Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."
Over the course of a lifetime, an oak tree goes through many changes. If the roots of that tree are deeply grounded, it will sustain health and growth through its seasons of change.
I remember when our church first moved to what is now our current church property. Because we purchased an empty lot, some of our first steps were to plant trees along the roadside to make the campus more lifelike. Often, today, when I pull onto our church campus and see those, I remember how they were only the size of little bushes when I first planted them. The trees have changed form and size, yet the DNA of those trees remain the same.
People don't like the word "change" for the most part, but in reality, everything that's growing is changing. As we enter a new year, we desire growth and change in different areas of our lives. We must be careful, however, to obey God's instruction in Colossians 2 to remain rooted in Christ. As we grow, we should keep the same foundation-the same root beliefs.
You may encounter various changes this year. You may change jobs, change homes, change cities, or even welcome a new member to your family this year. Whatever change or growth is to come, remember that the foundation of truth remains the same.
Root yourself in God's truths and determine to remain grounded in them through any life changes. Root yourself in Bible reading, Scripture memory, church attendance, prayer, witnessing, and other godly activities. As God commands, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." God desires that you would walk with Him this new year no matter what changes you face.
Changes will come this new year. Some will be good, some may be more challenging; but as you stay rooted in Christ and His Word, you can remain faithful through any change you experience.
"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love."
Things are changing in our world. Every morning when you turn on the news changes are evident, and many times volatile. The stock market swings, sometimes dropping even thousands of points at a time. Governments are being overthrown, wars are being fought on nearly every continent, economies are failing, and scandals are rampant among our political leaders.
It's safe to say that our world is in a state of unrest. While the world's hope in leaders and systems is being uprooted, our hope in Jesus and His Word is still as strong as ever.
Ephesians 3 gives us a look at the root system we have through Christ, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love." God desires that even as this world changes and the systems of man fail, we will remain stable through faith in Him.
What governs your life? Take a minute to consider that question. Is your life a roller coaster-happy one day, down the next? Although we all have times of joy and sadness, God desires to stabilize our lives and keep us rooted in Him.
We have the promise that no matter what happens in the world, no matter how bad the news may be, God has everything in control. Don't become so wrapped up in the news of this world that you let it affect your stability. Remain confident that God's will is being done, and remain faithful to studying His Word and walking with Him.
This world will change in the year ahead. We don't know what is to come, but we can be confident that God is still Lord and through faith in Him and faithfulness to His commands, our lives can remain stable in the new year.
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
Many of us have plants, flowers, and other living things decorating our homes. While some people are good at cultivating live plants, others know they're better off with fake plants that require no attention.
A fake plant has no real life. It doesn't require nourishment or feeding and doesn't take much upkeep. It looks nice on the outside, but there are no roots or depth to it. A fake plant won't survive a harsh storm, but a rooted plant will have the depth to revive after nature's fury.
As we enter another year, we've seen that changes will come. Storms are part of all of our lives. One thing that will help us stay rooted in Christ is a real, daily relationship with Him.
Just as a plant's origin is the seed that was planted, so our beginning in Christ is the seed of salvation that we accepted. From that point forward, we begin to grow. Every day we're given the opportunity to grow in Christ through cultivating our relationship with Him.
If you are going to be faithful in the year 2012, you must have a vital, personal relationship with Christ. You must walk with Him, talk with Him, listen to the preaching of His Word, and spend time in prayer. Anyone can play the part and look good on the outside just like fake plants; but if you wish to be rooted in Christ so you can withstand whatever comes this year, you must have a real relationship with Him.
Disappointments will come, people will hurt you, and you'll face challenges this year; but when you are firmly rooted in Christ and daily growing in Him, you can weather any storm you face.
"For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."
It's easy to look at life and judge success based on results. Do you look any more fit after going to the gym? Do you have more money after working so hard? Are you in a higher position in the company than you were last year? Our world is focused on seeing tangible results.
God's work, however, isn't measured by visible results. God doesn't judge us based on how many people we lead to Christ or how large our sphere of influence has grown. God has a different plan for every person. His purpose and measure of success is based on faithfulness.
Sometimes we become discouraged in faithful living. Things go wrong, we don't see results like we'd thought, and discouragement sets in. Yet despite how quickly or slowly things progress in life, realize that God's purpose for your life is being fulfilled as long as you're faithful to Him.
Charles Spurgeon commented on the Christian ministry by saying, "The grand object of the Christian ministry is the glory of God. Whether souls are converted or not, if Jesus Christ be faithfully preached, the minister has not laboured in vain, for he is a sweet savour unto God as well in them that perish as in them that are saved."
God's purpose for your life is to live faithfully and obey His commands. No matter what results you may or may not see, you can have joy knowing that God's will is being done.
Take heart in knowing that as you faithfully follow God, you are fulfilling His purpose for your life. He knows what's best and will accomplish His will through you as you're faithful to Him.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."
In the 1950s, a pastor in Australia was starting a new church, and his home pastor back in the States sent him a letter of encouragement. Part of the letter spoke of how he could have peace amidst the devil's attacks:
"The devil always seeks to take advantage of fatigue or any physical disability and always tries to discourage! His one objective only and always is to separate us from Christ, if he can do that by making us concentrate on ourselves, our symptoms, our work, or our future, he is content. He can only be met and conquered in the Name of Christ. Do not listen to him therefore. Tell him that you are in the hands of Christ and that you are leaving all things to Him."
As we enter a new year, we must be wise to the attacks Satan will bring our way. He is ever present in our lives, seeking to steal our joy and keep us from following Christ, but we can see victory over the devil by abiding in Christ.
As children of God, we have hope of resistance and the promise of strength through God. In John 15:4, Jesus told His disciples, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." A plant is nothing apart from its roots. A branch is fruitless unless it is attached to the vine. Even so, we are weak apart from Christ.
We can see victory over temptation and resist the devil's attacks as we are daily abiding in Christ through prayer, Scripture reading and memory, and faithful living. Apart from God, you are susceptible to the devil's attacks, but as you daily stay close to God, you will have His strength to resist the devil.
"For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
The story is told of artist Paul Gustave Dore who was traveling Europe when he faced a predicament. He reached a border crossing and discovered that he had misplaced his passport. Without his papers, the officer wouldn't allow Dore to pass. Finally, Dore was given a test to prove his identity. The official gave him a piece of paper and a pencil and requested he draw a group of nearby peasants. Dore did so with such ease that the official was convinced he was indeed the famed artist.
Paul Dore's identity was affirmed through his work. Many people in our world find their identity through their work or accomplishments. For example, say the name "Kobe Bryant," and most people think "basketball player." Say the name "Newt Gingrich," and most think "politician." Many people's identity today is found in what they do.
As Christians, our identity is not in what we do but in Who we belong to. We are children of God, heir to His kingdom. G. Campbell Morgan once said, "Inevitability, sooner or later, there comes a crisis...in which we are brought to the appalling sense of our own...weakness. That is a great hour."
