How do you handle suffering?

Today I was impressed by something Winston Churchill reportedly said, “Nothing is more exciting in life than being shot at without result.”

I can only imagine the adrenaline rush of barely escaping death or severe injury as he described. As I thought about that statement though, it made me also wonder what happens when life hits us and we were not able to dodge the bullet of suffering?

In times like these, I think it is easy to feel isolated and alone as though no one else is having times of difficulty. How do we as Christians find hope to endure the dark valleys of life?

Notice what Jesus says in Rev. 2:9-10 NLT

I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”

What comforting words we have in “I know.” Jesus KNOWS! He is not a distant God, but one who is intimately aware of all that is going on in our lives.

Notice that Jesus also does not sugar coat the message for the believers in Smyrna who are enduring great suffering for their faith. Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” He didn’t tell them that their suffering was over to give them a false hope. Instead, he said, don’t be afraid when the suffering continues. In some ways, for them, the worst was yet to come.

Why can these believers continue in faithfulness in spite of their great anguish? Notice the last sentence, “If you remain faithful, even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”

The readers could be encouraged by the reminder that Jesus knows their suffering and the promise that faithful obedience even to death will not be forgotten, but rewarded!

This morning then, I was encouraged by the reminder that Jesus knows all that is going on my life today and every day. In addition, I need not fear when difficulties come or when they even get worse. I simply have to trust God, remain faithful, and follow him regardless of what happens.  I should do all of this as I am encouraged by his promises to reward such effort.

Father, thank you for shooting straight with us. We all will suffer, some more than others. You are not surprised by this. You do not tell us to ignore such things, but that we should accept them and remain faithful to you knowing that one day you will reward the life of endurance.

The Unavoidable

This past weekend I did one thing I hate doing but really needs to be done. I cleaned the outside grill! I knew that cleaning the grill was certain to include a greasy mess. It was unavoidable!

One unavoidable truth in scripture is that judgment is coming for everyone. No one can escape it. The passage that impressed me this morning with that truth reminded me that I need to be faithful regardless of whether others notice because God sees it all. God sees both my sin and my good deeds, even when others don’t.

In 1 Timothy 2:24-25 notice how Paul reminds Timothy of these truths,

“Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light.” (NLT)

Those who think they will get away with unseen sin will be in for a surprise. The text tells us that man may not see our sins but God sees it all and he will hold everyone accountable. This reality should motivate us to be faithful and obedient.

For those who think their good deeds will never be noticed, need to see the encouragement here. Even though I may never be praised by man for my good works, God sees them. He does not miss a single one! The encouragement is that these works will one day be evident and rewarded. Instead of being discouraged by a lack of human recognition for such effort, we are to be encouraged knowing that nothing misses the observation of God. He will one day reward such faithfulness. It is unavoidable!

Notice how Barclay summarizes this section,

“This saying bids us leave things to God and be content. There are obvious sinners, whose sins are clearly leading to their disaster and their punishment; and there are secret sinners who, behind a front of unimpeachable rectitude, live a life that is in essence evil and ugly. What man cannot see, God does. ‘Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention.’ There is no escape from the ultimate confrontation with the God who sees and knows everything.

There are some whose good deeds are plain for all to see, and who have already won the praise and thanks and congratulations of men. There are some whose good deeds have never been noticed, never appreciated, never thanked, never praised, never valued as they ought to have been. They need not feel either disappointed or embittered. God knows the good deed also, and he will repay, for he is never in any man’s debt.

A. Duane Litfin adds, “All people are heading toward judgment, carrying with them either their sins or their good works. For some, their sins or good works go before them and are obvious to all observers. For others their sins or good works trail behind, hidden from view, becoming known only after the individual has passed.”

Father, help me to be convinced in my heart that certain judgment is coming for me. Not to determine if I am a believer, but for my faithfulness as a believer (2 Cor. 5:10). As a result of my convinced heart, help me to be faithful and fruitful whether of not others notice because you notice and will reward me.

Following Jesus with you,

Following Jesus: The Life Of A Disciple

My book on discipleship is now available!

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I am thrilled to announce that my first book is now available at Amazon!  Please check it out if you want to study important discipleship concepts for yourself, or if you want to lead others and help expand the Kingdom!  I hope it is something God can use for His glory!  The Spanish version will be available soon!

Here is the link if you would like to check it out

Please email me at followingjesuswithyou@gmailcom if you have questions about the book or how to use it.  Let’s make disciples of Jesus together!


