For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly. Proverbs 5:23
Charles Spurgeon, one of the most prolific pastors of all time said just a few weeks before his death, “I look back, and remember what I might have done and have not done; what opportunities of usefulness I have not seized; what sins I have allowed to pass unrebuked; what struggling beginners in grace I have failed to help.” A man who had spoken to millions. Who brought the good news of Jesus’ healing lights to so many, this man in all humility felt he could have done more.
How many of us can say we have used our time as wisely for the Lord? How many of us have instead placed so many other activities ahead of helping others out of their darkness? Of allowing the Holy Spirit to help us out of our own darkness?
When we hear the words “Christian discipline” it may cause us to cringe or to worry about what will be required of us or what we will have to give up. It sounds harsh and monk-like. Our thoughts on it may be borrowed from what the world may think of Christians – joyless, rule followers. However, we are told throughout Proverbs that God’s idea of discipline is actually a lifesaver, peace creator, and joy maker.
Because God loves all of us – believer and non – He yearns for us to live on the disciplined path. One that seeks to keep us from the darkness of sexual immorality, greed, self-importance, violence, and more.
Christian discipline includes these aspects: spiritual, social, physical and mental. Each, when practiced close in hand with Jesus, is intended to live the full, beautiful, peaceful and joy-filled life God wants for us. When we stay in His Word and prayer, when we are careful and loving with our relationships with others, when we are good stewards of our bodies, and when we keep our thoughts free of lust, greed and self, we will find our paths simpler. Our decisions about life get easier. That’s not to say we won’t encounter push back from the world or even trials. But in the midst of all that life will throw at us, our Christian discipline will keep the path forward clear.
Heavenly Father, help me to develop a disciplined life that aligns with your Word so that I may become more like Jesus and experience the life you intend for me. Amen
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34
How many of you need to not just hear these words but soak them deep into your heart right now? For the last few years, we humans have been through a lot of turmoil. I won’t say it was the most difficult time ever because I realize the world has been around a lot longer than my 58 years. In the two world wars alone, it’s estimated 120,000,000 people died. That doesn’t include the folks who passed from ordinary daily illness, accidents, and old age.
This year, as so many of us tried to go back to our lives post shutdowns and lockdowns, we found ourselves back in the ordinariness of trials, tragedy, human depravity, illness, lost dreams, violence, and political infighting. And so, we cry out to God for peace, for healing, for freedom from suffering.
I’ve been pretty quiet this year with my writing as I also deal with the world coming at me from all sides. With the sudden loss of my beautiful “other mother” I have felt so alone at times. I scroll back over her last text messages to me and I can hear her voice so clearly. Since that time, we have celebrated graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and now the holidays. In addition, my husband’s business has yet to recover from the financial destruction the last few years have wrought. We have seen future goals dissolve into mist. And still we find joy. We find peace and we find hope.
I listened as my neighbor recently listed all the tragedies that have befallen his family over the past year and I heard the pain in his voice. What I didn’t hear was how Jesus is helping them cope. They are going it alone. On the flip side I sit with my friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. And she is hope-filled. She is finding joy and goodness in the face of something so scary. She sees God working in every corner of her life, bringing the right people to her and watching her diagnosis heal broken relationships. While her earthly doctors will work to heal her body, her faith is also healing her. Healing her soul and heart. Comforting and bringing peace to her mind.
I was recently asked in an Advent study to write what I hope for next year. More importantly it asked how I would react if none of those hopes came to fruition. It then asked this: list the things you can find hope in that you KNOW will come to pass because of Jesus Christ. And here’s my answer. I know that Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. I know that Jesus has a better, more beautiful place waiting for all of those who believe. I know that whatever I go through next year God loves me and he loves you.
So I’m starting next year closely tethered to the hope I know will come to pass. Beginning January 1, I invite you to join me on a 31 day journey through God’s words of wisdom. His playbook for a life lived as best we humans can. He is not a god who keeps secret how to more smoothly navigate through the trials and tribulations of life. No, besides the Book of Proverbs He has given us so much wisdom and insight into the Christian life. A life that may at times look very different to the rest of the world but a life that is intended to bring about goodness, grace, mercy, and love.
Please join me for 31 Days of God’s Wisdom and invite your friends, families and neighbors. Be sure to have them sign up at www.emboldened.net to receive their daily email. In this way you can be a part of spreading His message around the world!
Last year my BSGs did a study on Revelation. It was a challenging deep dive into one of the most mysterious books of the Bible. Any Hollywood script writer or New York Times bestselling author would probably consider the story told in Revelation to be a pinnacle piece. It weaves its way through the story of the complacency of the times and the coming storm of evil. It has heroes and martyrs. It has all the special effects of world-wide destruction to win an Oscar. And it has a savior. And a beautiful new beginning for the world.
There’s been plenty of apocalyptic movies and stories told in the last 100 years or so that draw upon the themes found in Revelation. Man and satan lead the world in its own inevitable destruction and a savior rises from the ashes. But what is unique about the Bible’s Revelation is it’s all true.
