“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” – 1 Peter 3:15
I like my coffee. I have tried many different kinds, flavors, and means of preparation. As a result there are some coffees that are just poor quality to me. Forget instant, can’t even be in the mix. Many regular store brands I can drink but not fully enjoy. And, there are specialty brands for which I do not care for the taste. I have developed this sense of taste for coffee by experience. And sharing our faith is also about experience.
Many focus on our need to be ready to explain our faith. And we should be ready to clearly and simply explain why we believe to others. But it is not that hard. It is not rocket science. What captures my imagination is the phrase “And if someone asks.” Why does someone ask? What happened that caused someone to ask? When was the last time I/you had someone ASK us about our Christian hope? I can only come up with one answer. The person who asks about a Christians hope can only come to that point by experiencing a Christian living a life of hope; living a life of worshipping Christ as Lord of their lives. The person who asks is experiencing the Spirit of God creating interest in them by experiencing a believer living out his/her faith in the real world.
Which brings me to another question. Why am I/we not being asked this question more? There is more than one answer to this question, and more than I will outline here. People will ask questions, when we as Christians are sharing more than cursory time with them. People will ask questions, when we as believers are pleading to God for the Spirit to awaken spiritual sensitivity in people we encounter every day. People will ask questions, when we actually live distinctly from the world. In fact, we may even need to live distinctly different from typical Christian or church culture. People will ask questions when we live and talk like Jesus is the most important thing in our lives. People will ask questions when they know we love them and will be there for them whether they ever come to Christ or not. No one asks questions if they are feeling like a project!
Father, make my life a question generator to all who cross my path each day.
Readings: 1 Timothy 5, 1 Peter 3, Genesis 1, Ecclesiastes 4
“And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” -Isaiah 11:2
The above words are spoken about Jesus. Jesus, in possessing the Spirit possessed wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and reverence for the Lord. In coming to Christ as Savior, I too have been given the Spirit. While I can not experience these same qualities perfectly, as Jesus did, I have been given these things as well. I usually don’t see myself this way. But the reminder is important. The Holy Spirit in the believer brings with him – wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Since I am not fully like Jesus (yet), I can invest in ways to build these qualities. I can follow the Spirit leading me. I can study the Bible and apply it to life. I can participate in studies with others, learning from the Spirit what others have learned. I can pray and seek these qualities from the Lord. The more I invest the greater these qualities will be in my life. I need wisdom and understanding. I need counsel, both the receiving of good counsel (and the ability to recognize it), and the ability to provide good counsel to others. I need might, spiritual power so that what is done or said through me is clearly from God not me. I need knowledge. And, yes, I need the fear of the Lord. I need to keep him first.
Father, help me to invest in the Spirit this day
Readings: Isaiah 2, Isaiah 11, 1 Corinthians 6, Revelation 20
“Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy… Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” – Isaiah 35: 2a, 10
Singing, joy, and gladness will one day be mine in abundance. Joy will be even more than abundant. It will be everlasting. While I can surround myself with music now, abundant singing from a joyful heart that never dissipates is a whole other level of singing. Joy that lasts forever will be a new experience. Joy is temporary now. It can change in a flash due to circumstances. But when Jesus comes, sorrow and mourning will disappear. Sorrow, mourning, sadness are unwanted regular companions that come and go at will in my life now. Some events leave a sadness that never quite goes away. But a day is coming when it will be gone forever. The presence of God, his glory, singing and joy will be so overwhelming I will one day forget what sorrow and mourning are like! Bring it.
Father, I look forward to Jesus coming again and filling my life with singing and joy on a whole new level. In the mean time, guide me to sing and rejoice now, in spite of my situation, as part of the preparation for what I will enjoy for eternity.
Readings: Isaiah 4, Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65, Zechariah 9
“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” -2 Thessalonians 1:11
Prayer, as Christians we profess to believe in it, and practice it… well sort of. I sometimes wonder if our prayers only touch the margins of what God has in mind. We pray for the sick, as we should. We pray for safe travels, again ok to pray about. But if this is the major thrust of our praying we may very well be missing out on some marvelous answers to prayer. Anemic praying can only lead to anemic believers, churches, and communities.
