Rejoice in hardship

“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.”-Philippians 1:12

In today’s verse the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Philippi.  He had just been arrested and is writing this letter from a Roman prison.  In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul outlines a little of what he has suffered.  He suffered multiple beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, betrayal, and has gone without food and water. Yet he says it has all served to advance the gospel.

When we are going through hard times people are still watching us.  It is probably our greatest time of Christian witness.  Paul turned his prison cell into a Gospel chapel of sorts, because in all things he was proclaiming the Gospel.  It is our nature to feel self pity, and to make things about us when we are going through a hard time.  Resolve today to rely on the grace of the Lord to help you through those times.  Your reliance on the Lord just may be the catalyst that someone watching needs to come to faith.  Resolve today, as the Apostle Paul did, to push the kingdom of God forward instead of dwelling on our circumstances.  His grace will help you overcome anything that you are going through.

Be of the Right Mind

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”-Mark 10:25

At first glance these words of Jesus seem very harsh, but lets look at what he means.  Jesus is hyperbole to make a very important point.  Jesus had just spoken with a man who chose his riches over being his disciple.  Fame, success, and money have the very real ability of being a number one priority in our lives.  When this happens it becomes an idol, and one begins to trust in it instead of the Lord.

Has this every happened to you?  In all honestly I am guilty of this.  When the pursuit of riches at all costs becomes number one our will becomes the opposite of God’s.   What we have is a blessing from him, and should be used for the blessing of others.  Now I’m no saying there is anything wrong with fame, success, or wealth.  The issue arises when it s your pursuit to the detriment of everything else.  Resolve today to be of the right mind, keep the Lord as your top priority, and remember that everything given to you is a gift.  Never let anything replace Christ as the priority in your life.

No Other Name

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”-Acts 4:12

I don’t know about you, but I learn something new each time I read the book of Acts.  I am always encouraged by the powerful witness that the early church had.  In today’s verse Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin.  They had just healed a man that was unable to walk, and they healed him in the name of Jesus Christ.  In front f the Sanhedrin they said “There is no other name by which we must be saved.”  The were beaten, released, and ordered not to teach in the name of Jesus again.  What did they do?  They were joyful able to suffer in Christ’s name, and immediately started preaching again!

There is truly no other way to Heaven.  There is a world out there that needs to hear it, and often times we are timid to proclaim it.  Has Jesus changed your life?  Does it show?  People will see the change and ask you about it.  It isn’t always easy to talk about, but it is something that must be done.  Pray today for the Lord to give your the strength and confidence to be a witness for him.  Then resolve to as him for the opportunity to share.  Jesus’s words in Mark 16:15 apply to everyone, “Go forth and preach the Gospel to all creation.”

God bless you all.

Riches to Rags

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”-1 John 4:9

The coming of Jesus to this Earth truly is a riches to rags story.  Think about it.  Here is the second person of the Trinity who has unknown amounts of people worshipping Him in Heaven, there is no sin in his presence, but what does He do.  He fulfills numerous Old Testament prophecies by being born to a virgin in a little know city named Bethlehem.  Not only that but when He was born he was placed in a manger.  We sing about this at Christmas, but do you know what a manger is?  It is literally a feeding trough for livestock!

Jesus came from Heaven, with great humility and love, to show us the way to his Heavenly home.  What love He indeed has for us!  I challenge you today to be humble just as Christ was humble.  You can do this by doing a good deed, or listening to the concerns of another.  More importantly understand the love He has for you, and accept Him for who he is.  He loved you, and gave everything including His life so you can have the possibility of being in Heaven with Him.  If you are already a believer then resolve today to share his life-giving work with someone else.

Do Good

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”-Galatians 6:10

It seems that a theme over the past few days is to do good.  If you have noticed this trend then you caught me.  In today’s verse Paul is writing to a church who has been overtaken by Judaizers.  These individuals believed that in order to be a Christian one had to adhere to all 613 Old Testament laws, and be circumcised.  They also called the Apostleship of Paul into question.  Paul writes this letter to the church in Galatia, not only to defend his apostleship, but to remind them that they are save through the finished work of Crist on the cross.

The very character of Paul was questioned, but how did he respond?  Did he respond likewise and defame their character?  Far from It!  He ends his letter with an exhortation to do good.  This does not mean that Paul took it, and did not say anything.  He did defend himself, but did so graciously.  What does this mean for us?  The golden rule effect here.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Do good to all not matter how they may treat you.  This is the example that Jesus gives us.  He showed love and mercy to adulterers, murderers, and thieves.  He showed mercy and love for us by what he did for us on the cross, and by what he continues to do in our lives.  Resolve today to show that same mercy and grace by doing good to everyone around you.

