Archive for the ‘Joe Stowell’ Category


“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3

In case you haven’t noticed, our world has dramatically changed. It wasn’t long ago that it would have been unthinkable that nearly 40 million unborn children would be murdered in America. There was a time when kids could pray in public schools. Nativity scenes dotted the lawns of county courthouses and municipal parks—without protest. Marriage was strictly a guy-girl arrangement. And you could even pray in Jesus’ name at graduation ceremonies.

I’m not interested in being like the grump who said, “In my life I’ve seen a lot things change and quite frankly I’ve been against them all!” But if you are talking about changing the face of America to the point where God is out and everything else is in, then I have a problem with that kind of change. My problem is wondering how to handle my heart and attitudes. Wondering how to live and respond in a world where the foundations of righteousness are being eroded on nearly every front.

How do we, as followers of Jesus, process right and wrong in a world that tells us there are no absolutes? How do we proclaim that Jesus alone is what people really need—that He is the “way and the truth” (John 14:6)—when most people no longer believe that there is such a thing as true truth?

You don’t have to be an industrial-strength theologian to realize that the current thought patterns of most Americans fly in the face of what we hold to be true. If there are no absolutes, you can forget about the Ten Commandments. If nothing is ever right or wrong, there is no sin and no need for a Savior. It’s easy to see that believing in what God tells us about righteousness, truth, and godly living leaves us marginalized and outdated. So our hearts cry out with David: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

Let’s start with knowing what not to do. Notice that David didn’t wring his hands in despair. He didn’t “flee like a bird to [the] mountain” (Psalm 11:1). Instead, he decided to take refuge in the Unchanging One. His confidence was bolstered by the fact that God was on His holy throne and that His eyes were well aware of what was going on. Reminded of the ultimate judgment that God would pour out on wickedness, David knew that, in the face of unsettling change, staying on course with God is indeed the best and safest alternative. Looking at all the change from God’s point of view, he realized that though the change seemed overwhelming, God is still very much in charge and ultimately victorious.

Why would any of us want to go soft on God and His truth in order to feel more “with it,” when we know that the “with it” party train is headed for a disastrous train wreck? So, let’s quit all the hand wringing and feeling sorry for ourselves. Let’s cheer up, knowing that the things that can’t change—such as God’s righteous eternal reign—are still in place!

You can go with the change if you choose. I’m going with my changeless God!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Has the changing philosophies of our world changed your approach to life, sin, and righteousness in any way? Be specific.
  • What are some things that God loves and some things He hates? Do you love what He loves and hate what He hates?
  • Are you willing to take a few hits for God because you stand with Him and His truth? To what extent? In what ways was Jesus unwavering in His willingness to take a hit for you in this ungodly world?
  • Have you expected this changing, increasingly godless world to be a friend of Jesus? Read what Jesus had to say to us in John 16:33, and rejoice!

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/a-world-of-change/


“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

Douglas Coupland is a best-selling author known for his books about cultural trends in America. In his book Life After God, he no doubt surprises his readers when he shares:

Now here is my secret. I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I will ever achieve again . . . My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.

Amazing—an author who has admittedly bought into the godless secularism in our world has let his godless philosophy of life run its course, and at the end of it all he recognizes that something is missing. The unanswered longing in his soul leads him to admit that his “life after God” has left him barren and hopelessly in need. He calls it his secret because it would be almost scandalous in post-Christian America to admit that we do need God after all—the God who has been banished to the outposts of irrelevance.

I love Coupland’s candor. Life after God—or actually life without God—inevitably leaves us hollow and disappointed. And if someone like Coupland feels this way, you can bet there are a lot of others who feel the same—a lot of others who live and work where you live and work. A lot of others who just may be in your family or your circle of friends.

Well, those of us who live life with God have a secret as well. Our secret is that God exists (Hebrews 11:6) and is all He has promised to be (Psalm 145:13). That He is indeed the answer to our deepest longings (Psalm 34:9-10), and that only He can give us the motivation and power to give, to be kind, and to love (Philippians 2:13). And not only that, but that He gives us the wisdom we need to navigate life’s most complex and confusing problems (Colossians 2:2-3). He brings meaning to suffering and peace in the midst of life’s storms (Psalm 119:50). And most importantly, only God can wipe our slate clean through the death of His Son (Isaiah 53:5). Our secret is that God is all He promised to be!

