An Encouragement To Be A Dad (Happy Father’s Day!)

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Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Psalm 128:3

The role of a father is so important in the home.

God bless the fathers of the world today!

A friend told me once about an incident at her daughter’s house. Her son-in-law was really excited about finishing a book in a series of fiction novels. He was so anxious to finish the latest release that he stayed up most of the night, doing nothing other than read. Normally very interactive with his family, this night he did nothing but read. Seated comfortably in his favorite chair, his back was to the rest of the house. The first time he got up was well after midnight. He was startled to stumble over something on the floor — one of his sons. His son was sleeping behind his chair, just to be close to “Daddy”.

What an impact a father has on his family!

The statistics of fatherless homes are astounding. Sobering. Scary even. (Read some of them HERE.)

One of the greatest gifts I could give my boys when they were home was to simply spend time with them in the backyard. They loved to pass a ball together. I fully believe God used these times to mold their character and help shape them into godly young men.

Children love to spend time with their fathers. They long for male attention, male interaction, and a father’s approval. They learn from dad how much they can accomplish and how secure they are in this world. They learn to love in strength. They learn to take risks and get up after failure. And, so much more.

Fathers, please, don’t neglect your greatest responsibility. I know the world is demanding much from you these days. I know you are tired from the pressures and stress of life, but your family’s health depends so greatly on the important role you play.

I know men who would love to be a dad if God allowed and I know those who have lost their dad or never knew him. It’s a deep pain. I know moms who had to play both roles. I know those who have lost children. Can’t imagine. If you have the opportunity — or if you’re dad is in your life — take advantage of the blessing.

I’m praying for you! Happy Father’s Day!

4 Principles Learned from the Book of Esther

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I love the story of Esther. If you haven’t read it lately, you can do so HERE.

Here are the four principles I’ve observed from the story of Esther.

1. God has a special plan for your life.

Esther was placed in a royal position, not by chance, but for a purpose.

Reminds me of one of my favorite verses. Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plan’s his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

God didn’t make a mistake where He has you today. I think we spend too long in our life trying to figure out where God wants us to be or wishing we were somewhere else, instead of just allowing God to do something with our life where we are, while waiting for more to come.

2. Sometimes you will have to go against common sense, against what others advise, even against what you want to do in order to follow God’s plan.

Esther would have to approach the king, though she didn’t have permission. This could have meant certain and sudden death for her since it was even against the law to approach the king. Esther’s response: “If I perish, I perish!”

Sometimes God’s will makes perfect sense, as you examine your experience. (I wrote about that HERE.) That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t be required to take risks for God. The best things in life often come with the greatest risks. The degree of difficulty is not an indication that God is not in it. In fact, the opposite would be closer to truth.

3. The time to follow God’s plan is now.

I find Esther 4:14 interesting. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

We mostly consider that last part of the verse, but notice the “Who knows?” It’s a question. They weren’t sure. They knew she was in the position as queen. She had opportunity to see the King. They knew God wanted to save the people. They knew for whatever reason Esther had been made aware of the plan. But did they know for sure that’s what Esther was supposed to do? Apparently not! They went without being 100% certain. Who knows?

There will be times in your life when you’ve gathered all the information you can, you’ve prayed as well as you know how, you’ve sought Godly counsel; whatever you are doing is not sinful…but there is something inside of you that’s still not sure. You can sleep on it. That’s something I always do. Esther waited 3 days, but at some point you just have to muster the courage to move forward. Without all the answers, are you ready to step out and walk by faith? Don’t be afraid to allow God to determine the outcome.

4. Trusting in God completely brings great rewards.

Esther 8:17 In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

Esther saved a nation. Her obedience saved God’s people from destruction! The reward for obedience was even better than expected. Esther went before the king prepared for the worst case scenario…she got the very best! Many people became followers of God! The people were inspired by the faith of one woman and one man that everything changed in that nation.

It will always prove profitable in the long run to obey God. When others see us living in radical obedience; obedience that makes no sense, they’ll want some of what we have. The world around you is looking for answers; trying to figure out how to make life work. We may not have all the answers, but we know about a God who does.

When was the last time you asked, God what do You want to do through my life? Are you ready to walk by faith?

Three Steps to be an Expert Disciple of Jesus

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Jesus was specific about what it takes to be a good disciple. This isn’t a guessing game.

