life (19)

Walk It Out

All of our lives, when lived rightly, are a journey into trust. A few days ago, I mentioned one prayer I’ve been repeatedly lifting up to God. In fact, there’s another particular prayer I’ve been praying for quite a while, and I think (and hope) that the development of this prayer has been reflected in these pages.

At first, and for a long time, it went like this: “Lord, help me to learn to trust you more deeply.” However, over the last several weeks, I’ve felt the need to add this: “…and to become more worthy of your trust.”

This is not about theology, so don’t go there. This is about relationship. I want to know God more deeply, but I have to allow him to know me more deeply. Again, suspend the theology; I know God knows me. And yet, I try to hide.

This journey into trust, however, requires me to stop hiding. It requires me to put my sin and my agenda and my fear away, so I can truly experience God’s knowing of me—that my relationship with God might be truly intimate and not just “all in order.”

The fact is, both parts of this prayer are flip sides of the same problem—there’s only one person in this equation who can’t be trusted. However, my own untrustworthiness feeds my inability to trust God. Only as I begin to obediently walk out what God’s commanded do I begin to, in turn, feel as if I can trust God with every part of my life. God doesn’t condemn me; he forgives me and wants me to be better.

This isn’t just for me. At the same time that I need to receive his grace, I need to extend it to others. I need to show genuine pity—not in the sense of “I feel sorry for you,” but in the sense of “I ache for you and want to help you.” Because that’s the kind of pity Jesus has shown to me.

As we’ve observed repeatedly this week, we know the way to where Jesus is going. It’s time to walk it out.

We are called to be a blessing to every person we meet, whether they realize it or not. The only way to become that blessing is to be emptied of our own stuff, so that God can fill and transform us into the individuals he has created us to be. Each of our lives need to move from being of Christ to being in Christ—and finally to the point where our life “is Christ” (Philippians 1:21, et al.).

Love is union—with Jesus and with those he’s called us to love. We as Christians—or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “little Christs”—are called to reconcile the world to God. We’re not just here waiting to be taken from the world, but to begin bringing a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven to the world now, even as we are “in the world but not of it” (see John 17:15–16).

We cannot change the things, or the opportunities, that we’ve lost, but we can be prepared to receive and walk in the new things God has created us to do. We are new creations. God is still creating something new within us. God wants to bring us into something new. But we must want what God wants—not just something new.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted…. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:1–3, 12–14).

One last thing to remember about walking: It’s not always exciting. Sometimes there are breathtaking vistas, and that great feeling of “a second wind.” Sometimes it’s monotonous. Sometimes it’s difficult. Often, it’s just plain tiring. But walking gets you somewhere. If we’re following Jesus, it’s somewhere better.

We can walk in the knowledge that tomorrow will be a good day—and that even if it’s not a good day, experientially speaking, God is working out the events of the day for our good (Romans 8:28). Because his good is our good.

The time to walk out our new lives in Christ is today. So let’s do it. And may God continue to bless you as you lay it all down again each day, for the sake of the One who laid down his life for us.

Lay It Down Today

We’ve approached your next steps from a variety of angles this week. Hopefully, at least one of these approaches has resonated with you. So now, it’s your turn.

If you sense what God is leading you into next, or know you’re already in the midst of it, spend time thanking God for the desire he’s given you, how he’s fulfilling it, and for the desire to keep moving forward. If not, spend time pursuing things with God. “[H]ow much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

Finally, spend some time thanking God for this journey into trust he’s taken you on over the last few months; and ask him to take you far beyond even where you are now—and into eternity with him.

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Lay Down Your Life

Death is not just the end of life—it is the returning of life to its Creator. It is not a loss, but a fulfillment. All the laying down of all the pieces of our lives are but a rehearsal for that moment.

No wonder Paul says, “[W]e would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Sometimes we just want to jump to the end. Even for a coward like myself, the idea of martyrdom seems noble, even romantic. But if we’re not willing to die to ourselves right now, it’s a fairly safe bet that we wouldn’t lay down our physical lives if we were ever called to do so.

On the other hand, when we lay down every claim we have to our lives—which, after all, has been the thrust of this entire book—we’re free to be used of God in any way he chooses, up to and including martyrdom. No matter what God calls us to actually do at that point, our obedience will not seem spectacular to us but normal.

More than likely, what we’ll be called to—and are already called to—is to die anew every day, to crucify the flesh day by day and moment by moment. Not only that, but to live that death outwardly, so that we can “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Even here on earth, there is a life beyond all this dying. First John 3:16–18 gives us a glimpse into dying to self, and to what our lives should look like beyond that death:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Before we head toward the finish line of this book—and at the same time, see how far we’ve already come—let’s spend one more day in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember that Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17, 20). He proceeds to break that down for us throughout the rest of that chapter—anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retribution, loving others. “You have heard it said… but I say…” All of it is about dying to ourselves, rather than clinging to our lives (especially by outwardly conforming to the law).

Our only hope is in Jesus, and following where he leads. “[T]he gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). The way that leads to life leads through death to ourselves—and by giving our lives for others. Paul puts it even more bluntly:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life…

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace….

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living (Romans 6:3–4, 12–14; 14:7–9).

We lay the entirety of our lives down, as Jesus did, because of the hope of new life—eternal, incorruptible, irreversible, and communal. Even now, he is both Lord of the dead and of the living. Eternal life starts now. So let us get on with dying, that “we too might walk in newness of life.”

Lay It Down Today

I’m leaving today’s assignment(s) rather open. The first piece is between you and God; the second is a longer-term challenge that I hope you’ll accept.

First, spend some time dwelling on our passages from Romans. How is God calling you to be “instruments for righteousness”? What still needs to die for you to fulfill that calling? Where do you need to trust God and just walk, regardless of the consequences? Where do you need to accept that “you are not under law but under grace” and get on with it? Spend some time praying about this. Ask God (“and you shall receive”) to give you the clarity and courage to “walk in newness of life.”

By the way, congratulations on spending the week in the Sermon on the Mount. I assume you’ve already been challenged pretty hard by Jesus’ message. Here’s my additional challenge: Commit to memorizing the entire sermon. Give yourself a chance, even if you think you can’t do this. At the very least, take on the Beatitudes. See how God might use it. I’m just about done myself, and it hasn’t been easy—in fact, it’s taken me three and a half months—but I can tell you that it’s been a convicting, difficult, yet steadily transforming experience. You’ll spend time wrestling with Jesus’ words in ways that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

You can spend a lifetime dealing with everything Jesus says here—and if you’re smart, you will. For “[e]veryone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24–25). Seriously consider this challenge, and then do what you think best. And good luck!

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Pick Up Your New Life

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:20–21).

Transformation comes by taking Jesus’ yoke—by saying, and believing, “I am yours.” We can hear it, and say, “Yeah, that sounds right,” but we need to learn to see it—really see it—as the reality of our lives.

Some of this can sound pretty abstract. But we need it to become as real to us as our salvation has become to us… just as God himself has become real to us, and continues to become more real to us. It’s OK to nod your head in agreement right now, but pursue it with God, and don’t stop. Be able to say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8), and mean it.

There is no question as to whether God wants to see revival. Every word here backs that up—God wants us to draw closer to him, and more often than not that’s going to require our hard hearts to be re-broken so that they might also be reopened to him.

The question is: Are we committed to seeing the Spirit bring this? Are we willing to be obedient to what God has called us to, and to who God has called us to be? Are we willing set aside our own self-image, good or bad, and believe that God has something better for us, no matter what package it might initially come in? Most of all, are we willing to obey this command of Jesus, given to us as new creations in him, “that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35)?

I believe Jesus is talking directly to the church here. Literally, he’s talking to the first apostles, but with the knowledge of what the Spirit would create in their midst only weeks later. Of course this commandment also applies outside the walls of the church, but I fear many of us treat the church (at least in its current state) as a bad idea to be given up on. I get that. Boy, do I get that. But Jesus has not given us that option. We not only have been given new life, but are part of a bigger new life—the Body of Christ.

Given how we’ve done with this commandment inside the church, it’s painfully apparent that we’ll never get it right outside the church until we take off the polite faces and begin truly relating to our fellow Christians in love. Besides: Who’d want to come inside the church until we do?

Those within the church have the same problems as those outside the church. We have the same temptations, and the same sins—a fact the world has no trouble pointing out to us. You’ve read all this, probably as a believer. I’ll bet you’ve identified with a lot of what I’ve talked about here. Well, guess what? Nonbelievers struggle with (or for that matter, go on blissfully unaware of) all the same things we do.

