Category Archives: News

God’s Kindness, Our Sin 12.16.17

Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:3–4).
 
Paul observes we are experts at seeing what others are doing wrong. We know they need to repent or face judgment. However, we are not good at seeing we are doing the same things and likewise deserve judgement.
We are good at asking God for stuff . . . we fail to see the mercy and kindness God shows in putting up with all our foolishness.
 
God is patient with us not because He is weak or soft on sin. He is patient and kind because He wants better for us. His mercy is intended to lead us to Him, not to make us lackadaisical about our sin. It is wrong to presume upon the grace of God.
 
As you look at the manger see beyond the beautiful birth of a baby . . . see God’s love in action reaching out to you and to me. Then, having seen – respond.

Not Ashamed 12.15.17

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
(Romans 1:16–17).
 
The gospel of Christ is not something to hide, it is something to declare. It is good news about how sinful and broken people are made right with God. It is not a parental list of do’s and don’ts, it is a message of grace that is received by admitting your broken and rebellious attitude and opening your heart to the GIFT God has given us in Christ. It is power. It is life-changing. It is good news. To be ashamed of such a message is sin in and of itself.
 
This is what makes Christmas so special. It is the account of how God made this grace possible. At Christmas people are more likely to be listening. The question is: what are they hearing? Be faithful in sharing the message of the gospel with your friends and family. It is GOOD news! It is VERY good news.

Getting the Job Done 12.14.17

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19–20).

ASSIGNMENT: Make Disciples

#1 JOB REQUIREMENT: Time

Discipleship is a process. It is not a one-time blast or even simply getting people to “make a decision” for Christ. Discipleship is learning to walk with Jesus every day. And this takes times and energy.

We need to be prepared to walk with others as we teach them to walk with Jesus. We must be patient, as others were with us. We must be consistent. In other words we must teach and model what discipleship looks like.

Does it seem overwhelming? Yep. But don’t miss the last line . . . we are not alone in this process. The Lord is with us and working through us as we work with others just like He is every other time.

The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of Christ. It takes a commitment but it is Soooo worth the effort.

The Suffering Savior 12.13.17

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Matthew 27:45–46).

It is important, even at Christmas to remember why Jesus was born. He came to show us what God was like and to give His life for our sin. It is a staggering concept.

Jesus suffered the wrath that we deserved. His agony was to set us free.

As we come to grasp all this we return to the manger with a different attitude. The cross reveals the beauty of the cradle. Bethlehem is the beginning of a staggering love story that changes us forever. O come, let us adore Him!

Happy Birthday Jesus! 12.12.17

But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
(Matthew 26:10–13).
 
A woman came in to a meal where Jesus was present and broke an expensive container of oil and poured it on the head of Jesus. This was an act of love. She took what was probably the most valuable thing she had and used it to honor Christ. Some saw it as a waste. Jesus saw it for what it was, and extravagant and beautiful expression of love.
 
At this time when we are scurrying to pick up those last minute gifts, a good question to ask is this: “What are YOU doing to honor the Christ we say we are celebrating?” Maybe it is a gift to someone in need or an extra gift to your church. Maybe it means adopting a child who is hungry in another land. Maybe it is getting some Bibles for people new to the faith. Think about how you can honor the Lord this Christmas.

True Love 12.11.17

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:40).
 
How we treat the poor and needy and others who have nothing to give to us, shows the true nature of our faith. Much of the time we are kind to others because of the perceived benefit we might get in return. You might want to impress someone (like someone of the opposite sex); you might be looking for some financial benefit; or you might be looking for a way to connect with the friends of the person you help.The point is: we are hoping for a reciprocal benefit.
 
When we help someone who is “the least of these” we are helping someone who will provide no benefit in return. This is true love and kindness. The concern is all for the other person. There is no hidden agenda. This is true love and the evidence of Christ working in us.
 
Look for ways to love those who most need to be loved.

Focus for Living 12.10.17

I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people. (Acts 24:15–16).
 
Paul was making a defense to charges brought against him. They are simple words that describe a way of living that is being abandoned. Today you hear people say they are “living for the moment,” and excusing their choices saying they are “just having a good time” or “they just want to be happy.”
 
Certainly we must live IN the moment but we should do so understanding that there is coming a day when we will stand before God to give an account of the things we have done and the choices we have made. We will be asked: Have we lived for the Lord? Have we honored Him as Lord over our lives? Have we treated others with love, grace, and compassion?
 
It was Jonathan Edwards, in his resolutions for life, who wrote: “Resolved, to live each day as I will wish I had lived it on the Last Day as I stand before the Lord.” That is a good motivation for every one of us.

Keeping the Gospel Free12.9.17

They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. (Matthew 23:4).
 
This was the indictment by Jesus of the religious leaders of His day. It is an indictment that sadly could be leveled at some believers today.
 
Why is it that we personally embrace the salvation of God that come by grace alone and then require OTHER people to jump through all kinds of hoops and perform certain acts and deeds before we relate to them as members of Christ’s body? This should not be!
 
Someone has rightly said: “We know Jesus is the door, but we want to be the screen door determining who gets to come in.” When we do so, we become obstacles to the Good News of the gospel!
 
Today, share the Good News that there is forgiveness and new life for anyone who admits their brokenness and comes to Jesus as their Savior and King. Resist the urge to add to this great announcement. Jesus came to set us free, not to load us down.

Priorities 12.8.17

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36–40).
 
