Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog."
During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her wanting to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders, but she refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. All he had to do was simply ask.
Human nature has a clear self-reliant gene. From the early days of the world, people have relied on themselves for food, shelter, provision, and survival. When life is threatened, the human body naturally relies on self for preservation. But while the human body looks to itself for help, God desires that His children would look to Him for help.
One of the most common threads of the great believers of the Bible is a humble willingness to ask God for help. Moses needed help to cross the Red Sea. Noah needed help to preserve his family. David needed help to defeat Goliath. Wise men and women have always realized their inability and God's ability.
You can't survive this world without seeking God's help every day. The devil's attacks are real. The world's problems are overwhelming. And the Christian life takes constant asking God for guidance.
How often do you spend time seeking God's help? How reliant are you on Him for help each day? You need God's help every day, and He gladly offers you the full strength of His power for every situation if you only ask.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
A man was praying with his pastor one morning after church. He had been dealing with temptation in his life and had been seeking counseling and accountability with the leaders of his church. On that morning, he prayed a prayer the pastor had heard many times before, asking God to remove temptation, "Lord, take the cobwebs out of my life." Just as he said this the pastor interrupted, "Kill the spider, Lord."
Sometimes it's easy to fall into the cycle of clearing the cobwebs of life. Falling into sin's trap, giving up control to the devil, repenting, then beginning the cycle again. As Christians, God has given us power to break the cycle by killing the spider-self.
The devil is bent on bringing in temptation and sin to Christian's lives to wear down their strength and joy. When you become so bogged down with repeatedly falling into sin then repenting, you cannot experience the full blessings of a life lived in God's freedom.
The surest way to break the cycle is by dying to self every day. When you're dead to self and realize that your desires don't have to control you, you can be alive to Christ.
God desires that you would purposefully die to self every day. Realize that your flesh doesn't control you and give complete control to God. As Ephesians 2 says, you are created in Christ for the purpose of fulfilling His will and living a life of holiness.
God has a life of spiritual freedom and blessing planned for you. He wants the best life possible for you every day! But first He desires that you die to self, to the old fleshly desires and wants, and live for God's desires.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash all over the place. As he showed a prospective buyer the property, he took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage. The buyer said, "Forget about the repairs. When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site."
Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God's the old life is over. He makes all things new. All God wants is the site and the permission to build.
There are still some Christians trying to renovate, but God offers complete redemption. All we have to do is give Him the property, and He will do the necessary building in our lives.
Know today that you will never be bad enough to be beyond God's grace to save and to sanctify, and you could never be good enough to be beyond the need of His grace for the same purpose. God has plans to completely transform your life but only if you give Him complete control of your life.
What do you want out of life—a renovated sinful life or a completely new life from God? God has the blueprints to a wonderful life of blessings and joy and He wants to complete that in you! As Philippians says, the good work God started in you at salvation He desires to continue until the day you reach Heaven. Will you let Him?
"Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also."
2 Corinthians 8:7
The following fable is told of a man's interaction with God about stewarding:
"Once, a man said, 'If I had some extra money, I'd give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.' And the same man said, 'If I had some extra time, I'd give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, and my clubs.' And the same man said, 'If I had a talent I'd give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I've never been able to lead a group; the way I would like to.' And God was touched and gave that man money, time, and talent. And then He waited but the man never changed."
Sometimes we become like the man in this fable. We look around and see what we don't have and use that as an excuse for not spending more time, effort, and money on God's work. We complain about what we don't have so much that we fail to use what we do have.
God's plan for stewardship is basic. Often, it begins with entrusting a little to our care and building from there. He might give you a modest job, a small salary, a small role in your church, or a humble family, but He desires for you to use them for Him.
You can faithfully steward exactly what you have right now. While you may look at it as not much, God looks at it as a way for you to faithfully obey Him. Consider how you can use what you have for God's kingdom. God puts more emphasis on your faithfulness than the size of your gift.
"For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?"
1 Corinthians 10:30
In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, Illinois. Edward Spencer, a nearby ministerial student, saw the event and waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue seventeen passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged and he had to live with complications for the rest of his life. Years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.
Giving thanks, even for such a monumental task as saving someone's life, seems to go unnoticed today. And if something so large as this can go unthanked, how many smaller acts of kindness go unnoticed on a daily basis?
How often do you give God thanks? God desires that we would live in a spirit of thankfulness each day, daily pointing out kindness from others and being grateful for the goodness of others and from Him.
When was the last time you made a special note to thank God for all He's done for you? We may say thanks for a meal or express gratitude after an answer to prayer, but how often do we make time to thank God? God has blessed each of us in so many countless ways and deserves constant praise from our lips.
Take time today to thank God for His goodness. Carve out a time in your schedule when you can be alone with God and reflect on His blessings. Perhaps write them down. You'll soon find that God's goodness cannot be fathomed. Make a point of constantly living in a state of thankfulness and never go a day without giving God thanks.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Charles Wesley is the younger brother of noted minister John Wesley and part of the Wesley brothers well known in the 1700s for their preaching and beliefs. Charles wrote many hymns and ministered through song around England. Wesley's life wasn't always easy and he faced much opposition from other religious leaders (and sometimes from his own family), yet he felt confident in the peace he found through Christ. He once wrote the following poem about that peace:
"I rest beneath the Almighty's shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
Wilt keep me still in perfect peace."
Charles understood a very important principle that men and women for centuries have been seeking to discover. The only source of true peace is found in the person of Christ.
How our world is bent on finding peace and calm in the midst of life. It seems a never-ending pursuit for most. Yet the "secret" to peace has been given by God in Romans 5, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing. True peace in life can only come through an unchanging, unmovable object and that is Jesus Christ.
While the world searches for peace through religious thinkers, calming activities, or reflective lifestyles, realize that peace is only found in God. The storms of life swell and the problems come; but through God, you can know that all is well.
What storm has entered your life and caused you to worry? Don't react like those who do not know Christ, but run to God and seek the peace only He can provide.
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."
1 Thessalonians 2:13
For years people have been pursuing joy. Some seek it in hobbies or pleasures; yet one thing is true-no man has found joy apart from God.
Someone once wrote the following list of places people futilely seek joy:
In Unbelief-Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type yet wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
In Pleasure-Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did, yet wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
In Money-Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of money yet when dying said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
In Position and Fame-Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both yet wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."
What brings joy? God tells us that living a life of humble obedience to His Word can bring joy no earthly thing can provide. Joy comes from serving God.
It may not be the natural choice to resist temptation and follow God's will, but at the end of the day it will bring you more joy. Joy is knowing you have a home in Heaven. Joy is seeing God work through you to change lives. Joy is being a part of God's plan in life. You will never regret obeying God over giving in to the devil's temptations. Only God's joy lasts beyond what this world offers.
