Welcome To Daily In Christ Devotionals

Psalm 119:10-11 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not
wander from your commandments! I have stored up your
word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy Now!

Does God want me to be happy? This question I have wondered may times in my Christian walk. We suffer trials of many kinds in our life and often we will hear a well meaning friend tell us that God is building holiness in us. Or maybe that God is testing our character during this time of difficulty. And yes, it is true that God does allow many things in our life to occur for the purpose of building us up, or to strengthen us. I have said it many times myself, "One never knows the strength of a rope until it has tension put upon it." A worn out rope will break and become useless while a well cared for rope on the other hand will endure the load and be successful for its intended purpose. We need to be pulled and stretched and tested in our life. It is a barometer for our faith.

Jas 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Job 5:17-18 "Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. "For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.


But does God really want me to be happy? I have heard it many times over the past several months that "God doesn't want you to be happy, He wants you to be Holy." I heard it again just recently and it caused me to ask myself one question. "Are happiness and holiness exclusive of one another?" My short answer is, no! Actually, unequivocally NO! I believe that scripture clearly shows that true holiness creates joy, and pure joy is very often expressed through happiness. When we pursue God and His righteousness and our life is to glorify Him in all things, then we are authentically happy. Holy and happy are not an either/or but an and/both.

I think to see that it is ok for me to be happy, I must first realize that God himself is happy. For years I thought of God as being like an ancient Puritan sitting in the clouds looking down on all of His creation in a somber Holiness. Kind of like the stoic's of old, He would sit there and endure the pain and torment that was taking place here on earth. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

God is the creator of happiness and joy. He delights in His creation and finds great joy in His children. (Happiness can be defined by many words: Joy, delight, good pleasure, happy, gladness, rejoice etc...)



Psa 104:31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,

Zep 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Joh 15:11 These things I have spoken to you,
that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.


Jesus, in John 15:11 says "these things I have spoken to you." What things is He referring to that should bring us great joy? Jesus is referring to our abiding in Him. Our fruitfulness, our obedience, our perseverance, our pursuit of holiness. In addition we should find overflowing joy when we experience His love that He pours out on us. These things will produce His joy in us. We will be so filled with it that it spills over the sides and all over the people we come into contact with each day. When we are pursuing holiness and we abide in Jesus, then the outward expression in even some of the most difficult trials will be a genuine happiness.

"I do not know when I am more perfectly happy than when I am weeping for sin at the foot of the cross." - Spurgeon

"There is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love Thee for Thine own sake, whose joy Thou Thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this it is, and there is no other." - Augustine

This post can only scratch the surface on the topic of holiness and happiness. I believe God does desire for us to be happy when we are in hot pursuit of Him. I also believe that happiness is not a direct opposite of holiness as some well intended Christians may say. But happiness is a genuine byproduct of a holiness rooted deeply in Christ.


I would love to hear your thoughts?



Blessings,

Keith


Sunday, December 12, 2010

God's Great Love For You And Me

I was thinking on the character of God recently and my mind began to wander. It finally zeroed in on one concise thought and I couldn't rest until I started writing it down. Here was that one thought... "Why does God love ME?" So for a short time I played around with all sorts of reasons in my head why He would love me. Because I am so good, because of my many talents and gifts, and maybe even because I had so much to offer Him. (All tongue in cheek of course)

The bottom line when I was done thinking about it was this.

The reason He loves me is because I am created in His image.

He loves me not because of who I am or what I can offer back to Him, but because He is God and He chose to love me before the foundation of the earth. Here are some verses today that speak of His great love for us. I pray that you feel His love for you today and are blessed by His Word.

Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Eph 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--

Joh 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

2Th 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Rom 5:7-8 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1Jn 3:1-2 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Jer 30:22 And you shall be my people, and I will be your God."

God's love is perfect - God's love never fails - God's love never ends.


image courtesy of http://forevernevernalways1.blogspot.com/

Thursday, December 9, 2010

- Death By Materialism -

In the book of Luke there is a story of a rich man who had everything he ever needed. Food, fortune, and fame. At the rich man's gate laid a poor man who desired to feed from the rich man's table scraps. Here is the story Jesus tells as written by Luke:

Luk 16:19-31 "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers--so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

If I were to put my own title to this story it could be done in just a few words.

