Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 – Day 333.Nov 30 – Powerful “Preaching”

Passage for Study: Acts 17: 10 - 34 … Acts 17 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll has selected the text from Acts 17 which describes Paul’s famous preaching stint to the Greek philosophers on the hill known as The Areopagus in Athens; and Swindoll’s devotional today was mainly directed toward preachers or pastors who have the responsibility of preaching the word of God to groups of people who may include skeptics such as atheists or agnostics. But don’t turn me off here if you don’t consider yourself to be a preacher/pastor; because the points made by Dr. Swindoll can and should apply to all of us because of the admonitions of Jesus Himself in the Great Commission (see Matt. 28: 19-20) and by the Apostle Paul in Acts 1: 8.

You see, my dear fellow Christian, we are all to be “preachers” of a sort, sharing our testimony of salvation in witness to our faith whenever or wherever the opportunity presents itself. That was also the admonition of old Peter, the Apostle, in 1st Peter 3: 15, to “ … always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness [i.e., compassion] and fear [i.e., respect].“ Therefore, since there will be a time when any Christian must witness his/her faith, we can all learn from what Chuck Swindoll is sharing for and/or to preachers today.

And in that sense, Swindoll first charges “preachers” (or those sharing their faith) to STAY ON THE SUBJECT – CHRIST. As you read in today’s passage, Paul, though he used an introduction that the Greeks could understand, was focused on doing one thing; and that was sharing Christ with his audience. And if you are given the divine appointment of sharing your testimony with someone, especially a skeptic, we should always remember that our testimony is about Christ, not about our selves.

Secondly, Swindoll exhorts us to ALWAYS SPEAK THE TRUTH WITHOUT FEAR; and I know that is a tall order for many Christians who don’t consider themselves preachers or evangelists. But we simply must remember what is at stake here; and that may be the eternal life of the one to whom you have been called to give your testimony or with whom you are given the opportunity to share the Gospel. Hence, Peter’s exhortation above to “always be ready to give a defense … for the hope that is in you;” … and that is eternal lift in/through Christ. And I also exhort you to learn and internalize the truth of 1st John 4: 4, … which states truth that ”… greater is HE that is in you (and that is Christ) than he that is in the world” (Satan or any other man/woman). You can stand without fear; because you stand with and for Christ. In that regard, also check out Romans 8: 31.

Now, thirdly in sharing our faith, we should remember to ALWAYS START WHERE YOUR AUDIENCE IS. In other words, the sharing of Christ or your testimony should take into consideration with whom you are sharing. Paul was speaking to a group of highly educated Greek philosophers; and he certainly wouldn’t share the Gospel with these men the same way he would to a group of Jewish peasants in a synagogue. And he didn’t. No, Paul catered his words to his audience; and that’s what we need to do when we share our testimony with some so-called intellectual “snob” as opposed to a lost buddy in the locker room after a game of pickup basketball. Remember with whom God has given you this 1st Peter 3: 15 opportunity; and share your story with respect to that person.

And finally, ALWAYS SURRENDER THE RESULTS TO GOD. And this may be the most important point in sharing your faith. It is not your responsibility to save the lost. It’s God’s! So, leave the outcomes to God. Our responsibility is only to share Christ; and then let Him do the rest. Therefore, when He presents us with an opportunity to share our testimony, don’t get hung up on trying to be the one to do the salvation gig. That’s God’s business. And also remember, that NO ONE can argue with a testimony. Oh, they may argue about the validity of the Bible or give all kinds of arguments about how Christ is not pertinent to their lives, but they cannot argue with the truth of what Christ has meant to you. So, your testimony, considering their feelings, is your best weapon in sharing Christ with anyone, no matter what their station in life may be.

And the closing words of Pastor Chuck today are good ones. ”When your moment comes (i.e., your divine appointment to share Christ), stand and deliver. God will give you the courage as you tell others of His Son. And there is no greater honor on earth.” [context added by yours truly – wrb]

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give me the opportunity to share You with others; and when the appointment arises, give me the boldness and the words to tell my story of the hope I have in You. Amen

Sunday, November 29, 2009

2009 – Day 332.Nov 29 – Refreshing Affirmation

Passage for Study: Acts 17: 1 - 9 … Acts 17 linked for study …

2nd Passage for Study: 1st Thes. 2: 1 - 12 … 1st Thes. 2 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today we see one more quality which is much needed in parenting and one which you’ll need - as did Paul - when you’re called into Christian leadership; and that trait is AFFIRMATION.

Note what Paul writes to the Chrisians at Thessalonica, in 1st Thess. 2: 10 - 12, “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

Paul recognized his need in leadership to encourage and affirm those who had come to Christ so that they would grow up in their faith and “walk worthy of God.” And Paul was right on target as he was using this parenting word picture when it comes to the development of our Christian walk.

My dear one, I don’t know about your parents and your upbringing. But if you didn’t get very much affirmation and encouragement from your parents, it may have been difficult for you to grow up with confidence and strength and become affirming to your children, should you have become a parent. The emotional wounds that develop from a desert of affirmation as a child often become a desert of encouragement later in life for one who was deprived of encouragement by his/her parents as a child.

In fact that is the word picture which Chuch Swindoll uses to describe the need for and the provision of parental affirmation. It is a picture of an oasis in the middle of a harsh and dry desert. When we’re growing up as children, the world can be a harsh and dry place, where we, as children, become thirsty for encouragement and affirmation. And in order for us to grow emotionally, we need to be able to come back to the family oasis where our parents give us a steady/safe place to be refreshed with their well spring of love, affection, and lavish affirmation.

Think of what’s going on in our culture/world today. We have a vast numbers of kids who have no fathers or AWOL dads who are either not there physically or emotionally absent to provide their kids with the drink of encouragement these kids are so parched to receive. And so, where do you think these affirmation thirsty kids go to get the refreshing drink of encouragement they need? Yes, they go to gangs or to an older peer who gives them attention and perceived affirmation. Hence, we see gangs forming and teen girls getting pregnant because they fall prey to the substitute encouragement they receive from someone other than a parent.

Maybe you identify with this; and perhaps, as a parent or a leader in some Christian ministry, you’re convicted because you have not provided the time, encouragement, or affirmation so needed by your kids, your grandkids, or your flock in ministry. Well, if that’s the case, it’s never too late for the change which God, through His word can bring about in your life. And I pray that you’ll find the refreshing love and encouragment that Paul found in his relationship with Christ. And then Paul was transformed from a parched Christian hater to a well spring of encouragement and affirmation for those whom God led to him to find Christ and to grow from his ministry.

My friend, every day, I come here to the oasis of affirmation which I receive when I’m here communing with God in my daily morning devotional. And just as I was this morning, I drink from the well of God’s truth; and I’m filled to overflowing with the encouragement and life-giving energy I get from being in the presence of God. The world is a harsh and dry place; and I’ve come to recognize that I can become that deer panting after God’s refreshing affirmation in Psalm 41: 1-2. But when I come to this quiet place each day, I come to the place where I can always be refreshed and uplifted by the infinite filling of God’s ever refreshing, Spirit-given, well of truth and love. I pray you are refreshed in this way every day of your life. You need it, and so do I.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for being there to give me the drink of Your love I receive each morning when I come to this oasis to drink from Your truth. Amen

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 – Day 331.Nov 28 – Servant First

Passage for Study: Acts 17: 1 - 9 … Acts 17 linked for study …

2nd Passage for Study: 1st Thes. 2: 1 - 12 … 1st Thes. 2 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today’s devotional from Pastor Chuck Swindoll was just for me; ... well, maybe you too. He points to an attitude which leaders in ministry must develop. However, it’s another of the Christlike attitudes modeled by the Apostle Paul, which all of us simply must learn and live if we’re going to grow in Christllikeness. And that attitude was probably best modeled by Christ when He washed the feet of the Disciples (read it in John 13: 1-17, [linked here for your study].)

The attitude and message for ministry in God’s Kingdom was, of course, choosing to be a servant first. In John 12: 26 Jesus had commanded, ”Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” And shortly thereafter, in the upper room, He illustrated this for His inner twelve by washing their feet.

If we’re going to be great for the Lord, we must learn to be a servant first. That was modeled by Christ and then exemplified in our passages, which are repeated again today, illustrating the Apostle Paul’s desire to be a follower and a servant first in his ministry/missionary calling.

To bring this point home in his devotional for this date, Swindoll quotes a young Senior at Dallas Theological Seminary, when Swindoll heard the young man preach a sermon. The student was giving a sermon on the foot-washing text from John 13; and as this young preacher candidate ended his sermon, he asked a very pointed question, which applies to us all. He asked, ”Do you want to have a great ministry; ... or do you want to be great.”

And I can’t speak for you, but that question, FOR ME, hits at my heart. All too often I find myself trying to please others or to be seen as great IN THEIR EYES rather than simply, and humbly, serving them as Jesus would. I’m too often vying to be first in the eyes of those whom I serve rather than just serving for the sake of my Lord. I want them to see ME FIRST rather than to see The Lord in my service. Sure, I’ll wash your feet; but am I doing it simply to honor my Lord, or am I doing it so that you’ll see me as your foot washer?

