All posts by bruce

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