The Destination 2.17.18

“set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”
(Colossians 3:1–3).
 
This life would frustrate us much less if we would remember the things of this world are just the sights we see along the road, it is not our final destination.
 
The Christ-follower is being readied for Heaven. Every trial is meant to deepen us. Every situation is an opportunity to tell others about our destination. Every offense is a chance to practice and reflect the forgiveness we ourselves have received.
 
We must remind ourselves constantly that our goal is not a certain income level, the perfect family, or the right kind of possessions. . . our goal is to stand before Jesus and give Him the praise and honor He deserves for saving us and making us new.
 
Sickness makes us long for the wholeness and purification of Heaven. The evil around us reminds us of the lostness of our world. It should spur us to point people to Christ. We do not fret when wrongs are committed against us, for we know there is a righteous Judge who will vindicate those who serve HIm.
 
Keeping our eyes on Heaven allows us to enjoy our time on earth a little bit more.

True Believers 2.16.18

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2:6–7).
 
Being a Christian is not just knowing certain truths. It is not even about simply believing those truths! It is not “having an experience” once. Or even being baptized. Being a true child of God is about following and walking with Christ. It is depending on and trusting Him every day.
 
The true believer allows Christ to change their values, behaviors, and approaches to life. We view people differently. We are more kind, loving and forgiving as Christ builds His character in us.
 
There are many who call themselves Christians who do not follow Christ. These people need to be “saved” from their religious practices. They know the right words. They are religious, but they are not reborn.

Our Strong Tower 2.15.18

The name of the LORD is a strong fortress;
the godly run to him and are safe.
(Proverbs 18:10).
 
Where do you turn in times trial? Your friends, drugs, a bottle? Do you fight back with vicious words or regrettable deeds? The Bible gives us a better alternative: run to, and hide yourself in, the trustworthy character and strength of the Lord.
 
This is not a guarantee that you will not have problems. It is a guarantee of the strength of the Lord to get through those problems. The Lord is bigger than anything you currently face. He is so good and wise He will bring beauty from the ashes. In the worst of times we often see His sufficiency most clearly.
 
Before we can know any of this we must run to Him. He is waiting with His big strong arms open wide.
 

Words 2.14.18

A truly wise person uses few words;
a person with understanding is even-tempered.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
(Proverbs 17:27–28).
 
Do you sometimes feel that some people figure they will keep talking because the odds are: eventually they will say something of value? Has that someone ever been you?
 
There are several reasons it is wise to speak less. 1) we learn a great deal by looking and listening. If you are paying attention to what someone is saying and their body language and the tone of their voice you can speak BETTER words instead of MORE words.
 
2) You will be heard more attentively. The person who speaks all the time (or has to monopolize a conversation) tends to be “tuned out.” Even if they do say something of value they will likely not be heard.
 
3) You will grow spiritually. Ecclesiastes reminds us that when the Lord is in His Holy Temple we should “let our words be few.” we cannot hear the whispers of God if we are always talking.
 
4) You will be less likely to say something inappropriate or share something you should not share.
 
Make some time for quiet. Listen to others. Choose your words carefully. Walk with the wise today.

Seeing Our Motives Clearly 2.13.18

People may be pure in their own eyes,
but the LORD examines their motives.
(Proverbs 16:2).
 
Isn’t it true that we always feel we are the ones who are wronged, misunderstood, and treated unfairly? In our mind we were always simply trying to do what is right. How often we respond to a mess we made saying, “I was only trying to help.”
 
The Lord sees clearly where we are blinded by our own justification. He sees past the lies we tell ourselves. He knows the truth about our motives.
 
This is why it is important to go to God in prayer and ask with all sincerity, “Search my O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
 
Once we have asked, then we must LISTEN and do so willing to confess, repent, and return to the way that is actually pure.

Troublemakers 2.12.18

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife;
gossip separates the best of friends.
(Proverbs 16:28).
 
Troublemakers come in all shapes and sizes.
they relish controversy. They magnify faults, are always looking for something better (including churches), and love to be in the middle of controversy. They may not be the people out front . . . they are often found in the background with a whispering campaign of some sort. Sometimes they are very anti-church; other times they seem like they are on a crusade for the cause of Christ.
 
What sets troublemakers apart are their conversations (mostly critical)and what they leave in their wake (division and controversy).
 
Beware of the troublemakers! If you think such people are your friends . . . they won’t be for long. And if you see that troublemaking spirit in your own heart . . . repent and fervently ask the Lord to transform you into a person who brings people together rather than driving them apart.

The Joy of Humility 2.11.18

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
(Philippians 2:3–5).
 
C.S. Lewis made one of the best statements about humility: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
 
The believer understands two things that balance each other: 1) You are valuable. No matter what we have done, we are loved. Jesus did not come to save good people, He came to save sinful people. Your sin does not surprise Him. He loves you . . . so much that Christ came to give His life to save you.
 
2) The way to find true, meaningful, and satisfying life is to give yourself to others. We are to have the attitude of Christ. HE gave His life for US. Selfish, critical, and arrogant people are not happy people. They go through life with a combative edge. They seem to be happiest when they are tearing down someone else. They see the faults of others but are blind to their own judgmental spirit. That is not the way of Christ! When we care for and give to others, we find joy. We begin to look for the praiseworthy in other people instead of the faults. Life becomes more positive. And you just may find you have a lot more friends as well.

A Way to be Rescued 2.10.18

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth
(John 17:3).
 
Strangely, there are some who are offended by this verse. They declare it narrow-minded to say that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. It is indicative of our sinful nature that we feel we have the right to tell God how He should save us.
 
