These articles are from various sources. Some are blog posts, others appeared in religious journals over the years. If nothing else, these writings are a trip down memory lane.
Devotional strength must be built up by constant, disciplined practice over time. Paul reminded his young friend Timothy of this when he said, “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15).
Unfortunately, many of the best-selling devotionals are popular not because they produce greater devotion to God but because they give the reader a sugary “high.” They aim to make the reader feel better, but they do little to stimulate significant spiritual growth.
Rather than thinking about God casually, meditation is a deep pondering of His truth. When we meditate devotionally, the facts about God are given more than a “passing glance.” We think about them intently and lovingly so their meaning can truly sink in.
God has never — in any age of the world — left people without any standard which must be adhered to, in both belief and practice. So “restoration” means (a) being reminded of the standard, and (b) making constant efforts to bring things back in line with it.
Is our salvation conditioned upon anything that we must do? What happens if we disregard what the Scriptures reveal of God’s will? These questions concerning “obedience” are important, and answering them requires an honest inquiry into the Scriptures.
If we are serious about Jesus today, we should want to know what He said about His purpose, so that if we come to Him at all, we will come seeking the things that were closest to the heart of His mission in the world. Here are three things worthy of our highest seeking.
(1) Why become a Christian? (2) How does one become a Christian? (3) What about the issue of “church”? All three of these questions are important. And for all three, we need accurate answers — from the Scriptures rather than personal opinion or popular belief.
Sometimes it helps to summarize a subject. Here is one way the gospel can be seen “in a nutshell”: (1) life and death (the problem), (2) death and life (the solution), and (3) dying with Christ (our response to God’s solution. Have you “died with Christ”?
Has the “invitation song” outlived its usefulness? Well, every one of us should be asking, “What am I going to do about this sermon?” This is what should be on our minds, and a well-selected song following the sermon can help us decide on our response.
Compared to our brethren in the first century, we’ve got it easy. There is so little price to be paid for being a Christian, most of us would say that we’ve had “a pretty good life anyway” even if it turns out there is no afterlife. Either way, we’ve got our bases covered. (Or do we?)
Unlike Paul who longed to go to heaven and be released from the difficulties of his earthly “tent” (2 Corinthians 5:4), we spend our lives making our tents as cozy and comfy as possible — and perish the thought that we might have to quit living in them anytime soon.
Let’s not define “encouragement” solely in terms of our feelings. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is going ahead and doing the right thing even when our feelings are failing us. So if we’ve been “encouraged,” that means we’ll do the right thing, even when it’s scary.
Hearing the usual comments made before the Lord’s Day contribution, a visitor who didn’t know anything about our services might reasonably conclude that this is not a very important part of our service and that, in fact, we are a little embarrassed about it ourselves.
As preachers (and writers), many of us are playing it safe. Like an athlete only trying to “keep from losing,” we seem to want nothing more than to keep from offending anyone. This was not the way Jesus taught, of course. He was willing to “throw deep, into heavy coverage.”
When it comes to love, are we putting the emphasis where Jesus put it? How can we talk about loving our neighbors without talking about evangelism? Having the “mind of Christ” is not about making generic sacrifices; it’s about sacrificing for the SPIRITUAL needs of those around us.
In my own life, there are three basic perspectives that I keep coming back to, time after time. Pondering at least one of these thoughts always brings my mind back to where it needs to be. I share them in the hope that they might help you.
“Shutting out the noise” is a practice that can be learned. Even if our minds are not used to being disciplined, we can start training them today. Little by little, we can acquire the ability to meditate on just one thing — and really let that one thing sink in.
When congregations change to just one service on Sunday, it often cuts by 50% the number of sermons the members hear. (And let’s be frank: that “all-in-one” service on Sunday morning does not contain the same two full-blown sermons that we used to be getting.)
I’m a bit uncomfortable with the number of “rebaptisms” that I hear about. I appreciate the sincerity that prompts an individual to take such a step, but I wonder if an improvement in our understanding might not help us. Think with me here . . . carefully.
