Welcome To Daily In Christ Devotionals
wander from your commandments! I have stored up your
word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009
The evidence of God is so revealed in creation it is hard for me to fathom that anyone can declare, "There is no God."
Monday, December 14, 2009
Psa 18:31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?--
Psa 18:32 the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
Psa 18:33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
Psa 18:34 He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psa 18:35 You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
Psa 18:36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. (esv)
Isn't it nice to know that we serve a Perfect Creator. The Lord God is our rock and our shield. He gives us strength in time of need and His way is perfect.
This has been a year of challenges for me and my family and through all of the difficulties, God has been ever present and guided us through each step of the way. Along with the challenges there have been many blessings sprinkled in to help us keep our faith and our focus on Him. God has a wonderful way of allowing us to suffer pain in our life and still give us hope through it.
Knowing that His way is perfect and the things that happen in our life are to bring glory to Him gives me the ability to be strengthened and endure life's challenges. Even though sometimes it feels like the prince of this world is against us in full force I know that God has prepared me and my family for this battle.
Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, when all of hell seems to be breaking loose in your life and it appears that the enemy has been given free will to over take you and your situation, remember that the Lord is your strength. The Word is the full Power of God to defeat the enemy and protect us from all the schemes he uses to harm us.
Eph 6:13-17 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pick up the Word of God today and use it against the enemy. The Power of God is within our reach, we just need to remember to grab onto it during times of need.
Lord, you are our ever present helper in time of need. Thank you for the struggles as they help us grow closer to you and allow us to see your power working in our life.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Psa 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psa 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
This message from the book of Psalms give comfort and reassurance that the Lord is near to us. When we are brokenhearted and our spirit is crushed our Savior is there to give us rest and to deliver us from our afflictions. I have heard people say that Jesus doesn't know what I am going through or that He feels so distant that He probably doesn't care. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
All of us will walk through times of hurt and difficulty regardless of how long we have been serving the Lord. Sometimes it is caused by our own sinfulness and other times we are simply the unfortunate victim of the sin of others. Job is a great example to us how the righteous suffer. Job was an upright man who feared the Lord and hated everything that was evil. Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Daily he would come before the Lord and pray for his children and cry out to God. Psalms 34:19 tells us so. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." But we also have assurance that when we are hurting Jesus will be near, He will save us when our spirit is crushed, He will deliver us from the troubles that pain us.
Psalm 23 is one of the most famous Psalms in all the Bible. In verse 3 it tells us that "He restores my soul." Though we may walk through an incredibly painful valley, He will restore our souls in His time.
If you are experiencing emotional pain from the sin of others or are grieving because of the sin you have committed against someone you love, God is near to you and will restore your soul. Cry out to the Lord and ask for Him to come near to you and heal your spirit. The situation may not change over night, but His peace and comfort will allow you to endure the walk through the valley as he refines your soul.
Psa 25:16-21 Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins. Look upon my enemies, for they are many, And they hate me with violent hatred. Guard my soul and deliver me; Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.
Friday, October 23, 2009
There is hope. This message should ring from the mountain tops in our life and spread like a wild fire to those we encounter each day. Paul is writing to the Ephesians to tell them there is hope in the eternal living God. Even though we were dead in our transgressions against God (Eph 2:1), he made us alive in Christ. Not just our physical body, but our spirit is alive in Christ and we are made alive together for all of eternity. Why would the God of the universe reach down to sinful depraved mankind and offer us eternal life with Him through His son? Because He loves us. God has a great love for his children, those whom He has established since before the foundation of the universe was put into place. (Eph 1:4) And He does it because of His grace. Not because we are worthy of it, or He knew we would someday choose Him. But because He is gracious and loving and chose to redeem His people for His purpose at His time.
Being the workmanship of God in Christ, we are created for good works. God prepared them beforehand so that we would walk in them. We are created in Christ, by the love and grace of God, so that we will show the surpassing riches of grace in the ages to come. All this work is done by Him and for Him. It is not a work that we are able to do on our own, and because it is His work we have no place to boast about it. Our boasting is to be in the Lord (Rom 15:17), glorifying His name to all the generations from now until eternity for what He has done for us.
Do you have hope in Christ today or are you hoping in the things of this world to satisfy you? Jesus Christ is not only our hope for salvation, but He is our hope for our peace here on earth. When trouble comes our way and we have the hope of God in us, we are able to endure whatever hardships we encounter knowing that we are chosen by God for His good purpose. He loves each one of us and cares for us. Romans 8 tells us that all things work together for good of all who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Do you believe that today? Sometimes it doesn't seem like anything good can come from the things we are going through, but when we line it up with His will, and His wisdom, and His desires for our good work, it will always end up good.
Praise be to Him today for saving us and giving us hope.
Monday, September 21, 2009
This verse in Philippians is one that I memorized early on as a Christian. Much of my life has been an attempt at the first part of the verse without incorporating the second part. When it comes to marriage struggles, parenting difficulties, and trying to accomplish something, I will try to accomplish all things, on my own strength. And many times I fail miserably. When I call on my own self-reliance it usually turns into a hit and miss kind of proposition. Oh, sometimes I might get it right, but generally I end up picking up pieces that wouldn't have been there had I done it through Christ.
Being strengthened by Christ is a daily process. Just as a student studies his school books to strengthen his mind or a body builder lifts weights to strengthen his muscles, we are to daily walk in Christ to accomplish all things, according to His will and purpose, in His strength.
Blessings to you as you walk daily in Christ.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Paul reminds the Ephesians, and us today, that committing to prayer is vital. Even in his circumstances (Eph 3:1) he looks outside of himself and commits to keep the people of Ephesus in his prayers. He begins by acknowledging their faith in Christ and their love for one another. This is the foundation of our Christian faith. Loving, (or desiring) God and loving one another. (See Luke 10:27) Paul prays that the Father of Glory give them the spirit of wisdom and knowledge of the revelation of Him.
His prayer is that they will have the "eyes of their heart" opened to the riches of the glory of Christ. Hope, Glory, and Power. The hope of His calling, the riches of His glory, and the greatness of His power. To open the eyes of the heart is to be given the spirit of wisdom. The eye is a member of the body which allows us to see. Paul is encouraging them to "see" with their heart. John Gill: By the Spirit of God already, to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin; the insufficiency of their own righteousness; the beauty, glory, fullness, and suitableness of Christ, as a Saviour; the excellency, truth, and usefulness of the doctrines of the Gospel; in which their understandings were before dark, but now had light into them:
The work of salvation is not something we do on our own. All of God's work is done by His strength and not our own. It is His work done by His power and His strength brought about through His son Jesus Christ. The all sufficiency of God is primary for the believer's walk with Him and Paul expresses the power of God by reminding them of the power He displayed in the raising of Christ from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in heavenly places.