What So Enraged Ahithophel That He Betrayed David?

Have you heard fo the saying, “Blood is thicker than water”? This truism reminds us that relationships within the family and their loyalties are generally stronger than those outside the family.

I could not help but think of that saying when I was contemplating an event in the life of David. The situation I am referring to is when his son Absalom tried to overthrow his kingdom with the help of Ahithophel. Notice what it says in 2 Sam. 15:31,

“And it was told David, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”

This coup attempt for David’s throne is compounded by the defection of Ahithophel. Ahithophel was the most esteemed advisor that David had. He is described as follows in 2 Sam. 16:23,

“Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, just as David had done. For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.

Why would David’s most trusted advisor leave him for Absalom? Ahithophel had been David’s right-hand man for years! This just does not seem to make sense! In fact, Ahithophel appears to be more than a casual conspirator because he wants to personally kill David. Notice what is says in the following passage,

“Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, ‘Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband.’” (2 Sam. 17:1-3)

What is going on? What was driving Ahithophel to pursue this desperate course of action? We do not know much about Ahithophel, but we do find a major clue in 2 Sam. 23:34. There we learn that he had a son named Eliam.

This observation is very significant because of what we learn in 2 Sam. 11:3,

“He (David) sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’”

Do you see what I see? Ahithophel is the grandfather of Bathsheba! The daughter of his son had a tragic end to her marriage because of David. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was killed through the conniving plan of David in his desperate attempt to hide the fact that he was the father of the child that Bathsheba was carrying.

When David had learned that the woman he wanted was married and the granddaughter of Ahithophel, his most trusted advisor, he should have come to his senses and abandoned his plans of taking advantage of her. Instead, he forced himself upon her in spite of this information. His decision to sin in this way had tragic consequences for him and many others.

As a result of these observations, it seems very possible that Ahithophel never got over this betrayal by David and he was waiting for his opportunity to get revenge because he had harmed his family. What a tragic story!

Father, thank you for helping us see that sin has disastrous consequences. David, controlled by passion, rationalized away obedience to pursue his selfish pleasure. You graciously let him know two facts 1) Bathsheba was married and 2) she was the granddaughter of his closest advisor.  This information should have stopped him cold in his tracks, but tragically it did not. Help me not to be deceived by sin and give me the ability to see my foolishness before I make mistakes like David.  Enable me to pursue simple obedience in following you.

God Cares Even When We Fail

Today I found great comfort in Psalm 56:8.  It says,

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

God was so aware of the details of David’s life that David describes it as God catching every one of his tears and putting them in a bottle. Every tear is recorded.  This is so encouraging, but it makes me wonder what David was experiencing to cause him such sorrow?

Sometimes in scripture, there is a connection between what we find written in the Psalms and a historical event. Psalm 56 is such a passage. This Psalm was written during the events of 1 Samual 21:10. When you read that passage, you find that this Psalm was written at the time David was fleeing from Saul and went to Gath and pretended to be mad before the king. How could David reach such a state that he felt the need to act like a crazy man to protect himself? This is a very hard question, but I think 1 Sam 21:12 helps us understand his motivation. Notice what it says,

“And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.”

Why did David do what he did instead of displaying confidence that God would protect him? The answer is fear!

David Payne provides great insight about this when he says,

Fear … was the cause of David’s deceit, both of Ahimelech and of Achish. Fear, like pride, is a destructive human trait, which can lead to a variety of wrongful actions. It is a basic human reaction to frightening circumstances, of course, but the Christian can overcome it by the depth of his trust in God, as many a Christian martyr has demonstrated.”

The Bible does not hide the imperfections of its characters. David was a man with flaws. He was not perfect and made mistakes. Even so, he was a man after God’s own heart. He had God as the number one allegiance of his heart even while being imperfect.  In this case, he allowed fear to cause him to make bad decisions.

Why then was David crying?  I’m sure that it was a combination of the need to flee for his life, being alone, missing his friends and family and missing the nearness of God. It also could be that he realized he had made some bad decisions and was sorrowful because of that as well.

Even so, God’s grace is clearly seen in how David reflected on his situation in Psalm 56. David still understood that God was intimately aware of everything he had done. He saw God as still being with him and being concerned about him in spite of his poor decisions and his difficult circumstances.  In fact, David saw God being so aware of his situation, it was as though God was there catching every tear that fell from his cheek!

