The Real Problem…

We’ve never seen anything like it! I could be addressing the global pandemic, political polarization, racial tension, unfettered anarchy, spiritual apathy, antagonism toward the church and Christianity, or a number of other topics. Everyone has opinions about how to solve our problems, but the source of our trouble goes deep—real deep.

The real problem is a spiritual one! The only thing that will change people’s hearts is the Heart Changer—Jesus Christ. It must start with the church, however. I don’t think there are too many Christians out pillaging the land in the name of social reform, but a lot of Christians have hidden, or not so hidden, prejudice in their hearts toward other races. A lot of us struggle with political hatred toward people in a party different than the one with which we most closely associate. We need a sweeping movement of God, and it has to start with the church.

Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I hate to say it but the fault of spiritual deprivation in our land falls squarely on followers of Jesus because we haven’t been following Him quite as we should. For many years, we haven’t been the salt and the light Jesus called us to be, and we are now reaping the consequences of our negligence. As we prepare to celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s celebrate it on our knees. Let’s get our hearts right first as followers of Jesus and then pray for our land. Let’s put some feet to our prayers and repentance and work to build relationships with people who are not like us in some way, and let’s openly share the wonderful message of the gospel with people who are hungry for real change. Our country is dying to know Jesus.

What Do You Recommend?

Many are “sheltering at home,” but what should we be doing during this time? God wasn’t surprised by the coronavirus, and He wants to use this time in your life. This is not a parenthesis in your life. No one hit pause. Actually, God wants to use this unusual experience to grow you to be more like His Son. Not only can we accomplish some things around our home we’ve been putting off, but we can also work on our own personal growth and spiritual life.

We should focus on several activities that will help us to grow. I urge you to spend time in prayer, reading your Bible, worshipping the Lord, and playing with your family. I also encourage you to read books. You will find many wonderful books God can use to feed your soul, speak hope to your circumstances, develop your mind, and lead you to laugh.

A member of my church suggested I put together a list of good books to read while many stay at home. I read a lot of books on many different topics. Although some would interest you, others would not be beneficial. I will share with you a list of a few books I think would be helpful to anyone, regardless of their unique interests.

I’d love to hear back from you on additional books you’ve enjoyed that I didn’t include on my list. I’m creating a list of “The Ten Books Everyone Should Read” for a book I’m writing now called “How to Cultivate the Fruit of Success.” Please share with me your favorites.

I read a lot more nonfiction books, so my list of fiction doesn’t come from a hefty repertoire of books. I’m also confident I’m forgetting a title that’s awesome, but I’ll do my best. So as not to make this blog too long, I’ll share my suggestion of nonfiction books today, and I’ll write about a few fiction titles in my next blog. I’m including links to Amazon where you can read more about them, but I’m sure they’re available from any retailer that sells books. After the list, I’ll share a few thoughts about each book.

Nonfiction Books:

Knowing God by J. I. Packer is possibly my favorite theological book on the character and nature of God. It’s a little heavier book to read, but it’s well worth the effort. Every Christian should read it. Prodigal God by Timothy Keller was eye-opening for me when I read it a few years ago. It has a powerful message about God’s nature and our reaction to His immeasurable love! Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozier is also an excellent book on God’s nature and easy to read as a daily devotional.

You will find many wonderful books on living the Christian life. One of my favorites is Joseph Stowell’s Following ChristI found that Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham presents one of the clearest pictures I’ve seen of what it means to live the “crucified life.” Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of God will challenge you to live the Christian life faithfully as you read a true story of believers who have given everything to follow Jesus. God has used Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life (the new edition is called What on Earth am I Here For?) in a phenomenal way to lead people to trust Christ and to consider what it means to live out your purpose.

One of my favorite books on spiritual growth is John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted (I’ve enjoyed every book of Ortberg’s I’ve ever read). I loved Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline many years ago and was profoundly impacted by it, and I found Ortberg’s book to make the idea of spiritual disciplines a lot more accessible. I recommend both books. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala will lead you to celebrate the power of God and long for a fresh movement of God in your own life. A friend recommended I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I read it after hearing Mark speak at a conference. It’s a powerful book on prayer.

It would help everyone to read Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a practical and applicable book on personal growth, life management, and discipline. You’ll want to study the principles and determine how you will live them out in your life. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover will change your life and guide you into debt-free living. Finally, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis should be read and studied by every human on the planet. It offers a powerful presentation of the meaning of Christianity.

I’ve written a few books you may also find encouraging. Some are a resource for spiritual growth and will help you grow a passionate relationship with Jesus. I’ve also written a few books to help writers be more effective as an author. You can find them described here

I’d like to hear from you. Please share in the comments titles of additional books that you think should make the list. Happy reading.

15 Days of Faith – Day 15

Choosing faith is a life-long pursuit. We sometimes relegate Christianity to only a choice in time. Don’t get me wrong. It begins with a choice in time, and once you choose Jesus, you are His. However, I want us to understand that Christianity is also a daily choice of following Jesus. Salvation has not only a past tense where we were saved from the penalty of sin, but it also has a present tense where we are being saved from the power of sin in our lives and a future tense where we will one day be saved from the presence of sin.

