Category Archives: Daily Devotions

Restless Excitement

I am a fidgety person.  I blame it on my attention deficit issues, it comes with the territory.  My mind wonders and my feet move, my fingers tap, I click my pen, and so on.  When I talk on the phone – especially if it’s important, I can’t seem to sit still – I have to pace around.  I recently took a phone interview…in the middle of a Sheetz…after traveling for 20+ hours.  During that 10 minute phone call, I found myself circling every aisle as if I was possessed and looking for something.  It wasn’t even a normal stroll up one aisle and down the other, I looked like a lost animal trying to find the exit.  I would take one step in this direction, spin around, walk 10 steps another way, turn again.  I am sure it was comical to watch.

Restlessness can also creep up in our spiritual life.  Sometimes this is a bad thing.  Sometimes, we get to a point where we are confused about what God wants from us, or how we should follow Him.  We may feel uneasy with where our life is right now, and not know which way to turn.  I have experienced a little bit of that as I search for a new career.   My mind says find something that pays the bills, but my heart is tugging toward something that fulfills God’s plan for my life.  I don’t want to make the wrong decision or miss an open door because I am too restless and unwilling to slow down, trust God and listen to the Holy Spirit.  Today, I have been challenged to think of restlessness as a good thing.

This week has been a crazy period of adjusting to the time change, geography change and most importantly, daily life change.  I prayed and thanked God for the experience and the life changing passion He has given me for foreign missions.  I love going where He sends me and just being wide open and willing to do whatever is asked of me.  There is something free about following God’s leading.  Now that I am back home, I went through an adjustment, but there is a restless excitement.  I am not content to come back and put that mission trip on the shelf and just reminisce about how nice it was.  I have a desire to serve here just like we served while we were on the field.  I’m on edge looking for opportunity and trying to listen to the Holy Spirit.  I don’t want to miss out.

God gives us that restlessness so we are drawn to Him.  When we think of restlessness because we are unsure, it’s God – the firm rock and foundation of our lives that we turn to.   When we are unsure of what’s next in life, we can look to God and His word and understand our purpose.  Our restlessness is a tool that God uses to disturb the status-quo and move us closer to His will.  As part of the idea of being intentional, take the restlessness that you may feel and intentionally seek God’s heart.  Take the time to pray and look for the opportunities that He is presenting so you can draw closer to Him.  God’s desire is a relationship with us, his creation.  When we give our life to Christ, He spends the rest of our days helping us live out the plan He has had for each of us since the beginning of time.

My challenge to you today is simple.  Don’t ignore or try to quiet your restless heart.  Instead embrace it, become excited by it and look for the purpose.  Be bold for Christ and refuse to settle for “good enough.”  Be intentional and open your heart so that you are leaning fully on faith and go!  Remember what Paul wrote – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20).  We aren’t done until we are home.  That restless excitement is God pushing us deeper and deeper into Him.  Giving us a heart that longs for our heavenly home and understanding the purpose while we wait for that homecoming.

Father, today, I thank you that I am uncomfortable.  I’m not meant to be comfortable on this side of eternity.  There is work to be done, and I thank you that you are moving to make me aware of that.  I pray you’ll continue to build this desire in me to serve you, wherever you put me.  Thank you for this intentional attitude.  I pray that I am sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, yet bold and courageous to answer with full faith in you.  In your name I pray – Amen.

Intentional Living: Following God’s GPS

As I continue to adjust back to home, I have spent the past few days processing, seeking, and listening.  I know God has moved me in an extraordinary way and I am on a mission to capture that movement and follow the path He has laid out for me.  As I thought about my walk with Christ, I keep coming back to the words focus and intentional.  Focus is a funny word to me, mostly because I am 100% A.D.D.  Even today, as I read and study God’s word, I have found my mind drifting to completely different things.  Focus is not easy, but it’s an attitude and trait I have given to God and asked Him to help me change.  I want to live a life focused on Him – hourly, daily, weekly, and forever.  I mentioned it before, one of the greatest aspects of serving Christ in an all-inclusive environment is that the focus is always on Him.  Now that I am back in my reality, the focus still has to be all about Him.