Love your Enemies

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”-1 Peter 3:9


In today’s verse Peter in writing to Christians who are facing increased persecution in the Roman Empire.  Under emperor’s Nero and Diocletian persecution was fierce.  People lost their jobs, had property seized, were put in prison, and killed.  Yet Peter tells them not to repay evil for evil, but to bless them.  He is echoing our Lord’s command who said, “Love your enemies.”

This action is something contrary to our nature.  I want to be clear.  This verse is not saying that evil should not be met with justice, but it is saying we are to show compassion, mercy, and love to those who hurt us.  This is not easy and may take months, or even years to do.  Take baby steps, and pray for the person doing you wrong.  I think you will be surprised at what this can do.  It is a start and will open both hearts and allow God’s love and mercy into a difficult circumstance. 

 

Not Ashamed

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”-Romans 1:16

In this verse Paul wasted no time.  He had already established many churches, and had endured countless persecutions. Looking at the life of Paul we can see that he gave up everything to fulfill the mission that Christ had given to him.  He was a Pharisee, who was educated by the prominent Pharisee of his day.  He was also a Roman citizen which had great perks in the ancient world.  Yet he looked at both, who were both persecuting the early church, and said “I’m not ashamed.”

In our lives we have many opportunities to echo these words of Paul.  Are we saying that we are unashamed with our words and lifestyle?  Or are we closet Christians who worship Christ in our homes and churches, but when it is time to live our everyday lives it is business as usual?  Author Brennan Manning states, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”  If we confess Christ then let us strive to live as such.  Today’s verse says that the Gospel has the power of salvation for everyone who believes.  Pray and ask the Lord for the strength to live and proclaim His word.  We have no need to be ashamed.

Go Forth

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”-Acts 4:13

I don’t know about you, but reading this verse brings me great encouragement.  Prior to this passage Peter and John had healed a man who who was unable to walk.  They they went into the temple courts and started preaching about Jesus.  They were average men who were not trained in the rabbinical schools of the day, but they made an impact anyway.  Peter and John were able to defend their actions against the theological leaders of the day.

So what does this mean for us?  There are often times when we get discouraged because we think we are unworthy to serve the Lord.  Look at Peter.  Before Jesus came along he was a fisherman.  Look at Moses.  Moses objected to his calling because he stuttered, and he gave every excuse imaginable not to confront Pharaoh.  Go forth with confidence, boldness, and love.  Let your words and actions declare that you have been with Jesus.  The Lord is calling you to do something.  It may be ministry, write, or to just say a kind word.  Go forth and show the world that you have been with Jesus.

Come to me

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”-Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but it seems like I can never get enough rest.  We live in a fast paced culture that seems to look down at any form of downtime.  Rest is important and must not be ignored.  Even Jesus withdrew at times to pray and be refreshed.  However this verse speaks about more than physical rest, but spiritually.

Anxiety is something I personally deal with and this verse hits home every time I read it.  In those stressful times am I looking to the one who relieved his disciples’ fear, and calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee?  Or am I looking to myself, and magnifying that anxiety because of a perceived “no way out” situation?  Resolve today to look to Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith.There is no amount of sleep, no vacation, and nobody else that can give you the kind of rest that Jesus will give you.  Come enjoy his rest, forgiveness, and grace.  Resolve today to give him your fears and anxieties.  Put your faith, hope, and trust in him.

Be Hospitable

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”-Hebrews 13:2

Today’s verse provides us with a simple reminder about how to treat out fellow man.  A brief look at the Old Testament helps to put this verse in a better perspective, because many Old Testament heroes entertained angels without knowing it.  Among them are Abraham in Genesis 18:1-21, Lot in Genesis 19:1-3, and Gideon in Judges 6:11-24.  Now I’m not saying that everyone we encounter is an angel in disguise, but as Christians we are called to love everyone.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Tucson, Arizona there is a fairly large population of homeless people.  Everyday I hear how people don’t want to give them money because of how it may be used.  That is not for us to judge.  Our obligation is to be obedient to God and to show hospitality to those around us.  You don’t need to give money, but you can give a bottle of water, a handshake, a prayer, or take a moment to speak with them.  The Lord laid the example of the homeless on my heart this morning, but this verse applies to everyone we come in contact with.  We may the only Bible they may ever read and we must be a good translation.  Resolve today to swallow your pride ad show hospitality to those around you…even the least among you.  We are all made in the image and likeness of God, and sometimes God gave us verses such as these to remind us that everyone is worthy of the same dignity and respect.