If we want to mature in our walk with Christ, we should pay close attention.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Here are three steps to be an expert disciple:

First, we must deny ourselves

Jesus is not saying here that we should not own anything. Or want nice things. He is asking us to line our desires with His desires — even when they conflict with our desires. He is asking us to prioritize our life — with God and others in mind. (The first and greatest command — and the second is like it.) In denying ourselves, we are to look to Jesus and not unto our own abilities. Trusting Him when we can’t find our way without Him. That apart from Him, we can do nothing. Deny our fears. Deny our inabilities. Deny our sinful temptations by the power of the Gospel. Deny me — for Him — knowing I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Second, we must take up our cross

I don’t have a cross. At least not literally. But Jesus is encouraging us to carry forth His cross. His agenda. His mission. We are to be the salt of the Earth. We are to spread the Good News. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, as others see Jesus in us. The message and wonder of the cross — the Gospel — is to be evident in us. We should love the unlovable. Forgive the ones who don’t deserve forgiveness. Extend grace. Attempt to bring reconciliation through Christ. His cross.

Third, we must follow Him

That may seem like the easiest, but it is perhaps the most difficult. It would be easier to write a bunch of rules of what a good little Christian should look like. But, we’d only mess that up into some sort of legalism. Michael Yaconelli once wrote, “Jesus said follow me’, not ‘Follow my rules.” I remember when I was younger playing “follow the leader”. The guy in front made all the moves. The object was to follow the leader exactly. It was usually easier in looks than in practice. Jesus is our leader and every day we need to mimic the Savior. It won’t always be easy. Culture will work against us. Some in the church will still want to write more rules. But Jesus following will always be best. It’s part of being a disciple. In fact, it IS being a disciple.

Which of these three steps do you most need to apply to your life today?

God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone)

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I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life.

How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more (trials) on you than you can bear”?

I challenge you to show me that in the Bible.

God WILL allow more than you can bear.

He will.

The problem I have with that lie is that — as innocently as it is given — even offered mostly as encouragement — is that it’s not encouraging at all.

The myth makes so many believers wonder why they can’t handle their problems — falsely believing they should be able to — because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could handle.

Than THEY could handle. And, that’s the key problem with that phrase.

Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life where is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it — through His Holy Spirit in us. God wants us to live holy — just as Christ who calls us is holy — and so He provided a Helper for us to resist temptation.

But, that verse has nothing to do with the amount of struggles we will face as believers.

Consistently, throughout the Bible, I read where God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear.

Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it. Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) 

Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure“.

David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see“. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life!

Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”(Oh how I identify with David there!) 

Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) It sounds like he was facing more than he could handle — on his own.

Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear? Absolutely! Positively!

If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle — at least more than I can handle alone. I can’t do it in my own strength. I can’t.

The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials — when they are bigger than our own strength can handle — is so that we have no where else to turn except towards Him. We are faced with one solution — and that is to realize Christ is our only hope! He is our solution.

After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

There it is! That’s the ticket! Paul recognized truth — that this overwhelming time of trouble — that he couldn’t handle alone — had caused him to focus more on the power of God and allow God to work His perfect will in Paul’s life.

And, that is God’s desired reality in our life. He wants us to fully rely on Him.

Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure?

Don’t believe that you can do it alone! You can’t! You must not try!

Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!” Did you get that point? Nothing!

Don’t try anything today without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak. He is available to help — if you will call upon Him! When we are at our weakest — He is strong!

(I wrote this post over 6 years ago. I have now edited it and brought it forward.)

It is Truly A Good Friday

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And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Two scriptures this Friday before Resurrection Sunday! Two scriptures to remind us!

You and I, the children of God, will never be forsaken by our Father God.

That’s why Jesus went to the cross!

Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!

Nothing!

While Jesus breathed His last breath all of Heaven was on edge. Never before had there been such an occasion. The Son, loved and adored by all the angels, but especially by the Father, was about to give up His life.

At the hands of an angry mob, but under the will and direction of the Father, Jesus had been mocked, beaten, bruised, and hung on a cross to die.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

He had placed upon Him the sin of all the world. The Bible said the wages of sin is death — and Jesus’ death was unlike any other. (I have often thought, He was more dead than any man had ever been — since His death was the result of all sins, past and present, which are ever committed.)

Perhaps worst of all, God the Father — perfectly Holy, as was the Son — had to forsake His Son.

Since God can allow no sin into His presence, and since Jesus had become sin, the Father had to forsake the Son. God turned His back on Jesus to avoid looking at His sin. Wow!

As a dad, I can’t imagine.

God foresook His Son, so that He would never have to forsake you and me.

Through the shed blood of Jesus, and through His bodily resurrection, you and I, by faith, by believing in Him, receive the eternal, permanent commitment.

Permanent commitment.

He will never forsake us, because Jesus paid the price at the cross!

No matter what you are going through — no matter how tough life seems right now — no matter what your circumstances — no matter what you have done — if you are a follower of Christ — God will never forsake you!

