All posts by bruce

Obedience 12.19.17

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.
(1 John 2:3–4).
 
There is a difference between knowing ABOUT God and actually knowing Him relationally. There is a difference between the informed and the transformed.
 
John is not arguing we must save ourselves by our good deeds. He is saying the person who truly have been transformed by the grace of God and the saving work of Christ and is empowered by God’s Spirit, will show this fact by obeying God’s commandments.
 
It is really pretty simple: If we really know Him we trust Him. We know His wisdom is better than ours. What God tells us to do is ALWAYS superior to whatever “great idea” we think we have or creative justification we might make.
 
The more we love Hm, the more we will trust Him.

Little Things 10.18.17

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?
(Luke 16:10–12).
 
The importance of little things. Character and faithfulness are not formed by the great feats we accomplish or the goals we reach. True faithfulness and real character are formed by living faithfully in the little things.
 
Coaches drive home the point: how you practice is how you will play the game. Likewise, how we handle the little things will determined how we will respond to the big things of life.
 
What kinds of little things? Telling the truth. Dealing honestly in business. Keeping your promises to your children and everyone else. Avoiding exaggeration to make yourself look better. Confessing mistakes. Asking for forgiveness. Using your money to enrich others. Avoiding schemes. Trusting God for the simple things. Showing kindness to a stranger and to those people who drive you crazy. Being faithful before God when no one is looking but Him.
 
You don’t have to do big grand things to honor the Lord today. You will honor Him if you are faithful in the little things. Because whether you realize it or not: the little things ARE a big thing!

Pursuing Godliness 10.17.17

O people, the LORD has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8).
 
This is a familiar verse to many Christians. Because it is familiar we sometimes gloss over it. That is a mistake..
 
God tells us something important here. More literal translations tell us to “do justice”. In other words, we are to be people who are fighting for what is right not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. We are to stand up for the victimized.
 
We are also to love mercy or kindness. Of all people, we should be the ones reaching out to those who have fallen, extending forgiveness to those who have sinned against us, and giving the benefit of the doubt to others. We should be the first to extend a hand to help another. This is in stark contrast to the superior attitude that Christians often seem to portray.
 
Finally, we are to walk humbly before God. We are to live with a constant awareness that He is God and we are not. We must always remember that we live because of God’s grace and not our goodness. We should possess persistent gratitude for the love that has been shown to us.
 
This is one of those great “life verses” that should not only be recited, it should be absorbed into our very character.

Wise Counsel for Daily Living 10.16.17

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.
(1 Chronicles 28:9).
 
David was near the end of his life and his counsel to his son came from years of walking with God. His advice to his son is advice valuable to all of us:
 
1. Know God deeply. In other words do not be satisfied with a shallow commitment and superficial knowledge of God.
 
2. Worship him with all your heart and with a mind open to His instruction. In other words don’t be satisfied with going through the motions. Pursue a dynamic relationship with God. Listen expectantly. Obey enthusiastically.
 
3. Seek Him. Look for Him in every situation. Turn to Him in the times of struggle and confusion rather than to our schemes and “fix it” plans. God is waiting for us to call to Him. He is eager to lead us.
 
It is good advice for today and every day. We are not alone in the battle and adventure called life. We are loved by a God who longs for us to love Him in return. Instead of telling God what you want HIM to do. Ask Him what He would have YOU do. That is wisdom.

Wishes Granted 10.15.17

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. (2 Pe 1:3).
 
We waste a lot of time wishing we were able to do things. We wish we prayed better, were more consistent in our living, more effective in our witness, and more bold in our stand for Christ. Peter reminds us that GOD HAS ALREADY GIVEN US everything we need to know Him and to follow Him.
 
The musical group Big Daddy Weave, has a great song titled, “It’s Already Done.” They sing “every morning is a new beginning that is waiting for us to embrace.”
 
God has provided the way of salvation; He has given us His Spirit to equip and empower us; He has given us His Word (the owners manual); and He has given us the church to instruct, encourage us, and provide a lab where we can learn how to serve. You see, it is not about what we need to live for Him; it is about using what we have already been given as a gift.

Beware of Satan 10.14.17

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).
 
This is a familiar verse to many. We must hear what is being said or stand vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Most of Satan’s energy will be directed at those who have trusted (or are close to trusting) Christ. Everyone else is already walking with him.
 
Satan attacks Christians in several ways. He attacks our relationship with God. He will try to convince us that we are not forgiven or cannot be forgiven. He will fill us with shame, regret, and the feeling that we must work harder to earn what God offers as a gift. His goal is to get us to doubt God and His love for us. He will encourage us to substitute Biblical thinking with worldly justifications.
 
Second, He will encourage us in the ways of the world. He will try to get us to focus on feelings rather than the promise of God. He will give us excuses for ignoring Biblical principles for selfish desires. He will direct our attention to the faults of others instead of cherishing the gifts and rich blessings of others (especially family and church). Satan will get us to dwell on “what WE need” instead of letting the Holy Spirit show us how to meet the needs of others. In other words, He will make us selfish rather than humble; get us to fixate on the earth rather than Heaven; and our feelings rather than our commitments. Satan will encourage us to see the sin of others and keep us from asking if we have sin to confess ourselves.
 
It is a spiritual battle. The only way to stand against the onslaught is to anchor deep in the Word of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit. We must cling tenaciously to what is true (what God says) over what we can justify. You will have to fight the battle. You can fight it prepared or not. It’s up to you!

When you are suffering . . . 10.13.17

 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
(1 Peter 4:19).
 
What kind of suffering pleases God? It is suffering for doing what is right; It is when we suffer because of our Christian convictions rather than because we are provoking others.
 
The principle Peter gives us is simple: When times are tough and you don’t know what to do: 1) trust your life to God and 2) keep doing what is right. I always remember this adage: “It is never wrong to do what is right.”
 
The promise is one to cling to: “He will NEVER fail you.” He may not do what you expect, but He will not let you down.

A Better Way to Stop the Madness 10.12.17

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. (1 Peter 3:9).
 
We live in an angry world. There is this notion that the only way to get anywhere is to be tough, aggressive, and unrelenting. We are even PROUD of having such a reputation. This approach has gotten us where we are today. It doesn’t work! It makes things worse instead of better.
 
The best way to diffuse hostility is NOT with more hostility! What is needed are people who continue to bless even when hostility confronts them. We need calm and kindness when tempers flare. We need a touch from the Savior rather than more of the Devil. “This is what God has called us to do.”
 
You will be given ample opportunity to practice this text today. God has called us to respond differently. We are faced with a choice: to do it His way or the world’s way. We already know where the world’s way leads us.

The powerful testimony of a Life 10.11.17

It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. (1 Peter 2:15).
 
Peter gives solid counsel in these words: Rather than respond in anger to those who criticize and accuse us regarding our faith, we are to silence them by the integrity, consistency and compassion of our lives.
 
We must share the truth of Scripture and show the truthfulness of what we speak through the way we live. It is true that a picture is worth 1000 words. When we show the work that Christ is doing in our own lives, it will silence the critics and hopefully also lead them to new life.
 
Work hard to live our your faith. Let the world see the difference Jesus has made in your life.

Three tasks for a new day 10.10.17

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.
(1 Peter 1:13).
 