"Death By Materialism"

It is so easy for us to be satisfied with so much. We rely on our resources and expect that when we wake up each day they are going to be there for us. Big homes, numerous cars to drive, lots of money in the bank, plenty of food and water. In another story, Jesus tells the rich ruler in Luke 18 in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven he must sell all he owned and give to the poor. Now Jesus wasn't concerned about the man's wealth, he was interested in his heart. He was telling the rich man that he wanted him to trust in the Father for his provision, not his own riches. In verses 24-25 in Chapter 18, Jesus says it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

Luk 18:24-25 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

This parable in Luke 16 has given me a new perspective as to how I spend my money and utilize my resources. God has blessed us in the United States with abundant riches and I believe we have a Biblical responsibility to use those resources for His kingdom. Jesus shows the eternal outcome of a poor saved sinner and a rich unsaved sinner. The poor man went to the glory of the Father in heaven and the rich man to eternal misery in the depths of Hades. The rich man's sin wasn't his wealth, rather his selfish use of his abundance. While he had the opportunity to give to the poor man, his heart was to hoard his riches for himself.

Pro 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will repay him for his deed.

After experiencing deep anguish and crying out for relief, the rich man is reminded that he had his good things on earth. He was given every opportunity to serve the Lord and others, but chose to serve only himself and his personal desires. I pray that those of us who have been given much will show the love of God in us to the rest of the world. This parable isn't just to those who are rich, but to all of us who have more than we need. It is a heart issue rather than a money issue...

Over 20,000 children starve to death every day. Over 1 billion people are without safe drinking water. Ask the Lord to reveal how you can impact others for the kingdom today.



May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To You Oh Lord

the things my eyes have seen
the stories they would tell
my life the Lord and Savior saved
from beyond the depths of hell

to you oh Lord I put my trust
to calm and ease my days
you promise me your loving touch
if I look upon your gaze

I plead my Lord to keep me close
as I look into your face
forever more I'll spend with you
by your eternal grace


Friday, November 5, 2010

Blinded By Self Sufficiency

This post isn't for those who choose to be faint, for those who want to be nominal, or for those who desire to remain proud. It is for those who are ready to quit playing church, stop relying on yourself, and be willing to give up everything to follow Jesus.

Being a disciple of Christ is a life changing calling. It requires one to look at where they are in their life, at where they are going, and decide, "Which direction do I want to go?" In America we make becoming a Christian an event that looks something like this... It is the end of the service and the preacher just finished a nice talk about how much God loves us and wants to bless us..."Bow your heads and close your eyes. Now if you feel God is speaking to you today raise your hand. Thank you, I see you over there, yes I see your hand... OK, open your eyes. Everyone who said yes to Jesus today we have a table in the back where you can let someone know that you became a Christian today. Bless you, have a great week!"

I have read my Bible for many years and I am still trying to find the part where Jesus, or any of the disciples for that matter, called people to say a "sinners prayer" and they will be saved. Jesus says that being a disciple will be costly, difficult, and may even take your life. We have put our spin on the Christian faith to look more like a social club rather than men and woman being sold out for Jesus. It concerns me that there may be millions of people who have said the "sinners prayer" and continue to live their normal American dream life and have the idea that they will one day be in Heaven. Jesus tells the people in Matthew that those who hear His words and put them into practice will enter the kingdom of Heaven. And those who don't... well, you read the verses and see for yourself. (Mat 7:21-27)

If you are a Christian today who gave your life to Jesus and you don't live for Him, I suggest that you rethink your "Christianity." Paul tells us in 2Cor 5:15-16 that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ. And Galatians (Gal 2:20) tells us that we have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ in me. There are dozens of verses that I could share, but I think the Bible makes the point extremely clear that a follower of Christ lives for the Glory of Him not for the uplifting of one's self.

2Cor 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 2Cor 5:15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (emphasis added)

The church of Laodicea had a similar problem as today's typical American church. (Rev 3:14-22) They were blinded by their own self sufficiency. They had money, they had it all together, and they needed nothing. Not even God... What was the response from Jesus for this lukewarm group of Christians? He spit them out of His mouth. He tells them to purchase His gold and wear His garments, and cleanse their eyes so they can see. Many people I encounter who call themselves Christians have really nice homes, great kids, beautiful furnishings, a plump 401k, new cars, and haven't stepped foot into a church for many years. They declare how blessed they are! "Blessed?" Having a bunch of nice stuff isn't a blessing, it is a burden. It keeps us from seeing our need for Jesus to come in and radically transform our lives. This isn't being blessed, it is being blinded by self sufficiency and thinking it is from God.