The good news of these words is this: God HAS PROVIDED A WAY for us to be forgiven and to live even though we die! He sent Christ to pay the penalty we earned for our sin and rebellion. This is great news! We should declare it boldly.
 
If you were a miner stuck in a cave and rescuers drilled a hole to pull you out, would you refuse to go out through the hole because you would rather exit some other way? I don’t think so. You would rejoice that the rescuers had come and you would eagerly take the way provided to get out of the cave. You would not complain, you would be grateful.
 
God has provided a way of salvation. Instead of complaining it would be wise to run to the One who will lead us out of darkness into the light. Thank you Lord for not leaving me in the mess I’ve created!

The War 2.9.18

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12).
 
Life is not easy. What we quickly forget is there is a spiritual battle going on. We don’t see it but we are assaulted on all sides by forces much stronger than we are. . . unless we stand in His strength. We are at war but God has given us everything we need to be victorious.
 
We are proud people. We think we are “strong enough” to handle things. We are mistaken! We must maintain our connection to the Lord diligently. We do this by running to Him for salvation in Christ; by resting in His wisdom and strength; by reminding ourselves that we stand forgiven through Christ and not because of our performance. We must take up the Word of God and build our life on the truth God has given us. We must rely on Him through prayer. We must choose our friends and associates carefully as part of a church family. It is our job to pursue peace rather than to stir up conflict (when we stir up conflict we are doing the Devil’s work for him!) We have the tools we need to stand firm in our faith . . . but we have to use them.
 
Go out in to this new day prepared for the battle.
 

Keeping a Healthy Faith 2.8.18

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. (John 15:4).
 
People get in trouble in their marriages when they stop working at marriage; they start taking their mate for granted and get distracted by other things. They become absorbed with self (my needs, my happiness, etc). If this goes on long enough the relationship dies.
 
Jesus says our relationship with Him is similar. The command to “remain in me” is a call to action. It is something we must work at. Later in this same chapter Jesus tells us obeying (following His direction) is the first step to remaining. We need to give time to the Lord and our relationship with Him if we want to see fruit (Christian character development) in our lives.
 
So, how is your relationship with the Lord? Are you on autopilot? Is your spiritual life on that part of your To Do List you seldom get to? If so, make some changes. Turn off the TV, take off the headphones, put down your phone and other devices. Spend some time talking with the Lord, reading His Word and making the necessary changes n the way you live life.
 
And while you are at it, some of these same principles will also help you have a stronger marriage.

The Antidote to Worry and Fear 2.7.18

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
(John 14:1)

The antidote to fear is faith; the antidote to worry is trust. We live in a stressful world. The more the world gets of our heart, the more we churn. There is a lot of churning going on.

The way to combat this churning is to deepen our trust in the Lord. We must learn to trust His wisdom, His strength, and His love for us. If we really do trust Him, we have nothing to fear or be anxious about.

If your like me, it is a battle over who or what will have greatest influence in my mind. The more we focus on Him . . . the more peace and joy we will know. We can trust Him! The next time you feel the churning inside, run to your Father. Remind yourself of His character, His promises, His strength, His wisdom, and His love. Let His peace wash over you .Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
(John 14:1)Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
(John 14:1)

The antidote to fear is faith; the antidote to worry is trust. We live in a stressful world. The more the world gets of our heart, the more we churn. There is a lot of churning going on.

The way to combat this churning is to deepen our trust in the Lord. We must learn to trust His wisdom, His strength, and His love for us. If we really do trust Him, we have nothing to fear or be anxious about.

If your like me, it is a battle over who or what will have greatest influence in my mind. The more we focus on Him . . . the more peace and joy we will know. We can trust Him! The next time you feel the churning inside, run to your Father. Remind yourself of His character, His promises, His strength, His wisdom, and His love. Let His peace wash over you .
The antidote to fear is faith; the antidote to worry is trust. We live in a stressful world. The more the world gets of our heart, the more we churn. There is a lot of churning going on.

The way to combat this churning is to deepen our trust in the Lord. We must learn to trust His wisdom, His strength, and His love for us. If we really do trust Him, we have nothing to fear or be anxious about.

If your like me, it is a battle over who or what will have greatest influence in my mind. The more we focus on Him . . . the more peace and joy we will know. We can trust Him! The next time you feel the churning inside, run to your Father. Remind yourself of His character, His promises, His strength, His wisdom, and His love. Let His peace wash over you .

The Sins of the Parent 2.6.18

I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”
(Exodus 34:7).
 
The is a troubling passage to many. The point is: sin has a ripple effect. What you do and how you do it effects your children. God allows children to bear the fruit of the choices of their parents. Choices have consequences.
 
A parent sees some of their less than desirable traits picked up by their children. We see the entitlement mentality going on from generation to generation. Negative people tend to have negative children. Parents who are always complaining about churches will often have children who drift away from the church. Consequences.
 
This notion that “these are my choices and what I choose does not effect anyone else” is wrong! Your choices and my choices cause a ripple effect . . . sometimes for generations. The question is: “Will that be a good thing or a bad thing.”

The Way of Wisdom 2.5.18

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom.
Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
(Proverbs 9:10).
 
Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. You can have a wagon full of degrees and not have wisdom.
 
Solomon says fear, respect, reverence for God (think about the respect you have for a policeman with a radar gun) is the place where wisdom begins. The Lord is the One who makes sense of life. He brings all knowledge together. He helps us see purpose in living. As se learn to honor and submit to Him, we will grow in wisdom.
 