Three steps for a new day: prepare your mind for action. The phrase is similar to our phrase “let’s roll up our sleeves.” Determine to reflect on life; to think about what is right and wrong in God’s eyes. Engage your brain today.
 
Second, pursue self-control. Whew! How much grief we save ourselves if we make good choices over impulsive ones; if we measure our words rather than spewing our emotions. Set out to speak and act carefully.
 
Third, Put your hope in the salvation that Christ has begun and will one day complete. He is at work . . . there is no need to push, to rush, to try to “make things happen”. Wait on the Lord! He is faithful. Trust Him to do what He alone can do.

Forgiving Heart 10.9.17

 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
(Luke 7:47).
 
Jesus was attending a dinner party. While he was there an ‘immoral woman” came and washed His feet with her tears. Everyone was horrified that this woman associated with Jesus. Jesus told the woman she was forgiven.
 
The more we are aware of God’s grace, the more we will extend grace to others. This is why preaching about sin is necessary. It is not so we feel bad about ourselves; it is so we recognize how undeserving we are.
 
When we feel like “good” people, we find it easy to look down on others. When we recognize the depth of our sinfulness and rebellion, and open our hearts gratefully to God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and new life, we are humbled. Those humbled and overwhelmed by grace are those who are less inclined to judge others an are more willing to treat others with grace.
 
Which group do you belong to?

Conflict with Others 10.8.17

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
(James 4:1–2).
 
You are probably at odds with someone in your life. You can list all the things the other person has done to cause the conflict.
 
God’s Word pierces through our justifications. The conflict we experience in others is usually a consequence of OUR choices, responses, desires, and motives. If we want to be right with others we must start not by blaming . . . but by repenting. Ask God to help you address the problems in YOU.
 
If we address our sinful schemes and attitudes it will be surprising how often God “changes the other person” and restores what you believed was broken and beyond repair.

Learning from What We Say 10.7.17

if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
(James 3:2).
 
The words we say can mend relationships or destroy them. They can strengthen the church or weaken it. They can draw people to Christ or push them away. What we say and how we say it says more about our true heart than we would like to admit.
 
This is especially true when we are angry. Anger tends to leave the door open to our sinful nature. It reveals what we try to keep hidden.
 
Listen to your words today (especially when you are angry or frustrated). What do they tell you about your heart? What impact (positive or negative) are those words having on others? Repent and mourn over your sinful tendencies. Ask God to transform your heart so your words become honoring to Him and refreshing to others.

Prejudice 10.6.17

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? (James 2:1).
 
Prejudice exists around us and has many different expressions. We make diminishing distinctions based on race, gender, nationality, religious affiliation, age, education, mental capacity, socio-economic position, athletic prowess, and even where a person lives (city vs. country).
 
James tells us Christians must be on the forefront of battling prejudice. Two reasons: 1) Each person is created in the image of God. Every person is therefore God’s masterpiece. We should honor what God honors. If we don’t immediately see the beauty in the individual we must look for it because it is there. 2) Every person is equally lost and in need of a Savior. Perish the thought that some are worthy of salvation and others are not! As we come to the cross all the distinctions of the world vanish. We stand together before the throne of God as His children, made new because of the grace and mercy of our God and Creator.
 
May we come to the day when we see the people around us as people, rather than labels used to determine the value of an individual. God help us!

Living Under Control

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (James 1:19–20).
 
Today, the general approach seems to be: take offense, get angry; fight those who have offended you. We take offense at text messages, offhand comments, drivers and anyone else who gets in our way. We feel strongest when we are speaking in anger and “putting people in their place.” In reality, this is when we are the most reckless.
 
God’s Word gives us great counsel: listen before you speak and be very slow to anger. Instead of reacting, we are challenged to think carefully and check things out. Many of our conflicts would be eliminated if we talked to people and tried to understand before we got angry at them.
 
Anger makes us feel powerful and self-righteous. We generally feel justified in our anger. However, God’s Word says anger does not help us grow. We are not becoming more righteous when we are angry.
 
Buck the trend today. Hide these words in your heart. Seek to understand rather than punish. Be soft rather than abrasive. Look for resolution rather than submission. If you do this, you will know that you are on God’s path rather than the path of destruction which is already very very crowded.

Contentment 10.4.17

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
 
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
 
So we can say with confidence,
 
“The LORD is my helper,
so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:5–6).
 
Contentment. It is a very foreign concept in our world of material abundance. Being content is being grateful and satisfied with what you have.
 
As a child I remember the Christmas catalog from Sears. It was called the “Wish Book”. We would go through and mark all the things we wanted. Unfortunately, as adults we often do the same thing (now it is called Amazon). There is always something on our “wish list” that we want/need.
 
The author quotes two Old Testament passages to say: “We have the Lord . . . what else do we need?” That is so simple, that it is profound. If we are right with God we have EVERYTHING that we need. No matter what the world throws at us, we are ready because He is with us. We already have everything we need.
 
We would be much better off to spend more time in the Bible and less time on Amazon or eBay. Live with gratitude rather than a feeling of deprivation.

Endurance 10.3.17

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus
(Hebrews 12:1–2).
 
There is great wisdom in these words. God calls us to keep going . . . to persevere. It is a reminder that following Christ is not easy; especially in a fallen and increasingly hostile world.
 
The only answer to the growing evil (like we have witnessed these last few days) is a change of heart. That will only come from the Lord. It is an uphill battle but it is one that must be fought. There is much work to do. It is easy to be overwhelmed.
 
The only way to maintain the endurance we need is to keep focused on Jesus. Think about the times you have been motivated by love for your children or your spouse. In a sense you kept your eyes on them when you were tired and tempted to quit. Your love for them helped you keep going.
 
It’s the same principle here. Keep your eyes on Jesus! Remember why we live the way we do. Recall His love and His commitment to you. Run not in your strength but in His. Keep going not because it is required but because you love and trust Him.

Worship God Hates 10.2.17

“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.
-Amos 5:21–24.
 
There is a disproportionate concern in our worship today on “flow” and “creativity”. In other words, worship sometimes is put together like a show. The crowds may like it but God hates it!
 
He is not impressed with our religious rituals (whether contemporary or traditional). What God looks for is a heart that is responsive to Him. He sees that in the way we live our lives; in the way we treat each other; and in the way we respond to His commands.
 
Today focus less on your performance and more on your response to the Lord and His Word. Faith is not a feeling; it is acting on the truth, not because it is beneficial but because it is TRUE.

An Easy Way to Encourage Others 10.1.17

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

(Hebrews 10:24–25).
 
One of our tasks in life is to motivate and encourage each other. We do this by cheering each other on; spotlighting the good things and letting go of the frustrating things.
 
Have you noticed the tendency among even Christians to be ever critical? We spotlight weaknesses, errors, and magnify perceived slights. This is often seen in church attendance. People find fault in a church and are forever changing churches. The Lord sighs.
 
in the middle of these commands to encourage and motivate is the command to not give up meeting together (as the body of Christ). When we are part of corporate worship our very presence encourages and motivates others. The growing trend of “doing church at home” is not only an act of disobedience, it is selfish. Absence from the body of Christ deprives others (and you) of the encouragement and motivation that comes from being together as His body. When we worship together we encourage and spur each other on by our very presence.

Once and For All 9.30.17

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:27–28).
 
