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The 5 Minute Discipleship Podcast
5 minutes | 8 hours ago
#169: You Can Start Again
When I was in campus ministry at UCLA, after one our meetings a young man came to talk with me. He was quite upset. He told me he felt that God had given up on him. I asked him why he had come to that conclusion. He said he had grown up in a religious home, but when he came to college he had rebelled against everything he had ever been taught. He had broken his own convictions and he had broken God's standards. What bothered him most, though, was that he had done the same wrong acts over and over again. He knew better, he said, but he continued doing what he knew was wrong. He once thought of himself as a Christian, but no longer. Because he had failed he was convinced that God had given up on him. He felt that he was beyond hope.I wonder how many people today feel like that student felt. The believe that because of their failure God has given up on them.When I say that word there are a lot of things that come into your mind. Failure is a lack of success; falling short of what is required or expected; It could be seen as a mistake. A collapse, or a let down.When I talk about failure we might think of the failures of others. We think of the big things, the things we see in the news, the things we hear about, and the things that make us shake our heads in disbelief.But we also think about our own lives. We think about our own mistakes, our own shortcomings, and our own failures. If I were to ask you, “What is has been the biggest failure in your life or what has been your biggest mistake – things begin to come to your mind.As we read through the Bible we see a whole lot of failure. Some people mistakenly think the Bible is a chronicle of holy men and women. And while there are stories of great men and women, most of these individuals also had great failures in their lives.Which brings me to some questions – Is it possible to overcome your failures? How does God see us in our failures? What do we do when we have failed? And, does God give people a second chance?On this episode I want to remind you that God is a God of second chances! His grace gives us the opportunity to start again.The lie of the devil – “look at what you did. You’ll never be anything. God will never forgive you. You are a hypocrite. This will follow you all of your life. You are disqualified. The devil will never let you forget.But today our God is a God of second chances. He is a God who is great in forgiveness. His love is abundant. His mercy is given generously. He helps us get up when we have fallen. He leads us to the next step. Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10 – “There is no one righteous; not even one.Have you ever seen a list of people in the Bible who failed? Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, King David, and Peter. Many others – the list is huge.These men and women didn’t let their failures define them. They didn’t let the failure hold them back. They didn’t stay in their failure. Here’s what the Bible teaches us:• He gives us a new heart. • He gives us new life.• He puts a new song in our hearts.• He renews our spirit. (Eze.18:31)• He renews our passion. (Ps.103:5) • He renews our strength. (Isa.57:10) • His mercies are new every morning (La.3:23) Romans 5:20 – “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”Today’s Challenge: God is a God of second chances. His is loving. He is forgiving. He is merciful. Repent. Do your first works over again. Let him receive you and change you. You can start again and you can do it today.
6 minutes | a day ago
#168: How To Be Blessed
Many of you listening today see the value in being a part of a local church. Week after week you join with other believers to worship, pray, and hear a message from the Word of God. What sometimes happens is that church attendance becomes a tradition or a ritual. A man got out of his seat on a Sunday morning and as he was leaving the church said to someone, "Well, that's over." "No," said his friend, "this is where it begins." There is an old proverb: "I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." Ask yourself at the end of the sermon this Sunday what you are going to do about this passage ? How does God want you to change ? What must you do to bring about change ? What's the first step ? Where will you begin? It’s here, in the doing, in the practice of obedience we begin to see the blessings of God in our lives.I’ve never met a person who didn’t want to be blessed. Usually, even people who aren’t Christians will allow you to pray for them – “hey, it can’t hurt.” We say “God bless you” and “God bless America.” We pray and ask God to bless us and those we love. Some people come to God because of his promises to bless. We want God’s blessings!When things are going well in our lives – we usually thank God for his blessings. When things aren’t going so well, we wonder why he isn’t blessing us. We ask people to pray for us that God would bless us. Many people give financially to tv and radio ministries because they were told they would be blessed. I would guess that from time to time, people even give to the ministries of this church, with the primary motivation of being blessed.In one sense we have to acknowledge that we are already blessed. Would you agree? If you have shelter, if you have food, if you have clothes, if you have employment, if you have freedom, if you have family, if you have friends, and if you have health you are blessed. Not to mention all the spiritual blessings…James 1:22-25 - “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”James is saying there are people who declare that they are followers of Christ but there is a difference between calling yourself a Christian and actually following Jesus. This is the point James is making in our text this morning. There is a difference between those who claim to be believers and those who actually are believers; there is a difference between those who go to church and those who follow Christ. The difference is obedience.Obedience is the path to having God’s blessing on your life. We have to be careful here because we might define blessings differently than God does. You might not have everything you want in your life, but God will meet all of your needs. That’s his promise.Notice verse 25, He says, “whoever looks intently into the perfect law…” Think about a brain surgeon. As he performs his surgery his attention is extremely focused. Or a man who pans for gold. As searches through all the dirt and the debris looking closely for small pieces of gold. We are to give God’s Word our close and careful attention. He promises that if we would continue in our obedience to God’s Word, we will be blessed.Today’s Challenge: Remember this: We are blessed in what we do, James doesn’t say we are blessed in what we feel. The blessing comes in the doing not in the feeling. Don't wait for the feeling to obey the word.