The only difference between “us” and “them”… is Jesus. Jesus is the only reason we have a new life to talk about. It’s literally all the difference in the world, and beyond.

One way other people will begin seeing that difference is when we actually love those other annoying, flawed—and yes, sinful—Christians. In other words: those people who are like us. If we can pull that one off, how will we fail to love someone with the same problems who doesn’t know Jesus? We want those people to know Jesus, after all. But without love, they’ll never see Jesus in us or through us, let alone beyond us.

Just as we’re here because we’ve recognized Christ as our eternal Savior, we need to recognize him as our Savior, and our life, from moment to moment. Paul David Tripp, in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, observes, “[I]t is impossible to celebrate God’s work of transformation without confessing your need for more. No one is more ready to communicate God’s grace that someone who has faced his own desperate need for it.”

Let God’s work of transformation begin here. And let it spread to the ends of the earth. We have a job to finish. Let’s begin living our new lives in full and get it done.

Lay It Down Today

Look inside your church today—or at least at the Christians you’re still in relation with. How can you serve them in love today, or in the coming week? I’m not asking for a long-term commitment here (although that’d be great); just come up with one thing that breaks your routine, gets you outside your own life, and gets your sharing your new life in Jesus with someone else who has that new life—especially if it’s someone you don’t normally do it with. And watch what the Spirit does with it.

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Lay Down Like a Lion

“He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you” (Numbers 24:9).

As I first pulled together the ideas for this book, I came across this passage from Numbers, which is part of Balaam’s prophecy over the nation of Israel. (By the way, it’s also a reprise of the man Israel’s [Jacob’s] prophecy over Judah in Genesis 49:9.) It’s a curious phrase, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve held off digging into it until now. But now’s the time. O Lord, is it the time…. I am so wrestling alongside you all with this one….

What does it mean to “lay down like a lion,” and how does that fit into this week’s exploration of walking in the Spirit? Let me come at this sideways and then work my way in, because God’s been spending this past week (and especially today) spelling it out for me….

So far, we’ve considered not only taking our sin seriously, and taking God seriously, but also to take his promises about us seriously. So today, let’s enjoy a brief respite from self-denial, and focus instead on receiving what the Spirit has for us—and resting in it.

In his book of the same name, Watchman Nee speaks of “the normal Christian life.” Think about that phrase for a moment. What comes to your mind when you hear that? I’m betting it looks nothing like what came to Watchman’s.

Sadly, what we usually consider a “normal Christian life” goes something like, “go to church, serve others when we can, try to be a good person, and attend a prayer vigil when we’re feeling really spiritual.” However—and as anyone who truly takes Jesus’ words to heart should already know—the truly normal Christian is nothing like that. The truly normal Christian is the one who’s following Christ, and who’s following the Spirit’s lead in everything.

We are, as the King James Version puts it repeatedly, “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, et al.). And much as it might pain some to admit, following where the Spirit leads will only make us more peculiar. We will resemble the world’s definition of “normal” less and less. But we will resemble Jesus’ definition of “normal” more and more. Isn’t that what we want?

I think the idea of “laying down like a lion” is part of that. It captures what the normal Christian life should look like—to us.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1).

lion-and-the-lamb.jpg?w=276&h=186&width=276Look at the lion, and how he lays down. There’s intent. There’s vigilance. There isn’t hesitation. There’s confidence and boldness, and yet no arrogance—because there’s no fear.

Too often, we settle for something less than what God wants for us, and fill in the gaps with ambition, anxiety, uncertainty, and discontent. How can we become as “bold as a lion,” with the confidence and boldness God wants for us?

It will happen when God’s desires become our desires.

God wants us to remain in his will, but that’s not all he wants. He wants us to want his will. Ultimately, we can’t accomplish this on our own. We’re just too selfish. But as the Spirit trains us, guides us, rebukes us, consoles us—or more bluntly, kicks our butts and then pulls us back up again, and then gives us a shoulder hug for good measure—then our hearts become more conformed to his. We become more peculiar, and we also become more OK with that.

We are truly children of the King. For all the things we’ve dealt with—including all the things we’ve dealt with in these pages—we are still children of the King. As we walk in the guidance and confidence in the Spirit, we increasingly lose our fears. That’s certainly not to say it’s easy—again, think of all the things we’ve dealt with here—but that doesn’t make it any less true. As children of the King, we are becoming more and more like our Father—as well as like our “fellow-son” Jesus.

And remember: There will come a day when the lion will lay down with the lamb. Not only that, but the lion is The Lamb:

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:2–13).

One day, it will all make sense. One day, all will be as it was meant to be. So take heart. Be strengthened. Learn to lay down like a lion, because it truly is the normal Christian life.

Lay It Down Today

Presumably you’re reading this at the end of the week. Good. Use a day this weekend to take a full sabbath. Don’t be concerned about which day it is; just use it to be still before God and honor him. Don’t work (or get ready for work). Use the day in a way that’s most conducive to relaxing in Christ. Spend the day in your favorite chair (and tell your spouse I said it’s OK). Spend the day in nature. But spend it intentionally with God.

While you’re doing that, spend some time meditating again on this question: What do you know God has called you to? Where have you felt the tug of the Spirit—and therefore, where is your obedience actually being requested? Pray over these things. Resolve to put all your energies into them, and beg God to give you the time and energy to do them with all your heart.

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Lay Down Your Agenda

We’ve had to lay down a lot so far. Some of it has no doubt been difficult; maybe it’s even felt unnecessarily negative to some. But we have a much longer journey ahead, and we need to travel light—especially since our journey takes us even further upward.

So when I encourage you to “lay down the law—and leave it there,” I’m not just asking you to admire my mild attempt at cleverness. What I really intend to encourage you to do here is live a life where you’re not only walking in the Spirit day by day—but ideally, moment to moment.

Something you might have noticed over the course of our journey together so far is we’ve been moving from dealing with our longstanding struggles with sin to addressing daily temptations. Today, we begin condensing the timespan even further, as we begin exploring the things that tempt us to go into some sort of “spiritual autopilot” rather than obey God in the moment. (And if you haven’t noticed this sequence before now, that’s OK—I just picked up on God’s strategy here myself.)

This transition from day-by-day to moment-to-moment is equally, if not more, true of the works we claim to do in Jesus’ name. As Andrew Purves puts it in his wonderful book The Crucifixion of Ministry:

“Of course we should not exclude asking ‘What would Jesus do?’ There is an appropriate place for the moral influence of Jesus. But it is more important to ask, ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us today and what is Jesus doing here and now, in this hospital room, during this committee meeting, during this service of worship, in this counseling session and so on?’… Wherever Christ is and wherever we are joined to him, there truly is the intentional, disciplined and faithful ministry of the church. It is not our ministries that make Christ present; it is the present, living Christ who makes our ministries possible.”

Whatever it is that I truly do for Jesus, he is already there. I’m the one who’s showing up—and who’s arguably late for the party. Not him.

At the same time, we very often want to do the right things, but we don’t know exactly what the right things are. Oddly enough, this is often when our prayers are most effective. There are times where God gives us the confidence to pray for (and then pursue) something, knowing it’s in his will, but usually our best prayers come when we’re empty. When we have no agenda except, “Not my will, but thine.”

But more often, we’re in that “autopilot” mode, bearing ahead without keeping our eyes open to what other things God wants to accomplish right now. We want a stake in the ground, a fixed point, a checklist—because that’s far easier for us than following wherever the Spirit leads—at least in the short term.

Nonetheless, eternal life starts now. To follow is to lay down your control. What could I possibly plan for myself that’s better than God’s plans for me?

In fact, I’m going to pray this for myself right now. Feel free to join me, and we’ll talk again tomorrow:

Lord, help me to rest in the work you’ve already given me, and to always remember that it is your work. Help me to lay down my agenda and hand over control to you, so that I may remain open to the next work you desire me to find Your joy in, in every moment. Amen.

Lay It Down Today

The good news is, you don’t have an assignment—at this very moment. The better news: The following assignment is meant to last all week. (After all, it’s only bad news if you think of it that way.) It does require some work on your part.

For the remainder of this week, commit to getting up at least a half-hour early to spend time with the Lord. Some of you may already get up early for Bible reading and/or prayer, others not; either way, take some extra time at the beginning of each day this week to be in God’s presence, silently. It’s OK to add Bible reading or other spiritual reading during this time, but be sure to leave time to do… nothing, in God’s presence. Enjoy him. Relax in him. Take peace in him, before starting your day. Try to be observant this week about how God uses your time with him—even after you’re done.