Faith can also be viewed in three tenses: we had faith that saved us, we have faith that is delivering us, and we will have faith that will transport us into the presence of Almighty God.

How do we keep choosing faith? First Timothy 6:11-12 offers the solution: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Look at the three commands of this passage: flee, pursue, and fight. Flee from something that is hindering your walk with Christ, pursue everything that strengthens your relationship with Christ, and fight anything that is threatening your victory in Christ.

Do you see a common thread with each of the three commands? Flee, pursue, and fight all call for intensity, effort, and commitment. If you’re going to really trust Jesus, you need to be all in! Just testing the water doesn’t work in Christianity. Giving God one day a week or two days a month is not real Christianity. True faith, saving faith, is 110%.

I urge you to jump into the deep end of the pool. Go after Jesus with everything in you, and you’ll find that He’s already given everything to go after you.

I share some more about this topic on today’s 15 Days of Faith video.

15 Days of Faith – Day 13

The Bible uses the word “sovereignty” to talk about God’s reign as the King over our lives and over the world. God is the one true King. Colossians 1:16-17 refers to God’s supreme, sovereign place in our lives and the world:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Since God is the Sovereign King, we should always submit to His authority. This calls for faith and obedience. Sometimes, our faith is challenged, but we should trust Him anyway. In today’s 15 Days of Faith video, I share some thoughts about the Old Testament story of three young men who were challenged to trust God even when it could mean their deaths.

As we consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is your understanding of total trust challenged? I mention in the video that these three young men showed total faith in God’s ability and total trust in God’s agenda.

We know that God is able, right? He’s God! What does it mean to trust God’s agenda? Well, it means that God is God and you are not. It means that since God is sovereign, and you’re not, that you will follow God’s agenda and not your own. Following God’s agenda can be challenging. It shouldn’t be challenging because we understand that God knows everything, and His ways are always right and best. 

Why do we ever prefer our own agendas? Great question. The problem is that I don’t know the answer other than we’re stubborn and obstinate. Maybe I should throw in the word “sinners” as well.

I think this global pandemic is calling us to a closer walk with God. Will you choose to submit to God’s sovereign rule over your life today?

You can watch today’s video by clicking this link.

15 Days of Faith – Day 12

Have you ever turned a lemon into lemonade? We’ve all heard that saying before, I’m sure. It’s the process of taking a bad situation and turning it into something good.

Mark 2 tells the familiar story of a group of friends who brought a paralytic to Jesus to be healed. The thing that probably sticks out in the story is the determination of the friends. The crowds were thick around Jesus, and they couldn’t get close. They went up onto the roof, dug out the dirt and sticks from which the roof was made, and lowered their lame friend down to the feet of Jesus.

The Bible says that Jesus was amazed at the friends’ faith and at first, responded to their faith and not that of the paralytic.

In today’s video, I challenge all of us to think about how our faith can bring about good in other people’s lives. Faith can be contagious. How can yours be contagious?

Think also about those friends. They were determined. They went to a great effort to help their friend be healed. What effort will you go to so that your friends can encounter Jesus during this time? They may be more open to spiritual things, and your effort could be the very thing that leads them to seriously consider God’s offer of grace.

How will your faith be so contagious that others are infected by it?

Here’s a link to today’s video.

15 Days of Faith – Day 9

God is unique and creative. He doesn’t always do things the same way, and He doesn’t usually do things the way I would do them. Has God ever surprised you with a strategy to solve a problem? Throughout history, God has used unique ways to address challenges. I spoke of one of those times in today’s video, and the story is recorded in Joshua 6. It was God’s strategy to defeat Jericho. God told Joshua: “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also, seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets” (Josh 6:3-4).

You’re probably familiar with the story and know that God’s plan worked. The walls fell down and Jericho was defeated. Why did it work? It worked because God did it. God gave Joshua a crazy strategy because He wanted Israel to know that He would always fight their battles for them.

This is an important word for us today. God will always fight our battles for us. We can trust Him. This truth means that we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and follow Him. Trust Him even when we don’t see how things will turn out. God may not address a situation the way we would but trust Him anyway. God’s got it! God can handle it! Trust in the Lord.

15 Days of Faith – Day 4

What does it mean to fix your mind on something? Have you ever had a problem you needed to solve, and you thought about it continuously throughout the day? I remember a serious problem I had a few years ago, and there seemed to be no solution. I pondered the issue for days. I awakened one night with the solution. For starters, I believe God gave me the solution, but it all came about because my mind was fixed upon it (and I prayed fervently about it).

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” For starters, I like the idea of perfect peace. God’s Word is 100% true, and it says perfect peace is a possibility. The Hebrew literally says, “peace, peace” — a double load of peace. It was a Hebrew idiom or way of saying something is complete.