6 minutes | 2 days ago
#167: Telling the Next Generation
It was a heart-breaking conversation. The mother and father sat in my office. They were at their wits end. Their son was in jail, now for the third time for drug possession and now he had stolen a car. They wanted me to visit him in jail. I made my way to the local police department where he was being kept and introduced myself as a local pastor. I asked to see the young man. I sat, waiting, looking through the glass as the police escorted a young man to sit down in front of me. He was angry, defiant, and belligerent. He cursed me and his parents and refused to take any ownership for his circumstance. I tried to turn the conversation to God and his need for Christ in his life. He had no interest. That meeting made an impact on my heart. How could a person be raised by a Christian family end up making these kinds of decisions? How could a kid who attended church each Sunday find himself in jail for drug possession and auto theft?We know that God gives each of us free will. All of us are responsible for our own souls. Whether we had a Christian family, or were raised in church, each of us must have to have our own encounter with Jesus Christ. For those of you listening who have children who are away from God, be encouraged by this truth: No one is to far away for God to reach them. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Never give up.I left my meeting at the jail, thinking of how critical it is for us to disciple our own families. In fact, family discipleship is my most important discipleship. I don’t believe it’s God’s will for us to reach the world and lose our own families.Psalms 145:4-7 -“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”I see families today who seem to take such a casual approach to the things of God. It seems like church attendance is something they do if they don’t have anything else to do. I say this with sincerity and without criticism, but are we teaching our children to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? He’s saying we must be intentional about the next generation. We cannot say, “I’m going to let my children decide what they want to believe or if they want to come to church.” We cannot afford to take a hands off approach. You don’t do this with their physical health, their school work, or their family responsibilities…but when it comes to faith we often take a carefree approach.We are to be diligent with the spiritual development of our children. We are to be intentional. We look for every opportunity to teach them about God. We make it a part of our daily life.So, how can we be more intentional about family discipleship?Tell your story - what has God done in your life?Be honest about struggles and how God has seen you through.Let prayer and scripture be a daily part of the family routine.When God answers prayer, celebrate as a family.Let your kids ask the hard questions. Be there as they wrestle with faith. Let God do his work and remember you are not the Holy Spirit.Look for teachable moments where you share the why behind your beliefs and values.Today’s Challenge: If you have children, pray today and commit to discipling your own family. We are in this for the long-term, even after the are adults. If you don’t have children, consider how you can pray for and support another family.
6 minutes | 3 days ago
#166: Can We Still Believe in the Doctrine of Hell?
One day in New York City, right outside of the United Nations Building, there was a street evangelist preaching right on the street corner. He was trying to get the attention of the people walking by. He was preaching on hell and was warning people about the reality of hell.“I warn you,” he roared, “that in hell there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth!” An old woman in the crowd shouted out, “Sir, I have no teeth.” “Lady,” the evangelist responded, “teeth will be provided!”Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. But I do know that we live in a time where the message of hell is a “forgotten doctrine.” In our time, rarely will you ever hear anyone preach a message on hell. The idea of hell is so repugnant that we try to find ways to explain it away – false teachers have unfortunately done a good job doing this.It seems that virtually no one believes they are going to hell, but Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The truth is: Many are on the road to hell and they don’t even know it. What stands out the most from the NT is that Jesus believed in hell. Read the four Gospels and you discover that he spoke more about hell than heaven. Most of what we know about hell comes from the words of Jesus.Throughout history, the Christian church has always believed in hell. This is one of those rare points on which Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and evangelicals are in general agreement. For 2000 years Christians have united in saying that those who die having rejected Christ will spend eternity in hell.In Romans 6:23 the Apostle Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”God is so holy, so righteous, that he cannot allow sin in his presence, and because he is just, he cannot let sin go unpunished. Either we trust the punishment Jesus took on our behalf, or we endure our own punishment.Occasionally, someone will say to me, “Loren, I couldn’t serve a God who would send people to Hell.” To which I always respond, “You must have misunderstood. God is in the business of providing everyone a way to escape that awful place. He sent his Son, Jesus to take our punishment and to give us the gift of eternal life. We just have to receive the gift.From God’s point of view, hell is man’s choice. Jesus said in John 3:19 – “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” God simply ratifies the choice of an individual’s determination not to submit his will to God.Imagine someone is driving down the interstate and they see a flashing sign that says: Danger! Bridge out: 1 mile. Detour ahead. Half a mile later it says: Danger! Bridge out: 1/2 mile. Detour ahead... Danger! Bridge out: 1500 feet. Merge left. There are flashing signs and cones and barriers across the bridge being repaired. What if someone is driving and hit the accelerator and drives right through the barriers and into the gully? Would anyone say, “How can our highway department be so cruel to send somebody to their death?” Of course you wouldn’t say that. God has put up so many warnings for every one of us about hell. One of the warnings is this podcast episode. Today’s Challenge: You don’t have to go to hell. God has provided a way of escape for you. But even God’s way of escape will do you no good unless you reach out and take it. I pray that you will receive God’s gift of salvation by placing your faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
6 minutes | 4 days ago
#165: Faith Vs. Works
There was once a college student who was having a hard time understanding all the injustice in the world. He spent a great deal of his time feeling angry and frustrated. When he could stand it no longer, he went to the dim and seldom-used chapel on campus. He paced up and down the aisles, slapping the back of the empty pews. He yelled, he cried, and he raged at God saying,“God You created the world. What could You possibly have been thinking? Look at the problems people face. Look at the pain, suffering, and hunger. Look at the neglect, the waste, the abuse. Everywhere I look, I see messed-up people, hurting people, lonely people!”The young man ranted and raved like this on and on. Finally, exhausted, he sat in the front pew and looked hopelessly at the cross and said,“It’s all such a mess! This world You created is nothing but a terrible mess! Why even I could make a world better than this one!”At that moment the young man heard the voice of God reply, “That is exactly what I want you to do.”Well, that’s what He wants us to do as well-make this world a better place by getting involved in meeting the needs we see around us. We make the world a better place by pointing them to the savior and his grace. And if we truly experience His grace-we’ll want to do this. If we don’t allow our faith in God’s grace to drive us to help others, the Bible says in the book of James that our faith profits no one-it is a useless faith.Listen to James 2:14-19 - What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.When James talks about works he is speaking of those actions in the lives of Christians, which spring up from our new life in Christ. Scripture clearly teaches us that we are not saved by works. If you are trusting in knowledge, education, wisdom, your feeling, your emotions, religion, or even your belief – you are not saved. Salvation comes when you place your trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross to pay the debt and the weight of your sins. But James is saying that the evidence that you have truly trusted Christ for your salvation is good deeds – works.We clearly understand that we are not saved and forgiven of our sins because of our works or good deeds. You could never work your way into Heaven. We do not do good works to be saved. We do good works because we are saved.The life we live for Christ is the evidence of our salvation. James is saying, “it should be visible.” You can’t call yourself a Christian and not live like one. There is an outer evidence of the inner work of Christ in our lives.When James uses the word works here it is not referring to some type of service that is done. He is speaking of the way of life that faith brings, which includes service. Good works or beneficial living is the evidence of genuine faith. If you truly believe in something – you want to do something about it. Paul Harvey once said, “If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.”Today’s Challenge: Real faith is not just something you believe, it’s something you do. It’s not passive. It’s active. It’s committed to doing something. Today choose to live your faith out loud. Let it be visible. Let your faith cause you to serve God with passion and purpose.