A person may not be concerned “about spiritual things” but they should be. Every one of us will stand before the Lord someday (and it does not matter a whit whether or not you believe in God).
 
Jesus has made a right relationship with God possible. He offered “once for all time” the sacrifice that can be applied to our sin “account”. It doesn’t matter whether you “cannot forgive yourself” for things in your past. If you turn to and trust Jesus as your Savior, your sin is forgiven, paid for, and never again a threat to your eternal destiny.
 
It does not matter how you “feel,” what matters is what Jesus has “done.” If the Lord of all has extended His forgiveness, may I suggest it is time for you to forgive others and also forgive yourself? This life He has given you is much too precious to waste beating yourself up for the past He has already decisively addressed.

God is Faithful 9.29.17

The LORD always keeps his promises;
he is gracious in all he does.
The LORD helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
Ps 145:13–14.
 
The Lord ALWAYS keeps HIS promises. There are TV preachers and many teachers and false prophets who make promises FOR God. These promises often are not realized. God, however, is true to His Word.
 
Are you one who is bent with a heavy load today? Does life have you feeling overwhelmed. Stop and hear these words from God to you: He helps the fallen and he lifts those bent from their heavy loads. You are not alone in the struggle. There is no better help than the One who stands beside you. Move forward into this day with confidence. If you are not confident about your ability . . .be confident about His.

Praying for You 9.28.17

But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.
(Hebrews 7:24–25)
 
It is encouraging to know someone is praying for you. It reminds us that we are not alone in the struggle to live faithfully before the Lord.
 
How much more encouraging to know the Son of God is constantly interceding on our behalf? Add the verse from Romans 8 that tells us the Spirit prays for us with groaning too deep for words because we don’t know how and what to pray. We are saved by Christ and supported by the Son and the Spirit through unceasing prayer. Our needs will not fall through the cracks. We may ask for the wrong things but they will not. we may get weary, they remain strong.
 
You may not know how to pray today. There may be things that are confusing in your life. You may feel paralyzed by fear. Be encouraged: prayers are continually being made for you by the Son and Spirit who know what you really need and what to ask for on your behalf.
 
Thank you Lord for being out Great High Priest!

Depressed 9.27.17

Come quickly, LORD, and answer me,
for my depression deepens.
Don’t turn away from me,
or I will die.
Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
for I give myself to you.
(Psalm 143:7–8).
 
David’s life was falling apart. His son was trying to overthrow David’s government and David had to flee the country.
 
David knew he made some big and serious mistakes. He also believed God had forgiven him. He turned to the Lord (rather than away from Him like many of us). His prayer was simple: “continue to guide my steps because I trust you.”
 
I suspect there is someplace in your life where you need to pray this prayer. Watch yourself! It is easy to drift from God rather than run TO Him. When we drift from Him we make poor decisions; choices that destroy rather than build. Fix your eyes on Him. He will guide you just as He led David.

Learning in Suffering 9.26.17

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8).
 
Jesus never sinned. His heart belonged to the Lord. But . . . even Jesus learned about deep faith through suffering. It is in the times when you are under attack, bullied, misrepresented, and persecuted that you learn how to hang on in faith and how to trust in spite of the outer turmoil.
 
Suffering will do the same for us. Faith is put to the test when things do not go our way. This is when we must trust the Lord. This is when we will see Him do His finest work.
 
If you are in the furnace of suffering right now hang on. Keep the Lord in your focus. Refuse to give in to despair. Keep doing what is right. A blessing is buried in the mess . . . keep looking for it.

He Understands 9.25.17

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:15–16).
 
People tell us, “I know how you feel” all the time. However, no two situations are ever exactly the same.
 
Jesus may not have experienced the exact temptations we have (divorce, internet slander, pornography, etc.) He has faced every kind of sin we face. The thing that Jesus knows that we do not . . . He knows how to navigate and overcome these temptations. He is the only one who does.
 
Listen to what we are told: He understands our weakness, He wants to extend mercy and grace in our time of greatest testing. He wants to show us the way to overcome the things that enslave us. Come to Him confidently! He wants to help you.

Never Alone 9.24.17

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
(Psalm 139:7–10).
 
King David was comforted by the reality that no matter what happened in His life, the Lord was with Him. Jesus reiterated this when He said “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Read that again, emphasizing the word “never”).
 
Wherever you find yourself today; in the pit or on the heights . . . feeling defeated or riding the crest of victory, you are NOT alone for He is with you. You may not know where you are going or how you will get there, but He knows right where you are and He knows the destination.
 
Trust Him. Rest in Him. Believe Him. The past is forgiven. The future is in His hands. Walk with Him today and enjoy the journey knowing He is with you.

THE Decision 9.23.17

So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? (Hebrews 2:3).
 
There is a prevailing thought that God is like a kind grandfather who lets you get away with just about anything. That notion is wrong.
 
God IS wonderfully merciful and forgiving. He does not treat us as our sin deserves if we will come to Christ and embrace Him as our the one who alone can make us right with God and send us on the path of right living before Him.
 
Those who ignore the One God has provided must face this reality: if you neglect the way of salvation God has provided, you are choosing judgment rather than mercy.
 
Reaffirm your faith today. Give thanks for the grace that comes through Christ alone. And then share the message of life with everyone you see and know.

Time to Come Home 9.22.18

 So now, come back to your God.
Act with love and justice,
and always depend on him.
Hosea 12:6.
 
Have you noticed how often we wander away from the Lord? We go swimming in the pool of discouragement; we nestle into the bed of self-pity; we run on the path of self-sufficiency; we clothe ourselves with bitterness; and we often eat the food of indulgence. All of these things lead us away from the Lord.
 
The remedy is so simple: come back to God, do what is right, and depend on Him. He has proved Himself faithful, strong, and wiser than the wisdom of men. God brings good out of evil. He doesn’t always lead us to where we want to go but His plan is ALWAYS superior to our own.
 
Take the advice of Scripture. Stop and turn back to the strong and wise Lord who loves you more than you can comprehend.

Unity 9.21.17

How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.
(Psalm 133:1–2).
 
Like children in a family, Christians come in different shapes and sizes. We have different gifts, and different passions. We worship in different ways. No two are the same. Yet we are part of the same family.
 
Today remember that you are not alone. Sometimes we feel God is distant. We would like to feel His touch and see Him clearly. This is why God gave us each other. He made us part of His family so we would be able to support and encourage each other. We would know His presence.
 
Perhaps it is time to stop slinging rocks at each other and instead learn from each other and work with each other to accomplish His Kingdom work.
 
Why do there have to be so many differences among Christians? The answer: that’s the way families are. Variety shouldn’t divide us, it should just keep us honest.

Strength for a New Day 9.20.17

But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.* He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7)
 
This is a great passage to take to heart before or after your day. Do you feel overburdened? Like the world is against you or nothing is going your way? Re-read these words. If you take them to heart your attitude toward the day will change.
 
Those who rest in the mercy and grace of God that is given us through Christ, understand that we have been given what we could never earn. We are FORGIVEN, made new and EMPOWERED by the Holy Spirit. You and I have been blessed beyond all measure! No matter what you face today, that fact does not change.
 
Go boldly into the day ahead confident that you do not go alone and you are equipped with everything that you need to flourish and grow.