Apart from God, we have no identity and are but another lost soul in this world. But with God, we are a child of the King. We have hope, we have purpose, and we have meaning. No matter what fails in your life, if you have trusted Christ as your Saviour, you are a son or daughter of God. Outside things can change, but you will always be one of God's own.
More than you want to see earthly success this year, determine to please God. Your purpose and identity is found in being God's child. Cultivate your relationship with Him, and live to glorify Him in everything you do.
"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Most people know the story of Helen Keller. She was not born blind and deaf but at the age of 19 months she contracted what doctors noted as "an acute congestion of the stomach and brain," which was likely scarlet fever. Since medical advances had not been made at that time, this illness, which is now simply treatable, had a major impact on Helen and left her without sight or hearing. Yet, Helen overcame these disabilities and even became a source of hope and encouragement for many others facing difficulties and dealing with handicaps.
Helen's life was not easy because of the disabilities, yet in her adult years she made the shocking statement, "I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God."
Helen Keller faced more challenges than many of us will ever face, yet she could rejoice in her trials because she had the joy of the Lord. How often do we allow little things to steal our joy and put us in a sour mood? Helen had every right to complain, yet she persevered and even found joy in difficulty.
What trial or challenge are you facing today? Have you allowed it to leave you bitter, complaining, and hopeless? As a child of God, you have joy that no one can steal. You have the hope of eternal life.
Psalm 16 states "in thy presence is fulness of joy." You can have joy in any situation this new year as you are faithfully abiding in God's presence. Root yourself in God and in His Word, and, like Helen Keller, you can rejoice even when the darkest of trials comes your way.
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:"
Most of us begin the new year with an emphasis on getting "in shape." We put physical exercise and healthy diets at the top of our priority list, but how are we as Christians doing with our spiritual exercise?
It is easy to become spiritually tired and sluggish, but there is a simple solution-begin walking with God.
Christianity is enjoying a relationship with God through Christ. It is interacting with God throughout the course of a day, feeling His presence and power, and receiving His strength and guidance. Your spiritual growth is directly related to your walk with God.
Walking is a step by step process, and, similarly, the Christian life is a day by day process. To walk with God you must read His Word every day. Just as you must exercise faithfully to see physical results, so you must walk with God faithfully to grow.
Walking with God also involves talking to Him. Just as walking with a friend lends itself to conversation, so God desires that we converse with Him through prayer. Bring your needs and struggles to God when you spend time with Him, and then continue to pray throughout your day as you walk with Him.
If your walk with God has slowed or even stopped, it's time to get back into shape and start walking with Him again. This year determine that you're going to build spiritual muscles by maintaining a strong, steady walk with God.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Life places many demands on us. We struggle to balance work, school, sport's practices, church activities, family needs, and the list could go on and on. Life is just plain busy and, sometimes, we become so busy with life that we forget Who we are living for.
One of the greatest needs of our lives is balance, and this can only be achieved as we keep Christ at the center of all other activity. How can you have balance in your life?
Find a place where you can daily spend time alone with God. Look at the beautiful picture of the sweetness of God's presence the hymn writer paints through this song: "I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."
God desires to share personal fellowship with you, but you must make the time to enjoy it.
Schedule a specific time to read God's Word and talk to Him through prayer. God's Word will encourage and strengthen you throughout the day. Read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. When your day seems too hectic to control or too hard to handle, bring your problems to the Lord. God doesn't want you to get stressed out or frustrated; He wants to help you with all of your problems every day.
Make a plan to keep Christ as your center. Ephesians 5:16 says "Redeeming the time, because days are evil." Instead of getting swept away with the chaos of life, surrender every day to God. Focus on His priorities for your day, and watch Him turn wasted time into eternal treasure.
When you make Christ the center of your life, the cares of this world become less weighty, and you will discover His joy and peace.
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
What is success? The world tells us that success is being wealthy or popular, but God's Word shows us the true definition of success: a fruitful Christian life.
The Bible gives the formula for a prosperous, Christian life.
Delight in God's Word. Think back to the time when you first accepted Christ as your Saviour. God's Word was so fresh and new, and you couldn't wait to read it whenever you had the opportunity! It seemed like God was with you in person and speaking directly to you. Reading and hearing God's Word was a delight to you.
As we become older Christians, it is easy for our devotions to become a ritual rather than a real relationship with God. But we need to realize that when we choose to delight in God's Word, He will give us true success.
Meditate on God's Word. What's on your mind throughout the day? Is it work, family problems, or financial strains? Instead of dwelling on the negative issues of life, focus your mind on God's Word. Memorize encouraging promises from God, and think about them throughout your day. Post notes with verses that God has given you throughout your home and in your car, listen to preaching as you drive or exercise, or hang pictures of your favorite verses in your house. Meditating on God's Word will transform your mind and give you God's perspective on life.
Success is not found in money or fame; it is found in the wonderful Word of God.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
I have the privilege to pastor in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. Our arid terrain is actually similar to that of Israel, so it is easy for me to see why a lush tree serves as a fitting symbol of blessing in Scripture. A thriving tree in the desert can only mean one thing-strong roots.
There is no true or lasting growth where there are no roots. In our culture, we're often far more focused on the outward evidences of progress than on the roots that support true growth.
Even in spiritual growth, we tend to believe that if we look good on the outside, we must be okay. This makes for a shallow Christianity that will not sustain through the desert times of life. We may have external evidences of growth. But if we are not firmly rooted in Christ, we will eventually wither.
Sometimes we need to step back a moment and consider our roots. Ask yourself, do I have a growing relationship with Christ? Am I delighting more in Him and in His Word?
David knew the importance of having a real and growing relationship with God, and he prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). More than looking good to others, David wanted to be sure his heart was right with God-that he had real roots.
How long has it been since you asked the Holy Spirit to take a spiritual inventory of your heart? God desires for you to prosper spiritually-not just today, but for the rest of your life. To do so requires that you firmly root yourself in Him.
"Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more."
I Thessalonians 4:1
Do you desire an abundant Christian life? We all want the richness of God’s blessing in our lives, but how can we achieve such a goal? George Müller, a German missionary who established orphanages in Bristol, England, discovered the key to abounding more and more—daily fellowship with God.
Müller said, "The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord. The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished. I may share the truth with the unconverted; I may try to encourage believers; I may relieve the distressed; or I may, in other ways seek to behave as a child of God; yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, may result in this work being done in a wrong spirit."
Müller knew that outward service without inward fellowship was useless. The same is true for us. We could spend our entire lifetime soulwinning, serving the pastor, and doing good deeds for others, but without a daily walk with God, we would never know the abundant life that God wants to give.
God wants us to serve others and minister to their spiritual and physical needs. But He wants to first meet our need for daily fellowship with Him. He wants us to spend personal time in His Word and talk to Him in prayer. Start fellowshipping with God daily to experience the abundant life that you desire.
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
A young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he complained, "I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." The manager replied, "Your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty."
There are people all around us thirsting for the water of life-only, they don't know that this is what they need. They search for something to fill the emptiness inside, but nothing satisfies. They strive to quench their inner thirst with pleasure, money, or good works, but they still feel parched inside.