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Down-to-earth Living

“Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.” (President Theodore Roosevelt)


Private quiet time with God in rarefied spiritual heights is enjoyable. In fact, His company may be so sweet we consider constructing a shrine to revisit now and then; we may even feel we’d like to permanently move to our mountainside retreat. To escape the world’s polluted atmosphere and breathe pure oxygen, to be reenergized by invigorating heavenly elevation—what could possibly be any better? Reveling in friendship with God, we may wish we could just stay on Transfiguration Mount.


But being a hermit does not fit into our job description. We need frequent mountain climbing, to pray in solitude and keep our relationship with God on course. We also need to come down to earth to care for people. God is Love and He wants us to be loving. Preparation for ministry happens on peaks, but practical application occurs on everyday plains and depressed ravines.


We need to pray alone, and we also need to relate meaningfully. We need to ascend to commune with our Lord, then descend to serve others. It’s wonderful to enjoy tranquil interludes, so we can be strong in noisy chaos. But we should be careful not to become so heavenly minded we’re of no earthly good. When our head is in the clouds, God help us not to forget the crowds.


Though Jesus reveled in glory, when He sensed humanity’s plight He stooped to help. The King of kings descended the majestic mountain, assuming a servant’s role to compassionately care for a world in desperate need—now it’s our turn.


“Then Moses turned and went down the mountain.”  (Exodus 32:15 NLT)


Johnny R. Almond

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

[This devotion based on Day 54 of Gentle Whispers]

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Late last year, I completed the Certificate in Theology and Ministry offered online by Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS).* Along with about 120 or so other people who were scattered across the country and the world.

This past weekend, PTS invited all who completed the course to attend a special recognition luncheon and worship service at the Princeton, NJ campus. There was a substantial turnout and the program was outstanding.

While taking the course, and now even more so since completing it, the question I’m asked most often is some variation of this: “Why did you take the course? What are you going to do with it now?”

BodyQuote.gifWell, I won’t be performing weddings or funerals. It’s not that kind of certification.

But, frankly, I don’t think it’s necessary to pursue learning solely for the purpose of “doing” something with it. The value, joy, and reward is in the learning itself. Especially when it’s affordable and convenient!

When you spend time going to the movies, how would you respond to someone who asks, “So you saw Star Wars. Why? What are you going to do with it?”

I’m assuming you would be a little bewildered by such a question.

That’s sort of how I feel when people ask me about the course.

Honestly, I took the course because I wanted to.

But, since the answer, “I did it because, like Mt. Everest, it was there!” isn’t appreciated, I decided I’d take the time to provide a fuller response. After all, you asked me!

Beyond “because I wanted to” there are at least three broad reasons I took the course. These are also reasons I read books and just keep learning in general, by the way.

In no particular order, here they are:

Honing the craft with which God has gifted me

Among other things, I’m a writer. Most of what I currently write tends to be related to biblical faith.

A lot of Christian writers I know will spend a lot of time reading books on writing, learning how to better market their work, going to writer’s conferences to meet other writers and connect with publishers, and so forth.

The focus of their efforts is on the writing and the selling thereof.

That’s all well and good.

But it’s long been a pet peeve of mine that conferences, courses, and how-to books for Christian writers never include workshops or chapters on developing biblical thinking, understanding the latest trends in theology, practicing practical exegesis, writing from a biblical worldview, or anything that helps improve skills on the Bible / theology / doctrine side of things.

The closest anything comes is offering something devotional or inspirational in nature. That’s nice, but not enough.

Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can be a good “Christian” writer without also having and nurturing a good grasp on all things biblical and theological. And much of what’s needed will not come merely through church attendance, participating in a small group Bible study, or Sunday school. Which, by the way, are thoroughly worthwhile and beneficial endeavors.

A lot of what I’m “going to do” with this learning that I’ve acquired I’ve been “doing with it” through my blog and other writing opportunities. Not to mention in non-writing interactions with others.

I guess you could say that by the time I completed it, the Certificate was already “used.”

Someone might say, “But you’ve got a college degree in English and biblical studies, why do you need this?”

Because no skill, talent, or gift is a “once and done” thing. They require ongoing refreshing.

Years ago when I was an editor of a Christian magazine and living near Chicago, Wheaton College offered a series of workshops aimed at writers. One of the presenters was Peter Jacobi, now professor emeritus of journalism at Indiana University.

He used the acronym AIDA, also the title of an opera, to cover a few key elements of writing effective articles: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. What he offered I already knew but had never heard presented like this.

This “new” take on “old” information injected fresh insight into my thinking that helped me improve my writing.

The same principle holds true with ongoing, continuing Christian education.

Just as you can never eat or drink “once and for all”, the same holds true for all learning.

Studying to show myself approved

2 Timothy 2:15 states plainly that, as Christians, we need to study God’s Word and know how to rightly divide it (aka interpret and apply) to show ourselves approved.

I like the Common English Bible (CEB) that states, “Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly.”

We are also instructed to “work out” our own salvation (Philippians 2:13), to understand God’s will for us (Ephesians 5:17), to stand against the devil and his tactics (Ephesians 6:10-18), to be ready with an answer for our hope (1 Peter 3:15), to be prepared “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2), and on and on.

Like learning in general, the Christian life is not a “once and done” experience. It’s a process of ongoing growth and maturity.

While some are satisfied with what they can pick up from a Sunday sermon or the Christian radio station, I’m not.

As that great raspy-voiced theologian, Bob Dylan, once said, “He not busy being born [again] is busy dying” (my paraphrase).

And so I keep reading, studying, discussing, and listening.

There is always more to learn, more understanding available, more insight to be gained.

One very useful aspect of the Certificate course was the global perspective it captured. Some of this came through the various participants located around the globe (Hong Kong, Greece, Europe, etc.).

Part came through the final module on “Understanding World Religions” which provided a gentle smack-up-side-of-the-head reminding us that our cultural experience is not the same as anyone else’s.

Well, duh.

If you don’t think that how you understand the Bible or view God is not influenced in anyway by where you were born, where you live, how you were parented, the education you received, and on and on, then you are as naive as I have been.

An amazing insight that comes through this is, despite such massive diversity of experiences, the same Holy Spirit lives in each follower of Jesus and makes the one true God alive and visible through us around the globe.


I sing the body local & so should you

An essential, yet too often neglected, element of the Christian life is being in fellowship with other Christians.

The Bible characterizes the entire fellowship of believers as “the body of Christ.”

Often, churches are referred to as the local body of Christ. However, no single church, or even denomination, embodies the whole body of Christ. Every church is a local expression of the whole body of Christ.

So, I prefer to refer to your church and my church as “the body local.”

This means that not only does each Christian play an essential role in the whole body, so does each biblically orthodox church, whether tiny rural country fellowship or ginormous city mega-thing.

The body metaphor is interesting (1 Corinthians 12). Paul posits that each true believer is a body part that (1) is essential to the body as a whole, (2) dependent upon every other part, and (3) never is dishonorable, regardless of function or purpose.

The implication is that for the body to work well, each body part (organ, limb, etc.) must be healthy and efficient.

To be healthy requires nourishment and cohesion. In other words, it must be fed and connected.

Within the body local of Christ, each of us is called and ordained -- yes, called and ordained -- to serve in some productive, life-supporting role.

As disciples of Christ, we’ve all got jobs to do.

At the most basic level, all of us are called and ordained to be present. To show up. And to give financial support to the body local where God implants us.

But that’s not enough. All that stuff I mentioned previously about working out our salvation, showing ourselves approved, and so on, is to be done within the body local, in fellowship with the other body parts.

The body local is a “Head and shoulders, knees and toes. Eyes and ears, mouth and nose” kind of thing.

So, we are to avoid “staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do” (Hebrews 10:25) and encourage each other in the faith (1 Thessalonians 5:11), even when that involves iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Because I take this fact of the Christian life seriously, whatever church I’ve been a part of, I’ve always sought to be actively involved. This was the example of my parents that my sister and I witnessed and inherited as their legacy. Our entire immediate family, as well as many cousins, aunts, uncles, and other relatives, were always very active in the church of our youth.

I guess it’s in our DNA!

The shape of my own involvement and how that involvement unfolds is influenced by how God has made and gifted me combined with the needs of the body local into which I have been grafted.

Over the years, these roles have included Sunday school teacher, men’s group leader, Sunday school superintendent, janitor, small group leader, board member, special projects committee member, Scout troop leader, administration support, PR and communications helper, bulletin maker, newsletter writer and editor, web designer, periodic giver of sermons, sound booth operator, graphics maker, Powerpoint manager, usher, greeter, and so on.