All of the strength that we need to accomplish His will in our life every day is given to us by the power of God. Be praise and glory to Him.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Whom have I in heaven but you? How many times have you heard someone tell you that they look forward to meeting a loved one who has passed on in heaven? I have many people I have lost in my life that I look forward to the day that we will see each other again, face to face. There will be great joy. But as I meditated on this verse today the thought came to me, "how many times have I said to someone, I can't wait to see God in heaven?" I know I have said it a time or two, but I must confess, my thoughts generally gravitate towards the 'things' about heaven rather than the God of heaven. A mansion filled with many rooms, streets paved with gold, no more hunger and pain, happiness and joy abounding. These are all good things, but if they were all that heaven was about and Jesus wasn't there, would I still desire to go there?
Jesus is the focal point of the Christian faith but it seems over the past few decades 'things" have been taking His place. Preachers and teachers telling us that we will be blessed by God if we follow His ways. That we just need more faith and things will turn out good. Our focus becomes more on how to get good gifts rather than worshiping a good and loving Gift Giver. How much do I desire Jesus rather than the blessings Jesus affords me. Without the blessings of God would I still desire him? These are questions I am meditating on today and my first response is to say, 'Well yes, of course."
But as I dig a little deeper into my heart I begin to see how there are many things I desire here on this earth besides Him. Convenience, comfort, money, position, human companionship, and the list goes on. If I had it all stripped away from me, such as Job did, would I still be able to say "Lord, there is still nothing I desire besides you?" I certainly hope so.
Lord I want to desire you more than any earthly thing.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Today Lori, Grayson and I went for a walk with the dogs to the local park and while we were walking we encountered a homeless couple washing their clothes in the drinking fountain and hanging them on a nearby tree to dry. The weather was a bit inclement so I made a comment to Lori that we should invite them over to do laundry at our house.
As we walked along our merry way we kept discussing the struggle it must be to live such a life in a country that is full of extreme excess and have nothing but the clothes you can carry in a paper bag. We all go through difficult times at one point or another in this life and those difficulties can really bring us down. But we have hope. We have a Savior who gives us the assurance that there is a place free from pain and suffering. A time when we will kneel at the feet of our Lord and be free from guilt, shame, pain, and loss.
Jesus doesn't promise us an easy life here on earth. Actually, the Bible is full of stories of struggle and pain. It does however give us hope. We know that we have a God who loves us and gave himself for us so that we can spend eternity with him. No matter what the difficulty, whether it be financial, emotional, or physical, we are reminded in Romans that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18)
Lord I pray for the couple today that we saw washing their clothes in a drinking fountain. I know that there are millions more across the globe just like them and I ask that you reveal yourself to them and put people into their lives that can bring them hope. You tell us who have to share with those who don't and I pray for more opportunities to share your love with others. Thank you for blessing me and my family so richly.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Paul wants the people of Ephesus to understand that they are sealed in Christ. There is no greater assurance of the Christian faith than the assurance of salvation. 2Cor 1:22 He seals each one of us in Christ by putting the Holy Spirit into our hearts as a deposit for the redemption of our souls. First we heard the gospel of our salvation and then we believed the gospel of our salvation. Then we become sealed with Christ by the Holy Spirit of Promise. 2Cor 1:21-22
What an amazing gift we are given in Jesus. We are sealed in Him forever. The Holy Spirit was pledged by God before the foundation was set in place as an inheritance to His children. When God makes a promise He keeps it. Acts 2:33, Gal 3:14 This is not like any human pledge that can be broken but is assured because God tells us it is. Be praise and glory to Him.
Do you have assurance in Him today? Jesus makes it very clear that when we answer the call of salvation we are never in jeopardy of losing it. It is awesome to follow our Lord and live in His will knowing that there is nothing that can snatch me out of His hands.
Joh 10:27-30 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. "I and the Father are one." (nasb)
Sunday, August 2, 2009
In this post on marriage God has laid on my heart a little different topic regarding our relationship as husband and wife. It goes hand in hand with what Paul shares in Ephesians chapter 5, Eph 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. In the world the idea of mutual submission appears to be quite foreign. Go to any bookstore and you will find on the shelves book after book instructing couples how to have a successful marriage. The list of ten do's and don't's, books about how to fulfill each other's needs, and even books on how to have sex for dummies. Don't get me wrong, there is a need for good Bible based information to help us maintain a healthy and fruitful marriage, but they should never take first place over what God's Word tells us.
1Co 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 1Co 7:2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 1Co 7:3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 1Co 7:4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (nasb)
In the book of 1Corinthians Paul explains to us that each man is first and foremost to have his own wife. This concept is becoming foreign these days. To have one wife doesn't only mean don't be a polygamist, it means that our devotion is to be to one woman or one man. When things aren't going so well in the relationship (and at times things will not be well) we are to remember that we are committed to one person and one person only. Next, he instructs the husband to fulfill his duty to his wife and each woman to fulfill the duty to her husband. Mutual submission. Marriage is a state of mutual obligations and we must, as husband and wife, yield to what those obligations require. I don't find it coincidental that Paul instructs the man to fulfill his duty to his wife first. As the husband we are called to lead our family and the best kind of leadership comes from our example to our family. We can tell our wife or children how to be, but, living out our life in the ways of God is far more effective than just barking out orders. Giving ourselves to our spouse out of mutual obligation is not only Biblical but it allows us to bless each other with unselfish intentions.