6 minutes | 5 days ago
#164: Is the Bible Reliable?
Here is America, we have never had more access to the Bible than we do today. Many of you listening own several copies of the Bible. What a blessing and a great privilege that is. You likely have the Bible on your cell phone, or on your tablet. We definitely have access to the bible through the internet. With all this access, how do we know if the Bible we have today is credible? How do we know it’s reliable. After all, the Bible has been translated many times. Can we be sure that what we possess today is truly accurate?In this episode there is not enough time to discuss all the proofs we have concerning the accuracy of the Bible, but let me talk about the reliability manuscripts.
6 minutes | 6 days ago
#163: Peace in Times of Uncertainty
A little girl was working diligently on a school assignment when her father came into the room and asked what she was doing. She told him she was working on a plan for world peace. Her father said, “Wow, that’s a pretty big task for a little girl.” The girl replied, “Oh, no, don’t worry daddy, there are two other girls in my class helping me with it.”Peace is something everyone wants, yet few seem to find. Peace is often defined as “tranquility, harmony, or security.”Will there ever be world peace? That is a great question…and one we have all wondered about. Yes, there is coming a day in the reign of Jesus Christ when there will be peace.The Bible tells us in Isaiah 9:6 that Jesus would be the prince of peace. The coming of the Messiah had been predicted by the prophet Isaiah around 700 BC. The prophet said that Jesus would be called, “Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Context - Jesus was born in an era that was considered a “time of peace.” It was called, Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”). It wasn’t true peace, because it existed only because Rome quickly destroyed any form of dissent.Seven centuries before that time of relative peace, hostile armies prepared to invade Jerusalem. During this difficult and tumultuous time, God makes a remarkable announcement through the prophet Isaiah. “On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)It was a prophetic word of hope to the people of God that true peace was coming…A Word from God.While the Bible talks about peace hundreds of times, we don’t see a lot of peace today, do we?Everyone wants peace. Whether you're a national leader sitting across a table from other world leaders, or a businessman facing the pressures and deadlines at the office, a parent trying to corral the kids, or a student just trying to make it through the semester, everyone wants peace. But most of us, if we're honest with ourselves, have to admit that we experience more stress than peace.The greatest peace Jesus brings us is peace with God. It’s an upward peace. Romans 5 tells us that in our sinful state we are enemies of God. But, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are restored to a relationship of peace with God. It’s an eternal peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)Jesus came to build a bridge between God and man. The cross is that bridge. Once we are in right relationship with God, we can begin to experience His peace in other areas of life. But, it’s here that we struggle. It seems as if we are constantly fighting our own inner battles. We constantly worry about our kids, our jobs, our health, our grades at school, our money. Stress has become a way of life.Jesus gives us a peace that goes beyond understanding. It’s a kind of peace that enables us to experience an inner calm in spite of the circumstances that would normally cause us stress. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)Here’s a truth we need to believe: Living with peace requires a mind that is set on God. We cannot allow our hearts and minds to become consumed with the confusion around us. Let’s keep our focus on the one who gives us peace in the midst of the storm.Today’s Challenge: Colossians 3 says we can let the peace of God rule our hearts. Let me ask you…what is ruling your heart? What has consumed your thoughts? Is it Jesus? Or is it the worries of this world and this life. Let’s choose to live in God’s peace.
6 minutes | 7 days ago
#162: God's Love For Us
A farmer placed a weather vane inscribed with the words “God is love” on top of his barn. One day a traveler stopped by the farm and watched the weather vane moving with the breeze. Then, with a smirk on his face, he asked, “Do you mean to say that your God is as changeable as the wind?”The farmer shook his head and replied, “No. What I mean to say is that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!”The statement “God is love” implies much more than that God demonstrates His love regardless of the circumstances. It means that love is the essence of God’s character.God doesn’t just love us. He is love. 1 John 4:7-10 says, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”We know the New Testament was primarily written in the Greek language. There are different words for love. We all understand the love of a friend, the love of a spouse, and intimate love. But the love of God is the word agape. It is a spiritual love – originating from God, unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial.Love is an attribute of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, or even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony. Everything God does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. I believe one of the challenges we face in understanding God’s love is in our response. Some people mistakenly believe that God’s love somehow cancels his holiness. Many people have the idea that when they reach the gates of heaven, God will smile and say, “You don’t deserve it, but aw, come on in anyway.” Here’s what we know is true: God cannot overlook sin. He will never contradict his own nature. In his love he doesn’t overlook our sin, his love compelled him to provide for us a solution to our sin problem.So, what do we do with the love of God? We receive it and we respond to it. His love compels us to receive the gift of salvation and the opportunity for a relationship with God. We respond by loving God in return and learning to love others with this same love.1 John 4:11-12 – “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”Here are some Practical implications….•God’s love will cause us to love the unlovely, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, those different from us, and even our enemies.•God’s love will cause us to have compassion for those who don’t know Him. It will compel us share our faith, to pray, to give, and to sacrifice.•God’s love will cause us as believers to come together in unity of purpose, vision, and calling.•God’s love will lead us to forgive one another, to overlook offenses, and to yield our personal preferences.John’s argument is simple: if God’s Spirit truly resides in us, His character and attitude should influence us. We should begin to reflect the love that God Himself has. In fact, John argues that if we do not begin to reflect God’s love, then we give evidence that we don’t really belong to Him.Today’s Challenge: Let’s respond to the love of God by worshipping him, living for him, obeying him, and loving others. Take a few minute to decide how you will do this today.