Are we content with salvation or do we require salvation y más? How honest are we about what really attracts us? Is it the gospel itself, or is it the “extras”? How many of us would continue to do what we do (and worship where we worship) if the “extras” were taken away?
In this world, there are some heartbreaking difficulties to be dealt with. God is going to be victorious in the end, of course, and all will be well. But let us not demand a premature cessation of sorrow. For now, our path is one of PATIENCE rather than perfect happiness.
We must get out of our comfort zones and take the gospel to those around us. The Lord is not going to be pleased if we simply give up, retreat to the safety of our church buildings, and settle into a routine of doing nothing more than “motivating the tribe.”
The multi-dimensioned nature of truth is one reason we need to study all of the Bible. It is only by exposing our minds to every page of the Scriptures that we can avoid over-emphasizing one part of the truth at the expense of others.
The person who says he has no regrets is either lying or has not lived long enough in this world to make any mistakes. So the question is: what are we to do with the memories that bring us pain when we they resurface in our minds?
The Lord’s Supper energizes us, stiffens our courage, and sends us back into the world with a greater determination to endure. The joy is coming. The day of rest awaits us. The victory celebration is being prepared. But in the meantime, Jesus’ endurance shows us how to CONTINUE.
A limited view of God hinders our joy. When “the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1) is left out of our spiritual growth and when “the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9) is no longer what we yearn to be rescued from, our “joy” is going to be a poor substitute for the real thing.
At present, we are “works in progress.” In an important sense, growth in the resemblance of our character to that of Jesus Christ is what being a Christian is mainly about. Here are three ways we should look forward to being like our Lord in eternity.
We cannot remain in fellowship with God and neglect either His will for how He is to be worshiped or His command that we show mercy to others. But neither of these will get us to heaven if we forget the heart of the matter: repentance from our sins and reconciliation to God.
I would like to write more often about the church, but some say that would be offering more information on a topic most people would like to hear less about. I’ve been told that emphasizing “church” is impertinent (and even dangerous), so here’s my defense.
Hardship, sorrow, and penitence for sin clarify our perspective. So here is the truth we must accept and be thankful for: it is in the “valley” that our vision is able to see some things most clearly. And these truths are often the very ones we need to see the most urgently.
I’ll not be a good steward of the Word if, wishing to be polite and avoid painful consequences, I fail to communicate. Regarding the gospel message, then, I hope my prayer will always be the same as Paul’s: “that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
We spend a great deal of time running away from things we know are true. We deny these things, suppress them, and pretend they aren’t so — but all the while, the truth is still there waiting to be dealt with. Closing the blinds doesn’t make the sun go away.
I’d like to share a bit of good news here on the first day of 2017. We were notified by FeedSpot last week that WordPoints.com has been chosen for their list of the “Top 30 Devotional Blogs and Websites For Christians.”
Among those who question the legitimacy of religious faith, it is often said that such faith is simply “wishful thinking.” By way of rebuttal, I want to suggest another definition of faith: “reasoned confidence.”
The Scriptures constitute the only authority that will never fail us, and we need to meditate on the importance of letting the Bible make our decisions for us, always giving its principles priority in our thought processes.
Between where we are right now and where we will be in eternity, the path may take many unexpected turns, but it is enough to know that He is waiting for us at the end of the journey, and in the meantime He will provide.
During the new year, we will again be presented with daily opportunities to use ourselves actively for God’s purposes. What will we do with those opportunities?
Anything less on our part than a bona fide commitment to be faithful to truth — whatever that may entail, at whatever cost — and truth will disguise herself from us.
It’s not our ignorance that holds us back; it’s the false confidence that we’re farther down the road than we really are. If we see the need for growth at all, we don’t see it as urgent — and so we don’t work on it.
Not all have made the preparation necessary to be useful to the local congregation. Not all are sensitive and mature enough to know how best to help. Not all are ready to make the sacrifices of time, effort, and energy required to help. Are you?
