Enjoying the Journey

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Daily Confession (Daily Living – Part 2)


My second year in college I enrolled in a Greek class. It met at 7:00 in the morning. Now, I don’t think English well before 8:00 a.m., much less Greek! Nevertheless, it was a required course and one for which I am now truly grateful.

There are many technical things about Greek that I do not remember, but I will never forget the first “word study” I was assigned. It came from a most familiar verse, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What a verse! What a principle and a promise! I have had to obey it and claim it thousands of times through the years. Even believers are still sinners in need of forgiveness and cleansing. Relationship is settled; fellowship must be maintained.

But that word…confess. I thought I knew what it meant.

To ask.

To plead.

To beg.

To ____. You fill in the blank with your preconceived idea! We all have them.

In fact, it means none of those things.

Confess means to “say the same thing.” It simply means to agree with God. To say the same thing about my sin that He says. “Lord, you are right. I am wrong. This is wrong.” That is confession.

And the moment a man sincerely confesses, the moment he comes into agreement with God, the moment he steps into the light of God’s truth – God says he is forgiven and made clean! You do not have to convince God to restore; He is waiting to do so! There are not enough tears or promises or pleadings to gain God’s mercy. The mercy and grace of God are freely available, if we meet the condition.

A few days ago I began this new series of posts on the daily necessities of the Christian life. We began with daily worship. (Read the first article here.) Over the last few days I have been reminded in my own life and in dealing with others of the desperate need for daily confession. Apart from addressing sin every day we can never address a holy God. Confession and worship are always connected.

Those who desire to walk with God soon realize that as long as we are in sin cursed bodies and a sin cursed world, we have to deal with sin. Our sin. And the only way to deal with sin completely is to repent of it – to come clean with God.

Repentance is not an event; it is a way of life. Repentance is for every lost man, and it is for every saved man. It was the message of the prophets. It was the subject of the first sermon Jesus ever preached (Matt. 4:17). It was at the heart of the gospel message (Acts 20:21).

But it is more than just the message of salvation; it is the means God has provided for us to walk in light. Search the Scriptures. The vast majority of times that the word repent is used it is in reference to God’s people! It is the necessity of believers! I need to repent…and so do you.

It was D.L. Moody who famously said, “Keep short accounts with God.” In that one statement is the secret to daily victory and spiritual power. Sin piles up so quickly. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin is the cause of broken fellowship with God and brokenness in so many areas of our lives. It is a cancer.

Remember that the Old Testament sacrifices were offered every day. Praise God our perfect Sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ, was enough! But, why was there a need for daily offerings? Daily intercession of the priest? Daily observance? Because man needs daily cleansing from his sin. That truth has not changed though the ages. I need the mercy of God every day! His mercy is available through the sacrifice of Christ and accessed when I confess my sin to God.

David understood the need for daily confession of sin and daily mercy. He wrote, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily” (Psalm 86:3). David did not just need mercy when he had committed adultery and murder. His confession was not limited to Psalm 51. He sought to stay close to God every day. And so must we.

Confession must be done every day! “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26).  Make things right before the day is done. Even better, do not wait until the end of the day to confess your sins. The moment the Holy Spirit arrests your attention and convicts you that something does not please Him, stop and confess that sin to God. Daily confession is best done many times through the day.

At every moment of confession there is cleansing.

There are certain things without which life could not be lived every day. Water. Food. Rest. This principle holds true in the spiritual realm. The life of Christ cannot be lived through us apart from daily confession and cleansing of sin.

Daily Challenge: For the next week set aside a specific time every day to get alone in a quiet place. Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal to you the sin in you. Read His Word and allow Him to show you by His Spirit where you have failed Him. Then call each sin by name. Call your sin what God calls it and claim the promise of 1 John 1:9. Daily confession brings daily cleansing.

 

New Blog Series!

UnknownThe Christian life is not lived one day a week. It is lived every day. Walking with Jesus is not an event; it is a way of life.