6 minutes | 8 days ago
#161: The Temptation to Seek Revenge
They thought it was just kids playing pranks, but it turned out to be an angry 72 year old man, instead. From 2003-2005, a number of former teachers and school admins in NYC reported a rash of vandalism at their homes. They would wake up to punctured car tires from roofing nails scattered across their driveways… and garage doors & mailboxes splattered w/paint. Some victims complained of being hit every two weeks.It went on for nearly 2 years until perpetrator was caught…Turned out vandal wasn’t a rebellious student but a former co-worker named Thomas Haberbush who was still angry about poor performance reviews he had received in 1977, when he was dismissed as teacher. The police investigator… “I’ve never seen anyone carry around a grudge like that for 30 yrs…it’s bizarre”We all know what it feels like to be hurt by someone; to have been wronged. But what do you do when you are given the opportunity to get even. Chuck Swindoll calls revenge “life’s most subtle temptation.” He writes, “We dress it up. Revenge sounds bad so we say things like ‘I’m going to get you’ or ‘I’m just standing up for my rights.’” This leads to what we might think of as “justified retaliation.”Do you have any enemies? Me? No enemies, just quite a few people I have a hard time loving. It’s been said that to be human is to have enemies. In fact, Jesus assumed you and I would have enemies when he said in Matthew 5:44 – “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The question is not whether or not we have enemies. The issue is whether or not we will love them, forgive them, and reconcile with them.Revenge: The desire or urge to get even with somebody. To punish or cause harm as an act of retaliation. We have to understand that with God, personal integrity is more important than payback.What happens when you seek revenge is that you lay down your personal integrity. You lay aside character. You stoop down to the level of the person who hurt you. Romans 12:19-21 – “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”When we put the matter in God’s hands we have assurance that God will make things right. The idea of revenge is only an illusion. You can never “get even” with anyone. It is impossible to balance the scales of hurt. The only possible way to come out on top is to respond to hurt with a godly attitude and trust that God will settle the account. Nelson Mandela - Seeking revenge is like drinking poison and praying for the other person to die. It’s an all-consuming emotion that destroys you from the inside out. The people of God do not retaliate. The people of God do not seek vengeance. We do not take revenge into our own hands.We have no control over how people treat us, what they say, and what they do. But we do have complete control over how we respond. How should we respond when we’ve been hurt? There are only two options: We can try to get even or we can place the matter in God’s hands and leave it there.Today’s Challenge: If you are carrying a burden of unforgiveness, aren’t you ready to let it go? Forgive as God has forgiven you. Seek opportunities to reconcile the relationship. Today is a good day to get started.
6 minutes | 9 days ago
#160: Understanding the Grace of God
In 1977 my family was saved in an Assemblies of God church in Texas. I’m so grateful they did. I was just a little boy when my parents placed their faith in Jesus. The church taught our family how to follow Christ.But growing up I struggled to understand God’s grace. I grew into adulthood with a belief that God was hard to please. There had been a lot of emphasis in my life on doing good works, as a result, I never felt I measured up. I knew I was saved, but I didn’t feel I was saved enough. There must be something else I have to do in order to please God. There must be something else I have to give up for God to be proud of me.I knew verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 - “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Yet, inwardly I struggled to really understand God’s grace, and even today I still feel as if I am in the School of Grace class 101.Fresh out of college, I began ministry as a youth pastor at First Assembly of God, Columbia, Missouri. The pastor was Albert Petit. I was 23 and he was 78. He had been the district superintendent for 12 years and had come out of retirement to pastor this church. Pastor Petit is now with Jesus, but I have vivid memories of conversations in his office as we sat and talked about the Lord and ministry. We sat in his office and he talked to me about grace. At age 23 years old I was a sponge. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I began to grasp the grace of God. I learned it really is amazing grace.Grace is a word we think we understand, especially if we have followed Christ for any length of time. But I’m discovering as I talk with people that many people are like me. Grace has been something we have struggled to understand. And even if we understand it, grace can be hard for us to believe and receive.The word grace finds its way into our vocabulary all the time. Many people “say grace” before meals, acknowledging daily bread as a gift from God. We are grateful for someone’s kindness, gratified by good news, congratulated when successful, gracious in hosting friends. When a person’s service pleases us, we leave a gratuity. So what is grace? A friend of mine says, “Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” Can I define grace? We can try, but it’s so great, so amazing, so powerful, it’s hard to describe by mere words. It is used more than 150 times in the NT, but what is it?Grace is "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.” Grace comes from the Greek Word “charis” literally meaning “free gift.” It is umerited, unearned, and undeserved.“What’s so amazing about grace” Philip Yancey writes, “From nursery school onward we are taught how to succeed in the world of ungrace. The early bird gets the worm. No pain, no gain. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Demand your rights. Get what you pay for. I work for what I earn; I like to win; I insist on my rights. I want people to get what they deserve—nothing more, nothing less. Yet if I care to listen, I hear a loud whisper from the gospel that I did not get what I deserved. I deserved punishment and got forgiveness. I deserved wrath and got love. I deserved debtor’s prison and got instead a clean credit history.”Isn’t that good? This is what God has give to you and me. We call it grace.Today’s Challenge: Grace is a gift to be received. You don’t deserve it, and you never will. It’s impossible to earn. It can only be received. Let me ask…have you received God’s grace? If not, today is a great day to receive this wonderful gift.