As Christians, we have experienced the refreshing, thirst-quenching of the water of life-Jesus Christ Himself. The blood of Christ has cleansed us from every sinful stain of the past and has given us the assurance of a heavenly home. But, how good are we at inviting others to the water of life? When others look at our lives do they want what we have? Do we make lost souls thirsty for the Gospel?
Too many Christians who preach the Gospel with their lips, do not live with the power of the Gospel in their daily lives. Such inconsistency actually serves to repel people from the very Gospel they need.
Jesus said, "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). We as Christians have the amazing privilege to tell hopeless, thirsting souls about the water of life. Remember, though, as you share the water of life, to live in such a way that others will want what you have.
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Growth and victory in the Christian life is the fruit of faith. Faith is what enables us to live in the victorious reality of the promises of God, rather than in our feeble efforts that sooner or later bring defeat. Faith is vital to our Christian lives. How can we develop faith?
Read and meditate on the Word of God. The primary nourisher of faith is God's Word. Romans 10:17 plainly says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." If we are to increase our faith, we must spend time in God's Word, reading and meditating on His promises.
Maintain a right conscience toward God. A person who is living in private sin (or even open rebellion) will always have doubts of what God may do for him. No matter how he hides or justifies his sin, he knows he cannot claim God's promises with confidence. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
Do not run from your trials of faith. God sometimes allows trying circumstances into our lives that He intends to use to strengthen our faith. James 1:3-4 challenges us to not run from these but to allow God to do His work through them: "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
Let God be your deliverer. Faith refuses to see only the surrounding circumstances and looks past them to God's mighty power. Every time we experience God's deliverance, our faith is strengthened, and our God is glorified.
Victory in the Christian life is not based on our strength. It is the product of faith, and faith comes as we choose to know and claim the promises of God.
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
One unknown author wrote, "Has it ever struck you that we trust the word of our fellow-man more easily than we trust God's Word?" Too often, this is true. We take at face value the statements of our friends, co-workers, family members, doctor, news announcers...we even believe the weather forecaster! How is it then that we fail to believe the words of our God?
Hebrews 11 records many of the heroes of the Old Testament. It lists men and women such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, and others. But it reminds us that the great exploits for God by these heroes were all accomplished "by faith."
These people did not have supernatural abilities or special giftedness. They were ordinary men and women who had faith in their great God. They simply took God at His Word, and they acted in obedience to His commands.
Do you find yourself paralyzed and seemingly unable to obey God because you are afraid of the outcome? Mark it down, you can count on God's promises. Trust Him.
Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China in the 1800s once said, "God is not looking for men of great faith, only some common souls like you or me who are willing to trust in His great faithfulness."
Faith is simply trusting God. It is believing that He is who He has revealed Himself to be in His Word-faithful, unchanging, One who keeps His promises.
The Christian who walks in faith is not necessarily talented or gifted-just someone
willing to trust God.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
1 Corinthians 10:13
We each face temptation every day. Sometimes it even seems as if there is no escape. Yet, Joseph in the Old Testament provides a sterling example for all of us. His purity, even in the face of great temptation, shows us how we can resist wrong and overcome temptation.
Joseph refused to do wrong. Over and over he said "no" to Potiphar's wife. I Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Satan will not tempt you with sin just once; he will persistently and continually entice you, hoping that you will eventually fall. To resist wrong, you must continually say, "No!"
Joseph set boundaries against wrong. Joseph knew his moral boundaries, and in Genesis 39:9 he told Potiphar's wife, "Neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife." No one but God would have known if Joseph yielded to temptation, but he resisted because he had pre-determined his boundaries. Don't wait until Satan tempts you to establish biblical boundaries. Rather set boundaries for your life before you are in the place of temptation.
Joseph was conscious of God's presence. He viewed sin as a direct offense toward God. This is why he said, "...how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). The best motivation for avoiding sin is realizing that sin is ultimately against God. Avoiding sin for your family or job is good, but avoiding sin for God is best!
Joseph may have lost his coat, but he kept his character. You and I can likewise resist temptation by following Joseph's example.
"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation."
What a wonderful privilege to know Jesus Christ personally! Because of salvation we will someday enjoy a home in Heaven, a sinless body, and eternity with Christ. We all look forward to our future with Jesus Christ, but it's easy to forget about the benefits of salvation for today. Let's take a moment to remember a few of the many blessings we can enjoy every day as Christians.
We have access to God's power. In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." We who have trusted in the Gospel can experience Christ's power in our lives. As we yield to His work in us, His power transforms us to the image of Christ.
We have access to God's presence. Andrew Murray once said, "My prayer receives worth from being rooted in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ." Because Christ gave His life for us, we have the privilege of going into God's presence at any time throughout our day, but so often we ignore this wonderful benefit of salvation. Remember that you don't have to wait until Heaven to talk to God–you can talk to Him right now and enjoy His presence.
We have access to God's plan. People around us are wandering aimlessly through life because they have no real purpose without Jesus. As Christians we know that God's plan is for us to bring Him glory with our lives. Take joy in knowing that God has a purpose for every day of your life, and follow Him as He leads you.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
A faithful churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of his newspaper complaining about going to church every Sunday. He wrote, "I've gone for thirty years now, and in that time I have heard something like three thousand sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them." This disgruntled church member was silenced when someone else responded, "I've been married for thirty years now. In that time my wife has cooked some thirty-two thousand meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work."
Biblical preaching nourishes our souls and strengthens us spiritually. It gives a spiritual charge to face trials or temptations throughout our week. It focuses our hearts and minds on the Lord and renews thinking through His Word. God wants to nourish and strengthen you through His Word, and preaching is one of God's methods of giving His children the nutrients they need.
God's Word says, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained" (I Timothy 4:6). God desires to speak to us through the preaching of His Word. But we must make it a priority in our lives, listening with an open heart.
Ask yourself, do I go to church to hear from God? Or do I think of church attendance as just another weekly obligation? Preaching is a powerful tool that God uses to grow us spiritually. Make preaching a priority for you and your family.
"I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord."
At one church, coffee was always served after the sermon. One Sunday the pastor asked a child if he knew why they had coffee hour. Without hesitating, the youngster replied, "To wake people up before they have to drive home."
A truly born again child of God delights to be with the people of God. But when we forget the value of the church, church attendance becomes more of a duty than a delight. How can you keep your love for your church strong?
Remember that Christ died for the church. Acts 20:28 says, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood." Jesus paid for the church with His own blood. That alone speaks volumes as to its value!
Realize that Christ loves the church. Ephesians 5:25, reminds us how much Christ loved the church: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." If we truly love the Lord, we will love what He loves, and that includes the church.
Give of yourself to your church. You will find that the more of yourself that you invest in your church, the more you will love it. Fully commit yourself to faithful attendance. Pray for your pastor, and look for ways to encourage him. Give financially to the Lord through your church. Ask for an avenue of service in the church. In short, invest yourself in your church.