Do you see the word “keep” in that scripture? It means to “secure or guard as with a garrison.” God says He is going to stand guard over those who fix their minds on Him and fully trust Him. It reminds me of another passage found in the New Testament:

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you want “peace, peace,” perfect peace? Keep your mind fixed on God. How do you do that? I suggest first to fill your mind with Scripture. Meditate on the Word of God throughout the day. Sing songs of worship that magnify God and praise His name. Pray without ceasing. Talk to God all day long about what’s going on in your life and in the world. Christianity is a relationship to be experienced not a program to attend.

If you fix your mind on God, he will set up a guard over your heart and your mind. You will find a peace that is mind-blowing and soul healing.

I invite you to watch my video for additional thoughts as you choose daily to keep your mind fixed upon God.

15 Days of Faith – Day 3

Have you ever placed your faith in something that wasn’t worthy of your trust? I have. I’ve fallen through the ice on a frozen, shallow pond. I sat down once in a chair that immediately broke into pieces. I’ve trusted people who later used my confidence to hurt me. These kinds of disappointments can make us hesitant to trust anyone or anything.

God gives us a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This passage is not telling us to place our faith in things or people who are not worthy of our trust. The remaining verses of the chapter make it clear that God is calling us to put our faith in Him.

The Hebrew word from which we get our English word assurance points to a foundation or support. This passage is saying that faith that is well placed in the character of the trustworthy word of Almighty God is a foundation and support for our hope.

What are you putting your faith in? I’m grateful for our government leaders and all they are doing for us during this time, but ultimately, my trust is not in them. They are mere humans who may make a bad choice from time to time. My faith is not in myself. I don’t know enough to always make the wisest decisions. My faith is in God because He alone is worthy of my trust.

This assurance or support for my life has brought about a deep, abiding conviction that God is always at work in my life and in my world to accomplish His purpose. The Bible also tells me that while God’s work is for His glory, it is also for my good.

I’ve shared more thoughts on a video, and I invite you to watch it.

Will you trust God today?

15 Days of Faith – Day 2

I’ve heard all of my life that we should come to God with childlike faith. That exact phrase is not in the Bible, but Jesus did tell us that we should “receive the kingdom of God like a child.” Look at the story found in 

Mark 10:13-16 “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”

Jesus wasn’t telling us to be childish. We’ve probably all heard stories over the last several days of childish behavior from adults. He was telling us, however, that we should demonstrate faith in God like children do. Some people have tried to turn this passage into a lot of things it’s not, and others have worked to develop some additional theological message from this encounter. This story is nothing more than parents wanting their children to see Jesus and to be blessed by Him and Jesus using the event to teach us a lesson about authentic faith.

Many years ago, when my youngest son was about three years old, I took my family on vacation to Myrtle Beach. I remember standing in the pool at a campground in waist-deep water. My son yelled my name. I looked up in time to see him start running across the concrete toward the pool. When he got to the edge of the pool, he flung himself into the air toward me. I was stunned at first, but I recovered in time to catch him before he sank in the water.

My son couldn’t swim at that time, but he could trust. He knew his father was not only capable of catching him but also willing and always ready.

God is fully capable of catching you, and He’s waiting on you to call out His name. We are living in some strange times indeed. Although the danger we are encountering right now because of the spread of this virus is temporary, it is reminding us that we need to place our trust in our God Who is much bigger than a virus. Will you trust Him today? I’ve shared a few more thoughts on a video. I hope you’ll watch.

15 Days of Faith – Day 1

We are living in unprecedented times. You may have seen President Trump’s press conference yesterday or heard of the suggestions coming from his task force dealing with the spread of the Covid-19 virus. They are asking all Americans to make some dramatic changes for the next 15 days in order to curb the effect and spread of this virus. 

I know that reports over the last week or so have spread great fear across our country. If you don’t know someone who has been infected with the virus now, you possibly will in the future. Some patients are in serious condition. I know of a woman in her 30’s on a ventilator right now. This threat is serious. It would be easy for us to be filled with fear right now, but God wants us to choose faith.

Over the next 15 days, I’m going to share thoughts of encouragement and challenge us to embrace faith. I encourage you to share your comments and help me spread a message of hope.

The Bible has a lot to say about faith. The book of Galatians says we are justified by faith and we are to live by faith. Think about those two ideas. Your sins cannot be forgiven and you cannot enjoy a right relationship with God without placing your faith and your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Secondly, as a Christian, your life should be defined by faith. It would do us well during these times to think about what it means to live by faith. It means that our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional strength comes from the Lord. It means that every step we take, we do so because we are fully trusting in Jesus.

I’ve got a song on my mind, and it would do us well to allow it to be the theme song of this coronavirus season. It was written around 1880 after Louisa Stead experienced a personal tragedy that could have destroyed her. Louisa, her husband, and her 4-year-old daughter were on a picnic near sea. They heard shouts for help and saw a boy struggling in the ocean. Louisa’s husband raced into the ocean to save the boy only to be pulled under and drowned. She grieved over the loss of her husband. After struggling with  sorrow asking God, “Why?” many times, she eventually penned the words to this beloved hymn:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I shared a video on YouTube with additional thoughts for today. You can view it by clicking this link.