Leave Everything Better

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If you are a Christian, the Bible describes you as a living example of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Check out these verses: 

Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ Himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it. (2 Corinthians 3:3 MSG) 

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) 

No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. (Luke 11:33) 

Here’s a really simple way everyone who sees you can see Jesus working through you—

Leave every place better than you found it. 

Want some examples on this? Check out this 2-minute segment from a message I shared…

My friend, shine your light brightly today for everyone to see Jesus in you simply by leaving every place—every situation—better than you found it. I promise you: God will be glorified in this! 

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Ruth + Boaz—The Father’s Day Version

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

On Mother’s Day that we saw how Ruth’s obedience allowed her to realize God’s favor, part of that favor is being included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Of course, Ruth can’t give birth to her son Obed without there being a father, which makes Boaz’s part in this story just as important. 

[This whole story of Ruth + Boaz is just four short chapters, so I’d encourage you to take a couple of minutes to read it.] 

When we first meet Boaz, he is described as “a man of standing.” Some Bible translations say “a man of wealth,” which is an acceptable definition. In fact, the word can mean strength, wealth, valor, or prominence, but the root word means something brought forth out of travail and pain. That tells us that Boaz wasn’t born a man of standing, he became a man of standing by going through difficult times, not giving in to the downward slide of culture, and remaining true to God. 

Boaz had a steel-forged integrity! 

Believe me, it would have been easy for Boaz to compromise! This was a dark time of selfishness in Israel’s history. A time where just doing the bare minimum was acceptable because most of the Israelites were selfishly doing whatever would benefit them (Judges 21:25). 

The other description we read about Boaz is that he is a “kinsman-redeemer.” This same word is used in this verse: “Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me and give me life according to Your word” (Psalm 119:154). A redeemer is one who is close by to help, has the strength or resources to help, and is willing to help. Of course, the perfect example of a Kinsman-Redeemer is Jesus, who became our human kinsman so that He could rescue us (see Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:7-8). 

Boaz was given the opportunity to do this for Naomi and Ruth, and he seized the opportunity with gusto. Far from being a “bare minimum” man, Boaz always went the second mile to bless Ruth and Naomi:

  • he practiced the “hospitality clause” plus he protected Ruth and gave her more than was required 
  • he provided food for his workers plus he provided food for Ruth and Naomi 
  • he blessed his workers plus he blessed Ruth in the name of the Lord 

Ultimately, Boaz did indeed become the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi (by paying off all the debts of her deceased husband) and for Ruth (by marrying this non-Israelite woman and bringing her into the family line of Jesus). 

Boaz was King Solomon’s great-great-grandfather. When Solomon was completing the temple in Jerusalem, he erected two pillars at the entrance: one was named Boaz, and the other was Jakim (with means “God will establish”). Taken together these pillars proclaim the message: By His integrity and faithfulness, God establishes and makes firm. 

Boaz exhibited integrity at every opportunity, which is what forged his character and made him “a man of standing.” Boaz demonstrated that integrity is really faith in God plus faith-filled, second-mile, others-focused actions.

“Faith without works is just wishful dreaming.
Works without faith is just religious posturing.
Works with faith is God-glorifying!” —Craig T. Owens

Men of God, please remember this: 

  • Every Word of God that you read or hear is a test—will you obey Him or will you compromise? 
  • Every setback you go through is a test—will you learn and grow or will you sulk and shrink back? 
  • Every success you experience is a test—will you bless others or will you hoard your blessings? 
  • Every decision you make in a dark culture is a test—will you just have faith, just have bare-minimum works, or will you exhibit the steel-forged integrity that comes from putting your faith to work? 

God’s blessing on your life of integrity will show others a picture of Jesus. God’s blessing on your life of going the second mile will show others that it is God who establishes and makes firm. 

Don’t rob your family, don’t rob us, don’t rob future generations of the outpouring of God’s blessing because you are selfish or compromising. Stand strong, trust God, go the second mile, be the kinsman-redeemer for those in need, and then watch for God’s blessings! 