Do you want true joy in life? Self-help books line the shelves claiming to know joy, yet true joy can only be found in obeying God. Choose to experience joy today by following God's commands.
"He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen."
What comes to your mind when you think about God? Do you praise Him daily for who He is and for what He does in your life?
A.W. Tozer wrote, "The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like."
Our God is omniscient, all-knowing, unchangeable, righteous, just, holy, eternal, pure, and good-and these are only a few of His many attributes. When we start praising God for Who He is we will experience pure and genuine worship-the kind God desires from us.
Let's not allow the sin and superficial worship of this world to blur our spiritual eyes and injure our view of God. Take time today to praise God for Who He is. Begin a list of God's attributes and thank Him for each of them.
When we make God the object of our praise we, like the psalmist, will be able to say, "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth all they marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High" (Psalm 9:1-2).
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
When a fully booked flight to Denver was canceled, an irate passenger pushed his way to the front of the line. He slammed his boarding pass on the desk and demanded immediate service. "I will be glad to help you, sir," the agent responded gently. "But I must first assist these other customers. If you will take your place in the line, I will be with you soon."
"But, do you have any idea who I am?" the angry traveler fumed. With a charm that transcended the intensity of the moment, the airline agent responded to by immediately picking up her phone and broadcasting on the public address system, "Attention, all passengers. We have a passenger here at the gate who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to gate C-14." As you might guess, the angry passenger retreated to the end of the line, deciding he would rather retain his identity and miss his flight.
Unlike the inconvenienced passenger, we know who we are-we are the children of God. The moment we trusted Christ we became Christ's representatives to the world. As members of God's family, we must strive to live so that others can clearly see our Christian identity.
Every day presents us with new opportunities to represent Christ. We can share Gospel with our coworkers, do a kind deed for a stranger, or send an encouraging note to a friend. By consistent godly living we can clearly represent Christ to the people around us.
Satan seeks to ruin our testimony and hide our godly identity. But as the children of God, we must never allow sin to conceal our Christianity. Being a Christian is the greatest privilege of our lives, so let's unashamedly represent Christ so that others can clearly see our identity.
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptation; 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."
James 1: 2-4
Although none of us want to go through times of suffering, trials refine our faith and strengthen our testimony for Christ. A strong testimony that honors the Lord is built as you faithfully live out God's truth through the trials of life.
Perhaps one of the best examples from the Bible of that principle is the life of Paul. Over and over he persevered through persecution.
As Paul arrived in the city of Antioch during his first missionary journey, he was greeted with hostility. "But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts" (Acts 13:50). Although Paul was expelled from Antioch, he continued on his journey to Iconium.
As he entered Iconium, he once again faced persecution. "But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren" (Acts 14:2). The people of this city attempted to kill Paul, yet he persevered on his journey to Lystra.
Once again, Paul met another trial. The people of Lystra stoned Paul and left him for dead. But Paul rose up and kept going in spite of the persecution.
As Christians, we all will face persecution at some point. But we must not allow bitterness or anger to destroy our testimony for God. Rather, we can strengthen our testimony by trusting and praising God in spite of our trials.
Your testimony will shine brighter than ever during the dark times in your life. Never give up during hard times so that you, like Paul, can say, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7).
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Our minds are constantly filled with thoughts, and these thoughts create many types of emotional and physical responses. A doctor once shared the following with me:
The sickest people I have encountered—those who were ill not only in their bodies but also in their emotions—were those who were harboring long-term resentment, bitterness, anger and even hatred against another person, against God, or against themselves… I have found that stress levels change dramatically when a patient changes his perceptions.
Studies show that changing your thinking is the best cure for stress. And the best way to change your thinking is by meditating on God’s Word. The Bible will change our focus from inward to upward and will help us to avoid the kind of thinking that makes us feel stressed and overwhelmed.
When we feel burdened with the cares of life, Christ invites us to entrust our worries to Him: "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (I Peter 5:7).
Allow God to begin transforming and renewing your mind today by spending time in His Word. Read it daily, and then meditate on its truths throughout the day. Allow God to transform and renew your mind, changing your thoughts from negative to positive, encouraging you with His promises, and relieving your anxieties.
Experience God’s peace of mind today by focusing on the Word of God. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isaiah 26:3).
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
A missionary couple once brought some African pastors to the Unites States for a big meeting. During their free time, these pastors wanted to go shopping. Even though they were in a small town, the missionary knew there was a chance one of them might have some difficulty finding their way around or get lost. So the missionary gave each pastor his phone number in case of an emergency. In less than an hour the missionary's phone rang and one of the pastors said, "I am lost."
The missionary replied, "Lay the phone down, go to the street corner, find out the names of the two streets, and come back and tell me." In a few minutes the African pastor returned and reported, "I am at the corner of 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk.'"
The trials of life sometimes make us feel lost and unstable—we feel directionless and don't know which way to turn. Sometimes it even seems that there are no good options. But God often allows trials in our lives so we will lean on Him and experience stability through His strength.
The worst thing that could happen to us would be not to have any difficulties—we'd never know our need of the Lord. God allows enough difficulty to bring us to Him, but then, God gives us enough grace to meet those difficulties—every day.
Are you struggling in a trial? Perhaps a trial you are facing is making you feel unsure and unstable. God will give sufficient grace for every difficulty you face. Each day He gives us enough difficulty to draw us to Him, and then, God gives us enough grace to live that day as we ought. Rely on the strength of God, trust His love and goodness, and experience His marvelous grace.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
A nervous airline passenger began pacing the terminal when bad weather delayed his flight. During his walk, he came across a life insurance machine that offered $100,000 in the event of an untimely death, and the insurance was only three dollars. The passenger looked out the window at the threatening clouds and thought of his family at home. For that price it was foolish not to buy, so he took out the coverage. He then looked for a place to eat and settled on a Chinese restaurant in the airport.
It was a relaxing meal until he opened his fortune cookie. It read, "Your recent investment will pay big dividends."
We may have reason to feel unrest based on outer indicators, but what a comfort to know that we as Christians can trust our Sovereign God for tomorrow and all eternity.
Hymn writer, Margaret Clarkson, wrote, "The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling. The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident: they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God…All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it. God is the Lord of human history and of the personal history of every member of His redeemed family."
We can trust the sovereignty of God because He has a perfect plan for our lives. God knows our past, He has a plan for our present, and He has already secured our future.
Rather than worrying about the future, trust your Sovereign God. His ways are always perfect; you can rest securely in His almighty hands.
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
II Corinthians 12:9
I once read a story of a Christian singer who was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. Just before the surgery that would remove both the cancer and his ability to sing, he questioned the doctor. "Sir, are you sure that I will never sing again after this surgery?" The doctor nodded.