Ugh! If homebase is simple servanthood, I’m afraid I’m striking out all too often rather than hitting a homerun for Christ by simple and humble service in His Name. But thankfully, God gives me a chance to step to the plate today and hit one out of the park as I serve others in His Name.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me see the need for a servant; and then give me the opportunity to serve in Your Name. Amen

Friday, November 27, 2009

2009 – Day 330.Nov 27 – Affectionate Leaders

Passage for Study: Acts 17: 1 - 9 … Acts 17 linked for study …

2nd Passage for Study: 1st Thes. 2: 1 - 121st Thes. 2 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: In these last days, Chuck Swindoll, in his devotional book, Great Days with the Great Lives has been looking at the qualities or character traits of leaders, using these passages from Acts and one of his leters to the Thessalonians to illustrated how the Apostle Paul exemplified the leadership qualites all work or church leaders should exhibit. And in this study we’ve seen Paul exhibit contentment and joy in the midst of trials. We’ve seen him with strong determination and yet exhibiting genuine thanksgiving at the same time. And we’ve seen him have focus, holding true to his main objective of spreading the Gospel, but at the same time having great sensitivity for all to whom God led him to witness.

Today, Swindoll points out one other quality which leaders simply must have; and that character trait illustrated in Paul in 1st Thess. 2: 8 where we read, “ So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” And as you read that passage, Paul’s genuine love and affection for his flock jumps off the page, doesn’t it? You can also read this quality of affection when you read his other prison epistles, like Ephesians, Colossians, or Philippians, the latter being an out-and-out love letter to those at Philippi. And when you sense this genuine affection for those whom Paul had evangelized, I believe you see just how much Paul had changed after his conversion.

It’s just hard for me to imagine Paul, when he was Saul of Tarsus, the hard-case who persecuted and had Christians stoned, was a leader who loved people at that time. No, he was the man who stood up on a hill and ordered and witnessed the killing of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr. But here, in this letter to Thessalonica, we see just how loving and affectionate he had become.

Actually, I identify with Paul’s Spirit-shaped change, being transformed from a hard-case boss to a loving leader. Almost 30 years ago, when I was a hard-hearted agnostic, I did all I could to rip the faith right out from under Christians. I was a loner and simply didn’t like to be around other people, especially Christians who had a love affair with Jesus going on. And here I am now, these decades later, having come to Christ a little over 25 years ago; and now I love being around Christians and yes, even around those who are estranged from Christ (i.e., the lost who hate Christ).

And now I’d fully agree with Swindoll’s plea in his devotional today, as he wrote, ”If you don’t enjoy people, please, do us all a favor, and don’t go into leadership. Choose another career stream. Everyone will be better off.” Swindoll goes on to point out that the world, especially the church, doesn’t need more “bosses.” What we need, especially in the Church, is more “leaders.” And I characterize a “boss” by comparing that kind of leader to Hitler; whereas I picture a “leader” as being one like Abe Lincoln. Honest Abe loved people, even his enemies; and Hitler, ... well, you get the picture!

I pray that we all recognize the need to love others as Christ loved us; and once again if we’re called into leadership, we need to become more and more like our Lord, loving all whom we’re called to lead, just as we’ve seen in the Apostle Paul.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, grow me into a loving leader. Amen

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 – Day 329.Nov 26 – Sensitive Leaders

Passage for Study: Acts 17: 1 - 9 … Acts 17 linked for study …

2nd Passage for Study: 1st Thes. 2: 1 - 12 … 1st Thes. 2 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: If you were with me yesterday, I wrote - with Chuck Swindoll’s guidance - of the quality of vulnerability (marked by integrity, honesty, and approachable openness). Today, primarily from the passage in 1st Thes. 2: 7 - 9, as Paul focused on his and his fellow leader’s approach to preaching the Gospel and leading new Christians in that area of Greece. He even used the word picture of a mother nursing her babies to describe how he tried to lead the Thessalonians with gentleness, patience, and kindness.

The Greek word, “epios,” used by Paul for “kindness” in leadership in this passage is one Swindoll compares to two other Greek concepts in Paul’s discussion of the fruit of the Spirit (in Gal. 5: 22-23). These are the fruit of “kindness” (Greek - chrestotes) and “meekness” (Greek - prautes), which I believe are both combined when leaders need to have the quality of leadership Paul was trying to illustrate by the word picture of a mother nursing her babes.

What Swindoll is trying to teach here to those who’ve been cast into a role of leadership in their lives, perhaps in some work site or maybe in a church, is that leaders need to be strong with determination (covered a few days ago in my devotionals); but they also need to exercise that determination with sensitivity. And it’s that sensitivity which must utilize the fruit of the spirit which we call “kindness” (or gentleness) as well as “meekness” (or strength under control).

As I write this, I’m in Colorado with my wife, visiting our daughter who has a new baby boy, our first male grandchild. And so this word picture of sensitivity and gentleness Paul uses to describe his leadership, which we read in 2nd Thess. 2: 7, is clearly on display for me as our daughter and my wife do all that is necessary to meet the needs of that little baby boy, also taking into account the needs of our other two granddaughters, who vie for their attention with a new little boy in the home. It is masterful to see my wife and daughter relinquish their superiority of age and strength to be the pictures of meekness, kindness, and sensitivity depicted by Paul in his church leadership of these new baby Christians.

I could go on with this; but let me close by saying that any leadership stength must be tempered by heavy doses of sensitivity and kindness if that leader is to help shape the growth of new or developing disciples of Christ. Yesterday, I gave witness to the vulnerability of my Pastor, who is also growing into the role of meekness and kindness which he is going to need to lead our large church into the future. If you’re in a position of church or ministry leadership, as am I, I pray that we all can lead by determined vision, but also with the senstivitiy of a mother who is willing to yield her own power to the needs of her babies. May we lead with direction but with gentleness and patience as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I need more of the qualities described herein in leading others to become more like You. Help me be strong, but gentle, dear Lord. Help me to be like You. Amen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2009 – Day 328.Nov 25 – His Only Priority

Passage for Study: Acts 17: 1 - 9 … Acts 17 linked for study …

2nd Passage for Study: 1st Thes. 2: 1 - 6 … 1st Thes. 2 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Over the years I’ve learned that there are several critical abilities to this business of Christian discipleship. The are availABILITY, vulnerABILITY, accountABILITY, and stickABILITY. Certainly, the Apostle Paul had all of these; but today Chuck Swindoll focuses on the second of these, ... VULNERABILITY.
Today’s passage illustrates that the Apostle Paul was the “real deal” to all, wherever he went, ... wherever he preached, ... and wherever he ministered. Paul, and anyone who traveled with him, had one - and only one - priority ... that the gospel and Christ would be preached to whomever would listen. So, anyone who came into contact with this road warrior for Christ would hear Paul’s testimony and would experience witness for The Messiah.

Swindoll points out realistically that we should beware of Christian preachers or teachers who are inaccessible or aloof, seemingly hiding behind masks. He quotes the powerful Chrsitian teacher/writer, John Stott, who wrote, ...

”Happy are those Christian leaders today, who hate hypocrisy and love integrity, ... who have nothing to conceal or be ashamed of, ... who are well known for who and what they are, ... and who are able to appeal without fear to God and to the public as their witness. We need more transparency and openness of this kind (comparing to the Apostle Paul) today.”

My friends, Stott’s claim is all too true. But if I may, right now at this time in my life, I am blessed to come under the Shepherd’s authority and teaching of a Pastor (in my local church) who is like Paul, who declared openly to his followers, (see 1st Cor. 11: 1), ”Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” And that is the way of my Pastor, Dr. Ernie Frey; and he is an open and ever vulnerable witness for Christ, one who is the real deal just like the Apostle Paul.

Ernie is a living mirror of vulnerability; and he often makes some uncomfortable with his honesty and realness. The Apostle Paul was certainly not perfect; and neither is my Pastor. What you see in Ernie Frey is what you get! And because of this Pastor’s realness and openness, a culture of vulnerability and integrity is growing at Central Church, following years where this was not the case.

My friends, I hope you follow Christian leaders who, like the Apostle Paul [or my Pastor], are open and accessible, ... who model vulnerability , ... and who are not afraid of accountability, living what they preach or teach. These are leaders who are growing in Christlikeness and inviting others to follow them as they become more like Jesus. Yes, leaders like Ernie Frey can be uncomfortable at times; because they are mirrors, showing openly the strong calling of The Lord, as I so often quote here from Luke 9: 23 ... for us to deny self, take up the crosses of life daily, and to follow the Lord. When you are led by one who closely follows Jesus and leads the way to become more like our Lord, it’s challenging, to say the least. But it’s in becoming vulnerable and open, as was the Apostle Paul, that we can become humble enough to surrender to God’s Spirit, the shaper of our souls.

I hope you have a leader like my Pastor and Shepherd, who takes his flock to places where we must grow to be like Jesus. We need more Christian leaders like the Apostle Paul and my Pastor today, don’t we?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I thank you for My Pastor, who leads me by his availability and vulnerability and honesty, to become more like You. Amen

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2009 – Day 327.Nov 24 – Genuine Thanksgiving

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 16 - 40 … Acts 16 linked for study …

2nd Scripture Reference: Philippians 2: 1-18Phil. 2 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: If you’ve been following what I’ve posted the last few days, led by my use of Chuck Swindoll’s devotional book, Great Days with the Great Lives, the focus has been on Paul’s model and Christlike attitudes of joy, contentment, and determination in the face of dire circumstances (i.e., imprisonment and threat of death). And obviously it flushes out a self examination (like Paul himself exhorted in 2nd Cor. 13: 5). We’ll get back to that in moment.