If you missed Ruth’s vital part in this story, please check that out by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Simple Faith Is Still Powerful Faith

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Simple Faith Is Still Powerful Faith

     I would have you note that the faith that justified Abram was still an imperfect faith, although it perfectly justified him. It was imperfect beforehand, for he had prevaricated as to his wife and bid Sarai, ‘Say you are my sister’ (Genesis 12:13). 

     It was imperfect after it had justified him, for the next chapter we find him taking Hager, his wife’s handmaid, in order to effect the divine purpose, and so showing a lack of confidence in the working of the Lord. It is a blessing for you and for me that we do not need perfect faith to save us! ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’ (Matthew 17:20). If you have but the faith of a little child, it will save you. Though your faith is not always at the same pitch as the patriarch’s when he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, yet if it is simple and true, if it confides alone in the promise of God, it is an unhappy thing that it is no stronger, and you ought daily to pray, ‘Lord, increase my faith,’ but still it will justify you through Christ Jesus! A trembling hand may grasp the cup that bears a healing draught to the lip, but the weakness of the hand will not lessen the power of the medicine.

From Justification By Faith

A prayer that Jesus loved was simply this: “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:14-27). The recognition that Jesus alone could help is the essence of faith. 

I’ve often said that the simplest, most powerful prayer we can pray is, “Lord, help!” In just those two words we are saying, “I cannot do a thing to help myself, but, Lord, I believe Your power is limitless to help me!” 

Small faith is still powerful faith—even faith as small as a mustard seed—because it can move mountains. Childlike faith touches the heart of God. I love how Spurgeon reminds us that the weakness of the hand that grasps the cup promise does not lessen the power of the medicine in the cup. 

The best way to learn to pray in faith is simply to pray in faith. A baby doesn’t wait until he has a fully-formed vocabulary to ask his father or mother for help. Just pray! The Holy Spirit can turn even your childlike prayers into pleasing sounds in your Heavenly Father’s ears. 

Maybe you could paraphrase that father who was in desperate need of Christ’s help, “Lord, I am praying; help me to keep on praying!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—An Important Distinction

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

An Important Distinction

     Many had been the good works of Abram. It was a good work to leave his country and his father’s house at God’s bidding. It was a good work to separate from Lot in so noble a spirit. It was a good work to follow after the robber-kings with undaunted courage. It was a grand work to refuse to take the spoils of Sodom and to lift up his hand to God that he would not take a thread even to a shoelace. It was a holy work to give to Melchizedek tithes of all that he possessed and to worship the Most High God.

     Yet none of these are mentioned in the text, nor is there a hint given of any other sacred duties as the ground or cause, or part cause, of his justification before God. No, it is said, ‘And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6). … 

     If there is salvation for the dying thief and others like him, it cannot be of debt, but of grace, seeing they have no good works! If Abram, when full of good works, is not justified by them, but by his faith, how much more we, being full of imperfections, must come to the throne of the heavenly grace and ask that we may be justified by faith that is in Christ Jesus and saved by the free mercy of God! …  

     Always distinguish between the truth of God that living faith always produces works, and the lie that faith and works cooperate to justify the soul. We are made righteous only by an act of faith in the work of Jesus Christ. That faith, if true, always produces holiness of life. But our being righteous before God is not because of our holiness in life in any degree or respect, but simply because of our faith in the divine promise [Romans 4:22-25]. 

From Justification By Faith

“I’ve been made righteous in God’s sight SO THAT I can live a holy life” is vastly different from “I’m living a holy life SO THAT I can be made righteous in God’s sight.” 

None of our good works—no matter how many we do—will ever wipe the slate clean of our sins. It’s an impossibility! That is why faith in the work of Jesus on the Cross is vital. It’s my faith in His substitutionary work that has canceled the record of my sins and made me holy before God, SO THAT now I am free to live out that holy life! 

