Thursday, June 18, 2015

Faith


In Mark 11:22-23 Jesus said, “Have faith in God…I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”

In his book Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark, J.C. Ryle makes two points:
1) “Happy are they who know how to rest their whole weight continually on a covenant God and to walk by faith, not by sight.”

Faith in God is resting our whole weight on him. He is a covenant keeping God; he is strong and faithful. What he says he will do he does. His love for us is strong and his compassion for us is abounding. He never leaves us or forsakes us. If we fully trust in him, we will find joy and peace whether we experience blessings or trials in this life.

2) “Do we desire to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we wish to make progress in our religion, and become strong Christians, and not mere babes in spiritual things? Then let us pray daily for more faith, and watch our faith with most jealous watchfulness.”

We need to daily ask God to feed our faith – to enable us to trust him. When the busyness of life creeps in, we need to pause and lift all to God and trust him to lead us. When the trials of life flood us, we need to remember that God is faithful and present to help and care for us. When we experience success, we need to direct the praise to God, who equipped us and enabled us to accomplish everything.

Let’s rejoice in our covenant keeping God!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Daily in the Word (Hebrews 4:12)


Do you believe God is real? Do you believe the Bible contains the very words of God? Do you believe the Bible has specific guidance for your life today?

These questions get at fundamental beliefs. If God is real and the Bible contains his words, we need to value them highly. If his words apply to us today, we need to be daily reading and studying them. And this daily reading should not be like the daily reading of the newspaper or favorite websites, but instead be with reverence and an intention to live according to the principles and commands laid out from God for us.

II Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

God is the source of all of the Bible, and he uses it to teach and correct us. He wants to help us in every facet of our lives, and the Bible is a key tool he uses. Do you use the Word as an equipping instrument from God, helping you be ready for the day, the month, and the year ahead?

Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Bible doesn’t just speak about actions or the outward behaviors we perform. It also addresses our hearts, our motives, and our thoughts. Do you let the Word of God penetrate your heart? Do you use it to reshape your thoughts and intentions?

I would urge you to be in the Word every day. Read one chapter from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Pray that God would speak to you, and anticipate that he will. Look for one verse and one idea that jumps out at you, and consider what God may be saying to you today. Is there a sin you need to repent of? Is there a motive in your heart that needs to be changed? Is there a specific action you need to start doing.

When we are daily in the Word, we will daily be growing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What is God Looking For?


In Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 2), C.S. Lewis talks about four important virtues: wisdom, self-control, justice, and courage. “After discussing each he states, “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.”

Lewis makes a profound point that we need to remember. God doesn’t call us to just follow a set of rules or commandments; he calls us to have a heart that fears him and wants to live all of life in a way that glorifies him. He wants Christians who are humble in heart, which leads to humble living. He wants Christians who fear him, which leads to holy living. He wants Christians who are wise, which leads to choices that honor him. He wants Christians who are self-controlled at heart, which leads to self-controlled living. He wants Christians who are truthful and just, which leads to honest living. He wants Christians who are courageous at heart, which leads to boldly living for God.

So easily we can want God, our pastors, our parents, our coaches, or our teachers to give us a list of things to do and a list of things to not do. In the short run this may look easy, but in reality this it is extremely difficult to make humble choices if we are not humble in heart or wise choices if we are not wise or self-controlled choices if we are not self-controlled in heart. This type of living is exhausting and drudgery.

God is looking for us to cultivate Christian qualities in our hearts, deep down within us, part of our core. And when we do, we will find living the Christian live is joyful, easier, and more fulfilling because it is more the natural outflow of our love for God.

What do you focus on – your particular actions or your heart? Commit today to focus on your heart first and then the actions the flow out of it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Plant Us In Your House (Psalm 52:8-9)


Psalm 52:8-9 says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.”

David writes that he is “an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” Olive trees lived for hundreds of years, but they were not planted in the house of God. Yet he felt like an unworthy soul abounding in God’s presence.

David’s humility is inspiring. The King of Israel and a man after God’s heart felt unworthy to be in God’s presence. But he craved nearness to God, and he found prosperity in God.

David flourished. There is no better way to prosper than to stick close to God for he knows all, control all, and can do all.

Does your soul hunger for, your spirit long for, and your mind desire God above all? This is where we will find lasting joy and peace. He is our source of strength and steadfast courage. In him we will experience deep peace and overflowing excitement.

Then we will praise. A song of great joy will be on our minds and tongues. Our lives will worship God – our prayers, our words, our actions, our melodies. We will give every ounce of energy in devotion to my Lord and Savior. We will smile with glee and dance with joy. We will encourage family and friends.

Where does this come? From our heavenly Father, the source of all.