Building on the Right Foundation 9.19.17

Unless the LORD builds a house,
the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the LORD protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good.
(Psalm 127:1)
 
The Psalmist declares that it doesn’t matter how hard we work or how sincere we are. If we are not building on the foundation of Jesus Christ we are wasting our time. This is true especially of our homes.
 
Is your home built on the foundation of God’s grace and truth as it is found in Christ? This isn’t about obeying “rules” or even “going to church” (even though that is a good start). It is about following Christ as a family. It is making God’s priorities your priorities. It is treating each other with grace rather than condemnation. It is striving more for holiness than acceptance from the world. It is teaching the Word of God and taking advantage of the teachable moments throughout every day.
 
Is your home being built by the Lord?

Going Against Our Instinct 9.18.17

A fool is quick-tempered,
but a wise person stays calm when insulted.
Proverbs 12:16.
 
Now here are some hard (but wise) words. When we are insulted our most natural response is to insult back; to wound when we have been wounded. Unfortunately, this usually just multiplies the wounds.
 
A wise person stays calm because the wise person knows several things: 1) God knows the truth. 2) Sometimes insults contain a measure of truth that should be heard. 3) Frequently insults come from a deep hurt in the one who is doing the insulting.
 
We have a choice: we can defend ourselves or we can attend to the hurt of the one who is speaking. We can get angry or we can soften. The wise person chooses to build relationships rather than blow them up.

Help! 9.17.17

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!
Psalm 121:1–2.
 
How easily and how often we forget that our true help comes from the Lord!
 
We would rather fret, scheme, try different tactics, bully, and even embrace depression before we remember that our help comes from the Lord. We tell people we are praying about the matter. However, much of our praying is really just whining to God or informing Him of what we plan to do next. And we wonder why we are frustrated. Sometimes we don’t act very smart.
 
When we understand that our help comes from the Lord, we go to Him and rest in Him. We move forward confident that He is guiding our path. We listen and we WAIT. We listen for the whispers of HIs Spirit. We wait on HIs timing, and HIs work. When we turn to the Lord we make the best choice for any time of need.

The Pattern of the World 9.16.17

For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. (2 Timothy 3:2–5).
 
These words describe the depth of corruption that will be commonplace in the last days. It describes life as we know it today.
 
Because these traits are so common today it is tempting to think “this is just the way it is”. We might even admire some of these things. So we embrace the thinking of the world and drift further away from the Lord.
 
Do want to know how best to honor God? Make these words a list of behaviors. In another column write the opposite of each of these traits. When you have finished your list of opposites . . . do those things! You will honor the Lord and stand out as a beacon in a world of sin and corruption.

Sacrifice? Who me? 9.15.17

 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
(2 Timothy 2:10).
 
What powerful and faith-stretching words these are!
 
What would we endure for the One who gave everything for us? Would we give our lives for Him? Would we endure jail? Would we endure the ridicule of men? Would we endure an offense that hurt us and then let it go through forgiveness? Would we even endure even a long line in a store checkout lane for the sake of showing the love and patience of God? Would we endure inconvenience? Would we endure a little less sleep so we could spend time with Him?
 
Before we will endure anything for Him we have to stop making life all about us. We need to fight less about our “rights” and more for His Kingdom and glory. We must cease the silly notion that God “owes” us anything and instead see that we owe Him everything.
 
I cannot recite 2 Timothy 2:10 about my life. However, today I want to work toward that goal.

Confident 9.14.17

for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. (2 Timothy 1:12).
 
Paul was in jail. It was near the end of his life. By all appearances, things were not going very well. It would be tempting to question your faith or even the reality of God.
 
Paul did not put his confidence in “results”, circumstances, or the approval of men. He lived his life for one purpose: to honor and glorify the Lord who saved Him by mercy and grace. Paul tried to do what God asked Him to do. Circumstances did not shake him because he trusted the character of God more than circumstances.
 
Are you drawing conclusions about life based on your circumstances? If so, you will continue to ride a wild roller coaster of emotions. Anchor your life to the One who is faithful and true. Trust Him with your life. For if you do, you will have made the best and only sure investment of your life. You will stay steady even when everything around you seems to be falling apart.

Reading the Manual 9.13.17

You made me; you created me.
Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
(Psalm 119:73).
 
Since God made us, He knows how we are supposed to “work”. He knows what brings contentment, love, satisfaction, fulfillment and peace. And thanks be to God, He gave us an owners manual. It is called the Bible.
 
O God, deliver us from the arrogance (and stupidity) that leads us to believe we can “‘figure it out” on our own. Give us the humility, wisdom, and discipline to read your Word and follow its wisdom in our lives.” Amen.

Hard Times 9.12.17

My suffering was good for me,
for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
(Psalm 119:71).
 
It is true that the hard times of life will either make you better or bitter. It all depends on whether you look to the Lord or decide to have a pity party for yourself.
 
Life is hard. The hardships of life can be our dear friend if we allow them to deepen us in our walk with the Lord.
 
If you are going through a hard time right now and find yourself drifting from the Lord and becoming angry and bitter . . . you are heading in the wrong direction! Turn back to the Lord! Deepen your roots! Pay attention to what God is teaching you, and this time of trial will become a time you will look back on as a time of great blessing.

Exercise 9.11.17

Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly.“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
(1 Timothy 4:7–8).
 
There are two very wise commands here: Don’t waste time arguing about things that don’t matter (godless ideas). And train yourself in godliness.
 
People wear their Fitbits, Apple watches and a bunch of other devices to help them work on physical training. We find diets that we hope will make us more healthy. We give attention to physical training. Paul said this was good but it was EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to train ourself in godliness. That means making time for prayer, for Bible Study, for worship, and for addressing areas where we are not living according to His Word.
 
As always, it makes sense. Physical training brings short term results. Godliness changes us forever.

Overmatched? 9.10.17

“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:16–17).
 
This is a great account of a time when an entire army came to arrest and kill Elisha. When Elisha’s servant looked out the window and saw the army he was terrified. But Elisha saw what the servant had not seen . . . the army of the Lord was on their side.
 
The Bible tells us that God gives us angels to strengthen and protect us. He promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. John reminds us that “greater is He who is in us that he who is in the world.”
 
You may feel you are facing a hostile army of opposition. You may feel overmatched and unequipped for what is before you. You may see or feel nothing. But . . . if you are a believer, you are NOT alone. Though demons fight against you, the army of the Lord is stronger still!
 
Don’t give in to despair! There is much more going on than what your eyes can see. Just because you do not see Him does not mean He is not there. Trust His promise, His strength, and His faithfulness. You can do ALL things through Christ and because of Christ.

Bad News 8.9.17

They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the LORD to care for them.
(Psalm 112:7).
 
It is easy to be overcome by all the bad news in the world. This is why this verse is so cherished.
 
These words are found in a passage describing the believer who walks in obedience. It is important to hear the context. If we walk with the Lord, doing what He has told us to do, we will not fear bad news because we trust God. We trust that the Lord has a purpose in all things. We know that no matter what we face, He will see us through the storm. God sees the end and knows how to get there.
 
Think of a young child. As long as they are with their parent they don’t need to be afraid. The parent would give their life to save their child. The only time the child is in danger is if they wander off. And the same is true with those who have put their faith and trust in Christ.
 