The patient asked if he could sit up for a moment. "I’ve had many good times singing the praises of God," he reminisced. "And now you tell me I can never sing again. I have one song that will be my last. It will be of gratitude and praise to God. "And there in the operating room, the man sang God’s praise in the words of Isaac Watts’ hymn: "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath, and when my voice is lost in death. Praise shall employ my nobler power; my days of praise shall ne'er be past while life, and thought, and being last, or immortality endures."
This elderly man experienced the power of God while enduring a great trial. Because we know the same God of that man, we can experience the same power. God enables us to bear trials and afflictions through His great power.
We may not think we are able to bear the death of a loved one or the loss of a job; and truthfully, we can't. But we serve a God who gives us His power and strength to go through any difficulty.
Take comfort in knowing that you have the ability, God's power, to endure and overcome the trials in your life. Ask God to give you strength and power for whatever difficulty you face today.
"And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."
For Abraham and Sarah to have a child was impossible, yet the Bible records the miraculous birth of Isaac. Our God has been working miracles for eternity, and nothing is impossible with Him.
We all face circumstances and problems when no human can help, but these seemingly impossible times are the perfect opportunity for us to watch God’s miracle-working power. When we trust God with the "hard things" we will see our faith strengthened, our joy increased, and our lives bringing glory to God.
Are you facing an impossible situation that is too hard for you to handle? Take comfort in knowing that no trial, difficulty, or circumstance is too hard for our God.
Like Sarah, our sinful human nature tends to doubt God rather than trust Him. We see a circumstance through our human eyes and doubt that God could bring anything good from it. But what a joy to know that God is greater than our human reasoning. He reassures us of His supernatural power in Luke 1:37 where we read, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." That word nothing covers any circumstance we face—no matter how hard it may seem.
We serve the God of the impossible. The same God who performed miracles for Abraham and Sarah is our God today. Trust God with your circumstances and trials. Remember that nothing is too hard for Him. And review His promises while you wait on Him.
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
Do you ever feel that you have more responsibilities than you do time to get everything done? It is helpful to remember that God has a purpose for our lives and time is His gift to us so we can accomplish His purpose. The following principles can help us wisely use the precious commodity of time:
Realize what God has given you is sustainable. God knows the number of our days here on earth, and He knows we can accomplish His purpose in His time frame.
Be sure to take time to rest. Time spent for God is never wasted time, but we must be careful to not get "weary in well doing." God wants us to serve Him and work for Him, but we must take time to let God restore us daily. Serve God with your whole heart, but remember to make your quiet time with God your first priority so that you can serve in His strength.
Opportunity does not equal obligation. Life will present you with many great opportunities, but remember to seek God’s face in every decision. We need God's wisdom to help us discern between good, better, and best. We can avoid getting overwhelmed with obligations by simply following God’s leading in every decision.
Identify and focus on a few things. By identifying exactly what God wants you to accomplish each day, you can focus on your goal and work wholeheartedly on each task. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men" (Colossians 3:23).
Tarrying times are not idle times. God gives waiting periods to all of us. During these times when life seems to be moving slower than normal, spend time getting to know God better and enjoying His presence.
Spend time each morning seeking God's face, and asking Him to give you wisdom to manage your time for His purposes.
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
While crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner, the preacher F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers about "Answered Prayer." Later, an agnostic man was asked by his friends, "What did you think of Dr. Meyer's sermon?" He answered, "I didn't believe a word of it." That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the fourth class passengers. Many of those who had heard him in the morning went to the afternoon service as well. Even the agnostic went to the second service, claiming he just wanted to hear "what the babbler had to say."
On his way to the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. He passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep with her hands open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. "You seem to be enjoying that orange," he remarked with a smile.
"Yes, sir," she replied, "My Father is very good to me. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!"
The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ.
How long has it been since God has answered a specific prayer request for you? God desires to meet our needs and show His power by answering our prayers, but so often we forfeit this blessing because we neglect our communication with God. Perhaps your hectic schedule has crowded out your daily prayer time. If so, it's time to make prayer a priority again. Your faith will become stronger and your walk with God closer as you see God answer your personal prayers.
"Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union General John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck rather than exposing himself. "Nonsense," snapped the general. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." It was at that moment that a bullet struck Sedgwick in the chest, fatally wounding him.
Pride makes us vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. When we become prideful, we have no need for God and no desire to rely on His strength. If we wish to serve God and be used of Him, we must first humble ourselves.
Consider the Apostle Paul. In Philippians 3, he gives a very clear description of his earthly qualifications. He was a Roman citizen, a Jewish religious leader, and had impressive credentials. Yet, rather than taking pride in his achievements, he counted all that as loss for Christ's sake.
The name Saul means "to be desired" but he left that name and became Paul, meaning "small or little." Paul realized that worldly status means nothing in light of the opportunity to serve almighty God. If we're not careful we can value earthly rank over humbled service. Regardless of your station in life, God doesn't see you by your social status.
How humble are you today? Is there a task God could ask you to do that would seem "beneath" you? Truthfully, your place in society matters little in light of God’s kingdom. Humble yourself and remain obedient to even the smallest of God’s commands.
"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. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock."
Francois Fenelon was the court preacher for King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. One Sunday when the king and his attendants arrived at the chapel for the regular service, no one else was there but the preacher. King Louis demanded, "What does this mean?" Fenelon replied, "I had published that you would not come to church today, in order that your Majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the king."
Sometimes believers go through the motions of church attendance without realizing the importance of gathering in God's house. Some Christians view the church as a non-essential piece of their lives. Yet God's command to weekly gather at His church is, in part, to protect the believer from the world's attacks.
As Acts says, there are wolves waiting, ready to pull believers away from God's will and into complacency, inaction, and dangerous doctrine. The church is a vital tool of protection for Christians.
Just as the shepherd keeps his sheep in a herd to protect them from predators, so God has designed the church to be a body that provides support and protection for Christians. Making attendance and accountability to the local New Testament church will help to protect you against the devil’s attacks.
Church is not just another "thing to do" on the Christian agenda. Church is a vital tool for your own protection! Value the opportunity to listen to God’s Word every chance you get and strengthen your armor against attack.
"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour."
1 Corinthians 3:8
When a six foot four inch, muscularly built man tried to light an explosive hidden in his shoe on Flight #63 on its way from Paris to Miami, several passengers and flight attendants took action. A flight attendant noticed the man bent over in his seat trying to light a match. When she saw the fuse leading to his shoe, she screamed before he attacked her. Several other flight attendants came to her aid, and several passengers jumped the man. The flight was re-routed to Boston's airport where the man was arrested before the passengers were safely taken to their destination.