6 minutes | 10 days ago
#159: The Power in the Blood of Jesus
John Wesley was an evangelist who was used by God mightily in the 1700’s. One night he returned home from a service and was surprised to find an intruder in his home. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little bit of money and some Christian literature. As the robber was leaving, Wesley called out, "Stop! I have something more to give you." The surprised robber paused. "My friend," said Wesley, "you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'" The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! "I owe it all to you," said the transformed man. "Oh no, my friend," Wesley exclaimed, "not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!" Hebrews 9:22 tells us…”without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”When I was attending church as a child we would often sing about the blood of Jesus. I realize it might have sounded strange to an unbeliever at first that a group of Christians would gather and sing about blood. But it was not just any blood, and it was what the blood was capable of that we sang about. We sang, “There is power in the blood” and “Are you washed in the blood?” We sang, “What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus” and “The blood will never lose it’s power.” Interestingly, we are not seeing the blood of Jesus mentioned as much today, but there is a truth here we need to understand and believe.The New Testament epistle to the Hebrews builds the bridge from the Old Testament sacrificial system (and its blood) to the new covenant and Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice for our sins.The Bible teaches us that the sacrifices in the Old Testament did not have the power to save men from their sins. The blood came from "goats and calves" and other animals. This was not sufficient to redeem lost man. But before the foundation of the world God had a plan to redeem mankind. God knew that we would need a perfect sacrifice. So He provided a Lamb in the person of His only Son. When the time came and Jesus shed His blood for us. His blood was innocent, pure, sinless blood.Ephesians 1:7 says that, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Because of Christ’s shed blood, God is able to forgive us for our sins and give the punishment that we deserved to Christ.This truth is expressed beautifully in the hymn, “Nothing But the Blood”:What can wash away my sin?Nothing but the blood of Jesus;What can make me whole again?Nothing but the blood of Jesus.Oh! Precious is the flowThat makes me white as snow;No other fount I know,Nothing but the blood of Jesus…God himself, in the person of his own Son, takes on human flesh and blood and offers himself in the place of sinful people, to receive the just wrath of God and pay our penalty in his death, all that we might live. His very life blood was shed for you and I. Jesus died so that we could live.Not only does this blood wash our sins away, it also gives us access to a personal relationship with God. Ephesians 2:13 says “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”John Bunyan - “There is “more worth and merit in one drop of Christ’s blood to save you, than in all the sins of the world to condemn you.”Today’s Challenge: Recognize what a precious gift Jesus has given to us. Let’s trust the blood of Jesus, and not our good deeds, to wash our sins away. Let’s worship God and rejoice in his power to forgive our sins.
6 minutes | 11 days ago
#158: Our Need for Christian Community
I’m not sure who said it first, but there’s an old quote that says, “One can acquire everything in solitude except character.”To develop character, we need one another. We need interaction. We need the opportunity to love, serve, grow, share, learn, and forgive. None of these Christ-like character traits can be developed in isolation. We need one another.Last year I was talking with a good friend of mine. His also an accountability partner of mine. I mentioned to him that I want to keep God’s Word on my mind. To think about it more, to meditate on God’s Word. I mentioned to him that I wanted to start memorizing more Scripture.The next month we talked again and he asked me, “so how’s the Scripture memorization going?” I said, “yah, that’s something I’m wanting to do.”A few weeks later I talked to him again and he asked, “so how’s the Scripture memorization going?” I realized that either I’m going to take action, or I’m going to have to start looking for a new friend. He’s going to keep asking the same question. It was getting embarrassing. But it was what I needed. Community helps provide the accountability we need.Think for a moment of how much you have grown spiritually because of the people in your life. God has used both the positive and negative experiences to cause you to grow to be more like Jesus.God’s plan for the church is that we would be together. I love the story of the early New Testament church. After the Day of Pentecost the Bible says in Acts 2:44 - “All the believers were together and had everything in common.”You have to understand this about Jesus: Community was his plan to change the world. When he ascended to Heaven, he didn’t leave behind any financial resources. He didn’t’ leave behind a big infrastructure – no budget, no buildings, no connections – any of the things we think are so crucial for an organization or a movement.He just left behind a small group. That was it – just twelve ordinary people – a circle of friends. And two thousand years later, we are here as Christians because of what happened through them. Jesus left behind community and the power of the Holy Spirit. Both of these were critical to the growth of the Gospel. Today they are both still critical.Look at the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”To demonstrate and grow in most of the fruit of the Spirit you have to be in the context of community. Love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – these all require us to be with someone else.They continued in fellowship: The Greek word for fellowship is the word koinonia. It has the idea of association, communion, fellowship, and participation; it means to share in something.But it goes deeper than having common beliefs and core values – this is a profound regard for one another’s spiritual and physical well-being. God doesn’t give up on us – we can’t give up on each other.Christian psychologist, Henry Cloud said, “God created us with a hunger for relationship – for relationship with Him and with our fellow people. At our very core we are relational beings.” He goes on to say, “The soul cannot prosper without being connected to others.Today’s Challenge: Since spiritual growth happens in the context of community., Let’s decide today to be intentional. Let’s encourage one another – pray for one another – love one another – live in harmony with each – be devoted to one another – and be compassionate to one another.
6 minutes | 12 days ago
#157: Being Grateful in Hard Times
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Rudyard Kipling was England’s most popular writer. The news got out that his publishers paid him $1 for each word that he wrote and published. Some Cambridge students heard about this and sent him $2 with a note that said, “Please send us two of your very best words.” Kipling sent a note back with two words, “thank you.”These really are two of the most powerful words. Can you today, in the midst of your present circumstances say, “Thank you, God, for another day?” “Thank you God, for my life.”One of the most interesting stories in the Bible is that of a man named Job. When we first meet him in the Bible, he is a fabulously wealthy and successful man with a large, loving family. He enjoyed the respect of his peers and his family. Most of us would say – Job was a man truly blessed by God.In this story, the Bible tells us that Satan saw Job as a fair weather friend. He challenged God to a contest and Job was going to be the guinea pig. Satan suggested that the only reason Job served and loved God was because of the blessings. He claimed that if God allowed the blessings to be taken away that Job would reveal his true heart and curse God.God allowed Satan to test Job, but told him not to touch the man himself. With the ground rules in place, the test of Job’s lifetime began. Four times in one day Job heard bad news.•Oxen and servants were gone•Sheep and servants were gone•Camels and servants were gone•All of this children – seven sons and three daughters – died in a freak accident of nature.Job lost his entire fortune (his business) and his ten children all in one afternoon. We cannot imagine this.But then Job did something totally weird by today’s standards. The bible says in Job 1:20 – “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.”I don’t find the first two things Job did as all that odd. It was the custom in Job’s day to show grief like this, and Job was no different.What strikes me as odd is his attitude. He fell to the ground, not in an attitude of anger or bitterness or even hatred, but of worship. Doesn’t that seem like an odd response to the loss of everything you had worked a lifetime to accumulate? But that’s what he did – he bowed low and worshipped God.Then Job says something that God knew and Satan was eager to find out. In Job 1:21-22, Job says, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”I don’t want you to miss the cry of Job’s heart. His confession in the midst of loss proved Satan to be what he has always been: a liar. Job actually loved God! He loved God for who he is and not just for what he gave.Job knew that everything he had was on loan from God. He never adopted an owner’s mentality. He knew that the gifts of God, could never take the place of God.Job suffered through his loss – he mourned his family, but he knew he was loved by God and that God was still in control. What a difference it makes when you and I can remain grateful even during the hard times. Gratitude focuses our attention on what we do have, instead of what we don't have. Being thankful makes a major impact on our attitude, or conversation, and our relationships.Today’s Challenge: Determine today that no matter what is happing around you that you will be grateful. Express your thanks to God, sing songs of worship, let someone know you are thankful. It will change your entire day.