The next verse (1Cor 7:4) I found quite perplexing. To be told that we don't have authority over our own body goes against everything we are taught in today's pop-culture psychology. Nobody can tell me to give of myself if I don't want to! Well, Paul instructs married couples that our body no longer belongs exclusively to ourselves. We make a covenant to one another at the alter and part of that covenant is that we shall become one flesh. As one flesh we are mutually submitting to the authority over our bodies for sexual pleasure one to another. Of course there are those who take things out of context and use such verses as a way to demand that their needs be met. Paul understands this and that is why verse 3 comes first. If we are unselfishly fulfilling the needs of each other in the marriage then verse four is simply an expression of this. (Disclaimer:There are so many things that could be said about this verse. The very first thing I feel that should be cleared up is that when a marriage isn't going well or lines of trust have been broken, it might not be a good idea to jump right into the "your body is mine" mode... this verse is not intended for one member of a marriage to get his or her needs met in spite of the difficulties that may be occurring. When a couple is mutually submitting one to another and trust has not been broken then what Paul is saying to us makes sense)
Marriage is for a lifetime. When we make our covenant with God to each other it is understood that it is forever. Mat 19:6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." For we are no longer two, but one flesh. We have common goals, common desires, and we are joined together by God. We shall not separate but by His doing. Every trivial thing that comes our way should be used to strengthen the marriage rather than tear it down. When the wind blows through the mighty oak tree, branches may twist and break but the tree becomes stronger. Eventually there will be new branches growing and scars from where the old ones broke off. Our marriages should be a collection of broken branches and twisted gnarly limbs. When we weather the storms, people can look to our marriage and see the glory of God manifested through them. This gives hope.
Where are you today in your marriage? Have the winds come and blown over the tree or are you getting stronger? Sometimes we need someone to help us trim some loose branches and I encourage you today to cry out to Jesus and ask Him where you need to be pruned so that your marriage can be as fruitful as He intended it to be.
Thank you Lord for the gift of marriage. You knew it was not good for man to be alone so you created a help mate suitable for him. I know that you gave me my wife because she fits all of my needs and I fit hers. Thank you for the struggles that we have gone through and will go through. I know that they will make us stronger and when we look back on them we will see how you have used them for our good. Please continue to strengthen us. In Christ, Amen
Saturday, August 1, 2009
There is a lot of Christian lingo that gets spread around in our culture and one of the phrases I hear quite frequently is the phrase "in Christ." I decided today to look into the phrase "in Christ" and try to understand what it means to me as a Christian.
I began by doing a word search for the phrase in my esword bible software and found the term to be throughout the New Testament at least 88 times. It is mainly used in the writings of Paul, but I also found it in the writings of Peter and Luke in the book of Acts (Acts 24:24).
So what does it mean to be "In Christ?"
The best place for me to begin is 2Cor 5:17. Just as I was a new creation at the moment of my human birth, I am now a new creation in my spiritual re-birth in Christ Jesus. 2Cor 5:17 tells me that I am a new creature, or creation. The old things have passed away and new things have come. Being one who is in Christ starts with us being transformed and living a new life from our old ways and habits. Christ died for us to have a new birth in His resurrection. Old passes away, new has come. But making the transition from old to new can be quite difficult from time to time since we are sinful and the old nature wants to creep back in and sabotage our walk with Christ.
Fortunately we were not left alone to accomplish our Christian journey on our own. God gave us the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance. (Eph 1:14, 2Cor 1:22, Acts 19:1-6) With the help of God through the Holy Spirit I am able to accomplish all things through Christ. Not by my own merit, talents, or ability, but because God has granted it to me. My faith comes from God through Christ. My grace comes from God through Christ, and all that I am is because of Christ. When we begin to understand that Christ is our source for all that we are, the fountain will never run dry. Too many times I try to love someone by my own strength. Eventually I get frustrated because I don't see love in return. When I forgive and the person offends again I find it quite easy to hold a grudge. When I rely on my strength and human ability I will fall short every time.
Being "in Christ" is to be intentional. One can not truly claim to be a Christian and not desire the ways of Christ. (Eph 4:1, 1Thes 2:12, Col 1:10)The old has passed away and the new has come. Being in Christ is coming to the throne daily and crying out to God for more of Him. More faith, more love, more grace... God gives abundantly according to His riches in glory in Christ. (Php 4:19)
For me to be "In Christ" means that all that I am, all that I have, and all that I do is done through and for the glorification of Christ. When I love someone I love them as Christ. When I show someone grace it is done like Christ. Even when I spend time at my job I am working as though I am working for Christ. (Col 3:23-24) Being "In Christ" is not just a pledge that hangs over one's door, it is a way to be. Christianity is not about following rules, doing the right thing, or trying to be good. It is about being one with the Savior and out of that oneness flows more blessings and love that one can imagine
- Our faith is - In Christ (Acts 24:24)
- Our redemption is - In Christ (Rom 3:24)
- We are made alive to God - In Christ (Rom 6:11; 1Cor 15:22)
- We have eternal life - In Christ (Rom 6:23)
- There is no condemnation - In Christ (Rom 8:1)
- We are set free - In Christ (Rom 8:2)
- We can not be separated from God's love - In Christ (Rom 8:39)
- We are all one body - In Christ (Rom 12:5)
- I have reason for boasting in God - In Christ (Rom 15:17)
- We are approved by God - In Christ (Rom 16:10)
- We are sanctified - In Christ (1Cor 1:2)
- I experience God's grace - In Christ (1Cor 1:4)
- God chose me - In Christ (1Cor 1:30, Eph 1:4)
- We are resurrected from the dead - In Christ (1Cor 15:18-21)
- I am triumphant - In Christ (2Cor 2:14)
- The veil has been lifted - In Christ (2Cor 3:14)
- I am a new creation - In Christ (2Cor 5:17)
- We are reconciled to God - In Christ (2Cor 5:19)
- We have liberty - In Christ (Gal 2:4)
- We are justified by faith - In Christ (Gal 2:16)
- We are sons of God - In Christ (Gal 3:26)
- We are all one - In Christ (Gal 3:28)
- We are blessed with every spiritual blessing - In Christ (Eph 1:3)
- We are raised to heavenly places - In Christ (Eph 2:6-7)
- I am created for good works - In Christ (Eph 2:10)
- I have been brought near to God - In Christ (Eph 2:13)
- I can partake in God's promises - In Christ (Eph 3:6)
- I have been forgiven by God - In Christ (Eph 4:32)
- I place no confidence in my flesh - In Christ (Php 3:3)
- My righteousness comes through faith - In Christ (Php 3:9)
- My heart and mind is guarded by God's peace - In Christ (Php 4:7)
- All my needs will be supplied according to God's riches - In Christ (Php 4:19)
- I am complete - In Christ (Col 1:28)
- My faith remains stable - In Christ (Col 2:5)
- I will give thanks in everything - In Christ (1Thes 5:18)
- I am called to salvation by grace not by works - In Christ (2Tim 1:9)
- I endure all things for the sake of others - In Christ (2Tim 2:10)
- Persecution will come to the godly - In Christ (2Tim 3:12)
- Those who revile me because of my faith will be put to shame - In Christ (1Pet 3:16-17)
- We will be strengthened and established after suffering for a little while - In Christ (1Pet 5:10)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
When I became a Christian I never realized that there would be such trials and tribulations. (Eph 6:10-12) I didn't imagine that life would be bliss and all difficulty would be removed, but I thought I would be following a God that would spare me from most of my pain and troubles. Have you ever been there? I guess I just thought God was now on my side and everything was going to be much better than before.
