All posts by Chris Miller

I am a writer and presenter. My passion is to inspire individuals to overcome the barriers holding them back in life. Find my blog at https://chrismilleronline.wordpress.com.

A Once In History Life

We’ve all seen coffee cup phrases.  The encouraging words that are just right to place on a coffee cup and present to someone as an encouraging gift.  Most gift shops stock these cups and they make great gifts for a person who just needs a little encouragement.  The phrases usually originate from Scripture as the Bible is full of them.

 

You do not have to read very far into Philippians before finding a coffee cup phrase; maybe even one of the most encouraging phrases in Scripture.  It is in the sixth verse of the first chapter; he, who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion.

 

There is no denying this is an encouraging statement.  The Lord is at work in our lives, and he promises he will complete what he has started.  God is completing a good work in our lives despite what we may do to try to stop him.  The Bible’s biography of Moses helps us understand how this truth works.  Despite Moses at times, God completed a good work in his life.

 

What do we have in common with Moses?

 

This may seem like an odd question.  You may be thinking, “We can’t possibly have anything in common with Moses.”  True, Moses had a once in history childhood, grew up to be a shepherd in the desert, and spent his senior years leading the Israelites through the desert.  Unique is an understatement when describing his life, yet we share common ground with Moses.

 

A Once in History Life

 

I said above Moses is the only one who lived his life story.  God placed Moses in a unique time and called him to a unique purpose.  Moses was the individual God needed in that moment to fulfill that part of his plan.

 

Glimpse through Moses’ biography, and you can see how each phase of his life prepared him for the next.  Growing up in Pharaoh’s palace would have enabled Moses to become familiar with Egyptian customs.  Shepherding sheep in the desert prepared Moses to be the shepherd of God’s people in the desert.  God began a good work in Moses and carried it through to completion.

 

The same can be said for us.  God has placed us in a unique position.  Every person has a spot in God’s plan and a purpose to fulfill.  Scripture speaks of each person’s uniqueness.

 

  • The Psalmist says to the Lord, “For you created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was woven together in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Esther was told, “You are here for such a time as this.”

 

Acting

 

Glimpse through your own biography.  See how the previous phases of your life have prepared you for the current phase.  He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.

 

Moses had a once in history life, and so do we.  Share how the past has prepared you for the present in the comments below.

 

Why Do We Struggle With Contentment?

Devotions from the Front Porch asks, “Are you ever tempted to look at the neighbors and compare yourself to them? Perhaps from your perch on the porch, their lives look great. You see them open their car doors, and trash doesn’t even fall out. Meanwhile, you could feed a small country with the discarded French fries and cereal remnants in the floor of your van. The last time you used the restroom at their house, it felt like a trip to the spa. It’s a good day if yours has some toilet paper left on the roll.”

“I wish I drove a car like his. I wish my house was as fancy as hers. I wish my kids were as well behaved as their children. I wish ____.” Fill in the blank. Have you ever had these thoughts? I’m guessing everyone says yes. These thoughts creep into everybody’s mind from time to time. Perhaps we have these thoughts because we struggle with contentment.

 

It is a struggle we all share. I am not writing this to claim I have it all figured out. I don’t. I am writing this to claim Paul had it all figured out and tells us how to overcome this struggle.

 

Paul, in Philippians 4, has some advice as to where we find our true contentment. He says he knows what it is to have plenty. The big house, great job, and large sums of money in savings and investments can bring contentment. It is easy to be content in these life seasons. Contentment comes easy during these times, but what about the rougher seasons in life?

 

He also says he knows what it is to be in need. Paul experienced seasons in life when he basically lost everything. On one occasion, Paul found himself prisoner on a ship caught in a severe storm. The ship sank, leaving its passengers in the middle of the sea clinging to debris. Paul finally drifted ashore. He was wet, cold, and had nothing, yet he remained content. How? Why?

 

“He was wet, cold, and had nothing, yet he remained content. How? Why?”

 

The Secret

 

The secret, Paul says, is where or better said, in whom, he finds his contentment. “I have learned the secret to contentment in any and every situation; whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

 

True contentment is found in Christ. Looking for contentment in other places will eventually leave us empty. The big house and large sums of money are nice, but do not provide true contentment. Scripture states it is only found in Christ. As for the neighbors who appear to have a better life, chances are they look at you with the same thought.

 

Why do we struggle with contentment when Paul says it is easy to find in Christ? I know you are reading this and saying, “That is easy to say but much harder to live out.” Agreed, but here are a couple illustrations of what it looks like to live it out.