So, when you feel discouraged that no one in your world has any interest in God, remember Douglas Coupland. It takes time for life to come to the disappointing end of itself when it is lived without God. And you never know who around you is coming to the same conclusions as Coupland. When they do, will you be ready to share your secret? Will they have seen enough of the reality of God in your life to want to listen to your secret? And will you have the confidence that your secret is without a doubt exactly what they need and the boldness to share it enthusiastically?

My wife tells me that I am not a good secret keeper—and in this case, that would be a virtue! Come to think of it, the fact that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16) should be on the tip of our tongues ready to be proclaimed whenever we get the chance!

I wonder if anyone who knows our secret was near to Doug Coupland when he shared his secret?

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Get alone with God and meditate on salvation. How do you know you are saved? What has He saved you from? Why are you thankful for your salvation?
  • If you had the chance to tell someone how to become a Christian, what would you say? Write down the essential elements of the message of the gospel. Then commit them to memory and look for a chance to tell someone your secret!
  • Take some time to read through the verses referenced above pertaining to your “secret.” How do these verses encourage you to share the joys of life with God?
  • Have you ever been ashamed of the gospel? If so, ask Jesus to forgive you and to replace your fear with boldness to tell people about Him.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/the-secret-that-should-not-be-kept/


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” Hebrews 13:8-9

After Rosie O’Donnell announced that she was “coming out of the closet,” I watched with interest as Bill O’Reilly interviewed her on his TV program, The O’Reilly Factor, during a feature that he affectionately dubs “The No Spin Zone.” He asked if she felt threatened by religious leaders who spoke out against the gay movement. “No,” she replied, because she knew that Jesus taught love, kindness, compassion and understanding. When O’Reilly asked Rosie if she thought God would judge her for her lifestyle, she calmly said no, because after all she had endured while growing up, Jesus would smile on the fact that she could love at all.

As I listened I thought, Wow, Jesus is being spun big time right here in the “no spin zone”!

But spinning Jesus is big sport these days. Not only do people twist Him to fit their agendas, but movie producers and authors reduce Him to a mere mortal, spinning Him in affairs with a prostitute and a marriage to Mary Magdalene. Muslims, while denying His deity, claim Him as one of their prophets. Politicians evoke His name when it might get them a few votes. And religious liberals defrock Him of His divine credentials, His miracle-working power, and His role as righteous Judge. Which relegates Him to the role of history’s leading Mr. Nice Guy. And He is nice, but if that’s all you have, then you don’t have Jesus. At least not the One who walked our planet 2,000 years ago.

When spin doctors go to work on Jesus, left on the editing room floor are facts like His judgment of the living and the dead, and that He will say things like, “Depart from me, you who are cursed” (Matthew 25:41).

Rosie is a classic example. She’s on the money when it comes to Jesus preaching love and compassion. Matthew 5:44 says, “Love your enemies.” If you have one of those cool Bibles with the red ink that shows the words of Christ, you could skim through the New Testament and find over a dozen places where Jesus instructed us to love both friends and enemies.

But Jesus is also the ultimate spiritual referee, as noted in John 5:27, where the text tells us that God has given Christ the authority to judge. For Jesus to fit into Rosie’s mold, He would have to deny   1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which says, “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral . . . nor homosexual offenders . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.” And it’s not just sexual sin, but it’s all the ways that we fall short of God’s holy standards that leave us in jeopardy before Jesus as Judge and King.

So, beware of any attempts to dish out Jesus as something less then He really is. Hebrews 13:8-9 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” A spin doctor’s clever quip about Jesus can’t change who He has always been and always will be. It would be a bad day to have lived as though there were no accountability for sin, only to find out too late that Jesus is the Judge!