Far too much Christianity is reserved for the church house. Christ is relegated to “His day.” We must always remember that Sunday is the Lord’s day, but every day is a Lord’s day.

And every day we are to follow Him.

Scripture reveals a host of “daily” truths for the child of God. These are principles and promises which must be considered every day if we are to please the Lord. In the coming blog series I plan to share one of these each week.

Here are 3 ways to get the most out of each post:

  • Subscribe to this blog to receive an email notification each time one of the posts is published. Click the “follow” button in the right column to sign up now!
  • Take the one “daily” truth found in each post as your challenge for the week. Seek to memorize the Scripture verse and apply the principle to your own daily walk with Christ. Habits are formed over time. Concentration is key. One truth each week. One truth a day. “This one thing I do…
  • Pass it along. Encourage another friend or family member to read the article and join with you in putting the truth into practice.

The first “daily truth” will be published soon! I am excited to share them with you and hope you will join me in applying each of them to your walk with Christ every day.

 

 

 

What to Do When Your Devotional Life Grows Stale

Has your devotional life become dry? As far as you know there is no unconfessed sin. You are reading the Bible and going through the mechanics of prayer, but it seems like mere motion. We have all been there!

People often think that preachers must jump out of bed in the morning, always excited about their quiet time with God. Nothing could be further from the truth! We all battle with flesh. Even on our best days there is a struggle to keep the devotional life fresh.

Permit me to share a few practical suggestions that have been of help to me…

  1.  Sometimes it is good to “switch things up.” All of us can get in a rut – our souls can get so accustomed to the routine of a devotional life that we are missing the point. Take a break from your schedule. Don’t feel guilty about it. That does not mean take a break from the Bible and prayer!  Introduce some variety.  Read a good devotional book.  The writings of F.B. Meyer have been a great help to me recently. Oswald Chambers is another favorite. Meditate on a great hymn. Write out prayers and praises in a journal. Change your pattern and it will help to keep your soul fresh.
  1.  Don’t put undue pressure on yourself. We put expectations on ourselves that even the Lord does not put on us! Years ago I read a book by James E. Duncan, Jr. entitled Relax and Let God. It helped me to realize that I don’t have to perform for Him or work something up. Accept that every day is different. There are moments when God seems to hide His face. According to Scripture, this is so that we will seek Him in faith and fervency. Faith rests in the sufficiency of God.
  1.  Major on Jesus. Far too often our devotional life becomes so much about learning some new spiritual truth and not enough about the person of Christ. Return to “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Meditating on the cross brings a tender heart. The love of God melts coldness like nothing else will. It is not enough to read longer, pray harder, or try more. Begin saying to the Lord throughout the day, “Jesus, I love you.” That’s all. Express your love to Him and think about His love for you.
  1.  Keep on. When the famine comes, don’t quit. Usually those times come just before the blessing. God is about to show you something special or take you to a new level in your walk with Him.

This season will pass. Refuse to allow the enemy to convince you that it is not worth the effort. Draw nigh to God and He promises to draw nigh to you!

Run Your Race!

About five months ago I did something I have never done – I started running. I should have started years ago. While physically it has helped me, I am amazed at how much clarity and quiet it provides to think and pray.

But this is not a blog about running. It is about life. Many times in the last few months I have realized the similarities between running and the daily disciplines of life.

The Apostle Paul spoke frequently of this parallel…

…that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain…I therefore so run, not as uncertainly” (1 Cor. 9:24, 26a)

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7)

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

And at the end of his race these parting words: “I have finished my course” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Paul was a runner. I am a runner. And so are you.

We may be terribly out of shape or off course! But every one of us has a race to run.  And we are the only ones who can run it.

One day as I ran my regular course I saw a woman running off in the distance. Like most ignorant men I made it my goal to pass this fellow runner. I picked up the pace, determined that no runner would be out in front of me.

It was a terrible mistake! By the time I caught up with my competitor it was clear that she was running a much faster pace than I. Still, I pushed on. Out of breath, with barely enough energy to finish my run, I succeeded. I had won!