But today we focus on Paul’s attitude of thanksgiving so that we can look at whether we can have an attitude of gratitude in the face of pain or trials. And again, Paul shines the light of a Christlike model when it comes to thankgiving; and we can also read about it in another of his prison epistles (see Col. 4: 2 - 4) where he wrote, "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. " Note how, in this passage, Paul requests prayer so that he can, with a thankful attitude, speak the Gospel clearly and powerfully to others. That was also his exhortation to the Philippians in Phil. 4: 6 - 7 [as I hope you have memorized that powerful passage].

Here was Paul, thinking that he could die any day during his imprisonment; and yet, he had a thankful heart for the love of other Christians whom he knew were praying for him and for his opportunity to share the truth of Christ with others [yes, even in prison]. So, let’s return to the self exam. How are we doing when it comes to an attitude of thankfulness in the face of ... well, you fill in the blank here with any test, trial, or trouble you’re facing or have faced? Does the light of gratitude shine through from us to others.

And Swindoll turns the spotlight directly on us in his devotional for today, asking several questions about our attitudes, remembering that God’s word, from the Apostle Paul, has charged us to have attitudes like that of Christ (see Phil. 2: 5). Let me quote these questions from Swindoll today for you to join me in doing a pop quiz for ourselves. Quoting C. Swindoll:

>>> Are you making a difference in the lives of those closest to you by the way you respond to your circumnstances?

>>> Are others impacted by your faith, or are they discouraged by your fears?

>>> Are the attitudes of unselfish humility, joyful acceptance, strong determination, and genuine thanksgiving evident in the way you’re dealing with life?

Personally, my friends, I’ve got a way to go after taking this “check-up from the neck up.” How about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me be more like You no matter where You may lead me Amen

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 – Day 326.Nov 23 – Attitude of Strong Determination

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 16 - 40 … Acts 16 linked for study …

2nd Scripture Reference: Philippians 2: 1-18 & 3: 13-14 Phil. 2 - 3 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: If you have read through the passages listed for today from Paul’s letter to Philippi in Chapters 2 and 3, I doubt that you’d argue with me if I claimed that the Apostle modeled an attitude of strong determination. So, I won’t take the writing space here to develop that argument. In fact, all I really need to do is point you toward the last passage referenced in Phil. 3: 13-14 where Paul gives a self proclamation of determination, writing ”one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Yes, ... strong determination ... for sure!

It’s the picture of a runner, not looking aback, only forward, straining for the tape at the end of the race, deternined to win the prize. And in today’s devotional lesson, Chuck Swindoll uses a couple of historical examples to illustrate such strong determination. He points to the case of Leonardo DaVinci, who painted over thousand human hands so that he could get the hand exactly right for the hand of God painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And more recently in history there was the true case of Thomas Edison supervising the choosing of the filament for the modern incandescent light bulb, where he and his lab partners went through - some say - over ten thousand different fibers before he finally got one that burned brightly enough for long enough to be usable, practical, and marketable. Both of those certainly are examples who refused to look at the failures. They only looked at the mission, the prize, or the goal ahead with strong determination.

Well, I can’t speak for you; but this time in God’s word, looking at the life of Paul again, speaks to my heart, saying that I need to not look back at the so-called “failures” in my past. And it would be easy to do so. I’ve had many. Oh, like all of us, I do need to consider and learn from my past; but I must not dwell there. No, we Christians need to strain to run for “the prize” ahead, which is to become like Christ and to ultimately be crowned by Him in glory.

So I ... and so you ... run that race; and we need to be straining forward, not looking back, going for it with the goal being deeper, more abiding relationship with Christ and the desire only to follow Him to the tape, where prayerfully He will say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant. You ran a good race and fought a good fight. Now join Me in glory with this crown of your achievement.” That was Paul’s declaration in 2nd Tim. 4: 6-8; and I pray it will be so for you and me.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, lead me to the finish so that I may finish strongly and receive the crown of righteousness from You, my Savior. Amen

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 – Day 325.Nov 22 – Learned Contentment

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 16 - 40 … Acts 16 linked for study …

2nd Scripture Reference: Philippians 2: 1-18 … Please go to Philippians 2 for study.

My Journal for Today: The Apostle Paul preached some hard lessons in the passage for today from Phil 2; and he certainly modeled what he preached. Here he was chained to prison guards in Rome, not knowing if the day he wrote the letter to Philippi would be his last. However, he did know that the only way the Gospel would shine (as Christ had instructed in Matt. 5: 16) would happen if the Christians of his day, like himself, were obviously different from those in the 1st Century world. And different Paul was; and so should we Christians of today be as we try to shine Christ’s light to glorify God in an ever darkening world.

Paul lived and preached that Christians must have and exhibit and attitude like that of Christ (see Phil. 2: 5), an attitude of humility, living with contentment and joy no matter what the circumstances. And Paul’s prison guards had to be impressed with how he spoke with such humble, but confident, hope about the God-Man Jesus. Paul knew that avoiding being seen as a grumbler would shine Christ’s light in a very dark place; and so he modeled what he preached in Phil. 2: 14-15.

Chuck Swindoll quotes a former mentor of his, Ray Stedman, who taught Swindoll, “We live in a world of crooks and perverts. What an opportunity to be winsomely different.” And that is so right-on. Living out the attitude of joy and contentment, even as we’re sourrounded by persecution and evil in this day, has to shine a light that is noticeably different from others in our world. If you work in the coporate or political world and maintain Biblicaly-based habits of honesty and integrity, you will stand out, my friend. If you’re a teenager and you maintain personal purity and reject the “pornified” world around you, you will stand out. Even choosing to live as Christ described Himself in Matt. 11: 29 as “humble and meek,” will separate one from the milieu of this world. The world would have us be aggressive and prideful. So, my fellow Christian, if we follow the lead of Paul - and especially that of Christ - we’re going to stand out and others will be drawn to us as light bearers in the midst of darkness.

I pray that will be our approach to life and we grow to learn contentment as did Paul when he was chained in a Roman prison. When we live with joy in the midst of strife and contentment in the midst of privation, we’re going to be having the cedibility of Christlikeness to shine His light for all to see Him.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Help me to shine Your light of contentment and joy in today’s world so that others will see Your robes of righteousness hiding my rags of sin. Amen

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2009 – Day 324.Nov 21 – Contentment Spreads

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 16 - 40 … Acts 16 linked for study …

2nd Scripture Reference: Philippians 1: 12 - 18 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Have you ever been around a truly contented, self-assured individual, … one that exudes confidence and self-direction? Well if you have, you know that his/her confidence and self-assurance is catching. You feel at ease or maybe excited around such a person, don’t you? And when that person has a story to tell, you want to hear it, don’t you?

Well, that was the Apostle Paul, chained to a Roman prison guard, ready and willing to witness to his love for Christ and how Christ had given him purpose and direction and contentment. Paul would tell his story to anyone who’d listen, … even the prison guards to whom he was chained in Rome. And that message began to spread through ranks of the prison guards from each guard who was assigned to watch Paul. I an just imagine them telling their compatriots about the Jew who’s life was changed from hatred to love by another Jew who died on a cross and was raised to life from the dead. Some scholars feel that the message got out to several thousand who were assigned to be prison guards in Rome at the time.

Really that is the fulfillment of what we read in Acts 1: 8, isn’t it? In that passage we read that we become witnesses for Christ anywhere and anytime we’re willing to be His witnesses to the world. And Paul certainly was that as the Gospel message spread from one prisoner willing to tell his story to one guard … and then another and then another, each of whom became excited to tell that story about Paul and Christ to another, then another, and then another.

Swindoll today teaches that several things happen when one – like you or me – is available and willing to witness our faith. First he writes that the Gospel is always accelerated, never delayed When we share our story, God pours His gas of grace on the fires of our desire to share Him with others. God will enable the spreading of His Name if we’re willing to share it with others.

Secondly, when we’re witnessing God’s truth the edge of the message is sharpened, never dulled. The more you share Christ with others it becomes that two-edged sword which is spoken about in Heb. 4: 12. Speaking of Christ or about Christ is speaking about the Living Word, His truth; and speaking the “Gospel-truth” is speaking like the double-edged sword spoken of in that verse.

Finally, sharing Christ always strengthens others, never weakens them. When people hear of your story of transformation, wrought in your relationship with Christ, they identify with the need for that kind of change and they are uplifted, never put down. Sharing Christ with others is sharing light in the midst of darkness; and it draws people to the light like moths to the flame.

So, when you’re available and willing to share your witness, … your story, about Christ with another who will listen, it’s like you’ve cast a stone (a big one) into the pond of life; and you and I both know what will happen. Its plunging effects will cause a ripple which will cascade outward. And that’s what Paul’s message of hope in Christ had in that Roman prison. But what if Paul had remained silent, … unwilling to cast the stone in the pond of his prison, his guards would have gone on with their hum-drum life and many of them would have never felt the ripples of love being cascaded outward from God’s message of truth and hope. Think about that the next time you have a divine appointment and you’re available to share Christ with someone.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m convicted that I don’t throw the rock of Your message into the pond of my life as often as You give me opportunities. Help me to be emboldened and to share You more; and give me those divine appointments to do so. Amen

Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 – Day 323.Nov 20 – Despite Your Circumstances

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 16 - 40 … Acts 16 linked for study …

2nd Scripture Reference: Philippians 1: 12 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: After reading the passages for today, without even reading Chuck Swindoll’s devotional message for today, I think I could have predicted what his slant would be. And his title, “Despite Your Circumstances,” confirmed my prediction. When one reads what Paul and his companions went through in Philippi; and then to read from his letter to the Philippians (in Phil. 1: 12) written in reflection later in his life from another prison, one has to be impressed with how Paul, the former Christian hater, had been transformed into one of history’s model evangelists. But beyond that transformation, it is Paul’s ability to live with hopefulness and contentment, despite his circumstances, which is a very convicting lesson for me.

