Never Alone 9.24.17

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

THE Decision 9.23.17

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

Time to Come Home 9.22.18

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

Unity 9.21.17

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

Strength for a New Day 9.20.17

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

Building on the Right Foundation 9.19.17

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

Going Against Our Instinct 9.18.17

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

Help! 9.17.17

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

The Pattern of the World 9.16.17

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

Sacrifice? Who me? 9.15.17

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

Confident 9.14.17

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

Reading the Manual 9.13.17

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

Hard Times 9.12.17

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

Exercise 9.11.17

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

Overmatched? 9.10.17

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

Bad News 8.9.17

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

Gratitude 8.8.17

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

9.7.17 Do Good

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

9.6.17 Choices

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

Wisdom 9.5.17

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

Responding Appropriately 9.4.17

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

Facing the Furnace! 8.3.17

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

Love Each Other 9.2.17

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

When You Feel You Can’t Go On -Sept 1

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

True Belief – August 31

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

The Love of God 8.30.17

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

8.29.17

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

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

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

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

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

A New Week . . . 8.28.17

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

Christ in Us 8.27.17

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

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

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

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

Strength 8.26.17

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

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

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

The Past 8.25.17

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

Complaining

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

Representing Jesus 8-23-17

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

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

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

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

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

8.22.17 Your To Do List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.20.17 A Prescription for Christlikeness

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.19.17

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

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

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

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

8.18.17

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

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

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

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

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

His Strength 8.17.17

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

When Others Fall 8.16.17

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

Freedom 8.15.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness 8.14.17

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

Devotion 8.13.17

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

Devotion 8.12.17

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

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

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

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

Devotion 8.11.17

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

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

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

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

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

Devotional 8.10.17

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

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

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

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

8.9.17 Devotional

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

Discernment

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

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

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

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

“I don’t need the church”

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

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

Here are some reasons

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

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

Spiritual Discipline

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

A devotional thought from 1 Corinthians

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

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

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

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

Different Kinds of Churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NEWEST Book!

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

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

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

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

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

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