That’s good news today! And, that’s truly a Good Friday!

Encouragement to Take a Leap of Faith and Continue the Journey

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If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp. Judges 7:10-11 NIV

God looked into Gideon’s heart and saw that he needed some encouragement for the task ahead.

Gideon had already agreed to obey God. He had kept the three hundred men God had ordained for battle and sent the rest of the men home.

Still, God must have seen fear in Gideon’s heart, so God allowed Gideon to hear something, which gave him encouragement.

I deal with a lot of people on the brink of greatness for God. They are often pastors and church planters, missionaries, ministers or believers who know God is calling them to something, but one thing stands in the way — FEAR. I understand. Been there. Have several t-shirts.

Here’s a word of encouragement for you.

If uncertainty is causing you to fear your next move or to act upon what you believe God is calling you to do — learn a lesson from Gideon’s story.

Understand that God knows your strengths and your weaknesses. He knows where you most need encouragement. God ultimately wants you to trust Him completely, without having to depend on anything or anyone else, but He also knows you are still a work in progress. You’re still growing your faith. He will be patient. He is fully prepared to see you through your doubts to His glory. However long that takes.

Keep in mind that God’s ultimate goal is the complete control of your heart. Therefore, God often sends people your way to encourage you in your walk. He wants you to fully and completely trust in Him, so He will kindly allow you at times to see the good you are doing in ministry. God wants your complete obedience, so He occasionally allows you the privilege of seeing the direction He is taking you.

Many times, however, you and I are left to walk with God simply by faith.

I hope God sends you the encouragement you need today to allow you to move forward in obedience to Him, but if He allows you to wrestle with your own doubts today, may I be a voice of encouragement to tell you God is trustworthy? He proves faithful. Every time.

Step big into the awesomeness found in a life that is fully obedient to God’s will!

I wonder if Gideon could have read his story in reverse if he would have lived it all over again. Somehow I suspect He would!

Having a Gut-Honest Talk with Jesus

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Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38 NIV

I have been told that the stern is the strongest part of the boat. The Creator of the universe was asleep there.

The One who made the waters and was there when the waters were parted; who led Moses as Moses led the people through on dry ground — that same One had His head on a cushion — sleeping soundly.

The One who walked with three guys in the fiery furnace — in all of His current humanity — had decided He needed some rest.

The disciples, however, had apparently lost sight of the fact that, Jesus was not only human — not only needing rest — He was also God. Creator. Master.

The One who was asleep was never out of control. He was never without a plan. (It was His idea to get in the boat.)

I am reminded that I forget the same thing at times. I accuse Jesus of not caring. Of not being aware of my current situation.

No, I don’t say that — at least not very loud. I have too much respect for the Creator to do that. So, I just mumble it under my breath — or think it loudly — as if He who reads the heart doesn’t already know.

Have you ever felt like the disciples felt?

Have you ever wondered if Jesus cared?

Has the thought crossed your mind that Jesus might not even be aware of your current situation?

Have you thought, “Jesus, I see my problems, don’t you?”

Or maybe, if you are completely honest, have you ever felt something like, “Jesus, don’t you care?”

Wow!

Of course, our spiritual piety would never allow us to admit our weakness in this area fully. Could I as a pastor really admit that I doubted His love?

Could you?

Yet if I am honest, sometimes from my perspective, it appears that Jesus is nowhere to be found when I need Him most and I am left all alone to wallow in my sorrows.

Did I just say that?

I think the best thing we can possibly do in those situations is to be like the disciples and admit our frailty to God.

And, here’s the truth we may know but not always live.

When we get gut honest with Jesus about our insufficiency — is often when He is most willing to do what only He can do.

Do you need to have an honest talk with Jesus today?

7 Ways to Better Enjoy Reading the Bible

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I’ll never forget the day a young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book.

At first, I didn’t know what to say. Then I realize she was very serious.

“Well…no!”, I thought, but didn’t say.

The Bible is THE BOOK!

There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.

That wasn’t a new concern. I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.

I did suggest this girl could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3. YouVersion will even read the Bible to you. But then I told her I’d give her some more suggestions.

That’s what prompted this post. The reality is I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a believer is to fall in love with the Bible.

Here are 7 suggestions which may help:

Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you understand and process it. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading — even to help you enjoy it. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.

Version – Pick a version easy for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest HCSB, NIV or NLT for a more literal but very readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and casual reading. (I wrote a post on how to select a version HERE.)

Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Find a small group. That’s what church is great for at providing. Or find a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work. Studying the Scripture with a community helps energize you as you learn. When you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 6 for an example of this.)

Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm to study even more.

Timing – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day — or a week. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start. And, find the right setting. A comfortable chair, an open field — morning, noon or night — what works best for you. And, for as long as you can. Don’t put a time limit on it that adds more burden to the experience.

Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Use the Table of Contents. No shame. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful. And, when you aren’t certain, ask someone you trust who understands the Bible.

Relationship – The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s Author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author.
The greater your love grows with God the easier Bible reading becomes — and the more enjoyable. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!

What would you add to my list?

Facing Adversity and Being in God’s Will

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Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. 1 Samuel 19:1

David was minding his own business one day, tending sheep, when God called him to be a king. Talk about a God moment.

He didn’t ask to be king, but God said he was the one. He turned out to be a great king. Imagine that? God made a good pick! David had a heart modeled after God’s, according to the Bible.

So, since God had chosen to bless David in such a way, why do we later find Saul trying to kill David?

In fact, for some time Saul chased David. David hid out, all alone, which is the setting we find him in during the writings of many of the Psalms. David was God’s choice for king and yet he was placed in incredible adversity.

What does this tell us?

I think it says to me that sometimes God’s will for us will find us in the middle of trials in life.

That’s right. His will for our lives.

More importantly, I am learning that I cannot determine whether I am in God’s will based on whether or not my life is peaceful. Just because I have trials in my life, doesn’t mean I am not in the center of God’s will for my life.

I love how Alistair Begg once said it.

“We should not seek to confirm God’s will by the absence of adversity.”

Think about Biblical characters who faced great trials.

  • Abraham who faced the trial of leaving his homeland, then the years of infertility.
  • Moses wandered in the wilderness forty years.
  • Joseph was sold into slavery.
  • Ruth lost her husband.
  • Nehemiah had to fight off naysayers.
  • Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den.
  • John the Baptist was beheaded.
  • Paul wrote some of his best work in prison.

All of these great servants of God faced persecution, heartache, and trials beyond most of our imaginations. Yet, all them, during the adversity, were right where God wanted them to be, in the center of His will.

Yes, we would all like life to be peaceful. It is true that we can have inner peace and joy even in the middle of the storms of life. But God has not promised us a life free of problems.

In fact, we can be perfectly within His will and still be facing adversity. It is often through the process of life’s difficulties that God makes us more like Jesus., teaches us more about Him and ourselves. Our character is defined in

Trust Him today, regardless of your circumstances! He is always working a plan!

For more devotional thoughts, click HERE.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

This is a guest post by Jason Clark. Jason is a singer/songwriter, author, speaker, and pastor. Jason’s passion is to know the love of God more each day. He lives to see a generation step into their identity as sons and daughters of the King and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Prone To Love is available now: www.jasonclarkis.com

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Jesus pressed his disciples asking, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus responded, “…You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.”

Can you imagine how excited Jesus was about Peter’s revelation? Everywhere Jesus went, every breath He ever took, every smile, every tear, every gesture, every word was meant to reveal the Father. He said, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well (John 14:7),” and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me… (John 14:11)” Jesus life was an expression of the Fathers perfect love. But the disciples, and everyone else for that matter, never seemed able to really get it.

Then Peter has a revelation. He see’s and describes Jesus and in so doing meets His Dad!

What Jesus says next is amazing!

“And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.”

Don’t miss this. Peter, in relationship with Jesus, meets the Father, and then is given his identity.

“You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

Can you imagine? Peter is given a perspective of how the Father saw him, what he was created for – his life’s purpose.
Jesus wasn’t finished.

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:15-19)

Not only is Peter given his identity, he is given his inheritance. “No barriers Peter, no measurable limits. You will live from the measureless revelation of heaven. You will have all the authority I have Peter.”

“Keys to open any and every door.” Or you could say it this way, “Love trumps any and every need.”

If we want to know who we are, if we want to know what we are called to, if we want to know what we have access to, all we have to do is say yes to Jesus – the perfection of our Fathers good love.

One revelation of the Father brings more clarity regarding call, promise, identity, destiny, power and authority than a lifetime of anything else including bible study and good messages – “You didn’t get this from a book or teachers… I’m not suggesting bible study and good messages aren’t valuable, I’m simply noting they should always lead to Jesus and reveal the Father.

“Who do you say that I am?” It’s an invitation to hear and know the Father and it’s an invitation to discover our identity and inheritance.

And Jesus is still asking today.

And Jesus is still revealing the Father today. He is still releasing the keys to “any and every door.” He is still empowering sons and daughters.

Jesus, may we know You, and in knowing You know our Father, and in knowing our Father become sure as sons and daughters.