I don’t know about you; but when things go wrong for me, especially when it involves physical or emotional pain, I can be the master of the personal pity party. And it can lead me to begin waning in faith, questioning God, … even at times to the point of anger. Thankfully, thus far in life, I haven’t gotten to the point of bitterness or movement away from my faith; but then again, my life has not had multiple imprisonments, the pain, the floggings, the shipwrecks, and one could go on and on about Paul’s incursions into the horrors of life we all wish to avoid. Paul had them all, many, many times; and yet, we see no evidence in Scripture that he ever drooped into self pity or got angry at God. Oh, we know, from 2nd Cor. 12, that he was not a masochist, praying over and over again to be spared from some physical “thorn.” However, even then Paul sought and learned (and then taught) a lesson from God about humility and God’s grace.

But Paul’s life is a shining example of how to do exactly what he himself preached later to the Philippians in Phil. 4: 11 – 13 … that contentment can only come when we choose to rely on the strength Christ gives believers when they choose to depend upon, receive, and use God’s empowering, enabling grace. Paul had learned and lived the truth of his own declaration, “I can do all things through Christ, Who gives me the strength.”

I’m learning that lesson; but I still have a long way to go to avoid self pity, anger, and bitterness as I come under various circumstances. But Paul is a one of my character models from my Bible, the best One, of course, being Christ Himself, that we can – and should – live ABOVE the circumstance. Only Christians have that choice and that ability; but it only comes when we, like Paul, can rely upon, believe in, and draw upon God’s grace to be overcomers in life, just as Jesus and Paul were overcomers.

My Prayer for Today: My Lord … my Savior, You know I desire to live like You, … to shine Your light … to rise above my circumstance, especially when they are painful. Empower me. Enable me with Your grace to be that light in this darkened world. Amen

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 – Day 322.Nov 19 – Traveling well

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 11 - 15 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today Pastor Chuck, my devotional shepherd, got a bit more practical in his instruction, taking cues from the above passage about Paul’s missionary travels and his contacts with the people God led into his life along the roads of his journeys. It obviously reminded Swindoll of his own ministry travels, being on the road alone; and he provided his readers with some very practical guidelines to avoid troubles. And all of Swindoll’s travel instructions were exemplified by the Apostle Paul in his missionary journeys.

He gave such advice as the following …
• … Avoiding traveling alone whenever possible so that the traveler can avoid loneliness.
• … Staying accountable while traveling by staying in touch with home base.
• … Staying grounded in one’s relationship with God by staying fixed in the disciplines of the faith such as daily quiet times with God, fasting, prayer, and even journaling time in God’s word.
• … Avoiding the opinions of others whether they be too laudatory or negative.

All of these are good advice for traveling Christians; but as I read the passage today, being in a ministry which focuses on helping Christians, mostly men, deal with the pitfalls of sexual sin, I couldn’t help but be transported to give advice to Christian men, especially married men, like those in our ministry who must travel in their work or occasionally must travel alone for personal, business, or church reasons. So, please pardon this diversion while I give my own list of travel warnings and advice.

And to introduce my segment, let me say that we Christian men have to realize that traveling alone today is warfare. Satan and his system, the world, surround us with powerful sexualized super weapons; and if the lone traveler doesn’t know the enemy’s ploys, he becomes vulnerable to them. We men have trouble enough when we have a good battle plan and we’re on our own turf, let alone when we’re out there on the road alone, stripped of our normal control mechanisms, accountability systems, and fellow warriors to help in the struggles of life. So, let me give my fellow male Christian soldiers a few of the more important road warrior tactics which I’ve discovered essential should you be one who is forced to travel alone.

FIRST … plan ahead. Knowing why and where you’re going, have a battle plan and preferably one which you’ve written out and communicated with your fellow accountability partners, especially your # 1 partner, your spouse. Never assume that you can handle the ploys and pitfalls which you’ll encounter without planning ahead. What are you going to do when you’re in the airports alone, seeing all those comely lasses parading around, especially if it’s in the summer when dress is skimpy? What are you gong to do when you get to your hotel, having to deal with such variables as pay-per-view porn or even R-rated cable TV? And I could give you 20 other questions you need to have answered and accounted for in your plan, my brothers. If you don’t have a plan, Satan has you in the palm of his hand and can overwhelm you with his myriad of temptations.

SECONDLY … reinforcing one of Swindoll’s points, deal with aloneness and loneliness. Stay in touch with your spouse and accountability partners often during your journeys. Use today’s technological tools such as cell phones, texting, or email to stay emotionally close to your fellow home warriors. And this is especially true when you’re feeling vulnerable or under attack. There’s great power in knowing that you’re never truly alone with God (I hope you know Deut. 31: 6 or Heb. 13: 5); but He becomes even closer with the voice of your wife or accountability buddy is on the cell phone. It’s powerful when you can pray with your wife or friend, especially if you’re being tempted in some way. Remember the truth of Prov. 27: 17 and Matt. 18: 20; iron does sharpen iron in battle and God is always there with two or more who come together in Christ’s Name.

THIRDLY … avoid compromising situations, such as contacts with other females or going to places – maybe with a bunch of guys – where you know you’re going to be tempted. It makes no sense for a recovering alcoholic to go to a bar with a bunch of guys at a convention, does it? Well, when a group of guys at a work conference want to steal away to a XXX establishment – for some fun – you being able to stand and say no, even if one of those guys is your boss, is a powerful witness for Christ and will allow you to flee from potential danger (see 2nd Tim. 2: 22).

FINALLY … always carry a sharpened and well practiced sword of the Spirit to fend off the enemy when he comes after you on the road (and you know he will!). Having memorized and internalized God’s word, especially key verses which provide strength (such as Isaiah 41; 10, Phil. 4: 13, 1st Cor. 10: 13, etc.), can be life protecting when the world throws tempting visions in front of you or when you find yourself in an awkward place which sparks memories of past sins. Remember using your Spirit Sword (i.e., deeply memorized Scripture passages) is the method promised by God to help you avoid sin (see Ps. 119: 9-11); and it was Jesus’ method of warfare in dealing with Satan’s attacks (see Matt. 4: and Luke 4). So, when you walk into a surprise attack, my friend, whip out your Sword and do battle for Christ.

I could go on and on with this; because being vigilant and well armed for battle is what I do in ministry and in my life every day; but if you think that you can travel alone these days and be strong – in and of yourself – you are fool hardy; and you could become a fallen soldier in the battles of life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories from Christian men who thought they were strong but fell in today’s XXX warfare because they fell prey to a much stronger and well equipped foe.

Oh, , my fellow warrior, how I pray you’re ready for the road battles of life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us prepare to be swordsman and road warriors, wearing Your full armor and witnessing to Your strength working in and through us to keep us pure and righteous in a world which would want to take us down. Amen

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2009 – Day 321.Nov 18 – Ultimate Authority

Passage for Study: Acts 16: 1 – 10; Acts 17: 1 – 11 … Acts 16 – 17 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today we come to one of my favorite passages in the Book of Acts, … that of the place Paul and his compatriots came, to Berea, where God teaches us a lesson we should never forget … that of where we go when we’re confused or lacking clarity when we hear teachers or preachers presenting theological teachings about which we’re unsure.

Paul and his disciples were going about the Greek landscape, spreading the Gospel message; and many were saved; but they also, which was the case in Thessalonica, encountered Jewish leaders who became jealous of the Christian successes, forcing these traveling evangelists to move on. And when they came to Berea, they encountered some Jews who seemed to have a more Greek style of handling theological questions or issues. These Bereans, as you read in Acts 17: 1 – 11, actually did what good Jews had been taught to do in their religious training. These people took Paul’s teachings and they went back to what they new was “ultimate authority,” the Word of God, which for them was the first five books of the Bible as we know them; and when they saw that what Paul was teaching lined up well with God’s word, they listened to Paul’s Scriptural arguments about Christ as the claimed Messiah. Ultimately they found nothing from Paul’s teachings which contradicted God’s word, so many of them became believers; … but none of them bought into Paul’s new and wonderful teachings (i.e., the Gospel) until they could square those teachings with THE TRUTH of God’s word.

And here we have the principle which we read the Apostles later teaching in passages like 1st John 4: 1 and 1st Thes. 5: 21. And these, along with the object lesson taught by the Bereans, teach us that we should never just take the theological, political, or practical teachings of mankind at face value. We, as followers of Christ, simply cannot be His disciples if we are not using His ultimate authority, His living word, as our measuring standard of truth. Today we hear, especially via books, TV, and the Internet, a lot of teaching about Christ or doctrines which may seem questionable. And we need to develop a Berean mindset when it comes to evaluating what we hear. We need to know that God will never put forth a doctrine or a teaching which is inconsistent with His written word, the Bible. So, when you hear a televangelist spouting off what he claims to be truth, do what is taught by the Scriptures at the head of this paragraph and check out what is being taught or preached against the pure and infinitely accurate source of truth, The Scriptures. And as these Scriptures teach, hold on to what is right; and discard what is not.