You can be overwhelmed by the news or you can use it as a reminder to stay close to the One who will make all things new.

Gratitude 8.8.17

What can I offer the LORD
for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the LORD’s name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
(Psalm 116:12–14).
 
The boastful believer has forgotten the grace of God. When we begin to think we have earned ANY of the blessings we have received, we are drifting from true faith.
 
Because everything we have and are is a result of God’s kindness, mercy and forgiveness, we, like the Psalmist should seek to honor the Lord with our lives.
 
The Psalmist gives us a good start: praise God and tell others of His greatness; live thanks-filled lives and keep your promises to the Lord (think about promises to follow Him, to raise our children in the Lord, to be faithful members of the church, to be committed to our marriage no matter what). We show God we love Him when we take seriously the promises we have made.
 
If this seems like a lot to ask of someone . . . you have lost sight of just how much He has done for you!

9.7.17 Do Good

As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
 
Sometimes we make finding God’s will more complicated than it needs to be. The rule is this: do good.
 
Speak positive words rather than negative; lift up rather than put down; help rather than condemn; give rather than demand; instill hope instead of despair; honor God rather than exalt yourself; be a loyal friend; trust God; pray faithfully; strive for excellence in what you do; care about the feelings, lives, and struggles of others.
 
If you boil it down to the question: “What “good thing” does God want me to do?” You will never be far from God’s will.

9.6.17 Choices

But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (Daniel 6:10).
 
Life is all about choices. Most of our choices boil down to this one: will I serve and honor God or will I serve and honor something else? Sometimes that “something else” is self-interest. Self-interest often masquerades as “spirituality”. It is the most seductive deception of all.
 
Daniel was a faithful man and the other government officials hated him for his faith. They convinced the King to enact a non-revokable law that for 30 days you could not pray to anything other than the gods of Persia. And that’s when we read the verse above. Daniel chose to continue to honor God even over the Law of the Land.
 
You might want to read the rest of the story. God honored Daniel’s faithfulness.
 
Your day will be filled with choices. Remember that most of the time it boils down to a choice about who you are going to serve. It is the most important choice of all. Choose wisely.

Wisdom 9.5.17

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom.
All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.
(Psalm 111:10)
 
This statement “the fear of the LORD is the foundation (or beginning) of wisdom” is repeated five times in the Bible. It reminds us that ultimate wisdom is not found in advanced educational degrees, old age, or even through philosophical reflection. These things will help you with common sense but not ultimate wisdom.
 
True wisdom comes only from God. We were made to be in a close relationship with Him. Until we are in that relationship, we will continue to be confused as if something is missing in our life.
 
The relationship that leads to wisdom does not start by “being afraid” of God. It starts when we fear Him (like you would fear a policeman, a judge, or even your boss at work). We fear these people in the sense that we respect their position and authority. And that’s what God deserves.
 
When we respect God as the ultimate authority, the truly wise Judge, the Just Law-Giver, and the One who will hold us ultimately accountable, we have taken a huge true step toward wisdom. We will walk with the One who is truly wise who will will impart His wisdom to us.

Responding Appropriately 9.4.17

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
(1 Thessalonians 5:15).
 
It is human nature to respond to people in the way that they treat you. Warmth is met with warmth; hostility with hostility; harshness with harshness; evil with evil.
 
The Lord calls us to battle our instinct; to choose to respond in a godly way no matter how the other person treats you. It means giving the other person the benefit of the doubt (rather than attributing the worst possible motives). We are called to choose reconciliation over antagonism.
 
Responding to evil with evil only escalates the problem. It makes the division wider. Proverbs tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath; it diffuses the problem.
 
We do good to others not because they always do good to us. We do good to others because that is the right way to live. It is how we honor our Lord and love our brother.

Facing the Furnace! 8.3.17

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
(Daniel 3:17–18).
 
What a great account of faithfulness! Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego are threated with the blazing furnace for not bowing down to an idol and this was their reply. They are words faithful Christians have repeated for centuries.
 
God is able to save us from any furnace that threatens us. However, our trust in Him must not be a faith that says, “I will follow if you rescue me.” True faith says, “I trust you, whether you rescue me or not.”
 
Your furnace may be a crisis in your relationship. It may be the need for employment. It might be financial pressure or health issues. Whatever it is do not anchor your faith to escaping the crisis . . . anchor it to the character and strength of the Lord.
 
When you have time watch the great song by Mercy Me from this text. https://youtu.be/IgOSVeefL1I

Love Each Other 9.2.17

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13).
 
One of the predominant characteristics of a Christian should be love! Sadly, what we often see is judgment, self-righteousness, and a smugness that masquerades as humility.
 
Love is born out of the realization that God owes us nothing, yet has showered us with His grace, mercy, and love. We were/are broken, yet God looked past our brokenness to focus on what we could be. God’s forgiveness abolished the mountain of sin that stood between us and His holiness. He awakened us from our spiritual death and breathed into us the life of His Spirit.
 
When we understand the love of God; when we “get” the message of the gospel, barriers to loving each other begin to melt away. God tells us to treat each other the way He has treated us. If we remember that we are saved by His grace and not by our goodness, we will stop beating people up for their sin and begin to see them through God’s eyes. And when we do, love will take residence where condemnation used to reside.

When You Feel You Can’t Go On -Sept 1

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” (1 Kings 19:3–4)
 
Have you ever felt like Elijah? He was worn out. Queen Jezebel had vowed to kill him. Elijah felt all alone. I have felt like this and I suspect you have too.
 
If you read the rest of the story it is an account of the love of God for His people. God did several things: first, He provided for Elijah’s physical needs. He made sure Elijah got some sleep and had some good meals. Second, He quieted His Spirit. Elijah looked for God in the Earthquake, wind, and fire but God came in whisper. I think this was about calming His heart. In the time of despair we need to be still and listen. Finally, he reassured Elijah. He was not alone. 7000 other people stood loyal to the Lord. After the Lord’s care Elijah was able to go back to work.
 
God cares about your emotional state. Get alone with God. Talk to a counselor. Get some rest. Spend time in prayer. Immerse yourself in His Word. Listen carefully. You may feel He has deserted you, but if you listen carefully you, like Elijah, will discover God has been there beside you the entire time.

True Belief – August 31

Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” (1 Kings 18:21).
 
The atheist who says there is no God and lives as if there is no God, is actually more consistent than the person who says they believe in God but show no evidence of it in the way they live. Both people are headed to eternal destruction, but the first has more integrity.
 
Elijah had a contest with the prophets of Baal. If you have never read it, you should read the whole chapter. Elijah said to the people: “Let’s discover the true God. And when we do so, let us serve and follow Him.” If one is God He deserves to be honored.
 
Do you really have faith in God or do you merely profess faith? If you really want to know what you believe . . . look at the way you live your life. The true believer will follow Him in the things they say, do, and desire. If you are not doing this you should be honest about your unbelief.

The Love of God 8.30.17

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
(Psalm 103:11–14).
 
God’s love is UNFAILING. (If you are weary . . . read that again!) Our sin is forgiven and the memory of it (for God) is far far away. (Isn’t that incomprehensible when we are aware of it all the time?) He is tender and compassionate with us because He knows our weakness. He understands our struggles. What a great God we have! What a loving, sufficient, and strong Savior we belong to!
 