One of God's most precious gifts to us is the local church. Thank Christ for giving His life for the church, and ask Him to help you love it like He does.
"For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
Someone once said, "Every church is filled with willing people-some willing to work, and others willing to let them." Which kind of person are you? As Christians, we have the privilege of serving the Lord by laboring in our local church. And what's more, when we serve others, the Lord sees and promises to reward us for it. Here are three ways you can invest yourself in laboring for the Lord.
Labor in your ministries. Whether you teach a Sunday school class, serve on a bus route, or clean the church, do it with all your heart. The work of the Lord is an eternally enduring work, so why not give Him one hundred percent?
Labor in your witness. A wise person said, "Every saved person this side of heaven owes the Gospel to every lost person this side of hell." By reaching others with the Gospel and discipling new believers, we accomplish the very purpose of the church. Keep Gospel tracts handy to give to those you meet throughout the day, and always be ready to share the Gospel with those you meet.
Labor in your giving. Giving to the Lord in tithes and offerings not only provides for the work of the Lord, but sacrificial giving also increases our faith. When we trust God with our finances, we will see Him bless us and meet all our needs. Whatever you give to the Lord's work is an eternal investment, so labor in your giving and watch the windows of heaven pour out blessings on your life.
By laboring in your church you can encourage your pastor, strengthen your church, and experience the joy of the Lord in your own life. Give yourself wholeheartedly to serving the Lord.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever."
A man dialed a wrong number and got the following recording: "I am not available right now, but I thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."
Isn't it wonderful to know that our God never changes? He's never too busy to listen, never too weak to help, and never too unloving to care.
He is the same God of yesterday. The same God who delivered Daniel from the lion's den, David from Goliath, and the children of Israel from Pharoah is our God right now. We can look back through the pages of Scripture and see that God has always been faithful.
He is the same today. Things all around us change every day. Our friends change, our jobs change, politics change, economies change, our bodies change, the weather changes. Our life is full of constant change. But what a comfort to know that God never changes. He is always faithful, always present, and always loving.
He will be the same forever. No matter what trial you face in your future, God will be there with you. We can be comforted in knowing that God will never leave us. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Christ will not leave us in life, and He will not leave us in death. God will be the same for all eternity, and we can rest in His faithfulness.
What a privilege it is to serve a God who never changes. Anchor your hope in Him, and claim His promises for today.
"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them."
Dr. Bob Hughes spent his life spreading God's Word as a missionary in the Philippines. Once while home in the States, he spoke to a group of college young people. Dr. Hughes had been diagnosed with cancer, and the doctors had given him little time to live. He said to the young people, "I have gone. I have given my life, but it looks as though the Lord will call me home soon. I need someone to go and replace me in the Philippines." In that crowd was a young man named Rick Martin who was tender to the Lord's call and felt the Lord leading him to take the challenge of missions. Rick Martin committed to follow God's leading to the Philippines, where he ministers even today.
As a Christian, your life is guided by the Holy Spirit's work in your life, but if you aren't careful, you can often tune out God's leading. God desires to speak to you through His Word and by His Spirit. If you aren't in tune with God and daily walking in His Spirit, you can miss His leading.
Acts 16 shows us how the Holy Spirit led Paul to minister in Macedonia which led to a great work in that region. Rick Martin listened to the Holy Spirit through the preaching of Dr. Hughes and has seen over three hundred churches started in the Philippines.
Are you daily listening to the Spirit's leading? Are you reading God's Word and attentively listening to it being preached? Keep a tender heart to God's work and follow whatever direction He leads you. You'll never go wrong by following the Holy Spirit.
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
Lydia worked hard as a businesswoman who ran a textile company. She was a “seller of purple” which refers to the dye extracted from the Murex sea shell and used in dying clothing and materials. She had a busy life, yet the Lord had been working in her heart. Lydia did not know the Lord, but she had an open heart and was seeking for peace and meaning in life.
As Paul preached in the region of Macedonia, Lydia listened to his preaching and her heart was opened by the Lord. The word heard in Acts 16:14 is a past imperfect tense verb, which indicates that Lydia had probably heard the Gospel message more than once. God had been working in her heart for a while before she heard Paul’s message and responded to God’s leading.
Many people are at different points of spiritual receptivity. Some have hard hearts toward God’s message while others are curious like Lydia. God calls us all to minister to other people and spread His Gospel. But it is He alone who works in hearts to affect change.
As often as we go soulwinning or as passionate as we are to see souls saved, only God can change hearts and bring people to salvation. I’m sure many people heard Paul’s message in Macedonia and rejected it, yet God had worked in Lydia’s heart so that she accepted His truth.
Being faithful without seeing immediate results can become discouraging, but God promises that as you follow Him, He will bless your faithfulness. Rather than becoming discouraged, pray that God will work in the hearts of those around you. Be faithful to share the Gospel, and trust God to convict hearts of His truth.
"And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."
Early in our years as a married couple, Terrie and I had the opportunity to drive out to Salton Sea, California, each weekend to preach to a small group of people who met in one of their homes. The group expanded, and eventually we planted a church there. The first people we saw saved in that area were Fred and Alice Riley.
One Sunday morning as I was late coming in for the prayer meeting before the service, Fred, with a caring heart asked, "Pastor Paul, how come you're late?" I explained how we lived many miles away and that we had been delayed a bit that morning. After lunch, Fred approached me, "Pastor Paul, Alice and I have a nice motorhome that we'd like to bring down to this house. You could stay here on Saturday night, and you won't have to drive so much." That couple will probably never know what a blessing that was to us.
The first to receive Paul's message in Macedonia, Lydia, was likewise willing to share of her resources. After she trusted Christ, she immediately offered Paul and his companions her hospitality. She didn't know everything about the Bible nor was she well versed in Christianity, but she gave of what she had to help others.
Perhaps the most basic of God's commands is to love your neighbor. No matter who someone is or what they have, God desires that you would love them and show that love through giving. God desires that His children would show His love through being a blessing to those around them.
Who can you be an encourager to by sharing your resources? Follow Lydia's example of hospitality, and be a blessing to others.
"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation."
Right after Paul and those with him saw Lydia saved, they faced opposition. Acts 16 says they faced a demon-possessed girl who began mocking their ministry. This girl had the "spirit of divination" meaning she was similar to our modern day fortune tellers. She followed Paul around town, mocking him and those preaching Christ's message.
It is not uncommon to face opposition in life. Even right after a victory or a joyous event, the devil can strike at your joy and seek to shift your focus. Weak Christians are thrown with every up and down in life, but the rooted Christian will recognize the devil's attack and remain focused on God's work.
Our country had much religious influence in her younger days. Even schools like Dartmouth, Yale, and Harvard had the original purpose of teaching God's Word but have since shifted focus. If we aren't careful, we can allow people or circumstances to shift our focus from God.
Whether you're a missionary in a foreign land or a teacher in the public school system, every one of us will encounter people who have rejected Christ and resist our message. They may not come in the form of witch doctors or demon-possessed people, but there are people who wish to mock your faith and divert your focus from serving God.