But here’s the really good news. It’s also true that the Judge came to our planet to pay our penalty for sin and to become our Savior and friend (John 3:16-21). That’s something I’d like to tell Rosie—or anyone else for that matter!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Why do people want to put their own spin on Jesus? Have you ever done this, even if it has only been in your own mind?
  • This week, look for opportunities to keep Christ out of the “spin zone” by getting the truth out there. Post it on your blog; take out an ad in the newspaper; rent a billboard if you have to!
  • Memorize Colossians 1:15-20. When you are uncertain about what the world says about Christ, measure it against God’s Word.
  • Find a Bible that shows Jesus’ words in red letters. Take some time to read Jesus’ recorded words. In your journal, write down what His words reveal about the true Christ.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/jesus-in-the-spin-zone/


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Very few advertisements tout the benefits of growing old. In fact, an outsider studying our culture would surmise (perhaps accurately) that we are deathly afraid of growing old or, even worse, afraid of looking old. We have potions and lotions to hide wrinkles and remove spots. We have drugstores full of pills to help us feel young again, and the shelves are stocked with anti-aging creams and shampoos and rinses to fire up the follicle growth and restore our hair to its “natural” color. Plastic surgeons make a fortune attempting to, temporarily at least, keep the inevitable at bay with a nip here and a tuck there.

But it’s a losing battle. We are, on a daily basis, growing steadily older, and the creaks in our knees and the cricks in our neck don’t let us forget it. But for the follower of Jesus, that’s not bad news!

I was powerfully reminded of this recently while reading some thoughts from a professor at Cedarville University. In an article entitled, “Thank God for Aging” written for Torch Magazine, Cedarville’s campus publication, Chuck Dolph makes a powerful case for the reality that growing old effectively strips us of the distractions that rob our intimacy with God. “If we live long enough, we will lose our beauty, our strength, our wealth, our independence, the control of our bodily functions, our pride, and perhaps our very self,” Dolph writes. “These are our idols, all the things that we trust in life to make us attractive, valuable, and self-sufficient.”

That sounds an awful lot like the heart of Paul. He doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities of his existence as a follower of Christ. From a human standpoint it’s been a tough road: “hard pressed on every side . . . persecuted . . . struck down” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). But he doesn’t stop there. Note how he completes each one of those phrases with a note of victory: “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; . . . persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul goes on to say in 2 Cor. 4:17 that these “light and momentary trials are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

The simple reality for Paul was that, “though outwardly we are wasting away,” his physical demise was not to be compared to the fact that “inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). What a great truth! If God is our focus, even though we’re getting older, we can continue to get better on the inside where it counts!

Whether you feel it today or not, you’re wasting away. But that’s not a bad thing. Viewed through the right lens, you could see yourself as day by day growing more wonderfully dependent on the grace and strength of God. Your bent toward self-reliance and pride can be replaced with dependence and humility as you learn—perhaps out of necessity—to trust Him more and more.

In his article’s conclusion, Professor Dolph writes, “If our aging is successful, we will end our lives stripped of everything but God . . . utterly dependent on Him and the love of others.”

I don’t look forward to aches and pains and the loss of what’s left of my mind, but with Paul’s mindset, I can look forward to being more alive inside than ever before in my relationship with God. And as far as aging goes, that’s about as grace-full as it gets!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • What circumstances in your life make you aware of your own mortality and the fact that you are aging?
  • What has been your attitude about growing old? How does that match up with what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4: 1-18?
  • How is your attitude today shaped by viewing aging as an opportunity to depend more on God’s grace and the love of others?

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/aging-grace-fully/


“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

I wonder how many of us got tired of hearing our moms tell us, “Eat this, it’s good for you!” And you can bet that if it required a lot of coaxing, it wasn’t the most appetizing dish on the table!

Thankfully, there are a few items on the good-for-you menu that go down a little easier than eggplant or brussels sprouts. Like honey, for example. Who doesn’t love a glob of honey slathered thickly on buttered toast? And not only does it taste good, but scientific studies show that honey has great medicinal value. For one thing, it helps reduce cholesterol. It’s loaded with antioxidants that help fight cancer. And a bit of honey and lemon mixed with hot water has a sure soothing effect on a sore throat. In food world, there’s nothing else quite like honey. No wonder the psalmist David used it to describe God’s Word when he exclaimed, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

If we’re honest, our attitude doesn’t usually match up to David’s. Can we really say that God’s Word is “sweet” or, for that matter, “sweeter than honey”? Usually it’s more like, “Oh, I guess it’s good for me, so I have to read it.” When we engage the Bible with that attitude, it’s no wonder that it seems like a bland, flavorless experience.

