to the Valley of Megiddo — Armageddon.

But as I read the New Testament, it seems to me that it was the same in Jesus’ day. When Christ came, people were divided on just how to deal with the iron fist of Rome. Some thought becoming allies with Rome was the best way to go. We saw that with the Sadducees and Herod the Great. They became friends of Rome to secure power. Then you have those who fought fiercely to end Rome’s rule. They were the militaristic zealots. Let’s not forget the Essenes. They disassociated themselves from society, fleeing to the Dead Sea, to live in isolation while waiting for the Deliverer to come.  

There was a longing for the Messiah to come and defeat Rome. And people prepared differently for that event. The Pharisees prepared by demanding purity. Zealots stowed weapons and sharpened their knives. Essenes prayed earnestly and stowed away sacred writings (The Dead Sea Scrolls). Herod, well, he removed any potential candidate for the coming King. 

That was the world into which the gift we needed came. Immanuel, God with us, the One who would bring peace and hope. 

You see, our problem is not “Rome,” “Herod,” or “Religiosity.” Our problem is not the religious indifference or the intolerance we are facing today. Our problem is we are sinners, dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2.1). And that is where we would continue to walk were it not that Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1.21).

God not only made a way to end our sinful past, but He also made a way for our glorious future. He did that by giving us the gift we needed — Immanuel, God with us! 

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated,God with us.” Matthew 1.23

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Surrender Your Ministry to God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

A friend of mine from Bible College days, had a strong desire to be a pastor. Through the years, he worked in youth ministries, as well as summer camp ministries and alongside of several pastors in different churches. He was well liked and faithfully, with his wife and children, volunteered his time. He was a pastoral candidate at several churches and was “nearly” selected by a couple of them, but the position was given to someone else. To this day, as far as I know, he has yet to serve in any full-time capacity as a senior pastor. 

At times, it’s hard to understand or accept the Lord’s “assignments” for our lives. We may have a clear idea of how the Lord should use us and, if the truth were told, we’ve probably explained the benefit it would be if only He would do it our way.  It’s strange, isn’t it, when things happen that prevent us from using our giftedness in a way we believe would be in God’s best interest? Experiences like this often lead to deep discouragement. 

There’s a story in the Bible about this very thing. It’s found in Mark’s Gospel, chapter five. It concerns a man who was delivered from demonic activity. After his remarkable deliverance, Jesus got in a boat as He prepared to leave the area. The man came to Jesus and “begged” Him to take him along in ministry. It’s quite apparent that he wanted to follow Jesus [Mark 5.18]. Jesus, however, had something else in mind. He said, “No” to the man’s request, which I’m sure was quite confusing. 

Jesus did have something else in mind. He thought it best for the man to return home to tell his family and friends about how merciful God had been to him and how He had been delivered. 

It must have been difficult for him to surrender his “ministry assignment” to the Lord and to say, “Not my will, but Your will be done!” That’s why it’s critical that we don’t lean on our own understanding [Proverbs 3.5]. 

If you know someone like this, here is what I suggest that you do: Go to him/her and remind them how good God is and how He is using them in Kingdom work right where they are. 

And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” Mark 5.18-19

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Joy in Knowing the Scripture

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When I think about the times that I’ve experienced the greatest joy, contentment, courage, and confidence in God, it’s in the times when I’ve been most devoted to the study of, and meditation on, Scripture. When I was in Bible College, I used to make up 3X5 cards with Scripture verses on one side and the “address” on the other. I carried them with me everywhere. When I was at a signal light waiting for it to turn green, I’d try to memorize the passage or address. I credit those times for my faith and attitude being renewed. I also think that by focusing on the Word, my heart and mind were inclined toward God. 

God’s love and power are poured into us as we take in Scripture. The Psalmist knew this only too well. He taught that when we walk with integrity, following the instructions of the Lord, great joy is the result [119.1 - NLT]. There’s justification for that joy because, as we walk in His statutes, we refrain from compromising with evil [119.3 - NLT].

The Psalmist went so far as to recite the statutes of the Lord aloud. He found it delightful [119.13-16]. I suggest we do the same. Whether aloud or in silence, let’s fill our minds with God’s Word. When we do, God fills us with His wisdom, which guides us through the ongoing, ever-changing, seasons of life.