 

Modern-Day Illustrations

 

The stories of the Smiths and Ms. Johnson give us modern-day illustrations of this contentment. Both stories come as a result of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Smith believed they lived far enough inland there was no need to evacuate; however, as the storm progressed, they realized they might be in trouble. They decided it was safer to stay in their home and ride out the storm rather than leave. With water rising outside of their home, Mr. Smith decided to push their living room furniture together in the middle of the room and tie it together with his neck ties. It turns out that was a wise decision.

 

Water entered their home and the furniture began to float, creating a life preserver for Mr. Smith and his wife. The couple was able to ride on the furniture until the storm stopped. They were then able to crawl out a sky light to the safety of their roof to await rescue. It was quite an adventure, they recalled. As a mission team stood beside their home, it was obvious they had lost much of their material possessions, but they were grateful they still had one another.

 

Ms. Johnson chose to evacuate, and she returned home to find disaster. Her once picturesque home was now caked in mud and standing water. All her possessions were muddy, smelly, and ruined. She had lost everything. As a work crew arrived to help remove debris, Ms. Johnson told them her story. She commented, “I basically have lost everything.” Pausing for a moment, she continued, “Well, that is not exactly true. I’ve lost everything except my Jesus. I still have Jesus.”

 

Acting

 

Finding contentment can be a challenge. Consider asking the Lord to help you be content in some situations this week. Share how it goes in the comments below.

 

 

Leaving My Example

“Do what I say, not what I do.” Does setting an example work this way?

 

A father and his young son were driving down the road one day when the car they were following suddenly stopped. The dad slammed on the brakes causing everything the boy was holding to fly back in his face. Amid the French fries in his lap and drink running down his face and shirt, the young boy said a word no one his age should ever say. Dad asked, “Where did you hear that?” “I’ve been watching you,” the boy replied. The lyrics continue, “I’ve been watching you, dad. Isn’t that cool?”

 

 Whether we like to admit it or not, we are being watched. Our attitude is a pattern for others. Saying, “do what I say, not what I do,” will not work. We are being watched, so it is essential we model the right example in our actions and speech.

 

Actions

 

Look closely at what is said in Philippians 4:9. Basically, “use my example as an illustration for how to live life.” For most anyone, a statement like this would be a mouth full. Paul, however, can get away with it. His actions show us the type of attitude he desires for us to possess.

 

Scan the scenes of his life, and you will discover Paul experienced some adversity. Scenes include imprisonment, stoning, surviving a shipwreck, and living in a dungeon. His actions in each scene testify loudly of his faith. Guards and men on the ship became believers because of his actions. Take just a moment and evaluate your actions. What do they say?

 

Speech

 

We are also impacting others by what we say. I recently watched a video from Life without Limbs ministries.   Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. When people looked at Nick, they said, “He’ll never be able to do this.” Or, “He’ll never be able to do that.” Some people even avoided Nick because he was different than they were. People were sending Nick a negative message.

 

Nick was receiving so much negative feedback that he became overwhelmed. He said he began to wonder if anyone even loved him. He later discovered Jesus had a few words to say about this like “I love you. I love you enough that I died for you.”

 

During his earthly ministry, Jesus talked to all kinds of lost people. He talked to beggars, lepers, prostitutes, and the list goes on, but he always had the same approach. He always did it in a compassionate, sensitive, positive way. Take a moment and evaluate your speech. What are your words saying?

People are impacted by what we do and what we say.

 

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” In other words, do everything in a way that brings glory and honor to God so others can learn from you.

 

An Illustration

 

A good example of someone who has a peaceful, positive attitude is Job. Let me tell you Job’s story. Scripture tells us Job was a man of enormous wealth; he had a large amount of livestock and several servants. Job was also a man who was holy and respected God. There was a time in Job’s life, though, when it looked very bad. He was subjected to two tests of his faith.

 

The first test was a day in which Job was visited by a series of messengers. The first messenger told Job a great deal of his livestock had been stolen, and several his servants had been killed. While he was still speaking, a second messenger came in and said the rest of Job’s livestock had been stolen, and the rest of his servants had been killed. While this man was still speaking, yet a third messenger came and informed Job his sons and daughters were killed in a mighty wind. Job responded to this test by saying the Lord gives and takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised.

 

During his second test, Job was infected with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. This would be like having cold sores all over your body. During all his trouble, Job took a positive outlook. He said, “I know my redeemer lives, and someday I will see him.”

 

That is a powerful statement from Job, because he knew that things on earth may not get any better for him. They might even get worse, but Job knew at the end, he would be victorious because his redeemer lives. Guess what! Our redeemer lives too. If you have been obedient to Jesus Christ, and have accepted the grace that he offers, you are going to be victorious just like Job. As Christians, we share in the victory that Christ achieved through his death and resurrection. The song title puts it well when it says there is victory in Jesus.