What do you think most people would say if they were asked what are most important principles of your life? I suspect many would say, “Look out for #1” or “Pursue your dreams and don’t let anyone get in your way.” Or the innocuous “Be Happy!” The focus would almost always be on ourselves.
 
The approach of Jesus is different. The first goal should be to honor God in both good times and hard times; when we are applauded and when we are jeered. Our goal should be to hear His “Well Done.”
 
Second we are to show honor, regard, compassion and love to those around us. When we don’t know how to respond we are to respond in the way we would want others to respond to us. Jesus calls us to be givers rather than takers.
 
The irony is this: When we get our priorities in order . . . forgetting ourself and focusing on Him and those He has given us, this is when we discover we are most whole.

Learner 12.7.17

Commit yourself to instruction;
listen carefully to words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 23:12).
 
A person who stops learning will shrivel up. They become hard, arrogant, and no fun to be around.
 
God continues to instruct and lead us in the way of holiness. The thing is, we have to be listening. We can learn from every person we meet; young or old; Christian or non-Christian. Pay attention for the whispers of God (or “glimpses” as Carrollton sings.) Read a good book. Listen to solid teaching. And also listen to the insights and perspective of a child.
 
Pay attention today. Ask questions. Listen carefully. Keep your heart soft. There is much to learn.

Doing Our Job 12.6.17

 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.
(Acts 20:26–27).
 
Compelling words. Are you aware of the people around you who do not know and follow Christ? Have you told them the real reason behind Christmas? Have you shared with them the need to repent and run to the life and forgiveness of Christ? Have you shared the truth that although we are all badly broken, the grace of God has come to make us new?
 
We cannot make someone believe. We can’t bring another person to faith (that is the Holy Spirit’s job). Our job is to tell people the truth and the good news of the gospel. Have you done that? Take some time right now to pray for the opportunity (and the courage) to share the words of life with those God has placed before you.

God’s Kindness

But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.
(Nehemiah 9:17).
 
God love us. At times I wonder why. Yet, he continues to be patient and extends mercy and grace.
 
It is easy to take God’s kindness for granted. It is common to presume upon His grace. We think God will always be gracious. We forget that He is also just. Rather than take grace for granted it is a better course is to rest in His goodness and celebrate His kindness.
 
Christmas is a testimony to the grace and kindness of God. It is not about being on the naughty or nice list . . . it is about God’s kindness in sending His Son to teach and rescue us. Today, take some time to consider where we would be if it were not for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Once you realize how blessed you are, you will be ready to truly and appropriate celebrate Christmas.

Humility

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3–4).
 
Humility is to be a characteristic of the follower of Christ. The true believer understands that he/she is a person who is broken and beyond recovery in their own strength. The self-righteous believer is someone who does not understand the gospel.
 
We are not followers of Christ because we are better than others. We are followers of Christ because, by His mercy and grace, we are made new. It is not because of what WE do, it is because of what HE has done for us. Keeping that in mind deflates any sense of self-importance and superiority.
 
C.S. Lewis said it best: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” We would be well served to stop promoting ourselves and spend that time telling people about Christ, who saved us.

The God of the Impossible 12.3.17

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
(Genesis 18:13–14).
 
Sarah heard the Lord tell Abraham that they would have a baby. Sarah was 89 and Abraham was 99. When Sarah heard this, she laughed. Wouldn’t you have laughed too?
 
The response of the Lord is a question we must regularly ask: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The Lord has all power, all wisdom, and is over all things. When we pray we must do so confident that God can do just what we ask.
 
So why are some prayers not answered? Not getting what we asked for is not the same as a prayer being unanswered. God sees what we don’t. I often don’t understand what He is doing. I can’t see beyond the present moment. He sees the big picture.
 
Our task is to pray confident that God can do what we ask while also trusting that if it seems He does not do what we ask, He is doing something better that we may not understand until we see Him face to face. God is good and God is able . . . .ALL the time.

Attitude 12.2.17

So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.  Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
(Acts 16:24–25).
 
People notice how we respond to hard times. Paul and Silas were unjustly beaten and thrown into the jail. We would have expected them to be bitter and angry. Instead, they had a hymn sing and prayer meeting! They rejoiced and worshipped even in this bad and unjust situation because they trusted God.
 
We choose our attitude. We don’t have to understand what God is doing . . . we simply need to trust His love and wisdom. If we do this we will be able to sing and pray even in hard or painful times. And as we do . . . know this: the world will be watching. They may call you crazy but God will call you “faithful”.

Heart Problems 12.1.17

“Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matthew 15:17–20).
 
We are becoming obsessed with food. We watch gluten, calories, and carbs. We focus on organically grown produce, watch our salt intake and want to get rid of sugar. The Jewish leaders of Jesus day had a similar obsession with food and food preparation (hand washings). Jesus urges them to refocus.
 
Jesus says we should focus more on the heart. The heart is where the real problem lies. We would agree, I hope, that murder, and adultery are wrong. We are increasingly divided over what constitutes sexual immorality (the Bible says it is any sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage). We spotlight these sins and seem to ignore the others! Evil thoughts, theft, lying, and slander are destructive too. They have been responsible for many wounded lives and ruined witness.
 
If you really want to be healthy, monitor the purity of your heart. Pay attention to the words you say and the thoughts you think. Don’t just eat better; speak and think better too. The former may make you feel better; the later will draw you closer to the Lord and make your impact on others much more positive.