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Psalm 119.1 - NLT

Monday, July 9, 2018

Unholy Retribution

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

My psychology professor in Bible College was also the school’s President (one of his degrees was a PhD in psychology from Ohio State University). While we learned a lot about psychology from him, we also learned a lot about the Bible. He was so insightful. One day, he was talking about self-centeredness. I jotted down this quote from that class, “We are so full of ourselves. We get hurt by the smallest of things. The reason we are so easily offended is that we are still alive to self and full of pride.”

Sampson was like that. He was easily offended when things did not go his way. He was one of Israel’s last judges, a powerful warrior/judge who overcame many attacks by the Philistines. But he was full of himself, and that pride, along with lust, ultimately led to his downfall. 

A case in point is the time his wife got him to reveal the answer to a riddle he had given. The prize was to be thirty changes of clothing. She gave the answer away and that made him boiling mad. He went out and killed thirty men and took their clothing. 

Samson’s father thought he hated his wife, so he give her to Samson’s best man. Then one day, Samson took a goat and went to see his wife so he could “go into her tent and be with her.” When he realized what his father had done, he burned down some Philistine grain fields. In turn, his wife and her father were killed by the Philistines. When they did that, he took revenge by killing more Philistines. On and on it goes.

Samson’s eye-for-an-eye response only reinforced his selfish reputation as he said, “As they did to me, so I have done to them” [Judges 15.11].

God allowed some good to come from Samson’s life, but his selfishness and unbridled desire for retribution led to much heartbreak. 

I don’t know of a Christ follower who hasn’t been hurt or offended in one way or another. I have. And sometimes, like Samson, all one can think about is getting even - getting their pound of flesh. The only way I know to come against that is to recognize that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God” [Galatians 2.20]. How does that help, you ask? When Christ is in us, we also have “the hope of glory” [Colossians 1.27]. 

Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so I have done to them.” Judges 15.11

Friday, July 6, 2018

Love One Another

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I love modern technology, but it can make for some uncomfortable situations. Like the man and woman sitting in an office lunchroom together. The man, out of the blue, proclaimed his love to her. She was taken aback, but responded that she had felt the same way. But when the man turned his head toward her, she could see that he was talking to someone else via an earpiece. His passionate outburst wasn’t meant for her at all. OOPS!

While that is a case of mistaken love, there must be no mistake in our love for each other (brothers and sisters in Christ), just as Paul told the Corinthian Christ followers in his first letter to them, chapter 13. Of course, we are not talking about romantic love here. Rather, it’s the love of God in us, which leads to unity.

The love we are to have for each other is the same agape love that is used in the New Testament to describe God’s love for us — the love that He lavishes on us faithfully, abundantly, and sacrificially.

Brothers and sisters in Christ are not merely acquaintances to be greeted politely. They are just that, brothers and sisters whom we are called to love patiently, kindly, and without keeping a record of wrongs they have done [1 Corinthians 13.5].

By the way, loving one another this way is an expression of our love for God [1 John 4.20-21].

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13.4-8a

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A “Good” Goodbye

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I don’t particularly like goodbyes, especially when I’m close to the one I’m saying goodbye to. I remember last summer we took our grandchildren on a road trip. When we got home, I hated that we had to hug each other and say, “Goodbye.” I wanted to get back in the car and start over.

With that, I can only image the pain of the disciples when Jesus said, “Goodbye,” even though He told them He’d see them again in “a little while” [John 16.16]. And to top that off, He said it was better, to their advantage, that He go away. Hardly believable!

It’s been two thousand years since Jesus said that. Is it true? Has it been to our advantage that He said, “Goodbye?” Well, consider this …

The Holy Spirit now indwells and empowers believers. It was only ten days after the ascension of Jesus that the Holy Spirit began His baptizing ministry, where now, He would indwell every believer, just as Jesus predicted in John 7.39. And speaking about empowerment, there was an explosion of evangelism, the likes of which the world had not known, when the Holy Spirit started dwelling inside the believers [Acts 1.8]. 

The Spirit works in the hearts of mankind. When Jesus said, “Goodbye,” the Holy Spirit came and began to “convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” [John 16.8]. It isn’t necessary for us to win arguments or outtalk unbelievers. All we need to do is testify to what Jesus has done. The Holy Spirit does the rest. 