5 minutes | 13 days ago
#156: Rediscovering our Mission
I was reading this week about Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Homes, who served the court in the early 1900’s. One day he was on a train and when the conductor called for tickets, Justice Holmes couldn’t find his ticket and he seemed very upset. He searched his pockets and fumbled through his wallet without success. The conductor was sympathetic. “Don’t worry, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “The Pennsylvania Railroad will be happy to trust you. When you reach your destination you’ll probably find the tickets and you can mail it to us.” The conductor’s kindness did not put Holmes at ease. He said, “My dear man, my problem is not ‘Where is my ticket?’ but rather ‘Where am I going”’Unfortunately we are too often just like that. The problem is often that we have no clear direction or picture of where we are going. We lack a defined destination. We lack vision.We live in uncertain times. Think about it. All around us there is political uncertainty, financial uncertainty, relational uncertainty, and often times even, uncertainty in the church. Uncertainty, anxiety, and fear could cause us as believers to withdraw, retreat, and simply hold steady until things become more stable.I believe that we live in the time of the greatest opportunity for followers of Jesus. Here’s why. People are most likely to turn to God when:1.They are under tension 2.They are in transition 3.They are in trouble.And right now there is a ton of each going around. Everywhere you turn there is tension, transition, and trouble. Now is the best time to reach people for Christ. Now is the best time to be diligent about evangelism and discipleship. For far too long the church has been distracted by other things. It’s time for us to rediscover our mission. It hasn’t changed with the changing time. 2,000 years ago Jesus gave us the great commission. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said, “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."As followers of Christ, we are not left without direction, Jesus gives you and me clear instructions. We have our marching orders. The only question is will we obey?In order to rediscover this mission we have to understand several things:•The church belongs to Jesus.I will sometimes inadvertently say “my church” and you probably do the same thing as you talk about the church you attend. But it’s really not my church or your church. The church belongs to Jesus.•Every member is a ministerGod has given spiritual gifts to each believer to be used in this mission. Imagine the impact if every believer stepped out in faith and used what God has given them to further his kingdom purposes.•The church receives its mission from JesusChrist is the head of the church and we are the body. A body can only do what the head suggests and what the head directs. My hands and feet do not operate independently of my mind and if they begin operating independently you know I’ve got some serious health problems. It is the function of the body of Christ to operate at the direction of its head. We must say, “Lord, I want to understand where you want me and want your church to go.” Today’s Challenge: The church is not a building, an organization, or a denomination. The church is the people of God. You are the church. Let’s recommit ourselves today to the mission of Jesus. Ask him where and how he wants to use you to fulfill the great commision.
6 minutes | 14 days ago
#155: Devote Yourself to Prayer
Billy Graham once told the story about a young president of a company who instructed his secretary not to disturb him because he had an important appointment. The chairman of the board came in and said, “I want to see Mr. Jones.” The secretary answered, “I’m terribly sorry but, he cannot be disturbed; he has an important appointment. The chairman of the board became very angry. He banged open the door and saw the young president of his corporation on his knees in prayer. The chairman softly closed the door and asked the secretary, “Is this usual?” And she said, “Yes, he does that every morning.” To which the chairman of the board responded, “No wonder I come to him for advice.”In Colossians 4:2, the Apostle Paul said – “Devote yourself to prayer.”Without a doubt, the New Testament church was serious about prayer. Devote yourself to prayer – this is what God is saying to us. We should pray with consistency. Prayer is not infrequent and it’s not something we do hit and miss. Being “devoted to “ prayer means that you and I are not haphazard about this. We take steps to see that it is part of your regular life, the same way eating and sleeping are.I believe many of us hear the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, calling for us to draw nearer to God. I believe God is speaking to us, wanting intimacy with us – wanting us to have a close relationship with Him. Prayer is the means by which we communicate with God and build a close relationship with him. This is not about salvation by works – we understand that we are saved by grace. This message is about you and I making new commitments to draw closer to God through making prayer a consistent part of our lives.The truth is – you have no relationship without communication. The goal of any serious relationship is intimacy, closeness. Do you and I want to be close to God? Do we want to know him more? Do we want to experience his presence, his power, and his victory? Do we want to hear his voice? This all comes through prayer.We must establish prayer as a priority in our lives. Have you noticed how difficult it is to set and maintain priorities in life? Everything can’t be a priority. We have to make some decisions. We can’t focus on everything or do everything. We have to choose.Think about this…the God we serve has all power. There is nothing he cannot do. But God loves to be asked. He loves it when we come to him in prayer. It’s his desire and his will that you and I would do so.Let these truths behind prayer strengthen your resolve to pray this year. This can be a year of tremendous growth in your relationship with God. We stand on the truth of God’s Word that says if we “draw near to God, he will draw near to us.”Let me leave you with this quote from E.M. Bounds, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery, not new organizations, or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use, men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not anoint plans, but men of prayer.”Today’s Challenge: Decide when and where you will pray. If you are new to prayer, just begin to share your heart with God. If you can talk, you can pray. Let’s bring our needs to God, but let’s also listen for his voice.
