Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2017 Devotional Words #16 & 17: GOOD GIFTS

It was our last day at Ricks Institute in Liberia. We were finishing up an amazing three days of a Pastors (& wives) Conference. Each of the members of our mission team were called up front of the auditorium. What happened next blessed my heart in a special way... its was icing on the mission cake of an amazing trip to Liberia.

I and the other men were given colorful Liberian shirts while the ladies received beautiful dresses. This was such a great gift that I definitely wasn't expecting. 

Everyone loves a good gift. I especially love the ones that catch you off guard - the gift that's totally unexpected. Can I remind you today that our Heavenly Father is the perfect representation of "goodness" and He certainly loves to give good gifts! James 1:17 declares, "every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of the Heavenly lights."

The two things I want to briefly share about today are: SALVATION and the HOLY SPIRIT. These two gifts go together - you don't have one without the other. Each of these are perhaps the greatest gifts we receive as children of God... for those who have put their hope and trust in the finished "Easter" work of Jesus. 

Mark 10:45 states that "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many." Jesus shed His blood dying on the cross to purchase our salvation - our redemption and forgiveness of our sin. John 3:17 (after the famous "For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son...."), proclaims "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." He died in our place taking on our punishment for sin. Our salvation means new and abundant life here and now and also one day in heaven. 

* When you get discouraged, remember God's precious gift of salvation. His life for yours. What a gift!

God didn't just offer the gift (Romans 6:23) of eternal life to us, He also gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us in this life journey. By placing our faith in Jesus Christ, we are "sealed with the promised  Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13-14) as a guarantee of our inheritance as children of God. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the "counselor" or "helper" who would convict the world of "sin and righteousness and judgment." The Holy Spirit guide us in all truth and bears its fruit in our lives - fruit of Jesus' righteousness at work in us and on display out from us. 

* When it seems as if the pressures of this life are waging war with your heart and soul, remember that you have the Holy Spirit inside of you. What a gift!

Take time today to thank God for His good and perfect gifts of salvation and the Holy Spirit. Praise God for His wonderful provisions and generosity.

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #15: PEACE

Not too long ago, my wife and I were singing in the car - one of the many reasons I fell in love with her in college. It just so happened that we were listening to the 80s channel on XM radio. My youngest daughter had the nerve to chime in and call it "oldies" music.  I'm a child of the 80s... yes, I left childhood and ventured into my teen years during this amazing decade. Let's face it... our music was and is much better than most of the junk today. Lol.

I can remember as a kid in the 80s being worried about the very real "Cold War" threat of conflict between the United States and the former Soviet Union - U.S.S.R. Then the first gulf war took place my senior year of high school and I had registered for the selective service (draft). I was genuinely worried I might get drafted if things didn't go well. There was a lot of tension back then and the real threat of Nuclear and other types of war was always in our minds and the news. 

30+ years later (yes that ages me), not much has changed. Access any type of news you can on your phone, tablet, radio or tv and it's always right there. Tensions run high. Political upheaval and regime change. Threat of war and other conflicts at home and overseas. Even today, the big news is that China is on high alert due to the issues in North Korea. There will always be some conflict or crisis confronting each of us every day. Many of us wake up every day saying, "when will it come to an end... give me a break, please!" We all want PEACE. We all need PEACE.

If you are longing for PEACE - internally and externally - you won't find it apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We will all have trouble, but through God we can have a PEACE beyond even what our minds can comprehend.  

Here are the words of Jesus as recorded in John 14 and 16...

In the midst of failure, brokenness, war, chaos, stress, worry, doubt, fear and everything else that is buzzing around you, you can have PEACE from the Lord above. It is perfect in its timing and ministry to your heart and soul.


P.S. For the record, I did NOT like some of the music of the 80s - especially the New Kids on the Block!

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #14: PERSECUTION

I woke up Sunday morning to find these news notifications on my phone...

EGYPT BOMBING: At least 21 killed, 25 wounded in explosion at a church north of Cairo.

PALM SUNDAY ATTACKS: Blast at second church in Egypt kills 6.