Priorities 11.30.17

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. (Matthew 14:22–23).
 
Read this carefully. The Son of God drew His strength, consistency, and power from the time He spent in prayer! It is a staggering picture: the Son aligning Himself with the will of the Father. We should learn from His example.
 
It would seem that we have it wrong. We seem to think the key is to work harder, run faster, be more efficient, and learn better skills. The real answer is to spend more time tuning our heart to the melody of God’s Spirit. We do that by talking with (not just TO) God in prayer. We need more time for quiet, for stillness, and for fellowship with the Lord.
 
Make some changes in your approach to life. Make time for God. It is an investment that will pay rich dividends in everything else that you do.

Forgiven 11.29.17

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do.
(Acts 13:38–39).
 
These words are so wonderful we find it hard to grasp: Forgiveness! To be forgiven means the sin is no longer an issue between you. It means the matter is over and dealt with. This is what Jesus makes possible. All the sin, rebellion, recklessness, meanness, and stupid and foolish choices is forgiven. Jesus paid for all of it!
 
Those who put their confidence in Christ and acknowledge Him as the Leader and King of their life can live knowing they will stand before god with nothing on their record! They will be given eternal life (Heaven).
 
We certainly don’t deserve such a gift. The grace and love of God should stagger us, motivate us, and encourage us. You are set free from the weight of your past sin! Dance for joy! Worship with abandon! Celebrate the real message of Christmas: Christ has set us free from the power of sin and death! Joy to the World!

Mending Fences 11.28.17

Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.
(Matthew 12:25).
 
In this text Jesus is responding to the charge that Satan is working in Him enabling Him to cast our demons. The principle however is still valid in the wider scope. When families, communities, and churches are divided they are unable to function in the way God designed them.
 
One of the best gifts you can give to your family this Christmas is the gift of reconciliation. Build a bridge. You can do this sometimes with a simple “How are you doing?” or “I’ve missed you.” Some relationships may take more work to rebuild, but it is worth it.
 
You can’t buy the gift of forgiveness or reconciliation on Amazon. It can only be obtained through the work of the Holy Spirit. Be a part of the miracle of restoration by making the first move. The Bible is clear: if there is a problem in a relationship, WE are to make the first move. So . . . I guess it is your move.

Weary 11.27.17

 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30).
 
Are you weary and carrying a heavy burden? Do you feel like you can’t measure up . . . even to your own expectations for yourself? Have you made bad choices and now you feel trapped? If so, then Jesus is speaking to you.
 
The Lord offers us a new way of life: the way of grace and peace. He offers us the strength and companionship we need to keep going in life. He has expectations but He also gives the Holy Spirit to help us meet those expectations. He offers these things as a gift! You don’t have to perform to receive them; you just need to open your heart and life and let Him in.
 
Leave the weariness and burdens with Jesus. He wants to help and there is no one more sufficient.

A Cup of Water 11.26.17

 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matthew 10:42).
 
Simple kindness. The Lord encourages us to look for ways to show kindness and mercy to hurting people. It doesn’t take an extravagant act (although those are wonderful). Grace and kindness start with things as simple as a cup of cold water.
 
You may think that there is nothing you can do to help hurting people. We can all help. It starts by noticing people. Sometimes a sincere “Hello” lets someone know that they are seen. A kind word, a handshake, an expression of appreciation, or a simple act of kindness, show people that you view them as valuable. And that is a very good place to start to change the world.

Gracious Believers 11.25.17

But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?*”
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:11–13).
 
Matthew was a tax-collector before he met Jesus. It was not an honored profession. When Jesus called him to be his disciple Matt was overwhelmed by the Lords kindness and grace and invited Jesus to his home.This is what provoked the text for today.
 
It still happens today: people who have been saved by grace suddenly become people who are very concerned about keeping rules. It would be like a person who had received a transplant suddenly campaigning against transplants!
 
The more righteous and superior we believe we are, the less we understand grace. The phrase “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices” is used several times in the Bible. The idea is this: God did not send Christ into the world to make us more religious. He did not come so we might beat up, condemn, or shun those who sin. He came so we might experience grace and mercy in our sinful state and then extend that same grace to others. He was not looking for more spiritual policemen, he was looking for more caring healers.
 
When you start to point your finger today, or sharpen your tongue, remember these words and choose to extend grace. The same grace God gave you.

Storms 11.24.17

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.
(Matthew 8:23–26).
 
There will often be storms in our lives. Some of them will be fierce. At those times we may feel that sense of dread and panic the disciples felt.
 
Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. Here’s the principle we must hold on to: There is no real danger when Jesus is in the boat! Or, we can give a corollary principle: If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit is in your life and therefore you need not panic. Our job is to trust His strength when our own seems inadequate for the time of crisis.
 
You are NOT alone! No matter what the storm, the Lord’s got this. Tell panic to go home. Trust Him.

Judge Not! 11.23.17

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
(Matthew 7:1–2).
 
Jesus is not telling us not to make judgments. We must be discerning about what is right and wrong. He is telling us not to be judgmental. In other words we are to make judgments with a merciful and gracious heart. We are to keep in mind that we too are sinners in need of grace.
 
There is a sober warning for those who feel it is their duty to “punish” those who stumble: The standard you use will be used by God toward you! Think about this! If you do not act with mercy, grace, and a desire to restore another . . .He will not relate to you with mercy, grace, and a desire to restore. I don’t know about you, but I need all the grace and mercy I can get.
 
