“4 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal” February 27

 

4 Way to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal - How's your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who's living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.

How’s your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who’s living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we would come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.

 

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 23 & 24
Psalm 28.1-5
Proverbs 10.17-18
Mark 6.1-29

 

4 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal

 

Leviticus 23 & 24:

 

Does He really “occupy” your life?

 

As we continue reading through the book of Leviticus, I’m reminded that not only is “all Scripture” profitable to our everyday lives (1 Tim. 3.16-17), but we can begin reading anywhere and glean great, practical truths.

Leviticus 23 gives instructions concerning the feasts that Israel was to celebrate. These feasts acknowledged and helped them remember God’s sovereign work in their lives, just as Easter and Christmas should do for us.

That’s part of the tragedy with the commercialization of those holidays. Easter has become more about bunnies and eggs and less about Christ’s resurrection. Christmas is more about “what will I get” than remembering that the Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to be born in a stable, to be a little baby with dirty diapers, to grow to be a boy who respected and obeyed His parents, and finally, to be a man who was willing to be beaten, stripped and crucified for me and you!

Here in chapter 23, notice the feasts and the sacrifices involved food: meat and grain, oil and wine, things used in the preparation of a meal.

Remember that God repeatedly told His people He desired to dwell with them. In Revelation 3.20 Jesus said:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

1 Corinthians 6.19 says that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And in John 1.14 it says that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Old Testament feasts and sacrifices, in part, reminded them that the Creator God wanted to dwell with them.

That word “dwell” comes from a root word meaning “to tent or encamp, to occupy (as a mansion) or to reside as God did in the Tabernacle of old.”

His dwelling with us speaks of protection and communion.

The word “occupy” stood out to me. Does He really “occupy” your life? Have you allowed him to take over the whole mansion or is He expected to stay in the back room most of the time? Maybe He’s only with you on Sundays? Or maybe you’d say “no, He’s here all the time! I’m always talking about God and church!”

 

Spiritual Curb Appeal

 

Then the question becomes, how are you doing at living your life in a way that makes Him pleased to be there? Are you going places, watching things, reading things, listening to things or saying things that grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in you?

And how does His residence look to others? Real estate agents talk about curb appeal, how a home (or mansion) looks from the street. How do you look to others? How is your spiritual curb appeal? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of God?

God wants a relationship with His people. He wants to live in us and through us so we can be salt and light to the world. What a privilege and what a responsibility! If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we came up short, how can we change that? Continue reading

“Are you preparing to live in a hostile culture?” September 9

 

red x bible

We are living in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous and a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christianity. Religious freedom and tolerance have been replaced with intolerance and even hatred. Violence, from outside and inside our nation, is almost commonplace. How are you preparing to live in a dangerous and hostile culture?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 9 & 10
Psalm 106.1-5
Proverbs 25.1-2
2 Corinthians 1.1-24

 

Are you preparing to live in a hostile culture?

 

2 Corinthians 1.1-24:

Comfort in Tribulation

 

Verses 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

God “comforts us in all our tribulation”! What a great promise, especially today as we face an increasingly hostile culture and an increasingly dangerous world. Not only does He comfort us, but we are to be conduits of God’s mercy and comfort just as we are with all of His blessings.

Paul Nyquist in his book, Prepare, says the following:

Get ready. An exciting, yet terrifying era is beginning for American believers. As cultural changes sweep our country, we’ll soon be challenged to live out what the Bible says about confronting and responding to persecution. For nearly 250 years, Christians in America were able to live in relative freedom from persecution. We escaped because our society historically embraced and promoted biblical values. Our founding fathers penned a Constitution esteeming religious freedom and establishing that rights come from God, not the government.

But we’re witnessing an epic change in our culture— a spiritual climate shift threatening to reshape life as we know it. Hostility and intolerance are replacing toleration. Rejection and even hatred are pushing aside acceptance.

John S. Dickerson, in his well-researched book The Great Evangelical Recession, writes, “In the coming decades United States evangelicals will be tested as never before, by the ripping and tearing of external cultural change— a force more violent than many of us expect. Evangelicalism in the United States has stood strong through centuries of difficulties and setbacks. She has not seen anything quite like what she will see in the next fifty years.”

I love the complete title of Nyquist’s book, Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture.

 

How to Prepare

 

Persecution is a reality for believers in Christ. It may vary in degree in different cultures and time periods, but Jesus warned us to expect it (Jn. 15.20). The Apostle Paul said, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3.12).