For ADD people, we know that in order to focus we have to consciously do it.  Many people can do things without even thinking about them, but for someone who has a wandering mind, you have to purposefully keep your mind engaged on the point of focus.  This is a part of what is meant when we talk about living an intentional life for Christ.  Purposefully finding out what God wants, what pleases Him, and how He has gifted you to accomplish His will.  The other part of that is going beyond figuring it out, but actually doing it.  For a long time, I have had the head and even heart knowledge, knowing what to do, but it stopped there.  It’s like figuring out your exact destination on a trip – right down to the street number.  You take that information, enter it into a GPS, and instantly, the path is laid out before you.  Here is the starting point, here is the route, and here is the ending point.  But now what?  Well, the obvious answer is to start the car into motion and follow the route.  So why don’t we do that with God?  We have His word.  If we know Him as our savior, we have on-board GPS – the Holy Spirit.  All that’s left is to start into motion and follow the leading of the Spirit.  But for so many, myself included, we stop at the starting line.

For a long time, I didn’t feel prepared to start.  I knew the path, I trusted God’s word and plan, but I didn’t know how to follow it. I didn’t think I had it in me to tell others about Him in an effective way that would lead them to salvation.  I couldn’t speak eloquently enough, didn’t have enough answers to tough questions.  So I just sat there, not moving, just being.  In Ephesians 5:10, the Bible says “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” (From The Message).    The context of this passage deals with following God’s example, not getting caught up in the worldly concerns of this life.  He is our GPS.  He is the beginning and end.  He is perfection and following him intentionally every day will keep us moving on the perfect path to become what He desires and accomplish what brings Him glory.  Now, I can’t illustrate anything with a GPS and not talk about re-calculating.  Anyone that has ever followed a GPS has made a turn, or a decision and saw the words re-calculating.  That does not mean the destination has changed, it just means you’ll get there by a different route.  The same is true in our Christian walk.  Thank God we are saved by grace and nothing we do outside of faith changes that.  Imagine if you were driving along on your trip, made a wrong turn and the GPS just quit and said, “Good Luck.”  We would never get where we were headed.  God loves us so much that He is willing to recalculate, but He’ll never simply turn off.  He just gives us a new route and our job is to trust that the route He provides will be the perfect way to get us from where we are to where He wants us to be.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Go where He says to go. Serve how He wants you to serve.  Love how He wants you to love.  Be intentional.[/pullquote]

So, how does this apply?  It’s simple. Be on purpose – or be intentional. Pray daily, seeking the face of God and by faith and with commitment, submit to Him.  Go where He says to go. Serve how He wants you to serve.  Love how He wants you to love.  Determine everyday to live a life that thinks about Christ, considers what He would do when faced with our situation, and walk how He would walk, leaning on the faith that God will provide whatever is needed to do it.  Take responsibility for how you live your life.  It isn’t enough to say I want to be more like Christ.  The right statement to make is, “Today, I will be more like Christ in my thoughts and actions.  He is the perfect GPS and is ready to take us on this journey called life, helping us reach the destination He has for each of us.  Are you willing to take the ride?

Father, I love you.  I am in awe of you and I fear you.  I feel your perfect love and can see clearly this day how you intend for me to live.  I intentionally choose to look for every opportunity to walk with you and serve you with my whole heart.  I thank you for this refreshing attitude and pray that I’ll wake each day with the same purpose to follow you in all that I do.  In your name I pray – Amen.

Risk & Reward

This week, I found myself in a very difficult situation.  I was thrust into a position that required quick decisions and my best effort with an unknown outcome.  By happen chance, or better said, by God’s timing, I ended up on a fire scene with confirmed entrapment.  This is the worst dispatch to hear.  The call was not in my territory, nor would my department be asked to respond, but I felt compelled to go, as I was less than mile away and had my gear with me.  Upon arrival, I found heavy fire showing from the windows and heard law enforcement officers tell me that there was a woman inside the back bedroom.  I made the decision to try to enter the house.  While I had my gear (fire coat, pants, boots, and helmet), I did not have a breathing apparatus. To enter this house, I would have to risk it all.  I opened the back door and immediately faced a heavy fire with intense heat and smoke.  I got as low as I could to the floor, calling out to the person trapped inside – no response was heard.  I could not see anyone near the door and the fire was quickly advancing.  In that moment, I had to make a choice – was the risk worth the reward?  As a firefighter I know, from my earliest training, that being in the toxic environment of a house fire without your breathing equipment can be fatal in seconds.  It is often said, you’ll take your first and last breath if you don’t have the right equipment or if it fails for some reason.  That training rang loud in my ears and I ultimately decided I wouldn’t be able to pull this person from the fire before becoming a victim myself.  I pulled back.  Another saying we live by is risk a little to save a little, risk a lot to save a lot.  This situation had a great risk on the line, but the reward was unknown.  Not being able to see her, or hear her made it an unknown reward.  Was she still alive?  Would I be able to find her in those conditions?  Later, after the call ended, I spent a long time reflecting.  I thought a lot about sacrifice, and couldn’t help think about the ultimate sacrifice by Jesus.