As Christians, we need to utilize everything available to us to see that others can be delivered to their safe destination in Heaven since the enemy is doing everything in his power to stop people from reaching Heaven’s shore.
God has set His church as a beacon in this world to guide people to safety. The church functions to spread God’s Good News and rescue those trapped in sin. Yet sometimes we become so preoccupied with the minute details of our own ministry and recognition that we fail to accomplish more by working with others.
Does it matter if you get to sing the special as long as God's glorified? Does it matter if you get to sit in your favorite seat as long as a lost person gets to hear of God's hope and as long as lives are being changed?
Focus on the greater good of your work for Christ. Value production over glory. Humbly pitch in to help advance God’s kingdom without worrying about receiving credit or praise.
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."
One morning two Christian friends ran into each other. One asked the other how he was that morning to which he received the unexpected reply, "I'm burdened this morning!" But his happy countenance contradicted his words. So the questioner exclaimed in surprise, "Are you really burdened?" "Yes, but it's a wonderful burden—it's an over-abundance of blessings for which I cannot find enough time or words to express my gratitude!"
We have all been liberally laden with God's grace! Grace is a foreign concept to many people in our world. Literally, it means a bestowing of favor on someone who does not deserve it. While people can show grace to others, the most often showing of grace is from God to His children.
None of us deserve the good things God has given us. Yet, as Psalm 68:19 says, we have continual reason to praise the Lord! "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah." In His love, God has given us salvation. And, on top of that, He blesses us each day through so many provisions that we don’t deserve!
Why is it then that we sometimes feel envy or jealousy when another Christian receives a blessing we did not receive? When we see others blessed, it can be easy to wonder why we didn’t receive that same favor or grace. As brothers and sisters in Christ, however, we should wish grace on other Christians, rejoicing when God chooses to bless them.
Have you felt some jealousy or resentment at the favor of others? Rejoice with others when they receive blessing and praise God for His grace in their lives and yours.
"The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."
In south Florida a film team was scouting for the perfect location for their movie. They searched the coast for an impressive house with a large front lawn where they could film an exciting car chase scene. After a few hours the film team found the perfect house, and the residents eagerly accepted the opportunity to have their home in a movie. The filming process was going great for a few days until a neighbor called the owner of the house—who lived in New York. The residents of the home were renters, not owners.
Our verse today teaches us that God owns everything. We are the stewards of the resources He has entrusted to our care. God has blessed us with so many resources—time, health, finances, family, even our lives! But we often forget that, as the owner, God holds the rights to these resources, and He has instructed us to steward them for His glory.
George Muller, the faithful evangelist and prayer warrior, said, "Let us walk as stewards and not act as owners, keeping for ourselves the means with which the Lord has entrusted us. He has not blessed us that we may gratify our own carnal mind but for the sake of using our money in His service and to His praise."
Does your use of the resources God has given you reflect wise stewardship? Do you remember that what you have belongs to the Lord? Do you seek His direction in how you use those resources?
Sometimes we simply forget that we are stewards and not owners. We forget that we are accountable to the Lord for how we steward that which He has entrusted to our care. How freeing it is to remember that everything we have belongs to God, and He will give us the wisdom to faithfully use our resources for Him!
"Yeah doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."
David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and explorer who spent thirty-three years in the heart of Africa. He endured much suffering as he labored to spread the Gospel and open the continent to missionaries. This godly missionary once remarked:
"People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay?...It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, forgoing the common conveniences of this life—these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us."
The testimony of David Livingstone is a humbling reminder for us to keep our focus on the sacrifice of Christ. During times of difficulty it is easy to focus on ourselves, but if we remember the painful death of our Savior on the cross, our personal trials fade in comparison.
Perhaps a trial you are facing has caused your focus to turn inward. Spend time reading about Christ’s sacrifice for you, meditate on His love, and ask Him to help you adjust your focus to the joy in serving Him.
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
The story is told of an elderly Christian lady who was asked by a young man if Satan ever troubled her with her past sins. The elderly woman calmly responded, "Yes, he does."
The curious inquirer then asked, "Well, how do you handle it?"
With a small smile on her face the woman replied, "I tell him to go east."
Puzzled, the young man questioned, "What happens when he comes back from the east?"
"I tell him to go west," the elderly woman said with a grin.
"Well what about when he comes from the west?"
"I just keep sending him from the east to the west."
What a comfort to know that God's forgiveness is never-ending. As Christians we are new creatures living in the old man, therefore, we constantly struggle with our flesh's pull to sin. Although our desire is to live in a way that is pleasing to God, we still sin because of our human condition.
Rather than falling into Satan's trap of discouragement and despair, take joy today in knowing that Christ’s position is greater than our condition. Hebrews 7:25 reminds us of Christ’s position as our Mediator: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." We can experience peace and joy in knowing that no sin is greater than the forgiveness of Christ.
Satan wants to bind us with thoughts of our past sins and failures, but realize today that Jesus Christ set us free from our sin with His own blood on the cross. No past mistake, sinful habit, or wrong choice is too great for God's forgiveness. When you sin, confess your sin to God, trust in His promise to forgive, and experience the freedom in knowing that your sin is gone forever.
"Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:"
A middle school teacher asked her class to write imaginative definitions of a friend. These were the descriptions she received:
"A friend is a pair of open arms in a society of armless people."
"A friend is a mug of hot chocolate on a damp cloudy day."
"A friend is a beautiful orchard in the middle of the desert."
Although our view of friendship may differ slightly from a middle school student's view, all of us know the value of a good friend. Friends are one of God’s greatest blessings to us.
Our verses today provide two important instructions for strengthening and maintaining a good, Christian friendship.
Be truthful. Trust is the necessary foundation for every long-term relationship. This is why dishonest and deceit—in any form—is so damaging to friendships. Truthfulness and honesty create a solid trust.
Be forgiving. Anger has been the destroyer of many friendships. It often begins with even a small offence or a hasty anger. The anger develops into bittnerness, and over time, the bitterness develops into hatred. Even good Christians can allow bitterness to creep into their lives and ruin relationships. Perhaps that is why Paul exhorted the Christians in Ephesus, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). We can avoid the destructive power of bitterness and anger by developing and maintaining a forgiving spirit.
Think for a moment of your relationships. Are you investing into your friendships and seeking to be the kind of person you want your friends to be? Are you maintaining trust through honesty, and are you being a quick forgiver?
Good Christian friends are a precious gift. Be diligent to invest into these relationships with truthfulness and forgiveness.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
When I was in eighth grade, our school visited the governor’s mansion in Sacramento. Although I didn’t get to meet Governor Ronald Reagan, I left a letter for him with his secretary. She kindly assured me that she would get it to the governor.