Well, everything is better than before but it took many years for me to understand what God's Grace really is. For me it was something that was supposed to spare me from pain, but when pain occurred in my life I was questioning my faith and my God. I have come to understand over the years that I have a Savior that helps me endure difficulties rather than having to handle them on my own. God's grace doesn't always keep us from hardship. It does however sustain us to be able to walk through them in His strength.
Here is a simple poem Piper wrote for this sermon:
Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain,
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.
I encourage you to download this mp3 file and listen to it for yourself. An amazing message regarding God's Sovereign Grace.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
1Pe 2:10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (nasb)
I was studying in the book of Ephesians this evening and God led me to this passage in 1Peter. What a marvelous piece of scripture.
As followers of Christ we are:
- God's possession.
- A chosen race.
- A royal priesthood.
- A holy people.
- Able to receive mercy.
- In His marvelous light.
- Out of the darkness.
Him who has called us.
Lord, Thank you for choosing me before the foundation of the world. Because of Jesus I am a person of great worth and I know that you first loved me before I could ever love you. Praise to you today not because of what you have done, but because of who you are. I pray that I will continue until my last breath to proclaim your excellencies.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
It is with a very very sad heart that I let you know that Matt Lembke has passed away as of a couple hours ago. (07-10-09)
He is no longer in pain and is in a much better and peaceful place. PLEASE continue to pray for Claudia and family during this extremely tough time.
Thanks again for all of your thoughts and prayers.
Google News Alert for: matthew lembke
OregonLive.com - Portland,OR,USA
by Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian Cpl. Matthew Lembke was on his third tour of duty when he was fatally injured in Afghanistan. Cpl. Matthew Lembke ...
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Matt's family has established a website for anyone who would like to follow his progress during this difficult time.
www.semperfimatt.com or www.marinematt.com
The local paper here in Portland, OR has written a nice article about Matt.
Please take the time to remember Matt and his family in your prayers.
John 15:12-13 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (nasb)
Monday, July 6, 2009
I live in a community that is incredibly diverse and tends to be far more liberal than I desire. It is inhabited with people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as those who choose a variety of sexual preferences. The city seems to be enamored with strip clubs, adult video stores, and sex shops throughout. There are street people begging on every interstate off ramp and one can not go far without being asked for some spare change, a cigarette, or something to eat.
As I ponder these verses I can't help but ask myself how I am doing when it comes to loving my neighbor. I live on a decent street in an alright neighborhood so loving my immediate neighbors isn't such a challenge. But, once I venture out beyond the borders of my comfort zone I encounter the "unlovely" people and my commitment to love my neighbor as myself is far more challenging.
This story in Luke is a reminder to me that my neighbor is not defined solely by the people in close proximity to my house. It is anyone I come into contact with or who crosses my path. The lawyer asks Jesus in verse 29, "who is my neighbor?" His motive behind this question was to justify his own actions by finding himself in accordance to this command of "love your neighbor as yourself." He is a good man with elevated status in the community so loving those who are his friends and neighbors would be quite simple. But Jesus shows him the true meaning of what the scriptures are telling us.
To love those who are less fortunate than we are takes guts. It also requires humility and actions that are intentional. We need to purposefully act on our love rather than walk on the other side of the street and try to avoid any contact with those in our community that we find difficult to love. The Samaritan's first response was to have compassion. This is generally not my first response when beggars walk up to me or I see someone downtown lying on the street. My first response is more like the priest or the Levite. If I walk on the other side of the street maybe then I won't need to acknowledge that this person even exists.
Once the Samaritan bound up the injured mans wounds he took him to an inn and cared for him. When it was time for the Samaritan to leave, he left money with the innkeeper to allow the injured man to be cared for until he could return to check on him. The Samaritan was merciful. He is the example of what Christ means when He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Luk 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luk 10:26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" Luk 10:27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luk 10:28 And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." Luk 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luk 10:30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Luk 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Luk 10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. Luk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Luk 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luk 10:35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Luk 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" Luk 10:37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (esv)
Lord, help me to be like the good Samaritan. I know that there are people around me daily that I could show your love to but I am too busy, too prideful, or just too lazy to reach out. Forgive me for not taking my time and resources and using them effectively for those who are less fortunate than myself. You are the God of Love and you call me to show that love to others. Please give me an opportunity to do that today. In Jesus precious name, Amen.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Where is your hope today? Biblical hope is the assurance that God is in charge and there is certainty in Him and the things we hope for in Him. Worldly hope can be compared to a wish. Something we hope for that we want to happen or come true that may or may not occur.
As a Christian I am blessed with the promise that God is my hope in all things. When I am cast down and my soul is in turmoil I have hope in God. When the world is coming against me and it appears that all of my dreams are being shattered, I have hope in God. This hope allows me to have strength against temptation, encouragement and joy during trials, and assurance of eternal life.
When we have this hope we are able to share with others the strength that is in us. Many people we know are going through difficulties and trials with our recent economic times. I had a friend share with me this week that his 18 month old grand daughter was hospitalized. The same day his grand daughter was hospitalized he lost his job due to cutbacks. Here is a quote from an email he sent me after we shared together regarding his difficulties. "As I said, losing my job paled in comparison to having to see our granddaughter in the hospital. I’m just thankful that she is going to be fine. But, again that type of situation really has a way of aligning what is truly important in life. I don’t have any idea where I may end up in the immediate future but I’m confident that we will land on our feet eventually and we will look back and understand the reason for it all."
He has hope. I shared with him that we will be praying for him and his family and it has given me the opportunity to share God's hope with him. Peter instructs us to give account for the hope that is in us. Opportunities come up every day for us to share our hope with others
1Pe 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (esv)
Where is your hope today? Is it in Christ or in your own worldly efforts? I pray that if your heart is downcast and you are full of turmoil you are able to seek God today and find your hope in Him. He will give you all that you need and strengthen you to overcome.