Living in a culture where people have been led to believe they can “have it all,” we suppose that there must be a way to grow to spiritual maturity without doing anything other than what we’ve already been doing. But that is folly.
Personal responsibility simply means owning our responses to what has come our way and accepting this hard truth: our character today is the end product of what we’ve been choosing since we started making choices.
It is a plain fact that we do with our calendars and datebooks precisely what we have always said was sinful to do with our checkbooks: give the Lord nothing but what is left over.
Honesty about anything requires a love of truth. In order to be adequately honest with ourselves we must want to know the truth more than we want anything else, including the maintenance of a flattering self-image (Gal. 4:16).
At least one thing would seem to be clear: I can’t pour the first and the best of what I am into pursuing what has euphemistically been called the “American Dream” and still turn around and say I love the Lord with all my heart.
There’s no denying that the presence of words written by the actual hand of the sender gives the recipient a more tangible gift than an oral or a digital communication. The sacrifice of time and expense is no small part of what makes it meaningful.
Let us give 100% of our effort to everything we do, always. In private as well as public. It is irrelevant whether any other human being is looking. Let us do everything we do “as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:23).
Either the gospel is true or it is not. Whether it is true depends upon whether the apostles really did know Jesus as a person and see Him after His resurrection.
How can we say that we don’t have the time to share our faith when we spend so many more hours on things that, by everyone’s admission, are far less important?
Elders, if you go to the expense of bringing in a visiting speaker for a week (or even half a week), why not maximize your use of this speaker by using him more than just at the evening hour?
Gospel meetings should be a big deal. They provide us with a week of extra opportunities for worship, study, and reaching out to our friends and neighbors with the gospel. What could be more exciting? The folks in Hueytown, Alabama understand this!
My son Brock and his wife Brittany recently recommended a Bible reading program that I want to pass along to you. It’s a program developed by Grant Horner.
Atheism provides us with no consistent rationale for the kindly care of other creatures. If atheism is true, then nature is simply “red in tooth and claw,” and that’s the end of the story. We can’t say that any animal “ought” not to kill any other animal.
The real evidence of how important the Lord’s work is to us is found in two places: (1) our checkbooks, and (2) our schedule books. Whatever we might say, our real values are indicated by how we spend our money and how we spend our time.
In 1 John 2:16, I’m not sure which is the preferable translation — but any way you go, it is an undeniable fact that possessions tend to nudge us in the direction of pride. The more we have, the less we think we need God.
Jesus can’t merely be “tried.” A tentative testing of the waters of “religion” will not get the job done. He requires us to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) of discipleship, and then either commit ourselves to Him . . . or not. There is no safe middle course.
In this fallen world, the status quo is usually something that is not pleasing to God, and we — His countercultural people — need to be the instigators of rebellion against all that is not right.
I enjoy my part of the Lord’s work as much as anybody ever enjoyed their part. And I will stay and work as long as He deems it wise to keep me here. But as soon as He says, “Okay Gary, you can come home,” I will be thrilled.
For all its hardship, my life really is a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody that I know. No one has ever been more blessed. As B. B.King likes to say, “I love the life that I live, and I live the life that I love.”
I began in May of 1999, and so it has taken me 12 years to reach the halfway point. I hope to be finished by the time I am 70 years old in 2020, so that leaves me only 9 more years to complete the second half of the work.
If someone spoke a truth in a particularly apt way, then those words still stand, even if the messenger has fallen. The beauty and power of the truth do not depend on the personal faithfulness — or the eternal salvation — of the messenger.
Here are ten suggestions that will help you get more out of the time you spend studying God’s word. And if you think you’ve advanced to the point where you don’t need these tips, just ask yourself how often you really APPLY these to your own study. Be honest!
After we’ve done everything we are capable of doing, our plans still may not materialize. Even when we’ve done everything exactly right, the Lord may keep us from reaching our objective. He may have other (and better) plans.
There is no use denying it: life outside of Eden is a frustrating, dissatisfying business. God intends it to be that way; His desire is that this kind of world will turn us back in His direction.