Father, this example of David and your care for him even though he made mistakes, is so encouraging. I am often challenged by David’s courage and faith in you, but here, I am encouraged by his failure and your steadfast love in his life in spite of that. I know you love me when I make mistakes as well since I am your son. Help me to trust in you and courageously follow you, but also help me to remember that you care about me when I make mistakes.

Following Jesus with you,


When Tragedy Strikes

Unexpected tragedy will impact all of us at some time in life. Those challenges could be the health of loved ones, our own health, a loss of our job and the death of those we care about. Whatever it is, it is only a matter of time until we experience it.

As I was reading the book of Ruth, I was impressed with how she handled the loss of her husband. In that culture, she was very vulnerable as a widow. People could take advantage of her, and her future did not look promising after being married for around 10 years and now without a protector.

How would you respond in similar circumstances? How would I respond? Would we be incapacitated in grief and withdraw from others hoping God would somehow help us?

I think Ruth models a proper response to a tragedy. I am sure she had a season of intense grief at the loss of her husband, but then she got up and did something about her situation.

If you remember, she went and worked the fields of a distant relative. She worked hard, and all day to meet her needs and the needs of Naomi, her mother-in-law. Then, when the closest Redeemer did not come forward to provide for her and take her as his wife,, she did something about it. She engaged and took the initiative by going to Boaz, the owner of the field she was working because he was the next in line if the closest redeemer refused to do his duty before God and redeem Ruth.

Notice the results of her efforts,

“And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are ta worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, was the LORD lives, I will redeem you.” (Ru 3:11-13)

God worked through and honored her effort. She trusted in God, but then she took action. This is a great challenge to all of us. We need to be praying and believing in God, but we also need to be doing our part. The result is God will work to accomplish his will through our efforts.

Father, thank you again for this great reminder of the need for effort in our lives. I need to be completely dependent upon you, but I also have to step out in a direction so that you can lead me. May your will be done in me and through me as I seek to live for you.

Following Jesus with you,

The Surprising Model

As parents, we are regularly encouraging our children to follow our example. We are the ones instructing and showing them how to live life. From walking and talking, to sports, and especially, in developing their relationship with God. Parents are always seeking to train their kids for all of life.

Have you ever had your children tell you that you were wrong or that they knew a better way to do something? These statements mean more as our kids mature, but I remember one time when our children were young they taught me something. We lived out in the country, and our dog was outside. When it was time to let him in the house, the smell on him was overwhelming! It turns out that he was sprayed by a skunk! Now, what do I do? How do I get that smell out? It was then that the kids told me they were watching a T.V show and it said to bathe the dog in tomato juice! I was desperate, so I tried it. To my surprise, it worked!

As I was reading Luke 18 today, I was pleasantly reminded that we can learn something vital from little children. Yes, adults can learn critical spiritual truth from little ones. In fact, Jesus says that very thing. In verse 17 he says,

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

I like what Lenski says about this statement. He notes,

“This statement is astonishing in every way. We should think as, alas, so many did and do think that a babe must receive the kingdom as an adult receives it, but absolutely the reverse is true. The child is the model, not the man.”

What a great picture Jesus gives us through children. Just like children are trusting, humble and dependent, so must we be when we respond to the offer of the gift of forgiveness and life!

Father, thank you for the great reminder of the need for humility, trust, and dependence in my relationship with you. That is necessary not just in my acceptance of forgiveness but in my daily relationship with you. Help me to walk today as a little child in complete trust in you and experience the security that brings me.

Following Jesus with you,

Be Strong and Courageous!

As I was reading through Deuteronomy 31, I was impressed when Moses spoke to the nation on his 120th birthday! He knew that he would be unable to enter the Promised Land and was giving his farewell address to the nation and to his successor, Joshua.

If I were Moses, what would I want to make sure Joshua and the nation knew I was about to die and Joshua was to take my leadership role?

First Moses tells the people as a whole to “be strong and courageous, ” and then he tells Joshua the same thing (Deut. 31:6-7). As I thought about those words which were meant to encourage, I tried to place myself in the shoes of the listeners. This sounds like a “rah rah” pregame speech of a football coach as they were getting ready to play a superior opponent. The excitement and adrenalin from such a speech can only last so long. If I were the listeners and thought about this charge from Moses, I think I would eventually get overwhelmed and possibly, even discouraged. Why?

The task at hand for the nation was to conquer all the people already residing in the promised land! That meant months and years of warfare, struggle and extreme challenge. Then, if I were Joshua, thinking I need to now lead these rebellious people to accomplish this task, I would have doubted my ability to complete the job.