Lord, thank you for the hope that is in me. Thank you for giving me all that I need to endure hardship and difficulties. You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Marriage has also been one of the most difficult commitments I have ever made. It has brought to light many character flaws that I have, it has taught me how selfish I can be, and it has made me have to work hard and provide for a family rather than live comfortably for just myself.
One of the marriage vows that we take as couples is to stick it out regardless of the circumstance until one of us dies. I don't think getting frustrated and killing your spouse counts... Unfortunately our culture has been breeding a generation of "me first, I want it resolved now" individuals who have a hard time with the "till death do us part" piece of the commitment. The term "till death" sounds nice when the couple is standing together on the alter, but when the rubber meets the road, keeping those wedding vows can be quite a challenge.
I suppose that on the wedding day it would sound kind of funny if the pastor says that these two shall remain married until one of them gets frustrated and leaves the relationship, or until financial trouble hits, or worse yet when one decides that the sex isn't good enough and finds someone else to share themselves with on the internet or workplace. When we throw in the towel to pursue our selfish desires the Gospel is tarnished and the power of God is left to look sparse at best.
We want to think that marriage is going to be a blessing and from the moment we leave the alter it is going to be awesome love, great sex, and perfect kids. Well, here is a heads up... It won't be. In marriage things will arise that cause conflict and pain and developing skills which allow a couple to overcome the trials is far more important than trying to completely avoid them.
Mat 19:4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, Mat 19:5 and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? Mat 19:6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
Understanding that we are joined together as one is the first step to being committed to keeping the marriage in tact. In my writing, "When Does One + One = One" I talk about how two people need to give up their own desires in order to achieve oneness. When the two who have become one are ever pulled apart there is a trauma that makes them both no longer the same. Each one carries a part of the other and the wound that is left will never fully heal. God understands that a couple committed to marriage need to become one and this is described here in Matthew. When my wife is hurting, I hurt with her. When I am hurting, my wife in turn hurts with me. When one of us experiences blessings and joy so does the other. When a young couple begins to realize (or any couple for that matter) that being one flesh is a good thing they will always do what is best for the relationship rather than for oneself.
I pray today that if you are married and going through tough times you look to the Lord to help you find that oneness in your spouse again. Look for those things that you fell in love with and bury your own desires at the foot of the cross. Jesus is there to meet our needs, and when we are filled with Him then we are able to again fill our spouse with the love they need, supplied by Christ. We will never have enough strength to make it on our own.
Till death do us part means exactly that. Until the other person dies. God has called us as married people to glorify Him in our marriage and in order to do this we must remain as one flesh in good times or bad. For better or worse, in sickness and health. Forever means forever.
Thank you Lord for the gift of marriage. Please strengthen my marriage and keep me looking to you for wisdom and encouragement so my wife will be blessed by the man you have created me to be.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Psa 124:2 "Had it not been the LORD who was on our side When men rose up against us,
Psa 124:3 Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us;
Psa 124:4 Then the waters would have engulfed us, The stream would have swept over our soul;
Psa 124:5 Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul."
Psa 124:6 Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
Psa 124:7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped.
Psa 124:8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. (nasb)
Friday, June 26, 2009
2Ti 4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2Ti 4:5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
In this message to Timothy from Paul, we as Christians are urged to do many things. We are a generation that has decided that the moral issues we face are not absolute and each person is responsible to decide for himself what is right in his own eyes. Drug usage and alcohol abuse is rampant amongst young people, the family unit is eroding, and the fight against pornography and sexual immorality doesn't seem to be getting any better in spite of all of our efforts. The sad story is that this is in the Christian community as much as it is in the world.
Paul teaches us that there is going to be a time when men and women of God will turn away from the truth. They will not only turn away from the truth and wander off into myths, but they will begin to worship the creation rather than the Creator. They will be given up to the lusts of their hearts and to impurity to the point of dishonoring their bodies. They will exchange the truth of God for a lie. (rom 1:23-25)
I certainly believe we are in that time. I was listening to a celebrity the other day who claims to be a Christian. I was curious about what they truly believed because the life they live on and off the big screen doesn't really match up to what I have come to know a follower of Christ to live like. As I did a little research I discovered that this person believes that Christ was a good moral person and that He is a person to model after because of His charity and good deeds to the poor. Being God himself isn't part of the picture because this person doesn't believe that Christ is God.
Paul addresses this very issue to Timothy and gives him instruction as how to live so he doesn't become like one of them. 2 Timothy 4:5 tells us to be sober minded. The King James version says to watch thou in all things. Translated: Be on alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1Cor 16:13) Paul tells us to be watchful of sinful desires that come down our path and to be strong enough in Christ to flee from these temptations. When we flee from temptation we are able to fulfill the ministry that God has given to us.
Too many times men and women of God allow their lives to be taken over by their fleshly desires, sexual temptations, and lust. When this happens the ministry that God has called them to suffers and those who trusted them are crushed and their faith is shaken. As well as being watchful of sin in our lives we are told that we will need to endure suffering and do the work of an evangelist. There are many hardships that come our way as we decide to walk in faith and do the work of God. Some of those could be financial, others personal, and some may just be character issues that God is working on to make us more like Christ. Whatever the hardship, we are to go through it and see God's hand working in it.
This message to Timothy isn't only to pastors and elders, but I believe it can apply to all of us who are followers of Christ. We all have people around us that we are able to influence and lead toward the Gospel. (evangelism) This includes our own children, other loved ones, and neighbors and friends. So whatever your position is in Christ I urge you today to look at the message from Paul to Timothy and follow through with the instruction given so you will be able to fulfill the ministry God has given you.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I got a message from my sister last night requesting prayer for Matt. It seems that God has allowed this young soldier to fall into a difficult situation. Matt has been injured, damaged, broken down. Matt's legs have been blown off during his course of duty. His mother is a friend of my sister's and they are asking the Christian community to pray for Matt.
Please join me in prayer for Matt and his mother Claudia. I am unaware of their relationship with God, but God knows. I am unaware if Matt is going to make it, but God knows. And I am unaware of all of the details, but God knows.