In fact, in spite of the fact that it flies in the face of some current teaching, the Bible says persecution is good for us. James said:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (Jas. 1.2-4 NLT)

Persecution, when responded to rightly, develops Christian character, helps us mature in Christ, draws us closer to the Lord, and is a testimony to the world. So how do we prepare to face it when it comes?  Continue reading

“Entertainment, Over-Indulgence, and Ease = Poverty” August 21

 

Entertainment, Over-Indulgence, and Ease = Poverty - Trying to find relief or distraction through entertainment, over-indulgence, and ease will all lead to poverty, not just physical poverty, but often, poverty of the soul. Also ... Can evil and suffering ever lead to good? How can waves clap their hands and nature declare the glory of God? Are we in danger of following men and not God? And if so, how does that lead to spiritual immaturity?

Trying to find relief or distraction through entertainment, over-indulgence, and ease will all lead to poverty, not just physical poverty, but often, poverty of the soul.

Also …

Can evil and suffering ever lead to good?
How can waves clap their hands and nature declare the glory of God?
Are we in danger of following men and not God? And if so, how does that lead to spiritual immaturity?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 33 & 34
Psalm 98.4-9
Proverbs 23.19-21
1 Corinthians 3.1-23

 

Entertainment, Over-Indulgence, and Ease = Poverty

 

Proverbs 23.19-21:

Ease, Entertainment, Food, & Fun

 

Verse 21, “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.”

Proverbs warns us that a desire for relief, distraction and fun (drunkenness), indulgence (gluttony) and laziness (drowsiness) will all lead to poverty, not just physical poverty, but often, poverty of the soul.

Proverbs 27.20 says, “… the eyes of man are never satisfied.” We can never get enough of the things the flesh craves including ease, entertainment, food and enjoyment. We end up being left empty and devoid of any peace, joy or satisfaction.

Instead, if we will allow God to fill us spirit, soul and body, we will find that the things of this world pale in comparison. And we are free to enjoy God’s blessings in their proper place and amount.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Job 33 & 34:

Even Evil Can Result in Good

 

Elihu, the fifth person in this scene, continues with his observations. He has patiently waited while Job and his other three friends have debated the issue of Job’s sufferings and his integrity or lack of it and now he wades in.

While Elihu makes some good observations (we will see in a few chapters that even God did not rebuke him as He did the others), his understanding was still limited. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13.12:

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

There will always be things which we don’t fully understand. We see only a small portion of the tapestry of our lives, our families’ lives, and the events playing out around us. And even what we do see, we don’t see clearly. So when we go through a test or a trial or we read about some tragedy, we must filter it all through the goodness of God, the sovereignty of God, and the absolute holiness of God.

We hear of a child being molested, for instance, and we think “Why would God allow such a horrible thing?” But what if, as a result, that child got saved, and then she married a Christian man, and his life was impacted by her testimony, causing him to draw closer to God. Then when they had children, they raised them in a godly home and, as a result, their children were saved and many of the next generation and the next. Maybe a whole line of people was ultimately impacted by that horrible act, changing the eternal destiny of many. From an eternal perspective, would it be worth it?  Continue reading

“Could you be left behind?” July 19

 

left behind

Two people will be working together. One will disappear and the other will be left behind.  Men and women will be eating and sleeping and going about their business. Some will be gone in an instant and others left behind. How about you? Would you go or could you be left behind?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 34-36
Psalm 86.1-5
Proverbs 21.13-14
Acts 21.1-17

 

Could you be left behind?

 

2 Chronicles 34-36:

Mercy … but Then Judgment

 

In chapter 34 Josiah had become king at the ripe old age of 8, but what a king he was! Verse 3 says that he began to seek the Lord in the eighth year of his reign. He would have been just 16 years old. By the age of 20 he was putting a stop to idolatry. Next he began clearing out the temple and getting ready to reinstate the proper temple worship. In the process Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord.

Several things struck me about all of this. First, the Word of God was not being taught. People were just doing whatever seemed right to them. The second thing was Josiah’s response to the Word when it was read to him. He tore his clothes, a statement of intense mourning and repentance. He was repenting, not just for himself, but for the nation as a whole, because he realized just how far they had departed from the truth. He understood that they were under God’s judgment because of it.

So he sent Hilkiah and a group of men to meet with a prophetess named Huldah to seek further direction from the Lord. She reassured him that God had seen his righteous response to all of this and his willingness to humble himself and obey. So while judgment was coming, He would grant the nation a reprieve. In fact, it wouldn’t happen in Josiah’s lifetime. But after his death and by the close of 2 Chronicles, Jerusalem would be destroyed and the remaining people carried off to Babylon where they would remain in captivity for 70 years.

 

God is Withholding His Judgment Today

 

Today, much like in Josiah’s time, God is withholding His final judgment from the earth because of the presence of His faithful people, the Church! But one day …  Continue reading

“10 Secrets to Finishing Well” July 18

 

finishing well

Will you finish well or will pride and self-sufficiency show up when least expected? Find out what makes the difference.

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 32 & 33
Psalm 85.8-13
Proverbs 21.12
Acts 20.17-38

 

10 Secrets to Finishing Well

 

2 Chronicles 32 & 33:

He started out well, but …

 

Wow! What a great start Hezekiah had. In yesterday’s reading he put an end to idol worship, restored the priesthood, cleansed the temple, restored temple worship, and re-instituted the solemn feasts.