Has the devil been seeking to steal your focus off God's plan? It can come in many different ways, but be wise to the devil's tricks and determine to remain focused on God through all of life's variations.
"When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer."
My uncle serves as a county commissioner where he lives in Colorado. He told me recently of legislation that mandates that cities and counties must give money for re-training the local Native Americans in the spirit beliefs of their ancestors. The government is so consumed with trying to be politically correct that they are helping to put people back into the practices that spiritually enslaved them for so long. For years Christians have worked to free people from the bondage of false religion and sin by preaching Jesus Christ, yet now the government is leading people right back into bondage.
God gave clear instructions in Deuteronomy that the children of Israel were to enter the Promised Land but were not to take on the customs of the unsaved inhabitants. They had their belief in God and followed His commands, and although they lived in a sinful land, they were to remain true to God's Words.
We have been given a task as God's children. He desires that we would serve Him here on earth and remain faithful to His call and commands. It doesn't take much to see the sin rampant in our world, but while we are living in this world, God calls us to be separate from the practices of the world.
Just as God commanded the Israelites, He desires that you would abstain from the sinful practices of this world. Daily seek His protection from sin's attacks and remain rooted in His truth.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
When Terrie and I first moved to Lancaster we lived in a small apartment that smelled of the previous tenants' pets. One summer day, the temperature was about 112 degrees outside and the swamp cooler was broken. When I came home for lunch, I noticed that Terrie was pale in the face. Thinking it was the heat or the smell of the apartment, I asked her what was wrong. "I just met my first lady friend from Lancaster." Terrie then told me of how a lady had come to the door looking for the past tenants. Terrie told the lady that we were the new residents and that's when the lady flipped out onto the floor. She started rolling around and screaming while foaming at the mouth. It could have been a medical condition or it could have just been the devil's opposition to what God was about to do in the city of Lancaster.
The devil has a very real presence in this world. While he cannot keep you from heaven if you're saved, he still seeks to keep you from following God's will for your life. He will do whatever to keep God from being glorified.
Every day, the devil seeks to attack and destroy you. While this might seem daunting, remember, you have God's power at your disposal! Hebrews 4 tells us that God's Word is powerful enough to ward off even the most powerful of Satan's attacks.
Don't overlook the importance of studying God's Word each day. It's your protection against Satan. Take time to protect your heart with Scripture, and commit to answering each of Satan's attacks with God's truth.
"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
In June of 2002, things went terribly wrong for missionaries Martin and Gracia Brunham as the couple were captured by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Philippines. The terrorists kept the Brunhams in jungle captivity for 376 days while the Philippine army pursued the terrorists and eventually surrounded the group. As the Scout Rangers opened fire, Martin and Gracia sought shelter. Both were caught in crossfire. Gracia was shot in the leg, but Martin was fatally hit in the chest. After being taken back to the States, Gracia shared how just before the shootout and while both were in captivity, Martin told her, "The Bible says to serve the Lord with gladness. Let's go out all the way. Let's serve Him all the way with gladness."
Most of us will never know the level of persecution and terror that Martin and Gacia Brunham experienced, yet we all face trials and difficult times in life.
Our trials might come in the form of a wayward child, a lost job, a health crisis, a cross-country move, a dying loved one, a financial meltdown, or another burden to carry. The unsaved person has no hope during trials and is left to face them alone, but as God's children, we have reason to rejoice in even the darkest of nights.
Whatever your trial, you can still rejoice even through the pain. Psalm 100 tells us to serve the Lord with gladness and approach God with singing. Those commands aren't based on how well life is working out for us, but based on the inherent goodness of our God.
Spend time praising God today despite whatever trials you face.
"And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."
When Paul started preaching God's message in Macedonia, people began to take notice. Most notably, the owners of a demon possessed girl who trusted Christ took notice, and they didn't like what was happening. Christ had changed the girl's life and these men were left without a means of income.
These men made all sort of false accusations against Paul and had him thrown in jail. Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped and then beaten until the prisoner was bloody. Most cells were dark and damp. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide.
If anyone faced opposition, it was Paul. The irony? Paul was a Roman citizen which made his imprisonment against Roman law. Paul had reason to curse what was happening yet he kept his faith.
When God's work abounds, the devil's work goes down. Most people don't mind if you're religious. People don't mind if you attend church or believe the Bible. It's when you actively live out God's commands and spread His Word that feathers get ruffled, and the devil sends opposition.
You can't control what opposition you face but you can control how you react to it. God desires for you to remain faithful even during opposition all to His glory.
What opposition are you facing today? Commit to keeping your testimony and remaining faithful even during hard times.
"Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?"
Oswald Chambers once wrote the following about trials, "Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace."
We all face trials and times of persecution. Even Paul was wrongfully imprisoned and beaten unlawfully as he preached the Gospel. But whether the persecution is unwarranted or even illegal, God shows us that we can give Him praise during difficult times.
First Peter 4:12-13 is a needful passage for those facing difficulties, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
How can someone sing praise during a time of sorrow? Praise often comes after prayer. During trials, your best course of action is to spend much time in God's presence. Pour your heart out to Him. Tell Him of your trials and seek His help. God alone can help you during difficulties and He should be the first one you turn to.
As Oswald Chambers noted, God doesn't always remove trials. Sometimes His work can only be accomplished as you face the difficulty. So more than praying for God's deliverance, pray for God's strength to praise Him.
Have you praised God during your trial? Bathe yourself in prayer and glorify God's goodness in your life despite the outside circumstances in your life.
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him."
The Tournament of Roses is a New Year's parade of floats each year in Pasadena, California. Many colorful floats are built by companies to entertain guests and promote their business. But one year, the entire parade was held up as one of the floats ran out of gas in the middle of the event. Ironically, the float was built by the Standard Oil Company. A company known for powering vehicles had their own vehicle run out of power.
When you think about the power of God, you can become overwhelmed at just how great our God is. He formed the world from nothing, orders everything that happens, and takes notice of even the smallest of changes in the world. And that doesn't even begin to describe how powerful God is.
In the grand scheme of the world, we are but minute beings on the face of earth, yet God shows that He cares about every detail of our lives. God cares if you're facing a trial. He cares if you're going through a tough time. He cares if you need wisdom to make a life-changing decision. God cares about you.
Never take for granted the fact that God is interested in every aspect of your life. God has the power to change the world, and He engages that power on your behalf if you will but ask Him for help.
No one in this world loves you as much as God does and no one can help you like God can. He's promised to help. All you must do is seek His power.
Take some time today to seek God's help in your life. He has the power to help in your difficult situation, and He delights to help you.
"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed."
A pastor of a large church was dedicated to preaching God's Word as he began his ministry. As the ministry began to grow, he realized that not everyone agreed with the strong preaching of God's Word. Every week he'd receive letters criticizing his messages. Some said they were too strong. Some said they should be mellowed out to appeal to a wider base. And some said the pastor should take a more loving approach. As time went on, the pastor soon noticed that the letters became fewer and the criticism was less. Convicted that this was a sign he had not been challenging his congregation enough, he stated, "I'm afraid that when I'm pleasing everybody, I'm not pleasing the Lord and pleasing the Lord is what counts."