6 minutes | 15 days ago
#154: When A Friend Falls Into Sin
I once read of a study that took place in Alameda County, California. Researchers studied the lives of 7,000 people over a period of nine years. Their research showed that in that nine year span – people who were isolated were three times more likely to die than people with strong relational connections.They also found that people who had bad health habits (smoking, drinking, poor diet, no exercise) but had strong relational ties, lived significantly longer than people with great health habits but were isolated.I believe we were created by God for community. You can’t grow spiritually in a consistent way unless you are in community. You can’t serve your brothers and sisters unless you are in community. You can’t receive the love and assistance you need unless you are in community.One of the areas in which we need one another the most is when we fall into sin. How do we get back up? How are we restored? How can we start again in Christ? We know God is merciful, loving, and forgiving, but it’s difficult to be restored all alone.I remember the humorous story of a man that was walking down the road with a big sack of potatoes on his shoulder. It was a hot day, the load was heavy, and he was getting sweaty. After a while a man in a truck pulled up and offered him a ride. The man climbed in the truck, but kept the big sack of potatoes on his shoulder. The driver looked over and said, “man, put that sack on the floor and relax.” To which the man replied, “No sir, I won’t do it. It’s enough that you would give me a ride, I’m not going to ask you to carry these potatoes too.”And this is what we often say to the Lord. “Lord, I can carry this, I got this.” I can do this all by myself, yet we continue to fall again, and again, and again. This is not the will of God. The path for restoration includes community.Galatians 6 - “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”Some translations say “fallen” into sin, others say “caught” in a sin. Either way, a follower of Christ is struggling with a sin or sins. Paul is saying that a believer that is struggling in sin should not face it alone. Those who are spiritual stand with the brother/sister and help them to be restored. What do we do with someone who has fallen in sin? We restore them. This word “restore” means to make something right by bringing it back to its former condition. In other words, restoration is a necessary part of the healing process. If someone we know and love, someone who is a part of our church community has fallen into sin, if they have become broken or torn apart by sin, they need someone who will come alongside them to lift them up.There has been a question in my heart all week and it is this: “Who does God want to restore through me?” I’ll ask you the same question: “Who does God want to restore through you? James 5:19-20 – “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”How do we restore them? With gentleness and humility.This doesn’t mean that we do not confront them of the sin, nor does it mean that we don’t hold them accountable and regularly ask them the difficult questions, but we do it with love and gentleness. Today’s Challenge: Let me ask you a question? Will you partner with Jesus to restore the fallen and the broken. It’s messy and sometimes painful, but there is great joy in seeing people forgiven, restored, and following Jesus.
6 minutes | 16 days ago
#153: Trusting God in the Storm
A few years back, a couple of my family members were fishing at a remote lake in Oklahoma. The lake is surrounded by forest with the exception of one campground and a boat ramp. They were fishing as the sun was going down. It was cloudy and they noticed lightning off in the distance. After dark, without warning, the wind began to blow hard across the lake, it began pouring rain, and then it began to hail. In these terrible conditions, the began to make their way across the lake to the boat ramp. It was dark, cold, windy, and wet, but there was one light they could see. It was the light by the boat ramp. Without the light, it would have been extremely difficult to find the boat ramp. The single light bulb was their light house that guided them to warmth and safety.As I record this episode, we are in a storm in this country. Politically, we have never been more divided than we are today. The moral fabric of this country is gone. I think you would agree that our culture is post-christian. In addition to all of this Covid-19 still impacts us all. This week one of our church members passed away due to covid and a friend in another city passed away as well. Restrictions are keeping many from work, which has made a major financial impact. Emotionally, so many are struggling.We are in a storm, but today, on this episode, I want to remind you that we have a light. Just like the light guided my family members in the darkness, we have light that is guiding our way through this storm.I love the story in Mark 4:35-41. The Bible says, “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”We’ve lived long enough to know some things about storms. No doubt, you could list some of the storms you have gone through, what you learned, and how Jesus was faithful. We know that there are situational storms, relational storms, physical storms, and emotional storms. Maybe you are facing a financial storm. Storms are inevitable, unpredictable, and impartial.The fact is, God has not promised us a storm-free life. This is not heaven where everything is perfect and God's will is perfectly done. Things happen that we don’t understand. In vs. 38 it tells us Jesus was asleep during the storm. I love that. He is a perfect peace. v. 23 "Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him." They had nothing to fear. Jesus was in the boat. Do you think God was going to let the boat sink with Jesus in it? That in itself should have calmed them. Jesus Christ was there with them, experiencing the storm with them. There will be nothing I will face the rest of my life that I face alone. God is with me. Jesus is in my boat. We tend to forget that in storms. We think we're all alone. We think that God is far away. God has promised every believer, "I am with you always." God has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Today’s Challenge: No matter how big the wave is, Jesus can rebuke it. And He wants to calm the storm in your life. He wants to say, "Peace! Be still!"
6 minutes | 17 days ago
#152: Does God Still Heal Today?