As you give thanks today, let the grace of God wash over you and flood your heart to the degree that grace flows from you into the lives of others. . . even when they fall or fail. Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Audience of One 11.22.17

When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.
(Matthew 6:2).
 
It is the human tendency to “play to the crowd.”We want to be liked, appreciated and respected. As a result, we draw attention to ourselves. We want everyone to know when we did something right (because it happens so seldom?) so we tell everyone what we did.
 
Jesus said things we do for the applause of others will often be rewarded with the applause of others. But those deeds will bring no reward from Heaven because we did not do them to honor the Lord, we did them to gain honor for ourselves. The only deeds of value to the Lord are the things we do that are unknown to others. They are the things we do when no one else is looking. God is looking for acts of character rather than deeds of self-promotion.
 
We are to play to the “audience of One”. Live life to honor the Lord. No one may appreciate you here, but the applause of Heaven will be sweeter than any of the accolades of earth.

Blessed in Hard Times 11.21.17

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.
(Matthew 5:11–12).
 
Have you ever been a target for someone else who resents your stand for Christ? It’s no fun, is it? Promises of blessing seem hollow. That doesn’t, however, make it less true.
 
Sometimes, let’s face it, we are targets because we are obnoxious, mean, or judgmental. There is no promise of blessing in those circumstances. The blessing comes when we do what is right; when we testify of Christ; and the world around us hates us.
 
There is a sweetness and blessing that comes from knowing that you did what the Lord asked you to do in the manner and with the heart the Lord asked you to have. Dare to stand with Him and you will discover the blessing Jesus is talking about.

Temptation 11.20.17

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
(Genesis 4:6–7).
 
It is a fairly familiar story of the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God, Cain’s was not. Cain was angry and this is God’s response to his anger.
 
It is obvious that there was some kind of instruction about what an acceptable sacrifice was supposed to be. God’s rebuke is simple: If you refuse to do what is right (what God had told Him) you will open the door to sin which will try to control your life. Choices have consequences!
 
I learned a very basic principle for life: “It is never wrong, to do what is right.” “It is also never too late to do what is right.” It is always right to admit a mistake, extend forgiveness, respond with grace and mercy, share the message of salvation, say a kind word, or do what the Bible says to do.
 
Sin is crouching at the door of our lives. It is ready to pounce. Defending yourself is easy: keep doing what is right!

Prayer Requests 11.19.17

I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom* and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance
(Eph 1:16–18)
 
What a great and poetic prayer! As I read this I am convicted. I pray for lots of things for people: healing, for jobs, family issues and even finances. What I often forget is what is most important; I need to pray that those I know and love will come to a true knowledge of God and the Kingdom of which He has so graciously made us a part.
 
Use your prayer time today to pray for those who do not know Christ personally as Savior and Lord. Ask God to open their eyes to the richness of His mercy and love. And for your fellow believers . . . pray they would come to see just how privileged we are to be children of the King. Ask God to help us see how deep His grace goes.
 
Our greatest gift is access to the throne room of God through prayer. Let us use that privilege to ask God to bring salvation, insight, and new life to our friends and to us. May we cast off shallow faith and long and hunger to anchor deep.

The Church 11.18.17

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper*), and to prayer.
(Acts 2:42).
 
This is a description of the early church. The word “devoted” means to hang in there; to keep going without letting up. These things, in other words, were the passion of their lives. (Stop and ask yourself what is the passion of your life based on your calendar and checkbook?)
 
They were devoted to the apostle’s teachings (that would be the Bible to us.) They were devoted to each other.. They supported each other, sacrificed for each other, and spent time encouraging each other. They ate together and remembered the Lord’s Supper together. When people looked at the body of Christ they saw people who cared deeply for each other. Lastly they were devoted to prayer. They knew that their strength, guidance, and growth depended not on their fancy surroundings, list of programs, great music, or anything else, it depended on the channel of communication with God that is established by prayer and giving attention to His Word.
 
Is this what your church looks like? Is the emphasis in your church on listening to God and talking to Him in prayer or is the emphasis on what will attract “consumers”? What should you look for in a church?

A Job to Do 11.17.17

“why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
(Acts 1:11).
 
When Jesus ascended to Heaven the disciples didn’t know what to do. The angels told them to “get busy” because Jesus would someday come back.
 
The angels would say the same thing to us. It is good to study, debate is often valuable, but there comes a point where we need to stop “staring into Heaven” and get to work! Jesus will return someday and every one of us will stand before Him.
 
There are people who are horribly broken. Some know it, some do not. They need the message of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. Others have great need. They need to see the love of Jesus in practical ways through us. We have a job to do: we are to represent Him in this world.
The time to start is now!

That Day 11.16.17

The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture
(Malachi 4:1–2).
 
A day of Judgment is coming that will produce two vastly different responses. Those who have “made their own rules” and ignored God; those who claimed to belong to Him but acted superior and judgmental lacking in mercy and grace; those who declared “there is no God!” will face the return of Christ with mourning. the Lord will expose their rebellion and deal with it decisively. It will be dreadful.
 
On the other hands . . . those who held fast, relied on His grace, and sought humbly to follow Him, will rejoice. I love the image of “dancing like calves let out to pasture.”We will celebrate the One who reigns over all; we will rejoice for the salvation that has been accomplished. We will gasp with wonder as His plan is fully revealed. It will be a celebration unequalled in this world.
 
