Archive for October, 2011

The more mature one becomes in faith, the more Kingdom-minded he or she responds when trials come along.

I’ve seen this principle increasingly demonstrated in my life over the years and perhaps you have seen it in your life, too.

Hebrews 2:18, I believe, calls us to resist not only immorality temptations but any temptations to take the easy way out, whether it be by submitting to peer pressures, by stealing to reduce our financial pressures or even by attacking an abuser rather than forgiving the abuser.

“Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Satan fired machine guns of temptation at Jesus during His ministry. The wilderness temptations were the first rounds from that gun but countless temptations followed, including the never-ending temptations to zap the evil-hearted religious leaders who were causing so much trouble for the ministry plan.

In fact, scripture says that Jesus was tempted in every human way possible, yet never sinned.

He resisted the temptation, even when it meant He had to endure suffering.

Because He resisted, we can resist.

Because He pleased God with His obedience, we can please God with our obedience.

The same Word and power from God that helped Him endure is offered to us through faith.

Remember, Satan’s objective in tempting us — no matter how he does it — is to see us walk away from obedience to God and into rebellion of our pride.

It’s not easy to live in accordance with this verse. Some people are really good at pushing our hot buttons or at taking from us the things that we don’t want to give up.

But if we endure the hassles because of an enduring faith, we’ll be able to demonstrate for others that it’s possible for them to do the same.

At your workplace, in your home, at your school, perhaps even in your church, commit yourself to resisting temptation of all sorts, even the subtle ones that are intended to erode your compassion for others, your mercy toward others or your generosity toward others.

Whatever cheek you have to turn — whether financial, emotional or your peer group status — realize that your suffering will bond you with the One who suffered on the cross in your place.

As always, I love you

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Those following the One-Year Bible’s journey through the Bible have been reading in Jeremiah about God’s earthly judgment against nations that made a habit of attacking the Hebrew people.

It’s ominous reading that affirms God’s authority and His jealous retribution against those assaulting His Promised Land nation.

Chapters 49-50 are included in today’s reading and it’s tough going for those of us who are saddened by the knowledge that millions of Hebrews died at the hands of evil people and that millions more died as God punished evil nations by turning their kings and armies against each other.

Yet, almost as if providing a bright, guiding star in the darkness, Jehovah does not leave the faithful without a future hope.

“In those days, at that time,” declares the LORD, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.” (Jeremiah 50:20)

God didn’t create humanity just so He could enjoy destroying it.

His preference is that everyone find salvation through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9).

His understanding, though, is that “broad is the path that leads to destruction and many are they who find it.”

Listen, we’ve all had bad days or bad seasons of sinning. And it’s likely that in one way or another, we’ve felt the sting of consequences for those sins.

When those consequences involved the hurtful behavior of others toward us, it’s important to know that God allowed the season of hassles as a means of refining us and stirring us to run to Him.

Just as with the Hebrews after the destruction of Israel’s Northern and Southern kingdoms, those of us with some measure of faith remaining in our hearts can experience the “remnant” restoration.

We can stand in the presence of the Lord as forgiven people because the Ultimate Warrior/Savior has set us free from spiritual exile and restored us to the Promised Land of God’s presence.

This truth is important to share with believers who are wandering from the faith or who have already been enslaved by a corrupt lifestyle or unhealthy, unholy relationship. They need to know that they can still come home.

If they’ll plea with God that they want to be restored to “remnant” status and they repent of their sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive their sins (I John 1:9).

He will look at them and not see guilt but instead the fruit of His grace.

And that will be a very good thing.

As always, I love you

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Morning Devotion: Never alone

Satan loves pouring salt on our wounds.

Not the preservative salt of God’s truth, but instead the painful salt of abandonment by those we thought would support us.

His objective, of course, is to lure us into thinking that nobody cares about us.

Particularly if we’ve been doing the right things yet it seems that nobody appreciates it.

Our perspectives can be skewed at such times and we’re not totally absent of support. But when we’re hurting, it can sure seem that way.

Listen, God never abandons those wearing His name.

This is a truth that no amount of lies from Satan can displace.

