Archive for March, 2010

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click here

Back in the day when I’d buy LP albums from the record store, I’d be glad if the album had three or four really good songs out of the 10-12 included on the vinyl disk.

Accepting the “throwaway” songs was just part of how album purchasers were conditioned then.

With the advent of downloaded music, however, the requirement to accept filler songs has disappeared.

I like that.

I was reminded of this idea this morning while reading from Luke 9.

The passage contained in vv. 23-26 is packed with potency.

Four verses.

Four keepers.

Four high-profile mini-messages that have established themselves as core statements of the Christian faith.

Four for four.

I love it.

The consecutive truths are so strong that they should each become integral to the fabric of our faith.

“Then He said to them,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”

“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it”

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Potent stuff, huh?

It’s all about trusting Jesus with every part of our lives, no matter what.

Learn and live according to these verses and less throwaway stuff will characterize your life.

Instead, as you daily take up your cross, your days will be filled with spiritual hits in the sight of God, Jesus and fellow believers.

As always, I love you

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It has been a good day.

No, I haven’t accomplished much on my agenda.

But my agenda is not more important than God’s agenda.

And, clearly, His agenda was a bit different than my own.

That’s why I’m OK with a to-do list that is less completed than my human side would like.

I was really blessed and equipped at a men’s Bible study this morning. I was also used to plant a seed for what could be a powerful move of God in the Miami area. Not by me, though, but instead by a world-renowned evangelist I talked with after the study. I’ll keep you posted.

I was then spontaneously moved to invite one of the men to Panera Bread after the study session.

We talked for more than an hour about all sorts of topics, many of them involving ministry.

It was very good.

And then, before I could get into my car, a guy who had been sitting at a nearby table tracked me down in the parking lot and asked if I would chat with him about a number of things. The man named Paul had heard me mention David Wilkerson’s famous book The Cross and the Switchblade.

I was with David in 1962 when he wrote that book. I couldn’t help but to overhear your conversation about the book and the things you were talking about.”

We found a table and chatted about a number of things for the next 45 minutes or so, including some topics related to faith.

It was good. In fact, Paul later visited the http://www.MorningDevotion.com site and submitted a reader comment.

Thanks, Paul.

I hope to talk with him again and with a friend of his who is wanting to grow in faith, despite the pressures of disappointment with certain life circumstances.

Then it was to the home office in order to write this devotion.

The phone started ringing, though, before I launched the task. And it kept ringing.

Nearly all the calls were of the sort that I needed to take them.

Finally, after meeting a couple of key deadlines, I prayed for the Spirit’s leading with the devotion for the day.

He came through, of course.

He always does.

The faith-energizing truth from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible jumped off the page at me as soon as I saw it.

But as for me, I will always have hope” (Psalm 71:14).

Yes, I know that’s it’s a very short passage.

But it’s sure long on meaning.

As in “always.”

Because I love an “always” God, I can have an “always” hope.

I needed this message and this day of blessings.

There are several practical factors in my life that aren’t going the way that I believe is needed.

It’s quite a challenging time.

But this passage reminded me that far more important than comfortable earthly circumstances is the sense of spiritual comfort.

And that is the fruit of a sold-out relationship with the Lord.

My soul is secure in the hands of God because it was covered with the robe of righteousness when I put on Christ.

When I confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, both with my words and with my baptism into His atoning blood, my hope moved from fleeting over to eternal.

My hope was now based on the promise of the eternal God to keep His Word.

As long as Jesus is genuinely my Savior, heaven is genuinely my future.

Now that’s a reason for hope.


No, some things didn’t get done today.

But the most important things DID get done.

God was praised.

People were loved.

Lessons were learned.

And Jesus was thanked.

Like I said, it was a good day.

As always, I love you

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It’s easy as a Christian to think that a more blessed life is the result of a less-stressed life.

After all, doesn’t everybody want fewer struggles in life?

You and I have both met struggling believers think that those who flourish in faith do so because they have an easier path with fewer obstacles.

Now for some believers, that’s probably true.

But for many others, it is clearly not true.

Their enduring faith is, instead, a function of sanctified determination to love and serve God no matter what.

I was reminded this morning of this fact while reading from Luke 8 regarding the parable of the sower. You know the story.

A farmer went out to the fields to sow seed.

Some fell on the hard path and was quickly eaten by the birds.

Some fell on rocky soil and sprouted, but quickly dried up from lack of moisture.

Some fell on the thorny soil where it sprouted and grew, but produced no harvest because much of the needed moisture and plant nutrients were being diverted to thorns and weeds.

And some fell on good soil where it sprouted and produced a hundredfold harvest.