That is why Moses said more than just “be strong and courageous.” Second, notice he also explains why they should be strong and courageous. He said, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

What so encouraged me this morning was the reminder that if God calls us to accomplish great things for him, he will also be with us to enable us to achieve those things. In fact, this reminded me of what Jesus said at the end of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), where he gave the charge to make disciples of all nations. He concludes with, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” An alternate translation would be, “I am with you every minute of the day until the job is done.”

Jesus has called us to follow him and live a life of faithfulness to him while becoming like him so we can help others do the same. This task is too big for me to accomplish, but knowing that he is with me to enable me to do these things, gives me hope and the courage to press on.

Father, thank you that you are always with your followers. Thank you that you want to give me the ability to become the person you designed me to be. Forgive me for forgetting this truth.  You are with me and will enable me to accomplish what you call me to do.  Victory is not based on my ability.  I just need to trust you to help me and then take the initiative.  I yield to your leadership and ask for your enabling to make that happen in my life.

Following Jesus with you,

Our High Priest

In the book of Leviticus, God gave the generation leaving Egypt clear direction in how to deal with sin. The high priest was the mediator between a holy God and his sinful people. The role of this high priest was critical in the nation of Israel. The problem though with the high priest was that he too struggled with sin just like the people he represented. Notice what it says in Lev. 4:3,

If the high priest sins, bringing guilt upon the entire community, he must give a sin offering for the sin he has committed.”

As a result of the Fall, no one is immune from sin. Even the high priest sinned!  His sin required that he offer a sacrifice for his imperfection before he could represent the people and fulfill his role.

The only exception to universal sinfulness is Jesus. Read the following verses to see the difference between Jesus as High Priest,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Pet. 2:22)

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 Jn. 3:5)

Jesus, as our High Priest, is sinless. He could, therefore, shed his blood for our sins so that he could offer forgiveness to all who believe in him, once and for all. Notice what it says in Heb. 1:3,

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

The statement that Jesus “sat down” is startling.  The high priest’s work in the Old Testament was never finished. He never sat down on the job! But we see that Jesus, through his one sacrifice for you and me sat down at the right hand of the Father as evidence that he completed the work required in addressing our sin!

Father, thank you for giving us a perfect and sinless High Priest. His sacrifice on our behalf is finished. His death was a once and for all sacrifice. Living today as a follower of Jesus truly is a blessing and privilege.

Following Jesus with you,

“Among” vs. “In”

As I concluded my reading of Exodus a couple of days ago, I was impressed with how the book ends. Notice how Moses concludes this book,

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle…For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” (Ex. 40:34, 38)

If you remember back through the whole book of Exodus, there was a lot that happened! It begins with the Jews slavery in Egypt, God’s deliverance of his people through the plagues, crossing the Red Sea as the Egyptian army chased them, and God’s miraculous provisions throughout the book. Then, the last few chapters describe the intricate detail of the construction of the tabernacle and all the items that went with it. When all was prepared, then the glory of God, representing His presence, filled the tabernacle and the nation was ready to proceed to the Promised Land. Wow! What an ending to a book! God has taken up residence AMONG his people! This dramatic summary gives the readers high hopes for what will come next in the history of the nation.

Can you think of anything more exciting than God taking up residence AMONG a unique people on the earth! The God of the universe was visible through the fire and cloud as he inhabited the tabernacle. God was now AMONG His people, and the nation could experience the blessing of his reign over them.

As fantastic as the filling of the tabernacle was, this event is dwarfed by a new truth Paul describes in 1 Cor. 3:16,

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

Did you see it? God is no longer AMONG his people he is now IN them! That is amazing! Unfortunately, we often take this stunning truth for granted. It was only after all preparations were met that God could take up residence IN us just as he did in the tabernacle. Our sin needed to be paid for, and we needed to embrace Jesus as our Savior and God before that could happen. Only as a result of the finished work of Christ, could the Holy Spirit reside IN his people through faith.

Just as the Jews in the Old Testament were to yield to the leadership of God as they took the Promised Land, so must we yield to his direction so that he can make us more like His Son.

Paul tells us of the role of the Holy Spirit in conforming us into the image of Jesus is 2 Cor. 3:18,

“And we all… are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Father, thank you for being a God of order. A God who has a plan for our salvation and a means for us to become more like your Son through the enabling of the Holy Spirit as we yield to His authority. Thank you that you now reside IN me! Help me to walk worthy of that honor.

Following Jesus with you,