If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen the meme of the father passing parts of himself to his son. It’s a striking image to me. Would that more fathers gave the gift of themselves, piece by piece, to their sons (and daughters too!).

But it also struck me that God wants to do the same thing. After all, His Holy Spirit lives within every believer to enable us to bear the “fruit of the Spirit.” Every fruit is a attribute of God Himself. From Galatians 5, we see the fruits enumerated as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And how are we to manifest these attributes of God? The same chapter tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we won’t be walking in the flesh. Walking in the Spirit is done by faith. By believing God’s Word. By doing God’s Word.

In another place (2 Peter 1:4), we read, “he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” What does it mean to become partakers of the divine nature? It means, to me, exactly what the picture in the meme is expressing. We are having the life of God built into us piece by piece as we live by “His precious and very great promises.”

One thing we know about great fathers is that they always keep their promises. All the more so with our Heavenly Father.

God’s greatest gift to us is Himself. And the oddest–most unexplainable thing imaginable is that some people refuse God’s gift of Himself. They turn away from His presence in their lives, along with His peace, His overwhelming love, His grace and forgiveness…but most of all simply Himself.

Don’t ever let that happen to you. Receive the life of God today. Walk in the life of God today. ENJOY the life of God today.

One of the advantages for Christians on Facebook is the opportunity to have someone to pray for your needs as they arise, just as you pray for theirs. Daily we all seem to have friends who need prayer for an illness, financial stress, or on behalf of a loved one. I’m happy to oblige, realizing my own need of prayer. But recently it occurred to me how often we turn to prayer as a result of some difficult circumstance that has just happened or is happening now. What if, in addition to praying as a result of difficult circumstances, we prayed in such a way that our future circumstances would be the result of our present-day prayers? That is, why don’t we more often pray vigorously about our future days and years?

I believe prayer is the solid foundation on which a successful and happy future is built. That’s one reason for the existence of Magnificent Prayer, my popular daily devotional on prayer.

Prayer precedes great things. Prayer births life-changing events. Prayer moves the hand of God on our behalf. Wouldn’t you like to be assured that God not only can handle your present difficulties, but can also arrange your future in such a way as to bring about blessing in your life?  Through personal prayer you can lay down a pathway for the will of God to move you in His perfect direction for you. Don’t leave your future to “chance.” Pray your future years and fruitfulness into existence now–and every day from here on out.

Pray earnestly for open doors of personal ministry. Pray for your family. Intercede for revival. Cast a strong net of prayer over your every future circumstance. Pray your own life forward.

Make this a priority. Persist in prayer. Never give up. Be strong in prayer. Make circumstances the result of your prayers, not merely the cause of them.

 

Like many of you I’ve been concerned about some of the current events shaping our world and how they might affect us in the future. As a Christian, I’m not worried about what’s to come, but I do want to be prepared. So today’s blog post is written to me, but you’re free to eavesdrop if you think it might speak to you as well.

Some of us are old enough to remember when Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was a mega-seller back in the 1970s. One of the benefits of its popularity was that it gave readers a chance to see current events in the light of Biblical prophecy. Several decades have passed since the book was published and we’re all still here. No rapture yet. To be honest, I’m not a prophecy scholar. I don’t know how the future is going to play out. I don’t have the maps and charts that pinpoint the timing of Christ’s return. But what I do know is that every generation of Christians from the days of the early church right up to the present needs to be aware of the times in which they live and prepared for come what may.

This post, then, is a look at what I mean by “prepared.” And the following 12 admonitions, I believe, are true no matter what happens. Even if Christ’s return is a thousand years away or if we’ve totally misread Bible prophecy, these still hold true for us today.