So, understanding that wherever God puts me I will be involved in that body local, and knowing that whatever we do we are to do well and for the glory of God (Colossians 3:23-24), ongoing training and education seems appropriate.

Show me the money!

There are those who agree and nod their heads to all this palavering, while thinking, “But when are you going to turn this training into something real? And make money? Or at least have a real title other than ‘freelance writer’?”


I understand that, for many, the whole point of any education, whether a multi-year degree at the cost of thousands of dollars, or a several month certificate at the cost a few hundred, is to “do” something specific (aka, get a job and produce income).

I get it. Although I don’t entirely agree with it. But I’m not going to argue the points here.

I pursued the Certificate for all the reasons I’ve stated. I’ve long wanted to get a Masters, preferably in Theology or something related, but the timing and the funds would never synch up.

So, when I discovered this Certificate program, I pounced.

I did not have a specific monetizeable outcome in mind then, nor do I now. If I’m never able to point to specific income derived as a direct result of investing my time and money in this Certificate program, it will not have been a waste of either.

Some will get it. Some won’t.

Those who get it should consider signing up the next time this Certificate program comes open.

For those who don’t get it, don’t worry. I’ve added this accomplishment to my Linkedin profile.

I challenge you, dear reader & you, too, institutions of learning!

One thing that I hope comes of my effort: that it serves as a positive example to you, dear reader, to pursue more and dig deeper when it comes to God’s Word, doctrine, theology, and related subject areas.

Search for local and online opportunities to take a course, even for a few weeks.

Or read books. Not sure where to start? Try these Christianity Today award-winners: “Christianity Today's 2016 Book Awards.”

Take what you already know and apply it where you are. One way to learn more is to be involved in your body local. A lot of good things can come from active small group participation.

But I also want to issue a challenge to all Christian colleges and universities.

We need more affordable, accessible, online programs like the one offered by PTS. Their program is specifically aimed at laypeople who are ministering in the body local and who are hungry for accessible, affordable training.

These people can’t afford to leave their jobs and homes, pay thousands and thousands of dollars, all to earn a degree. That’s expensive overkill.

What they need is more of what is represented in the Certificate* program I completed.

It needs to be very affordable, only a few hundred dollars. Very practical, nothing egghead or ivory tower. Very accessible, online using readily available free software and inexpensive tools. And, of course, engaging, using personable professors who can connect well in an online context.

If you represent a Christian college or university and are interested in setting up a program, contact me and I’ll connect you to the people at PTS. And I’ll be happy to share my ideas.

And that’s all I have to say about this. For now.

Aren’t you sorry you asked?


BlogQuestion.pngAre you active in a church? Do you feel adequately trained or not? What kind of training would you like to be able to access? Have you participated in any kind of continuing education program online or in a classroom? How was your experience? Do you agree with my assertions in this post, that all Christians are called and ordained to be involved in ministry? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments!

* The course consisted of 6 modules: Old Testament Resources for Faith and Life, New Testament, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Theology for Faith and Life, Pastoral Care, and Understanding World Christianity (this final module was slated to be Congregational Leadership, but had to be changed due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict with the professor).

Over the year, there were 30 live two-hour lectures, assigned readings, and the writing of short “class blog posts” of 100-200 words, as well as six 400-600 word “final” essays for each module.

Everyone signed on, using Adobe Connect, to listen to the lectures. We could comment and ask questions in the chat box. Some students who chose to were connected to ask questions via video.

For the written assignments, we were assigned groups of around 12 or so that rotated every 10 sessions. Only those in our assigned groups saw our posts. Each of us was required to comment on 3-5 posts of other students.

While admission to the course is closed for 2016, I would encourage everyone to sign up for next year.

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Separation Anxiety

Forgive the rambling—there is a point here, even if I’m still in the process of trying to nail it down fully myself….

In fact, a lot of the reason for this current post would be that I’m still processing and/or trying to live into what I’m dealing with. In fact, there’s a quote in my last book Lay It Down (buy it now, kids) that seems as prophetic now as it seemed just plain-old relevant then:

Each of our lives need to move from being of Christ to being in Christ—and finally to the point where our life “is Christ” (Philippians 1:21, et al.).

The fact, I’m still trying to live up to my own words. They've been my wrestling match for quite some time now, and especially in the last several months. Not to mention the repeated assertions/convictions throughout 1 John:

Whoever says ‘” know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected…. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1 John 2:4-5; 4:16-18).

And yet, Jesus also tells us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). That’s harder than it sounds—especially the implication that we already truly “love ourselves.” Because here’s the thing: God’s best is also my best. When I live in that truth, I am truly loving myself, far more than I am when I’m indulging/enabling/abusing myself.

Only that which is pure can conquer death. Jesus proved that. And we are in Him. I don’t need patience, restraint, humility—I need Christ. He is my patience, restraint, humility. If I am dead in Christ, then He is the only life I have.  The same, therefore, is true for my neighbor.

We do not have to separate ourselves from the world—God has separated us from the world, and we need to live out of that—in the way that God has separated us. We’ve gotten it backwards.

And yet, I am becoming increasingly convinced that God is powerful enough to change even a Christian. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19b-20a). So where do we go from here, Lord?

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My Neighbor did the "unthinkable"!

First, you have to understand that my cluster of neighbors are all “do-it-yourselfers”.  We cut our own grass, we rent an aeorater together in the fall, we plant, weed, clean gutters, power wash, and even cut down our own trees at times.  But the other day while I was walking my dog I saw “the sign” in my neighbor’s yard…”This lawn serviced by Virginia Green Lawn Care.”  This is one of those companies that pull up in front of your house, unroll a huge hose attached to a gigantic tank full of chemicals and douse your lawn to kill all the weeds and make your lawn look like a well manicured golf course.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against killing weeds, they are a result of the fall.  And of course I am all about making your lawn green and looking great.  But it was the fact that my neighbor who loves to spend time in his yard is actually paying a monthly fee to have this done.

But then it occurred to me…what is it that I am actually so upset about?  Is it that my neighbor has more money than I do to make his yard look great and I don’t.  Or is it something deeper within my own heart that says, “Hey, I want my yard to look better than everyone else’s, so all the people that drive by will ooh and ahh over my yard and not his.  Then something even more profound hit me…why am I so worried about grass?  I realize that taking care of the earth, having dominion over all of God’s creation is our mandate but seriously, green grass with no clover?  Is that what my heart is concerned about?  Shouldn’t I be more concerned about the spiritual well being of my neighbors?  (Of course, this particular neighbor is a believer, cherishes his wife, loves his kids and is the nicest guy on the planet.  He even lets me borrow his truck for our annual church picnic.)

I am realizing that there are certain things in my life that really are more important than others.  I do need to be reaching out to my neighbors and the other people God has put in my life.  My thoughts need to be about relational ministry and how I can share the love of Christ with those around me.   I need to be thinking more about how the Scriptures are impacting my ministry and guiding my life.

All for Jesus,


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Sunday, June 29

Spattered throughout scripture is the idea that, on this earth in this life, we are merely sojourners.

Travelers just passing though.

Even “aliens and strangers” moving about on this God-breathed world (1 Peter 2:11).

Or, put a little more bluntly by Jesus, we are well cared for “leaves of grass,” here today then withered and tossed on the fire tomorrow (Matthew 6:30).


The point being made is one that we often don’t truly get or even care about until, well, the end is nearer than we’d like.

That point is simply this: life is transient and temporal.

Every one of us will die. Some sooner than others. And all by various means and ways.

Because this reality has been thrust brusquely upon our family in the past few days, I’ve been contemplating, among other things, the idea of “hospice” as we’ve been practicing it.

The literal definition of hospice is intriguing:

hos•pice (hŏs-pĭs)
1. A shelter or lodging for travelers, pilgrims, foundlings, or the destitute, especially one maintained by a monastic order.

2. A program that provides palliative care and attends to the emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients at an inpatient facility or at the patient's home.

[French, from Old French, from Latin hospitium, hospitality, from hospes, hospit-, host; see ghos-ti- in Indo-European roots.]

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

When the two proffered meanings are blended, as I believe they should be, the truth that surfaces is that, in a sense, we are all engaged in hospice, both as givers and receivers of care.

We are all earth-sojourners seeking hospice -- shelter, care, lodging -- day in and day out.

* * *

My mother-in-law, Ann Laub, a vital and head-strong woman that I’ve known only a few years, went to the hospital some days ago. Her complaint was an ankle gone awry. At 81 going on 82, it doesn’t take much to send a body into a deep hurt.

Sparing some of the finer details, she came out of the hospital after a couple of weeks straight into home hospice.

