Tag Archives: christian living

A Useless Life

Have you ever considered what your epitaph might say? There are some pretty unique ones out there. There are some funny ones like Merv Griffin’s that says, “I will not be right back after this message.” Others are more sentimental expressing love for family. Some denote anger because they felt abandoned in their final days by those they loved. Epitaphs can be as unique as the individual, but one epitaph I have never seen reads, “Here lies a person who lived a useless life.” The truth is that what’s not done for eternity and others is often useless. The last thing I would ever want is to have lived my life only to get to Heaven and find out my life had been useless for God’s Kingdom.

The book of Titus is not a book most of us know well. However, in it Paul gives instructions on the importance of discipleship and teaching others how to live for God. In his closing statements, in Titus 3:14, Paul writes, “Our people must learn to spend their time doing good, in order to provide for real needs; they should not live useless lives” (GNT). One translation says, “unproductive lives.” God’s idea of a productive and useful life is one that helps others find Him, provides for the needs of others and brings people into a mature faith. I know that doesn’t encompass all of it, but Paul’s message to Titus was that he should be doing these things and helping other believers to do them as well.

1 Corinthians 3:13 says, “And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality.” That Fire will reveal whether we lived useful or useless lives. Every one of us will stand before Jesus on that day with our lives and the things we did presented to Him as an offering. Will the things you’re doing now survive that fire? We must live our lives with that fire in mind. There’s an old poem by C.T. Studd that reminds us, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” If you haven’t been living with the end in mind, you can start today and still have an offering that will survive that fire and show your life wasn’t useless.

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Stand Strong

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Gideon. I’m reminded of his story so often because I find myself in need of all the lessons it teaches. In Judges 6, the Bible explains that times were bad in Israel. The Midianites were destroying crops, killing animals and harassing the Israelites. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop them. The Israelites lived in fear because of all the bad things that were happening. If they had grain, they had to thresh it in hiding. If they had goats, they had to keep them hidden. Anything in the open would be taken.

Gideon was threshing his grain in the bottom of a wine press so no one would see him. An angel appeared and called out to him, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you.” Gideon, who was hiding because he was afraid of the Midianites, didn’t think twice about the angel calling him a hero. What caught his attention was that the angel said, “The Lord is with you.” He took a double take at the angel and must have thought this guy didn’t know much. How could he say that when so many bad things were happening?

He confronted the angel and asked, “If The Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Have you ever felt that way? When everything in life is going wrong and you feel abandoned by God. It’s an uncomfortable place. A dark place. Fear of the future grips your mind. You find yourself constantly worrying about things that you have no control over. You feel like God has forgotten you or worse, abandoned you in need. Your mind tells you that God doesn’t care. That He doesn’t see you in your pain.

In this verse, the angel reminds us that God’s presence in our lives isn’t proven by our circumstances. Our lives can be falling apart and God can still be with us. We’ve somehow come to believe that God is with us when things are good and has abandoned us when times are bad. His presence is with you no matter what. He is with you even when you can see His hand or feel His presence. He is with you when your life is so dark that you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. He is not only with you, He’s preparing you for greatness in those times. Greatness doesn’t come from an easy life. It’s forged in the darkness and in the fire.

Whatever you are facing today, I say to you, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you!” You may not feel like a hero, but you’re still standing through everything. You may not feel like The Lord is with you, but He has never left your side. He has been standing next to you through everything you have faced and everything you will face because He will not abandon you. He will not forsake you. He will not forget you. He will deliver you when the timing is right. He will lead you to better times when you have learned all He wants to show you in the dark. Stand strong today because The Lord is with you.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Rule #1

If you’ve ever run a race, or at least watched a race, you know that the number one thing you shouldn’t do is look over your shoulder behind you. Why? First, when you look back, it creates wind drag and slows you down. Secondly, it’s hard to run in a straight line if you’re looking back. When you step out of your lane, in most races, it will disqualify you. Thirdly, and I think most importantly, it creates a negative mindset. What is driving you to look back? Fear. You’re afraid that someone else is gaining on you. That mentality distracts you from running your own race. You are no longer running to win. Instead, you are running to avoid losing, and that’s not the purpose of running a race.

In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul uses this same imagery when he compares living the Christian life to running a race. He wrote, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (NLT). Paul is reminding us that we are all in a race, and rule number 1 is to forget the past and don’t look back. The enemy tries to give us a negative mentality that tells us our past disqualifies us from serving God, being used by God or that we are not even worth being used by God. He wants you to think that way so that you will focus behind you on who you were rather than who you are becoming.

His encouragement for us is to press on and to keep our eyes on the prize even though you aren’t going to become the perfect Christian. Not one of us are capable of living this life without sinning or failing God, but we can’t let that keep us from running our race and looking forward. Those words “press on” are intentional. It means we keep going even when things are hard. We keep trusting in God’s grace for our sins and in His strength when we are struggling to advance. Our future is not in our past. It’s in Him, so we need to look ahead and keep our eyes on Him. Our heavenly prize is waiting for us, so we need to take captive every thought that tries to get us to look backwards. Don’t let them get a foothold in your mind. You are destined to win, empowered by His grace and will be victorious through Him.

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Revolutionary Love

One of the things that so many people struggle with early on and into marriage is to put their spouse’s needs above their own. From the time we’re born until we’re married, life is about us. We make our decisions based on our needs and wants. We become selfish unknowingly. Part of the process of learning to be married is learning to quit being selfish and to focus on the other person in the relationship as well as who you are as one. Many times it’s hard for people to learn, and instead of learning to put their spouse’s needs ahead of their own, their selfish nature learns how to manipulate their spouse into taking care of their needs. In that situation, it’s hard for love to bloom because only one person’s needs are met. Deep love is the process of putting others ahead of yourself.