Dear Lord, I pray for Matt. I lift him up to you today and ask you to reach down and heal his heart, soul, and body. Please show him your grace at this very difficult time. Be with Claudia and comfort her troubled heart. Lord most of all, draw them and the people around them closer to you during this time of tragedy. I know that through all things you desire your name to be glorified and we plead that you turn their hearts to you and allow this situation to work for their good and that it will ultimately bring you praise. In Jesus name we pray, amen.
Psa 29:11 The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Well, once our fantasy turned to reality and I discovered that raising a brood was far more difficult than what I had anticipated I began turning to my own inner strength to try to get through difficulties. I basically ditched God because He was allowing difficulties to happen in our life, and being good Christians we were taught early on that all good things come from the Lord. Well, if all good comes from God, then this bad stuff happening must be coming from Satan, and if this is the case then where on earth did God go?
Boy, was my theology messed up... As Lori and I jumped over one hurdle after another we could see our marriage slowly fading to frustration and difficulty. I turned my focus to work, church ministries, and myself rather than turning my heart to God. I came to the decision that I just wasn't doing enough good things for God and that must be the reason why He seems to have disappeared and all of these difficulties were occurring. After a couple of years of being too tired, too frustrated, and too ticked off we were encouraged to meet with a woman who was a counselor and minister of prayer. She lived about 8 hours from our place and had a beautiful home she uses as a bed and breakfast. Couples could meet with her for a weekend, get ministered to, well fed, and intensely work through some of the struggles they have with their relationship with God and each other. This weekend changed our lives.
The turning point for Lori and myself was that we realized God is not a God who hands out cotton candy and balloons to all the good little boys and girls at the playground of life. We discovered the God of the universe that weekend. He is the grand creator and has a wonderful plan for our lives, which is to bring glory to Him in all things. Whether it be through suffering, hardship, blessings, or trials, His purposes will prevail through it all. Once we came to terms with the fact that we saw God as someone who we tried to control and used Him as our wish maker rather than our God, our lives changed in a moment. God's love for me and my wife was far greater than we had ever imagined up until that weekend. We, for the first time, saw God in our suffering and struggles as well as our blessings. We felt Him when Lori was going through cancer treatment and a few other times, but we didn't have that daily communion with God because we were looking at Him through the wrong eyes.
Coming to know God is a daily practice. When we meet someone here on earth and want to get to know them we spend time with them. Same goes with God. To know and truly understand Him we began to spend time with Him daily. Through our daily walk we have discovered a new perspective to Him and His goodness to us in all situations. The main change that came in my life through this weekend retreat and years of daily study is that God doesn't disappear during moments of affliction and suffering. Just the opposite really. When I began to look at our difficulties as being used by God rather than being because God was not present, I was able to face and endure them.
- Job 36:15 "He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, And opens their ear in time of oppression.
- Psa 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.
- Isa 48:10 "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
- Mat 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
- Php 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
- 2Co 1:4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
- 2Co 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
- Php 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
- 2Ti 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
- Luk 24:26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"
- Rom 8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
- 2Ti 2:3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
I encourage you today to embrace suffering and hardship as a tool for God to bring glory to Himself and a way to shape our character. He is there to comfort and bring strength during our struggles and if we embrace Him rather than reject and blame Him we will see his glorious peace come upon us during our times of difficulty.
Lord, I thank you today for the struggles that you have placed into my life. Even though they are difficult to face alone, I know that you are with me. Your rod and your staff will comfort me. You have shown me Lord that you are ever present in my struggles and I give you praise not for you taking away my struggles, but for helping me endure them. Please help me to be faithful to you in the midst of them. Amen
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I was reading through the story of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer recently and came across a quote that I will probably never forget. Ridley and Latimer were two Bishops during the Protestant Reformation in England who stood by their faith and would not compromise. In 1555 Ridley and Latimer were brought before the panel of Bishops to answer to the charge of heresy. They were told to renounce their errors and conform to the ways of the "church"
Well, to make a long story of martydom short, the two of them stood firm till the end. As they were to be turned over to the secular authority and eventually be burned at the stake, it is recorded that in a conversation between the two, Ridley said to Latimer, "Be of good cheer, brother, for God will either assuage (reduce) the fury of the flame or else strengthen us to bear it." Shortly after this the two went up in flames.
The faith of the average American Christian doesn't hold a candle to the faith of the early church father's. (No pun intended) When the fire is around us, many of us fall away from the faith rather than embrace it. Stepping back into the old patterns of behavior and methods of survival rather than crying out to the Lord to rescue us. We are to be a testimony to the work that the Lord is doing in our lives. When we show the people around us a different way to deal with the pain and suffering we encounter than the way the world deals with it, then we are likely to bring others to faith in Christ as well.
I want to share a post from a good friend of mine. He is the author of the book, "If God Disappears." It is a story of sharing the gospel even in the most difficult of times in our life. I hope you benefit from his post.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Heb 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.
Heb 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."
Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Heb 12:8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Heb 12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
Heb 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
Heb 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (esv)
Have you ever gone astray and then felt the correction of the Lord upon you? I was reading in Hebrews this past couple of days and I am reminded of the fruitfulness of the Lord's correction. I remember as a child being fearful of getting into trouble because I would be disciplined by my parents. It really didn't keep me from trouble, but it did keep me from trying to get caught. As a child of God we should remember that we can't hide our transgressions from God. Unlike our human parents, God is witness to all that we do so His correction and discipline comes even if we hide our wrongdoings from the rest of the world.
- He has shown us that His discipline does not go wasted. Heb 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
- As children of God we are disciplined because He loves us. Heb 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
- He disciplines us for our good. Heb 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Having a childlike faith. Oh to be like one of the little ones. This morning I was at a customer's home and I was doing some work there for her. Running around the house were two small children. A rambunctious little boy who just turned two and a precious little girl who is four. The rough and tumble little fella was running around in a pair of shorts and sported a bottle with him everywhere he went. The princess was adorned in a beautiful fairy dress and had a smile that was as precious as the morning sun. I couldn't help but watch these two little ones as I went about my duties there. They were genuinely innocent, incredibly inquisitive, and willing to help me in every way. They were asking me questions and very hungry for knowledge.
Why do you do it that way and how come you have to go over there? Each time they asked me a question I answered with care and compassion. No question to me was meaningless and they were full of many of them. Every time I answered their little question, as trivial as it may have been, they responded with the next question with just a little bit more confidence. By the time I completed my work they knew so much more than when I got there.