Today I see many people who call themselves “christian” falling prey to teachers like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, or others; and if one has a strong, working knowledge of God’s word, a Berean “Christian” can recognize that their “word of faith” teachings fall short of measuring up to the test of teaching the real truth of Scripture. So, my fellow disciple of Christ, test what you hear – first and foremost - against to ultimate authority of God’s word; and like the Bereans, when the teachings measure up to God’s word, you can begin to listen and learn truth from teachers who know to teach what Christ would have us learn – Biblical truth.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, God, help me to have a discerning spirit, using the measuring rod of Your word as my first source of truth. Amen

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2009 – Day 320.Nov 17 – Forgive Them

Passage for Study: Acts 15: 35 - 41 … Acts 15 linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: My devotional yesterday focused, as does the repeated passage today, on the contention which caused Paul and Barnabas to part ways. Obviously there were some bad feelings between the younger John Mark and Paul; but down the road of their independent lives, we saw that this riff, which had caused the separation was repaired – likely by Paul’s maturation as a disciple and his willingness to forgive the younger disciple, Mark. We referred yesterday to the fact that Paul was able to later commend Mark for his work for the Lord (again one can read this in Col. 4: 10-11 and 2nd Tim. 4: 11).

Holding on to one’s anger and letting it develop into a grudge or bitterness is, as I said yesterday, giving power to the enemy to poison our hearts and weaken our witness for the Lord. Oh how our spiritual enemy, Satan, loves to pour his fuel of discontent on the fires of anger or bitterness; and we become the victims of our own anger or prideful ill feelings. And that’s what it really is, my dear one, … isn’t it? It’s pride which causes us to hold a grudge or withhold forgiveness.

Jesus told His disciples to do as He did [again Luke 9: 23]. Paul wrote (in Phil. 2: 5) to have the same attitude as Christ. Well, Jesus himself said [read it in Matt. 11: 29] that his attitude was one of humility and meekness; and one can’t be humble and meek and hold a grudge. So, my friend [s] we need to do a self inventory. Do we have any – and I mean ANY – wounds or past riffs in our lives which have caused us to retain a prideful – AND SINFUL – attitude of bitterness toward another? If so, we’re giving Satan a beachhead of retained sin in our lives. We’re giving our enemy the license to weaken our witness or ministry for the Lord; because we cannot be living sacrifices for Christ (see Romans 12: 1 – 2) if we have forgiveness which we’re withholding from someone in our lives.

But you may say, “Bill, you just don’t know how much they hurt me and did me wrong.” And you’re right, I don’t. But was Jesus wrong when He said on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” My friend, if we want to be free from the burdens of unresolved sin because of unresolved forgiveness, we simply MUST take those wounds to the cross and turn them over to Jesus (as He commended us in Matt. 11: 28 – 30 or in Matt. 5: 23 – 24).

No, my friend, I’m not saying that we condone what was done to us to cause these wounds or ill feelings; but I am saying that we release those ill feelings to the Lord; and let Him deal with the judging. You know it as well as I do, judgment is not our business; it’s God’s. And until we let God be God in the matter of forgiveness and let His blood heal our hurts, through forgiveness, we’re going to be carrying around a burden of sin which weighs us down for as long as we carry it.

Let it go, my friend!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for helping me to let all those past wounds be healed by the salve of forgiveness and your grace being poured on me to release me from ill feelings. Amen

Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 – Day 319.Nov 16 – Positive Separation

Passage for Study: Acts 15: 30 - 41 … Acts 15 linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: Today, with the help of a famous Christian story of disagreement in Acts 15, Chuck Swindoll teaches about how to deal with disagreement, which will inevitably arise when Christians, even men or women of good character are working together. Being an Elder in my church I can give a witness of agreement to this. When strong minded people, even those with the degree of maturity experienced by a Paul and Barnabas, come together about important issues, there will, at times, be disagreements; and how we handle those moments can be important to God’s plan moving forward – or not.

Swindoll provides several suggestions which are worthy of consideration. The first of these is quite logical and apparent; and that is to ”... work to see the other point of view.” In any conflict three qualities, according to Swindoll, must be drawn upon … honesty, objectivity, and humility. Remember, we must acknowledge that we humans have a deceitful heart (see Jer. 17: 9); and we have to recognize that our flesh often works against us to build walls of separation between even the most mature of Christians. Without vulnerability and humility and caring for the interests of others (see Phil. 2: 3-4), tempered by really listening to the positions of those with whom we disagree, disagreements can become flesh-driven schisms which damage the kingdom of God. So, every attempt should be made to seek objectivity and clarity, even by bringing in Godly counsel (see Prov. 15: 22) to help in the deliberations when needed.

Swindoll’s second point is that ”when both sides have validity, seek compromise.” When arguments are compounded by strong personalities, who have strong positions, it may be difficult to find one, clear position to which both parties can agree and take. Therefore, some compromise should be sought. And here again an agreed upon third party, a mediator or counselor, may be indicated. Of course all should agree in the end that the solution decided upon is biblical and should be taken to follow God’s leading.

Thirdly, Pastor Chuck counsels strong-minded Christians in the midst of disagreement to ”… care enough to work it through rather than walk out.” God’s Spirit must grieve to see Christians – and even Christian churches or marriages – where disagreements lead to one or both parties in the disagreement splitting and letting pride dictate the split rather than relying on the humility and meekness our Lord would rather see moving both parties or sides to find an acceptable option for God’s glory. I’ve seen churches split relatively recently where sinful bitterness prevailed because Christians “cut and ran” rather than staying to find God’s solution. When pride prevails, rather than Christlike humility, Satan will pour his gas on those flames which can produce heat which can have lasting and damaging effect on Christians who buy into the lies of the enemy.

And finally, Swindoll advises Christians who disagree, when the issue cannot be resolved, ”… to graciously agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.” There’s no evidence in the disagreement over John Mark in Acts 15, which caused Paul and Barnabas to split company, that either became angry or let roots of bitterness to prevail against these two stalwart Christians warriors. They simply decided to take new companions and head out on the missionary trails in different directions, seeking to do their best to spread the Gospel; and there is evidence that God worked mightily through both parties. And we know later that the feelings which led John Mark to be chosen by Barnabas were resolved when Paul credited Mark for his duty to the Lord [see Col. 4: 10-11 and 2nd Tim. 4: 11].

We are human, my dear ones. And we are going to have disagreements – even among solid, mature Christians who love the Lord and desire to serve Him for His glory. So, we need to do all we can to avoid anger or withdrawal, which will only serve to separate and divide the Saints, giving over power to the enemy in spiritual warfare. We must do all we can to remain unified and to seek every avenue which we can to follow Christ. And as I do so often in my devotionals, I recall the words of Christ Himself, who said (in Luke 9: 23), “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” And with that in mind, I close with the same quote Swindoll used to close in his devotional for today, which came from Phillip Melanchthon, an advisor to Martin Luther, who wrote, ”In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.” I could teach on those principles for days; but we’ll just leave that to your consideration in dealing with any matters of disunity or disagreement in your Christian life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us find Your direction, Your unity, and Your power to overcome our own weaknesses and disagreements. We want to follow YOU. Amen

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 – Day 318.Nov 15 – Mission Accomplished

Blogger's Note: My posting today is a bit tardy. Forgive me but I'm fighting off some bug, possibly the flu. Temperature yesterday, PTL under control today. Would covet any prayers for healing. Thanks ... <'BB><


Passage for Study: Acts 14: 21 – 28 … Acts 14 linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: When one reads and examines the passage for today, you have to be impressed with what Paul and Barnabas accomplished for the glory of God; and, as Swindoll points out today, we should take note of how Luke writes about these accomplishments in this passage.

Paul and Barnabas, after traveling with the Gospel message throughout much of that region in Asia Minor; and then, retraced their missionary steps, they went back to their home base in Antioch, stopping at the various places along the way where they had converts and had planted churches. They stopped long enough, even in places like Lystra, where Paul had been stoned, to solidify the churches which had been established by raising up Elders in each place to carry on the work of the Lord in those places. But in the final accounting, when they returned to Antioch, Luke writes, in Acts 14: 27, that it was God Who had opened the door of faith for the Gentiles who became Christians; and all was done for the glory of God.

And as Swindoll points out, that should be our mission in life as well. As Pastor Chuck writes, ”The work may be ours to do, but the glory belongs to God. The responsibility is ours to embrace, but the credit is the Lord’s alone.” And that was what Paul and Barnabas celebrated when they had come full circle back to Antioch. As Swindoll points out for our edification, “There is to be no embezzling of glory. It all belongs to Him. [And] That attitude never fails to put everything in proper perspective.”

When God convicts us, calls us, and commissions us, we are to move forth, following Him, and not looking back. That was Paul’s message later in Phil. 3: 13 – 14, wasn’t it? Paul (and Barnabas) had received that calling, the one we have received from Acts 1: 8 and Matt. 28: 19-20; and they went forth, as we’re instructed in Luke 9: 23, following the lead of The Lord, and doing whatever it took to WITNESS their FAITH and MAKE DISCIPLES, just as we are charged and commissioned by the passages above.

Paul didn’t think about risk versus reward. He just did what God led him to do; and in the end, as it will be if we follow God’s lead, HE will get all the glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I am called, convicted, and charged to go and make disciples; but when I do anything for You, YOU will get all the glory. Amen

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2009 – Day 317.Nov 14 – Good Attitude

Passage for Study: Acts 14: 1 - 20 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: Wow! I could probably write a book (well, maybe small one) on the title of Chuck Swindoll’s devotional entry for today: Good Attitude. But I’ll try to keep things as brief as I can.

Attitude is almost everything in the life of a Christian disciple; and our models from the text, repeated again today, certainly shine forth with flying Christian colors, exhibiting what Paul wrote about later in his life in Phil. 2: 5, … that Christians much choose and pursue the attitudes which are attributed to Christ.