Self sufficiency is a sin. Many words can be used for this, but one stands out to me the most; PRIDE. Prov 16:5 says: ​​​​​​​​Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. It is an abomination to God to be self sufficient. Self sufficiency is reliance on one's abilities and taking credit for one's efforts. It is being a friend of the world and an enemy of God. One day your joy will be turned to gloom and your laughter into mourning. Turn to Christ, become humble, and He will exalt you. (see Jas 4:4-10)

Jesus told the rich man in Luke 12:18-25 that he knew the commandments and the rich man agreed that all of these he has kept. When Jesus heard the man tell him that he has kept all of the commandments, Jesus told him this: “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man went away sad. He didn't realize that the treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, doesn't hold a candle to the treasure he would build up in Heaven by being obedient to Jesus.

Following Jesus is costly. It isn't about making a one time decision and having the golden ticket to get you into heaven. It is about being willing to listen to the Holy Spirit of God and following what He tells us to do. Sometimes it is to give up your family, sometimes your possessions, and always He calls us to give of our life. It is about picking up your cross and following His lead in your life.



Matt 16:24-28 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

I truly believe it is time to get the American way of life out of Christianity and especially out of the church. In my post "Have You Been Transformed" that I wrote a couple of months ago I touched briefly on this topic. I made mention to the fact that doing good things and living a good life isn't what being a Christian is all about. The non-Christians do that every day. It is being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and everything we do is a reflection of Him. If we want to be a Christian nation we need to be a nation filled with Bible believing followers of Christ.

So here is my challenge to you. If you have made a decision to follow Christ and your life looks no different than the guy next door who isn't a Christian, I challenge you to open your heart up to what God would have for you. Pray that the Spirit of God would speak to you today and continue to pray and listen over the next couple of weeks and months. Be open to what He would be telling you. In addition, start reading the Word of God every day. And if you haven't been connected in fellowship for awhile, get into contact with "That one person..." you know the one I am talking about. The man or woman in your life that you know is on fire for Jesus. Call them today and tell them you want to radically change your life for Jesus and in doing so you want to begin to impact those lives around you.

I know, it is a lofty challenge, but Jesus never said following Him would be easy. He said it would cost you everything. Don't let the blindness of self sufficiency keep you from experiencing the blessings of God. Be willing to give it all up for Him should He ask you to. Be willing to serve in ways you never imagined. And be willing to lay your life down for Jesus.

Blessings,
Keith

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Marriage Wreckers... Part Two - Unkindness

In this series "The Marriage Wreckers" I am taking the verses from 1Cor 13: 4-13 and turning the positive of God's Word around to the negative and seeing how it affects our lives in the context of marriage. In the last post, Part One - Impatience, I talked about the sin of impatience. This post I will move onto the next part of verse four and take a good look at unkindness.

1Cor 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant

Here is how the dictionary defines unkindness:

UNKINDNESS

1.
Lacking kindness; inconsiderate or unsympathetic.
2. Harsh; severe; cruel:

Love is patient and kind... Kindness in love is like the sweetness to honey. It is an essential part of what makes it so delicious. But what happens when we say we love someone but the characteristic of kindness looks more like unkindness? Can we really then declare that we love them?

Unkindness, just like impatience, is a sin. It is an offense to God and to the person we have chosen to spend the rest of our lives with. Lack of kindness often occurs when we have lost our patience and decide to take matters into our own hands and react to a certain situation. Patience, or long suffering, results in kindness. Impatience, or being short tempered, results in unkindness. Kindness is a fruit of the spirit that God desires for each one of us. Every spouse needs a dose of it every day.

Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.



We have all been around someone who is unkind. And I am certain each one of us has a story or two of a time when we were unkind to our spouse. I remember a time in my marriage only a few short years ago where I said and did some pretty unkind things towards my wife. Not only did I reap the shame and guilt from my ungodly behaviors, but the level of trust was lessened and her and I had to spend a bit more time breaking through barriers that would have not been placed there had my actions and heart displayed kindness rather than being harsh and cruel. Unkindness is more than an action and behavior. Often times it becomes a way of life and the detriment is far reaching. Not only is the spouse affected, but the kids and other family members are seriously affected as well.