So, if you want to be wise, spend a little less time on social media and watching television . . . instead, open your Bible and talk with the Lord. He is the One you have been looking for all along.

Why do bad things happen? 2.4.18

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. (Ephesians 1:11).
 
The fact that God makes everything work out according to His plan does not mean God has caused everything that happens. God gives us (and everyone else) freedom. True freedom brings real consequences. Some of these consequences are very painful.
 
God promises that nothing will thwart His purpose for those who belong to Him. God, in His incredible wisdom, takes what others meant for evil and turns it into something that leads us closer to Him.
 
When you are driving, your GPS has the destination stored. However, if there is a detour, or you miss a turn, you don’t blame the GPS, you trust it to recalculate. In a sense God does that with our lives. He will lead us home no matter how many detours our path takes.
 
So in the confusing and painful times, don’t panic. Don’t despair. Trust Him.

When a Brother Fails 2.3.18

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. (Galatians 6:1).
 
Generally when someone says, “I want to say something to you in love . . . ” they are about to blast away at you. Other people love to kick a person who is down by trumpeting the perceived faults to others.
 
Paul says we should try to help, but we should do it GENTLY and HUMBLY. The humble part starts with realizing that we too could fall into the same sin. We are to be gentle because that is what love does. We must not follow the pattern of the world (scold, shame, judge). Our goal is not to make ourselves look better . . . it is to help our brothers and sisters in Christ grow.

Led by the Spirit 2.2.18

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. (Galatians 5:25–26).
 
If we are a believer we have been given the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. A true believer is trying to follow the Spirit in their life. The Holy Spirit works to build in us the character traits of God’s Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). He is also leading us to love, serve, and support one another.
 
The Spirit does not lead us into sin. He wants to cultivate in us a spirit of humility and gratitude; He wants us to work together, support each other, and stop picking at each other. The critical person, the one who is tearing down others (often saying, “I’m just telling it the way it is”); the one relishing controversy is NOT being led by the Spirit.

Light in the Darkness 2.1.18

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).
 
The Bible describes those apart from Christ as “people walking in darkness”. Darkness is disorienting. It is dangerous. And we can be injured by obstacles unseen. The darkness apart from Christ is a darkness of the soul.
 
Jesus offers us a better way. Through His Word He guides our path. He “turns on the light” in our soul so we see what life is meant to be. He does not light all the path at once. That would likely overwhelm us. He reveals enough of the path so we can keep moving forward. We walk, confident that the way of the Lord is wisdom. Where He leads is where I want to go.
 
Read His Word. Do what He tells us to do. Let the faith adventure begin!

Keeping Our Focus 1.31.18

Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.
Don’t get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil.
(Proverbs 4:25–27).
 
Following Christ takes focus. To often we get distracted by what is behind us. The past cannot be changed. We must confess our sin and move on. We must forgive the sin of others and keep moving forward. You probably know many who can’t go forward because they are anchored to the past.
 
At other times we can be distracted by what is going on around us: what others have that we don’t. If you choose to compare yourself with others, you will always be able to justify your sin and/or find someone who makes you feel like you are being “cheated in life.
 
The way to true life and genuine discipleship is to keep your eyes on Jesus. Trust His provision for your life. Rely on His goodness. Live to please Him. Do what He tells you in His Word. Joy in living comes when we embrace what is before us and keep our eyes on the finish line and the open arms of the Savior who waits for us.

An Often Overlooked Treasure 1.30.18

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).
 
Have you stopped to think about the grace of God? We are rebellious, yet He loves us. We are stained with sin and have earned Hell but He sent Christ to die in our place. We are weak and often act selfishly and foolishly, yet, He has given us His Spirit to guide us and to build His character in us. His grace is staggering.
 
We treat the grace of God as meaningless when we act like it is nothing; when we treat it as an entitlement rather than a precious gift. We treat it as nothing when we make it merely an academic discussion. We treat it as meaningless when there is no change of direction in our lives; when we speak of Him as Lord but do not follow Him.
 
Have you considered the overwhelming beauty of God’s grace?

A Great New Day 1.29.18

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).
 
Here is some good news to start a new day: when we repent of our sin and run to Christ as our Rescuer and King we will be granted forgiveness, we will NEVER be condemned (because Jesus was punished for our sin) and we have ALREADY passed from death to life.
 
Following Christ is not just about what happens when we die. It changes us and enriches our lives right NOW.
 
Stop shuffling your feet! Cease looking over your shoulder afraid someone will learn your secrets. If you are a genuine Christ-follower you are forgiven and made new! You have a new purpose and destiny. You are loved. It is time to dance and sing for Christ has set us free!

Living Water 1.28.18

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
(John 4:13–14)
 
30 years ago we would have scoffed at the idea of people selling water in bottles. Now, there are many brands of water. Some is infused with vitamins, some have flavors, some is ph balanced. Many people have a strong preference in bottled water.
 
Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman about water. Yet, He is not really talking about water. She was surprised that He (a Jew) asked her (a Samaritan . . . Jews and Samaritans were like the Jews and Palestinians today) for a drink of water. Jesus said if she knew who He was she would ask Him for living water (new and eternal life as a child of God).
 
This new life is the only thing that will truly satisfy. Bottled water needs to be re-purchased again and again. Salvation comes when we turn from our old life and embrace Christ as Savior and Lord. You don’t have to keep getting re-saved. This new life continues to refresh every day. The word for “bubbling spring” is the word used to describe a person who was lame who now can leap because they have been healed. What a great picture of life with Christ!
 