But note the conditional statements: “those who fear him”, “children,” “those who fear Him (again).” These statements remind us that these things are true only for those who turn to Him. These grand declarations do not apply to those who ignore Him or rebel against Him.
 
Strengthen your grip on the grace of God. Renew your commitment to Him and walk gratefully and joyfully in His love.

8.29.17

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.       (Colossians  3:17).

We do not just represent the Lord when we are in church; we represent Him everywhere we go and in everything we do. The question is: are we bringing Him honor or dishonor as we represent Him?

Paul says we should live for the Lord with gratitude. It is not a chore, it is a privilege to work for the King. People who work at the White House work “at the pleasure of the President” and all consider it an honor to serve the country in that way. 

We likewise serve at the pleasure of the Lord. We should gratefully and joyfully seek to live our lives to bring Him honor. We should conduct ourselves in a way that brings growth to God’s Kingdom. That means honoring Him in the manner in which we work, the things we say, the values we embrace, the way we handle times of crisis, and more.

Paul reminds us in Colossians . . . and now I am reminding you right here.

A New Week . . . 8.28.17

Acknowledge that the LORD is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
– Psalm 100:3–5.
 
As you start a new work week read these words several times. He is God. We belong to Him. . . . this should provoke worship, gratitude, and thanksgiving. We are part of His family!
 
No matter what you face, or what happens this week . . . His goodness, His unfailing love (read that again . . . UNFAILING love) and His consistent faithfulness are traits you can cling to and rely on.

Christ in Us 8.27.17

And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
(Colossians 1:27).

The truth that Christ lives in those who have embraced Him is deep and profound. And that truth leads to others:

1. You never will have to face anything alone.
2. Whatever you do, good or bad, you do before His presence.
3. When you doubt your forgiveness the assurance of God’s Spirit in you testifies that you are fully forgiven.
4. When you feel you do not have strength to do what He has commanded (forgive, love, stand strong etc.) He will give you His strength.

As you worship today be filled with wonder and gratitude that He does not simply call to us from above . . . He lives in us.

Strength 8.26.17

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13).

If you read the wider context of this text (which is what you should always do) you see Paul is not saying life will be easy or that everything will turn out the way we want it to turn out. He is saying, “No matter what happens, I will get through this because of the strength Christ gives.”

Is the burden heavy today? Do circumstances threaten to overwhelm you? Remember this truth: You are NOT alone! Your strength may be failing but His never will. You may not know how you will ever get through this time, but He knows the way back home.You may wonder if God hates you. . . He doesn’t. He has not abandoned you; He walks beside you. Rest in Him . . . even as the storms rage around you.

The Past 8.25.17

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
(Philippians 3:13–14).
 
Why do we continue to re-live past hurts? Why do we continue to draw attention to past victories? What is true about both of those things is this: it is PAST. It is over. There is nothing we can do to change what is in the past. It is unproductive and a waste of time to focus on the past.
 
How much better to look forward to what lies ahead? Paul calls us to focus on the “prize” which is the final “Welcome Home!” of the Savior. We are to look at the finish line rather than at where we have been.
 
There is work to be done. There is a Savior to honor. There are people who are lost and don’t know where to turn. All around us are people who need to know about Jesus. In addition, the Lord has much to teach us. He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him and with each other. There are blessings to enjoy. There is life to be lived!
 
Stop dwelling on the past! Don’t lose another day! The good stuff is ahead of you. Focus your attention there.

Complaining

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.
(Philippians 2:14–15).
 
Why do we complain?
1. We think we deserve better than what we have.
2. We feel we are being treated unfairly.
3. We think our life is unnecessarily difficult.
4. We don’t like the road/direction we are on we want to be going in another direction.
 
The complainer will soon be the one arguing because they seem to be looking for a fight.
 
Basically, we complain because we lack the contentment that comes from resting in the Lord. If we truly trust God we will take the circumstances of life as they come from His hand. We will trust His timing. We will learn from each circumstance. We will look for opportunities even in unpleasant things. We will seek to honor God in all things. And we will remember that we have received far more than we could ever deserve.
 
We are not being treated fairly! We are being treated graciously. If we remember this we will find that we have nothing to complain about.

Representing Jesus 8-23-17

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
(Philippians 1:27).

If you travel to another country the government expects you to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of your citizenship. There is a sense in which you represent your country, your hometown, your school, your family, wherever you go and in whatever you do.

Paul reminds us we represent Jesus as we live in this world. He exhorts us to live as citizens of Heaven and to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of what we profess to believe.

You really are Christ’s Ambassador today. People will draw conclusions about Jesus because of what they see in you. They will watch how you handle frustration, failure, annoying people, and painful memories. They are watching the way you work, the way you treat your family, and the priorities they see in your life (which is often different from what we speak with our mouth).

Live today as a citizen of Heaven. Bring honor to His name by the way you live today.

8.22.17 Your To Do List

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. (Ephesians 6:7–8).

No matter what is on your To-Do List today, each of those items present a choice: Will you work grudgingly or joyfully? Will you view these tasks as necessary evils or will you see them as opportunities to glorify God?

The Bible reminds us that everything we do is ultimately for the Lord. So, even if people do not see or appreciate what you do; even if it is a task you don’t particularly enjoy, work to the best of your ability as an offering to the Lord.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
(Ephesians 5:1–2).

The last three chapters of Ephesians are filled with practical instruction. These two verses seem to sum those teachings up.

The Lord saved us so we could reflect His glory in the world. That will reveal itself in the way we live our lives, the way we view the world, the way we treat each other, and in the kind of homes we build.

It is summed up this way: it is a “life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” It is more than rules we have to follow, it is about the new heart God gives us. His people should spend more time listening than correcting; we should be more compassionate than judgmental; more humble than self-righteous. Love SEES other people. We are to love in the same way that Jesus loves us.

Go, be the representative of Christ that He called you to be! You’ll know you are on the right road if you find yourself growing in compassion and grace.

8.20.17 A Prescription for Christlikeness

be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:32).

The apostle Paul (reflecting the heart of Jesus) gives us a simple prescription: Be Kind. Be Tender. Forgive.

When Christians follow this prescription, people are drawn to us. They see Jesus in our actions. They may not know it, but they do.

When we don’t follow the prescription churches divide, people feel condemned (rather than loved); people move from church to church because they continually find offense. The world finds these people unattractive and push us away.

What a simple recipe! Try being kind rather than harsh in your words and in your actions. Be tender (treat others as you wish others would treat you when you struggle). Understand that most people are doing their best and have good days and bad days, just like we do. And most of all, forgive.

We must never forget that we were sinful and broken people when the Lord found us. We were owed nothing. Yet, in His grace and kindness, He forgave us. No offense committed against us can equal what we have been forgiven. When we remember this, we find it easier to forgive others. If we forget it . . . we become a real pain to hurting people.

8.19.17

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20).

Sometimes we excuse our sinful tendencies with the words, “that’s just the way I am.” The implication is: I can’t change so deal with it. When talking about others we might say, “They will never change!”

Sometimes when we look at the barbarity of our times we think, “There is nothing that can be done.” We surrender to the depraved hatred of our society because we believe it is hopeless.