As you can guess, many other factors were at play. But still, it took all of us varying degrees of time and depth of pondering to move past the “But it was only a sprained ankle!” to the hard reality that it is much more.

I think we are all still working it out in our heads and hearts. But the result is the same no matter what.

The weight of life is bearing down. And it hurts.

Now, three strong, lovely daughters (Cynthia, Debra, BethAnn), working as ministering angels, attend to Ann’s needs in rotating shifts. They are variegated images of their strong, lovely mother.

Walt, husband and father, attends also, sorting through all that’s happened and happening, working hard to make sense of it all while being there by her side. His is a difficult and arduous task despite appearances to the contrary. My heart breaks for him, and them.

Others of us, connected by blood or marriage, are here as best we can be. Alternately stepping in to help or moving out of the way as needed. It’s a kind of a dance with awkward steps we’re all trying to learn meaning toes get stepped on at times.

There is nothing about this that is not hard. And for each, it’s hard in different ways only each can understand and parse. None can tell another how to feel, how to think, how to go through this.

After all, a family is a unit made up of different individuals. Even shared experiences are colored and made infinitely personal in the hearts and minds and memories of each one.

That’s the way of life.

And life, as death, can be messy. All the hurts and hopes, mistakes and successes, good decisions and bad, trials and joys of life still crowd in at the end, demanding a place, seeking to be heard, wanting to be acknowledged, or perhaps forgotten.

As in life, at death tempers flare, love surges up, tears fall, hugs are given or shunned, misunderstandings erupt, and memory recalls lighter, brighter, happier times as laughter inexplicably bubbles up out of deep sorrow.

Amazingly, mysteriously, joy finds a way.

This is the awkward dance of life.

Today the dance has taken a turn as Ann’s breathing seems to be fading. Everyone has gathered.

* * *

After a few bumpy turns on the dance floor, things settle into a whispered vigil.

Dad works on his crossword from the morning paper. One washes dishes. Another updates the notes for the nurses. And someone else cleans. All are working hard in their own way.

Besides the labored breathing, there are the random exclamations. Ann is nearly simultaneously lucid and not. Deciphering her meanings is as complex as working out a difficult crossword.

How long this will go on is anyone’s guess. Right now, just about everything’s a guess.

Much of life is a guess. But there are certainties. God’s love and grace is assured to those who are his children.

Jesus taught that in giving shelter, clothing, a drink of water -- hospice -- to another fellow sojourner, it was as if we gave it to him (Matthew 25:35-45).

Service rendered in love to the helpless is a miracle of grace. Especially when the helpless and those serving are a little head-strong.

* * * 

Jesus comforted his disciples assuring them of their place in his kingdom and in heaven. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me,” he told them, and then explained that he was going ahead to make preparations.

“Where is it you are going?” they asked.

He told them they knew the place and pointed them in the right direction saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-11).

Paul writes in Romans that those who “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:4-14).

But what if, some may fret, I’m coming to all of this late, near the end? Not to worry. Again, schooling his disciples, Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:25-30).

Spiritual hospice is always available to the living, even when near the end of our journey.

Ann is ready even though some may not be.

* * *

In addition to ministering to Ann’s needs, the daughters also managed to prepare a simple supper. In response to an earlier more lucid request, a dear relative brought the key ingredient for crab cakes.

The freezer was raided for some side veggies. Sundry leftover sweets were gathered from the refrigerator. And the table was beautifully prepared with places for everyone but Ann.

Then the traveling RN, Joe Evans, came.

One of many of the care workers available at a moment’s notice, Joe was a wonder. Calmly, with humor and sweetness, he spoke softly, answering myriad questions while at the same time tending to Ann’s needs.

Every concern was gently and thoroughly addressed. Every person was acknowledged. Every expended effort by the family was praised.

Finally, after repacking his bag, he asked to pray with the family around Ann’s bed. Grateful, we circled, held hands, and were humbled as Joe prayed with sincerity, and tears.

Joe understood that this was hard.

* * *

Something I’ve learned about the concept of family is that the meaning and the members shift over time for many reasons, some joyful and some painful.

Death, romance, marriage, birth, adoption, divorce, re-marriage, betrayal, distance, friendships, feuds, and more all impact the family unit. Add to that the connections and severings between and among extended family units.

It can get very complicated at times.

What I’ve also learned is that families are resilient, in their parts and on the whole, and there is always room for new members. It always takes a bit of adjustment on everyone’s part, but the love always grows to embrace the new additions, no matter how they come in or how long they stay. It continues even when some turn their backs and walk away.

Which leads to the most important thing I can say about my family: In all its permutations, I love my family. Whether immediate or extended, here or departed, each part and each person is special and valuable and dear to me. I have been blessed with a great family and a great heritage.

This most recent permutation of my family, where I have been adopted by virtue of marriage to BethAnn, has been and is a joy. The Laubs have taken me in and extended living hospice to me. They have made me one of them and because of that I am in awe.

Ann has been a key part of that acceptance.

One of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received is an Emily Dickinson doll. Ann had noticed a joking reference I’d made to the doll on Facebook. Seeing the doll when I opened the box cracked me up, which was exactly the reaction she was going for. Of course, later, so Emily wouldn’t be lonely, she got me the Will Shakespeare doll. Both are proudly displayed in our home.

* * *

The day is nearly done. The sun has set. Ann is still sojourning with us and we continue to provide her hospice. We will miss her, but in this experience we will gain a new appreciation of her and of each other.

And this comes to mind:

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

'Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
Hospice is the work of the Lord.
* * * 

We’re all tired. The daughters are exhausted. Tonight we’ll sleep, maybe.


“[D]o not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Yes, today was enough for today.

BlogQuestion.pngWhat are your experiences with losing a loved one or providing hospice? What helped? What didn't help? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Originally posted at

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Wholly Available?

Lately I’ve been thinking of an old chorus we used to sing 30 years ago in our church in Columbus, Ohio:

“Here I am, wholly available. As for me, I will serve the Lord.”

That was pretty much the entire song. But we sang it over and over, with great gusto.

The song got so much traction back then because it accurately expressed our hearts toward God. Back then most of us really were “wholly available.” Many of us were single or recently married. Either we had no kids, or else our kids could be easily transported from meeting to meeting in a basinet or stroller.

Our time commitments and financial encumbrances were few back then.

I remember the time our church had a guest Bible teacher come for two nights of meetings—on a Monday and Tuesday night. Everyone was there. We were hungry for God, and no one wanted to miss out on what was happening.

If your church today had a guest preacher on a Monday and Tuesday night, what percentage of the congregation would come?

Things have changed, it seems.

Our church in Columbus changed too, especially as we all got older. Eventually nearly all of us were married, and the financial commitments had grown considerably. We had 30-year mortgage payments to make, not to mention car payments and credit card debt. Soon we all had multiple kids, complete with even more financial responsibilities and all the normal activities of childhood.

Life was a lot more complicated and cluttered by then. And we quit singing the “wholly available” song, because it no longer reflected our current situation.

A decade after the Bible teacher had preached to a packed house on Monday and Tuesday nights, we hosted an international preacher who had a highly acclaimed healing ministry. Overseas his crusades often drew crowds of 50,000 or more, and we were hopeful for a big crowd during this special midweek meeting.

However, people weren’t as available or as hungry as before. Only about 30 people showed up to hear this man of God who was used to preaching to thousands. The response was embarrassing, but it showed us that times had changes.

I’m now an empty-nest Baby Boomer, contemplating how to become wholly available to the Lord once again. Hope is rising in my heart, and I may even start singing that old chorus once again.

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Life -- A Coat of Many Colors

Life is good because God is good.

“No man is in true health who cannot stand in the free air of heaven, with his feet on God’s free turf,

and thank his Creator for the simple luxury of physical existence.”

- T. W. Higginson (1823-1911) American clergyman and writer


God embroiders elaborate rainbow-hued relationships.

He orchestrates events for your benefit in kaleidoscopic patterns.

Your robe is not just one color—variegated threads make life anything but drab.

God conducts the full orchestra of His instruments—time, place, people, circumstances—

drowning out monotony’s sour note of pessimism and playing His never-ending love symphony.


Thank God for the privilege of physical life – every breath and heartbeat is His gift.

Thank God for the pleasure of abundant life – He does not orphan you in the storms of life.

Thank God for the promise of eternal life – you will live with Him in a tearless, deathless, painless place.


Wrapped around your vision field is a full-color spectrum—

an azure sky of hope, green grass of life, purple violets of royalty,

red roses of pardon, snow-white lilies of purity, golden sunsets of triumph.