Jesus says to you at the start of this day: “Are you thirsty?” Drink deep. Be refreshed by His love, grace and mercy.

The Bottom Line 1.27.18

And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
(John 3:36).
 
There is a deadly assumption that everyone goes to Heaven when they die. The idea being: God is loving and would send no one to Hell. The Bible (and Jesus) say that is not true. We choose Hell by turning away from Him. If we refuse to submit to His rule in our lives, we are choosing to walk the road to judgment.
 
Read the text again. What does it mean to believe in God’s Son? It means doing what He said. We show our true belief by the choices we make. You cannot do what He says if you are not reading His Word. You will tend to get a warped sense of the gospel (and think you are quite fine on your own) without the fellowship of a church family. But . . . there are plenty of people going through the motions; pretending to be Christ-followers. God is not fooled.
 
Compare your life to the commands of God’s Word. Are you obeying or are you just pretending? Here is why you need to ask the question: It matters. Big time.

True Truth

“You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor. (Exodus 23:1–3).
 
The evidence of faith is practical. God is the God of truth. He wants us to be characterized the same way.
 
The term “truth” has become somewhat slippery today. Some consider “truth” to be whatever is advantageous to them. They slant everything to make themselves look good. This is NOT truth.
 
Be a person who values, respects and speaks “true truth”. Take God’s Word as truth that does not change because of feelings or circumstances. Be attentive to distortions, exaggeration and outright lies. Remove these things from your life. Honor the Lord as the God of Truth.

And the Winner is . . . 1.25.18

When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them. (2 Corinthians 10:18).

It seems like every week there is a different awards show airing on television. It is a time for people to applaud and rank each other. (I’m not a fan!) People spend their lives trying to be the best, the biggest, and the most powerful. But all of this is short-sighted. How we measure up to each other will mean little in the end.

We should be living our lives for the “audience of One”. The award we should crave is the “well done” from the Lord. The world may throw us a parade, but if our name is not written in the book of life as one who genuinely repented, and then embraced, trusted and followed Christ, all the awards, accolades, and news clippings will amount to nothing.

Live today as one pursuing the only award that matters: bring honor to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

A Living Faith 1.24.18

“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!       (Luke 24:5–6).

Sometimes we look at Jesus the same way we look at George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. We see Him as a great man whom we admire and remember. When we do this, we are looking for Jesus among the dead. The thing that sets the Christian faith apart from all others is the fact that our Lord is not buried but has risen!
 
We serve a living Savior! Jesus is not a detached historical figure, He is the Lord who walks with you and me every day. Battle the tendency to view the Christian faith as an academic subject to master. He lives and wants to have a vibrant and intimate relationship with you. Embrace Him. Enjoy Him. Follow Him. Give thanks to Him and for HIm.

The Core Principle of Giving

They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do. (2 Corinthians 8:5).
 
Paul was talking to the Corinthians about being generous with others and in their giving to the Lord. In this verse he states the most important underlying principle: the first thing we must do it give OURSELVES to the Lord.
 
It is easier to write a check or do some act of kindness. We can (and should) do these things, but at times, we do them as our way of “getting God off of our back”.
 
Start this day by giving yourself to the Lord to use you as He sees fit. Surrender to His will. Act as His agent of mercy and grace to those around you. Be ready to share the good news of the gospel with all who will listen.
 
Surrendering to the Lord sounds like defeat but it is actually the door to joy, freedom and eternal and abundant life.

the Prayer of Faith 1.22.18

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
(Luke 22:42).
 
This is such a simple prayer from our Lord. It shows us that the prayer of faith is the one where we rest in the wisdom of the Father . . . even when life is desperately hard.
 
Jesus is honest with the Father. As a fully human man He asks if there is another way to accomplish the work of saving people. He is not looking forward to the physical pain, the emotional pain and the spiritual alienation He will face as He bore our sin. But in the end, He affirms His trust in the will, plan, kindness, and goodness of God.
 
Is this a prayer for you today? Is there pain you wish He would simply remove (would you like to register for a different class?) Are you willing to rest in His wisdom, confident of His love and the strength He will give for the time of trial?
 
This is NOT a weak prayer! It s a prayer of great faith: “Lord, I trust You even if I don’t understand or don’t like what is happening in my life. Circumstances may be rotten but you are good, and gracious, and loving. I will follow where you lead me.”

Billboards of Grace 1.21.18

We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. (2 Corinthians 6:6).
 
Paul pointed to the consistency and character of his life as evidence of His genuine relationship with God. His goal was to do nothing that would detract from the gospel.
 
Can you say that? Does your life point people TO Christ or turn them AWAY from Him? Is there evidence of the fruit of God’s Spirit in the way you live?
 
If you are like me, you want desperately to be consistent and authentic in the way you live. At the same time, you know you still carry around remnants of the sinful nature.
 
“O Lord, continue your work in us! Purify our hearts and lives so we glorify you in all we do. Pour out your Spirit and wash over us so we may prove your greatness before a watching world.”

Holding Each Other Up 1.20.18

Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
(Exodus 17:12–13).
 
The children of Israel had left Egypt and then were attacked by the Amalekites. Joshua went into battle and Moses stood on a hill and raised the staff of God. Whenever Moses raised his hands, the power of God fought with/for Israel. If he put his hands down the Amalekites gained an advantage (the lesson: we can only overcome in the Lord’s strength).
 
Today’s verses show what happened when Moses had no strength to lift his arms. Isn’t this a picture of how we are supposed to help each other? When one of us is weak, we need others to “lend us strength”. I hope you have experienced this in your life.
 