Even in the most difficult of times, the most lonely of times, God is with us because we’ve asked Him to dwell WITHIN us.

I was reminded of this truth by the Apostle Paul while reading from 2 Timothy 4:16-18 as part of my devotional read today:

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

In view of all that Paul had done for the Kingdom of God and for countless thousands of Christians, the last thing he should have expected was abandonment while he faced religious persecution and looming death.

But people are people and self-preservation so often becomes more important than spiritual fidelity.

What Paul faced must have been crushing to his heart. Put yourself in his place for just a few moments.

Imagine being a faithful church pastor and you’ve sacrificed every earthly thing to keep the ministry going and yet, various forms of oppression have scared off all your weak-faithed members. The temptation would be to say, “What’s the use?” and take the easy way of compromise.

It’s at such a time when trusting God will still provide more than enough strength to keep sharing the Word — 2 Cor. 9:8

And when our mission is done, we’ll safely arrive in heaven.

Let’s remember this promise, no matter how lonely we feel at work or at home or at school… or at church.

We’re never alone, my friend.

God promised so when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

As always, I love you

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God wants you and me to be successful in life.

Successful in serving Him by serving others, of course, but also in experiencing His blessings in our everyday lives.

He’s a good God, a caring Creator, a perfect Abba Father.

And daddies always want their kids to have good, amply supplied lives.

I was reminded of this desire while reading this morning from 2 Timothy.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (vv. 14-17).

You might think it’s a stretch for me to extract from this passage what I wrote in the sentences preceding it.

But it’s really not.

When the Apostle Paul used the words “thoroughly equipped for every good work,” I took him at his word. Good work is not only that which blesses others. Some of the biblical wisdom that God provides us is intended to help us tap into the richness of God’s peace and blessings.

It really IS a good thing when we become filled with joy and peace and assurance and strength and resources, all of which supply us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually so that the purposes of God can overflow into the lives of others.

Please think of Christians you know who are effectively used by God for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training others in righteousness.

It’s likely that God blesses their lives in obvious ways because they have committed to doing good works for His sake.

They have equipped themselves with Rock-solid, God-breathed scripture so that they might be successful in reaching and teaching others.

They’ve been successful in helping you to become more successful.

God is calling you and me to pursue His will more successfully. He has provided us with an inerrant Word that gives us the spiritual tool needed for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

There are people in our lives — perhaps even ourselves — who aren’t yet thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Let’s dig into Bible study more than we have. We’ll not only find treasures of Truth that will help us to equip others, but we’ll also find treasures that will help us to experience more of God’s everyday blessings for our own lives.

As always, I love you

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I want a settled heart and settled mind.

And I read seven words this morning that provide these to each of us if we’ll take God at His Word.

We could, of course, disbelieve what the Apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 6:6. But that would be a big mistake.

It’s so much better to accept what Paul wrote as true.

Because we know it is.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

We’ve seen plenty of people chasing hard after great gain but not in godly ways. They might actually end up with a lot of stuff, but what they won’t have is genuine contentment.

They’ll always want more because they’ll think it comes only from their hands, not the hands of God.

When God defines something as “great gain,” then that has to be something special. And I want some of that.

I pray that you do, too.

Pursue godliness, my friend.

Please don’t cheat yourself and God of devotional time or worship time, just so you can pursue making more money.

Please don’t cheat God of the tithes and other offerings because you think the Creator of the Universe can’t replace what you give.

Please don’t withhold compassionate gifts to the needy because you think you won’t have enough for yourself.

Celebrate and share the blessings you have. See them as something given you so that they’ll overflow into other people’s lives. For when we are contented, it’s because we recognize that we have more than enough and that we can share with others.

That’s when our faith begins to experience great gain, when the blessings we’ve gained are used to bring gain to another person’s life.

Hmmmm…. who is really the “poor” one in this life?

Is it the humble person in older clothes, driving an older car around to give away spare loaves of bread or whatever?

Or is the truly poor person the well-dressed sophisticate striving so hard to get more because they never feel they have enough?