Note I said “CHOOSE” our attitude; because we often confuse our feelings, which are flesh-driven reactions to circumstances, with our attitudes, which are heart-led responses to those same circumstances. Paul and Barnabas faced many trials and testing circumstances as they moved about, spreading the Gospel. In 2nd Cor. 11: 22-33, linked here, Paul outlines some of the trying circumstances he encountered in his missionary ventures; and yet, as we see in Scripture, when he encountered the so-called “thorn in the flesh,” [in 2nd Cor. 12], another of those challenges, Paul retained an attitude of surrender and dedicated followership to His Lord.

And that’s what we must do as well as we face the various trial which characterize our lives. I don’t often do this in my devotional journal entries, but today I feel compelled to quote exactly what Chuck Swindoll wrote for his entry today, because it is great teaching; and great teaching deserves repeating. Here’s what he wrote for today …
”We make a choice every waking moment of our lives. When we awaken in the morning, we choose the attitude that will ultimately guide our thoughts and actions through the day. I’m convinced our best attitudes emerge out of a clear understanding of our own identity, … a clear sense of our divine mission, … and a deep sense of God’s purpose for our lives. That sort of God-honoring attitude encourages us to press on, … to focus on the goal, … [and] to respond in remarkable ways to life’s most extreme circumstances.”

As another example, besides our text today, of this type of attitude, Swindoll quotes Victor Frankl, the famous Jewish Physician who survived incarceration in a concentration camp during WW2. Later, after the war, while describing the rare individual who reached out beyond the flesh and helped others, even giving up food, Frankl wrote, “The last of his freedoms (i.e., those who sacrificed) is to choose his own attitude in any given set of circumstances – to choose one’s own way.”

Yes, we CHOOSE our attitude; and it is only when our attitudes mirror the humble and meek attitude of Christ (see Matt. 11: 29) that we’re going to be able to rise above selfish desires and to incur pain when we are called upon to do what Christ commanded in Luke 9: 23, … to deny self, to take up our cross of circumstances, and to follow our Lord wherever He leads.

It is my prayer today that we can become more like Christ and choose to honor Him with our attitudes and actions … that we can live out the teaching of Christ Himself when He directed us to shine our lights (from our attitudes and actions) and to glorify our Father in Heaven [of course from Matt. 5: 16].

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … oh how I desire to have Your attitude, leading to my choices and reflecting Your light into this world. Amen

Friday, November 13, 2009

2009 – Day 316.Nov 13 – Disappointing Results

Passage for Study: Acts 14: 1 - 20 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: As we read in this Acts 14 passage as well as other accounts in the mission/ministry of the Paul, the converted Apostle didn’t experience missionary success everywhere he went. Certainly in this account, Paul was stoned and left for death because of his preaching. Rejection was often his close companion.

Swindoll also recounts the life of a dedicated missionary, James Gilmore, who is quoted by Pastor Chuck after years of missionary work to tribal peoples of Mongolia to have no converts. He came to Mongolia with great hope and enthusiasm; but by all worldly standards of ministry (i.e., the number of converts), after YEARS, there were none. And Swindoll uses the Acts 14 account, as well as the story about Brother Gilmore, to illustrate that missionary or ministry work should not be for the faint of heart.

When a couple of days ago I wrote, “God’s calling is God’s enablement,” I wasn’t saying that God will call you to the mission field or into a personal ministry and then make your success the head-count of souls or the numbers of people who flock into your ministry. Head counts are often the world’s way of measuring the success of His calling. When Pastors gather, one of the oft asked questions is “How big is your church?” But those sorts of data gathering methods are man’s way of seeing success … NOT GOD’S.

Take it from someone who, about 15 years ago, was called to found and build a ministry to help Christians walk free from habitual sexual sin. And at that time – as it is now – the field of ministry was “white unto harvest.” With over 50% of Christian men and over 25% of Full-time Ministers deeply hooked on porn, damaging their ability to be a husband or a father, or to have any power in personal ministry, I thought God would see hundreds, if not thousands, of men convicted and redirected to fruitfulness as Christians by coming into and through BattlePlan Ministries. >>> Well, after those 15+ years, there have been a number whose lives have been brought from sexual addiction to an abiding and productive relationship with Christ. However, the ministry of Satan in this area seems to be growing so, so much faster than the lives which Battle Plan Ministry touches – or all the ministries like ours in the country for that matter. Sometimes, I feel like God has led me to the task of trying to empty an ocean with a tea spoon.

But I’m not called to save the world. That’s God’s job. I’m not called to convict and redirect the lives of all sinners. I’m just called to be available, vulnerable, accountable, and ready to serve any Christian who comes to Battle Plan Ministry for help. And if I get discouraged or disheartened by encountering and being turned back by Satan’s super-weapons of sexual warfare, I would become no use to God in going up against Satan’s best or the world’s warfare.

My friend, … if you have a calling from God, the task may seem overwhelming. But rather than becoming discouraged by numbers or the lack of same, be like Abraham or Moses or Gideon or Nehemiah and just go, following God’s calling to do God’s work. Go with God and for God; and let God be God, remembering (and here it comes again), YOU ARE NOT! God is the One Who produces the “head count.” We do what we’re called to do, doing, to the best of our ability, what HE has called us to do, … no more, … no less. And we, who are called, if we are truly doing all we can do, must accept the harvest to be God’s.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me not to be into counting; but rather into commitment. Amen

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 – Day 315.Nov 12 – Authentic Ministry

Passage for Study: Acts 13 – 14 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: I doubt if any who follow me here would disagree with me when I say that Paul was committed to Christ after his conversion; and Luke documents in Acts just how dedicated he was. But one might ask how he stayed so dedicated … in spite of all the rigors and trials he faced. Well, we get a clue by looking at the references to God’s word in Chapters 13 and 14 of Acts. Swindoll did the counting for us; and he stipulates that there are no less than fifteen references in these chapters, e.g., in phrases like the “word of truth,” the “teaching of the Law,’ the “teaching of the Prophets,” and the “Good News.” Trust me, I went back and looked; and Swindoll is right.

So, what is this saying to us as Christians today? Well, this is a message which is very personal to me. … Years ago, I had a mentor who was sort of like a friendly drill sergeant; and he really drilled into me the principle to which Swindoll is teaching in today’s devotional. And the lesson here is that if I desire to have a strong walk of faith as a Christian, I become vulnerable to my own flesh if I don’t have a strong commitment and discipline to be in God’s word EVERY DAY, investing significant time to get to know my God through the Bible.

And you don’t have to take my word for it, … nor my witness. That’s God’s promise as He charged Joshua to go into and take the promised land. In that commission (found in Joshua 1: 1-9), God gave Joshua (and to you and me) a prescription for spiritual success in this life; and we read that in Joshua 1: 8. Now, I’m not going to quote it here. I hope you already know that verse by heart; but if you don’t you can click on the link I provide you here. And as you can read (or know), God tells us we can expect success in any task (i.e., God’s will) which He sets before us IF (and only if) we stay focused on and remain in God’s word. God also promised (in Psalm 119: 9, 11) that the best way to avoid sin in our lives is to bury God’s word so deeply in our hearts (i.e., through Scripture memory) that it will empower us to battle our Spiritual enemies.

And Paul had an authentic ministry because he had God’s Word deeply in his heart; and he had learned, becoming a born-again Christian, that he could rely on the Holy Spirit to shine the way in his ministry through the truths of God’s word.

Toward the end of his devotional today, Chuck Swindoll charges his devotional readers to saturate our lives with the Word of God. And yes, I know the tendency and temptation to think or say, “But Bill, you don’t know how busy I am now. I just don’t have the time to invest time every day, digging into, memorizing, and meditating in God’s word.” But common, my dear one, do you have any more or any less time than did Paul, or me for that matter? No, we all have been given 24 hours in each day. It’s not a matter of having not enough time; it’s a matter of how we prioritize that time. So, with that truth before us, my questions [of myself] become, …
• Do I really believe God’s admonitions in Joshua 1: 8 and Psalm 119: 9, 11?
• Am I willing to prioritize my relationship with God above the tyranny of the urgencies of the world?
• Just how important is it for to me to really get to know God?

And if I can say an unqualified “YES” to the first two of those questions; and if I’m convicted to desire a deeper relationship with my Lord, I will FIND THE TIME to go deep into God’s word [yes, everyday] to let it become the sword of the Spirit (see Eph. 6: 17) which God has given me to combat my enemies and to stand and fight for Christ as we read Paul doing in Acts 14 and as we read Christ doing against Satan in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

I hope that my daily time here each morning convinces you that I have learned this lesson which made Paul a powerful minister of the Gospel. I’ve got a long way to go to be anything like Paul or any of the other characters in Swindoll’s book, Great Days with the Great Lives. But I do know that there are no short cuts and no excuses for me to avoid going deep into God’s word. The only way to authentic ministry for the Lord and an abiding relationship with Christ is to devote the quantity and quality of time to get to know God through His word.

So, as I have said in the past, quoting the old Nike commercial … ”JUST DO IT!”