Look for someone you can encourage today. Hold their arms up (figuratively speaking) so God can work in/through them. And if you are the one who is tired and find it hard to go on, look for a good Christian friend who can lend you some of their strength. Together we can stand strong in the Lord.

Choices 1.19.18

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:18).
 
Every day we have a choice: we can dwell on the problems or we can celebrate the blessings. We can whine or we can give thanks. It IS a choice.
 
Start this day by recalling what God has given to us in Christ: forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, the promise of eternal life; access to Him through prayer, the Bible as a guidebook, the armor of God and much much more. Thank Him for your friends, for music, for your church, for worship, for authors who enrich our lives. Thank Him for the home you have, the job you’ve been given, the beauty of nature . . . .
 
How will you live this day? Will you live it feeling deprived and cheated, or as one who is richly blessed? The choice is yours.

Childlike Faith 1.18.18

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
(Luke 18:16–17).
 
Childlike and childish are not the same thing. We are to come to God with childlike faith.
 
Think about a child: They take your hand and walk, trusting the one who leads. They watch and listen and try to imitate what they see and hear. They express their needs. They sleep without worry. They look at life with a sense of wonder. They love to crawl up on your lap. And they believe what you say. They are present in the moment. Their faith is pure and simple.
 
We are called to come to God with this kind of simple faith. We are to love Him and work to be like Him. It’s not at all complicated, if we just had the faith of a child.

Stand Still 1.17.18

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. (Exodus 14:13).
 
The Hebrews (Jews) left Egypt with Moses. They were following the Lord but now felt penned in. The Egyptians were behind them and the Red Sea was in front of them. They started to panic. That would have been our first choice as well.
 
Some wanted to surrender. Others were resigned to death. Still others probably wanted to make a run for it. The advice of Moses is good for all of us…..”Stand Still and watch the Lord.”
 
Are you in one of those situations today? Instead of coming up with schemes to “fix” things, turn to the Lord and WAIT for His direction. Trust His competency and His strength. Rely on His wisdom. Pay attention. He is really good at those things we call impossible.
 
The Hebrews trusted God and He made a way . . . right through the sea! Just because we don’t see a way through our circumstances doesn’t mean there is no way. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Comfort 1.16.18

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
(2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
 
Life has its challenges. There are losses, disappointments, personal attacks, health issues, work pressures and more. Paul says the Lord is the source of ALL comfort. No matter what your heartache the Lord is the One that helps us endure and grow. To take example of this comfort we must walk with Him every moment of every day.
 
Paul says God’s comfort is purposeful. He is teaching us how to comfort others. Hardships soften us. We see clearly that we are broken people in need of God’s amazing grace. What we learn by walking with God in the crucible makes us more compassionate. When you need a friend, look for someone who has been through the fire themselves.

Picking Your Friends 1.15.18

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
(Luke 15:1–2).

Have you ever walked into a church or gathering and thought “What are they doing here?” or maybe even said, “If people like this are attending this church, I don’t want to be part of it?” If so, you were acting just like the Pharisees.

The Bible warns us not to be conformed to the world. We are not to follow the pattern of non-Christians BUT . . . we ARE to build relationships with unbelievers. We should look for the opportunity to have spiritual conversations. It is impossible to reach unbelievers with the gospel if you never associate with them.

If you don’t have any non-Christian friends . . . you should make some. If people criticize you for associating with them just tell them that you are following the example of Jesus.

Beliefs and Consequences 1.14.18


For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.
(1 Corinthians 15:13–14).
 
Paul is making a logical argument in this verse and the verses around it. To those who say “we live, we die, and that’s it” Paul points out they are therefore also denying the resurrection of Jesus (and the evidence presented by Paul in the chapter.) This is a good time to ask, “What evidence do you have that the testimony of the resurrection is not true?” If you deny the resurrection, you deny the gospel and all hope of forgiveness and new life. Beliefs have consequences. And this issue has eternal consequences.
 
Turn this around: if you DO believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, what impact is that belief making in your life? Have you turned from sin and run to Christ? Are you serving Him or just giving Him lip service? Are you playing at faith (when it is convenient) or are you following Him as true Lord and King.
 
What you REALLY believe will show itself by the way you live your life. Real faith will bring about a real change.

The Way of Wisdom 1.13.18

 

And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’ ”
(Job 28:28).

Our instinct tells us wisdom is doing what helps us “fit in” with the crowd. We think of wisdom as doing what will help us get along with others. That is not wisdom! The crowd will keep changing what it wants. It will lead us down roads that lead only to trouble and heartache.

Job understood what is affirmed throughout the Bible: wisdom starts with our relationship with God. The wise person has learned to respect the unwavering character of God and they trust the counsel of God. When He tells us what we should do, the wise obey and follow His direction.

O God, help us to trust you above all others. Help us to trust you as much as we trust our GPS, our financial advisors, our favorite celebrities, and even the newscasters. You are greater and more reliable than all of those things combined. Help us to follow You without hesitation. Help us to be wise rather than foolish.

Exposed 1.12.18

Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!
(Luke 12:3).
 
As you read the verses that precede these words you see Jesus was speaking about hypocrisy. This is when you present yourself one way to people but are really something quite different (think of the person who acts like your friend but is really tearing you apart behind your back).
 
The Lord says such people will be exposed for what they really are. Their hypocrisy will be made known in public.
 
Following Christ is not about the show we are able to put on before others . . . it is about who we REALLY are . . . who we are when no one else is looking. Strive to be a person of integrity, grace, and kindness all the time so when our secret words are exposed everyone will see that we are consistent when people are looking and even when they are not. Serve Him, not public opinion.