Pursue great gain, my friend. Pursue godliness. Pass blessings to others and the contentment you’ll gain will be out of this world.

As always, I love you

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All around us are people wanting to believe that godly people can be counted on to do and say godly things.

Such people’s pride-tainted hearts might not be ready yet to surrender to the Christian faith, but they recognize that their path is not satisfying the depths of their souls.

These are the people who particularly need to see faithful examples of Christians who demonstrate integrity.

When the unsaved person sees an excellent, Christian role model, the measure of Gospel influence typically increases.

Perhaps you chose to seek Christ as Savior after you observed the godly life and language of a Christian co-worker or relative.

Because almost all conversions follow the seeker’s studied observations of Christian integrity, it is vital that we make a determined commitment to imitate Christ in every way possible.

For when we don’t, we greatly disrupt the working of the Gospel through our lives.

King Solomon provided a visually graphic reminder of this lesson in Proverbs 25:26.

“Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked.”

It’s important to remember how everyday life was for people in Solomon’s day who would hear or read this verse. Most lived in rural areas where there were no roadside, push-button water fountains or kitchen sinks with faucets.

In fact, it was quite common for people to walk for many hours, perhaps even for days, without seeing a source of fresh water. That’s why the average person had to carry water with them in animal skins or gourds.

After traveling for a long distance and being almost out of water, it was quite encouraging to see a well or spring in the distance. But upon arrival and finding the water source polluted by filth, the sense of disappointment would have been profound.

And fear might have begun to set in because of uncertainty in getting to the next source of replenishment before it was too late.

If the person had been told by others that the well/spring would give them the refreshment they needed, then the disappointment would have even been worse because of the false hope given them.

Listen, I think you get the lesson here.

People are thirsty for hope. They might not admit it, but many desperately want you to provide a clear picture of spiritual integrity that honors God and helps people. They want to know that there are people who are absolutely committed to doing what is right, no matter what.

You see, they’ve seen SO many people who don’t live with integrity.

When you and I live in a “Living Water” way that overflows with fresh, clean, refreshing water, some might eventually begin coming to the Fountain of Jesus Christ that never runs dry.

Please resist giving way to the wicked.

Too many have already done so and the people in your life need to see that you’re not going to join that polluted crowd but instead remain a vessel sharing water from the pure Fountain.

As always, I love you

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It’s never good to be known as a quarrelsome person.

Who likes spending time with such a person?

Too much drama. Too little genuine listening. Too much control-freak behavior.

Some of us have had extended periods of time at work or school or home or in dating or even at church when we found ourselves connected in some way with one prone to a critical spirit and argumentative nature.

When the contentiousness started, it was not pleasant.

Hopefully, we didn’t reciprocate with quarrelsome behavior but instead showed patience and grace and resolute focus on following the path of God’s leading.

Why this topic today? Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible included Proverbs 25:24. The verse says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

My goodness. That’s a really blunt perspective from a guy who had hundreds of wives.

Even though Solomon had huge palaces, he still might have been stuck on the corner of the roof if he had to get away from even just a third of his 300 wives!

Though this verse creates a popular trap into which some critical-spirit Christian men fall — sometimes even in a men’s meeting group — the reality is that both genders too frequently form attitudes that send their spouses heading for the roof corners.

I thank God that my wife Lori doesn’t have a critical, quarrelsome spirit. It’s much better living in the house with peaceful satisfaction than it is living on the roof in order to survive emotionally.

Even the kindest among us, however, can slip into a quarrelsome spirit if we’re not careful. We have to resist the me-first agenda at all costs. You see, a person with a quarrelsome spirit is not sincerely concerned about finding win-win solutions.

If he or she were, he or she would discern the montage of emotional and spiritual factors influencing a situation and pray for wisdom to nurture cooperation rather than pursue verbal domination.

The quarrelsome person seeks only win-lose solutions as in “I’m right. You’re wrong. Get over it” or “I’m not getting my way and you’re going to pay.”

Let’s rise above a conflict mentality, let’s commit to principled compromise as needed and then focus on the real Enemy — the author of all whispered temptations to turn us against a loved one or friend.

As always, I love you

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