My attention this morning is directed toward the third metaphor.

Jesus said in verse 14 that the harvest of the seed was “choked” by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.

Interestingly, He said the plant did not mature.


Can you imagine seeing a teenager going for a job interview while carrying a baby blanket or teddy bear — perhaps even a pacifier? It would look silly.

Chances are that the job would go to somebody else because the hiring manager wanted someone with evidence of maturity.

Here’s the application to our faith. You and I both want to produce a hundredfold harvest for the Lord who has given us life and a field within which to serve.

That’s why we need to be diligent in pulling the thorny vines from our lives.

We know that the Enemy doesn’t want us doing anything good for God’s Kingdom. And he’ll always be planting thorny vines into our corners of the world.

He’ll always be telling us that we need the “binky” blanket that he gave us.

But he’s a liar. He’s always been and always will be.

The more we pull out the vines that choke us, whatever the binky blanket is, the more we can grow to maturity of faith.

It won’t be easy, but as the fourth metaphor tells us, such perseverance will produce more harvest of praise and worship for God.

Please, my friend, pray for conviction about what is choking your spiritual growth and blocking you from spiritual maturity.

Whatever it is — a thing, a position, financial selfishness, a habit of the flesh, a hobby that steals Bible and prayer time — we need to lay that blanket, that binky, on the altar and put on the robe of righteousness and the armor of faith, both of which can be ours through a growing maturity of faith.

Our harvest for God’s sake, and our own, will be greater as a result.

As always, I love you

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Teens are often tempted to think parental rules are contrived to prevent fun and enforce opinions.

While that might be the case for some parents, the vast majority of parents I’ve known didn’t establish rules and principles in order to take joy away from their kids.

Instead, the rules and principles were in place to protect the kids — and sometimes even their families — from the consequences of poor choices.

I had more than one occasion as a parent when my kids thought I was overly strict and simply wanting to keep them from having fun.

I wasn’t always popular with Jessica and Melissa. But I was convinced that I was doing the proper thing for them.

I thank God that I made the right choices then.

For life has gone well for them since they left home and I believe that they will be good parents making good choices whenever God blesses them with teenaged children of their own.

This is how God wants it to be, of course.

Not just for our kids. He wants this for all His children.

He wants life to go well for everybody that wears His name.

That’s a true measure of a “daddy,” in my opinion.

A daddy is absolutely focused on wanting the best for his kids, he gives wise instruction on how to make good choices and he never gives up wanting those kids to make those choices that will help them to have a better life.

I’ve not accomplished my goals in certain respects of my life. And at some things, I’ve flat-out failed.

But, through God’s grace, I have enjoyed a measure of success at being a daddy.

I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of parenthood and the blessing of grown children who are sold-out Christians.

I share this today because of a brief passage in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).

What stirred my spirit when I read this was not the “fear me” or “keep all my commands always.”

Those phrases are all over the Old Testament and so I expect to read those periodically during my devotional reading.

Instead, I was moved in my soul by the words, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined…”

This was the cry of the Abba Father, not the presiding Judge.

This was not unlike the desire of a daddy who wants to see His child receive the good citizenship award on the school stage rather than to receive an expulsion notice from the principal’s office.

This is the cry of a daddy who wants to see his adult child evaluate how a prospective spouse interacts with God so that the likelihood of lifelong marital commitment and parenting success are much improved.

The fact is that children who grow up with hearts inclined toward fearing God and keeping His commands WILL have better lives for themselves and for their children in the things that really count such as loving relationships and Christian character.

Please, dear friend, incline your heart toward God and His Word. Life will be better for more people if you do.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

As always, I love you

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It’s quite intriguing and inspiring to read words of faith that are more than 3,400 years old, yet still stir the heart as if spoken yesterday by a famous, compelling preacher.

The words are simple in structure, yet they drip with implications for individual and collective eternities.

Though crafted as questions, these two sentences provide powerful declarations of God’s love, His power and His perfection.

“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to Him?

“And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:7-8).


I find great comfort in these words.

They remind me of why I’m so glad to be a believer.

Many people worship gods that consist of buildings or statues or nature settings, life situations or even other people.

But those finite, decaying things can’t go with them everywhere they go in order to offer even the phony help that the veiled Satan promises.

And many people will surrender their wills to a body of false religious teaching in order to check the “gotta worship something” box in their souls.

But subscribing to a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts ultimately means nothing if the prescriptions for living are not paths of righteousness built with the perfect stepping stones of Jehovah’s laws handed down to Moses and other biblical authors.

Hmmmm……. a great God who is by my side whenever I pray to Him? And a great book of godly inspiration and instruction is mine whenever I grab it from the coffee table and open its pages?