Throughout the morning their mother was trying her hardest to keep these two little ones from "bothering" me. "Stop asking the nice man all of these questions" she would say to them. All the while I would inform her that everything was fine and I was not the least bit bothered by their inquisitive minds. Finally, she scolded one of them and then turned on the TV in hopes of distracting them from keeping me from my work.
Jesus tells us in Matthew that we need to be converted and become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. To me this means to have an innocence about us that allows us to come to the father and seek Him with the faith of a child. Children are oblivious to the things of adults. In the eyes of a child all things are relevant and equal and what I had to accomplish there this morning was for the purpose of benefiting their little lives. Being childlike means we put all preconceptions aside and cry out to God for guidance, assurance, information, and ultimately freedom in Him.
The thing this morning that was bothersome to me was the mother trying her hardest to prevent the little ones from coming to me with their questions. It made me think that, in the spiritual realm in which we live, Satan has a great way of keeping us from our heavenly Father as well. Woe to you who cause one of these little ones to stumble.
As God's children we are to rely on Him as a child needs his father. Removing our pride and placing ourselves far below the magnificence of the Father, gleaning all we can from Him for our life. We can not sustain ourselves and Jesus reminds the disciples of this very fact as they are trying to figure out who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. I truly desire to be like a small child in my walk with the Lord. Always seeking Him for my sustenance and never being too grown up to think I know all of the answers.
Thank you Lord for reminding me that I need be converted and be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Help me to never cause one of your children to stumble and please guide me today in the way you would have me to go.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I am meditating on this Psalm today as I go about my day. "Oh Lord, don't forsake me until I proclaim your might to another generation." God, in his grace, has given us the opportunity to teach and proclaim His mighty work to those who come after us. I spend several hours each week studying the Bible and I think about the generations of men and women who have gone before me and who have been faithful to the end. Their words are like pearls of wisdom as I dig deeper into the God's word. Their perseverance and fruitful lives have impacted me beyond measure.
I pray today that I can look to the next generation and that my words and life can be a testimony to the King. I encourage you today to not forsake the next generation of believers. To look to them and ask God to put a fire in your heart to proclaim His might to those who are struggling to understand who they are in Christ. As my hair turns gray, my sight begins to fail me, and my bones start to ache, I am still able cry out His goodness to the next generation. Lord I pray that you will find me faithful to the end.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The more I applied this statement to those two choices the more sobering the meaning of it became to me. I was compelled to think about all of the people in my life who are unaware of their eternal destination and what steps I have actively taken to help them answer this question one day for themselves.
1Jn 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1Jn 5:12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1Jn 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (esv)
First John differentiates the two kinds of people that I was thinking about on my run. Those who have the Son and those who don't have Him. Those who have eternal life and those who don't. Those people who are going to spend eternity in Hell and those who have Jesus as their Savior and will spend all of eternity in Heaven. God has given us eternal life through Jesus Christ and if we have the Son, verse 13 tells us that we are to know that we have eternal life. To KNOW. Assurance that we have life abundantly forever.
What kind of person are you today? There truly are only two kinds of people. Whether or not you prefer Coke over Pepsi, comedy rather than drama, or you think life is about those who have and those who have not, the real comparison of the two kinds of people that has any significance at all is those who are saved and those who aren't.
Romans 10:13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Friday, May 22, 2009
Having these positions in life is great and we are called to do the work the Lord has provided for us. But my question I ask myself is, "do I identify myself in my work or in Christ?" I find it difficult sometimes to be free from identifying myself with the things of the world. I want to be know for something and I often strive to have acceptance from people I encounter. I am pretty certain that I am not alone in this on either... I was reading through some of my past writings this morning and I encountered this list that I wrote to keep me focused on who I am in Christ. I compiled it over a year ago and wanted to read it once a week so I could remember and memorize the scriptures that would take me back to identifying myself with Him rather than the things of the world.
Well, the reading the list once a week thing faded off and today I am compelled to re-read it again and look closely at each scripture. Not just browse over it as a nice list, but to meditate on the verses and pray for God to reveal himself through me to others. With the culture pressing on us to "be like Mike" and to wear this or that to be beautiful and handsome, I am reminded of who I am in Christ. Being grounded in Christ, we can resist the temptation to get caught up in the next fad that comes our way. He will never change. When we find our identity in Him we will always be satisfied in who we are.
- I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
- I have been made complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10)
- I am saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- God sacrificed his one and only Son for me. (John 3:16)
- I am a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- The Holy Spirit dwells in me. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
- I am completely forgiven. (Colossians 1:14)
- I am tenderly loved by God. (Jeremiah 31:3)
- I am a branch on Christ's vine. (John 15:1,5)
- I am united to the Lord, one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:17)
- I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
- I have been adopted as God's child. (Ephesians 1:5)
- I am free from any condemning charges against me. (Romans 8:31f)
- I cannot be separated from the love of God. (Romans 8:35f)
- I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession and created to sing His praises. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
- I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me. (1 John 5:18)
- I have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
- I may approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
- I have been rescued from Satan's domain and transferred into the kingdom of Christ. (Colossians 1:13)
- I have been given great and precious promises by God. (2 Peter 1:4)
- My needs are met by God. (Philippians 4:19)
- I have been bought with a price, and I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)
- I can do all things through Christ, who gives me the strength I need. (Philippians 4:13)
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I was reading through Deuteronomy yesterday and came across this familiar passage. Lori and I have been reading through the Gospels again and it sounded quite familiar. Jesus, in Matthew 22, tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that the greatest commandment is to love your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. Just as God told Israel after they came out of Egypt, He again reminds them what their number one priority needs to be. Isn't it amazing how God needs to remind generation after generation the same things over and over again? Sounds like parenting to me...
As I read on in Deuteronomy I couldn't help but sit for a couple of minutes on verses 7-9. Teach these words diligently, bind them on your hands, post them on your gates, etc... I started to feel quite convicted regarding these verses. How diligently have I been over the past 20 years teaching, instructing, and modeling the Word of God to my children? There are a lot of things I have spend many hours teaching my children. How to pitch a baseball, how to ride a bike, or even how to figure out a complex math problem. But have I done my due diligence in teaching them the Bible? I must honestly confess... No I haven't done as well as I could have. Oh sure, we have spent time reading devotions and we pray with the kids every night, (at least the ones who are still around) but being diligent to teach them consistently over the years has been a downfall for me.