Dear Lord, plant us securely in your presence; transform our hearts, our minds, our all.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Good, Right & Faithful


II Chronicles 31:20-21 says “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.”

These verses serve as a summary statement of the first part of Hezekiah’s life. They provide us with an example for us and some principles for us to attempt to follow.

Hezekiah did what was good, right, and faithful before God. We too need to see to do what is good, right, and faithful. We need to choose good friendships, good entertainment, and good speech. We need to do what is right at home, at work, and when out with friends. We need to be faithful in our commitments, our personal times with God, and our involvement in our local church. All of these can be beautiful offerings before the Lord.

Hezekiah sought his God and worked with all his heart in efforts to honor the Lord. We too need to seek God and his direction and guidance for our lives. We can do this through reading and studying the Word, through prayer, through hearing his Word taught at church and youth group meetings, and through the wise counsel of parents or other godly individuals.

This takes our whole heart. Truly seeking God and living for Christ require us to pursue him above all else and before all else. Commit today to do what is good, right, and faithful before God with your whole heart.

Monday, June 08, 2015

People of the Cross by Selah

Yesterday my pastor preached from John 15:18-6:4 where Jesus explains that Christians will face persecution from the world and God will provide the Holy Spirit to help us.

At the close of the service we were introduced to the song "People of the Cross" by Selah. It is dedicated to the 21 Egyptians who were killed in Libya in February. It is powerful!

"Jesus said 'If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.' John 15:20 (ESV) So many Christians have given their lives for their faith in Jesus. So many more will. Let's stand with them and pray that they stand strong as they glorify God through their suffering. We are The People Of The Cross. Open Doors USA" (Todd Smith of Selah)

I encourage you to watch their official video for People of the Cross and pray for the persecuted Church worldwide.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

From the Inside Out -- Hillsong United

Hillsong United produces great Christian worship songs. 

Recently I heard their song From the Inside Out. It speaks of authentic love for Jesus that starts in our hearts, leads to complete surrender, and shines out from us to the world around us. Real faith, real love, and real living are powerful.

Here are the lyrics:

A thousand times I've failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in Your grace

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing You praise

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

My soul cries out to You
My soul cries out to You
To You, to You

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out


From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

Saturday, June 06, 2015

God


What is God like? How does he act? What is he capable of doing?

How did you learn these things? Did you hear them from others? Did you think of them yourself? Did you read a book about God? Did you learn them in the Bible?

There are a lot of different views of God. Some emphasize his love and his mercy. Some highlight his wrath and justice. Some focus on his power and sovereignty.

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle writes, “Beware of manufacturing a God of your own,—a God who is all mercy, but not just,—a God who is all love, but not holy,—a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own…He is not the God of the Bible, and besides the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”

The world has a skewed view of God, often emphasizing his love and mercy. Even Christians can manufacture there own view of God, focusing on attributes they like and avoiding those they do not. This is extremely dangerous because the right view of God shapes just about every aspect of the Christian life. Therefore, we need to be sure we know who the God of the Bible truly is.

Bible says a lot about God and his many attributes. He is loving, good, merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign, eternal, unchanging, just, holy, and hates sin. He is all of these and more all at once. He is God.

What attributes of God do you tend to focus on? What ones do you tend to forget or avoid?

Seek to learn more about the true God of the Bible. In addition to the Bible, here are two books that could help you: Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. Both of these contain outstanding teaching on the attributes of our glorious God.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Three Marks of a Christian (I John 5:1-5)


I John 5:1-5 speaks directly to those who believe in Jesus – true Christians. Read it and look for three marks of a genuine Christian.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Christians should…
1. Love other Christians
2. Obey God’s commandments
3. Overcome the world

The book of I John has a lot to say to Christians. In fact, in I John 5:13 John states his purpose in writing is to help believers have assurance of salvation and the future gift of eternal life.

The first five verses of chapter 5 list three actions that should be seen in the life of every Christian. Are they in your life?

We always want to read Scripture with the desire to apply it to our lives today. We need to understand what it says, identify the principle taught, and look for specific application and practice in our lives today.

To help with application in I John 1:1-5, answer the following questions and consider what needs to change in your life.
  • Do you believe Jesus is the Christ? Have you been born of God?
  • Do you demonstrate love for other Christians? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you obey God’s commands? Do you joyfully obey? Do you quickly obey? Do you repent when you disobey?
  • Do you seek to overcome the world? What do you do or not do to help overcome the world? How are you specifically drawn to the world?

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Is God Real?


A few years ago I have had two different conversations with two different teenagers in which they each expressed their occasional doubt that God really exists.

The first conversation was with a girl in her early teens. She told me that when she is going through tough times or trials she knows her need for help and turns to God. But when things are going well she begins to wonder if God really does exist and if she really needs help.