What freedom there is in allowing our living faith to overflow into our loving deeds! Our holy living is our thankful worship to God for His precious gift of Jesus. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joyful Journey To Realization

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The Joyful Journey To Realization

And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and [God] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) 

     Brothers and sisters, this everyday faith is the faith of God’s elect! There are persons who imagine saving faith to be a barren conviction of the truth of certain abstract propositions, leading only to a quiet contemplation upon certain delightful topics, or separating ourselves from all sympathy with our fellow creatures. But it is not so! Faith, restricted merely to religious exercise, is not Christian faith. It must show itself in everything. … 

     There may be some of you here today who have been called by divine grace from darkness into marvelous light. You have been led to look to Jesus and you believe you have received pardon of your sin, and yet, for lack of knowledge, you know little of the sweet meaning of such words as these: ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6); ‘perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:28); ‘complete in Him’ (Colossians 2:10). You are doubtless justified, though you scarcely understand what justification means. And you are accepted, though you have not realized your acceptance. And you are complete in Jesus Christ, though you have, today, a far deeper sense of your personal incompleteness than of the all-sufficiency of Jesus. … 

     But there will come a time, beloved, when you who are called will clearly realize your justification and will rejoice in it! It will be intelligently understood by you and will become a matter of transporting delight—lifting you to a higher platform of experience and enabling you to walk with a firmer step, sing with a merrier voice, and triumph with an enlarged heart!  

From Justification By Faith

I was once asked, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” After a moment’s thought, I answered, “I’d like the power to just go <poof> for someone and they would be able to fully comprehended God’s love for them, or they would instantly realize how to live out their Christian faith.” 

Alas, there is no such superpower. But you and I have something far, far better: the Holy Spirit! 

Abram (who would later become Abraham) obediently followed God, even though the Bible said he didn’t fully grasp where he was going nor how God was going to give him many descendants. But he followed, and he trusted, and he listened, and slowly God began to reveal more and more to him. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say, “The Holy Spirit will go <poof> and you will immediately and fully understand everything.” Like Abram, we believe what God says about us, we follow, we trust, we listen, we obey, and the Spirit will begin to illuminate God’s Word to us. We’ll discover more each day what He’s asking of us, and we will notice that both our joy in Him and our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God are increasing along the journey! 

Don’t bail out early! Stick with it! I promise you that the joy still to be revealed along this journey is beyond compare with anything which would tempt you to stay behind to acquire.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience 

[God] alone is my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:2).

     Doctrine is nothing unless it is proved in our experience. Most of God’s doctrines are only to be learned by practice—by taking them out into the world and letting them bear the wear and tear of life. …  

     Think how many enemies you have. How many rivers you have to cross, how many mountains to climb, how many dragons to fight, how many lions’ teeth to escape, how many fires to pass through, how many floods to wade. … Can your salvation be of anything except God? … 

     I beseech you, remember this. I hope you know it by experience in the past, but try to remember it in the future—wherever you go, ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’ Do not get to looking at your heart; do not get to examining to see whether you have anything to recommend you; just remember, salvation is of the Lord. ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’ … 

     I say, Christian, your highest and noblest experience is not to be groaning about your corruption, is not to be crying about your wanderings, but is to say, ‘With all my sin and care and woe, His Spirit will not let me go.’ ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). …  

     Now we must have the great duty. The great duty is this: If God only is our rock and we know it, are we not bound to put all our trust in God, to give all our love to God, to set all our hope upon God, to spend all our life for God, and to devote our whole being to God? … Trace your mercies to God and say perpetually, ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’

From God Alone The Salvation Of His People

If you will look through the pages of the Bible, you will see that people struggled when they forgot what God had done for them and therefore they began to take matters into their own hands. In the Old Testament, the prophets called this idolatry and adultery; in the New Testament, Jesus called this a lack of faith. 