Church is a great place to gather and fellowship with like-minded people. It's great to develop friendships with people who are saved and seeking to live holy lives. But when attending church, there should be a focus on preaching.
Sometimes we can become so caught up in the events of church that we forget the focus of church-listening to God's Word. The preaching of God's Word is one of the most important weekly activities in our lives. It strengthens us for battles, cleans us from the world, equips us for living, and guides us on our journey.
Value the preaching of God's Word. Open your heart to God's leading before every message and make preaching a priority. God's Word is a great asset in life, but it does no good if you aren't actively listening to it and heeding its commands.
Evaluate your attitude toward preaching. While working in the activities of the church is great, keep your focus on the meat of God's Word during preaching.
"And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
Paul and Silas were faithfully following God. They hadn't strayed from God's calling like Jonah. They hadn't modified God's plans like Saul. They were preaching God's Word when they were thrown into prison. From a human standpoint, Paul and Silas had every right to be upset, to question God, and to wonder why. Yet these men spent their time in prison honoring God. In the midst of pain, confusion, uncertainty, and injustice, they praised God. As a result of their testimony, the Philippine jailer and his entire household came to know Christ.
Had Paul and Silas focused on their own problems they would never had experienced the blessing of seeing this man saved. Had they not been singing and praising God, they would have missed out on the miracle of salvation.
When we're wronged it's easy to focus on the circumstance and ask why. Human nature wants us to fight back, to figure a way out, and to seek revenge. But God calls us to trust Him with the problem and continue serving Him. We have the choice of either becoming upset and bitter during injustice or trusting God and seeing His ultimate plan.
When you experience injustice, realize that God has a greater purpose in your hurt. He wants to work through you to show His goodness to those around you. People notice when you respond to hate with kindness. God wants to use you.
How will you react to injustice? Like Paul and Silas, sing God's praises and continue serving Him.
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
The verb rejoice is found ninety-six times in the New Testament (including those times when used as a greeting). Also, the noun joy is used another fifty-nine times. It's easy to see that God puts a priority on joy and on the believer experiencing a life of joy.
Joy isn't a feeling or emotion based on circumstances; it is a state of being, a gift from the Holy Spirit. God has given us joy through the Holy Spirit and we must look to Him for joy each day. God points to Himself in John 15 as the source of joy. Because of who He is, what He's done, and where you're going one day, you can have joy.
Schedules frustrate, meetings bore, problems anger, responsibilities overwhelm, and life is hectic. But even when you are swamped or things don't go your way, God desires for you to experience His joy. Unconditional joy is not found in yourself, your surroundings, or others; it is from God.
What situation on earth is so terrible that it overshadows the joy of knowing one day you'll live with God forever in Heaven? What can be so bad that knowing Christ cannot bring you joy? If we were truthful, we'd have to admit that our lack of joy comes from focusing on earthly problems rather than God's goodness.
Take a few minutes to consider the goodness of God. Focus on Him today and allow His joy to fill your life.
"For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow."
As Paul penned the epistle of Philippians, the church at Philippi was concerned about a man from their church named Epaphroditus who had been very sick. Epaphroditus was away from Philippi, and when the church heard that he was battling sickness, they had become so concerned for him that they allowed it to overshadow their lives and steal their joy in serving God. Of course, we should pray for a sick or hurting fellow believer, but this church had let it hinder their work.
The devil is actively trying to steal your joy as a Christian. He can't change your eternal future once you're saved, but he can limit your effectiveness on earth and steal your joy.
Maybe your plans got changed last minute and created frustration. Maybe a friend or family member reacted harshly toward you and hurt you. Maybe a coworker lied about you. Whatever the circumstance, the devil seeks to use life's ups and downs to steal your joy.
Don't allow little things in life to keep you from joyfully serving the Lord. Things go wrong, plans change, and rough times come; but if you are daily in God's Word, you can still have joy despite the bad times.
Have you allowed the devil to steal your joy? It may not even come through something major or something outwardly bad, but little changes can take away a Christian's once joyful spirit of service. Readjust your heart and focus on having God's joy today.
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
The story is told of a patient who went to see his doctor for test results. The doctor entered the room and said, "I have bad news and worse news." Troubled, the patient asked, "Well, what's the bad news?" The doctor replied, "You have twenty-four hours to live." The patient replied, "What could be worse than that?" The doctor said, "I forgot to tell you yesterday."
Do you ever feel like your life just seems to go that way? Times are tough, and they just keep getting tougher. Despite your best efforts, you face one trial after another. As a Christian, God points to one main reason to remain joyful even in the midst of trials, "I have overcome the world."
There is no trial that God cannot fix, no problem He cannot solve, and no situation He cannot work through. Yet many times we can feel that if God doesn't immediately remove the trial, we are justified in letting Satan steal our joy.
Even during trials, God points to His goodness and His victory over sin as reason to rejoice. He says that through His victory, you can have peace. No matter how bad things get on earth, He has conquered the world and offers you eternal joy in Heaven. Nothing can take that away from you!
What trial is causing you to worry? We all face tough times, and if we're not careful, we can let trials get us down. Realize that even during trials, God is in control. He has overcome the world! Rejoice in His victory today and keep joy in your heart knowing that even if the world throws its worst at you, Christ has overcome it.
"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)"
John Kenneth Galbraith was a noted economist in the early 1900s who was called upon by many dignitaries to help sort the economic markets. He wrote the following story in his autobiography about his housekeeper:
"It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. 'Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.' 'He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him.' 'Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.' 'No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.' When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure. 'Tell that woman I want her here in the White House.'"
Emily the housekeeper understood an important truth-she was a servant to one man and obeyed his wishes explicitly. Her loyalties were to Mr. Galbraith alone. What a great example of a true servant.
This single focus was the heart of Paul as he described himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ" in Romans 1. As a servant he had one duty-follow and obey his Master, Christ. Other dignitaries commanded Paul, other people beseeched him, but his focus was on serving God.
Are you a servant of God? A servant follows without explanation, obeys without reason, and is faithful no matter the circumstance. Many people can say they know God, they love Him, or they read His Word; but not many are truly servants of Christ.
What would it take to keep you from obeying God? A true servant obeys no matter the cost. Evaluate your commitment to Christ and seek His help in becoming a true servant of the Lord.
"But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state."
In studying war and the development of the armies of the United States, it's hard to overlook a man some historians have called "the first modern general"-William Tecumseh Sherman. He served as a general in the Union army during the Civil War and through his "scorched earth" policies, really introduced Americans to complete war.
The story is told of his relationship with General U.S. Grant who headed up the Union armies. Sherman and Grant were close friends and traded letters often. Sherman demonstrated the strength of the friendship in an 1865 letter which contained the following sentence by Sherman:
"I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come-if alive."