The second conversation was with a boy in his early teens. He expressed the opposite. He said that in hard times and struggles he wonders if God really exists. In trials he questions why God would seemingly abandon him and not look out for him or his family. But when times are better he believes God is real and working in his life.

Can you relate to either one of these teens? In many ways I can relate to both of them. I have been caught up in the good and the many blessings of life and have forgotten about God and failed to recognize he is the source of all good. I have also been discouraged in trials and hard times and wondered if God exists and cares for me.

Yet God is real, active, and fully aware of every one of my circumstances. My emotions and feelings may change according to my changing situations, but God is unchanging. My pride grows in good times, and I focus on myself instead of my God. My self-pity increases in hard times, and I focus on myself instead of my God.

The other reality is that in this life we only see in part. We do not see all of God’s actions, purposes, or ways. We do not always know how he works all circumstances for good for the Christian (Romans 8:28). We do not always understand how his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

Prepare yourself today to have the right view of God in both the good and the bad that you will face in life. He is real, he is powerful, he is ever-present, he is good, he is just, and he is with you. Knowing these truths will help you praise him in the time of blessing and trust him in times of trials.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Unstoppable Love (Romans 8:38-39)

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Broken relationships are all around us. A married couple files for divorce. Best friends end their friendship completely. Father and daughter have not seen each other in years. Business partners sell their company because they cannot get along.

Humans are designed for relationship, yet not all of our relationships go smoothly. Conflicts arise, people move away, and different priorities come up. Sometimes a relationship ends quickly, and sometimes it fades over months.

God’s love for us is totally different. His love is unstoppable. There is nothing we can do to stop his love. Even when we fail to honor and obey him, he loves us. Romans 8:38-39 drives home the point that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing!

This is a promise for you. This is a promise to embrace today. Nothing in all creation can stop your loving Father from loving you.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Summer Reading Suggestion -- Humility by Andrew Murray

I hope you have exciting plans for summer -- travel, beach, pool, hobbies, friends, family, and more.

I also hope you plan to read this summer. Read for pleasure and read for growth. Specifically, read for spiritual growth. Read books that will feed your faith and prepare you for the future calling God has for you.

Let me offer a summer reading suggestion: Humility by Andrew Murray. It is only 64 pages, and it is easy to read. Andrew Murray (1828-1917) is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of his best books. I highly recommend it to you.

Be challenged to die to self and live for Jesus Christ. Be inspired to live the selfless Christian life.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Life or Death (Romans 8:13)

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

This verse scares me. It highlights the radical difference between the life lived in the flesh and the life lived by the Spirit. One ends in death, and the other in life. One leads to eternal separation from God, and the other leads to eternal life with the Father in heaven.

So why does this verse scare me? I love Jesus Christ, I have placed my faith in him, and Jesus is Lord of my life. But, I still battle with my sinful nature. My heart of stone has been changed by Jesus Christ, yet I still struggle with sin. The Holy Spirit lives in me, yet I stumble.

This verse also encourages me. We all have a sinful nature, but we do not need to live by it. A heart that has been truly transformed by Jesus will live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh. Although we will battle our flesh here on earth, a genuine Christian can anticipate a day when there is no more sin, no more sadness, and no more trials. We will experience the beautiful presence of God forever.

Be warned by this verse. Do not live according to the flesh. 

Be encouraged by this verse. Live by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh, and anticipated eternal life with our Heavenly Father.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Imagine Video -- Growing Up Christian

Imagine the potential of a generation of teens on fire for God!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Steadfast Trust

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts is in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3-4

What a promise! The Lord promises perfect peace to those who steadfastly—unwaveringly, faithfully, consistently—trust in him. Those who trust in the Lord and do not lean on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) will experience calmness from above. Those who lift out their requests to God, trusting that he will listen and provide for our needs, will experience peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). Those who lack wisdom and cry out to God, believing that he is the source of all wisdom, will understand the source of grace our Heavenly Father is (James 1:5).

The promise is perfect peace; the condition is if we trust him.

Why can it be hard to trust God? For me, there are a variety of reasons: 1) I tend to quickly trust myself—my knowledge, experience, and gifts—instead of God, 2) I tend to trust others (especially people I respect) instead of God, who is the source of their wisdom and gifts, and 3) I do not directly see God or hear God’s voice, like I do with other people in my life. What about you? Why do you find it hard to trust God?

Despite our wavering hearts, God never changes and he is so worthy of our trust. Have you ever thought about why can we trust God? Think about his attributes. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, holy, just, and loving. He has always existed, always will exist, and never changes. Think about his actions. He created the world, made a covenant with the nation of Israel, sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, forgives us time and time again, sent the Holy Spirit as a guide for us, and much more.