Yes, I am truly blessed to have both of these through my faith in Christ.

It’s true that many other religions pray to God.

But not in Jesus’ name.

That means, if the Bible is true, that their prayers don’t have the access as do our prayers.

I’m glad that I can have direct access to God whenever I pray.

Take comfort, my friend, from Deuteronomy 4:7-8.

For as you do, you’ll experience the peace that your heavenly Abba Father wants for you until the day your faith becomes sight and God’s part-time presence becomes His forever presence.

As always, I love you

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Some people are pre-disposed toward being chintzy, it seems.

And others seem pre-disposed toward generosity.

I don’t claim to know all the reasons for why a person is or is not generous.

If I knew those answers, then I would be better equipped for my own perfection in this regard.

For the measure of generosity that I demonstrate toward others, I am grateful that God has grown me to this point.

I realize, however, that I have a few nooks and crannies within my heart where my degree of generosity is still short of where it should be.

I am praying for renewal in this regard because I want to please God with an improving reflection of Christ’s nature.

He never acted selfishly. And neither should we.

If we have the ability to help a person in need or a Christian group raising support to meet group needs elsewhere, then the choice between those needs and our wants shouldn’t be complicated.

And so, for example, we should buy the lunch one day for a single parent who never goes out to the corner restaurant with the work crew but instead brings a bag lunch in order to save money.

We should get creative with generosity such as drinking only water with restaurant meals for the next three months in order to help the unemployed church member’s kids to attend summer church camp.

Perhaps you should fast from TV for a week and, for each hour you would have been parked on your couch, you choose to spend several nights parked on the couches of discouraged friends who need a boost of encouragement and brainstorming wisdom.

You’re smart. You’ll find ways of showing generosity toward others if you’ll ask God to use you as a vessel of blessing.

And the time will come when God sends favor your way.

It just might be that the help comes when you really need it.

Some of you REALLY need help now because the crippled economy has you on its victim list.

I’m praying that God will send somebody to help you and that you’ll be the big cup of blessing that God uses to bring blessing into his or her life.

Why this topic today? This was in today’s reading in the One-year Bible.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

This principle is so clear.

Generosity says grab the big cup when you’re prompted to serve others without regard for yourself.

Chintziness says grab the little cup so that you won’t give away that which you really want for yourself.

The fact is, according to Luke 6:38, we should grab the largest cup possible.

It’s how God will more fully bless others and through which He will also bless us.

As always, I love you

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It’s one of the more vivid parables taught by Jesus, this story of new wine in old wineskins.

The story is found in Luke 5:36-39 and describes what happens when new wine is placed into old wineskins.


That’s what eventually happens as the new wine ferments and produces gases that stretch and stretch the skin until it literally blows up.

The old wineskin is destroyed, the wine is wasted and time is lost trying to deal with the mess.

It’s a shame, too, according to those who preferred the old wine in the first place.

The fact is, the story teaches, some people just don’t like new wine.

The old is better,” said the person who has developed a taste for the old wine.

That’s why, Jesus said, the new wine should be placed into new wineskins.

This parable is true to wine production physics but it is also prompts a key question that we should ask ourselves.

When the Holy Spirit is attempting to lead us away from a long-held, flawed belief or practice, do we gladly receive that teaching or convicting voice?

Or do we ignore it, choosing instead to guzzle down the self-focused ideas that have drawn or driven us away from humble obedience?

Do we like the old wine of past practices and opinions — perhaps even religious traditions — rather than the new wine of biblical teaching that is both unfamiliar and also very true to the Word?

Many people spend their entire lives in a faith system that counts on the “old wineskin” mentality to keep people in the pews, or at least on the donor rolls.

“New wineskin” ideas aren’t encouraged because flock members who embrace such all too often decide their lives and their growth of faith will be easier in a new wineskin environment.

The old guard religious leaders — always hassling Jesus — were the old wineskins in this parable given the leaders after they hassled Jesus and His disciples for eating with tax collectors.

They didn’t have ears to hear and had no use for the teaching He was bringing that would later be known as the new covenant.

That’s why Jesus sought to build a new movement of faith apart from the temple-based faith of clergy-dominated religion.

Here’s the wrap-up.

Don’t fall into the trap of being an old wineskin. There is always more for you and me to learn and to re-learn. God’s plan for the world, the Church and our individual lives is always being revealed in bits and pieces.

We NEED to be flexible so that as the Holy Spirit — and God’s people — teach us things that help our faith to grow, our faith and vision for ministry might expand beyond the boundaries our human, comfort-seeking sides that so often turn into rigid, brittle walls.

As always, I love you

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