The persecution of Christians around the world continues to escalate.

I often think that many in the Christian church (Christ followers) in America live with an incomplete understanding of how many believers live around the world. I dare say most of us went to church this past week (at least those that made it) without fear of a bomb going off or some other type of violent opposition.

For many of our brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the USA, persecution, suffering, and hardships are a normal part of everyday life. Many people weigh the hard choice of following Jesus against the harsh reality of their family disowning them, public disgrace, and even death. Great sacrifices are made to be a part of simply going to worship on a weekly basis or even reading the Bible.

In these places, against what we would expect, Christians are bold in their faith and obedience to Jesus. They seem to genuinely grasp the call to daily deny themselves, take up their crosses as they follow Jesus. 

How are we living here in our borders of freedom? If you are like me, I am often overly focused on the insignificant as I ignore the simply call and presence of the Savior. My hardships usually revolve around my disappointment in not getting what I "need" when I "want" it. 

For many who claim the name of Jesus, they fail to simply commit to a community of faith due to the busyness of their self-indulgent lives. The reality of the "consistently inconsistent." If this sounds harsh, I guess I'm really not sorry. The truth hurts sometimes. 

This week in our small group class time, a friend reminded our group of a powerful quote from a recent movie our church showed:

“I cannot forget the words of my friend, Stoyan..."I took great joy that I was suffering in my country so that you could be free to witness in your country." And then he raised his voice to say: "Don't you ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution - and that is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” ~ Nik Ripken in The Insanity of God.

In our freedom: don't give up your witness for Jesus. Don't miss out on the eternal value of sharing life with other believers (in church). Pray for the Lord's peace and empowerment for our brothers and sisters around the world. Give your all to Him each and every day!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Devotional Words #'s 12 & 13: PRAYER & EVANGELISM

* This post is to make up for the last two weeks before and during my mission trip out of the country.

The plane touched down on the runway and then came to a stop. We had finally made it to Liberia, West Africa.

This was my first mission trip to the continent of Africa and I was certain that God was going to do great things. What I wasn't certain of was how God was going to speak to me personally during my time in Liberia.

Our mission team led a conference for nearly 115 (maybe more) rural Liberian pastors and their wives (almost 90) at the Ricks Institute in Virginia near Monrovia. All were encouraged as we grew together in the Lord through Bible study, fellowship, worship and more.

Having spent nearly a week on the campus of Ricks, I was so very encouraged by the time with new friends - brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are a few thoughts I have on my heart and mind following the trip:


Thank you to all of you who committed to pray for us before and during the trip. I believe in the power of prayer and we could certainly sense God's peace and presence. Prayer is one of the most genuine expressions of our faith in God.

Prayer expresses our dependence upon God, "I need You, God. I can't make it without You, God. I trust in You, God. Without you, I am nothing, God."

Prayer reveals our desire for Him to move. As we pray for God to move as only He can, we express faith and trust in His provisions and power to move in any and all situations.

I certainly enjoyed many quality times of prayer while in Liberia. I was honored to be in the midst of the prayers of many of our Liberian brothers and sisters. I thank God for His speaking to me through His Holy Spirit and His Word.


One of the greatest joys we have in this life is to serve in God's Kingdom work through sharing the good news of Jesus. Many of us, however, get sidetracked by fear, doubt, and complacency.

We watched the movie The Insanity of God tonight at church. During years of interviews with people in the persecuted church around the world, Nik Ripken asks the question "is Jesus worth it?" The answer he discovers is a resounding YES, He is worth it all - all the sacrifices, all the struggles, all the pain, all the loss!

What is stopping you from sharing Jesus with the people you know who are lost apart from Jesus? What things do you need to lay down in order to be obedient to the call of God?

Prayer and evangelism are tied together... they complement each other perfectly. As you pray, God's heart and desires become your own. As you share Jesus with others, prayerfully surrender everything to God.

Daily turn your heart and life to the Lord in prayer and devotion. Sing your heart song to Him daily and follow in obedience as He leads you to share the good news with all who need to hear! 

Jesus is worth it!