Faith in Practice 1.11.18

“But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
(Luke 11:28).
 
The Word of God is God speaking to us. The Word is the authority on which we build our lives. However, merely learning the Word and memorizing the Word is not enough. True faith is acting on the Word. It is doing what it says even when (especially when) it is hard. When we obey we are set free and made new.
 
It is likely there is some command you know but don’t want to obey (forgive, serve, give, love someone difficult, honor your parents, or even follow through on your marriage commitment). This is where your faith is being tested. Dare to truly trust God by obeying. Following the Lord’s commands is NEVER the wrong move.

Too Busy 1.10.18

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41–42).
 
Martha and Mary were sisters (Lazarus was their brother). Jesus came for dinner and Martha was busy making sure the meal was perfect. She spent her time in the kitchen desiring to make things perfect for Jesus. Mary sat and listened to Jesus. Martha became frustrated that her sister was not in the kitchen helping and she complained to Jesus. His response is above.
 
Are you so busy doing things FOR Jesus that you have no time to spend WITH Jesus? If so, it is time to re-think what is most important. Get off the treadmill of activity. Be still before the Lord. Open His Word. Spend time in His presence. Real life is found in Him.

Your Spiritual W-2 1.9.18

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?
(Luke 9:25).
 
People often make the mistake of living for the moment. They give no real thought to the consequences of their choices. They work hard to experience more pleasure, get more stuff, and gain more influence. But that is very short-sighted. These things give momentary satisfaction, but they do not prepare us for eternity. They provide nothing for enduring the hard times of life.
 
The better course is to build a spiritual foundation for your life. This will help you make choices that are eternal in perspective.
 
As you look at your year-end IRA reports and get your tax information together ask this question again and again: “What spiritual dividends do I have?” “What am I investing in the care of my soul and in preparing for eternity?”

Telling your Story 1.8.18

So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:37–39)
 
This man had experienced a wonderful healing. He wanted to stay with Jesus but he had a job to do. The Lord told him to tell others about the great things Jesus had done in his life. This is the same thing He wants us to do.
 
Sharing our faith starts with sharing our story. It is telling others what God has done in our lives. You may not have had demons cast out or your body healed, but if you are in Christ, you have been forgiven and made new. Isn’t that alone worth sharing with others?
 
Look for ways to share your story today. Let people know of the power of Christ to change a life. Perhaps your story will lead them to let Christ change their life too.

Helping the Grieving 1.7.18

How can your empty clichés comfort me?
All your explanations are lies!” (Job 21:34).
 
The book of Job can teach us a great deal about grief. It shows us good ways to relate to grieving people (when Job’s friends just sat and wept with him) and bad ways of handling grief. Unfortunately, most of Job shows us how NOT to help someone grieving.
 
Jobs friends were quick to try to explain why bad things happened to Job. They concluded he must have done bad things because “bad things don’t happen to good people.” But Job argued . . . “Of course they do!” and, he said, “Lots of evil people live trouble free lives and lots of good people suffer.”
 
We tend to offer empty cliches when talking with someone who is crushed by grief. We express poor theology (“Heaven now has another angel” . . . people don’t become angels when they die”). And sometimes we are quick to blame someone (all that does is channel grief into anger). The best thing to do is simply share the pain of another person. The rule is pretty simple: “Talk less, be present more. Pray often.”
 
There is a great deal of grief in La Harpe right now. We will navigate through this by walking together, loaning strength to each other in weak times, and listening, and giving lots of support. We will draw the most strength from the Lord who “sticks closer than a brother’ (Prov. 18:24)

Christ as Lord 1.6.18

So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? (Luke 6:4).
 
Instinctively we seem to think that God’s commands are suggestions, or they are short-sighted. In our arrogance we think we have more information and can better determine what is best for us. That is why we get in trouble!
 
God’s commands are designed to enrich our life; to show us how we were meant to live. We think commands to: forgive, love, serve, honor marriage, put God first, gather for worship, and turn to Him for wisdom are archaic. In truth, they are the way to enjoy life and to have an impact on others.
 
It’s a good question: Why pretend to be a follower of Christ if you aren’t going to do what He tells us to do?

A Hard Day 1.5.18

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).
 
Faith is trusting the character of God even when the wonderful blessings of God seem absent. It is tenaciously hanging on, even when it would be easier to walk away.
 
This is one of those times for our community. This is one hard day. It is tempting to be furious and blame all kinds of people. It is easy to blame God. But it is better to embrace each other and hold on to the One who holds on to us. God is faithful even when we don’t understand the “whys” of life.

Strength in Hard Times 1.4.17

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:8–10).

In this time of unfathomable wickedness and tragedy in La Harpe, the Lord must be our anchor. In the midst of devastation we look for ways to demonstrate love. In this time when it seems life makes no sense, we trust the One who reigns over us to bring something of value from an act that is so senseless.

May the life of Jesus continue to shine through us. May His hands continue to work thorough us to prop up this family. May He open our eyes to the treasures of life we too often take for granted. And may we see once again that in the chaos of our world the Lord gives a strength the world cannot explain.

True Faith 1.3.18

 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. (Luke 3:8).
 
These are the words of John the Baptist. He spoke to fellow Jews who were confident they were a part of God’s family because they were Jewish. They are like those who believe they are Christians because they go to church or live in America.
 
John reminds us that the true evidence of our relationship with God is the way we live our lives. Have we turned from sin? Do we seek God’s direction and then follow it? Do we honor God with our words, our heart, and our actions. This is the evidence that we have faith.
 