  1. Don’t be fearful about the future. Someone has wisely said that the fear of the Lord is the fear that drives away all other fears. If we’re living right, if we do fear the Lord, then we can face the future full of faith, not full of fear.
  2. Don’t rely on any human person (or political party) to pull us out of a national or world-wide decline. No man or woman has that power. If you’re trusting in a man to turn things around, you’re looking in the wrong direction.
  3. Live clean. If you’re still playing around with sin, you’re wasting time and setting yourself up for an ultimate failure. Get rid of the sin in your life. God wants to use you, but you must discard the sins, ambitions, desires for worldly success that are short-circuiting your usefulness.
  4. Keep diligent in prayer. Pray for national (and personal) revival. Though no man or woman can bring us out of a decline, God surely can—and desires to do so. Historically, revivals were preceded by much prayer. Get to praying. Serious praying.
  5. Be doing what God’s called you to do. Find out your mission and get on with it.
  6. Stop “going to church” on a drop-in basis.  Instead, find and become part of a serious and committed fellowship of believers who know you as well as your family knows you. In short, become part of a close fellowship where you can serve and grow in Christ. In the tough times ahead, you will need them and they will need you. (I hope I don’t need to add that you should stay away from ingrown cultish groups, no matter how “committed” they are to each other).
  7. If you’ve been a fence-sitter regarding your faith, the time for that is over. Your present circumstances may look rosy. Your life may be a peak…but that can all end suddenly. Now is the time to commit or recommit. It’s time to buy oil for your empty lamps (see Matthew 25:1-13).
  8. If you’re a parent, be a diligent parent. Feed your children positive influences and guard them from the destructive (often openly evil) influences in the media and elsewhere. Be aware of the occult overtures to you and your children in contemporary society. Teach them about heroes of the faith from the past. Do they know who Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Jim Elliot, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Watchman Nee were?
  9. Be prepared physically and practically as well as spiritually. Physically, this means keeping your body healthy and performing well. Practically, it also means taking appropriate measures to have extra food and supplies on hand in case of an emergency. Be prepared.
  10. Stay current with the news. Know what’s going on. Watch what’s happening through Biblical eyes. Be discerning. Recognize deception when you see it. Applaud truth when it prevails.
  11. In the next few years, expect an increasing attitude of persecution against Christians to become mainstreamed. Currently, we still have much freedom in America, especially compared to Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, I think many of us sense that America is changing rapidly and not for the better. Persecution has happened many times before in world history and it’s sure to happen again. Be willing to be called names and endure reviling for your faith. Expect attacks on the Bible and possibly physical attacks against churches.
  12. Despite all the challenges ahead, stay positive. Be a light. Affirm your friends and loved ones. Even if things look dire (nationally or personally), don’t become a fearful Gloomy Gus. God is in control…always. Make your motto “Faith, not fear.”

If all of the above sounds foolish, just delete it and move on. If it makes sense, share it with others. I’m honestly concerned enough about “faith, not fear”  that I’m working on a book proposal that will tackle this topic at greater length.

As a Christian who is now in Act III of the play that is his life, I find myself recalling some of the many highlights of my almost 50-year walk with God. Scenes, if you will, from Acts I and II.

Two recent events have shown me that I’m not the only aging Christian buoyed by “precious memories” as the hymn has it.

The first event occurred a few weeks ago when Bev and I attended a birthday party for another aging Boomer who also recalls the early years of her walk with Christ and how glorious they were. At her party, we sang songs only Boomer Christians will remember. For example: “Pass It On,” and “He’s Everything to Me” (see video below and sing along…if you remember). Every song we sang took me back to those early years and the joys I’ve known through the decades. (Odd that we didn’t sing “Kumbayah” 🙂 ).

Then just the other night I was with a friend who remarked that he has now been a Christian for more than forty years. He had come to Christ from a life of “sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll” back in the early 1970s. He told me lately he too has been recalling with joy the memories of his four decades in Christ.

Yes, there have been sorrows as well as joys. For me, it was bankruptcy, cancer, two or three bad church experiences, plus the normal struggle with sin we all have. Ups and downs, for sure. But in spite of those occasional sorrows, what a life I’m living! (More than once I’ve caught myself saying “What a life I’ve had!” as if it was over. It’s not. More memories to come in Act III).

My thoughts turned next to Christians who, for whatever reason, don’t enjoy happy memories from the past. I’ve been thinking particularly of Boomers who perhaps came to Christ during the Jesus Movement, but have since cashed in their Christianity chips, abandoned the faith, and now are no longer able to trace the workings of God through life’s events.

I’ve also been thinking about twenty- and thirty-somethings who were raised as Christians, but somewhere along the way ditched their faith entirely or perhaps just put it on the backburner of their life while they “enjoy” the world for a while. What can I tell them? How can I convince them that the most precious memories they will recall in old age will be memories of how God worked in their life down through the decades? How can I tell them some of my most regrettable memories are those that recall the days when I almost walked away from the life God had for me?

Whatever your age now, I hope you see the hand of God working in your life each day and that occasionally you recall those steps cumulatively, seeing God’s design for your life as He meant it to be. Even if you’re in Act III yourself, there’s still time for the play to have a happy ending. Still time for God to create precious memories for you.

Here then is one of life’s greatest lessons: You cannot plan a better life for yourself than the life God wants to give you. Live that life.