Every human being desires companionship-a friend, a mate, an acquaintance, someone to care and help in tough times. God made us to need and receive help from others.
As Christians, God brings people into our lives to lift us up and help us along our Christian journey. Can you think of some people who've helped you continue on during tough times? For Paul, Timothy was that co-laborer who helped his ministry.
While it's a great blessing to have a friend like Timothy, it's an even greater blessing to be a friend like Timothy. God desires that you would actively help those around you to stay faithful in their Christian journey.
What can you do to help and encourage your friends? Perhaps it's through keeping someone accountable, lending a helping hand during a trial, or praying for strength for others. Ask God how you can be a Timothy to someone in your life today.
"As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
1 Peter 1:14-16
When beginning a new job, one of the first things a company provides the new employee is a list of requirements. Whether in an official document or through verbal instructions, a company tells the employee what is required, how he or she should act, and what guidelines he or she should follow.
When you became a Christian, you weren't handed a job description or a list of requirements, but God does give us a clear description of what He desires from His children in the Bible. Three of those requirements deal with the believer's interaction with the world around him or her.
To be holy. God desires that His children would be holy in all areas of life-thought, speech, and actions. The carnal person has no guidance in what they say or do, but God desires that believers would show forth holy words and actions.
To be set apart. God set us in this world to be a testimony to others. While it's easy to be caught up in the day to day grind, God desires that we would remember we are in the world but not of it.
To fellowship with Him. What will help us speak and act holy and stay apart from the world's influence? Daily fellowshipping with God through prayer and Bible reading guards us from sin and guide us in God's will.
If someone were to describe your life as a believer, what characteristics would they mention? Take account of your life and how you interact with the world around you. Daily spend time with God and seek to be a shining light of God's holiness to others.
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1 Corinthians 1:10
In his book The Pursuit of God, author A.W. Tozer wrote the following:
"Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."
In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul draws attention to disturbing news that believers had been in contention with each other. People who supposedly had the same goals and desires had been fighting and working against each other.
With any sort of human interaction, there's likely to be a difference of opinion or some sort of contention. We aren't all robots, so naturally we'll butt heads with other people. But as believers we should be so focused on Christ and the advancement of His kingdom that we forget the petty differences and work toward His glory.
When you're tuned to God and His will, you'll find that the little differences between you and others don't matter as much. Fighting over church responsibilities or seating preference seems trivial in light of the salvation of others.
How tuned are you to Christ's will? If you find yourself disagreeing over petty things, take some time to rethink the purpose of the church and your role in it. Ask God to keep you focused on His will rather than your own.
"This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach."
1 Timothy 3:1-2
The story is told of two riverboats that were set to race down the Mississippi River to see which was faster. Both started out and when one pulled ahead, the captain of the losing vessel commanded his first mate to begin feeding the fire with all the wood they had. The vessel began gaining ground but soon the first mate informed the captain the ship was out of fuel. Desperate to win, he directed his crew to begin tearing off pieces of the boat to use as fuel. The ship continued to gain ground and even pulled ahead, but at what cost? At the end of the course, the ship was ruined.
Many in our day strive to advance their own interests, but at the cost of hurting their family in the process. Whether you are a pastor, Sunday school teacher, choir member, or parent, your first ministry in life is your family. The church can hire another pastor, but God only gives you one husband or wife, one family.
Realize the extreme importance of family in your life. Getting ahead at work means little if you lose time with your children. Becoming the best in your field gains nothing if your children turn aside from God's will. Ask yourself this-is your job, hobby, or desires worth losing your family?
Being a parent comes with high responsibility. God desires that you will train your child in His commands and guide them into a loving relationship with Him. You can't do that if you aren't actively involved in your child's life. Your family needs you. Ask the Lord to help you make family one of your top priorities this week.
"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
The story is told of a young man who had been hired by the personnel department of a large supermarket chain. The young man was excited for the opportunity as he reported to work at one of the stores. The manager greeted him with a warm handshake and a smile, handed him a broom and said, "Your first job will be to sweep out the store." Shocked, the boy replied, "But I'm a college graduate." The manager looked down and replied, "I'm sorry. I didn't know that. Here, give me the broom and I'll show you how."
Sometimes we can pridefully believe that we are better than menial jobs. Whether because of training or degree or prestige, we can look down on "lesser" jobs and refuse to do them. In God's plan, however, no job is too menial for a believer.
There are many jobs that must be done to support God's church each week. Some need to teach, others must sing, others will conduct the service, some help in the nursery, while others clean up afterward. Whatever the task, the result is helping God's work advance each week.
How are you serving the Lord in your local church? God has called everyone to serve Him in some capacity. For instance, while you may not be able to sing in the choir, you could perhaps send weekly encouraging emails or cards to people in your Sunday school class.
God wants every believer to actively be involved in serving Him. Ask God how He would have you be involved in serving Him through your church.
"I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue."
Never before in history has a generation been given free reign in communication like we have today. Everything from phone calls, texting, and instant messaging, to using Facebook, Twitter, email, and other lines of communication has put people at your very fingertips. If you need to contact someone, you can do so instantly no matter where they are or what they're doing.
We truly live in a day of unprecedented technological advancement, but is that always a good thing? With this new openness comes new ways of communicating with our words. Before people were told to be careful what they said but now people must be careful with what they post, tweet, or type. Employers are even looking at social media when considering hiring a person.
Consider this in your own life. While you may watch your tongue in how you speak to someone face to face, are you watching your tongue with what you type online? Too many people take social media and other electronic communication for granted and hastily type words they later regret.
The Psalmist points to bridling the tongue and keeping in words that he wished to speak when the time was not right. Keep Psalm 39 in mind when you're dealing with online communication. Take heed to your words whether they're spoken, written, or printed.
Do you guard your communication online? While we have great tools of advancement, be wise to the devil's new ways of causing you to stumble. Realize that one angry email or one hasty post can greatly hurt your testimony. Seek God's wisdom every time you communicate.
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
A German botanist, who was traveling in Turkey, saw a rare flower hanging from an inaccessible precipice. He saw a young boy nearby and offered to pay him to go down the precipice on a rope and fetch the flower. The boy was tempted but hesitating. Then, struck with a new thought, the boy said, "Wait a moment, and I will go for my father to come and hold the rope; then I will willingly go down and get it." He trusted his father to hold the rope securely.
Just like the young boy, our souls are secure in our Father's hand. The moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, God promises us eternal life. Today, let's remember some of the blessings we have because of God's promise of eternal life.
Our eternal security gives us peace in a troubled world. Jesus said in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." We can be joyful in knowing that we have the Source of all peace dwelling in our hearts.
Our eternal security gives us comfort during trials. No matter what hardship you face today or tomorrow, you can be comforted in knowing that God is always with you.
Our eternal security gives us hope for a bright future. What a joy to know that because of God's promise of eternal life we will enjoy a home in heaven for all eternity.
What fear or insecurity has gripped your heart? In any circumstances, we can rejoice in remembering that we are safe in the Father's hand. No foe can pluck us from His loving grace, and no fear can remove us from His care.