God is calling each one of us to take a risk with a known reward.  [John 3:16] Jesus willingly came to this earth to pay the ultimate sacrifice.  He did this – gave His life, so that we could have a restored relationship with our creator – God.  He paid a penalty that required death for our sins.  His sacrifice gives me the opportunity to have my sins forgiven and forgotten.  So what’s the risk?  The risk is accepting His sacrifice for my sins, and trusting this faith in Him as the only way to receive the eternal reward of Heaven.  Unlike the incident I described in the beginning of this post – where the risk was great and reward unknown, my reward for trusting Christ is certain.  I don’t have to weigh it out and make a decision that has unknown consequences.  I can boldly move forward, not with fear, but with hope.

Read more about the hope found in Christ

So many people today are afraid of the risk.  We are afraid of what God will require of us, afraid that we can’t measure up, or won’t be able to follow through.  We are afraid of losing the life that we know.  For so many people, the risk is too great because they can’t see the reward.  Many of the fears that people have are true.  We can’t measure up to God’s standard, we will fall down along the way, and we will be different from our former self.  The closer we get to Christ the more different we will be in this world.  It is certainly not the easiest road nor the most comfortable.  But we can face this with the certainty of the reward.  God’s promises are real.  He sees us through His son, Jesus Christ.  We can step out in the faith of an eternal reward.  We can step out in the faith of the Holy Spirit that will be with us every step of the way, leading our hearts toward a closer relationship with Christ.  Is the risk of stepping out in faith worth the reward?  The answer is simply an eternal yes!

Father, thank you for taking on the risks of this life and making the ultimate sacrifice for me.  Thank you for making me your reward.  I continue to be in awe of you and your love.  Thank you for giving me a desire to follow you and for a servant’s heart. I am thankful that the risk you ask of me has an eternal reward.  I pray today that my life brings glory to you.  Help me to deny my sinful flesh and instead follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life.  May your name be lifted up through all you bless me to do.  In your name I pray – Amen.

 

 

All your heart

“I love you with all my heart”

Those words roll off the tongue so easily.  I know I have said it to each of my kids thousands of times.  I have said it to my wife.  I have said it to God, on my knees, in fervent prayer.  But what does it look like?  What does it really mean to love with all my heart?  Do I even know what all my heart is?  I started out on a devotional reading today that was speaking about the desire of a father for his children to receive wise counsel from others.  Basically, praying that they would seek out godly friends and mentors that would pour positive truth into their lives.  While reading and thinking about that, I praised God for committed believers that work with my kids, and then started thinking about my commitment to do the same for others, and more importantly my commitment to God.  Thus, God has laid the burden of understanding what commitment looks like to Him.

There are many places in God’s word that speak about doing something with all your heart.  Psalm 119:2,10; Jeremiah 29:13; 2 Chronicles 15:15 all speak about seeking God with all your heart.  Numbers 32:12 – follow God with all your heart, Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:36-38, Love the Lord with all your hearts.  There are many other places.  What all of these verses speak to, in context, is a 100% commitment – no holding anything back.  Within that commitment comes trust.  We have to trust that any outcome that results from this 100% devotion is the right outcome.  So many times, I have committed to the Lord, my entire  life, only to grab the reigns after a few short steps, because I didn’t agree or trust where He was leading me.  God is completely ready and willing to walk alongside us at any moment and lead us in the exact, perfect path through life.  But we have to provide the “action”  We are called to seek him, follow him, obey him, love him, turn to him, trust in him, praise him, serve him, rejoice in him, etc.  All of those contain him.  He is to be the sole affection in our life, and from that love for him, all love for others will flow.    But we have to provide the action.  It’s all part of that commitment to him.  When you commit to something, you are committing to the belief in that thing, as well as the work necessary to accomplish what you set out to do.