I’m at the age where I’m taking my physical health more seriously than I used to. I’m taking several beneficial supplements, exercising daily, and trying to eat better. Paying closer attention to my physical self has caused me to consider the care—or lack of care—that I give my spiritual self. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that being busy has often caused me to neglect the health of my spiritual nature.

I realize many people deny the existence of a spiritual nature within themselves and so for all intents and purposes they remain spiritually dead. They live for the joys they can find in this present physical world. But denying their spiritual nature has no more validity than a person who denies they have a physical or psychological nature. It’s there whether we realize it or not.

Others may have realized their spiritual nature and tried to feed it with the various spiritual counterfeits available—new age teachings, the practice of ancient superstitions such as astrology or the reading of palms or consulting mediums and such. There’s no shortage of spiritual poisons to choose from.

Then there are those who have been born of God and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In short, they are spiritually alive to God.

But spiritual life, like physical life needs nourishment. It needs regular good food. That’s where I find myself often lacking. And the reasons are almost always the same. Lack of time, lack of faith, and just plain old dullness of spirit caused by my malnutrition.

As you may have surmised, this present blog post is a result of a recent spiritual self-examination that has confirmed my drifting back to the shallows of spiritual life. It happens to all of us. When we don’t feed our physical body, it becomes weak and susceptible to sickness. Same with our spiritual life.

How is it with you? Is this dullness of spirit leading you back to the shallows too?

First, let me ask you if you’re aware of your very real spiritual nature? Have you had an encounter with God through Jesus Christ? Are you indwelt by His Holy Spirit? If not, that’s your first remedy. Go to my home page and click on the section called “An Invitation.”  If you will follow through by accepting God’s invitation to you, that will begin your spiritual life.

If you’re already a Christian, but, like me, feeling a bit malnourished due to the neglect of your spiritual nature, let’s take some good supplements, exercise a bit, and consume better spiritual food. Here are a few of things I’m going to do in the next few days and weeks. Join me if you will.

  1. Every day I’m going to refresh my spirit by deliberately spending several minutes dwelling on, pondering, and marveling at the vastness and the goodness of God. I’m going to consider His magnificent attributes, one by one. I know from experience that doing this will lead me to number two.
  2. Contemplating the goodness of God invariably leads one to praise. As we consider His power, His grace, and His sovereignty in our lives, we can do nothing other than praise and worship Him. If doing number one doesn’t lead to number two, we’re doing number one wrong.
  3. One special topic to thoroughly ponder over and over is God’s overwhelming love for us. Perceiving the intense love God has for us is in itself a life changer and if we do this one right, it will also lead us to more of number two.
  4. Next, I’ll thumb through the book of Psalms and read a few psalms aloud, pondering as I go. (That will likely lead back to number two as well!).
  5. Then, knowing that spirituality without feet is pretty much useless, I’m going to prayerfully consider how I can live out my faith by loving others. Not just in word or thought, but in practical ways.  Jesus said that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. When we find ourselves not giving, that’s a sure sign of spiritual malnutrition.  The first part of James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” That’s spirituality with hands and feet. I think it’s also a necessary nutrient for good spiritual health.
  6. The second half of James 1:27 says, “…and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” If I’m honest, I’ll admit that part of my spiritual malnutrition comes from having been too attached to the things of this world. When we look to our spiritual nature, we must also look away from our attachment to this present world. The two are simply not compatible, nor can they be. Ever.
  7. Finally, there is prayer. Talking to God. Not just sending up short bullet prayers, but getting on our knees (or prostrate on the floor) and communing quietly (or occasionally loudly) with God. Don’t hurry. Don’t watch the clock. Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t fall asleep. Just talk to God and listen to God. Let God have all your burdens. Relax in His presence. Think less of yourself and focus more on Him. Let prayer also lead to praise and worship. You might read another psalm. Sing or speak the words to a favorite hymn. Stay in God’s presence until you sense you’re finished. If you do this regularly, you’ll look forward to this time because you will be becoming more spiritually alive and God’s presence will be all the more real.

If we do these things, I’m convinced our lives will change. To be spiritually healthy is as important–or more so–than being physically healthy.

Let’s do it!

Many Christians continue to struggle with temptations, painful memories, and past adversities that should have been left behind years ago. Why is this? I think the reason is, in part, their faith is not a present faith, it’s a future faith, even though they may not describe it as such. Their faith is that “someday” in the future God will remove this temptation, painful memory, or troubling issue. And they go on to think this year after year.