God has given us Scripture to guide us, encourage us, correct us, and inspire us to trust him. Read the Old Testament stories, and watch for God’s faithfulness to countless individuals and to the nation of Israel. Read the gospels and see the amazing life and death of Jesus Christ, and see God’s love for each of us. Read the book of Acts to see God’s hand in the early church, especially in the life of Peter and Paul, and understand God’s faithfulness to Christians.

Feed your heart and mind with the promises of God, and learn to trust him more. Think deeply about the character of God, and understand why he is worthy of our trust. In the end, you will experience the perfect peace that results from steadfast trust in God.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Our Parents

Parents – God chooses them for us…we do not have a say in the matter. But, we do have a lot of control over our current relationship with our parents. We can do things that can greatly help or harm our relationship with them.

What kind of relationship do you have with your mom and dad? What kind of relationship should a Christian teenager have with his or her parents? Should it be like a coach/athlete, boss/employee, drill sergeant/enlistee, or something quite different? Should we even care?

I believe teenagers need their parents more than any other season of life. It is hard to be a teenager. It is a season of life when we are going through many physical and emotional changes. We are just beginning to learn what it means to function in an adult world. We are beginning to form our own personality, beliefs, and goals. We need a lot of support and counsel from older, wiser, and more mature Christians who know us well. We need our parents!

Yet this is a radical statement in our world today, which says parents are out to get us and stop us from having fun. Break away, form your own identity, and do not let anyone force their values on us. This is a lie – a dangerous lie – that leaves us without the loving wisdom and protection of God’s gifts to us – our parents.

Please consider your relationship with your parents. What can you do to help build a stronger relationship with them? Talk to them, listen to their advice, carefully consider their counsel. Ask them questions, bounce your ideas off of them, embrace the wisdom God has placed in your life through them.

Do not assume the teenage years mean you will have a terrible relationship with your mom and dad. Be a radical Christian and sow into your relationship with your parents. They wont always tell you what you want, but they will tell you what you need to hear.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Remaining in Christ – John 15:5

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

A branch of a grape plant must remain connected to the vine to survive. Yet survival is not the purpose of a grape plant – producing fruit is. Life and productivity come from being connected to the vine.

The Christian walk is similar. We are called to be fruitful Christians, stewarding the talents God has given us. God expects us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have received. We should demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. And all of these require us to remain in Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to remain in Jesus Christ? Just like the branches of a grape plant need to stay connected to the vine for nutrients and water, we need to stay connected to Christ, who is our source of strength. This means we need to read the Word of God for encouragement and guidance, we need to remind ourselves of the life and death of Jesus Christ and the transforming affects he has on our hearts, we need to pray for wisdom and strength, and we need to humbly declare our weakness and Christ’s power.

In him we can bear much fruit; apart from him we can do nothing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

God Works All for Good

J.C. Ryle is one of my favorite authors and is one of my spiritual heroes. He was born into a wealthy family in 1816. He went on to be a pastor, church leader, and author. Growing up he received a fine education, even graduated from Oxford. As the oldest son of the family, he was due to inherit his father’s many businesses and estate. But, when he was 25 his father’s bank went bankrupt, and his family lost almost everything.

At this turbulent time J.C. Ryle decided to become a pastor and enter full-time church ministry in the Church of England. As a preacher, pastor, and writer, Ryle had a broad and wide impact on the evangelical church. It is hard to believe that this may not have happened if his father’s bank had not gone bankrupt.

His story is a reminder that God works all for good for Christians. Trials and hardships can redirect our future paths. Difficult circumstances can reshape our character and make us more effective for Christ. Sicknesses can help us comfort the sick. Great loss can humble us and make us more dependent on Jesus.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

To learn more about J.C. Ryle, visit The J.C. Ryle Archive.

To purchase some of his writings, visit his page on Amazon.com.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jerry Bridges' Books

Have you read any of Jerry Bridges' books? I highly recommend them. The content is great and the writing is easy to understand, whether you are a teen or adult.

Here are a few of his best:
Read and enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pruning - John 15:1-2

In John 15:1-2 Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Years ago wife and I had a tree in our front yard trimmed. The worker warned us that at first the tree would look pretty bad, but it would quickly produce many new branches. He was right. About two months later I was stunned to see how full the tree looked. As I examined each branch, I realized that in every spot where a branch was trimmed the tree grew four, five, and even six new branches. And in a short amount of time the tree looks more beautiful than ever.

We too need to be trimmed and pruned. Dead branches in our lives need to be cut off. The parts of our lives that are producing fruit for the glory of God need to be pruned so we can be even more fruitful for Him.