 

Acting

 

Do your actions or speech need to change? Act by saying something positive to someone this week. Share how it goes in the comments below.

 

 

5 Reasons Jesus Chose Fishermen

The Bible tells us 7 of the first 12 disciples were fishermen by trade.  It is no accident Jesus chose these individuals to be his first disciples.  As fishermen, these guys possessed characteristics every Christian should have.  Here are 5 reasons Jesus chose fishermen.

Fishermen know how to take orders.

 

These men took orders without questioning or debating.  Here are 3 examples.

 

  • When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, “at once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18).  At once was their response, an immediate reaction to Jesus’ calling.
  • A night of fishing resulted in empty nets, Jesus told Simon to go to deep water and let down the nets. “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’  When they had done so, they caught so many fish their nets began to break” (Luke 5:5-6).  “Because you say so” was good enough.
  • A post resurrection appearance placed Jesus together with his disciples after a fruitless night of fishing. “He called out to them, ‘Friends haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.  He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:5-6).  Listening to orders yielded great results.

 

While there is a time for questioning and debating, fishermen know sometimes the difference between failure and success is the width of their boat and the time it takes to cross from one side of the boat to the other.  They know when to simply take orders.

 

When Jesus said to cast their net on the other side of the boat, his disciples listened.  Christians, too, need to develop the skill of taking orders from the Lord.  It is okay to ask questions, but sometimes, situations call for simply taking orders.  The Psalmist records the Lord saying, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

 

Fishermen know how to work together.

 

Manually pulling in a net full of fish is a hard task.  Everyone on a boat works together to pull in the net.  The crew works as a team to accomplish their goal.  They do not let one person do all the work.

 

Scripture calls Christ’s followers to act in the same manner.  We are one body with many parts, and each part is to do his or her work to accomplish one common goal – introducing the lost world to the message of Christ.

 

Fishermen are dedicated.

 

Fishing requires a great deal of patience and dedication.  Fishermen might go hours, perhaps days, without even a nibble.  Giving up is not an option though.  A fisherman’s dedication pushes the person to keep fishing.

 

Jesus knew what was ahead for his followers.  He knew he needed followers who would not easily quit.  The same is true today.  Christians are called to pick up our cross and follow Christ daily.  It is never promised life will be easy, but it is promised the Lord will care for us and Heaven will be worth the wait.  As Christians, we must measure our dedication.  Are we as dedicated as fishermen?

 

Fishermen are courageous.

 

Fishing can require a person to travel into deep and treacherous waters.  It was common in Jesus’ day for fishermen to be caught in fierce storms while on the open sea.  It was their courage which pushed them to go back into the water after experiencing one of these storms.  Much courage was required.

 

Much courage is required for the Christian.  There are any number of circumstances that could cripple us with fear, but we must continue the journey of life.  This takes courage.

 

Did you know the most repeated command in Scripture is “do not fear?”  The Lord knew life would be rough and tough, so he gives us an encouraging command to have courage in the face of fear.  Psalm 46 reminds us the Lord is our refuge, strength, and protection.  In him, we can master fear with courage.  In him, we can have courage like fishermen.

 

Fishermen are skilled at using their equipment.

 

Good fishermen have a tackle box filled with various bates and lures.  Each one assigned a specific task.  Fishermen know each one’s job and how to properly use it.  They are skilled at using their equipment.

 

Like fishermen, Christians have some equipment at which we need to be skilled in using.

 

God’s Word – We have Scripture.  It is our double-edged sword.

 

Jesus shows us how to use our sword in Matthew 4.  Jesus has just been baptized and is immediately led into the desert to be tempted.  Satan tempts Jesus, and each time Jesus runs Satan off by quoting Scripture.  There is great power in God’s Word, so Christians need to be skilled in using it.

 

Prayer – James says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

 

Again, Jesus shows us how to use this tool.  Reading through the Gospels reveals Jesus withdrawing to pray frequently.  Before any major event, Jesus takes time to pray.  How well do you follow this example?  Prayer is an awesome tool the Christian has been given.  It is our responsibility to be skilled in using it.

 

Jesus could have called anyone he wanted to be his first disciples, and he called 7 men who were fishermen.  This was no accident.  These men possessed characteristics Jesus desires for all his followers to possess.  We know, of course, the Christian life is one of continual growth, so if you feel you are lacking one of these characteristics, ask the Lord to help you grow in that area.  Pick one as your focus and enjoy the adventure of growing.  Share some of the excitement of your adventure in the comments below.