The reality is that faith takes hold of God’s promises now. At the point of conversion, we have all the tools and gifts and “victory” that we need for the rest of our lives. True, for most of us it takes time to walk out the promises of God in our daily life. But we should never imagine that we will overcome “someday.” We must realize that we presently have what we need (the promises of God) to overcome our failings to live as we should.

Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) says it this way in her classic The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life:

 

But this faith of which I am speaking must be a present faith. No faith that is exercised in the future tense amounts to anything. A man may believe forever that his sins will be forgiven at some future time, and he will never find peace. He has to come to the now belief, and say by faith, “My sins are now forgiven,” before he can live the new life. And, similarly, no faith which looks for a future deliverance from the power of sin, will ever lead a soul into the life we are describing. The enemy delights in this future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical results. But he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dares to claim a present deliverance, and to reckon itself now to be free from his power.

What persistent sin or memory or tragedy from the past is still part of your life; still dragging you down? Let it go. Let it go as you take God at His Word.

Your assignment: Find a promise from God that pertains to your issue. Take that promise personally. Pray it, memorize it, hold God to His Word.

If you have trouble finding a promise, my book Power in the Promises can help.

Don’t wait another day to live out “present faith.”

“We are made for larger ends than Earth can encompass.
Oh let us be true to our eternal destiny.” Catherine Booth

This is the sixth and final blog post in a series wherein we look at six areas of concentration to focus on in 2016. This final area is perhaps the most important of all: Living out our destiny in Christ.

As I age, I’ve become more and more dismayed by two tragedies. One is when young twenty- and thirty-somethings who were raised as Christians either depart from the faith entirely, or put Christ on the back burner of their life. The second tragedy is when I reconnect with friends from the past who are my age and who, like the young ones just mentioned, have also walked away from their destiny or set it aside for lesser things.

What a waste. Really, a waste of happiness–the true happiness that comes from living a fruitful life in Christ. I don’t mean to judge these people. I just feel bad for them. They’ve made a choice that, in my opinion, leads to less of a life than they could have in Christ. They’re missing out on a great adventure…and for what?

Every single one of us has a divine calling that will reap happiness for us in this life and beyond. I don’t want to miss a single second of God’s best for me…though I know I often do. My procrastination or unbelief or tendency to become distracted often sidetracks me. And yes, sometimes my own sin sidetracks me. Ugh!

Catherine Booth, like her husband William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, didn’t miss out on God’s destiny. Today, a century later, their ministry still flourishes, still rescues the wounded, still bears good fruit. Oh to have a legacy like that!

Well, I’m not William Booth. Whatever legacy I have will be mine, not his and not yours. But Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that we all do have specific “good works” to live out while in this mortal body.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God prepared our destiny before we were saved…before we were born. It’s ours to claim and to live out.

So my final “don’t” for 2016 is: Don’t delay in living out the plan God has for you. Not for one solitary second!

Do pray and look hard for how God wants to use you in 2016 and beyond.

Be that person.

To recap this six-part series:

Move ahead without guilt and shame.

Pray in faith.

Do not fear.

Walk in the Spirit.

Resist the enemy.

Fulfill your destiny.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” Corrie Ten Boom

The fifth of six areas I’m paying more attention to in 2016 is recognizing and dealing quickly with distractions from the enemy of my soul. As Corrie says, it’s the first step to victory in my life…and yours.

Therefore my “don’t” for the new year is: Don’t allow Satan even a foothold in 2016.

A foothold such as a temptation to sin, a bad attitude, a root of bitterness, an evil imagination are all effective wedges Satan uses to open the door to wider engagement. None of us need that. It only stifles our spiritual life and can lead us back to the slavery we once knew before we were Christians.

To engage effectively, we need to be aware of Satan’s designs. As Paul wrote:

…we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Corinthians 2:11, ESV).

Ask yourself: are you ignorant of Satan’s designs for your life? You can be assured his designs for your 2016 are meant for your discouragement and defeat; never for your good.

So what is our “do” for 2016? How about a Scripture:

Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

How do we resist the devil? One effective way is to use the Word against him.

For instance, when he brings a spirit of depression your way, resist with a reminder that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Or how about Paul’s admonition to: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).

Know this: For every design of Satan, there is a remedy. Some of these remedies are found in Ephesians 6, a good chapter to memorize.

I’d also suggest we all practice living by God’s promises in 2016. My book Power in the Promises can help with that.