Which group will you be in?

Too Smart for Our Own Good 11.15.17

But Josiah refused to listen to Neco, to whom God had indeed spoken, and he would not turn back. Instead, he disguised himself and led his army into battle on the plain of Megiddo. (2 Chronicles 35:22).
 
Strange text for a devotion, huh? What comes right before this verse is an account of how great and faithful a King Josiah was. He was careful to do what the Lord said and brought great revival to Israel. However, he was closed to the Word of God coming from this rival King and he died prematurely in battle.
 
Here is what jumps out to me: anytime we stop listening for the voice of the Lord . . . no matter who we are . . . we are in trouble. In fact, we are in the most danger when we think we have everything figured out.
 
Remain soft and teachable today. God may speak to you from an unexpected source (don’t forget Balaam’s donkey). Keep listening. Be soft before the Lord. And the minute you think you have it all figured out . . . hit your knees and repent. Danger is closer than you think.

A Word About Your Past 11.14.17

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30).
 
These are powerful words we desperately need to hear. Many people live their lives beating themselves up for something they did in the past. They don’t know how they will ever be able to pay for their mistakes. Here’s the thing: “It is finished!” Jesus paid the ENTIRE price on the cross. When we admit, confess and repent, His sacrifice marks the matter as ‘paid in full’. Staggeringly wonderful.
 
These are important words for the “Christian Policemen” to hear also. There are people who seem to feel the sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient. They believe they must punish the one who sins “for the purity of the gospel”. The punishment is often relentless. What they fail to see is that their actions are actually repudiating the gospel. They are saying: grace is NOT enough. (Unless, of course, you are talking about their sin!)
 
What this is . . . is the staggering message of the gospel. It is not just my sin that Jesus paid for, it is also yours. Leave the baggage of the past at the cross where it belongs.

Words 11.13.17

A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare.
(Proverbs 15:1).
 
In the aggressive and combative time in which we live, these words are a lifeline. Even when we disagree with someone we should be gentle rather than harsh.
 
Harsh words provoke; gentle words calm. Harsh words end conversations; gentle words facilitate them. Harsh words leave a mess we will eventually have to clean up; gentle words heal. Harsh words make us think we are strong but push others away. Gentle words, show we ARE strong and make it possible for us to come close. Harsh words do the Devil’s work for him. Gentle words reflect the grace of God.
 
Speak calmly. Leave the big stick, attacks, and threats where they belong . . . in the garbage.

True Truth 11.12.17

Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
(John 17:17).
 
These are words of Jesus. They are words that can be an anchor for our lives.
 
We live in a world that is confused about truth. It says: “truth may be different for every individual;” “truth is what the law says it is;” “Truth is what we believe it to be . . . you just ‘know’ the truth.” As a result there is no “TRUE truth.” There is no unchanging standard on which to build our lives and world. It is like having building codes that change from house to house or components for a drug that changes from one pharmacy to the next.
 
Jesus reminds us that the Bible is unchanging truth because it comes from the God who is True and has no “shadow of turning” (i.e. He is completely consistent and reliable). It is the anchor we desperately need.
 
Learn to love God’s Word. Read it often. Build your life on this foundation and you will stand firm and see clearly even as the rest of the world rides the waves of confusion.

Peace in the Storm 11.11.17

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33).
 
Sometimes we interpret trials and sorrows as punishment from God. They are not God’s punishment, it is just the way life is in the world. It is especially so as we work to walk with Christ. As some persecuted Christ, so some with persecute us.
 
The Christ-follower is to have a different perspective on the difficulties of life. We understand that trials and suffering are temporary. They may last for years but they will not last forever. Christ has overcome the world! He took the best shot the world and the evil forces had and won. Even death could not defeat Him. He promises us that same victory.
 
Are you weary from the struggle? Do you feel beat up by life? Do you wonder if you can make it another day? Let me remind you of two truths: 1) you are not alone. The Lord walks with you. The Holy Spirit is in you to strengthen you and equip you., 2) The One who walks with you knows the way through the trial to the place of victory. He knows the way victoriously through this minefield we call life. You can trust Him. Follow Him and you WILL get through this.
 
May God’s peace be with you, even in the most tumultuous of times!

Priorities 11.10.17

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing
(John 15:4–5).
 
Jesus reminds us that it is IMPOSSIBLE to live a life pleasing to God if we drift from HIm. Apart from Him we can do NOTHING. As one of my mentors says: “nothing is not ‘a little something'”.
 
Is your life lacking the evidence of God’s work in you? Have you drifted from the Lord? Are you so busy that you no longer have time for Him? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions it means you need to re-order your life. You must find a way to spend time with the Lord. IN Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the other things will be added to you.”
 
Unless you put “first things, first” life will be out of balance.

Plenty of Room 11.9.17

“There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.” (John 14:2 NLT)
 
The familiar translation is “In my Father’s House are many rooms . . . ” but i was struck by this translation. Since there is more than enough room in my Father’s home several things are true:
 
1) There is room enough for me and for you. You don’t have to worry if God has a place for you.
 
2) I don’t need to be territorial. People who at one time have gone hungry sometimes hoard food for fear they will be hungry again. Some believers act as if when someone comes to Christ it means they have to “share their room” . . . in other words their salvation is taken from our inheritance. It is not!
 