We need to turn to Scripture and say, “Lord, trim me with the truth of your word.” We need to go to our family and friends and ask, “What in me needs to be cut off so I can be more fruitful for God?” We need to pray to our Heavenly Father to prune us so we can grow and accomplish more for him and his kingdom.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who Do You Fear? (Matthew 10:28)

In chapter 10 of Matthew, Jesus is preparing his disciples to go out to various towns in Israel and spread the good news. He gives them strategies and methods, and he prepares them for the challenges they will surely face. He focuses their attention and reminds them of what is most important.

In verse 28 he utters a truth that we need today, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

It is easy to be controlled by our desire for others to think highly of us and consider us cool. We carefully think about the clothes we wear so we can look cool at youth group. We laugh when everyone else is laughing in an attempt to fit in the popular crowd. We say things to impress others. And as we do all of these things, we can have an underlying fear in our hearts.

We may not face the physical dangers the disciples faced, but we may face the social effects of being in the “outside” or “un-cool” group. We may experience ridicule and mockery from peers. And we are afraid. The answer is not to give in to our fears. We must be aware of the dangers we may encounter so we can navigate them and live in a way that pleases God.

Ultimately, we need to fear God. He controls all, sustains all, and knows all. Man can hurt us and harm us, but God can do much more. He controls our souls and our eternal destination. His opinion of us matters the most. His instructions for us should guide us more than anything else. And his eyes are the most important eyes observing us.

It isn’t easy to fear God more than man, but it is essential to live the Christian life.

Who do you fear?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Great Spurgeon Quotes

Here are two inspiring quotes by Charles Surgeon from the book On Spiritual Leadership by Steve Miller.

"Sanctity in ministers is a loud call to sinners to repent, and when allied with holy cheerfulness it becomes wondrously attractive."

"The serene, silent beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world, next to the might of the Spirit of God."

If spiritual leaders live holy and joyful lives, Jesus and Christianity is wondrously attractive, particularly to individuals who grow up in the church. A call to bland, legalistic, holy living is repulsive. If Christianity is just a set of dry rules, young people will be turned off and walk away from their family's faith.

But, as the second quote states, simple holy living is powerful. It influences more than we know and in ways we cannot fully understand. The example of consistent holy and joyful living makes Christianity and the Jesus Christ attractive to all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Power of Example

I am reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. It is the fascinating story of Wilbur and Orville Wright designing and flying the first airplane.

In chapter 1 McCullough writes about their faith – or their lack of faith. He writes that the brothers “gave up regular attendance at church, a change the Bishop seemed to accept without protest.” (page 18)

The Wright brothers’ dad was a pastor, a Bishop, and he did not seem to care if his sons attended church. Why didn’t he care?

The next sentence of the book states, “Interestingly, for all of the Bishop’s dedication to church work, religion was scarcely ever mentioned in his letters to his children, or in what they wrote to him.” (page 18)

The Bishop was away from the home much of the time as he served as a traveling preacher. He often wrote to the boys and their sister, and they all wrote back to him. Why was his faith scarcely ever mentioned?

I don't know the Wright brothers, and I don't know Bishop Wright. But, this section of the book got me thinking about the example I am setting for my three children.

If God is an important part of our life, we will talk about him. When we love Jesus, we tell others about him. When we understand the Bible is the Word of God, we apply it to our lives and use it to bless and encourage others.

As parents we have a God ordained role to raise and train our children. We do this through our words and our example. We do this through the help of the Holy Spirit and much prayer. We long for them to have genuine faith that surpasses our faith. We want them to accomplish more for the Lord than we have. We fight for their souls.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Thousand Generations Blessing

In Exodus 20:6 God makes a stunning statement. He declares that he will show “steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Yes, you read that right. He will bless your decedents if you truly love him and keep his commandments. He will bless your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and on and on for generations.

God is worthy of our love. He is worthy of our hearts. He is worthy of our obedience.

He establishes his laws to help and protect us. He loves us, and he sets boundaries for us. He wants us to follow him and his ways. He wants to bless us for obedience.


Take some time right now to think about this verse and apply it to your life. You and your decedents will never be the same again.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Moses Wisely Listened to Advice (Exodus 18)

In Exodus 18 Moses and the Israelites were wandering in the desert. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, came to visit him, and he observed Moses busy all day serving as a judge in the disputes between Israelites. Jethro quickly realized that Moses was going to burn himself out if he kept up this practice. 

Jethro knew Moses was a man of God, feared God, and heard from God. He knew Moses was a great leader and God’s chosen leader for the Israelites. He also knew the Moses was human and would run out of energy if he continued as the only judge. He urged Moses to train up capable men to serve as judges in simple disputes and have only the most complex matters come to Moses. He counseled Moses to train up other leaders and multiple his effectiveness through other men of character and wisdom.