We shouldn’t quit saying “God is good” when things turn out as we wish, but let’s learn to be just as thankful (if not more so) when God says, “No, I have in mind a path that will be better, although more difficult, than the one you have asked for.”
Faith says, “Go ahead and act in the direction of goodness and truth, even if it may not be clear to you how God will use those actions to accomplish His purposes. Just act in the confidence that He will use them.”
We lose out on a lot of valuable truth when the only sources we’re willing to learn from are those we think are “credible.” The most profitable question we can ask is not “Who said it?” . . . but simply “Is it true?”
I worry about some individuals and some congregations in the same way that I would worry about a football team that spent all of its time in the huddle. And to change the metaphor, we’re the salt of the world, and some of us need to get out of the salt shaker!
Help me, O Lord, to respond to Your grace by living soberly and righteously this whole day through, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. May Your grace have its proper effect upon me and make me more obedient to You, in the joy of gratitude for Your mercy.
What divorced people need is to be loved. They need those who will be agents of the Lord’s love in their lives. It may need to be tough love, depending on the divorced person’s need for repentance, but in all circumstances, it needs to be love.
I hope that somebody in the life of that disfigured woman at the truck stop will see her not “according to the flesh” but with eyes that see what God sees: a creature who means as much to Him as anybody else He ever made. I hope so. I pray so.
There are a number of “low-down, dirty” things a person might do to God, but to plead with God for deliverance from some serious problem, and then, after the deliverance has been granted, to go back to business as usual — unchanged — well, that is the worst.
When we are trying to grow spiritually and do the Lord’s work, there is only one way to avoid discouragement, and that is to do nothing with any risk attached to it. And unfortunately, that is how many people live their lives.
Why not give away some of the things that mean the most to us? If it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Ac. 20:35), that means that we get more joy out of giving something away than we would from keeping it ourselves!
In this world, there is no such thing as never stumbling. But there is one thing we can do: we can refuse to give up.
if there is something we know the Lord is going to expect us to have done, then we’d better get busy doing it. We need to work “like there’s no tomorrow” — for no tomorrow may turn out to be exactly what we get.
We need to see the whole of the Bible as well as the individual parts. Reading the entire Bible every year or two helps us to keep the big picture in mind.
We act as if the conquest of sin was complete. But it isn’t, and unfinished business will be just as disastrous for us as it was for Israel. We can’t defeat sin if we continue to dabble with it. It must be eradicated. Snares left in place will be our undoing.
Whatever plans we have for our spiritual growth, these can fall apart on days that are especially difficult: those that are unusually busy or stressful or disorganized. What should we do on these days?
Find somebody to share a daily Bible reading program with. Many such plans are available; just pick one and ask somebody if they will follow that plan along with you. You’ll think about that person as you read, and you’ll talk about what you are reading.
We need things that jog our memories: physical, visible objects that, when we see them, bring back to our minds the things that have started to slip away.
I have found that giving God the first hour of every day is an excellent practice. Not only does it honor God by giving Him the “firstfruits” of the day, but it is the most helpful thing I’ve ever done in regard to my own spiritual growth.
I’ve heard others say it jokingly, but I really did used to think the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” was a reference to the “Fish God.” It isn’t, of course. It means “seize the day,” and it encapsulates one of the most important principles in the Scriptures.
The willingness to pay the price and do the hard things is what separates those who really want to go to heaven from those who just think “it would be a nice idea.” So honestly, how much does it really mean to you? Are you willing to train for it?
While I was writing “Reaching Forward,” a book called “Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing” by Peter Kreeft came to my attention, and it has become one of my most beloved books of all time.
Commitments hold you true to your highest sentiments when “practicality” and “common sense” would otherwise tear them down, and commitments keep you steady on the battlefield when otherwise you would turn and run.
Devotional time is not only time set aside to think about God; it is time spent learning a greater devoutness to God at all other times. There is no more serious, or important, practice than devotional practice.