Take a good look in the mirror. Do you profess faith or do you possess faith? You will know by taking a look at the last few weeks of your life. If you don’t see evidence of faith it is time to turn, confess your sin and head in the direction of Christ.

The Leader We Need 1.2.18

The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,*
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs
(Genesis 49:10).
 
We spend a great deal of time debating politics. Who will better lead our land, the Democrats or Republicans?However for a Christian, our hope is not in a political party. The scepter has already been given to the One who is the true and faithful ruler. Jesus is our King. He is the one in whom we put our hope.
 
Examine the issues. Think critically. Vote wisely. But remember this: we have no King but Jesus! He is our Ruler. He is the One who possesses all wisdom. He is the only One who can overcome the wickedness of this world. Give you allegiance to the true King.

Intelligent Words 1.1.18

Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:4–5).
 
The most intelligent or clever words in the world cannot do what the simple whisper of God’s Spirit can do. WE cannot bring anyone to faith . . . the Holy Spirit must do this.
 
Don’t fret about the words you will say when telling others about Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit speak through you. Simple words, at the right time, can make an eternal difference.

The Smug Christian 12.31.17

Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”
(1 Corinthians 1:30–31).
 
A self-righteous Christian is someone who is not really a follower of Christ! They may be wonderful in their performance of religious things; they may even have great knowledge. However, if they believe they have earned their salvation, they have misunderstood the gospel.
 
Salvation is Christ’s work! It is an undeserved act of astounding grace. We cannot earn it, we can only receive it with humility, gratitude, and faith.
 
If you are going to boast about something, boast about God’s staggering goodness and grace. Drop the arrogant smugness and come in simple faith. True grace brings you to your knees in gratitude and softens your heart.

Old People 12.30.17

Wisdom belongs to the aged,
and understanding to the old.
 
“But true wisdom and power are found in God;
counsel and understanding are his.
(Job 12:12–13).
 
As a society we foolishly tend to dismiss or marginalize the elderly. We feel they are out of touch because they lack technological savvy. We are missing a huge treasure when we think this way. The wisdom of experience is something you can’t learn from books or obtain from a Google search.
 
Pay attention today to those who have the wisdom of the years. Ask some questions: “What is the most important thing you have learned in life?” “What is the most valuable spiritual truth you’ve learned?” “What would you like to say to our current society?” Ask about living through World War II, Korea and Viet Nam. Ask about Watergate and much much more. Each answer should be followed with follow-up questions. Then, listen very very carefully. What you learn can save you from a great deal of heartache in the future. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself longing for more of these conversations.

Accept One Another 12.29.17

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. (Romans 15:7).
 
Paul is talking about Christians accepting Christians. We are to view each other as we view our siblings. They are not perfect, but we love them. They may aggravate us at times but if they need something we will be there. We may be critical on occasion but we won’t let anyone else be critical without us standing in their defense.
 
Imagine what it would be like if Christians acted this way instead of the constant criticism, competition, and conflict. People would be better able to see Jesus because we would stop getting in the way!

Thought Police 12.28.17

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong
(Romans 14:1).
 
Do you get the feeling sometimes that Christians are just looking for a reason to fight? Apparently, that is not new. It was also happening in Paul’s day.
 
The principle here is: our job is not to beat each other up. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss issues of disagreement; it does mean we shouldn’t make them as big of a deal as we do. Too often we are not arguing about truth; we simply want to show people that we are right and they are wrong and they should acknowledge our superiority.
 
If you read further in the text, Paul tells the church the most important thing is not that we agree on every issue . . . it is that we are serving the Lord with a heart that is fully devoted to Him. And that is something we can all work on together.

Christianity Seen 12.27.17

For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
(Romans 13:9–10).
 
Do you want to know where you really are spiritually? Don’t look at just your Bible knowledge . . . look at how well you are loving. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
 
Do I listen to people before I make judgments about them? Do I give help when someone is in need of assistance or do I merely tell them I will pray for them? Do I engage in gossip? Do I share information that was given to me confidentially? Do I try to build others up through encouragement or do I always talk about myself? Do I lead people to Jesus who alone can bring them forgiveness and new life?
 
Love is Christian faith applied. It treats others the way Jesus did: with respect. How you love will tell you more about your faith than a theology exam.

Christmas is over . . . or is it? 12.26.17

I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1).
 
We are a strange people . . . we spend months planning for a wedding ceremony and very little time preparing for the marriage. We require more training to drive a car than to be a parent. We are focused on the moment but give little consideration to the repercussions of these decisions on the future.
 
We have spent weeks (for some months) preparing for for the celebration of Christmas. But now what? We have declared the love of God and celebrated the gifts He gives. Do we simply put the decorations away until next year? Is this the end of Christmas? If this is the end of Christmas you have missed the point entirely!
 
Paul reminds us that in light of what God has done for us we should respond by giving ourselves to this One who came to save us. The celebration of Christmas should lead us to run to His grace and receive the life He came to give us. It should lead us to serve Him more enthusiastically, care for one another more passionately, and realign our values with His. Christmas, rightly understood, should change our lives and not simply be packed in a box for next year.

It’s Christmas! 12.25.17

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
 
34 For who can know the LORD’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?
 
36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33–36).
 
Today we celebrate the amazing grace, mercy, kindness, love, forgiveness, tenderness, compassion, and new life of God. Let us do so with stunned reflection, unbridled joy, and with a new heart that is done with reckless disregard for God and others. Embrace your family, your friends, and draw near to God. New life is available because of Jesus! O Come, Let us adore Him!