So let’s start reading the Word expecting to have a meaningful, personal encounter with God. For me, it cannot be just an exercise in reading through the Bible in a year or making sure I read a chapter a day, or any other system that allows me to put a tic mark on my spiritual checklist next to the “Bible reading” obligation. Each encounter with Scripture has to be a search for something that is relevant to my life. I need to read until I hear Him speak in a way that reaches to the core of me. If it comes quickly, I may not need to read further. But if it takes more time than I had planned, I need to keep reading until my soul, heart, and mind have been revitalized.

When I read about the fact that God is sovereign and fully in control of everything that is happening in my life (Jeremiah 10:23) and ultimately manages the whole universe (Colossians 1:16-17), how sweet is that? When I read that He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and that He works everything to a good conclusion (Romans 8:28), it settles my spirit with a sweet taste. When I read that this world is not my home (1 Peter 2:11) and that my home is heaven, a place where God will wipe away every tear (John 14:3; Revelation 21:4), there could be nothing sweeter!

The more we read the words and promises that fill our hungry hearts and provide healing antidotes to our wounded souls, the more we will understand the psalmist’s enthusiasm for God’s Word. I’m telling you right now, when your life goes south, when you are confused and don’t know what to do, your next best meal is not going to help you at all. But the words of God will be just what you need. So, go ahead—eat it—not only is it good for you, it’s sweet!

Whatever your approach, reading the Bible should be a dynamic experience that is alive with flavor and excitement. As you continue to connect with God through His Word, relish every morsel. After all, His words are sweeter than honey!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Do you agree with the psalmist that God’s Word is “sweeter than honey to my mouth”? Why, or why not?
  • If it has been a while since you’ve tasted the sweetness of God’s Word, perhaps it’s time to change your approach to Scripture. If so, try one of these suggestions: (1) Read a few psalms each day along with one chapter in Proverbs; (2) search through the Bible to learn all you can about a topic such as love or money; (3) read through a short New Testament book in one sitting; (4) choose one passage and memorize it.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/sweeter-than-honey/

Tell Me The Story

Posted: November 14, 2012 in Joe Stowell
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“All these things happened to them as examples and . . . for our admonition.” 1 Corinthians 10:11

Now that I have grandkids, I’m back into the classic children’s Bible stories. Wide-eyed stories like David and Goliath, Noah’s ark, and Jonah and the big fish quickly capture a child’s imagination!

But there’s a danger here—not with the stories themselves but rather with our attitude toward them. If we view them simply as kids’ stories, kind of like the Grimm’s Fairy Tales of the Bible, we miss the point.

The stories of the Bible were never meant to be outgrown. There are profound lessons to be learned from the amazing accounts of those who faced giants, floods, and fish!

Hundreds of years after the fact, the apostle Paul explained that the things that happened to Moses and the Israelites as they wandered through the desert “happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition” (1 Cor. 10:11). These stories are about us. They mirror the tensions we face daily as we too seek to apply God’s will and ways to the realities of our lives. They teach us of the treachery of sin, our desperate need to trust God unflinchingly, and the importance of staying faithful and true to Him regardless of what happens.

Don’t ignore the old stories. You might be surprised what God wants to teach you through them.

We learn the blessed Word of God To fix it firmly in our heart, And when we act upon that Word Its truth from us will not depart. —D. De Haan

Stories from the past can give us pointers for the present.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/tell-me-the-story/


“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”                      2 Corinthians 4:16

Some people are obsessed with physical fitness—daily workouts, vitamins, organic food—in spite of the fact that our bodies keep ticking away in inevitable decline. In our twenties and thirties we think we’re invincible, but in the decades that follow, the eyesight starts to go, then the knees, then the mind. Let’s face it, trying to ensure long-lasting physical health is like trying to stem the tide with a pitchfork!

And while it is true that the older we get the worse we get physically, it doesn’t have to be that way spiritually. Believe it or not, it is possible to get better with age. It’s what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

Many of us fear aging with all the trouble it brings. But when we are gradually stripped of everything that props us up—whether wealth, independence, health, dignity, beauty, or all of the above—we are left with more and more of God. So no matter how old you are, it’s not too late to dig deep in God’s Word and invest more and more time in your spiritual well-being. You’ll see the payoffs, now and later. The older you get, the better you can become!

Although our outward shell decays, We still can be renewed each day; Commitment to God’s Word and prayer Give strength that will not fade away. —Sper

To get better with age, get spiritually fit.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/better-with-age/