DILIGENTLY, adv. With steady application and care; with industry or assiduity; not carelessly; not negligently.
Thankfully we serve a good God. One who forgives and allows us to learn from our mistakes and try again. Even if we fall short in a certain area of our life, God will always be there to help us pick up the pieces and begin anew. The Bible is packed full of instructions for how we should live our lives and unless we open it up and read it on a daily basis we will all fall short.
I receive new insight to the character of God each time I open His Word. It is as if the pages have new life and God is wanting to reveal not only something about His character, but my character as well. As I continue on in the book of Deuteronomy I come to the end of chapter 6 where Isaiah tells the people of Israel "Deu 6:24-25 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.' "
It will be righteousness for us if we do all that He has commanded us. I am seeking God's righteousness in my life but when I read this I think to myself, "How am I to keep ALL of His commands to be righteous?" I am but a sinful man who struggles with a sinful nature. There is no possible way for me to be righteous. Thankfully, this is where Jesus comes in. "Only Christ could keep all the commandments of God, and his obedience is our righteousness; and he only is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes, and to him we must seek for it." (John Gill's Exposition)
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. This is the message of the Gospel. And Jesus adds to this in Matthew when he tells us to also love our neighbor as ourselves. There are many times I fall short, but Jesus is my propitiation. Because of Him I am righteous before the Almighty Creator of the universe. When my diligence falls short in instructing my kids, or loving my neighbor the way I should, or even messing up with my walk with Him, I am assured that He will forgive me when I turn to Him and Jesus will make me righteous before God.
Thank you Lord for showing me something new about my character every time I open your Word. Thank you for forgiving me of my shortcomings and allowing me to be renewed in you each day. Please help me to keep your commands as I seek to follow you more closely. I know you aren't looking for me to work my way into Heaven by being good or doing all the right things, but because I am in you and you are in me I desire to be like you. Help me to be like You every day.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
All five of our kids have made a public profession of faith and been baptized. If you asked each one of them they would claim to be a Christian. But as we continued in our conversation together we really struggled with what the future has for our children living in this American culture and we pray daily for their walk with the Lord.
The day I answered the call of salvation I knew one thing, I was a sinner and I needed a Savior. I didn't grow up in the church and finally, after several attempts, I realized God had a purpose and a plan for my life. My initial draw to my new found faith was the hope of eternal life. You know, streets lined with gold, a mansion with many rooms, angels rejoicing... But as I matured in the faith and began to understand my sinful nature even more fully, I realized that being saved isn't fully about eternal life but is primarily my freedom from God's judgment. Just as we have the hope of eternal life, a life free from Jesus has the judgment of God upon it and the sentence of eternal punishment.
Mat 13:40-43 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (esv)
I was listening to a sermon a few days back and a point was made that even though Jesus willfully bore all of our sin on Calvary, it doesn't compare to the horror of hell and eternal punishment. There was hope for Christ, and, after making his appeal to the Father to have the cup removed from Him, (Luk 22:42) He knew that after the third day He would be properly place at the right hand of God. Jesus had assurance that the Father would restore Him as had been written by the prophets. He could see an end and the end was good.
Those who reject the Son have no hope for their souls. The Bible tells us that in hell there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. I think of this as a complete and total wailing. Groans of pain and agony that can not be quenched. Imagine for a moment if you will the worst of the worst times in your life being played over and over again. Day in and day out feelings of hopelessness, despair, agony, torment, frustration, depression, horror, guilt, lust... The list goes on.
Matthew 13:40-43 is sour and sweet. Those who are the sinful and the lawbreakers will be gathered up and thrown into the fiery furnace. Regardless of what a person believes about Heaven and Hell, one thing is crystal clear to me... unrepentant sinners will have a really bad existence for all of eternity. Yet, in verse 43 Jesus tells His elect that the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Not because we are so good and worthy of it. On the contrary. Jesus is our righteousness before God. 2Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Where are you going today, tomorrow, the next day? Where are your children going when they move from this life to the next? These are difficult questions for us to ponder, but sooner than later they will be answered. Abidance in Christ is essential to our walk with Him. We show we are His disciples by our fruit and for many of us it is time to see what kind of fruit is springing forth from our trees.
Joh 15:5-7 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Jesus offers the free gift of eternal life and freedom from the Father's justice. Do you hear His call today? If not, I encourage you to listen for it.
Monday, May 11, 2009
After I finished watching the movie I opened up God's Word to do some study, but I couldn't shake the reality of the movie and the truth it spoke about people in our country who are living daily in fear of losing everything they have come to know here. Whether it be through deportation, loss of a job or loved one, or through a tragic accident, we have difficulties around us on a daily basis that leave us hopeless. It really solidified my understanding of where my hope comes from. Not in the things of this world, but in Christ himself. It also started me thinking about those around the world who are being persecuted every day for their faith. And those who are living in turmoil just because they were unlucky enough to be born amongst the perils of their society. Not to mention those who go hungry and their daily struggle to get a speck food for the table. Sometimes things in life just aren't fair!
We are a blessed people living in this country and many a day goes by that I grumble over the little things in life. How selfish of me. I am in a land of plenty while my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are starving and going without. I was rolling through a community around Seattle this morning on my train and I couldn't help but notice there was a fast food chain on each corner of a particular intersection of a busy highway. And each drive through was full of cars. I chuckled to myself at the time and thought how crazy it is that half way around the world there are families sharing a two cent bowl of rice for a week and we are able to drive up to a building and receive as much food as we can cram into our faces for about 5 bucks.
I asked the Lord "why is this the way it is?" Well, as of this moment I don't think He has answered me yet. But as I read in His Word this evening I came across this passage from Isaiah.
Isa 41:18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
Isa 41:19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together,
Isa 41:20 that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.(esv)
It is comforting to know that even when there is nothing to eat or drink, God will not forsake us. Jesus tells Satan in Matthew chapter 4 ... "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" God, in the midst of our famine, nakedness, and troubles, will always be there to strengthen our faith in Him and give us our portion as He sees fit.
As I reflect on my life and the choices that have placed me where I am at today, I thank God that even though I haven't always relied on Him, He has always been there to strengthen me. My hope lies in Him and Him alone. The economy will fail us. Our government will fail us. Our friends and families will fail us. God will never fail us and when we put our hope in Him we will be renewed every day.
I encourage you today to place your hope in Jesus. Lay down at His feet the burdens of the day and He will give you strength.
Psa 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (esv)