Moses’ response is recorded in Exodus 18:24, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.”

A few days ago this blog highlighted how wise people listen to advice. Moses modeled this for us. There was a problem that he may or may not have seen. His wise and caring father-in-law offered sound advice, Moses took it to heart, and Moses changed his ways.

Let us listen carefully to the godly, wise, and loving people in our lives. When we face challenges, let us seek them out. When we are blinded to our challenges, let us be open to their advice and take it to heart. Let us follow Moses’ example.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Seek Jesus & Deny Self (Romans 2:7-8)

In Romans 2:7-8 Paul contrasts two different types of hearts: a heart that pursues God in doing good and a heart that seeks self. The difference is striking.

“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:7-8)

The heart of a genuine Christian has been transformed from stone to flesh, from self-centered to God-centered, from love of self to love for Jesus Christ.

Out of the heart the mouth speaks, the person acts, the life is lived. What we love we pursue. What we value we seek.

A genuine Christian loves Jesus, lives for Jesus, and longs to obey his commands. A non-believer is bound by sin, seeks self, turns from the truth, and pursues evil.

The reward of for a genuine Christian is God himself for eternity. We live for him now and forever more. We love him now and forever more. We worship him now and forever more. We experience his presence now and forever more.

The consequence for unbelievers is just the opposite. Rejecting the truth and pursuing evil means facing the wrath and anger of our just and holy God. It means eternal separation from God.

How would you honestly assess your heart? Do you love Jesus Christ? Do you love him? Do you live for his glory? Do you see evidence of your love for him in how you live, what you think about, and what you seek?

If you have a heart that genuinely loves Jesus, rejoice. This is a gift and a miracle. Take time to praise God for coming into your life and transforming you.

If you do not have a heart that genuinely loves Jesus, take time now to surrender to him. Admit your sinfulness, admit your need for a Savior, acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and place your faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Cultivate a heart centered on Jesus, die to self, and live all-out every day for him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spiritual Goals

What spiritual goals do you have for the coming months and years? Where would you like to be in your love for Jesus Christ and your walk with him? What would you like to accomplish for the Lord in the next decade or beyond?

Have you ever set spiritual goals?

We often have goals in other areas of life. We set academic goals of achieving a specific grade in a class, grade point average in high school, SAT scores, attending a specific college, and achieving a specific degree.

We set athletic goals like exercising a certain number of times a week, playing on a particular team, averaging a specific number of points, playing on a select team, making the varsity team, or competing at the college level.

We set career goals such as landing a particular job, earning a specific salary, attaining a high level management position, and being able to afford a high standard of living.

In just about every aspect of our lives, we tend to set goals. But do we approach spiritual matters and our personal walk with God in the same way?

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, he is the ultimate target and the object of our love and admiration. Goals are not an end in of themselves, but they do help us to live more and more in a way that brings glory to God. Let’s seek to love him more and live for him more.

Here are some goals to consider:

  • Read the Bible every day, seeking to apply the truths of the Bible to your life
  • Read and study a particular book of the Bible in the next month
  • Get involved in a Bible-preaching, vibrant church
  • Gain a circle of friends who are passionate about Jesus
  • Identify one area of sin and battle it with truths from the Bible, faithful prayer, and accountability from a wise Christian
  • Read a book that will feed your faith
  • Spend regular time in prayer
  • Keep a journal, recording specific truths God reveals to you in your personal times with him

What are your spiritual goals?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wisdom & Words

I did it again. I cannot believe I just said that. I wish I could take it back.

Everyone has had thoughts like these. Everyone has had moments like this. Everyone has said something they immediately regretted.

Our words matter, and our tongue is very hard to tame.

As we look at wisdom and folly, let's take some time to consider our words.

The wise and the fooling talk differently.

Wise people carefully choose their words, but the foolish speak rashly. The wise know when to stay silent, but the foolish do not. The wise encourage and bless others, but the foolish talk a lot about themselves. The wise build others up with their words, but the foolish cut others down. The wise use their words to inspire and lead, but the foolish use their words to promote themselves.

Here are some verses from Proverbs that speak to this issue:

Proverbs 15:2 – “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”

Proverbs 15:7 – “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.”

Proverbs 18:6 – “A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.”

Proverbs 18:7 – “A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

Do you speak with wisdom? How would you evaluate your words? How would you assess your speech? Do you bless and encourage others. Do you build others other? Do you gossip or slander? Do you cut others down? Do you make the most of your words?