When we look at the definition of unkindness it can be quite sobering. Words such as harsh, cruel, and unsympathetic come to mind. On your wedding day did the thought run through your mind, "Geez, I think I want to live a harsh, cruel, and unsympathetic life with this person for the rest of my life?" I think not!

So how do we break the cycle of unkindness in our marriage and learn how to live in the fruit of kindness? The first step I have found is to remember that kindness is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(emphasis added)

There is no man or woman on this planet capable of mustering up true Biblical kindness. Oh sure we can act nice to one another for a bit, but when we begin to lose our patience that unkind spirit flows right back like the waters of the Niagara and we soon find ourselves going down the same old waterfall.

Gal 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

So to have a marriage that is filled with patience and kindness it doesn't start with going to a marriage counselor, it begins with each spouse making a conscious decision to walk in the Spirit of God. Walking in the Spirit, as stated in Gal 5:16 means that we are intentional in listening to what God is saying to us every moment of the day and responding to each situation as He would direct us. It doesn't mean going to a church service on Sunday and living selfishly the rest of the week. It requires that we dive into the deep end of God's word and swim around daily until you have made it such a part of your life that gratifying your sinful desires is as foreign to you as learning a new language.

It is possible for the Christian to grieve the Holy Spirit. Earlier I shared a verse from Ephesians telling us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Just before that, verses 29-31 instruct us to take those qualities of one who walks in the spirit a little bit farther. Not only the do's, but a lot of the do not's as well... And right in the middle of it all Paul tells us to not grieve the Holy Spirit in our life.

Eph 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Eph 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

When we act this way, and I am saying in this post especially toward our spouse, we grieve the heart of God. Bitterness, anger, filthy speech, bitterness, unkindness, and the like are all byproducts of waking in the flesh and not in the Spirit. All born again believer's possess the power to walk in the Spirit. (Eph 1:13; 2Cor1:21-22) It isn't something that is for the special or super Christians... It is for you and for me. In order to hear the Spirit, we need to be tuned into the right frequency. That is where reading the Word and prayer come into play. Walking in the Spirit means that our life is tuned into the things of God and we spend time daily listening to Him.

I encourage you today to begin walking in the Spirit as to not gratify the desires of your flesh. In this case, unkindness. I am certain that if you make kindness one of the key building blocks in the foundation of your marriage, your marriage will be much stronger and able to withstand the attacks that come at it. Being married can be tough! So let's make things just a bit easier on us and sow seeds kindness toward one another and reap the harvest of our marriages rather than tearing down one another and reaping the detriments.

Here are some practical ways we can start showing kindness toward our spouse:
  • Speak words of encouragement
  • Listen intently and patiently
  • Forgive one another quickly
  • Love without conditions
  • Do something out of the norm to show appreciation
  • Give of yourself to your spouse
  • Put the needs of your spouse before your own
Blessings to you as you walk in the Spirit of kindness toward your spouse, and those you encounter each day.

image courtesy of http://www.heartlight.org/

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beatin The Streets of Downtown Portland

Last night (Halloween) a team from Calvary Chapel South East went to beat the streets of Portland to share the Love of God with those He put into our path. With a team from Horizon School Of Evangelism - San Diego, we numbered around 100 or so. It was a night of worship, prayer, and sharing not only the Love of God, but a few donuts, sandwiches, and coffee as well. Rather than just setting up camp as one large group and waiting for those with a need to come to us, we formed small groups and set about the streets, to address basic needs, loaded with treats of many types.

The group God blessed me with was pretty diverse, ranging from a young recently married couple, two "20-something" young ladies, my friend Barry and myself - The old guys. We hadn't walked forty feet from our base in Pioneer Square before we spotted a man in shorts and a t-shirt. "Would you like a sandwich?", I asked. It seems he couldn't say "Yes" fast enough. Curious about the shorts and t-shirt, I had to point out the obvious... "You aren't from around here are you?" I asked. He stated he was a transplant from Arizona (thus the shorts and t-shirt). Barry had brought a heavy winter jacket for just such an occasion. The man was quite thankful for the food and the warm coat. After we prayed with him and shared God's love, one of the gals gave him a book of John and we moved on looking for others God would place into our path.