Joni Eareckson Toda – dove into the Chesapeake Bay a strong, athletic young girl. A split second later she was paralyzed from the neck down, completely helpless, and still under water. Though rescued from drowning by her sister, the doctors could not rescue Joni from the paralysis that swept over her body.Medically, Joni came to accept the fact that she couldn’t be healed. But what about God? Didn’t Christ heal all kinds of paralysis and sickness? The more she thought and prayed about these things, the more she became convinced God would heal her too. So, she brought together a group of friends and church leaders and set up a private healing service. The week before that service, she publicly confessed her faith by telling people, “Watch for me standing on your doorstep soon; I’m going to be healed.” On the scheduled day the group read Scripture, anointed her with oil and prayed in fervent faith. Today, many years later, she is still a quadriplegic. She did everything right and seemed to have met all the conditions, yet she was not healed.But, through her experience, God has used Joni in ways she would probably have never been used if she had not had the accident. She continues to minister to people all over the world about the love of God and the sovereignty of God.Does God still heal the sick today?As a pastor, I have stood in the hospital room of many who were sick and dying. I have been with the families through these struggles. I have been there, as their loved ones passed from this life. In every situation, we prayed and asked God to do a miracle.There are many questions that loom in our minds about this subject of God’s power to heal the sick. Does God heal today? Is it always the will of God to heal? If I am not healed, is it because of my lack of faith? If I am sick, is it because of sin or even demonic activity in my life? There is a lot of confusion today over these matters.What does the Bible say about healing?By God’s own declaration, he is ultimately responsible for health, sickness, life, or death.Deuteronomy 32:39 – “There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.Isaiah 53 – “By His stripes we are healed”Exodus 15:26 – “I am the Lord who heals you”James 5:14-15 – Is there any sick among you…..We also know the God who healed in the Bible is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.Why does God heal?•To bring glory to God•To further the kingdom•To relieve grief•To alleviate suffering•To strengthen faith•To build up the church•To demonstrate love•To fulfill his purposesWhy does God not heal?•Out of his love, compassion, and mercy, he knows when not to heal someone.•God uses the trial to build us up and to mature our faith – faith that is not tested is weak faith.•To fulfill his purpose•To use the sickness as a tool for ministry•We may never know why some people are healed and some are not.What the Bible teaches us is that healing occurs according to the will of God. There is no magic formula. God is concerned about our needs. We bring them to him. We pray. But God is the healer.Sometimes it is the will of God to heal now. Other times it is his will to provide the ultimate healing in glory. Either way, God’s will is done. Since we don’t always know God’s will, we come to him in prayer and faith and we know this pleases God.Today’s Challenge: Reaffirm your faith in a God who knows what is best for us. Believe that he is a good father. Trust that he is still able to heal the sick and let’s ask him to do it.
6 minutes | 18 days ago
#151: A Biblical Perspective of Money
I remember reading about a family in Charleston, NC who were the winners of what was at that time, the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. Sometime after they had won the $314.9 million ticket that thrust their family into the public spot light, the wife told reporters, “We’ve had so much trouble because of this lottery. I wish all of this never would have happened. I wish I would have torn the ticket up.”There is nothing wrong with having money, but we must make sure that money doesn’t have us. We need a biblical perspective.The Bible has a lot to say about materialism, possessions, and money. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”It’s estimated that roughly 15% of everything Jesus said in the Gospels relates to the topic of money and possessions. That is more than his teaching on Heaven and Hell combined. Why? Because there is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.Let me say it again – “There is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.”Listen to James 1:9-11 – “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”We learn here that net worth does not equal personal worth. James calls for the poor to recognize that though he is poor in earthly wealth, he is valued by God. He reminds the rich to live with humility because they should realize it is all temporary and insignificant from the perspective of eternity.There is a temptation to look upon those with money, and measure their personal worth accordingly. This is not how we as christians determine a person’s value.We also learn in these verses that money does not equal security. James said just like the flower fades a rich man can fade away too. We cannot put our hope and trust in money. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26 - “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” No amount of money can bring us to a right standing with God.So what is a biblical perspective concerning money? There is much we could talk about, but let me give you three things quickly.•Trust God to supply your needsPhilippians 4:19 – “my God will meet all your needs, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”•Be content in all circumstancesPhilippians 4:12-13 – “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”•Show compassion and generosity1 John 3:17 – “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has not pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”Today’s Challenge: If you are like me, it’s easy to think you are not impacted in a negative way by money or possessions, but today let’s ask God to search our hearts. Let’s listen for his voice. Let God speak to you about money. He may want to speak to you about your emotions, the trust you put in money, how money is controlling you, your lack of generosity, or any number of things. Today let’s seek to develop a biblical perspective of money.
7 minutes | 19 days ago
#150: The Priority of Making Disciples
A couple of years ago, I attended a major church leadership conference. During the afternoons, a menu of workshops and breakout sessions were offered to the pastors and attendees. On the schedule I saw a workshop on creating a discipleship culture in the local church. Discipleship was something our church was struggling with, so I decided to attend. On my way through the hallways of the convention center I walked past a large room and noticed the sign that indicated the topic was breaking the 200 barrier. The room was packed to capacity. As I made my way to the discipleship workshop, I was surprised to see only a few pastors in attendance. I couldn’t help but reflect on the difference in attendance at the two breakout sessions. Without criticism, I wondered about our fascination with the size of church attendance and our lack of interest in the commission given to us by Jesus.“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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)I believe scripture teaches us that discipleship must be our priority. While there are many good things we do as believers, we must never get away from the call of Jesus to make disciples. Paul say, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)For the past several months I have personally wrestled with why discipleship has not been more of a priority for the church today. I have come to believe that a major reason discipleship is not a priority is because we are impatient. In our American culture we love success. For us, success usually means numbers. Real discipleship is slow. Jesus spent three years with 12 guys. Most of us have not spent three years discipling anyone. Our churches have discipleship classes and then we leave people to learn and grow on their own.As a pastor, I believe sermons are helpful. Podcasts are great. I have called this podcast a “discipleship podcast.” Books are very useful too. But certain dimensions of discipleship can only happen in the context of relationships. Disciples are formed by disciple makers—intentionally, personally, one soul at a time.Everyone listening to this podcast is called to be a disciple-maker. It simply requires finding another believer who is not as far along on their journey, and deciding you will invest in their life. It could happen by meeting regularly for a cup of coffee and sharing together what you are learning. It could happy by phone or zoom.Imagine with me what would happen if every believer was actively and intentionally discipling another believer. And then that believer discipled another believer. The results would be exponential.This is not just a good idea or plan. It’s what Jesus has called us too. Several years ago Christianity Today magazine asked Pastor John Stott to assess the growth of the evangelical church. This was his reply: “The answer is “growth without depth.”What if you and I decide to make 2021 a year of going deep with God. And what if we decided we would not go alone, but that we would take someone with us. It will require commitment, prayer, and accountability, but the results would be transformational. Not only would we grow in Christ-likeness, but we would have made a disciple, who could then make other disciples. Today’s Challenge: Begin to pray that God would lead you to someone, with whom you could begin a discipleship relationship. Together, you could share scripture, prayer, and take steps of faith and obedience.
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