Or had I? Nearly 2 miles from home, it made for a long run back.

imagesI learned a valuable lesson: run my race. Not hers. Not someone else’s. Mine.

The writer of Hebrews 12:1 said it best, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

  • Each of us has a race set before us. We do not choose it for ourselves; it is chosen for us by the One who knows the end from the beginning. This is why the very next verse declares, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The direction is His to set. We merely follow His course.
  • The race is before us. You cannot make forward progress always looking behind you. Trying to stay ahead of someone else or bothered by some thing long ago passed is unhelpful. Move on. Get past your past. Run your race.
  • Finally, we must understand that the race is set before us – it is personal. Every man has his own race to run. The race is run for Christ – not for someone else.

There is far too much comparison Christianity today. We are warned in Scripture that those who compare themselves by themselves are not wise (2 Cor. 10:12). Our race is not run because we have kept up or surpassed another runner along the way.

The only competition we have in this race is against our own opportunity and our own ability. The only strength we have in this race is the divine enabling that comes through grace, and that grace is only given as we run our race.

Solomon learned on his run that “the race is not to the swift” (Eccl. 9:11). Isaiah learned on his run that only the Lord can give strength so that we may “run and not be weary” (Isa. 40:31).

There is much to learn from a good run. Get out and start today! Run YOUR race, the race “set before you.”

Still Enjoying the Journey

About four years ago I began blogging. I have been more regular at times than at others, but it has been a good exercise for me. Many friends have been kind enough to read and respond. I chose “Enjoying the Journey” as a way of expressing that for the follower of Christ it is not just the destination that is wonderful! It is the daily walk with the Lord Jesus as constant companion. (Read one of the first posts on this subject here.)

Since that time I have learned much about the way God leads us on the journey of life. In an early 2015 article entitled Along the Journey, I wrote, “On every trip there are decisions to be made…Inevitably we will face intersections, decisions about which way to go. At that moment we must especially live by faith. Ask God for wisdom and believe that He will never lead you in the wrong way.” Little did I realize at the time how true that would be for my journey over the last few months.

After a long season of life and ministry in the same place the Lord has led our family to step out by faith into full time evangelistic work. As I face 2016 my mind is filled with both questions and confidence. There are many details I do not know, but there is one thing I am sure of – we are following the Lord. He has gone before us. He will go with us. He will endure when we are gone. Our journey will continue by His mercy until we stand at the throne of God.

Several days ago I gave a parting message and testimony to our church family. It is my prayer that God will use it to encourage the faith of others who may be called to step out into the unknown with Him. You may watch this brief message here.

On the threshold of a new year and a new season of ministry I want to say thank you. So many people have prayed for us and sought to encourage us. The love of God has been real. Our eyes are on the Lord and our desire is to bring Him glory. Peace and joy has been ours in a special way through this time. I have learned that in the most trying moments of life the Holy Spirit is exceedingly precious. And I am still enjoying the journey!

May God bless you and your family as you follow the Lord’s path for you this year.  “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23). Walk with Christ and enjoy the journey…

 

Why I Thank God for My 6th Grade Teacher

Teachers are powerful people.  This month thousands of teachers will be recognized.  Few will be appreciated as they deserve. As I think over my elementary, junior high, high school, college, and seminary years I remember quite a variety of teachers, and realize that God used each of them to help shape my life in some way.

A few months ago my mother called and said that she had found an old book of mine at home and was sending it to me.  (My wife was very excited that I would have one more book to add to the collection around the house!)  This book was not a biography, a theological treatise, or one of the classics.  No. It was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Don’t laugh!  I am keeping this book forever.  My 9-year-old son thinks the story line is great, but that is not the reason.  In the front cover of the book there is a handwritten note from my sixth grade teacher.  It says:

Dear Scott,

Thanks for all the times you relieved me during story time.  You did so well.

Mr. Hess

P.S.  Use that talent for the Lord!