Don’t let the enemy bring you down in 2016.

Next time, the sixth and final entry in this series.

“The flesh is a worse enemy than the devil himself.” Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)

This is the fourth in my series of six areas of life we (I) need to be mindful of as we enter 2016.

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know what I mean by “the flesh.” Let’s call it that part of us that refuses to submit to God, but wants to indulge itself, no matter what the consequences (and they are often severe consequences).

As brother Isaac Ambrose said centuries ago, “the flesh is a worse enemy than the devil himself.” The apostle Paul put it this way: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18 ESV).

Sound familiar? We want to do right, but we end up doing that which we don’t want to do. Some would say this is merely a lack of self-discipline, but I think it’s much deeper than that. All self-discipline does is put a leash on the flesh. For most of us, that’s not good enough.

The remedy most of us try—and fail at—is asking God to change our flesh. We want God to zap us into a life of victory over the flesh. Some Christians pray this way for years–and through many tears. Of course, this only leads to depression and frustration when God doesn’t do as we ask and change or subdue our fleshly appetites.

No, God has one—and only one—remedy for the problem of man’s flesh. But that one remedy has two parts. The first part is found one chapter prior to my quote above from the apostle Paul. In Romans 6:5-14 (NKJV) we read:

If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The exhortation here is to “reckon” as true in our life what God says is true. We ARE dead to sin. God has included us in the death of Christ and in His resurrection as well. Accordingly, Paul tells us to live out in our life what God says is true. Reckon our selves (our flesh) as dead to sin. And further, to reckon ourselves “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The second part of God’s ONE remedy to the problem of the flesh is found in Galatians 5:16 (ESV). Most of you know the passage:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

The two-part remedy God offers for freedom from the power of our flesh is: 1) Reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ (no matter how we feel) and 2) Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh.

That’s God’s way to victory…and it’s His ONLY way.

So here’s the challenge: DON’T bring your fleshly self into 2016. DO reckon yourself dead to sin, alive to Christ, and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

This is the third in a series of six blogs for the new year in which we consider some challenges we all face as we live out our faith in 2106.

First, we talked about not dragging guilt or shame into the new year, but embracing grace and forgiveness (including to ourselves). We next talked about believing prayer as opposed to living under the cloud of doubt.

This time I want to continue talking about faith, but not as it relates to prayer. Instead, I want us to see faith as a better response than fear to the challenges of 2016 and beyond.

Let’s face it. Most believing Christians are discerning of the times in which we live. We have some idea of what’s coming in the years ahead. We watch the news in amazement that so many people can’t seem to connect the dots with what’s happening and Bible prophecy.

But even as we discern the times, we can be tempted to fear the future. All the more so as we understand that unless revival comes to America, times will get even harder for Christians. More anti-Christian sentiment, more glorification of evil, more laws restricting Christians, more social pressure to conform to this world, more ridiculing of our faith, more violence directed at Christians. That’s a lot to fear…if we’re not walking in faith.

Yes, all these trends can cause us to fear, but needlessly so. In the first place, though we have a pretty good idea of what will happen in the future, we sometimes allow our imaginations to come up with “suppose this happens” or “suppose that happens.” These supposes are usually wrong and only serve to increase our fear of the future. More than a century ago Hannah Whitall Smith, author of the classic The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life wrote:

Our lives are full of supposes. Suppose this should happen, or suppose that should happen; what could we do; how could we bear it? But, if we are living in the high tower of the dwelling place of God, all these supposes will drop out of our lives. We shall be quiet from the fear of evil, for no threatenings of evil can penetrate into the high tower of God.

What are some of the supposes we might fear in 2016? For those of us getting older, health is one area where we can become fearful. Financial health is another area. The rise of Christian persecution in this country—though mild now compared to what our brothers and sisters in foreign lands are going through—-is still, I believe, on the rise.

Despite all this, our secret weapon in the day of trouble—no matter the source of the trouble—is our bold faith. As Hannah Whitall Smith says, “if we are living in the high tower of the dwelling place of God (see Psalm 91), all these supposes will drop out of our lives.”

So the “don’t” here is “Don’t fear the future.”

The “do” is face the future with bold faith. Have faith in God for your health, finances, food, safety, and all else. As Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

This “do” is for now. Don’t wait until harder times come to live by faith. Be faithful now and you’ll be faithful then.

Here are two powerful Scriptures to claim this year:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10 ESV).

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV).

Next up: Dealing with our flesh in 2016. “The flesh is a worse enemy than the devil himself” (Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664).