Now, in today’s reading, he is faced with an enemy from outside. When he realizes the Assyrian King Sennacherib was plotting to overtake Judah he sprung into action, working with his leaders and encouraging the people by reminding them of God’s faithfulness. Chapter 32.7-8:

7 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

And when the danger grew worse:

20 Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven. 21 Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there.

22 Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side.

What a great story of God’s faithfulness in response to Hezekiah’s prayers and his godly actions. But while Hezekiah had a great start, he didn’t finish as well.

25 But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem.

After years of seeing God’s faithfulness, Hezekiah began to think it was about him, his wisdom, his great abilities, and his heart was lifted up in pride.

But even after all that, when Hezekiah repented, God was merciful:

26 Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

Paul, on the other hand, finished well in spite of his great accomplishments and in spite of great opposition. Let’s take a look at the difference from our New Testament reading.

 

Acts 20.17-38:

Finishing Well

 

Here in chapter 20 Paul is saying goodbye to his beloved friends in Ephesus. He reminds them of the truths he has taught them, warns them to watch out for false teachers, recounts his example of ministry to them, and tells them he will face danger and hardship in the future.

Verse 24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

finish line

After all he had been through and knowing that he was going to suffer for the cause of Christ, Paul expressed his desire to finish well! What a contrast to so many of the Old Testament kings.

How did Paul help ensure that he finished well?  Continue reading

September 9 “An eternal perspective in dangerous times”

ISIS

It’s so important to keep our eyes on God and keep an eternal perspective in the dangerous times in which we live.

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 9 & 10
Psalm 106.1-5
Proverbs 25.1-2
2 Corinthians 1.1-24

Isaiah 9 & 10:

An eternal perspective in dangerous times

In chapter 10 God, through the prophet, tells the people to not be afraid of their enemies (vv. 24-25). Even though the nation, as a whole, was going to be destroyed and taken into captivity, His people should continue to have faith in Him. In the New Testament Jesus said:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10.28).

We live in a time when we may see our nation and the world go through very difficult times as I said yesterday, so it’s more important than ever that we keep an eternal perspective. First, because this world is temporal. We are to keep our eyes on the rewards we will receive in heaven and not expect everything to be “heavenly” here on earth.

But we also need to remember that God offers great comfort for the righteous as we saw in our September 6th reading. He will always be with His faithful remnant, just as He was in the past and as Matthew Henry said, the righteous shall have “divine supports and comforts, which shall abound as afflictions abound.”

Are you sure you will have those divine supports and comforts?

You cannot have peace and trust in God if you don’t first have peace with God. And peace with God only comes from knowing our sins have been forgiven.

There is nothing we can do to earn that forgiveness. No amount of good deeds. No amount of church attendance. Sacraments won’t do it. Nothing.

Instead God offer it as a free gift to those who will believe it and receive it (Rom. 6.23).

Continue reading

February 27 “Keeping an eternal perspective”

Have you been hurt, rejected, or persecuted for your faith? How should a believer respond to such treatment? Check out today’s New Testament reading and see how keeping an eternal perspective makes all the difference.

eternal perspective

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 23 & 24
Psalm 28.1-5
Proverbs 10.17-18
Mark 6.1-29

Leviticus 23 & 24:

Does He really “occupy” your life?

Chapter 23 gives instructions concerning the feasts that Israel was to celebrate. These feasts acknowledged and helped them remember God’s sovereign work in their lives, just as Easter and Christmas should do for us. That’s part of the tragedy with the commercialization of those holidays. Easter has become more about bunnies and eggs and less about Christ’s resurrection. Christmas is more about “what will I get” than remembering that the Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to be born in a stable as a little baby with dirty diapers, to grow to be a boy who respected and obeyed His parents, and finally, to be a man who was willing to be beaten, stripped and crucified for me and you!

Notice that the feasts and the sacrifices involved food: meat and grain, oil and wine, things used in the preparation of a meal. Remember that God repeatedly told His people He desired to dwell with them. In Revelation 3.20 Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” 1 Corinthians 6.19 says that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And in John 1.14 it says that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.”

That word “dwelt” comes from a root word meaning “to tent or encamp, to occupy (as a mansion) or to reside as God did in the Tabernacle of old. His dwelling with us speaks of protection and communion.

Does He really “occupy” your life? Or does He have to stay in the back room most of the time? Maybe He’s only with you on Sundays? Or maybe you say “no, He’s here all the time! I’m always talking about God and church!”

Then the question becomes, how are you doing at living your life in a way that makes Him pleased to be there? Are you going places, watching things, reading things, listening to things or saying things that grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in your “temple”? In other words, does your temple reflect the One who lives there? Continue reading