I was thrilled a few weeks later when I received a personal reply from Governor Reagan. He thanked me for my letter and said, "I could not bear the responsibility of being governor for even one day if it were not for my abiding faith in God." That statement of humble dependence upon God made such an impression on me, even as an eighth grader. Today, the framed letter sits on display in my office—a reminder to me of the value of humility in leadership.
Everybody is in some position of leadership. Whether you are a parent, a student, a teacher, a coach, an employer, or an employee, there are people who look to your example for guidance. This is a weighty responsibility, and it demands a wisdom greater than you or I possess. Are you providing an example of someone who humbly depends on God for your guidance?
We need to seek God’s wisdom in each of the many details of our daily lives. Just as Governor Regan knew he could not bear his responsibility alone, so we must recognize that we need God’s help to live out our responsibilities.
Thankfully, God gives us the perfect resource to help us bear our responsibilities—His wisdom. He freely invites us to ask Him for it, and He promises to liberally provide as much as we need!
One of my first prayer requests every day is for God’s wisdom. If you have not already done so, take a moment now to ask God for His wisdom for your needs today.
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
The story is told of a man named John Currier who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. After his sentencing the judge paroled him to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee.
Nineteen years later Currier's sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it. Ten years passed until a state parole officer learned about Currier's plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. John Currier could have been freed ten years earlier if someone had simply shared the truth with him.
People everywhere are searching for truth. Some believe they have discovered it in a false religion that denies Jesus; others have failed in their search and claim that real truth never existed. Blinded by sin, these people wander aimlessly through life. As Christians, we have the privilege of sharing the truth with others and watching Christ set them free from their sin.
Sharing the truth is simply giving the Gospel to people. We all meet unsaved people every day, but often we neglect to share God's simple plan of salvation with them. Too often our busy schedule, pride, or fear hinders our witness. God will help us overcome these obstacles and give us boldness to share the truth if we will listen and obey Him.
Satan wants to keep people locked in the prison of sin, but we as Christians hold the key, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which will set them free forever. Let’s boldly proclaim the truth to everyone we meet today.
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."
1 Peter 5:6
Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of humility. Once, shortly after he became the president of Tuskegee Institute, he was walking through town when a wealthy woman offered him a few dollars to chop her wood.
Mr. Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and completed the chore. A young neighbor recognized the famous Booker T. Washington and later told the lady who he was. The following morning, the embarrassed lady found her way to Mr. Washington’s office and profusely apologized. "It’s perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend."
Although humility can be difficult to claim, the marks of this vital Christian grace are obvious. Notice these five marks of growth in biblical humility:
Seeks guidance in prayer from above: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).
Seeks godly counsel: "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14).
Admits failure: "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5).
Defers credit to others: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).
Gives glory to God: "That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31).
Do these five marks of humility describe your life? Are you consistently growing in this grace and daily choosing to find ways to humble yourself? Ask the Lord to help you develop and display humility today.
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful."
In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy expressed her frustration to Charlie Brown: "I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole, wide world!" Surprised, Charlie Brown replied, "But I thought you had inner peace." "I do have inner peace," Lucy retorted. "But I still have outer obnoxiousness!"
We all have people or situations that threaten to upset our peace. Thankfully, a Christian who is walking in fellowship with the Lord can know God’s peace on every level. Specifically, Scripture describes three realms of peace.
First, there is peace with God. Romans 5:1 teaches that this peace is established at the point of our salvation: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." When we trust Christ as our Saviour, we have no need to fear the wrath of God. We are forever justified through Christ.
After our salvation, God desires to give us inner peace. Philippians 4:6–7 tells us how this is possible: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." As we bring our needs to the Lord with trust and thankfulness, we will experience His powerful peace.
Finally, God gives us the ability to live in peace with others. Romans 12:18 instructs, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." God desires that because of His peace in our hearts we would be peaceable—living in harmony and unity with others.
Some Christians know only a fraction of the peace God desires to give them. Take a moment to evaluate your life. Are you experiencing God’s peace in every realm? Thank God for His gift of peace, and allow the peace of God to rule in your mind and your relationships.
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him… Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
1 John 4:9, 11
If you were to go on a cruise you would most likely see the crew members loading up the luggage and various things onto the ship before departure. Each of these items would be listed on a manifest—a document that would be checked meticulously to ensure that nothing was left behind. The manifest is a record—a written proof of the items on board.
God’s manifest of love is Christ’s death on Calvary. This visible action proves that His love is real and offered to all. Think about the magnitude of God’s sacrifice for a moment. Jesus came into this world not to make God’s love possible, but to make it visible. He displayed His love in such a way that no one could ever question its validity.
As Christians, we are called to love as God loves. Merely saying we love others is not enough; we must display this love in the same sacrificial manner that Christ displayed His love. Were it not for God’s love within us, this would be an impossible responsibility.
Take a moment to ask yourself how you can make a conscience effort to manifest your love towards others in a sacrificial way. What personal comfort could you forgo in an effort to love someone in a Christ-like manner?
Even as God manifested His love toward us, He commands us to love one another. What do your loved ones see when they look at the manifest of your love towards them? Are there visible accounts, or is the manifest empty? Ask the Lord to show you specific ways to display His love today!
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
1 John 4:7–8
A lady in Spain made the news when she chose a unique way to test her husband’s love. With the help of a friend, she manipulated her own kidnapping and sent a ransom notice to her husband. When the police discovered the kidnapping was a hoax, they asked the lady why she did it. “I wanted to find out what my husband would do for me,” she replied.
People in our world are desperate to know if they are truly loved, and they are often skeptical of the possibility of real love. Human love apart from God is only a cheap imitation—a selfish emotion that seeks personal gratification.
Our verses today tell us that God is love. His very nature is love, and His sacrifice for us on the cross defines the extent of real love. If our Creator’s nature was not the very essence of love, there would be none in us. No mercy, grace, compassion, or kindness exists apart from Him.
As Christians, God commands us to love one another. Because He is love, and because He has given us His nature, He instructs us to display His love to others.
We must remember, however, that apart from God, we cannot love others with the pure love that Christ gave to us. Loving others is not something that we work hard to muster up. Love is a fruit that God produces in us. Galatians 5:22 reminds us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love…." If we desire to consistently demonstrate God’s love to others, we must abide in Christ and allow His love to freely flow through us.
Does your life reveal the true love of Christ? Can others see the attribute of God’s nature in you? Take a moment now to ask the Lord how you can express His love to someone today.
"And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
According to a poll published in USA Today some years ago, a majority of Americans believed they could have a comfortable life if they had $8,000 to $11,000 of additional income per year. The reality is that, if most people did get an $8,000 raise, they would say at the end of the next year, "If I just had $8,000 more a year!" When our income increases, the tendency is for our spending to increase at least as much as—and sometimes even more than—our income was increased.