God cares deeply about the words we use. Commit today to pursue wisdom in all areas, including the words you use. Pray for self-control and ask for daily help from the Holy Spirit.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wisdom & Listening to Advice

Wise and foolish people differ greatly.

A wise person listens well, is teachable, and seeks advice from others. A foolish person talks more than listens, is not teachable, and does not accept advice from others.

Here are five Proverbs that illustrate this:

Proverbs 12:15 – “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

Proverbs 13:10 – “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”

Proverbs 15:5 – “A fool despises his father's instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”

Proverbs 18:2 – “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Proverbs 19:20 – “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Questions for self-reflection:
1)      Are you a good listener?
2)      Are you teachable?
3)      Are you coachable?
4)      Do you accept instruction from those over you?
5)      Do you listen more than you talk?
6)      Do you take advice to heart?

We all want to be wise, and no one wants to be a fool. Seek today to grow in humility, admit you have many areas in which you need to grow, and listen carefully to the wise and godly people in your life. Seek to be a good listener, ask questions that help you grow, and be slow to talk. Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you to accept instruction and grow in holiness and wisdom.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Treasuring Wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-10)

When I was younger I collected baseball cards (Topps were my favorite!). It was more than just a hobby; it was a passion. I spent hours seeking cards I was missing in a set. I spent countless hours reading, studying, and organizing cards. I worked hard at it – very hard – but it never felt like work because I loved it.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Have you ever worked extremely hard at something but it did not feel like work? When we value something, work can feel like play. When we treasure something, spending large amounts of time on it can seem to fly by like minutes.

It would be great if we could pursue wisdom the same way – with all-out effort that did not feel like effort at all.

Proverbs 2:1-10 focuses on treasuring and pursuing wisdom.

“My son, if you receive my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
    and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

We all want to be wise, and we all know it is good. But, do we truly treasure it? Do we pursue it with joy like it is a valued jewel or a prize like silver?

When we pursue good grades, we pay careful attention to our teachers, we take copious notes, and we study for hours. When we actively pursue a league championship, we listen closely to our coach, we watch hours of game tape, and we practice long and hard. When we desire a particular career goal, we watch leaders in the industry, we faithful sharpen our skills, and we build our resume.

If we love it, all of this effort is a joy. If this prize is valuable enough, every minute is worth it.

May this be true in our pursuit of wisdom. May we value wisdom greatly, joyful pursue it, and excitedly expect God to fill us with his wisdom.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Run with Endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes called the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” as it lists biblical heroes who demonstrated amazing faith in God. Then in chapter 12 the author turns from looking back to speaks directly at the reader and to us today.

He challenges us to look at the faith of others and be inspired to set aside the things in our lives that so easily weigh us down (our trials, our worries, our sins...) and run hard after Christ.

What weighs you down? How can you lay it down, fix your eyes on Jesus, and run with endurance? Lift your head up and look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. He is the source of our strength, peace, and joy, and he showed his amazing love for us by enduring hardship and shame, as he gave his life for us all.

Let's pray for grace and strength to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Pursuit of Wisdom

We all know wisdom is better than folly. Wisdom is good and folly is bad. We should pursue wisdom and avoid folly. We want to be known as wise, and we definitely do not want to be called a fool.

Yet, it can be hard to define or fully explain wisdom. Let’s start by viewing it as the opposite of folly, which is easier to understand.

A fool speaks without thinking, but a wise person thinks before speaking. A fool acts quickly or reacts rashly, but a wise person is self-controlled and slow to react. A fool talks a lot about himself, but a wise person focuses on others. A fool freely shares her opinions, but a wise person asks questions. A fool fears the opinion of others, but a wise person fears the Lord. A fool thinks only about the moment, but the wise think about the moment and the future. The fool spends money now, but the wise person plans for the future.

Wisdom is more than being smart. You can have great grades in school and not be wise. Wisdom is more than being self-controlled. You can be quiet and calm and not be wise. Wisdom is more than being a certain age. You can be older and not be wise.

To be wise you do need to have a certain level of knowledge and life experiences. You have to have a self-controlled and thoughtful mindset. You need to consider the future and plan for future events.

In many ways, wisdom is the ability to put knowledge into action – taking the knowledge you have and applying it to real life situations.

A wise person knows how to react when someone yells at her. A wise person knows what to say to a depressed friend. A wise person knows when to bite his tongue and not say anything. A wise person knows when to ask for help. A wise person knows the value of education. A wise person knows the importance of saving money. A wise person knows how to safely drive a car.

The book of Proverbs calls us all to pursue wisdom, to treasure it, and to seek it out. It is a great place to start in your personal pursuit of wisdom. Read it, study it, and ask God to help you grow in wisdom. The pursuit of wisdom happens one step at a time, one decision at a time, and one day at a time.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Tell The Next Generation

While in the desert, God provided manna for the Israelites six mornings a week. God provided their daily bread with this daily miracle.