As the Holy Spirit would have it, our little group encountered many people on our walk. Some were veterans of the street life and several newbies as well. They all appeared to share common statements; they were hungry, tired of living this way, and all had their own story. I believe that is what spoke to me the most: Hearing the stories of the men and women who used a piece of cardboard as their bed and called a shopping cart, home. It was heart wrenching and eye opening at the same time. It had been twenty years since the Lord had provided me this type of opportunity, so I had forgotten the stories I had heard so many years ago. Different time back then, but very similar stories.

Two specifics really stick out as I think about this. The first is the plight of a woman who had been kicked out of her home, we learned, and apparently her husband would have nothing to do with her. Her statements quickly made it obvious she was on the verge of suicide and wanted very little to do with the ladies from our group. Still, the Lord moved them to share their love and the Love of Jesus with her. However, after some discussion, she walked away into the darkness of the park. Our little group stopped on the sidewalk overlooking the Willamette river and prayed for this woman.

The next amazing story came from a man named Doug that actually walked up to Barry and me after we had returned to our base at Pioneer Square. He stated his age as 40, but looked as if he was in his mid to late 50's. Although homeless and on the streets for years, he has a small place apparently due to some form of assistance, but only enough money to pay rent and power. As the love of Jesus was shared with Him while he picked up his sandwich, we came to realize he had a fairly good knowledge of the Bible. Cutting to the chase quickly, since time was getting short, we asked him what a most pressing need was and, how could we pray for him.

He shared at length his story of a life of struggle and pain.... In a nutshell I will also try to share bits of it as well. For two decades his addiction to heroin had made him tired of fighting it. That there hadn't been a week in that period of time in which he hadn't stuck a needle in his arm. He then asked a question many of us have asked in our lifetime; Why God would allow him to suffer in this way when he would love to be free of the dependency and serve God. To which we could offer nuggets of hope from what we knew of God's Sovereignty. We shared with him 2Cor 4:16-18 and he was in agreement that heaven was going to be a much better place. He said he prays often that God would free him from the bondage of sin and take him right now! The next statement that he shared was a stunner. That he had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Barry and I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, were blessed to pray and minister to this man in ways I know none of us will soon forget. God's love and provision never ceases to amaze me.

Last night the Lord provided wide open opportunities to meet people, feed them, and share HIS love. Not only for myself, but for nearly one hundred people young and old alike united with one purpose, to glorify Jesus in everything we did.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Marriage Wreckers... Part One - Impatience

A friend of mine wrote a book recently called "If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do about Them" It got me thinking about my marriage and the chapter in 1st Corinthians on love. I wasn't originally sure the corralation, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was one of those God moments and now I am beginning to see how it is going to tie together.

Marriage has many obstacles as well as blessings. In my series I have been blogging, "Till Death Do Us Part" I have touched on many different topics. The message on forgiveness talks about our need to be In Christ so we are able to forgive each other as Christ forgives us. The message on love in part 5 reminds us to have a tenacious love for our spouse. The kind of love that never gives up. There are more messages to come in this series, (Trust, Enduring Hardship, and Submission) but for today I am beginning a new set of blog messages. Simply titled, "The Marriage Wreckers..."

To begin I am using the verses from 1Cor 13 but I am putting a little twist on it. Rather than discussing the verse and what it might mean to you and me, I am taking the opposite of the verse and showing how when we do just the opposite of God's Word it wrecks our lives.

Let me give you an example... Here in verse 4 we see that Love is patient. (1Cor 13:4 Love is patient...) So let's begin with the first Marriage Wrecker:

Impatience

Impatience can also be described as irritability. Impatience and irritability are like twin brothers. Often times they look alike, dress alike, and act alike. Impatience and irritability are quite destructive in a marriage and left unchecked can lead to many problems. From getting upset that dinner isn't on the table on time to becoming enraged because of faults that can not be overlooked, impatience is definitely our first major Marriage Wrecker.

Paul addresses the fruits of the spirit we as believers ought to possess in the book of Galatians. Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. As you may have noticed, one of those characteristics of one who walks in the Spirit is patience. He addresses the Ephesians in Eph 4:2 to live your life with patience, bearing with one another in love.