There is nothing wrong with having nice things. If God has blessed you, give Him thanks and glory for what He has done for you. But if your thoughts and interests are focused on getting more and more “stuff,” you will never be truly happy. The popular bumper sticker says, "He who dies with the most toys wins." That worldly philosophy does not lead to true joy.
The person with a mentality of materialism will never be content. Someone who is materialistic will always want more and more and more…and will never be satisfied. But while the world promotes that attitude, God offers His children an alternative—contentment based on our relationship with Him and His presence in our lives. Hebrews 13:5 says, "…be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
All of the things you have today could vanish in a moment. Great fortunes disappeared overnight during the recent economic turmoil. Companies that had been successful for decades went into bankruptcy. Those who were driven by materialism had nothing left to cling to. But those Christians who were trusting in the promises of God and finding their happiness in a close relationship with Him still had everything they needed.
“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
When I was working my way through Bible college, the company I worked for gave all of their employees a gift at Christmas—a Cornish game hen. I took it home, and it was a real blessing to us. We didn’t have much money, so it was a special treat for us. I wrote a thank you note to the president of the company telling him how much we appreciated and enjoyed it.
The owner of the company—which was a multi-million-dollar operation—came to the parts counter where I was working the swing shift one night not long after I had given him the note. He said, “Are you Paul Chappell?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “I just wanted you to know that, out of 360 employees, you were the only one to say ‘Thank you.’”
When we think we deserve good things, we find it hard to be thankful. I’m sure some of the guys I worked with were disappointed not to get cash or something more valuable than a Cornish hen. Greed, materialism and selfishness destroy a grateful heart. God, our society, and our parents don’t owe us anything, no matter what others may say or think.
Rather than complaining about what we don’t have or don’t get, it is important that we are grateful for what we do have. Every one of us is going to suffer reverses and experience losses. But there are always things for which we can be grateful—things we can never lose. As believers, our eternal destiny is settled and can never be changed. We always have the promises of God on which we can fully rely.
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
1 Corinthians 6:19–20
Elizabeth Keckley was a slave in Missouri before the Civil War. Her greatest desire was to purchase freedom for herself and her son. Her owner agreed that if she could raise $1,200 she could gain her freedom. Keckley worked as a seamstress and came up with a plan to go to New York City and work there to raise the money, but her owner feared that she would not return.
Instead, some of her wealthy clients in St. Louis contributed the money she needed, and Elizabeth Keckley paid the price for her freedom as well as her son's. She moved to Washington, DC, where she counted Mary Lincoln among her dressmaking clients. Without the help of someone else, Keckley would never have been able to purchase her freedom.
All of us were enslaved to sin with no hope of ever gaining freedom. In mercy and compassion, Jesus gave His life for us, purchasing our salvation by shedding His blood on the cross. We are now free from sin, but that freedom does not mean that we do whatever we want. Instead we are to live how Jesus wants us to live.
In Romans 1:1, Paul by inspiration called himself "a servant of Jesus Christ." The word he used is the word for a bond slave—someone who has voluntarily committed his life to an owner. God is our owner not only because He created us, but because of the price He paid for our redemption. That should determine how we live—not according to our plan and wisdom, but according to the plan and wisdom found in the Scriptures.
"And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee."
The story of the Prodigal Son is one of the most well-known parables Jesus told. A selfish young man took all that he could get and wasted it on his own selfish and sinful pleasures. It was only after the money ran out and all of his so-called friends had vanished, that he began to realize how much trouble he was in. Because pigs were unclean animals for the Jews, the fact that he took the job of feeding them (and then coveted their food) was evidence that he had pretty much reached the bottom of the barrel.
Over the years, I have counseled with many people who weren’t willing to come back to God until some major catastrophe happened—a spouse walked out on the marriage, the bank foreclosed on the house, a child went into deep sin. They knew they weren’t doing what they should have been doing, but the allure of sin kept them from turning back to God.
Samuel Johnson said, "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." It shouldn’t take something major to get us to turn back to God. If we insist on continuing to go our own way, we may end up in a pigpen somewhere; but it is far better for us to make the decision to return to God a long time before we sink that low.
Like the father in the parable, God is waiting with open arms for your return. He will not scold or berate you; instead, He will rejoice that you have returned and welcome you back into a close relationship with Him.
"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."
If Christians did all the good things they think and talk about doing, the church would be a much fuller place this Sunday. The offering plates would be overflowing, the choir would need additional seats, and there would be people waiting in line for an opportunity to teach or minister in some other way. But though we talk about what we would and should do, often we never go beyond the words to the action.
The poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" Many times we know what we should do, but we never actually do it. So often we are left with regrets for not having acted. James wrote, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
The harvest is ready today. Speak to someone with whom you work, a friend or a neighbor, and encourage that person to trust Christ today. Call or write someone you know who is discouraged or struggling with a difficulty, and give them a word of hope. Give a little extra when you have an opportunity. These simple steps can make an enormous difference.
Mark Twain said, "I can live for a month on a good compliment." So often we forget that people may need only a small encouragement to keep from quitting. We focus on what we need or want from others, rather than on what we can do for others. Jesus calls us to look around and see the need—and then take steps to meet that need. It is always God’s plan for us to do good to others.
"…Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
James Taylor loved to go wherever John Wesley was preaching—not to listen, but to throw stones and mock those who did listen. However, on the day before Taylor’s wedding, Wesley preached on Joshua 24:15, "…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Taylor came under intense conviction and was saved. This man who once was a chief scoffer became a believer who led his family in the paths of righteousness. His grandson, James Hudson Taylor, became one of the greatest missionaries in history.
No matter what you have done in the past, when God forgives you, your slate is wiped clean. The Lord does not wait for us to "clean up our act." Instead, He meets us right where we are and then begins the process of change. That is what His grace does. God knew all about us before He saved us. He knew all the things we had done and failed to do. But all of our past sins, no matter how vile, are covered under the blood.
Satan comes to us to remind us of the past. Revelation 12:10 calls him "the accuser of our brethren." He loves to point out sins from our past to keep us from serving God as we should. If you are bound by guilt today, remember that you have been washed in the blood; and, in the eyes of God, you stand innocent before Him. Do not allow who you were to keep you from being who you are meant to be.
"Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD."
A man walked up to me some time ago and said, "I want to ask you something. You’re a Christian, aren’t you?" I said, "Yes, I am." He asked, "Are you really happy? Does it really make a difference?" The truth is that being a Christian can make a difference, but it doesn’t always. Some people look at Christianity almost like a magic pill—a simple solution for every problem. Yet the Bible clearly tells us that God’s children will have trouble. Jesus said, "…In the world ye shall have tribulation…" (John 16:33).