There is no way Mr. Hess could have known how God was using him to prepare me.  Each afternoon our popular teacher read from some book for a few minutes to our class.  It was a welcomed reprieve from the rigors of the day.  One afternoon Mr. Hess walked to my desk, handed me the book of the week, and informed me that I was reading to the class.  This became a regular practice.  Looking back now I can see more of God’s unconscious preparation in my life.

Reading aloud each afternoon taught me several things…

  • I learned a deeper love of books.
  • I learned how to read with emotion and emphasis, not just to get through the story but to communicate it.
  • I learned to stand before peers and speak clearly.
  • I learned confidence.

I learned many things that year.  The following summer God called me to be a preacher.  Every week of my life I stand before people to read the Bible and speak.  When I do, I thank God for my sixth grade teacher.  I thank God for Mr. Hess and pray that someone will remember me someday the way I remember him.

Read more about the influence of teachers here.

Along the Journey

We are in the midst of planning our annual family vacation.  Some of my fondest childhood memories surround family trips.  There is a certain adventure to it all!  My wife and children love to travel and it has made for wonderful times together.  Sometimes the road trip is as much fun as the destination!

41_19_22_webSeveral years ago I began writing on this blog.  At the time I chose “Enjoying the Journey” as the title.  I want to enjoy the journey with Jesus and those that He has chosen for me to share the journey with.  Along the journey there are certain things that you grow accustomed to watching for.

  • Along the journey there are yield signs.  To ignore a “yield” sign is to do so at your own peril.  Throughout life there will be many moments when God asks you to yield – and to do so gladly.  At these moments He is merging something into your life that is necessary for the journey to flow smoothly.
  • Along the journey there are stop signs.  Sometimes God puts up a “stop” sign, a definite and divine command to wait.  Those of us who like to get to our destination have a hard time with these delays!  Yet the Lord is moving when we are not. He is at work.  George Muller once commented on Psalm 37:23, “‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord’ – and so are the stops!”  Thank God for every road block of mercy and trust that He knows best.
  • Along the journey there are detours.  Some of these are of God and some are not.  When detours approach it is always wise to pull off and check the map.  Is this going to take me to the same destination?  If I follow this route, where will I be?  Satan’s detours take you farther away from the right way and rob you of God’s best.  When the Lord leads down a detour it is always to bring us back on the path with some good thing He desires to give us.
  • Along the journey there are rest areas.  Jesus said to His disciples, “Come ye yourselves apart…and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  In my youth I wanted to see how quickly I could get to my destination.  But, how many beautiful places and experiences are missed this way!  Sometimes God gives a wide place in the road to stop and refresh yourself.  You can’t live there but you can’t live without them either.  Learn to rest and renew.  The journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Along the journey there are speed limits (and policemen to help you remember!).  No illustrations here.  Too many bitter memories.  The truth is that we often race through life at such a pace we are rushing right past the Lord and others He desires for us to minister to.  Slow down and “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).  This literally means to stay in step with the Spirit.  Don’t get ahead of Him and don’t get behind Him.  A precious friend, Dr. Johnny Pope, reminded me this week in a text that “we are encouraged to walk by faith, not run.  Running brings the connotation of hurry and make it happen, whereas walking speaks to us of a calmness that trusts God to make it happen.”  Amen!
  • Along the journey there are cross roads.  On every trip there are decisions to be made.  As many of them as can be made in advance is good.  This brings a certainty to our direction.  Inevitably we will face intersections, decisions about which way to go.  At that moment we must especially live by faith.  Ask God for wisdom and believe that He will never lead you the wrong way.

There are many other things found along the journey.  Not all of the twists and turns are enjoyable.  The greatest part of the journey is companionship and we could have no better Companion than the Spirit of God, “Christ in you,” the One who promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Someday soon I will trade my road trip for a flight.  Jesus will come and I will be “caught up…to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  I hope you are planning to take that trip with me.  Until we take that final flight, we must make the most of every mile marker along life’s road.  Keep enjoying the journey…and look for Him along the way!