3) There is room for diversity. Just like #2 we tend to view other churches as competitors. If they are doing something right that must mean we are doing something wrong . . . .again, we are wrong! There is room for diversity; room for God to work in different ways and appeal to different preferences. When a church begins to tear apart other churches it is because they are “protecting their turf”. It is a selfish and unnecessary thing to do.
 
There is plenty of room in the Father’s home. Come, let’s gather together and enjoy the goodness of the Lord both now and forever!

Servants

since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. (John 13:14–15).
 
We seem to spend a good portion of our lives jockeying for position. Everyone wants to be a little better than the next guy. This is why so many people are addicted to gossip. If I can identify the sins and struggles of others (real or imagined), we think it makes us look better. It is just the opposite.
 
Jesus said we should be looking for ways to serve each other. The greatest person is the one who serves others. He is more concerned about what another needs than he is about their struggles. The true believer is looking for ways to serve rather than ways to advance in the pecking order.
 
When the gossip starts to flow ask the speakers this question:H “ow do you think we could help this person?” Who knows, maybe our times around the table with a cup of coffee will become times when we start planning ways to help people rather than beat them up.

Silent Followers 11.7.17

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. (John 12:42–43).
 
Many have followed the path of these Jewish leaders: we want to be “unnoticed” followers of Christ. John rightly diagnosed their problem: they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”
 
Jesus told us that those who live for the praise of men may get what they desire . . . but there will be nothing gained for eternity. In other words, a private believer is a oxymoron. Part of being a follower of Christ is our willingness to stand with Him and testify to Him.
 
Look for ways to testify to your faith and point others to Jesus. Deliberately work to battle the “fear of exposure”. The world needs you to point to Jesus more than ever.

Life and Death 11.6.17

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
(John 11:25–26).
 
These words come from the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. They remind us of our glorious and sure hope: we will live even after we die.
 
Note first the condition: believes in me. This is not a promise for everyone; it is only for those who sincerely trust in Christ. There is no life apart from Christ.
 
There are two common mistakes we make in life: 1) we think our walk with Christ begins only after we die. Once we come into a relationship with Christ, we are new and can walk with Him immediately. we are ALREADY redeemed. 2) We profess the truth of these verses yet live like this life is all there is. All our focus is the here and now. We should be consciously “investing” for the future. As in planning for retirement, if you spend all your resources now, there is nothing left for the future; so if we fail to live this life in light of Heaven we squander our opportunities for eternal reward.
 
Today as you read about the heartache and tragedy in the world remember this: For the one who has put their faith in Christ, the story does not end at the grave. In fact, at that point the story starts being really really good.

Worship Focus 11.5.17

Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?(Zechariah 7:5–6).
 
How often do you her these words: “I go to this church because the music is fantastic” or “I really enjoy the environment of the church” or even “I love gathering with my friends.” These are not bad things. However, they may be signs of a serious problem.
 
God chastised the children of Israel because even though they were doing religious things, they were not doing it to and for the Lord. It was all about what they were getting or not getting.
 
The prescription is simple: Stop looking at what you are getting from worship and focus instead on what you are giving to the Lord.

The Blind See 11.4.17

Then Jesus told him,* “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” (John 9:39).
 
Unfortunately, many people think they can see but are really blind when it comes to spiritual things. They have it all figured out. They are religious. They know the rules. You can usually recognize them b3cause they are the ones who sit in judgment over everyone else.
 
The first thing any of us must do is recognize that we are “blind”. We are dead to spiritual things and the heart of God. Some people see that immediately. For others, who think they see clearly, it is a much more difficult task.
 
But the good news is: once we know we are spiritually blind and cry out to Jesus . . . . He opens our eyes and we see the richness of His grace, the beauty of His presence, and our need to communicate the truth of the gospel to others.
 
If you know you are blind, run to Jesus with anticipation . . . He is about to turn on the lights!

Seeing Clearly 11.3.17

 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12).
 
Have you ever been in a hotel room and awakened in the middle of the night disoriented and you bang into something? The solution to the disorientation is to turn on the light.
 
Are you wandering in the darkness? Are you disoriented and getting banged up by life? The solution is the Lord Jesus. Follow Him. Do what is right. Walk in His light. If you do the disorientation will lift. Meaning, purpose, and direction will replace disorientation and aimlessness.
 
When you feel lost, remind yourself to “turn on the light.”

Fake News 11.2.17

“Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”
(2 Chronicles 19:6–7).
 
These words come from one of the better Kings of Israel, King Jehosaphat. He spoke to men he had appointed as Judges and gave them this wise counsel.
 
The whole idea of “fake news” is quite prominent today. These are news stories where supposed facts are put forth but on further examination the truths were not true but is a story without substance. If only they listened !o Jehosaphat.
 
You and I make many judgments every day. How often are we guilty of fake news? We get facts wrong, we savor gossip and gleefully pass it on. We are engaging in fake news of our own. More than that . . . we are standing against the LORD who will hold such people accountable.
 
Be careful what you say. You may be passing on that which is not only unkind and unloving but also false. the distortion of truth is something of which God will judge (and not in a good way).
 
Besides, the next person in the crosshairs of the gossip may just be you.

Something Better 11.1.17

“I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
(John 6:26–27).
 
This discussion came the day after Jesus fed the 5000. The people followed Jesus to the next town looking for another free lunch. Jesus confronted the fact they were not seeking to know and follow the Lord, they just wanted their life to be easier. Jesus told them they were spending their energy pursuing the wrong things.
 