If patience is such a key attribute in our walk amongst other believers, shouldn't it be even more of a fruit that comes from our lives towards our spouse? Then they can enjoy the bounty of the harvest of our love towards them. We can be so patient with people we hardly know but turn like a viper on the ones most dear to us. Impatience and irritability is a major Marriage Wrecker. With all the things we have coming against marriages today, we as Christians ought to take a serious look at our level of patience with our spouse, our children, and those around us. Ask yourself one question today... "Am I upset or irritable about circumstances or people much of the time?" If you answered yes then you struggle with the sin of impatience. It is that cut and dry. If you struggle with it then it is bad fruit and needs to be plucked out of your orchard. Not only is it a marriage wrecker but it can be a life wrecker as well.

So, how do we deal with the sin of impatience and work toward being more Christ like in our marriages? It starts first and foremost with repentance and forgiveness. Confess your sin of impatience to God and turn from it. Ask those you have offended by being impatient and irritable to forgive you and start fresh. Trust is a difficult thing to rebuild if the levels of impatience have led to any form of abuse, but God is gracious and can restore even the most difficult situation.

Patience is the first fruit of love described in 1Cor 13:4. Paul put it there for a reason. He was inspired by God to write this letter and we are fortunate enough to have it available to us so we can learn from him and live our lives in harmony with God and our spouse. Is impatience one of your marriage wreckers? If so I encourage you to look into the Word of God and read what He has to say about it. I also encourage you to find a close friend who you can confide in and share your struggle with impatience and have this person regularly pray with you regarding this difficult marriage wrecker.

God wants happy marriages. When you got married you wanted a happy marriage. The first start to getting there is to turn your impatience and irritability into a loving patience that accepts your spouse for all of his or her differences.

And now to the men, I believe this starts with you. Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

We are called to lay down our life for our wives. That doesn't only mean take a bullet for her in a hostile situation, it means that in all areas of our life we are going to be willing to die for her. Die to our own agenda and selfish desire. We are to protect them, support them, encourage them, and love them just as Christ does for His bride, the church. How can we do that if we are constantly irritable and impatient?

And ladies, well, I can't speak to you so much since I am a man. However I know what the needs of a man are and if you are in tune to your husband, he is learning to love you as Christ loves the church, and you are obedient to the scriptures, then how can you truly love and submit when you are impatient and irritable?

1Cor 13:4 Love is patient... It means "long suffering" One translation defines it as (to show one's self mild, to be kind, use kindness) It isn't a suggestion, a good idea, or something thought up to make life more fun. It is God's Word. I hope that each of us can remember that impatience is a Marriage Wrecker and patience is a Marriage Restorer.

May you all walk in Christ today and experience the blessing in your marriage that He intended for you from the beginning.

Blessings,
Keith

Here are a few verses to meditate on that may help you in your walk toward being a more patient person... and more patient with your spouse. It is about becoming like Christ, not simply trying harder!
  • Eph 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
  • Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
  • Col 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
  • Rom 2:7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
  • 1Cor 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
  • 1Thess 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
  • 2Tim 2:24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
  • Ps 40:1 ​​​​​​​​I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.


1Pet 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.


You Are A New Creation!

2Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.



I memorized this scripture reference early on in my Christian walk. It was a verse that helped me to see that my old life was dead and buried with Christ and my new life has been resurrected with Him. Recently I have been challenged to re-visit this verse several times and study what it means to truly have my old life pass away and my new life before me.

To have my old life pass away doesn't simply mean to now try to live a good wholesome life. It means I am freed from the bondage of sin and legalism and all those things that the devil tempts me with and I now live in Grace. I have the freedom and strength to say, "not today Satan! I am a new man in Christ." Living the old life on many occassions brings personal pleasures that are tempting to the flesh and sometimes the temptation is too much for our flesh to resist. But we have been freed in Christ through the Holy Spirit to resist the temptations and live righteous through Christ.

Though often times we will stumble, there is forgiveness to those who turn and repent. God is a just and loving Father who always welcomes His children back into relationship with Him. Repentance and forgiveness of sins is such an awesome gift. I have been reading through much of the Old Testament over the past several months and am so grateful for the cross. Jesus took our sin and defeated it on the cross so we don't have to bear the punishment ourselves. He is our propitiation for sin. (Can I get an amen!)

But this verse is far more than my old life being dead and buried. It is also about my new life being born again in Christ. My old life was centered around me and what made me feel good. My new life is now centered around God and pleasing Him. A God-centered life where I can live in the Spirit and be in constant fellowship with Him. I now have the mind of Christ which allows me to not desire the things of the flesh. (1Co 2:16) I have Christ living in me (Gal 2:20) and now I live by faith in the Son of God.