God instructed Moses to collect some manna to keep for future generations to see how God provided for his people. This was a miracle too. Manna normally only lasted one day. Once a week it lasted two days so the Israelites would not have to gather on the Sabbath. Yet this one container of manna would last into the future. It would be a visual aide as parents told their children, as grandparents told their grandchildren, and generation after generation would remember the faithfulness of God.

How do you mark God's faithfulness in your life? How do you tell your children about the amazing deeds God has done for you? How do you pass down these stories to your students, to the youth in your church, to the next generation.

Place a memorial in a prominent place in your home or your church. Frame a picture that symbolizes God's particular faithfulness. Make a pile of stones as a remembrance.

Tell the story of God's mighty deeds. Share the details of what he has done for you. Write down how he provided for you. Record his deliverance in your life.

Monday, May 04, 2015

I want to hear, "Well done!"

When my life is over, I want to hear God the Father say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

1.  Genuine faith – I am so grateful that Jesus died for me. I place my full faith in the finished work of Jesus. I proclaim he is my Savior and my Lord.

2.  Faithful effort – I strive to be faithful in the time that I have, in the skills I possess, and in the opportunities God provides me. I strive to work hard, persevere, and make the most of every day.

3.  Faithful in the right things – I want God’s priorities to be my priorities. I want to die to self and live for Jesus Christ. I want to be sensitive to the unexpected opportunities and needs that cross my path. I want to serve others and bless those in need.

4.  Learn from mistakes – I realize that even my best efforts will fall short. I will make mistakes. I want to learn from my errors and to see my mistakes as opportunities to improve. I know that God works all for my good, and I desire to be humble and open to input from others.

5.  Words that bless – I want to speak words that build others up, bless others, and encourage others. I want to be joyful, grateful, and positive. I want to listen more than I speak, and focus on others more than I focus on myself.

6.  Steward of the King – I want to live for my Heavenly Father. All of my gifts and talents are from him. I want to represent him well. I want to develop my talents to be more effective for him. I want to be his representative and his tool to accomplish his purposes.

I want to hear, “Well done!”

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Jesus Was Full of Grace & Truth

Randy Alcorn has a fantastic book called The Grace and Truth Paradox. I highly recommend it to you. It is concise and packed full of wisdom.

Alcorn builds his content from the description of Jesus in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What does grace mean? What is truth? What does it mean to be full of both grace and truth?

What would life look like if we were all grace and no truth? What would life look like if we were all truth and no grace? Jesus was full of both truth and grace. What does that kind of life look like? How do we pair the two to live the balanced and full Christian life? Alcorn addresses all of these questions.

Grace is amazing, truth is essential, and paring the two is vital for full life in Christ.

Take some time today to study John chapter one. Order a copy of The Grace and Truth Paradox. Seek to live a life like Jesus Christ -- full of grace and truth.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Deliverance of the Lord

We all face trials. We all face hard times. We all face difficult circumstances. Sometimes we can avoid them, but often we have to walk through them. In every case, we need the Lord’s power and deliverance.

In Exodus 14 the Israelites had just left Egypt. They had seen the plagues God had unleashed on the Egyptians. They had experienced the Passover. They had plundered the Egyptians of their silver, gold, and fine clothing.

In chapter 14 the Egyptians changed their minds and pursued the Israelites. The Israelites had been led by a pillar of fire right up to the edge of the sea, and they seemed trapped between the sea and the Egyptians. A disaster seemed eminent. They were going to die in the desert.

But, God delivered!

Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13)

We all know the rest of the story. The Lord parted the Red Sea, the Israelites crossed on dry ground, the Egyptians followed, God closed up the sea, and all of the Egyptians were killed.

God delivered!

What can we learn from this?

1.       Do not be afraid. Trust in God. Believe in Jesus. Pray for peace from the Holy Spirit. God is watching, listening, completely aware of your situation, able to help, loving and compassionate, and has the best plan for you.

2.       Stand firm. Continue to honor the Lord no matter the circumstance. Continue to do the right thing and to complete the jobs he has called you to do. Continue to trust him for the future. Pray for faithfulness, courage, and confidence.

3.       Watch the deliverance of the Lord. Anticipate God will rescue you. Watch him meet your needs in the midst of trials. See him hold you strong even if you have to walk completely through the trial. Trust he will hear and answer your prayers.

4.       Rejoice. When the dust settles, even if multiple years later, take time to rejoice in the good God has brought through your trial. Celebrate when he delivers. Shout for joy when he heals. Praise him when he makes you stronger in faith and character. God is good and worthy of our praise.