Proudly wear your richly ornamented coat every day until the Lord Jesus Christ

drapes an immaculate heavenly robe fashioned for you around your redeemed shoulders.


“Jacob loved Joseph, so he gave Joseph a special gift—a beautiful robe—a coat of many colours.”

(Genesis 37:3 NLT, KJV)


Johnny R. Almond

                Pastor, Colonial Beach Baptist Church, Virginia

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized  (copy and paste to browser)

[This devotion based on/adapted from Day 26 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity]

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“Those who hope for no other life are dead even in this.”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


People frequently make sad mistakes at funerals—

eulogizing a loved one only in the past tense, as if life were all history;

mourners speaking of the need for closure, laying to rest previous relationships;

through ritual and ceremony, trying to bury strong emotional ties along with the remains.


Grieving people do need to continue responsibly; and life, whether we like it or not, does go on.

However, what we need most is a sense of OPENING—a skylight of hope in the dungeon of despair.


Human beings do live on after death; it’s not all over when names appear in obituary columns.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph did not say He was their God—He said I am.

God is the God of the living, not the dead—death does not have the final say—Life does.  


The future will be as bright as the promises of God.

The Lamb’s wedding will follow Satan’s funeral.

Life’s gala will succeed death’s dirge.

Heaven will cancel heartbreak.


Jesus is our skylight of hope.


“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

Sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV)


Johnny R. Almond

Christian preacher and writer

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

[Devotion based on Day 36 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity]

GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized (copy, paste to browser for blog)

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Living with Distinction

“To be individually righteous is the first of all duties, come what may to one’s self, to one’s country, to society, and to civilization itself.” (Joseph Krutch, 1964)


“If you don’t mind my saying so” people state before voicing their opinions. But the following thoughts are not merely my opinions—they are convictions based on the Scriptures.


Believers in Jesus Christ are different from infidels. Forgiven by heaven’s flawless Lamb, belonging to God in a personal way, they are compelled to live with moral excellence. The middle cross eternally separates repentance from derision, faith from skepticism, and paradise from perdition.


Believers in Jesus Christ are distinguished by humility. “Movers and shakers” have no time to listen to God’s Word and no inclination to live His way. But followers of Christ reverence Him and attempt to emulate His humble lifestyle.


Believers in Jesus Christ are characterized by integrity. Inspired by grace, they run from pleasures others run to. Taught by faith, they anticipate Christ’s coronation as Monarch of the universe. Charmed by holiness, they cry their heart out over wrongs committed. Humbled by God’s power, they lean on His everlasting arms. Instructed by experience, they seek to honor the Lord. Trained to think like Christ, they live in tension with society’s perverted values. Juxtaposed by darkness, they sparkle like a diamond on black velvet.


Believers in Jesus Christ sing a different melody. With Jesus topping their charts, they credit Him with strength to persevere and rehearse heaven’s theme song of victory.


Believers in Jesus Christ live with hope. In contrast to the despairing world, they detect the first gleam of a sunrise of hope. Hearing echoes of the New World Symphony, they feel the Spirit Wind unfurling new Jerusalem’s flag. Celebrating the future’s faint overture, they are beginning to learn how to dance for joy.


Everything about Christians is different because of Christ.


I am deeply concerned about the future of America and the world; but whatever happens to me, my country, or civilization, I want to always be true to Jesus Christ.


“Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.” (Exodus 11:7 NLT)


Johnny R. Almond

Christian preacher and writer

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

[This devotion based on Day 44 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity]

Gentle Whispers From Eternity-Scripture Personalized available from

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In connection with The Discipleship Network, Disciple Nations International is offering one free chapter from our book, “Journey into the Spirit Empowered LifeA Guide for Personal, Family & Community Transformation”.  This book offers a very practical guide for experiencing God’s Presence transform our personal lives, marriages, families and out into our spheres of influence.   Below we give you a free preview of Chapter 10 entitled, "Fruit of a Spirit-Empowered Lifestyle - Evangelism, Discipleship & Love."

Book Description:

Jesus stated that whoever believes in Him would do even greater works than He did because He was going to the Father (John 14:12). With such solid promises from God Himself, why is it that so many sincere Christ-followers feel confined to a life of spiritual mediocrity? How is it that those who have the Spirit of God living in them are failing to live in victory over sin? Why is there so much lack of love and unity among those called to represent God’s life to the world?

Journey into the Spirit Empowered Life is a book that transcends culture, and taps into the deepest desires that God has placed in the human soul. This book addresses some of the hard questions that many Christ-followers have in their hearts but have not found answers to. Through the pages of this book we will seek to break the status quo and enter into a new reality with God that will transform every aspect of our lives.

Endorsements we have received:

"Transformation" and "revival" have become a part of everyday conversation for those who consider themselves as followers of Jesus.  However, very few of us are proactively growing in the kind of lifestyle that reflects the image of our Lord. Chris Vennetti provides a clear road map to anyone desiring authentic personal revival that will lead to family, community and national transformation.  I highly recommend Journey into the Spirit Empowered Life for such a time as this and to such a person as YOU!

Dai Sup Han, Founder/National Facilitator, Prayer Surge NOW!, Serving with Youth With A Mission

"Journey into the Spirit Empowered Life will help you discover and cultivate a lifestyle that is totally surrendered to Christ and walks daily in the power of the Holy Spirit."

Dr. Dick Eastman, International President, Every Home for Christ International

Chris has written a gracious but needed challenge; a call to the radical lifestyle we cannot ignore as we read the scriptures. He has summarized this journey well:

A truly Spirit-Empowered person is someone with a lifestyle that is radically consecrated to Jesus Christ, and who has learned to live in a place of wholehearted faith in the character, will and ways of God.

May the Lord use this teaching to transform our view of the Christian life, expand our vision of authentic discipleship, and drive us back to scripture in a way that results in Spirit-led, scripture-fed expressions of God's love in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Phil Miglioratti, National Pastors' Prayer Network

Chapter 10

Fruit of a Spirit-Empowered Lifestyle

Evangelism, Discipleship & Love


When we are still bound by our flesh, the world, and the enemy it is difficult to even begin to help others.  We lack real authority to call them to be free when we are still living in bondage.  As God’s Spirit sets us free we are simultaneously released to be used of God to assist others.  As we look at the sphere of influence that God has entrusted to us it is helpful to be equipped in three key areas: Evangelism, Discipleship & Love.


A Spirit-Empowered Lifestyle Prepares Us for Effective Evangelism


Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.    2 Timothy 4:2


But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.        1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

While not everyone is called to be an evangelist, as Peter mentions here, we are all called to “be prepared to give an answer” to those who ask us about the hope that we have.  Paul speaks of a fearless readiness, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in every situation at any time (Eph 6:19-20).  This lifestyle of evangelism is more than simply going on a specific outreach to declare Christ to those who do not know Him, but it speaks of a faith that flourishes in every situation from morning until night.  We may share Jesus through our words, as well as through our service.   When we are living in victory in our personal lives, we are positioned to be effective witnesses for the Kingdom of God.  We should experience a desire to seek opportunities to share the reason for the hope that we have in Jesus.    

Living in this way, keeps us from becoming apathetic in our faith, and encourages us to walk in a vibrant intimacy with God that is attractive to those He brings into our lives.  We should always look to make the most of every opportunity.  Whether that be in the area where we live, a business, a school, while we walk along the way, or whether we are among family and friends at home.


Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.   Ephesians 6:19-20 (NIV)


He who is wise wins souls.    Proverbs 11:30


Are we regularly winning souls into the Kingdom of God?  Do we live in the awareness that if the souls of those around us do not come to know Jesus Christ that they will spend an eternity in hell?  What level of urgency do we have towards the lost?  When was the last time we tapped deeply into the heart of God which “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”?


Practical Instructions for a Lifestyle of Effective Evangelism:

-         Consider asking God’s Spirit to give you at least 5-10 names of unsaved family, friends and acquaintances that you can be regularly praying for their salvation.  Write these names down and keep them in your Bible or in a place where you will regularly see them.  Pray for them as regularly as God’s Spirit leads you to.


-         Daily make yourself available to be used of the Holy Spirit by letting Him know each day that you are willing to be used of Him to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.  As you make yourself available to Him, He will make the opportunity for you to share His message.  If you pray this way regularly, you will find amazing doors begin to open to share your faith.


-         Consider recording answers to prayer.  These big and small victories will serve as an encouragement to keep believing God to use your life as a vessel of His Good News.