I think the best way to sum this all up, to fully understand what this 100% commitment looks like, is found in Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your strength.  In one article I read, this verse was referred to as the “All Command.”  I like that.  It is a perfect picture of what it take to live 100% committed and to love with all your heart.  Loving with all your heart is a reference to where this all starts – inside.  If we are fully going to commit to something, we have to fully trust it.  We have to believe without any reservation in that which we are committing.  Loving God with all our heart is to believe in what He says, what He has done, and what He promises.  Placing our full trust in Him.  We can’t say that we love God with all our Heart unless we have committed our lives and entrusted our soul to Him.  That leads to the next part – loving Him with all our soul.  In the old testament, the soul was a reference to the body.  The complete self.  Loving God with all our soul means that our body is fully committed to him.  All of us.  So what is on the inside is what others see on the outside.  Too often, what is on the outside is not a reflection of what is truly happening on the inside.  We have a tendency to be masters at “appearance”.  If we fully commit to God on the inside, it is only natural that our outside will be a reflection of that commitment.  Finally, loving Him with all our strength.  I think this is the perfect picture of loving God with all that we have (and all that we can do).  I enjoy working out.  Those that have seen me, may not realize it, but I do enjoy it.  I relate “all my strength” to performing an exercise and having to summon all the muscle groups I can to perform a certain lift or movement.  Loving God with all my strength means that I will do all that I can in service for Him.  I will give all that I have – my time, my money, my family, everything I have for His glory.  It is often described as the greatest act of love – to give your life for someone else.  That is exactly what loving God with all my strength should look like.  Giving Him all that I have to give.

God is a jealous God.  He deserves and has every right to be that way, but we still like to look at Him and decide what he deserves.  Today, and forever more, I want to be all in, and I commit to him my heart, soul and strength – my all.

A life worthy of persecution

Chinese government authorities have begun pressuring house churches to register with the government and join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Officials have approached key leaders of many house church networks in recent weeks and delivered an ultimatum: Register with the TSPM within the next two months, or else. House church leaders, who oppose joining the TSPM, believe their only option is to create awareness of their situation and ask Christians around the world to pray for them. (Taken from icommittopray.com).

Have I ever been in this position?  No.  I live in the United States.  I have complete religious freedom.  I can stand on my street corner and shout (so long as it’s not to the point of disturbing the peace) the praises of my Lord Jesus Christ.  On a trip to Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago, I witnessed a man standing outside the gates of the White House, proclaiming through a bull horn, his distaste for what was currently going on in our country.  We are free.  There is no question about it.  In the past few weeks, my church youth ministry has been focused on the persecuted church.  We have read countless stories, watched videos and learned about what it’s like to be persecuted.  In some countries, it’s atrocious.   People are dying, everyday, because they profess their faith in Jesus Christ.  Dying.  Everyday.  According to a study by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), over 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016 for their faith.  That’s 1 person every 6 minutes, that lost their life for simply publicly living for Christ.  It doesn’t say what they were doing, specifically.  Some may have been leaders, spreading the gospel message.  Many were simply converts, that refused to renounce their new faith.  Again, I have never faced this.  In fact, I couldn’t recall a time when I faced any form of persecution for my faith, and that disturbed me.

In the past few months, I have found my world challenged.  I don’t feel comfortable anymore just sitting idly by and not doing anything with my faith.  It’s not enough to attend the regular meetings at church, participate in outings, and be a “facebook Christian.”  I blame…rather give credit to God.  I prayed, one night, a couple of months ago and asked God to give me the strength and the courage to give all of me to Him. Everything.  Move me where you want me.  Give me the thoughts you want me to have so I can do what you created me to do.  It was a scary prayer, and the excitement and fear that I have felt since then, prove that God will use you and move you if you are willing to give him control.  But last night, I just thought about that question – have I ever been persecuted for my faith?  I couldn’t say that I had.  So why does that disturb me?  It’s simple.  Jesus explains that anyone who follows Him…I mean really follows Him will face the same treatment He faced.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matt. 5:10-11).  Jesus says we are blessed when we face persecution.  Why?  We are blessed because of the key part of that verse, we are living for Him.  We are living out our faith.  We are living a life of righteousness.  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).  So, again, I ask the question, why am I disturbed and downcast because I haven’t felt persecuted?  It’s a simple answer, and one that I am ashamed to admit.  I haven’t been living a life worthy of Christ.  My faith hasn’t been radiant to those around me.  God’s word promises that when we live a life for Christ.  When we are out there – we will be persecuted.  Does that mean that I will have to give my life?  Probably not in this country.  That adds a whole new round of guilt and shame.  I live in a country where the worst I have to be afraid of is someone not liking me, or someone talking about me because of my faith.  Yet, I hide it.  There are people in this world that are dying, horrible deaths, because they utter the words, “I believe in Jesus.”  Yet, here I am, with no fear of physical pain or death, and I don’t say a word.