An old hymn reminds us:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above (Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount)

I think this is the reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” We need to be perpetually reliant on God’s grace—a perpetual debtor. This posture reminds us, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,” and guards us against the spirit of self-reliance that would lead us astray. 

Let our doctrine be proven in our daily experience of coming to God as our one and only Source again and again and again.

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The Hiding Place (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, her submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” This sentiment was never more fully displayed than in the lives of the ten Boom family. Corrie ten Boom relates her story in The Hiding Place. 

The ten Boom family had lived in Holland for a couple of generations at the time the Germans occupied their country during World War II. Immediately, their family home and watch repair shop became a hub for underground resistance activity. But the start of this war was not the start of their compassionate activity in their city. The ten Booms lived out their Christian faith in tangible, compassionate ways every single day, and their neighbors reaped the benefits. 

The entire ten Boom family was actively involved in the efforts to protect at-risk people during the Nazi oppression of their country, including the elderly and sick, their Jewish neighbors, the mentally disabled, and the young men that were being pressed into duties to support the German war effort. As The Hiding Place progresses, the story begins to zoom-in on two sisters: Betsie and Corrie, especially their activities inside the German prisons and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. 

The miracles that God performed for these women are too many to recount here, but it seems like hardly a page in the story passes before another miracle is seen. These Christian women took full advantage of each miracle and used them to continue to bring light and love into one of the most dark and hateful times in human history. Even after the war has ended and Corrie has returned to her Holland home, the ministry of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation continued unabated through her tirelessly loving activities. 

The Hiding Place is truly a heroic tale! I highly recommend parents and grandparents reading it aloud to their children and grandchildren. May all Christians follow the example of the ten Boom family in finding ways to daily share the love of Jesus to their neighbors-in-need. 

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How Big?

…your servant has nothing there at all…except a small jar of olive oil (2 Kings 4:2). 

This widow made the right move in going to Elisha for help. The situation seemed impossible, so she had nowhere else to go but to God.

Instead of giving her immediate relief, God asks this widow to extend her faith. The steps she takes next will determine how big of a blessing she will receive. God frequently does this:

  • how many ditches am I willing to dig (3:16)? 
  • how many doors am I willing to knock on to ask for empty jars (4:3)?
  • how many times am I willing to strike the ground with my arrows (13:18-19)?

The ditches were filled with water until they could hold no more.

The jars were filled with oil until they could hold no more.

Joash only struck the ground three times, so he only received three victories.

Jesus told us…

…ask, and keep on asking 

…seek, and keep on looking 

…knock, and keep on knocking 

God IS going to answer. The question is: HOW BIG do I want Him to answer? 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by the grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved—you go there often to weep. You cannot help it; the place is precious to you, yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits. Perhaps you even injure yourself thereby and deserve to be gently chided with the question, ‘Why?’ It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but He will not have us carry it too far, for then it might foster an evil nature. Therefore He sends an interrupting messenger…. 

     Notice, then, that the apostles were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves and often ask our hearts, ‘Why?’ … We may, under the influence of great love, act unwisely. … The apostles would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefited by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. … 

     If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command. It is disobedient to begin to canvas God’s will. But when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act that evidently does not promise to bring any blessing?

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Faith requires action (see James 2:14-26). Feelings may keep us inactive, or at the very least may make us feel active because we are “doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural.” 

Our natural emotional response may keep us inactive from the thing God has commanded us to do. In the case of these apostles, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but wait there for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their standing and gazing—though it seemed right and natural at first—was bordering on disobedience through omission. So God sent angels to ask, “Why are you still doing this? What will your continual gazing ultimately accomplish?” 

God still speaks those words to us today. Sometimes it’s through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and sometimes it’s through the loving voice of a friend: “What are you doing? This may have been right at first, but now it is keeping you inactive.” There is so much God wants to do through your life, but He cannot do it while you are standing still and gazing.

 

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