Look at what Paul prays in this verse. He prays for God to enable them to live a worthy life. Living worthy was not on them, or us. Living worthy is a work of God in us. He does it. Even more astounding is the next part of his prayer. He asks God to give them the power to accomplish all (not most or some) of the good things that faith prompts them to do. He prays for God to accomplish through them all that faith inspires. Imagine what the church would be like if all who came were accomplishing all the good their faith prompted them to do! Imagine, what God might do through you/me by asking him to give us the power to do all the good things our faith inspires. Imagine what would change in our churches if we were asking God to give everyone (by name, not just an all inclusive prayer) in our church the power to accomplish the good things their faith prompted. Imagine how the very accomplishing of those things would lead to a greater faith for bigger things the next time around!
Father, grow my praying for others that I would ask for you to give them the power to accomplish all their faith prompts them to do. Do so in me, and grow our faith for even greater things.
Readings: 1 Corinthians 9, 1 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 19, 2 Thessalonians 1
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have – Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials – gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.”-1 Corinthians 3:11-14
Jesus is the foundation everyone needs for life, and eternal life. But each of us builds on this foundation in ourselves and in others. What we build on top of our commitment to Christ matters. These verses list six kinds of materials. Three will survive a fire, and three will not. Three demonstrate value, three do not. We can build our own lives with eternal value – Gold, silver jewels. Or we can not build what God values in our lives, but build what we want which leads to wood, hay, straw. Our influence and relationships with others can build value into others, or it builds only temporary things. We can build into others gold, silver or jewels. We can also build a good time, but nothing of any depth spiritually – wood, hay, or straw.
For me, when I read this passage one question came to mind. How I/you answer this question may motivate changes. Will my work survive the fire (14)? Will yours?
Father lead me in making any and every change necessary to build eternal value in my life and in others.
Readings: Hebrews 12, 1 Corinthians 3, Psalm 58, 1 Peter 5
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day… So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” -2 Corinthians 4:16, 18
We can fool ourselves. A person can give up and yet still keep going. You do what has to be done. People see you and see nothing different. But inside… inside you have given up, become discouraged, leaking hope… So, how do I move from giving up to never give up? I am promised that The Spirit renews my spirit every day. To not give up I must pay attention to what God is always doing for me, for us – renewing me… daily. How do I do that? How do I see what God is doing in and around me when circumstances look and smell like the bottom of a trash can that has held trash for too long? I am to fix my gaze on to the eternal, rather than the moment, the temporary. Anything I see in my circumstances is temporary; temporary because God will change them, and temporary because of the eternal life I will experience when Jesus comes again. It all comes down to where I fix my gaze. If I fix my gaze on circumstances, then I have focused on my inability to “fix” it. When I fix my gaze on the unseen, I focus on Jesus, His promises, the presently unseen things He is doing. And, ultimately, my gaze is on the eternal.
Father, turn my gaze in the right direction, and give me eyes to catch glimpse of what you are doing in and around me.
Readings: Luke 20, 2 Corinthians 4, 1 John 3, Romans 8
“May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.” -2 Timothy 1:16-17
While I would never want to name a kid after this guy, I certainly would want kids to be like him – adults for that matter too! He is an encourager, and being an encourager requires something very specific. An encourager must be willing to go out of their way again and again. Paul was in prison, and this man visits again and again. Traveling to Rome, finding a place to stay, and making time for repeated prison visits is no small sacrifice. On top of all this Paul adds that he searched for Paul until he found him.
God’s call for me/we to be encouragers means a readiness to go out of my way; to make sacrifices repeatedly; to persist until found. We tend to hate the slightest inconvenience. This has to be shed to encourage. While many people we may minister to may not literally be in prison, they can be in prisons of their own struggle. They, too, must be found. They will require persistence because they may at first push us away. But the encourager presses on and in.
Father, make me a better encourager…
Readings: Ezekiel 37, 2 Timothy 1, Psalm 17