I want to challenge, myself and anyone else that comes across this.  Be intentional.  Lay down any fears and reservations about what people may think of you and be intentional in living for Jesus Christ.  Our fear should not be of our peers perception of us, but in how Jesus sees us.  “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and int he glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).  That verse should be committed to memory and thought of often.  I have said often, I am non-confrontational.  I don’t like conflict and that bleeds over into my spiritual life and how “out there” I am.  I don’t want to upset anyone.  You may be reading this and think – if I get out there and live like that, I’ll run everyone off and that’s not what Jesus wants.  I believe that if we live as and for Christ, we won’t run everyone off.  We may challenge them, but they will be drawn to us because we are different and genuine.

Are you living a life worthy of persecution?

Lord, I have failed.  Until this point in my life, I have never even thought about living a life worthy of persecution for you.  I pray, today, that I will be bold in my faith and unashamed of your name.  Stoke the flame in my heart so that your radiance shines brightly and unmistakably.  May I live a life that leaves no doubt where my heart is.  In your name I pray, – Amen.

Life’s end?

Driving home the other day, I was talking with God – eyes open…I promise.  I was just trying to spend some time praising Him for all I could see and it made me think about what Heaven may be like when that’s what we get to do for all eternity…praise Him.  When I think about Heaven, my mind takes an “earthly” turn and I get overwhelmed.  What will it be like to pass from this life to the next?  What is eternity – how can we even begin to comprehend never-ending?  Through that thought process I felt a gentle tug at my heart – a calming peace.  I have come to know that calming moment as when the Holy Spirit reminds me that He has this.  I’m not to worry about things that I can’t possibly grasp, but to turn to my faith and know that God has this.  What’s my job then?  My job.  My blessing.  My life is to sing praises to my redeemer.  My job is to spend my days worshiping Him with all that I think and do.  Praising Him for the blessings, praying to Him through the struggles and trusting in Him for the answers.

So, the question I started with – what is life’s end?  It occurred to me that, even  though I may experience an earthly death, my life does not end.  I am living with an eternal perspective.  The Bible is clear that when we close our eyes on this side of Heaven, our next conscious thought will be in Heaven.  There is no end for the believer.  In reality, there is no end for any of us – believer or not.  Life will continue in one place or another.  For those that have trusted Christ as their savior and put their faith in His finished work, that life continues in Heaven – praising and worshiping Him forever more.  For those that reject this free gift of salvation, and choose to place their faith in this world, that life will continue forever more in torment and separation from the one that created us.

So, today, when I think about life that doesn’t end, it gives reason that I should live as though it doesn’t end.  Too many times, I get caught up thinking about how hard I should work now, before I run out of time.  That is true in one sense.  My job here – bring God glory through worship, praise and telling others about Him.  Tell them verbally, show them through my actions and life, etc.  When I die, I won’t be able to impact anyone else still on this earth, other than through the testimony I leave behind.  But my focus has to be on more than just what can I get done while I’m here, but continually allowing God to change me to be the person that I’ll be forever, even after “the end.”  I want to begin today, letting God have all of me, to change me to the person that praises Him everyday, all day in all that I do.  I want to live life as though it doesn’t end, and go ahead and get started living with the same focus as I’ll have in Heaven.  I know that I can’t have the mind or clarity that God will give us when He “connects all the dots” and we understand completely, but I can use all that He blesses me with in this life, no matter how hard the blessing is, to praise Him and bring Him glory.

Don’t short yourself while you are still on this earth.  The blessing in Heaven is going to be sweeter than anything we can imagine, but we can get started living for it today!

Lord, I thank you for an eternal perspective.  I wish I had submitted to it earlier in my life.  Praising you every day of my life brings no greater joy and peace.  I thank you that you have never left me and I thank you for the sweet fellowship you pour out on me.  I don’t deserve the love you show me, but I am thankful for it.  I pray today, that my life will be lived as though I am already there.  Help me to radiate the love you pour out to all those around me and help me be your hands and feet in this world.  I pray for your courage and humbleness as I seek ways to serve you and tell others about you.  In your name I pray – Amen.

Thunder of God

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thes. 4:16)

I was startled out of bed this morning to the loudest clap of thunder I can ever recall hearing – ever!  It was amazing.   The entire house shook and it rolled on for what felt like minutes.  My wife sat straight up and after it had stopped said, “I thought the world just ended.”  I carried on the rest of this morning, in a normal routine of running around, getting things ready for the day, but I can’t get my mind off that statement.  “I thought the world just ended.”