If we are going to be happy and abounding with joy in a world filled with confusion and trouble, our hearts must be fixed on something that is unchanging. In John 16:33, Jesus also said, "…be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." We have a choice to make—we can believe what Jesus said, or we can doubt it. Your happiness today is determined more by your belief than by your circumstances.
Because God never changes, He can serve as a source of happiness no matter what is happening to us. He will never lack the resources to meet our needs. He will never lack the love to give us what is best for us. He will never lack the power to overcome the obstacles we face. Our circumstances may change frequently—God never does.
We live in a society where it often seems that everything is changing. Companies that were once giants of industry crumble into dust. The notion of working at one job for a lifetime seems almost quaint today. Americans move from place to place and town to town. In such a rootless world, we need something on which we can firmly rely; and there is nothing more certain than the promises of God.
"They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul."
In his day, John D. Rockefeller was the richest man alive. He amassed his fortune in the late 1800s with the Standard Oil Company. His wealth was so vast that it is still being given away today, seventy-five years after his death. To have a comparable amount of money in today’s economy, Bill Gates would need to multiply his net worth more than four times!
But even with all his wealth, Rockefeller never enjoyed many luxuries and conveniences that we take for granted—things like air conditioning, television and the internet. Studies consistently show that, even though we have more than any past generation, we are enjoying it less and less. Depression, disappointment, and a lack of fulfillment are reported as rising in survey after survey.
Why is that? Why do we find it so hard to be content? In part, it is because of our fallen nature; but it is also important that we recognize the multiplied billions of dollars being spent on advertising designed to create discontent. If we allow the messages that are constantly bombarding us to affect our thinking, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that if we just had a little bit more, we would then be happy.
Though John D. Rockefeller was controversial in his business practices, he was faithful to tithe from his first paycheck as a teen all the way through the end of his life. As an old man looking back over the course of his life, he wrote, "I dropped the worry on the way, and God was good to me every day." Rockefeller was not content because of his wealth; he was content because of his heart.
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."
In 1950, Fortune magazine interviewed some of the most successful businessmen in America about their expectations for the future. David Sarnoff, who was the head of Radio Corporation of America, was asked what things would be like in America in 1980. Sarnoff responded, "By 1980 trains and ships will refuel themselves. Homes will have atomic generators, and the mail will be transported by guided missiles." Sarnoff was no fool. He and his family came to America with nothing, and he rose to control one of the largest companies in the world. Yet he didn’t really understand what would happen in the future.
We live in a day when there is great interest about the future. People are looking for someone who can explain what’s coming next. Sadly they are finding a lot of misleading answers. There is so much confusion and false doctrine regarding prophecy. False teachers attempt to set dates and predict Christ’s Second Coming. False religions twist the events prophesied in Scripture to support their own claims.
When the disciples asked Jesus when He would return, He answered, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). Instead He instructed them to go and be witnesses to the world while they watched for His return. God’s plan for you today is not for you to focus on every detail or question regarding the end times, but for you to be sharing the Gospel with others.
"I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I."
David knew all too well the pain that we sometimes experience when we feel all alone. Despite all that he had done for his nation, when Saul was pursuing him in a jealous rage, David’s former friends and supporters deserted him. His was no small difficulty, for David’s very life was in danger. He was brought to the point of desperation and found no one to help.
Charles Spurgeon wrote of this time in David’s life, "He did not miss a friend for want of looking for him, nor for want of looking in a likely place. Surely some helper would be found in the place of honour; someone would stand at his right hand to undertake his defense. He looked steadily, and saw all that could be seen, for he 'beheld'; but his anxious gaze was not met by an answering smile."
The good news is that even when others fail you, Jesus never does. On his darkest day, David could still cry out to the Lord for strength and encouragement. It’s a blessing to have friends standing by you in a difficult situation; but even if you don’t, you are not truly alone. Hebrews 13:5 tells us, "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Though we cannot see Christ physically, He is still very near when we are in distress. Moses knew this truth. The Scriptures tell us that during the difficulties and challenges of his life, "he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). The Lord does care about your situation today, and He will support and encourage you in it.
"They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."
As a young pastor, I was planning to attend a pastor's conference. As my wife and I sat down before I was to leave, we realized we didn’t have enough money for me to go on the trip and for her to have the things she would need for the family while I was gone. I remember saying to her, "Honey, let's pray about it." We knelt down to pray, and while we were praying the phone rang.
A dear friend said, "I had been meaning to do something for you, but I had forgotten about it. God has laid it on my heart that I need to give you some money." I said, "Thank you. That's wonderful." He said, "No, you don't understand. I am supposed to come over and give it to you right now!" He came to the house and gave me some money—and he gave my wife some money, too. God wonderfully provided even while we were praying.
Prayer is not just something for famous Christians of the past and well-known pastors; it is a vital resource for every believer. Prayer is the means by which God meets your needs and empowers your life. The great hymn writer William Cowper said it well: "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees."
Many times we tell everyone except God what our problems are. There is a time to seek help and counsel from others, but there is no substitute for entering the throne room of Heaven and speaking to the God who hears and answers when we cry out to Him.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."
Ephesians 5:22, 25, 33
I'll never forget the first time I counseled a couple about their marriage. I had all my notes from college, and I thought I was ready to help. The couple had been married about ten years. After a little initial conversation, I asked what the problem was. She said, "I hate him!" He said, "I hate her!" That wasn't really in my notes. So I went on to the next question: how long has this problem been going on. In unison they replied, "Ten years." Ten years was also how long they had been married.
I learned that theirs had been an arranged marriage which their parents negotiated but neither one thought it was a good idea. I prayed for wisdom and spent a lot of time talking with them. They both received Christ as Saviour that day, and today they're still married. As a pastor, I regularly counsel couples that are struggling in their relationship. The world is attacking marriage today like never before, and that means we need to work to intentionally protect and build our relationships.
The notion that when a marriage has problems it means you should just give up and look for greener pastures is a deception from Satan. Yet millions are following that advice, and it is taking a devastating toll on our culture and our young people. God intended for marriage to last for life, but He did not promise that it would do so without our efforts. If we follow the instruction of Scripture for how we are to treat our spouse-rather than hoping or expecting the other person to take the first step-we will find our marriages strengthened and happier.
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
We live in a society that has raised avoiding responsibility to an art form. It seems like everything that happens is someone else’s fault. The criminal had a bad family background; the unemployed had a bad education; the addicted have a disease. The problem with this approach is that there can be no change for the better until we first allow ourselves to be held accountable for what we have done.
There is an old story about a Roman senator traveling across the Mediterranean Sea on a galley rowed by convicted criminals. He went from one man to the next asking why they were there. Each one protested his innocence, saying that he had been wrongfully accused or convicted. Finally he came to one man who admitted that he was responsible for the wrong he had done. The senator called the captain of the ship and said, "Release this man at once. It would be unfair for all of these innocent men to have such a criminal in their midst!"