Being a new creation in Christ is not a one time event. It is a lifelong process of surrendering our life to Him and learning to walk in the spirit each and every day. To do that we need to desire the things of God rather than the things of the world. Walking in the newness of life (Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.) as to please Him.

Being a new creation and being united with Christ should cause us to look at the way we are living our life. If we are allowing sin to have dominion over us then we are living in the flesh and missing out on the spiritual blessing of being a new creation. Here are just a few things one can do to keep close to the Savior and be assured that they are walking in the spirit rather than walking in the flesh.
  • Read the Word of God
  • Listen to the Word of God
  • Meditate on the Word of God
  • Find a quiet place to pray
  • Fellowship with other believer's
If we are not connected to the vine daily we will eventually wither away and fall back into the old life that is supposed to be dead and buried... If you have a daily reading program and are connecting with Jesus each day I encourage you to keep going strong. So today I encourage you, if you are not connecting with Jesus daily then start right now. Spend just 15 minutes each day with the Savior. Read your Word, pray, listen to a sermon online... do something to connect with God. He is the vine and we are His branches.

If you aren't sure where to begin, below are some resources to get you started.

This is just a small sample of the resources that area available to Christians and they are all free of charge. If you don't find what you are looking for or would like more resources feel free to give me a comment and I can send you some links.

The entire purpose of providing these resources is so we can become closer to the Savior every day. Filling our time with television, secular radio, movies, and trashy novels will never give us the mind of Christ. I encourage you today to start a reading program that gets you into the Word, listening to the Word, and changing your life habits so that you can have victory in all things through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May you become that new creation God so richly desires for you to be.

Blessings,
Keith

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lasting Effects Of Childhood Trauma

There is nothing more sacred than the innocence of a small child. Lori and I will often stop what we are doing just to watch a little boy or girl in the mall or grocery store who is doing something silly. There is such a purity about small children. To see their inquisitive minds going a mile a minute asking all sorts of important questions just melts my heart and makes me feel like I just want to have a house full of little ones once again.

Jesus has a place in His heart for the children as well. Luke 18:16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Unfortunately we live in a time where the lives of little children seem to have very little value. Nearly five children die every day as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in this country. And the statistics go on and on. Sexual abuse, drug use, criminal behavior, and neglect affect our little ones in ways we can't even imagine. Childhood trauma has lasting effects on our children and we must take a stand to help alleviate it and it's effects.

I grew up experiencing such trauma in my life for many years. Suffering for me began at a very young age and came in a variety of ways. Though it was many years before I even understood what the word suffering meant, the process of destruction in my life had already been put into place. I believe it began around the age of four or five. I became the victim of childhood sexual abuse from a neighbor who was a school teacher. A person in my life that one should be able to trust caused some of the most severe emotional pain I have ever encountered. The effects of this on my life have played out for many years in the form of anger and hostility towards others. Isolation and feelings of anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. Abuse of alcohol and drugs... Not a day goes by that I don't experience some effect from being abused early on in my life.

But through it all I have found hope and restoration through Jesus Christ. He promises to restore your soul and bind up the wounds of the past. All we need to do is turn our heart toward Him and receive his grace and healing... and find a really good therapist :)

Rev 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."


Jer 33:6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.

Ps 147:3 ​​​​​​​​He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.


Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, Titus 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Have you suffered from past trauma? Does the thought of getting through a day sometimes seem so overwhelming that lying on the floor staring at the ceiling seems like a better option? Have people told you to just "get over it?" If so my heart goes out to you today. No one can understand the effects of this kind of life except for our Lord and Savior. Turn to Him, read His Word and meditate on His promises, and look to those who can help you in your healing process.

I have included some verses that I hope will encourage you today. It is not an exhaustive list but I find them helpful in my daily walk with Christ. I pray you can take the time to meditate on His Word and seek the healing He so richly desires for your life.

Blessings...
Keith

Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,


Ps 34:18 ​​​​​​​​The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Ps 34:19 ​​​​​​​​Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Ps 34:20 ​​​​​​​​He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.


Luke 4:18 ​​​​​​​​“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,


Jas 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.


1John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.


Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.