The Bible makes is so perfectly clear that it could happen at any moment.  Matthew 24:24 says “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (ESV).”  Matthew 24:36 – “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (ESV).”  We are not guaranteed even one second.  So many are waiting – on what, I don’t know.  Waiting to get in a better frame of mind, waiting to fix themselves first, waiting because it just doesn’t feel right now.  Friend, if you are reading this today, it’s a gift. A blessing that God has given you.  Perhaps its the last time your heart will be stirred to think about eternity.  This morning could have been it.  It could have been the triumphant return of Jesus Christ and all those that have rejected or waited could have seen their moment slip away.  No one understands enough, is clean enough, is right enough, or will ever be perfectly ready to accept the gift of salvation, found only in Jesus Christ.  Part of faith in Him is faith that He can work with whatever I give Him.  Don’t wait.  If you feel uncertain, or are questioning, take that step of faith and call out to God.  Accept Jesus Christ as your savior today, and know for sure that when that split second moment happens,  you will be ready.

How can I be saved – Click here

What about those of us that have trusted Christ.  How would you have felt if this morning was it?  Today could have been the day when He called us home and in the twinkling of an eye we are standing before the judgment seat of Christ giving an account of what we did with Him.  Perhaps while I share my thoughts, it could happen.  How many of us really believe that though?  How many of us live our lives as if it WILL happen today?  I know I certainly do not.  I am the first to admit that I become extremely complacent so quickly.  God tells us to live each day for him to the fullest.  To give him our all, in every aspect of our life, and to always be prepared for His return.

What does that look like?  Do we live carelessly without worry for tomorrow?  Do we become impulsive and live without any plans for the future?  I don’t think so.  I think what God expects from us is to live our life in light of that second coming.  I watched a movie several years ago where the lead actor was killed toward the end and he never saw it coming.  When he died he had a small smile on his face.  I am a comments junky, and reading comments about that scene, one person remarked how great it would be to be in a moment of happy bliss when our time was up.  I think that relates to how God wants us to live our life.  To be ready.  Wouldn’t it be great to go to heaven when He returns in the midst of witnessing about His glory? Better yet, having just shared the gospel message and leading a brother or sister to Christ.  God is asking us to give Him our all, everything we are.  To live a life that brings Him glory.  Make plans, but in those plans, think of how God can use you.  Purpose to read God’s word and hide it in your heart so you can think about it when the book is not open in front of you.  Be intentional in how you live around others and look for every opportunity to share the love of Christ with a friend or stranger.  We can live a life of expectancy concerning His return by never missing a moment to live a life that brings Him glory.

What are you doing today to prepare for that moment when He returns?

Father, I think you for your blessings of each new day.  I long for the day when you return.  I pray for those that may not know you, that you would use me to reach them and share the gospel with them.  I pray for the strength and purpose to live each day thinking about that return and how I can use what you give me to reach others with your gospel message.  Give me a heart that longs for your return, yet strives to make the most of every moment you wait.  In all things, let me proclaim your glory.  In Christ I pray – Amen.

Thank you Jesus

In 2016, a teenager from North Carolina wanted to do something to express his love for Jesus.  He got a yard sign and put three simple words on it: Thank you Jesus.  That was it.  He put it in his front yard and went about his normal teenage life.  It wasn’t long before his neighbors saw the sign and asked for one for their yards as well.  Soon the requests were in the thousands.  Today, over 20,000 yard signs have been made and distributed.  The signs are sold with the profits being used to fund grants for churches and non-profits in the local area.  What makes this story so special?  This teenager simply wanted to show his gratitude, publicly, for Christ.  He wasn’t looking to make a living.  He was simply being sincere and intentional about his faith and wanted to share that.  Reminds me of a verse.  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)

Looking through the list of ideas and actions that define a lukewarm christian, I came to this statement: Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.  They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones.  They call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers.

Reading the news story about the thank you signs painted it as a viral movement that was out of the ordinary.  That is what our Christian walk looks like more often than not – ordinary.  I came across another article that asked several “Christians” about myths they have heard used to describe a Christian.  One statement said, “There are also people who say they’re Christians but don’t do anything about it.  They give people the impression that Christians are just like anyone else, that there’s nothing special about being a Christian.  Wow.  What a statement.  To summarize that statement – I’ve been given the greatest gift, that I didn’t earn that has set me apart from the lost world, and guarantees me a life with Jesus Christ standing right beside me, or more appropriately, holding me up and an eternity in Heaven, but I’m really no different from anyone else.  I’m not special?  Nothing can be further from the truth.  That statement is exactly why we have a society now that considers any life lived out for Christ to be radical and not the norm.