How many of us do the same thing? We follow God expecting Him to make life easier and to shield us from problems. If He does not do as we expected we walk away saying Christianity “doesn’t work.”
 
Such an attitude shows a desire to use God, not honor Him. There is no desire for a supernatural encounter with God. There is no sense of trusting His wisdom. There is no real faith at all . . . just a perceived negotiation.
 
Pursue the things that do not perish. Yearn for a deeper satisfaction, a deeper trust than merely seeking only to have your appetites satisfied. Pursue Him rather than what He can give you!
 

What Christianity Affirms (for those who have forgotten)

500 years ago the Reformation was built on five pillars. These are the five pillars the true church should still be built upon. It is time to remember the Reformation. Salvation and new life is . . .
 
1. BY GRACE ALONE We are made right with God by God’s work rather than our perceived goodness. The notion we can “earn” Heaven by being “good enough” is a dead-end street that leads to either frustration or delusion, and results in the fruit of anxiety and uncertainty. We were dead. GOD brought us back to life for no other reason than His love and mercy.
 
2. BECAUSE OF CHRIST ALONE We are made right with God only by the work of Christ. It is not through the work of programs, powerful speaking, moving worship, a “good feeling,” a “successful” church, a best-selling author, a powerful celebrity endorsement or anything else we can produce. Only Christ can provide what we need. His sacrifice ALONE is what saves us. He satisfied the demands of God’s law and His life was of sufficient value to pay for every sin.
 
3. THROUGH FAITH ALONE We receive this gift of God by embracing Christ. When we bet our life and eternity on Him; when we believe He really did FINISH the work; when we believe so fully that we follow Him; we are extended forgiveness and new life. It has little to do with the church we join, the style of music we sing, the amount of money we give, the things we do, the education or IQ we possess, the opinions of men, or any of the hoops we are prone to ask people to jump through. It is through faith ALONE.
 
4. ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE ALONE The authority on which we stand is God’s revealed Word rightly interpreted (in other words, what it says, and not what we try to make it say). It is not the persuasive speech of men; fickle feelings; nifty programs; course curriculum, demographic surveys; media emphasis, laws enacted, or the loudest voice in the crowd. We stand on what God says above EVERYTHING else.
 
5. TO THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE. HE gets ALL the credit. He deserves every expression of worship. We worship Him not because someone has whipped us into a frenzy but because of who He is and what He has done. He is worthy of every expression of gratitude, worship, and devotion. The praise must not go to a person, movement or anything else. God ALONE gets the glory.
 
May God bring the fire of the Reformation back to His church again.

Great News for Every Day 10.31.17

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
(John 5:24).
 
Those who listen to the message of grace do more than simply “hear” it. The message registers, it take root, it is understood.
 
To believe is more than wishing for something. It is being persuaded of the truth. It is a willingness to “bet your life” on these truths.
 
For those who listen and believe, hear the staggering news that Jesus was God become man who died in order to rescue us from our addiction to sin and the alienation from God that accompanies it. The result of that truth is this: we will NEVER be condemned for our sin and have ALREADY passed from death to life.
 
Regardless what men say about you. If you have come to Jesus with genuine faith and trust . . . you are forgiven! You are made new and can hold on to a future that is secure; not because of your goodness, but because of His Grace! Now, that . . . is incredible news that should set you on a course of joyful discipleship!
 
These truths fueled a movement 500 years ago known as the Reformation.

Where do you turn? 10.30.17

In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the LORD’s help but turned only to his physicians. 13 So he died in the forty-first year of his reign. (2 Ch 16:12–13).

King Asa was one of the Kings of Judah. When he was under attack he turned to foreign nations for help. God sent Hananai to rebuke the King for not turning to the Lord for assistance. This only made Asa angry. At the end of his life he contracted this serious foot disease. Again he turned to everyone BUT the Lord.

Are we following the pattern of Asa? Are we serving God only in name? Do we talk about His greatness yet never turn and trust Him for help? We turn to our Doctors, the voting booth, friends, television personalities, self-help books, and attempts at manipulation and spin, all while the Lord waits for us to turn to Him.

Whatever the problem, He is greater. Whatever the need, He can meet it. Let’s avoid the sin of King Asa and instead turn FIRST to the Lord who really is our help and our anchor . . . but only if we ask.

Worship 10.29.17

the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,
 
“You are worthy, O Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
(Revelation 4:10–11).
 
On this Sunday please accept this reminder: worship is not about music, preaching, or even “getting something out of it”. Worship is honoring the Lord. It is taking everything we have and laying it at His altar. It is remembering that all we have and are is because of Him. It is desiring that all we have, and all we are, and all we dream to be, be used to bring Him the glory He deserves.
 
Let us never forget that we are His children not because we are good . . . but because He is gracious.
 

First Love 10.27.17

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!
(Revelation 2:2–4).
 
These are the words of Christ to the church in Ephesus. They stand as an important warning to us.
 
We would probably call the Ephesians “mature Christians”. They knew their doctrine. They defended the truth. They stood firm in the time of trial. However, their knowledge and experience made them into people who focused on rules rather than people; traditions and performance rather than intimacy with God. They lacked love. They have many disciples today.
 
Too often Christians come across as self-righteous. They feel they stand above the stain of the world. They believe they can make pronouncements about others and are quick to help us see our flaws. They bounce from church to church because no church is “good enough” for them.
 
The true believer, the real mature person, is not rigid but soft. They do not compromise on sin but they remember that they are dealing with real people who need help rather than one more person to kick them when they are down.
 