 

 

5 Tips for Understanding the Bible

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Just beginning to read the Bible can feel overwhelming for some people. They desire to know what it says, but they find it difficult to understand. Comprehending the 66 books, for them, is like trying to scale Mount Everest. Difficult for a few people, and impossible for most people.

Does this describe you? If so, please know you do not have to feel overwhelmed. God desires for you to know what He says in the Bible. Understanding the Bible takes time, and can be an exciting journey. Here are five tips to help you understand the Bible.

1. GET AN UNDERSTANDABLE TRANSLATION

Walk into a book store and ask for a Bible, and you are soon overwhelmed with choices. The clerk takes you to a section filled with rows of Bibles. How do you know which one to get? Which translation is right for you?

Selecting a Translation

There are numerous translations of the Bible available. Each has its own positives and negatives. Selecting a translation should begin by asking yourself if the translation is understandable. Knowing what is said is the first step in understanding its meaning.

A couple good translations to consider are the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT). Both are written in modern English, so they use words which are familiar. Both translations are easy to read.

Adding a Paraphrase

There are also a number of paraphrases of the Bible available. A paraphrase of the Bible does just what you would think; it paraphrases what is said in Scripture. Many have found these books easier to read and understand. They don’t replace an actual verse by verse copy of the Bible, but make a great addition. A couple paraphrases to consider are The Message and The Story.

2. UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE’S ORGANIZATION

The next key is to become familiar with how the Bible is organized. Begin by understanding the Bible is divided into two sections: the Old and New Testament. The dividing line is the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament contains the books of Genesis through Malachi. It can be divided into sections such as books of the law, books of history, books of wisdom, and books of prophecy. Your Bible’s table of contents can provide a more specific breakdown. The Old Testament begins with the creation account and spans a length of time to about 400 years prior to Jesus’ birth.

The New Testament

The New Testament begins with Matthew and goes through Revelation. It too can be divided into sections. Matthew Mark, Luke and John are the Gospels. Acts tells the story of the church’s beginning. Except Revelation, the remaining books are letters which were circulated to believers to help them grow in Christ. Revelation is a prophecy about Christ’s Second Coming. The New Testament starts with the events surrounding Christ’s birth and spans the length of time to Jesus’ Second Coming. This is the era in which we are currently living.

Organized like a Dictionary

It is also helpful to realize the Bible is organized like a dictionary. The first verse on the page will be listed in the upper left corner, and the last verse on the page will be listed in the upper right corner.

3. GET A GOOD STUDY BIBLE

A third key is getting a good study Bible. Study Bibles provide commentary and other resources to help you grasp the meaning and context of the text. They also help apply the text to life in today’s world. A couple to consider is the NIV Study Bible and NIV Life Application Bible.

4. SPEND TIME IN THE BIBLE DAILY

It is important to spend time in the Bible each day. Remember, you are growing in a relationship with the Lord and this is how He speaks to you. There are as many ways to develop a daily devotional time as there are people. Each person has to pick what works for him or her. Here are some suggestions to help you develop this practice.

Find a Daily Time

The time of day does not matter. It can be any time during the day. What matters is that you strive to make it a part of your daily routine.

Find a Reading Plan

There are a number of reading plans to help guide you. Bible Gateway is a good place to find plans. One plan starts at the beginning and takes you to the end. Another plan puts the events of the Bible in chronological order. No one plan is better than another. Each plan guides your reading by highlighting a portion of Scripture to be read each day. Bible Gateway offers daily email reminders for the plan you choose.

Download a Bible App

Bible Gateway is a good app to consider. It offers the audio Bible in a number of translations. The app makes it easy to listen while you drive. You can select a daily reading plan and view other resources in the app.

Consider a Devotional Book

There are many aavailable. Devotionals highlight a passage of Scripture accompanied by a thought for the day.

5. ASK QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE

This may be the most important key to understanding the Bible. Asking questions can bring answers and insight not found any where else. The desire of Christians is for others to grow in Christ. Jesus commands us to make disciples. This involves answering questions. Spending time answering questions is not a burden but a privilege. It is exciting to see other Christians growing, and answering questions fosters growth. Do not be afraid to ask questions. A wise man said, “The only dumb question is a question that is not asked.”

Understanding the Bible takes time. It should be an exciting journey filled with anticipation of what you will discover next. It should not feel overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help through prayer. The Lord is willing to help us understand Scripture. You can also ask for help from the church. We are all on the same journey and desire for you to join us. Hopefully, these suggestions have helped you get started understanding the Bible, and keep us posted. Tell us what new and exciting discoveries you are making as you grow in your understanding.