It’s confession time…again.  I have lived a life, and still struggle with this today, where I was just an ordinary Christian.  I haven’t done anything impacting for Christ.  All too often, I have praised God for great people who do great things, but missed the point, that I, too, am called to do great things for  Christ.  What is a great thing for Christ?  Is it leading a massive revival of thousands?  Is it organizing a food drive that feeds hundreds?  Sure, those things are great and far-reaching, but so is walking across the street to my neighbor’s house and telling him about Jesus.  In today’s world that can be just as radical as starting a massive revival.  Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on not “boasting” or holding ourselves higher than others.  We feel like we are to be meek and out of the spotlight.  That’s true to an extent.  It’s God’s glory.  That’s the goal.  But how can I bring glory to God if I am not about His work?

The Bible is full of stories of seemingly “nobodies” doing amazing things for God.  Moses was a shepherd, Daniel – a captive slave, Peter and John – fishermen.  We too can be just a great in God’s eyes if we give 100% in one area – faith.  When I think about this lukewarm statement, I keep coming back to faith.  We don’t have the faith that God seeks from us.  We are content to simply believe and enjoy the benefit of knowing one day we’ll be with Jesus.  We don’t step out in faith to do what God has laid on our heart from the moment we trusted Him as our savior.

Think about the last part of the statement above – we call radical what Jesus expects from all of His followers.  Jesus has no prerequisites for radical faith other than that – faith.

Lord, today, I humbly acknowledge I have lived a life that is far too “ordinary” and not anything that resembles radical.  You have gifted me with the holy spirit and have simply asked that I step out in complete faith and allow you to use me.  Forgive me for failing you so greatly in this area.  May today be the day that I embrace my faith in you and yield my life to you completely.  I pray that you’ll use me just as you created me to be used.  In your name I pray – Amen.

To learn more about the “Thank you Jesus Signs”, click here.

Insanity

Insanity.  No, I’m not talking about the crazy workout video series that I, proudly, made it through day 4 without dying.  I’m talking about real-world insanity.  Most of us know the definition – doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  For a Christian, a better definition may include doing whatever we want without worry because we know the end result.  This type of insane thinking is dangerous and could be a false assurance.  It’s what came to mind when I read the next statement in the profile of the lukewarm.

Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved FROM their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin.  There is more to it, and I’ll get to that later.  This first part of the statement is so powerful and so true.  Life is like this.  We don’t really mind bending the rules, cutting corners, even cheating.  What we mind is the consequences if we are caught. For the majority of us, we don’t let the “possibilities” deter us.  Take driving for example.  There are posted speed limits.  There are laws that require drivers to obey the posted speed limits.  Yet, we get in our cars everyday and drive “around” that limit.  Maybe 5 or 10 miles an hour over.  We don’t want a ticket, but we aren’t really that concerned with avoiding the behavior that would rightly earn a ticket.

Christianity, when it is first discovered, usually at the end of the Romans Road, really deals with life and death.  We present the gospel message, often focusing a great deal on the eternal reward.  Is that a dis-service to the new believer?  Maybe it is.  Maybe we should share the good news and place more emphasis on “this side of eternity” benefits.  Whether its presented as a “get out of hell” message, or someone is just interested enough to focus on “getting in”, it’s a real problem that needs to be examined.  The Bible clearly shows that Christ demands we give up our old life when we take on the gift of a new life in Him.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  In Romans, Paul asks the question, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2).  So the question begs – should we be concerned if our only goal is to avoid the penalty of our sin, but not the sin itself?

They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them.  Have you ever had someone do something wrong, and when you called them out on it, they gave you a very sub-par apology that lacked any real empathy or substance?  They were merely apologizing because they had been caught.  They weren’t really sorry for what they did, and they had no plans to not do it again, to you or someone else.  That kind of apology doesn’t really sit well, does it?  Neither does our half-heart repentance to God.  I believe they’re many people walking around in life today who feel that they are “good to go” with God because they prayed the “sinners prayer” one day.  Jesus gives a stark warning about this in Matthew when he told His disciples that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 7:21).  Jesus wasn’t calling us to a works salvation, but to genuinely repenting of our sin and trusting only in His perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sin.  If we believe that simply saying the words, without believing them, is all that it takes, we are in for a rude awakening.  God isn’t looking for a half in, half out christian.  His demand is simple, trust in the one He sent – Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t offer the option to trust in parts of Him, or in a few of things He did, but to trust in Him.  This is a complete trust.

This statement about the lukewarm lifestyle should be a huge warning sign.  Are you sinning, without regard, without remorse, without a second thought?  Is your assurance based on a prayer you spoke one day when you felt guilty about your sin, but you never gave it another thought?  That’s a dangerous place to be.  When you give your life to Christ, and truly repent, you should be truly sorry for all that you did to hold Christ on that cross.  When Christ is in you, you will hate the very sin He forgives and you will feel unworthy of the eternal reward He earned when He gave His life for you.