Do you want to know where you stand as a believer? Ask yourself: How am I loving? Do you love God or merely perform for Him? Do you love others or do you stand above them with your boney finger shaking in their face (or worse, talk about them to others?) Love is supposed to be the foundation of the church. Do you extend grace or only talk about it?

The Coming of Christ . . . Again 10.26.17

Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
And everyone will see him—
even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
will mourn for him.
Yes! Amen!
(Revelation 1:7).
 
The story of Christ is not merely a historical record. It is dynamic and current. His story does not end with a volume on a shelf . . . the best is yet to come! We await the appearing of the Savior. This time He will not make a quiet and unobtrusive entrance . . . the next visit will be one filled power, judgment and redemption. No one will miss it or mistake who is in charge.
 
Could this be the day Jesus returns? I believe it could be. We are called to live every day in light of the reality that one day the Lord will take us home. He might do it through our death or He might do it through His Glorious return. Either way, we would be wise to be ready.

In His Hands 10.25.17

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen
(Jude 24–25).
 
The Lord is able to keep us from falling away. He will hold us close and put roadblocks up when needed. The person who has come to Him with sorrow for their sin and a desire to be made new in Christ can be sure that “no one can snatch us from His hand.” The world will tug and tempt but our Lord will strengthen and guard us.
 
How incredible and wonderful are these words: “into his glorious presence WITHOUT A SINGLE FAULT.” Because of Jesus we stand before Him faultless. Does that stagger you? It should. Jesus bore the penalty for ALL our sin. In this world people may constantly point to our failures. We may be labeled by past mistakes. However, before the Lord we stand FAULTLESS.
 
We have no reason to fear the Judgment of God if we are truly in Christ. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it! Thanks be to God!

Hanging On – 10.24.17

 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
 yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17–19).
 
These words conclude the book of Habakkuk. They are words we should hide deep in our hearts and hopefully they will serve as the motto for our lives.
 
Our love for God should be for who God is . . . not because of what He gives us. Were God to give us nothing (other than life itself) He would still be worthy of our devotion and praise.
 
As believers, God has given us much more. He has extended to us a grace that makes us new. He looks beyond our faults to see us as people who are made clean through Christ! That is all the blessing we need! Most of us have received far more than that.
 
The prophet understood that a life lived based on circumstances will be a life that lacks peace, joy, and certainly contentment. The better course is to keep focused on Him and rely on His strength to get through whatever comes our way.

God’s Accounting 10.23.17

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
(Luke 21:3–4).
 
It is a familiar story. People walking by the temple offering container made a big show of their large gifts. A poor woman dropped in a couple of pennies and Jesus commended her as the most generous of all.
 
It is easy to say, “how nice” and move on. Don’t miss the point: God’s accounting system is different than that of this world. God is not impressed with how much you do; He is interested in WHY you are doing it. He is not swayed by the size of your gift; He looks at the sacrificial love that motivates the gift. He is not moved by your talent; He is looking at your faithfulness in following Him.
 
Be careful of drawing conclusions about the value of your (and others) service to the Lord. His view is often vastly different from ours.

Where Are You God? 10.22.17

How long, O LORD, must I call for help?
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
(Habakkuk 1:2).
 
Have you ever wanted to pray this prayer? You ask but nothing happens; you try to do what is right but you are continually frustrated by those who oppose God and seem to be living without a problem. That’s the way Habakkuk prayed. I love his honesty.
 
In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk God taught Habakkuk some things we need to remember. 1) Just because we don’t see God working doesn’t mean He is not working. You may feel God is silent and indifferent to your pleas but . . . what you don’t know is how God is superintending the circumstances of your life for a purpose that is beyond your current understanding.
 
Second, we need to resist drawing conclusions before the conclusion. We are impatient people. Just because God is not responding when and how we want Him to does not mean He is doing nothing.
 
Third, true faith is trusting the character and faithfulness of God even when we do not understand what is happening. I’ve said and written it several times: There are three simple truths that we should remember in times of trial: 1) God is in Control. 2) He loves me 3) He NEVER makes a mistake.

Strength 10.21.17

the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
(1 John 4:4).
 
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life? Have you ever said, “I don’t know if i can do this?” If so, you need to remember this great assurance from God. We do not face the tough circumstances alone! The Holy Spirit is in us and He is stronger than anything Satan can throw at us.
 
There is no situation you cannot overcome! That doesn’t mean everything will turn out the way you want it to turn out, it means such situations will not/cannot defeat the child of God who relies on the Spirit of God.
 
In your weakness, trust His strength. In the storms, look for the rainbow. In time of testing, watch to see what God will do. In the hard times we are able to see just how amazing God truly is.

Forgiving Yourself

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:20).
 
Have you ever said, “If only I could forgive myself . . . ?” Hear the words of this simple yet wonderful verse: We are not forgiven because we FEEL forgiven; we are forgiven because God is merciful. His actions are not tied to our feelings but to His grace. Thanks be to God!
 
God knows if your sorrow and repentance is genuine. He sees beyond your failure to the person He can make you into.
 
Stop living your life by your feelings! Stand on the truth of God’s Word. If the Son sets you free . . . you are really free whether you feel like it or not. Stop punishing yourself for what God has already dealt with. Live in joy and gratitude as one who has turned to Christ as Lord and as Savior and now is forgiven and made new.

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.

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.