From Genesis to Jude, new beginnings abound. But in this one final book of God’s Word, we see 1,000s, millions even. Martyrs rising from the ashes to take their place near the throne. The 1444,000 appointed Jews who are to be God’s instruments in spreading the word of the final judgement. And of course, the rapture of believers, taken up before the final judgements are passed on this world.
But there are two people that have a special place in this book. Two ordinary people to whom God will speak and send out to the world as prophets or truth tellers. Smack in the middle of the 22 chapters of Revelation you’ll find two people whose new beginnings will send shockwaves around the world.
And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3
The two witnesses’ identities have long been up for debate. Suffice it to say if they were extraordinary people I believe the text would say so. But they aren’t even given names, just like Naaman’s little slave girl. And unlike Jonah, they appear to walk boldly into a hostile world without pause. Maybe God has a pre-game “pow wow” with them where He explains the plan. More likely, God tells the witnesses, after having been prepared through their own study and trials, to go to Jeruselem at an appointed time and start spreading the Word that judgement time had come. But also unlike Jonah, they will tell how to avoid a terrible death.
“Now when they have finished their testimony,…” Revelation 11:7
Notice the two witnesses won’t go about town crying out, “The end is near!” They instead speak of God’s rescue from sin — their testimony. God will protect them for 1,260 days while they tell the world of the Good News of the Gospel and yes, about the impending judgement. And when God’s time for them is up, they will be killed by evil forces. It appears their new beginning would end there. But their death is just the middle of their story. For all the world to see after three and a half days lying dead in the street of Jeruselem, God will cause them to rise to their feet, sparking terror in the hearts of those who celebrated their deaths. Their new beginning, a reunification with the Lord, sets the world on fire.
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:13
Thousands, most likely, will give glory to God. Because of two unnamed people speaking the truth about God’s love, promises, rescue and judgement. Two people that are like you and me – flesh and blood. Two people, who like Noah, heard God’s voice and obeyed courageously. Who like Moses sought out an intimate relationship with God. Who like Queen Esther will stare into uncertainty and know God will not fail her. Two regular humans like Onesimus who studied at the feet of a teacher and then asked for forgiveness from both his spiritual and earthly masters. Like Joseph who stood alone against judgement by his community knowing God was with him. And like the 3,000 who put discipleship at the forefront of their faith.
In my study of Revelation, Warren Wiersbe points out the Gospel of John shows us how and why to believe. The epistles give us confirmation of who God is and what He expects of us. And Revelation is all about being ready. Ready for what? Ready for your new beginning. To be a witness for all of God’s glorious ways.
Friend, we don’t know when the events outlined in Revelation 11 will happen. But we need to be ready, they are nearer today than they were yesterday. You might be one of the witnesses called to be part of this amazing New Beginning for the world. Your name may never be known by man but God has a plan for you. A plan for your new beginning.
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did
we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger
or needing clothes or sick or in prison,
and did not help you?’ “He will reply,
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not
do for one of the least of these, you
did not do for me.’Matthew 25:44-45
The other day during my BSGs’ study on Easter we had a discussion about humbly serving. It was interesting to hear how some of us took the line “the least of these” to solely mean people in poverty. We also tended to look at serving only as a physical or financially act.
And yet Jesus said that He brings living water to the thirsty. Who are the “thirsty” around you? You might be surprised that there are many Christians who remain hungry and thirsty for what Jesus has to offer. They have accepted Him as His savior but are not living out the fullness of life God wants for them.
When we talk about sharing the gospel with others we usually mean the message of salvation. And yes, we must make as a priority the saving of souls through the introduction of the true message of Christ. But the Good News is also about the peace and joy and love of God. It’s also about the helping hand of the Holy Spirit.
When we dismiss the work of helping all God’s people, not just the poor, we create a hierarchy of “needs” that just isn’t present in God’s Holy kingdom. He see us all. He loves us all. And if we are called to help guide and teach a group of young, new believers that is exactly where we need to be — keeping them from being pulled back into the world. Or it may mean we speak the truth plus love to a friend who has been led to false teaching.
Wherever you have been called to humbly serve and share the gospel — be it with believers or non-believers — rest assured that your work is loved by God.
As the rain and the snowcome down from heaven,
and do not return to itwithout watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for
the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.Isaiah 55:10-11
The Gospel is good news. Plain and simple. The actual word “gospel” is translated to mean “good story” or “good news” in Greek. But the question is – if the Gospel truly is good news, why is it so hard for us to talk about it?
I’ll rewind a bit and start from the very beginning. For those who have always heard the word Gospel, but never heard the story of the Gospel, here it is:
1. God created us for his glory (Creation).
2. Therefore, every human should live for God’s glory.
3. Nevertheless, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (the Fall).
4. Therefore, we all deserve eternal punishment (Hell).
5. Yet, in his great mercy, God sent his only Son Jesus Christ into the world to provide for sinners the way of eternal life (the Cross).