The Spirit guides. Before He left them, Jesus told His disciples that when the Spirit came, He would guide them into all truth — some things they could not, at that moment in time, bear [John 16.12-13]. Later, after the Spirit came, the disciples did write down those truths, which we call today, the New Testament. Every time you open the New Testament, you’re hearing, by the Spirit’s inspiration, the truths of Jesus as told by His disciples. 

Indeed, when Jesus left the disciples, it was a “good” goodbye. His goodbye to the disciples was necessary in order to say, “Hello” to us.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. John 14.7

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Childlike Prayers

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Four-year-old David was a Star Wars fanatic. One night he climbed into bed, folded his hands, and prayed, “Dear God, thank You for Lego Star Wars. General Grievous has four lightsabers! Watch.” 

With that, He jumped up on his bed and launched into a battle using his imaginary lightsabers. Both of his parents tried not to laugh (an impossible task, by the way). When he finished, he dropped back into bed, folded his hands, and said, “Amen!”  

I really like that. Children are able to approach God about anything, unlike many of us adults who worry that we bother God with such trivial things. We sometimes think we have to earn the right to approach God. Children don’t see it that way. They just talk to God about anything and everything. That’s the way it should be!

God cares about what grabs our attention and captures our imagination. It’s not a bother to talk with Him about it. In fact, I think He rather enjoys it! After all, we’re given the invitation to pray about everything [Philippians 4.6].

Let’s take advantage of that and talk to God about everything. If it matters to you, it matters to Him.

But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10.14

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Already, Not Yet

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I know people who open one small gift on Christmas Eve. They say it makes for a fun preview of the excitement of opening the remaining  gifts on Christmas Day.

That is somewhat similar with Jesus’ teaching concerning the kingdom of God. He taught His disciples that the kingdom wouldn’t come all at once. It would be like a tiny seed that grows into a very large tree [Matthew 13.31-32]. Some scholars call this the “Already, but Not Yet” principle. 

Already: The curse of sin and death that opposes God’s kingdom was defeated through the blood of the cross [Colossians 1.20]. At that time, all that God had promised began to come true, available through Christ. Still, it has yet to pervade all of creation. That time will come in the future [Ephesians 1.10].

Not Yet: In the meantime, we face tribulation. Jesus said so. But along with that warning, He also held out a great hope: “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” [John 16.33].

“Be of good cheer.” “Take heart.” That was Christ’s encouragement because life’s disappointments don’t have the last word. The Good News of God’s kingdom has the final say. The “seed” that started at Christ’s resurrection marked the turning point to an end of all the brokenness in the world. 

I encourage you to take heart. Though it may not always look like it, day by day, pieces of God’s kingdom are falling into place.

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” Matthew 12.31-32

Monday, July 2, 2018

Share God’s Amazing Grace

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

You’ll rarely find a more dramatic conversion than that of John Newton. He is most remembered for penning the words of Amazing Grace. But in his autobiographical work, The Life and Spirituality of John Newton: An Authentic Narrative [1764], we see some of his life before his conversion. He called himself a notorious blasphemer, a rebellious shipman, and a slave trafficker — the most wretched among us. 

After his conversion, Newton became a prolific author, preacher, and hymn writer. But some don’t know that he was also a great mentor of God’s grace. He developed friendships through which he taught God’s grace. 

One such friendship was with the poet, William Cowper. Cowper suffered with terrible depression. His most productive years started at the time his friendship with Newton began. In collaboration with Newton, he produced many great hymns including There Is A Fountain Filled with Blood [1772].

One biographer noted, "Cowper, throughout [his] life, lacked personal initiative. The encouragement from Newton, however, was enough to spur Cowper to produce some 60 hymns. And when Cowper later sunk into such a depression that he nearly took his own life, it was his friendship with Newton that stayed his hand.”

Newton also played a vital role as friend and mentor to William Wilberforce. It was Wilberforce who led the fight that ultimately ended slavery in England.

Newton’s story illustrates the need for believers to find, and be, mentors in the faith. That’s what Paul had in mind when he sent Titus to Crete. The church was a mess and needed someone to instruct them in the word of God and mentor them as to how to live for Christ.

Paul insisted that he teach certain things to the Christ followers so they would reject their old, sinful life and embrace their new life in the kingdom of God. They desperately needed a mentor like Titus to help them grow with Christlike gentleness and humility.  

Friends and mentors — we need them! Not only are we strengthened by their fellowship, but we also can be used to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.  Titus 3.8