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, I know that the only way I can know You intimately and serve You powerfully is through my time with You in Your word. So, keep me convicted of this truth and enable me to be with You every day here, digging for You the way I have this morning. Amen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009 – Day 314.Nov 11 – Fickle Fame, Fleeting Failure

Passage for Study: Acts 14: 1 - 20 … Acts 14 linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: Today’s account in the life of Paul’s ministry into the Greek world, is a rather amazing one to me. And it is one with which I have some degree of empathy. No, I never was stoned and left for dead in my called personal ministry; but when the ministry God called me to found and lead was launched in my church about 10 years ago, I was regularly rejected and shunned by my fellow Christians, especially the men of our church. If you go to, you’ll see why our men might have stayed away from me. Ministering to Christians who desire to walk free from habitual sexual sin is not a ministry with which many men in our church wanted to be identified. So, being seen mingling with Bill Berry, “the Battle Plan guy,” might mean that others might think they had sexual sin problems in their lives. Even those who were free of that type of habitual sin didn’t want to seem like they did by sitting with yours truly at church events. Hence, for some time the men of our church “stoned” me with silence and separation.

So, though my very physical life was not “stoned,” I can empathize with the emotional rejection Paul experienced. But we note what he did. Once he came to, after being stoned and left for dead, we have to be impressed that he went right back into the same city where he had been stoned. Is that not commitment and determination into which God, the Holy Spirit, can pour His enabling grace?

Staying in the game and dealing with rejection when one witnesses – with testimony – the truth of what Christ has done for one’s self and what God’s healing/renewing grace can do in the lives of broken believers is a lonely, and sometimes risky, calling. But, my friend, please learn one truth from today’s passage, and take it from my experience. This is a truth which was taught to me years ago, and one to which I can witness, from experience, will hold you in good stead when you’re called into a personal ministry which flies in the face of a darkened world when you become one who shines Christ’s light into that world.

TRUTH: “God’s calling is God’s enablement.” Take it to the bank, fellow Christian. If God calls you to a task, He’s going to give you His grace to carry out that mission or ministry. Most certainly all Christians are called to witness for Christ and/or to share and spread the Gospel. That calling is well documented in Acts 1: 8 and Matt. 28: 19-20. Maybe God has called you, as He did me, into a socially entangling ministry; and maybe you’re experiencing the type of fears or setbacks to which Paul’s story today addresses.

But then again, maybe you are put up on a pedestal of success and you’re being lauded as an icon of God’s calling and perseverance. Both extremes, my friends, are Satan’s attempts to bring us down and to drive us away from God’s calling. Like Paul in today’s passage, we cannot be too inflated by praise or deflated by rejection to walk away from our God-driven calling. Paul didn’t get puffed up by those who lauded him as God’s answer to God; and he didn’t like the persecution – even a stoning – keep him down or send him into a state of pitiful self pity.

No, Paul simply knew that he was doing what God called him to do; and when he was felled, he got back up, dusted himself off, and got back into the race. And much of the New Testament is a testimony of Paul’s witness to the truth of my premise for today … that “God’s calling is HIS enablement!”

So, I hope you respond when God calls you into a Spirit-led ministry or missionary effort. Or I hope you respond when he calls you to share your testimony – no matter how frightening it might be – to someone you work with or one you’re sitting with on a plane flight. Or maybe God is calling you live as a Priest in your own home as a CHRISTIAN husband, father, or grandparent. Whatever your calling, if it’s GOD’S calling, He is going to pour His power into your weakness (see 2nd Cor. 12: 9). If it’s GOD”S calling, He is going to pour His providence into the task, giving you what it takes to accomplish what He has called you to do. If it’s GOD’S calling, He has provided you with His truth to show you the way and make you His success (see Joshua 1: 1-9, especially verse 8).

So, take heart to Paul’s own words about moving forward for God, as he instructed his disciple Timothy in 2nd Timothy 1: 7. And when called, … even when you’re knocked down, … move forward in God’s calling, letting God empower and enable you to do His work.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, it was YOU who called me; and it’s YOU who provide the way for me. Amen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 – Day 313.Nov 10 – Tangled in the Tangibles

Passage for Study: Acts 13: 45 - 48 … 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us: “ I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.” [Is. 49:6]
48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

My Journal for Today: I really like Swindoll’s title for today’s devotional, “Tangled in the Tangibles.” It certainly expresses where we 21st century Christians find ourselves all too often. But it certainly didn’t define the lives of Paul and Barnabas in their missionary journeys to Asia Minor. In our text story for today we read how, though it was their custom to preach/teach in the synagogues first in any new town, they ended up evangelizing mostly to the Gentiles, who were positively disposed to hear rather than getting hung up in religious issues or cultural hang-ups.

In other words the Jews got tangled in the tangibles; but the Gentiles did not. And Paul and Barney certainly did not as they witnessed for Christ; because they were not deterred by either pursuit of riches or fame. These two had a calling and they didn’t want to dampen their anointing or spiritual power by letting themselves get wrapped up in tangible pursuits, cultural legalism, or the opinions of others.

Oh, how much more potent would the witness be of Christians in today’s Church if we disciples of Christ could avoid getting “tangled in the tangibles.” I admit that many times I either enjoy the applause or the accolades of others too much; or I become restrained in my witness out of fear of the opinions of others. That’s entanglement in the tangible elements of life; and when they hold me back, I’m responding to the lies of Satan, the pressures of the world, or the siren call of my own flesh.

But when, like Paul and Barney, I can break free from these tangibles with the Christlike attitudes of humility and meekness exhibited by these two men, I am empowered by God’s grace to be witnesses for the calling placed upon all Christians (see Acts 1: 8 and Matt. 28: 19-20). Again, if we can memorize and internalize God’s truths, such as those in 2nd Tim. 1: 7, Phil. 4: 13, 1st Cor. 10: 13, and/or 2nd Cor. 12: 9, which come to mind as I write this, we can become untangled from the tangibles and move forward empowered by God’s intangibles (i.e., the Spiritual fruit we are all given in Christ (see Gal. 5: 22-23).

That is my prayer for all of us today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord God, untangle us from the tangibles of life; and empower us with your intangible grace so that we can witness Your truth and be salt and light in this world. Amen

Monday, November 09, 2009

2009 – Day 312.Nov 09 – Grace to the Saved

Passage for Study: Study of Acts 13: 13 - 52 … Acts 13 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Certainly anyone, who reads and studies the book of Acts, even in reading through this passage repeated for today, recognizes that the primary message Paul brought to Asia Minor and everywhere God led him was the magnificent, liberating message of the Gospel to the lost of the world, especially to the Gentiles. We see that ringing clearly by examining Acts 13: 38 – 39 in today’s passage. Paul was driven to share what God had done for him; and that is to set him free from his own sin and set him on a path to heaven.

In today’s devotional, Chuck Swindoll brings out an interesting and convicting speculation. He writes, “Imagine the impact our churches would have on our communities if each Christian committed to sharing the gospel once a week with someone who expresses a need.” Would that not be something?!

And that certainly was Paul’s primary mission after his conversion. But a secondary message Paul espoused and taught was also very important; and we can also find that teaching in today’s passage as well; and through it, Paul brought the message of the power of God’s grace to those who are saved.

I often wonder what Christians would be like in this dark, chaotic, and crushing world if we could release the resurrection power of God’s grace in the lives of believers who really got that message. What would we Christians look like and act like if we truly were set free by God’s grace? Oh, it is so sad to see how the enemy’s lies of condemnation and shame have us shackled in our self imposed prisons of legalism and shame.

Paul wanted to release the captives with God’s grace, which was, of course, Jesus’ mission as He stated it in Luke 4: 18 (go back and read and meditate on that passage, dear one!). Are we living in that mission statement? If not, we may be saved; but we are certainly not living with the power that can be ours if we truly believe, internalize, and live with the freeing power of God’s amazing, liberating, and empowering grace.

When a Christian really gets it, he or she begins to live as Paul helped Christians live when he wrote passages like Phil. 4: 13 or 1st Cor. 10: 13 or 2nd Cor. 12: 9 or Gal. 6: 9 – 10 or 2nd Tim. 1: 7 [click on passage to read]. My friend, as you note those passages of truth cited, I hope (and pray) that you know what they say in your heart and that you’re living according to the releasing power of God’s grace which they teach. Because if you do live by these truths, you’ll not be fearful of the chaos and confusion of this world. You’ll also be freed, enabled, and empowered to use your gifts for God’s glory; and you’ll be out there in the world, as was Paul, sharing your testimony, the Gospel message, and the enabling grace which comes from being surrendered to Christ. That is my prayer here today for all of who have found Christ and now must live in a world which hates all He represents.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, God … free us with the power of Your enabling grace to live lives which glorify You as we proclaim and live in Your truth. Amen

Sunday, November 08, 2009

2009 – Day 311.Nov 08 – Spirit-led Opportunities

Passage for Study: Study of Acts 13: 13 - 52 … Acts 13 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: As Paul and Barnabas got to Pisidia in Antioch on the Sabbath, Paul was given the opportunity to teach in the Synagogue, as was the Jewish custom in the region for traveling teachers. So, after the Word of God was read, Paul got up and gave those Jews an extemporaneous sermon from Genesis to Christ, revealing the truth of Christ’s coming and His death and resurrection, as well as the hope mankind has in Christ as Messiah.

And the word got out; because the next week on the Sabbath practically the whole town showed up, including Gentiles, to hear what Paul would preach. But that was too much for the Jews, who, jealous of the Gentiles being involved, stirred up discord; and ultimately ran Paul and Barney out of town. But the seeds of the Good News had been planted; and many were saved, including many Gentiles.