6. Therefore, eternal life is a free gift to all who will trust in Christ as Lord and Savior and supreme Treasure of their lives (Salvation).
All that to say, the Gospel is indeed good news. It means eternal intimacy in the presence of God, forgiveness of sins and citizenship in Heaven where there will be no more sorrow or pain – ever. For those of us who have been saved by grace through faith and are living testimonies of the power of the Gospel, we are all vessels of this good news.
As Isaiah writes in chapter 55, God is proclaiming and promising that the good news he has sent down to earth (salvation through his Son Jesus), will indeed be fulfilled and carried from nation to nation until Jesus returns again.
As described in verse 10, God sent down Jesus like rain, to water a dry and barren earth. God has promised us that this rain would not leave the earth dry and barren, but that it would be fully watered until it is returned to its original perfect creation. Right now, we are still in the watering phase of God’s plan for creation. The land is still thirsty and in need of the living water, and thankfully, we as Christians know just where to find it.
Those in Christ are not just blessed with knowing the truth of the Gospel, we are called to share it. As the Jesus’ Great Commission states in Matthew 28:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:19-20
We are vessels of good news and have the refreshing drink our thirsty world is gasping for. Sharing the Gospel may not always be easy, but it is always God’s will for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We are a part of God’s redemption story for this world. He uses us, ordinary people, to return to Creation what was robbed by sin.
I challenge you today to change your perspective from one of fear and hesitation towards sharing the Gospel, to one of joy and anxious anticipation for sharing the good news of salvation. As believers, we exist to serve God – not the other way around. Start today by remembering that God is using you as a divine vessel of good news, created and saved to play an important role in His plan for our world.
For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name. 16 I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
When we picture warcraft during the United States Revolution we typically envision lines of soldiers from each side marching toward each other. Here’s a description by the American Battlefield Trust:
“Under normal circumstances, 18th century combat entailed that two armies march toward one another, shoulder to shoulder, and usually in ranks of about three men deep. When the opposing sides were within range, orders were given to halt, present arms, to fire, and then to reload.
After several volleys, one side gained the upper hand, and they would begin to close the distance with the enemy, bayonets lowered. This typically culminated in a full out charge at close quarters; sabers, bayonets, and rifle butts were used to sweep the enemy from the field and claim victory.”
And how did one side get the “upper hand?” The lines would break down either by death, injury or desertion. The battle would be won or lost based on who could hold their line the longest.
We Christians have been in a similar battle since the time of Christ. We link arms in communion and espouse the greatness of God to unbelievers. We are tasked, by God, to go out into our communities and battle against evil through our works, our testimony, and our telling of the Good News of the gospel.
However, from my, albeit, limited experience so many of us have chosen to desert our place on the battlefield. I live in a very liberal state within the United States. Church and Christians are not valued members of many communities. In fact, we are frequently described as racist, hateful, bigots because of our adherence to the teachings in the Bible. And that, I believe causes us to shirk our duties as soldiers for God.
I know too many people who feel uncomfortable sharing the Word of God. Some are afraid to even mention their faith in the course of conversations at work. And yet, it is this responsibility that Jesus gives us. We are not called to be closet Christians, afraid of what to say, how to say it and when to say it. God himself promises to put the right words in our mouth at the right time. We just need to be willing to do the one thing that we are called to do – obey Him.
My BSGs did a study on The Armor of God (Ephesians 6). What stood out to me is the preparation we are admonished to complete before taking up the final Word of God.
Therefore, put on the full armor
of God, so that when the day of
evil comes, you may be able to
stand your ground, and after you
have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of
truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness
in place, and with your feet
fitted with the readiness that
comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up
the shield of faith, with which you
can extinguish all the flaming arrows
of the evil one. Take the helmet
of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:13-17
Once we have studied and learned the character and promises of God we need to pray to have Him send us out into the world and speak His words. Each morning when we rise, we should ask God to place someone in front of us that day to whom He needs to say something. And be watchful and ready for that moment. He will give you the words to speak.
Do not merely listen to the word,
and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says.James 1:22
A few years ago, I held on to that promise of God’s words when my daughter and I were in a great battle. We were pushing and pulling constantly. She was off at college and her faith was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the organization Athletes in Action. But each time we would talk it would end in a fight or tears. I finally prayed to God to give me His words to bring this battle to an end.
One day as we talked, the Holy Spirit gave me these words to say, “I’m so glad your faith is growing. I can see that you have learned how to give a lot of grace and forgiveness to your friends and teammates. I know that I fail you frequently in trying to not hold on too tight to you. What I’m asking for is some of that same grace and forgiveness.”
God’s words, spoken through me, began our path toward reconciliation. I just needed to stop trying to speak my thoughts and my desires and instead let God do the heavy lifting.
God needs us to fill our spot on the battlefield line. He can give us all the tools we need – including the right words to say. We just need to show up and hold the line.
Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!