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."
1 John 3:14-15
On May 2, 1962, a dramatic advertisement appeared in the San Francisco Examiner "I don't want my husband to die in the gas chamber for a crime he did not commit. I will therefore offer my services for 10 years as a cook, maid, or housekeeper to any leading attorney who will defend him and bring about his vindication." One of San Francisco's biggest lawyers saw the advertisement, felt pity, and contacted the woman. After much work, he took on the case and ended up getting the innocent man released from all charges. Afterward, the attorney refused the lady's offer of ten years of service, noting that he was satisfied to have saved an innocent man from death.
One of the most touching shows of humanity is selfless love. Stories of kindhearted humans helping others with no kickback or reward offsets the grimness of news and gives hope of good in the world. Yet as Christians, we know a stronger kind of love, a love that gives the ultimate sacrifice.
The very core of Christ's message is one of love. God loved so much that He gave His all. Those saved have experienced that love fully, and now God desires that they turn around to show others that love as well.
Love isn't common in our world. Hearing of someone giving of themselves stands out in a world of selfish pursuit. So when someone shows love, others notice. As Christians, our very existence should be to show love to those around us.
How can you show love to someone today? It doesn't have to be extravagant or cost much. Imagine the impact you can have on another person today just by taking time to show God's love.
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:18
A woman watched a silversmith as he heated a piece of silver over the fire. He explained that to refine silver he needed to hold it where the flames were the hottest to burn away all impurities. The silversmith said that he had to watch the silver carefully because if it was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked, "But how do you know when the silver is fully refined?"
"Oh, that's easy," he answered, "when I see my image reflected in it."
Like the silversmith looking into the precious metal, Christ desires to see Him image reflected in our lives. The moment God saved us, He formed a new creature, and He expects us to be constantly changing into His image and reflecting that image to others. Ephesians 4:24 explains the goal of every Christian: ,em>"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
Do you reflect God's righteousness and holiness in your daily life? Can others see Christ's image in what you say and do? This is not only a humbling thought, but it is also a thrilling thought that we have the opportunity to reflect the image of our Saviour and Creator.
During trials and troubles reflect Christ's joy and strength. During temptation, reflect the power and righteousness of Christ. During periods of blessing, reflect His graciousness and love.
The process of becoming more Christ-like may, at times, be painful as God allows "fires" to remove the impurities from our lives. But even then, we can rejoice knowing that the end result is a clearer reflection of Christ to others.
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
II Peter 3:9
After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, was asked to share a few thoughts. Although he referred to the physical salvation of rescuing people from the burning World Trade Center, his comments are insightful when applied to rescuing people from an eternity apart from God:
"When everybody was fleeing that building, and the cops and the firefighters and the EMS people were heading up into it, do you think any of them said, 'I wonder how many blacks are up there for us to save? I wonder what percentage are whites up here? How many Jews are there? Let's see-are these people making $400,000 a year, or $24,000' No, when you're saving lives, they're all precious...I'm convinced that God wants us to...value every human life the way He does."
We are God's only representatives on the planet, and we simply cannot take time to pick and choose who needs help. Every person has an eternal soul, and they all need the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. They all need to be rescued from the horror of an eternity apart from God.
As Christians, we can take part in fulfilling God's will by sharing the Gospel with everyone. Instead of seeing a dirty kid off the streets, see a soul who can be washed in the blood of Christ. When you meet a wealthy businessman who seems to have it all, realize that he desperately needs Jesus.
God is not a respecter of persons; so how can we be any different? Let's catch a fresh glimpse of God's vision for souls and share the Gospel with every person we meet.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
One day a farmer grabbed his shot gun to shoot at a flock of pesky crows. Unfortunately, he didn't see his sociable parrot that had joined the crows. After firing a few shots, he walked over to the fallen birds and was surprised to find his parrot badly ruffled with a broken wing. When the farmer's children saw the injured bird, they asked, "Dad, what happened?" The farmer simply replied, "Bad company."
Scripture often warns us to avoid harmful influences. Regardless of our age or spiritual strength, over time, unwise influences will negatively affect our walk with the Lord. Satan is determined to pull us into sin and wreck our lives, and he often uses wrong influences to accomplish his goal.
As Christians, we must stay near to God in order to discern between good and bad influences in our lives. As we remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit and obey God's Word, God will help us to recognize bad influences and remove them from our lives.
Perhaps you have a friend who constantly encourages you to sin, or maybe your own flesh pulls you to make sinful choices. Whatever the case, determine to avoid those people, places, or situations that bring you further from the Lord. Much temptation can be avoided if we will simply walk with the Lord and with those who love Him. Satan's fiery darts are no match for our God; so stay close to the One Who protects you.
Ask God to help you remove bad influences in your life and to be sensitive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Staying close to God is the safest and happiest place you can be.
"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
In each day there are 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, and 86,000 seconds-and every one of them is a precious gift from God.
Time is something we feel we never have enough of, yet we give it away so easily. Someone once said, "Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back."
God is the Creator, the possessor of time. Therefore, we are the stewards of the time that God has given us. One day, we will answer to God for what we did with the time He gave us. This can be a sobering thought because we easily waste the precious time God has given. But it can also be a motivating thought. We can have joy in knowing that God has given us today, right now, to serve Him.
Ask yourself, what am I doing for God right now? Before you go to work or school, spend time alone with God and ask Him to show you how to use your time for Him. When you use your time to accomplish the priorities God has given you, you invest your time into eternity.
All of us have regrets concerning wasted time of the past. Bu let's determine to give today to the Lord-to use it for His purposes and for His glory. When I stand before the Lord, I want to have wisely stewarded the time He has so graciously given me.
None of us know if we will have another year, another day, another hour to serve God; so use today for the Lord.
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
1 Peter 1:18-19
While driving in a remote camping area, the father of a vacationing family came across a large sign that read, "Road Closed. Do Not Enter." The man proceeded around the sign because he was confident it would save them time. His wife was resistant to the adventure, but there was no turning back for this persistent road warrior. After a few miles of successful navigation, he began to boast about his gift of discernment. His proud smile was quickly replaced with humble sweat when the road led to a washed-out bridge. He turned the car around and retraced his tracks to the main road. When they arrived at the original warning sign he was greeted by large letters on the back of the sign "Welcome back, stupid!"
Sometimes we can have utmost confidence in ourselves to figure out issues or fix problems but we let ourselves down. Confidence is only as good as the object it's placed in. When going through life, the wise person places their confidence in an unchanging, all-powerful God.
When you face a problem or come upon life's challenges, what's your first course of action? God desires that you would turn to Him for strength and place your confidence in Him. As He reminds the believer in 1 Peter 1, your salvation is bought by His powerful blood and He alone has the strength to help in your daily life.
The human reaction to difficulty is self-reliance, but God wants you to be Jesus-reliant. Man can plan and scheme but only God controls the situation entirely. Take a few minutes now to lay your problems before God. Give up your control of the situation, and place your confidence in Christ's plan.