Now, before anyone goes off questioning their salvation, it’s important to distinguish between being lukewarm and having a lukewarm moment in life.  I have found myself stuck in a vicious cycle of repeated sin, even after I trusted Christ as my savior.  The cycle lasted so long that I became oblivious to the sin, I was giving into it without any fight.  I was leading a life very much reflective of this statement.  But I hated the sin.  I still hate the sin.  I cringe when I realize I have given into temptation, said or done something that was an obvious offense to God.  We are not perfect and won’t be until we are in the presence of our savior.  That very fact is why we must trust, 100% in His finished work on the cross.

Where are you at today?  How does sin affect your life?  Do you believe and treasure this new life in Christ, or are you more content in the chains of sin?

Father, thank you for the perfect gift of your son, Jesus Christ.  Thank you for accepting His payment for my sin.  Thank you for making me aware of my sin nature, and thank you for how you have given me a heart that hates my sin.  I am not worthy of your eternal reward, and my life is far from anything that reflects your glory.  I pray that you will continue to change me and that each day I will flee from sinful behavior and find perfect comfort in the new life you gave me when I trusted you as my savior.  In your name I pray – Amen.

The weight of broken chains

I have struggled with sin and uncertainty, more than I would like to admit.  It can be debilitating and the stress of habitual sin cycles bleeds over into nearly every part of life. This new year has been the start of a refocusing in my life and I have spent so much time thinking about the impact my life, here and now, has on eternity.  It started with a small retreat topic of lukewarm vs. obsessed and has grown from there.  I praise God every day for this “wake up” call and for this new perspective.  I can see growth again, when before, I was stagnant.  But in that growth I am learning that it’s not just a change of mind and everything is good again.  It is a process and a heavy one at that.

I don’t believe I can look at life through the eternal perspective and not come across the sin patterns that have plagued me and kept me chained to a short-sighted view.  It has hurt, when I think of how my thoughts, attitudes and actions have often been in direct opposition to what Jesus expects and deserves from me.  Through this process I keep coming back to the idea of being chained to my sinful self.  I know and fully believe that my chains have been cast off through the death, burial and resurrection of  Christ.  I am free from the penalty of my sinful flesh.  I am no longer bound to this fallen world with no hope for an eternity with my savior.  Praise God.  But, just because Christ broke my chains, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes feel the weight of what they represent.  I still live in this world – this fallen world. I am still surrounded by sin and sometimes get burdened and twisted up in the broken chains of who I used to be.  It’s during these times of weakness and failure that I feel the weight and the darkness starts to creep in.  It’s during these times that the devil lashes out, trying to capitalize on my doubts and my weakness.  It’s during these times that I remember and call upon the one that has set me free.

In Romans, chapter 7, Paul talks about the real struggle of living in this fallen world.  He describes trying to do what is right, only to end up doing what is wrong.  In his account, he helps us to understand the very principle I described.  Though we are new creatures in Christ, we are still living in our sinful bodies.  We are still dealing with the chains as they lay around us.  But we are not hopeless.  What a blessing it is to know that I am not forgotten and I am not alone in this struggle.  “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25 (NIV).  This passage is a powerful reminder of what I am to do when the weight of the chains creeps up on me – give it to God.  Too easy of a response?  Absolutely not.  Christ pleads with us all to recognize that we have no power, on our own, over sin.  We just can’t do it without Him.  The best part of this is that He wants to do it for us and through us.  Just as Paul fell to his face crying out, recognizing that he is nothing without Christ, that is what my response needs to be.  In the past several weeks I have found the most comfort and contentment when I lift my hands and tell God that I am nothing without Him.  Christ’s love for me is greater than I could ever imagine.  He loves me far too much to just set me free from the sin debt that separates me from Him and then leave me under the weight of the broken chains.

Are your broken chains still weighing heavy on you this day?  Give it to God, the one that has the strength to carry the weight we never could.

Lord, I thank you this day for your grace and mercy on me.  I praise you for the gift of eternal life through  your son Jesus Christ.  I thank you for breaking my chains and setting me free.  I praise you for not letting that be the end of the story.  Forgive me for how I have allowed doubt and darkness to creep into my life.  Thank you for reminding me that you are here to carry the weight and to help me grow to a greater dependence and love for you.  I pray that I will be obediently humble in my focus on you and that through you I will find the strength to face the challenges of living in a fallen world.  May all that I do be for the glory of you.  In Christ’s name I pray – Amen.