Stop thinking this way! Paul reminds us that the Lord is able to do more than we ask or even imagine! Though we may be powerless, He is not. He can retrain habits, change hearts, bring revival, and restore relationships. As a follower of Christ there is no need to “give up.” Remember who God is. Reflect on His power. Pray boldly. Move forward with confident anticipation.

8.18.17

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.
(Ephesians 2:4–5).

When people get married something unfortunate happens to their relationship. They begin to take for granted all the good things that drew them to their spouse. Instead they focus on the quirks, faults, an weaknesses. Choose to celebrate and give thanks for the good things.

It is not just in marriage. It happens in the church as you compare it “unfavorably” to the new and exciting show down the road. it happens on the job when you forget how fortunate you are to have a good job and instead see only the parts of the job that are unpleasant. The solution? Give thanks for the blessings of the job.

This also happens in the Christian faith. We see the blessing someone else has; we focus on the trial that we are going through; and we feel burdened instead of blessed. It is time to go back to the beginning of our relationship and remember: we were dead in our sin and God made us alive. We were lost and God loved us. We were headed to Hell and He stamped our ticket to Heaven! We are blessed beyond measure! We should be dancing not plodding!!!

It is all a question of whether you remember how you got here in the first place. Take time to remember and give thanks

His Strength 8.17.17

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-20)
 
Are you overwhelmed by life? Do you feel powerless in your circumstances? Do you feel ill-equipped for a task ahead of you? If you are a follower of Jesus then hear these words.
 
God has given us the resource of His power! His resources are at our disposal! His wisdom is available. His strength is there to get through anything. His Spirit is in us to lead, guide, comfort, and assure us.
 
If you feel overwhelmed by life it is because you are focusing on the circumstances rather than on the One who is above the circumstances. You are looking at your strength rather than His. Change your focus an let’s face the day with courage and strength!

When Others Fall 8.16.17

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:1–2).
 
We are better at throwing rocks than we are at helping broken people heal. For some reason, when we spot a weakness, we attack.
 
Paul says we should love each other enough to : 1) Understand that all people stumble and fall. 2) Support and guide broken people to a place of healing.
 
When we need each other the most . . . we shouldn’t be hard to find. People who love don”t turn their backs on those who struggle.

Freedom 8.15.17

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13).

Jesus came to set us free. He set us free from having to earn salvation by endlessly trying to be “good enough”. He set us free from our addiction to sin. We are recovering sin-addicts. Christ has broken the addiction so we can now choose to live God’s way.

Some mistakenly think that this freedom means we can do whatever we want and “God will forgive us.” However, that is a perversion of freedom. It would be like saying, as a citizen of the USA I am free. So, I can shoot you and take all your possessions as my own. That attitude leads to anarchy!

The goal of freedom should be to see the value of everyone around you. It is about serving other people freely and joyfully. What we discover is this: Joy, happiness, and fulfillment are not gained by material riches. Surprisingly, we find joy as we learn to appreciate and serve one another.

The freedom to serve one another is the opposite of the “entitlement society” that is all around us. We can easily fall into “me first” attitude. Entitlement leads to conflict, service leads to to peace. Entitlement sees others in terms of what they can do for us. Service sees, appreciates, and treasures others.

Look beyond yourself today. You have been set free to see the world in all its richness. You have been given eyes to see the treasure in others. Don’t miss it.

Forgiveness 8.14.17

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
(Luke 6:37).
 
The Lord is not telling us we should never recognize some behaviors as sin; He is saying we should never write off a sinner. Only God renders judgment. In other words, we should not play God in this area.
 
However, in another area, we are to follow His example: in the area of forgiveness. We are never more like the Lord than when we forgive. It is an act of love that takes your foot off of the throat of another, allowing them to breathe.
 
In addition, forgiveness frees you from the misery or resentment, anger and bitterness, and opens you to experience the blessing of God, the beauty of restoration, and is the only way to find that deep and abiding peace God alone can give.
 
Give someone a gift they do not deserve: forgive. You will be surprised at the blessing that comes back to you.

Devotion 8.13.17

Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
(Galatians 3:2–3).
 
The human tendency (curse?) is our attempts to “save ourselves.” We think if we do all the right things (which we can never do), we will gain salvation. Things like: say specific words for a prayer, get baptized, go to church regularly, walk and aisle, read the Bible every day, and try diligently to overcome your vices. But none of these things saves you.
 
We are made right with God and given the power of the Holy Spirit by putting ALL our confidence in Jesus. When we truly stop trying to save ourselves and embrace what He has done on our behalf we are saved.
 
Paul points out that some who receive Christ revert to the habit of self-reliance. Paul says “After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you trying to become perfect by your own effort?”
 
Are you exhausted from the performance treadmill? Confess to the Lord that you are trying to do it all on your own. Seek the peace that Lord alone can give. Ask God to guide you and give you the strength to do what He wants you to do. Remind yourself that your growth will come as you allow Him day by day to work in you and through you. Rest in Him. He knows what He is doing.

Devotion 8.12.17

So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless.
(Galatians 2:20–21).

Paul said right before these words that he was crucified with Christ (in other words, Paul’s sin was dealt with by Jesus on the cross.

But that is not the end of the story. When we embrace Christ as Savior we are not forgiven so we can sin and not worry about it. We are given the freedom to live a new life. Jesus set us free from the people we used to be. An unchanged Christian is a contradiction. Such a person “treats the grace of God as meaningless.” In other words, that person may profess belief; they may have said a prayer; but they have not truly embraced Christ as Savior and Lord.

Jesus is Savior and Lord. You cannot separate the two. When we come to Christ, we are new people and we start to live in a new way. If we don’t . . . we haven’t truly come to Christ.

Devotion 8.11.17

And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
But then I recall all you have done, O LORD;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
(Psalm 77:10–12).

Psalm 77 starts with Asaph crying out to the Lord. He feels alone, abandoned, as if God were not listening. it is a cry of despair. Have you been there? I have.

The turning point came in the verses above. Asaph looks back at God’s track record. He is encouraged by God’s faithfulness in the past. It gives him the confidence he needs to continue to trust and worship the Lord in the present.

Just because we do not feel God’s presence, doesn’t mean His presence in gone. We may feel abandoned but we are not. It may feel like God is doing nothing, but, based on our past experience with God, we know that God is at work we simply don’t see it yet.

You may be in the darkness right now. It may seem that you are lost and all alone. But even in the darkness there is one who walks with you. He sees where you are and has your destination clear in mind. Rather than despair, trust His track record, his character, his love.

Devotional 8.10.17

God says, “At the time I have planned,
I will bring justice against the wicked.
When the earth quakes and its people live in turmoil,
I am the one who keeps its foundations firm.
(Psalm 75:2–3).

There is important truth in these two verses. First, a day of justice is coming. God will not put up with the nonsense around us forever. When that time of judgment comes, our only hope is to be hiding in the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus.

Second, the only thing that keeps us from destruction is the Lord. The only One who steadies us is our Savior. We do not find strength and peace by running faster, becoming meaner, indulging more deeply, yelling louder, or giving in to the world around us. Since it is the Lord who steadies us, we should run to Him, cling to Him, and rest in Him.

Stop looking at the misery around you! Focus on Him and rest in Him. Trust His wisdom, His strength, and His ability to bring beauty out of the ashes.