Paul took advantage of an opportunity when God’s Spirit presented it. He boldly jumped in, without fear, and shared the Gospel message. And that’s what we must be ready to do. You probably know the scripture which Swindoll quotes at the end of his message today, which is John 12: 32, with Jesus speaking, … “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” And right now, as I’m writing this, the exhortation of 1st Peter 3: 15 comes to my mind, which states, “… always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; … “

What today’s passage illustrates, and what Swindoll is teaching in his devotional, is the principle of providential opportunity. When God lays out the opportunities, we must grab them and use them for His glory. That’s also the lesson Jesus taught in His Sermon on the mount. In Matt. 5: 16 [I hope you know it], … Jesus said that we are to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Our question becomes, are we being opportunistic and boldly sharing our story as well as the hope mankind has in Christ anytime God so presents divine appointments for us to do so. I’m afraid that all too often I have been guilty of letting fear of failure or my imagination of the opinions of others stand in my way of sharing my testimony or my Savior when God opened windows of opportunity. Too many times, I have backed off, even when God has obviously put someone in my path and given me the opening to share my story or the truth of Christ with them. May God forgive me for not grabbing hold and being bold when He would have been glorified by me shining His light with others? May I do better in the future?!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give me opportunities to share You with others; and then embolden me with Your Spirit to shine Your light. Amen

Saturday, November 07, 2009

2009 – Day 310.Nov 07 – Press On

Passage for Study: Acts 12: 25, 13:5, 13: 13 - 15 …
Acts 12 – 13 Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Though we’re studying Paul’s ministry and movements in the Book of Acts, it was Paul’s words in Phil. 3: 14 which succinctly summarize what today’s message is all about. To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote, ”I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

In today’s passages, there was a point in their travels in Asia Minor, in what we now know as Turkey, that the companion assistant, John Mark, for whatever reason, decided to go back to Jerusalem. But Paul and Barnabas didn’t let that deter them from their called missionary journey. They pressed on!

Today, Chuck Swindoll points to a reality that we all face in our upward calling to/for Christ (see Acts 1: 8 and Matt. 28: 19-20); and that is we often face Satan’s weapon of discouragement. Here were Barnabas and Paul in a strange land; and historians tell us that somewhere, about this time, Paul came down with a severe illness, likely malaria or some semi-tropical disease. And then there was John Mark taking a hike on them. But what did they do? They pressed on just as Paul wrote about later in Phil. 3: 14.

It’s easy when we’re out there in the world, trying our best to live and witness our faith. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is becoming ever more hostile to any who stand for Christ. I know you’re probably saying sarcastically, “Duh, Bill, really?” And then there’s the discouragement of people, maybe even dear friends, who backslide or even abandon their previously declared faith. Satan has a way of buffeting us with circumstances which can bring us down into discouragement or even situational depression. And it is often tempting to just cut and run; but then the truth from Paul, quoted above, rings with conviction in our hearts. We simply must “press on toward the goal,” having been given the calling to stand for our Lord, to shine His light through our good and Godly works so that our Father in Heaven will be glorified. [I’ll bet some of you are already quoting Matt. 5: 16 here right, aren’t you? ;) ].

My Prayer for Today: Lord, we all, as your called ones, need Your strength to bolster us when Satan comes against us with discouragement. Help us to press on for Your calling. Amen

Friday, November 06, 2009

2009 – Day 309.Nov 06 – Standing for God

Passage for Study: Acts 13: 6 - 12 6 Now when they had gone through the island[a] to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.”
And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

My Journal for Today: We’re in a war, my friends! Can I get a witness? I hope I’m sensing an emotionally loud “AMEN!” from you. And today, Swindoll uses this passage about Saul, becoming the Apostle Paul, who had to confront evil head-on, … face-to-face. And he did so, immediately, forthrightly, and without hesitation.

Now, some may say that going to battle for what he believed in was part of Saul’s confrontational M.O.; and you’d be right. However, though it may have been more like a Saul of Tarsus (from his past) to step out and go to battle, Paul still had to do this by trusting in the Holy Spirit to back him. Note that in this scenario he’s witnessing his faith and taking action in the presence of the local Proconsul, a man who had the power to represent Rome and the Emperor. This man, hearing the incantations of a local false-prophet and sorcerer, could have had Saul and Barnabas crucified; but Paul stood for Christ and preached the Gospel none-the-less. And then when he needed to, he confronted the sorcerer and God was there to pour His power into Saul as he stood for truth.

When it comes to standing and fighting in this everyday spiritual warfare we’re living in, how’re we doing? Unfortunately, today we may be losing ground to the so-called “tolerance” culture, which espouses a message of relativism … tolerance at all costs. If you believe something which openly defies Godliness, the culture would say that I’m supposed to stand back and let you have your way. However, as you no doubt have seen, about the only thing this “tolerance culture” is totally intolerant of is Christianity. And this world is doing all it can to eradicate “CHRIST” or “GOD” from the public arena under the guise of “tolerance.” So, we find ourselves in a battle much like that of Paul and Barnabas when they came to Cyprus.

This is why the teaching of Ephesians 6: 10 – 18, which I hold to so often in these days of spiritual warfare, means so much to me. I won’t teach on them here today; but you know this passage as teaching the “full armor of God” and our need – at times – to stand and fight in Christ’s Name, for what is right and righteous in our world. Today, Swindoll ends his devotional with a truth statement which we all must stand by. He writes, ”When you stand FOR God, you stand WITH God!”

And my dear one, that is powerful and pertinent truth in today’s world. So, the question becomes, what are we doing to step up and be heard in the face of so much ungodliness today? When was the last time you wrote or called your representatives when pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage legislation was being voted on by Congress? When did we witness for Christ when we know of someone in our lives, like the Proconsul in today’s passage, who needed to hear of the Gospel? My friends, we’re under the command of the Great Commission (see Matt. 28: 19-20). So, are we acting under its admonition? Or, are we cowering and backing off from the war which rages around us?

Yes, I know how scary it can be to stand for God in the midst of so much evil. My wife and I have been called to the front lines of this warfare, taking on Satan’s XXX weapons, like internet porn and Christians falling prey to sexual sin; and it can be a lonely battle at times with Christian churches wanting to keep this type of battle muffled and quiet. So, I know these battles … first hand.

But stand we must, dear ones! And we simply have to do what Saul did in today’s passage. Knowing that our power is that of the living God; and realizing the truth of 1st John 4: 4 (you look it up!), we can know and believe what Swindoll teaches today. And I repeat that statement for emphasis to close out my devotional entry for today: ”When you stand FOR God, you stand WITH God!”

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, stand with me as I stand for You. Amen

Thursday, November 05, 2009

2009 – Day 308.Nov 05 – Like Clay

Passage for Study: Acts 12: 25 – 13: 3 … 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
Acts 13 1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Selucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John (Mark) as their assistant.

My Journal for Today: As we continue to read this historical scene about the beginnings of Paul’s first missionary journey into Asia Minor, we see the condition of the hearts of these disciples of Christ who had been called as Apostles to leave the growing church in Antioch and to move onward to Cyprus and beyond.

And this calls attention to the condition of the hearts of disciples of Christ like you and me. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were in surrender mode to Christ. When they were appointed and anointed to move out for Christ, they were available and flexible to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. And the principles of being a disciple of Christ are Swindoll’s study for today. And to do so, Pastor Chuck uses the word picture of a Sculptor (God) and His clay (us).

Swindoll teaches that, as God’s clay (as was the example of Barnabas and Paul in today’s passage), we have to be pliable and supple with flexibility if/when God’s Spirit calls us to be molded and made-over for His purposes. To do this Swindoll proposes four principles – two in the negative and two in the positive.

The first negative: Do not remove any possibilities? If we’re truly disciples of Christ, in the mold of Luke 9: 23, we have to be willing to deny our selves and when God leads, we must follow. Are we willing to do this? Or do we have a “Yes, but” Christianity? Maybe we’d like to follow Christ; BUT we would hesitate if He called us to do X, Y, or Z, especially if those things took us out of our comfort zone. This is conditional Christianity; and we will never be workable warriors for Christ until we’re totally “sold out” and willing to go where Christ leads us.

The second negative: Do not allow activity to dull your sensitivity. Often we – especially in this age of activity-oriented Christianity – let doing get in the way of hearing. We can be so grooved into the activities of our church that we are not sensitive to the leadings of God’s Spirit, Who will often call us to His will, which can – and often does – involve change. Oh, how we can be so deafened by our doing that that we simply can’t hear God’s calling.

The first positive: Let God be God! Ask yourself: “Are really willing to be clay in the Sculptor’s hands?” Are you pliable enough to be reshaped and readied for God’s will and purposes? Or have we become brittle and hardened, too rigid to become what God needs for us to be … for Him.

And the last positive: Be ready to say “YES.” Dear one, our natural, default mechanism will likely be to question the logic of God’s calling or to balk by saying that we’re ill prepared. And we’re certainly not alone in this attitude. Some pretty heavy-hitters of the faith had that “natural” response when God called them out of their comfort zone. Think of Moses at the burning bush or Noah, who had no idea what an ark was or what “rain” was; or there was Gideon, thrashing wheat in the wine barrel, or many of the Prophets who felt inadequate to God’s calling for them to carry God’s message to His grumbling people. All of these, so-called giants of the faith, had their doubts when God, the Sculptor, having shaped them for His task, wanted to send them out to do illogical and almost unbelievable things for His glory.

What about us? Are we pliable clay in the hands of the Master Sculptor? Or are we rigid and brittle and hardened in our ways, unready to respond to God’s calling, and unwilling to deny self and follow our Lord? Only you (or I) can respond to God’s conviction when asked these questions. But, … if we’re not readied and ready, as were Paul and Barnabas, we’ll never be pliable clay in the hands of the Master Potter as He shapes us to be vessels of purpose – HIS purpose.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may I be putty in Your hands and poised for Your purpose when You have molded me for Your will. Amen