Becoming a True Follower of Christ 12.24.17

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. (Romans 10:9–10).
 
Christ came into the world at Christmas to personally invite us to be part of His family. He offers us forgiveness and a clean heart. It is a wonderful expression of mercy and grace.
 
He invites you to receive the gift, but do so genuinely. That means you must recognize its value and your helplessness without Him. You must recognize Jesus as your Savior and as your Lord and King. Paul said if you really mean it, you will tell others. And best of all . . . you will be His forever!
 
Make this the best Christmas ever by celebrating the true gift of Christmas: forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ the Lord and King!

When Life Seems Unfair 12.23.17

So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love.
(Genesis 39:20–21).
 
Jospeh was a victim. He was sold as a slave by his brothers; he became an Egyptian servant, and then he was thrown into prison on trumped up charges. It would be easy to conclude that God was punishing Joseph. Instead we are told: “The Lord was with Joseph.”
 
Joseph didn’t know it at the time but God was putting him into a position where he could save his entire family!
 
Joseph was faithful and served God in each of these circumstances even though he was put there unjustly. That is the lesson for us: even in hard times; even when we are being treated unfairly, we continue to live lives of integrity and look for ways to serve God right where we are. Instead of complaining, we would be better off to look for opportunities.
 
God is at work even in the times when think He has turned away.

Wh Can Be Against Us? 12.22.17

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31).
 
The point is not that we will have no enemies or antagonists. The point is no one can defeat us as long as we remain close to the Lord. To put it another way, we may get knocked down but we will not get knocked out if we remain close to the Lord.
 
Since this is true, our response to the tough times of life should always be the same . . . run to Him rather than away from Him. Put it in His hands rather than trying to “fix” things on your own.
 
Jesus came to Bethlehem to show us how to make our way home in the most God honoring and life altering way. He came to change the quality of our life. Let Him.

Responsible Bible Reading 12.21.17

For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. (Mark 7:8–9).
 
There is an ever-present danger of using God’s Word to support our desires and prejudices rather than using the Bible to correct our wrong thinking. People have used the Bible to support slavery, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, the second class status of women, snake-handling, all sorts of wacky ideas about worship, and much much more. None of these things are taught in the Bible.
 
We must read the Bible attentively, carefully, and consistently The Bible must be read in context and in light of the other passages of the Bible (the Bible will not contradict itself . . . if it seems to do so, you are not understanding it right.) Of course, we also must read the Bible regularly. The more you read the more accurate picture you will get.
 
Why read the Bible? It points to Jesus. He is the One who saves us and makes us new. If you want to know Him, you need to read His Word.

Through it All 12.20.17

His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”  But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. (Job 2:9–10).
 
Job was an example of a faithful man. He trusted God regardless of His circumstances. He trusted God’s wisdom and God’s character. He concluded that there is a reason for everything . . including the hard things.
 
Are you going through one of those hard times now? Trust God’s character and learn from your circumstances. See the hard times as a difficult but required class and learn everything you can. This is an opportunity to deepen your faith.
 
Andre Crouch wrote these words a long time ago: “So I thank God for the mountains and I thank Him for the valleys and I thank Him for the storms He’s brought me through. For if I never had a problem I would never know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. So, through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” Yes, hard times are opportunities . . . don ‘t squander them.

A Reason to Celebrate! 12.19.17

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
(Romans 5:10–11).
 
When a person comes to Jesus and surrenders to Him and trusts Him fully, they become friends with God. Whether we realize it or not, before this time we were living as enemies of God, refusing to submit to Him.
 
When we are friends of God we 1) we become certain of our salvation. 2) We live with joy because of our new relationship.
 
Are you rejoicing today? As someone has said: “The Christian life is one of joy . . . and we ought to let our faces know this!” You can focus on difficult circumstances or you can focus on God’s astounding grace. You can fix your thoughts on overwhelming demands and responsibilities and fret or you can fix your thoughts on Him . . . and dance.
 
Turn up the music! It is time to celebrate.
 

Forgiveness 12.18.17

When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. (Romans 4:4–5).
 
The gospel is Good News! It announces that God forgives sinful people like you and me. Stop and let that sink in . . . the past that haunts you; the decisions which were foolish; and the desires that enslave you, are all paid for by Christ!
 
There is a condition: we must have faith in God. In other words we must believe what He says. We must embrace the One who came to make us right with God. We must come to the manger and see not a baby, but a redeemer. We must recognize Him not only as the son of Mary and Joseph but even more as the Lord of all Creation.
 
Christmas is the story of God’s rescue plan. It is a story where YOU are one of the main characters; the object of His affection and grace. It is amazing, astounding and more wonderful than words can express. O come, let us adore Him!

Inconsistent Followers; Consistent God 12.17.17

True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. (Romans 3:3–4).
 
Sometimes Christians behave in ways that aren’t very Christian. There are times we are not as loving, gracious, consistent, or holy as we should be. There are times when anger gets the best of us. Sometimes we act in petter and selfish ways. We are all in the process of growing. There are good days and bad days.
 
Christians may be inconsistent but God NEVER is. He is ALWAYS true to His Word, He will ALWAYS be there with us and for us. He is PERFECT in holiness and abounding in grace, mercy and peace. You can ALWAYS trust Him. He doesn’t have bad days, He is NEVER grumpy.
 
Don’t turn away from the One who loves you because of His followers. The adage is true: I am not what I should be, but thank God, I am not what I used to be either.

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.
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