8.9.17 Devotional

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8–10).
 
We can’t confidently identify Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” However, we do know that instead of taking the thorn away, God told Paul to trust Him. The phrase “my grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” is one we should hold close.
 
Do you have a thorn that won’t seem to let up? Have you prayed for God to remove this irritant? Is it possible that God is telling you to find your joy, peace, and security in Him rather than the circumstances of life? He summons us to pursue Him rather than a problem-free life.
 
It is true: we don’t know how sufficient God is until we have to depend on Him. Sometimes the burdens of life are actually some of our greatest blessings . . . because they send us running to our Father. As a result, sometimes when we are weakest, we discover our greatest strength: our Great God.

Discernment

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (2 Corinthians 11:3–4).

We tend to view discernment as something reserved for a select few people. That is not the case. Some people have gift of discernment (they have a great ability to read circumstances, people, and weigh truth) but all of us should possess and develop discernment for our daily lives.

This is why it is so important to make strong, clear, Biblical teaching a priority when looking for a church. All other things are secondary! It is God’s Word that serves as our reference point when we evaluate the teaching that comes our way. And careful evaluation is necessary. Only God’s truth will save and lead us to the life God created us to live.

You will hear falsehoods and half-truths every day from all around you. Be prepared. Be discerning.

“I don’t need the church”

There is a growing movement of people who are tired of the church and believe they can serve God just as effectively without the church. They take advantage of media ministries and books and believe they are adequately fed.

I admit that I have a vested interest in the church. We are committed to making teaching available on the Internet, radio, and YouTube, but I believe strongly that we are to be part of a community of saints.

Here are some reasons

  1. It is the pattern God set for His people. Throughout the Old Testament and New God called His people together for corporate worship. Gathering with other believers has value whether we can readily see it or not. We need the encouragement others give us AND others need the encouragement we can give.
  2. It is commanded. Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” No matter how you justify it, absenting yourself from the church is to ignore the clear command of the Lord.
  3. It is selfish to withdraw from the community of the faithful. Jesus calls us to serve one another. To withdraw from the church is a selfish act. It is to dismiss your responsibility to be part of a caring and encouraging community.
  4. It is short-sighted. There will be times as a believer that you will need the help of others. There are times we need the strength that community can give. If you don’t nurture community, there will be no one there in those times. Worship is also richer when we are together. Christian radio is great, but it is not the same as corporate worship.

Are there times when the church is hard and frustrating? Yes. Are there times when it seems like it is more work than it is worth? Yes. But God knows what He is doing. He designed us to work best in community. Learning to work through the frustrations of the church prepares us to work through the frustrations of life.

Spiritual Discipline

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
(1 Corinthians 9:24–26).
 
Just about everyone you talk with will tell you that they are diligent about working out or . . . they should be. Most of us would like to lose weight and we know that the only way to do that is through discipline. We must discipline ourselves to eat better and to move more. We must discipline ourselves to get good at a sport, at playing an instrument, and even in our marriages.
 
Paul reminds us that what is true of our physical life is also true of our spiritual life. We know we need to be disciplined to be healthy but for some reason seem to think we can be haphazard and grow spiritually. It doesn’t work. The person who is not disciplined in the way they follow the Lord (by times of prayer, Bible Reading, worship with other believers, reading good books, and Bible Study) will get spiritually sluggish and become ineffective in their walk with Christ.
 
Develop a spiritual exercise program and then stick with it. Exercise is NOT a dirty word. But it is not an easy or pleasant word either. It is, however, the highway to a healthier and more productive life.

A devotional thought from 1 Corinthians

But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.
(1 Corinthians 8:1–2).

I have always loved the statement: “some people are educated well beyond their intelligence.” What we DO with what we know is important. The person who knows much but loves little, really doesn’t know much at all.

The Bible is clear: “the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Wisdom comes from knowing that all truth is God’s truth.

What matters is not the degrees on the wall (though I am very enthusiastic about education), but the bent of your heart. Put aside smugness. Be wise. Take what you know and use it to bring honor and glory to the Lord. Honor Him by loving those around you.

Different Kinds of Churches

I have been reflecting on the different kinds of churches you may find in the world. I do not mean different denominations. There are different views of what the church should be. Let me picture them this way:

Religious Exercise Club – this is the church where people come to do their religious things. It is very formal and impersonal. Religious duty is practiced to keep “God off your back” for another week. Bibles are in the pews but they are seldom, if ever, opened.

Social Club – this is a club that meets in a church or has church in its name. There is little mention of God and no significant attention is given to the Bible. What draws people is the commitment to some cause or the fun of being together.

Political Action Group – all talk here is about politics. Concern is for social and political action. God is called upon to “sponsor” the group. The Word of God is used to show that God wants to bless our nation. But, He will do so only if we vote the correct way. Prayer is a plea for God to smite the wicked (those who do not agree with us).

Concert Hall – People are drawn to these churches “for the music”. The music is often loud and unintelligible but everyone is having a good time. There is a feeling of elation that people equate with worship. The favorite Bible verse is, “Sing a new song to the Lord”.

The Woodshed – In this church people attend to find out all the bad things they are doing. The speaker points out areas where they are falling short and what they need to do so God will no longer be mad at them. The Bible is used as a club to beat people.

The Theater – at these churches each week is an “event”. People are drawn because of the unexpected. They come hoping for a good show. The Bible is referenced in the dramas. The emphasis is on the good stories.

The Hospital – This is a gathering of wounded people who seek the Great Physician. Some seek healing from their sin, others are in “spiritual therapy” eager to lean how to live a spiritually healthy life following their healing. The Bible is read not as a rule book but as a manual on life. People are welcomed regardless of their disease.

I suspect I have tipped my hand as to which is the kind of church God wants us to be (the Hospital). I hope this is the kind of church we are. Can you think of other “kinds” of churches?

 

NEWEST Book!

Lessons in the Wilderness: Life Lessons from Exodus-Deuteronomy is now available! This is a great aid to your Bible reading at the start of the year. This book looks at some of the key events in Exodus through Deuteronomy and is a sequel to Bruce’s book: FAITH LESSONS: Lessons in Faith from Genesis. Both book are available on Amazon, Wilderness is available in both paperback and Kindle

Meeting with God, A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections – YEAR 2 has just been released (November 10, 2016). This book follows the format of Year 1 of a Bible passage with comments and insight for your daily life. The book is available in paperback and kindle formats. You can purchase the book on Amazon.com or at the church.

Rebuilding Life After Grief and Loss is Bruce’s newest book (May 8, 2016). The book looks at the nature of grief and how to work through this time to get back to living life even as we learn to celebrate the life that is temporarily gone. It’s a brief book but filled with practical ideas. The book is $7.00 on Amazon ($4.00 on the Kindle) and you can pick it up for a discounted price at the church (when Bruce has copies)

Meeting With God, A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections . Is now out. You can purchase a copy either in paperback or in Kindle format on the Amazon.com website. Or you can stop by the church and pick up a copy for the discounted price of $15.00. This would make a great gift for someone you want to encourage in the faith.

A Christian Handbook for Surviving Divorce (When You Would Rather Still Be Married) came out on August 4th. This brief book looks at some practical strategies for surviving the devastation of divorce. It is available in both Print and Kindle formats.  Purchase it Here