The Apostle Paul was continually aware of the fact that one day he would render an account to God for what he had done. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he frequently refers to this day of judgment in his epistles. Knowing that one day we will stand before the Lord Jesus to have our works for Him evaluated is a powerful encouragement for us to do what we should. Even if no one else in your workplace, your home, your neighborhood, or your nation is willing to be accountable, accept the responsibility that is yours; you will find blessing as a result.
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
Much of the acceptance people receive today is based on what they do rather than who they are. If the acceptance you receive has that basis, you will never know real security in a relationship. God does not love us because of our good works or our avoidance of bad works. He loves us because of who He is, and He accepts us because of His grace and the sacrifice of His Son.
Knowing and believing that we are acceptable to God can also help us change the way we look at others. Rather than demanding that they measure up to our expectations and standards, we can grant them grace and accept them just as God accepts us.
God offers us complete acceptance. When we understand that truth and live in it, it provides great comfort and hope. In the same way, offering your spouse, your children or your friends that kind of acceptance provides the foundation for wonderful and strong relationships. Take a moment to evaluate how you interact with others. Do you demand people to “jump through hoops” to make you happy? Do you remember every failure and bring it up over and over again? Do you hold past offenses over people’s heads? If so, resolve to make a change—begin showing grace and true acceptance. It will transform your life and your relationships.
"And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
I remember talking to a man who didn’t like what we were doing at Lancaster Baptist Church. "You just do everything the Bible says to do," he accused. I told him, "I love the Author of the Book, and I want to do what He says." Although I don’t always succeed at that effort, it is my goal to do what God wants me to do.
The reason for that "want to" is that I love Christ and desire to follow Him. It is not that the Bible is a list of rules for me to keep. There are commands of God which carry blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience; but the Christian life is far more than just that. Walking with God in a close personal relationship through prayer and spending time in His Word creates a desire in our hearts to follow what He has said to do.
Someone once said, "Rules without relationships bring rebellion; rules with relationships bring response." The closer I am to Jesus, the more likely I am to want to do what He wants me to do. Remember before Peter three times denied the Lord, he was first following Him "afar off" (Matthew 26:58).
The more time we spend with Jesus, the more like Him we become. Acts 4:13 says, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." The more like Jesus we become, the stronger our desire to please the Father becomes, and the more we desire do right.
"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 5:10–11
All of us have days when it seems like nothing is working right. We may feel like complete failures at life, at church, or at home. I talked to a pastor some time ago who said, "I feel as though I am failing in the ministry." I replied, "You are not a failure. You are going through a time of testing that God means for your growth to prepare you for the future." Sometimes we feel that we have failed when we really haven’t; other times we do fail. All of us fall short in some areas. But that isn’t the whole story.
I remember well a saying I have heard many times: "Failure isn’t final." If you are a Christian, there is always hope. Romans 8:28 says "all things" work together by God for His purpose. "All things" includes more than just our successes and victories. You may be wondering how the pieces can ever be put back together, but God has the wisdom and power to bring things back together in an amazing way.
Peter knew a lot about failure. He fished all night and caught nothing. He sank when he tried to walk on the water. He denied Christ even though he vowed he never would. He gave up and went back to fishing even after he saw the resurrected Lord. Yet Peter also knew a lot about success. He preached on the day of Pentecost and saw three thousand people saved. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He was inspired by the Spirit of God to write two powerful books of the New Testament.
If you allow God to continue working in your life, He can turn your failures into His successes.
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
2 Timothy 4:1–2
Some years ago a pair of missionaries visited China. While they were there, they were passing out Gospel tracts. They would give each person a handful and encourage them to share the extra with others. After a while, a guard approached them. "Please don’t give them more than one," he stated. One of the missionaries asked, "Is it illegal to have faith?" "No," the guard replied, "but it is illegal to influence others to join with your faith." A faith that is not shared will become extinct. Christians around the world know this and are willing to suffer even government persecution to share their faith.
Thankfully, it’s not illegal to witness here in America. And yet so many of God’s children never tell anyone else about how they can receive salvation through Jesus Christ. We have all kinds of reasons—or more accurately, excuses—for why it should be someone else’s job. But God has given you people whom you can reach more effectively than anyone else.
When Paul wrote to Timothy not long before he died, he emphasized the importance of the preached Word. This is a message not only to pastors to be faithful as they stand in pulpits, but also to believers to be faithful as they share the message of salvation with everyone they can.
God has given to us the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18), which means that we have the privilege and obligation to share our faith so that others can join us in the family of God. Are you regularly sharing the Good News of salvation with others? Of all the ministries to which we should be faithful, the ministry of reconciliation is the most important!
"And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you."
The last thing Peter did before Jesus died was to deny Christ. Though Peter vehemently protested when Jesus told him it would happen, when the pressure was on, Peter folded. He caved in to his fears and repeatedly lied, even cursing to add emphasis to his denial of Christ. I think if most people knew only that part of the story they would think Peter’s case was hopeless—there was no chance someone who had failed like that could ever do anything for God.
Yet after the resurrection, when the angel brought the good news that Jesus was alive, he had a very special message. "Tell his disciples and Peter," the angel instructed Mary and the other women who had come to the tomb. What a wonderful blessing and encouragement those words must have been to the distressed disciple. He had wept bitterly over his denial, and now Peter heard that he was still included in Jesus’ plans. Jesus especially mentioned his name.
It would be nice if we were perfect and always did what we should, but we don’t. That means that each of us needs to experience the forgiveness and mercy of God—and He makes it available to us freely. Isaiah 55:7 says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
In 1944, a twenty-two-year-old Japanese soldier named Hiroo Onoda was sent to the island of Lubanga in the Philippines. His orders were to do as much damage as he could to prevent the Americans from retaking the island. Along with a small group of fellow soldiers, Onoda did his best to carry out his orders. When the Americans did capture the island in 1945, Onoda took to the hills.
Despite leaflets being dropped by both the American and Japanese after the war ended, Onoda believed the war was still going on. In 1952, photos from his family and letters urging him to give up were sent, but Onoda refused. Finally in 1974, nearly thirty years after his commission, the Japanese government sent Major Taniguchi, Onoda’s former commanding officer, to order him to lay down his weapons and come home.
God has called us to be soldiers for His Kingdom in hostile territory. The Christian life is not a pleasure cruise; it is warfare. To succeed and be good soldiers for the Lord, we must keep the faith, never laying down our weapons. We must never compromise our principles. We must never let down our guard. The enemy will use every means at his disposal to convince us to surrender—but when we resist him in the power of the Lord, he cannot overcome us. In fact, the Bible says that when we resist him, he flees (James 4:7)!