Think of what Jesus did. John tells us that creation was made through Him. Philippians tells us that He was equal with God, yet in an act of love, He chose to humble Himself, and become human. While He was here, He didn’t claim the privileges of being the King of Kings. Instead, He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. When they crucified Him, He didn’t call on 10,000 angels to come rescue Him from the cross. Out of love for us, He put our need for salvation ahead of His own needs and endured a humiliating death. He gave us the example of what love is and what love does. Philippians 2:4 says, “Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (MSG).

The kind of love Jesus showed is the kind we are to show as His followers. We are to have His mindset. Just like marriage, there’s a process we must go through as believers where we put aside our needs and learn to look outward to the needs of others. Salvation isn’t just about the decision to make Jesus lord of your life. It’s learning to be like Him. It’s leaving your selfish, sinful nature and its thinking behind and adopting the mind and mentality of Christ. WWJD bracelets we’re supposed to help us to remember that, but instead they became a joke. If we truly ran everything we did through the filter of “What would Jesus do,” how would our lives change? Better yet, how would this world change? When Jesus said the world would know us by our love, He was talking about us showing love the way He did. When we learn to love like that, it’ll be revolutionary.

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A Living Sacrifice

Do you know someone who says they’ll do something, but when it comes down to it, they rarely do? Maybe their intentions are good, but once they see what it’ll cost them in time, labor or money they back out. All of us at some point have been guilty of promising to do something and then failed to follow through. That’s because lip service is easy. Our mouths often write checks they can’t cash. The problem is that we do that to God more than anyone.

Being a Christian is more than the initial prayer we prayed at salvation. We have to shed our old life because Christ has given us a new life. We go from having self led lives to Spirit led lives. In Romans 12:1, Paul wrote, “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer” (GNT).

God is asking us to sacrifice ourselves as worship to Him meaning that we should give Him our whole life. It’s very costly to be a follower of Christ. I’m reminded of David when he wanted to offer s sacrifice to God at Araunah’s threshing floor. David offered to buy it in 2 Samuel 24, but Araunah offered it to David for free as well as the wood and the oxen for the sacrifice. In verse 24 David replied, “I will not offer the Lord my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing.” He understood that a sacrifice to God should be costly.

It cost us nothing to say words with our mouths, but it cost us everything to offer our lives as sacrifices. I once heard someone say that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. It’s time each of us started offering God more than lip service and offered Him ourselves. If we want to live like new creations, we’ve got to take up our cross daily, sacrifice our selfish desires to it and follow Jesus as a living sacrifice.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Living The Lifestyle

In the fall of 1995, I was living in Egypt. My family had sent me a care package with goodies from home. I got some Dr Peppers, VHS tapes of my favorite TV shows, a tape recording of my favorite radio station and a stack of CD’s from the local Christian bookstore. As I shifted through the CD’s, one in particular caught my attention, “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk. It had been a few years since they released an album, so I was excited. I immediately put it in and hit play. When it got to song 4, I heard the words of Brennan Manning for the first time as “What If I Stumble?” began to play. The quote said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” It shook me to say the least.

I had been raised in a church with a pastor whose slogan for the church was, “Christianity isn’t a religion…it’s a lifestyle Jesus commanded us to live.” I had been disciples to live that lifestyle, but for some reason when I heard the words on that CD, it hit me that I wasn’t supposed to live like a Christian just for Jesus. There is a world of people all around me who don’t know Jesus and are basing their opinion of Him based on how they see me live and act. My faith couldn’t be just something that I talked about. I didn’t want anyone to turn away from the cross based on the things I did, so I determined to live a life that would point people to Him rather than to push them further into unbelief.

Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make him known” (TPT). As we mature in Christ, our lives begin to change as we are made new from the inside out. The way we think, behave and speak begin to change the more we become like Him. Each of us have to come to a point though where we choose to undergo that chrysalis so that our lives on the outside reflect what we believe on the inside. We will never arrive at living for Him perfectly, so perfection is not the goal. Getting a little bit more like Jesus every day is. We still have to contend with our flesh and we will still stumble, but as we mature, we learn to rely on His grace more. Our lives become living examples of the freedom and change God brings and that’s what will help an unbelieving world find attractive.

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Give Love Extravagantly

I grew up hearing my dad jokingly say, “Do as I say, not as I do!” I didn’t understand it as a kid, but as a parent now, I definitely do. It’s funny how the one thing you don’t want them to repeat or do is the one thing they seem to pick up on. The good news is that they pick up your good habits as well. They’re just not as noticeable sometimes because they’re not embarrassing. I love that every trash day my son offers to take our next door neighbor’s trash can to her house. At church, he wants to open the door as people exit. He watches our behaviors and then mimics them. It makes us proud as parents when our kids do the right thing, show kindness to others and make us look good as parents doesn’t it?

Sometimes we forget that you and I are children of God and our actions reflect on Him. Galatians 5 gives us the Fruit of the Spirit that we are to exhibit in our lives. When we spend time with God and learn from Him, our lives reflect the qualities He has. The great news for us is that it’s already in our DNA. Genesis tells us that we are made in His image. Just like a child naturally does things that their parents do, so too we do things naturally that God has put in us. There are times though that our sinful nature takes over and wants us to behave opposite of the way God wants us too. That’s why it’s important to choose ahead of time how we will react to things, know what we will say and choose our attitude daily to reflect the love of God.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (MSG). One of the greatest ways we can reflect our Heavenly Father on this earth is to start loving others the way He does. The verse, “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NASB),” comes to mind. We need to love others extravagantly whether or not we think they deserve it. The world will know us by our love in action. Don’t hold back. Give God’s love out like you’re made of it, because you are.

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