A Spirit-Empowered Lifestyle Prepares Us for Effective Discipleship


And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”     Matthew 28:18-20


Jesus did not simply ask us to make converts but to make disciples.  Jesus told us that the way we are to disciple an individual, our family, and our sphere of influence is a process of teaching them “to observe all that I commanded you”.  It is difficult to teach others to observe all that Jesus has commanded us when we ourselves are not yet surrendered to this lifestyle. 


When the Holy Spirit begins to bring us through to the reality of a full surrender to His will and ways, we are being prepared to become an instructor of others.  As we seek to encourage those around us in a lifestyle of radical abandonment to Jesus, we can take courage from His final statement in Matthew 28 where He promised to be with us “always, even to the end of the age”.     


Do not be surprised if your discipleship of others does not look glamorous in the eyes of the world or even the religious system.  The religious system of our day often displays a hyped up image of what successful ministry looks.  Sadly, this image of being a success in the eyes of other people is often in direct contradiction to the ways of God. 


Jesus modeled for us what a life of discipleship looked like.  With a massive vision to disciple every nation; He made a very interesting decision to invest the majority of His earthy life in just 12 men.  He lived in close relationship with them and taught them His commandments, both through His Words, but most importantly through His Life.  In this lifestyle of discipleship, Jesus laid the foundation for His Church.   


The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.         Philippians 4:9


Paul shared about the need for mentoring and modeling a Spirit-Empowered lifestyle in close relationship with others.  This same pattern of discipleship is just as essential today, if we are going to see Christ’s Kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven.  The discipleship of our families ought to be our first priority (1 Tim. 3:1-2, 12, Titus 1:6-7).  Then we are in a position to disciple every other facet of the sphere of influence that God has entrusted to us. 


Practical Instructions for a Lifestyle of Effective Discipleship:

-         Ask God’s Spirit for His wisdom and timing as to whether He believes you are equipped to begin to step out and disciple others.  If our own lives are still in a position of compromise, we would be wise to wait and allow God to disciple us first before we launch out and start seeking to lead others.


-         As your life is consecrated and living a Spirit-Empowered lifestyle, begin to ask God how He would have you pour your life into others.


-         Trust God to reveal those He wants you to connect with in this way.  Learn to allow His Spirit to disciple others through you.  This is not a matter of attempting to disciple others in your own strength.  It is learning to trust Him to disciple others through you.


The Ultimate Goal – A Lifestyle of Unconditional Love


The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  1 John 4:8


While there are many fruits of the Spirit, the scriptures are clear that none compare to love.  Unconditional or “agape” love has no parallel.  This type of love is the greatest measure of our depth of connection with God.  God has revealed His loving character to us, and if we desire to properly represent Him to the world, we must tap deeply into His love for us and for others.    


But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13


“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”       Matthew 22:36-40


The Spirit-Empowered Life is a life of faith, of hope, and of love, but the greatest indication of being indwelt with the Holy Spirit is our level of love.  It is clear that Jesus intended for love to be the primary distinctive that caused the people of God to stand out above every other people on the earth.  It was by our love for God and our love for others that Kingdoms would be conquered and nations discipled.  Our love for God was to be far superior to our love for any other earthly thing.


The Gospel calls us to die to ourselves, and live for Christ’s purposes.  In order to live for His purposes and properly represent Him as His ambassadors we must allow His standard of Love to become our standard of love.  We must allow the Spirit of God to remove any root of bitterness that may be there from our past.  We must forgive as Christ has forgiven us, and daily ask the Holy Spirit to take us deeper in our understanding of His love for us, and of His love for all men.


(Jesus speaking) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”     John 13:34-35


We do not need to look any further than the lack of love in the church in order to see our grievous disconnection from The Vine.  God is Love.  Whenever an individual lacks love this points to their lack of relationship with the source of all Love. 


We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  But what if we have not allowed God to love us?  What if we have rejected His love?  Then it should be no surprise that many non-believers lack love.  They have not received God’s love for them therefore they have no sacrificial love to give to others. 


But what about those who claim to follow Christ and yet lack love?  What about the many believers who are easily irritated, frustrated, and lack love on a daily basis?  Could it be that we too have failed to receive God’s Love for us? 


Do everything in love.    1 Cor. 16:14 (NIV)


The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Gal. 5:6 (NIV)


When was the last time that you allowed God to reveal to you just how much He loves you?


Why don’t you take some time right now and stop whatever you are doing and allow the Spirit of God to show you just how much He loves you?  Will you let Him do this for you now?


Prayer time: God I ask that You would reveal the love that You have for me.  (Take time to wait on Him.)


I hope that you took the time to allow God to saturate you in His Love for you.  This is the most important thing in all of life.  God is Love.  We can only love others when we have a revelation of His love for us.  Love is the most powerful witness to the reality of God.  Therefore, allowing God to love us must become top priority in our lives.


From this place of love, we have the Life of God necessary to impact every circumstance no matter how difficult.  Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Love breaths new life into places that were dead.  A vast throng in heaven can testify that it was the love of another believer that won their heart over to Jesus. 


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”       Matthew 5:43-45



In this passage, it is not just any type of love that is being asked for, but Jesus says that we are to have agape love for our enemies.  We are to have unconditional love for those who hate us and we are to do good for them.  Why?  Because God Himself passionately loves those who are His enemies and He expects us to have the same love that He has for those around us.


And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.                                 1 John 3:23


In the Middle East it is love that triumphs and causes hearts to turn to Christ.  In Communist countries, it is love that shines like a bright beacon testifying to the reality of Jesus.  In a cold and hardened individualistic culture in the western nations it is love that cuts through the ice and rescues souls from eternal darkness to eternal light.  Don’t underestimate the power of love.  It is love that compelled God the Father to willingly allow His Son to be killed in our place (John 3:16).  It is love that motivated Jesus to willingly lay down His life for humanity.  It is love that will bring about the exaltation of Jesus Christ in the nations of the earth. 


If we realize that love is the most powerful spiritual weapon, the most effective means of evangelism and discipleship, the most needed and rare resource on the earth, then we would ask ourselves the question: “How do I increase the level of love that I am living in?”


The answer to this question is quite simple.  Enter more deeply into the One and Only Person who is Love.  Unlike our desire for other spiritual gifts, such as the desire for miracle working power, or a deeper understanding of future events, there are sources of darkness and sources of light.  But real, genuine, self-sacrificing, and unconditional love has only One Source. 


If we wish to lay hold of more of the most precious commodity on earth, then we must abandon ourselves more completely to Jesus.  We must allow His Life to so infill us, that it is no longer us living, but Him Living through us.  We must allow Him to love us completely, and allow Him to remove the areas of our lives that are lived in contradiction to His Spirit, so that we are clean and pure vessels.  As His Love consumes us, and as we find ourselves willingly melting into Him, our lives will appear as a blazing inferno of love to show the nations that Jesus Christ is alive.


Will you begin to allow His Great Love to consume you?  Will you allow Him to fill you with a deeper revelation of His Love for you?  Start now and don’t stop until He takes you home to be with Him forever.




Can you envision this lifestyle of evangelism, discipleship and love, flowing from your personal life into your marriage / parenting?  How about your workplace?  What about an entire congregation that begins to embrace this lifestyle?  What if the Body of Christ in a community or city began to be equipped and sent out to bear this type of good fruit everywhere they went?  Could we not see entire cities and nations turned upside down?  Let’s allow God to work this good fruit in our lives so that we can begin to share this with others.


Discussion Questions:

  • Do you presently live as though the only reason you are here on earth is to give glory to God?  If not, what are some of the common ways that you have been pulled away from living for God’s purposes?



  • In what way have you experienced God’s Spirit winning lost souls to Christ through your life?
  • How do you believe God’s Spirit wants to win even more souls to Himself through you in the days ahead?



  • In what way have you experienced God’s Spirit discipling others in the will and ways of Jesus Christ through your life?
  • How do you believe God’s Spirit wants to disciple others even more effectively through you in the future?



  • In what way have you experienced God’s Spirit loving others through you?  Do you see yourself consistently living in the level of love that Jesus loves?  If not, what makes it difficult for you to love others as Jesus loves them?   
  • How do you believe God’s Spirit wants to love others at an even deeper level through your life in the future?


Action Step:

Take time to ask God how He would have you begin to be even more fruitful as it relates to evangelism, discipleship, and love.  Write down any immediate action steps that He asks you to take and through prayer and obedience put them into practice.





Love for others________________________________________



Prayer Focus:


Father God, I need You.  It is clear that apart from You that I cannot help others to know You more.  You have promised me in Your Word that if I would remain in You that I would bear much for fruit for Your glory.  I ask that You would show me how to let my light shine more brightly so that those around me will come to know You.  I ask that you would teach me Your ways of discipling others so that you can use me to mature other believers.  I believe You to continue to reveal Your great love for me so that I will have an abundance of love to give to others.  I ask that You would give me a greater understanding of Your love for those around me.  (Continue to pray as God’s Spirit leads you.)


You can view the opening portion of the book free of charge on Amazon by clicking here (and then click the "Look Inside" link)  The book is available both as a paperback and in a Kindle Edition.

Contact us if you have any questions and/or if you are interested in sharing this lifestyle in your location.  We host pastors "Vision Conferences" as well as weekend conferences that are open to the general public related to this topic.  Contact: or visit us on the web at

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Rule Following

     I’m a rule follower. I know it’s kind of silly but I like rules. Rules help me know when I am staying within the bounds of what I’m supposed to do. I somehow find comfort in knowing that I am being responsible if I follow the rules. (Jay walking is dangerous. I saw a kid yesterday barely escape getting run over by a car because he was jay walking.) But sometimes when I think I’m being responsible, I’m actually being prideful. I take pride in following the rules. This is a problem when it comes to our spirituality and our relationship with God. We can follow God’s rules, well, at least most of the time. And we can become prideful about it too. We can become so prideful that we believe that God loves us based on our rule following and that He is either happy or disappointed with us when we follow or break the rules. But that is exactly not the way God relates and acts towards us.

Listen to what John Piper says in his book, Fifty Reasons why Jesus came to die:

     “This is why the Bible says that the new way of obedience is fruit-bearing, not law-keeping. ‘You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God’ (Romans 7:4). We have died to law-keeping so that we might live to fruit-bearing. Fruit grows naturally on a tree. If the tree is good, the fruit will be good. And the tree, in this case, is a living relationship of love to Jesus Christ. For this he died. Now he bids us come: ‘Trust me.’ Die to the law, that you might bear the fruit of love.”

     I am praying that I will be fruit-bearing today and not just a rule follower (law keeper). I don’t need to earn God’s love, Jesus already did that. I need to bear fruit of who I am on the inside. May you think and ponder deeply that one of the reasons Jesus died was so that you do not have to keep the law perfectly but so that you will bear fruit for God, for His glory. I think your relationship with God through Jesus will be much more joyful if you do.


All for Jesus,


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The Valley

My son goes to college in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In order to get there we have to drive over the mountain. On both sides of the mountain are valleys. We spend more time in the valley than we do on the mountain.

I was reminded this morning in the story of the widow at Nain, that pain and suffering are pervasive in this life. I know this comes as no news to most people. However, we often think about our Christian life as reaching the top of a mountain. We create our own little mountain of success and we think that the peak of the mountain is the place to be. More often than not people are in the valley rather than at the top of the mountain.

In a Friday morning men’s Bible study that I lead, we are reading a book called Mighty to Save, by Richard Phillips. In it he writes concerning this story in Luke 7:11-17, “One thing you will notice if you study the Bible is that there is a great deal of weeping going on…With few exceptions all the major figures of the Bible are seen weeping, and in all sorts of situations.” The truth about life is that sin has caused a great deal of pain, heartache, suffering and ultimately death. Like the widow of Nain who had previously lost her husband now she has lost her only son. She is in a desperate and confusing state. All her earthly hope is gone, it has literally died. But approaching her is Jesus, who can not only bring hope but life to her situation. The text tells us that “Jesus saw her and had compassion on her” (v.13). Jesus “sees” the agonizing situation of this woman and walks into the valley with her. Jesus then literally speaks life back into her son and raises him from the dead.

The woman now has hope and has been given her life back. Jesus, who is the life and the resurrection, has the power and authority over death. Jesus, our Savior, empathizes with us, and He walks through the darkest valleys with His people. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to the mountain top. Joy and hope and encouragement should always characterize us. But we have to realize that most of life is lived in the valley. Yes, one Day all things will be made new; no more tears, no more suffering, no more death. But for now, we face those trials with the presence of Christ.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:1

May we walk confidently through the valley, knowing Christ is at our side and may we go into the valley with others showing them the hope and life that is found in Christ.

All for Jesus,


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Cowardly or Courageous?

There are two types of people; those who have surrendered their life to Christ and those who are still putting up a fight.  Some people think that those who surrender in battle are cowards.  I don’t think this is always true. Surrendering in battle actually takes courage.  When you surrender you are placing your life in the hands of your enemies.  You are hoping they will treat you fairly and with dignity and that one day when the war is over, you will be set free.  Cowards are the ones who run from the battle and hide. 

The thing about this war with God is that we can’t win.  There is absolutely no hope to beat God.  He is just too powerful, too just, and too loving.  So I am encouraging everyone who is still fighting against God to surrender.   It will take courage, especially since you have no idea how God is going to treat you and whether or not you will ever be set free from His captivity.  But let me assure you…God will treat you with dignity, He will love you unconditionally, He will show you mercy and He will set you free.  Freedom with God is different than what most of the world thinks though.  Freedom with God is when He sets us free to be who He originally created us to be.  You see, for those who are still battling against God, putting up a good fight, you are actually enslaved.  You are enslaved to a lifestyle that focuses on yourself, which is actually pretty pathetic.  Why would anyone want to settle for something so little when you could have so much?  Why settle for a purpose in life that centers around a creature who is so limited?  We were created to live in relationship with the eternal God.  We were created in His image and our purpose is to worship Him and glorify Him in all we do, say and think. 

I know this sounds absolutely crazy for those who are battling against Him, but just think about it.  God created us to live in this awesome relationship.  He gave us the entire world to have dominion over and to rule.  He said that He would walk through life with us, every step of the way.  But we have chosen to rebel against God, run away from Him and then try to rule the world without Him? What is that all about?  Why would we give up so much to attain so little?  It doesn’t make sense.  What does make sense is when we realize what we have done, how stupid and self-centered it is and then return to God.  God uses this word called “repent”.  This just means that God wants us to turn away from our old way of living, our old way of thinking and turn back towards Him.  Only when we come back to God will anything in life begin to make sense or have meaning and purpose.

But how in the world is this possible?  If God is really just then it would go against His perfect and holy character to let me, His enemy, go free without punishment?  God has made it possible by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to take your penalty upon Himself.  Jesus lived a perfect life, perfectly fulfilling every law that God demanded.  God sent Jesus to die for you, in your place.  So God really is just and His justice was taken out on His own Son, Jesus.  So surrendering to God means believing that Jesus died for your sins and giving your heart over to Him.

So, you may be a coward and run away from God, you may have the gall to stand and fight God or you may have the courage to surrender to God through Jesus.  But ultimately, God is going to win the battle, whether you like it or not and whether you believe it or not.  So my suggestion is to surrender to God.  Believe that Jesus died for you, that He rose from the grave and now sits at God’s right hand.  Believe that He will send His Holy Spirit to come and live in your heart, to walk through every moment of life with you.  Come back to God and let Him take you captive.  It is His great desire to have you back, to show you mercy and grace, to love you unconditionally.  Surrendering to God has no regrets.

All for Jesus,


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I was talking with a friend the other day who is the same age as I am, 42.  We were discussing how blessed we were to be doing exactly what God had called us to do.  There was no pride in ourselves but there was great joy that God had led us to our own particular callings and we were actually enjoying them.  A lot of guys get to our age, which is mid-life, and still have no idea what they want to do or what they are supposed to do.  Then comes the “mid-life crisis”.  Some get depressed, some get a new car, some get a new wife.  I am blessed that I did not have to “get” these things to help me figure out my mid-course direction.  I think one key reason involves the subject of my last blog, “The Single Most Important Discipline.”  I would have no idea what to do with my life were it not for God and the leading of His Spirit.  I can take no credit for His voice or even for the strength to obey, all the credit goes to Christ, whose Spirit lives in me.  But the constant, daily voice of God that comes through prayer and studying His Word has an incalculable cumulative effect on your life.

So what if you are at mid-life and struggling to know what to do with your life?  I would say begin to meditate on these startling words from Romans 13:11-12,


Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”


It’s time to wake up and listen to the voice of God.  The truth is that we ARE getting older and therefore closer to death, and therefore closer to our salvation.  Don’t waste any more time.  Cast off the works of darkness you have been struggling with.  Go hard after God.  Spend the rest of your life living out His will.  Dive into serving Christ and furthering His Kingdom.  It’s not too late.  Go ahead, put on the armor of light, join Christ and His forces and fight the good fight.  You may get tired and battle weary. It will cost you sacrifice and discipline.  But the rewards last for eternity.  There is nothing greater to give your life to than the call and service of Christ.


All for Jesus,


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