Rom 9:15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Rom 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

2Cor 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 2Cor 1:4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2Cor 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2Cor 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 2Cor 1:7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

THE BEGGAR'S RAGS

I heard this story in our service at church this morning and wanted to share it. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine...

A beggar lived near the king's palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party.

The beggar went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed. Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought. Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him tremble. Would he dare?

He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. "Please, sire, I would like to speak to the king." "Wait here," the guard replied. In a few minutes, he was back. "His majesty will see you," he said, and led the beggar in.

"You wish to see me?" asked the king. "Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?"

The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint smile that was on the king's face. "You have been wise in coming to me," the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. "Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes."

The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hope for. "You are now eligible to attend the king's banquet tomorrow night," said the prince. "But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever." The beggar dropped to his knees. "Oh, thank you," he cried.

But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again. Quickly he gathered them up.

The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.

Time proved that the prince was right. The clothes lasted forever. Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags. As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.

One day as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king's face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince's words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty. He wept bitterly at his folly.

And the king wept with him.

We have been invited into a royal family--the family of God. To feast at God's dinner table, all we have to do is shed our old rags and put on the "new clothes" of faith which is provided by God's Son, Jesus Christ.

But we cannot hold onto our old rags. When we put our faith in Christ, we must let go of the sin in our life, and our old ways of living. Those things must be discarded if we are to experience true royalty and abundant life in Christ.

"Behold, the old is passed away; the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"Go now, leave your bonds of slavery. Put Babylon behind you, with everything it represents, for it is unclean to you. You are the Lord's holy people." (Isaiah 52:11)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Is God In Control?

Two things have been tugging at my heart recently. The first is the complete Sovereignty of God in all things and the second is my response to those people He places in my path and how I relate to them in relation to my Christian faith. These topics could take up hours of blogging and writing so I won't even think about trying to tackle them both in one little post. So, today I want to simply write about my thoughts pertaining to the Sovereignty of God. (In brief of course)

Sovereignty to me can be such a daunting word. One of those words that is rarely used in our conversations unless you are a Christian, and even then it seems like the understanding of Sovereignty in the Christian world has fallen away like the horse and buggy. A.W. Pink, in his book "Sovereignty of God," opens his first chapter like this:

- The Sovereignty of God is an expression that once was generally understood. It was a phrase commonly used in religious literature. It was a theme frequently expounded in the pulpit. It was a truth which brought comfort to many hearts, and gave virility and stability to Christian character. But, today, to make mention of God's Sovereignty is, in many quarters, to speak in an unknown tongue. Were we to announce from the average pulpit that the subject of our discourse would be the Sovereignty of God, it would sound very much as though we had borrowed a phrase from one of the dead languages. Alas! that it should be so. Alas! that the doctrine which is the key to history, the interpreter of Providence, the warp and woof of Scripture, and the foundation of Christian theology should be so sadly neglected and so little understood. - (A.W.Pink 1886 -1952)

So what has happened that even the church has moved away from the understanding of God's Sovereignty? Are we desiring control in our lives so much that we have neglected to put God in the place where He belongs?

When we speak of the Authority of Jesus we talk about His ability to be in control of, or reign over our lives. As fellow Christians we understand that to follow Jesus is to give up our sinful way of living and take on a new life in Christ. We are a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. But what does it mean to give Christ authority over our life?

Mat 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying,
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
..

Jesus declares in this passage that He has "all authority." If we believe the Word of God to be true then we must consider what it means for Him to be over all things.
  • Are we actually giving God permission to do anything?
  • If God is already Sovereign over all things then what role do we play in His ability to govern over our life?
  • Why should I even do anything if He is in control and already knows the outcome?
These questions and so many more I have considered in my walk with God. I will write more on my views pertaining to God's Sovereignty, but for now I am left pondering what it means for me when I acknowledge God is the one who is in control... He is over and through all things and it is by His power I am able to live.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the Sovereignty of God. Feel free to post a comment...

Blessings,
Keith

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blessed Are The Persecuted...

Act 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; (16) for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." (nasb)

While reading through the book of Acts in my studies today I couldn't help but stop at a verse and read over it several times. It is in the 9th chapter in Acts and the story goes like this. God speaks to Ananias and tells him to go to a certain place in Damascus where Saul of Tarsus was praying. (God had previously struck down Paul on the road to Damascus as he was going there to persecute the Christians.) Ananias reminds God about the atrocities Saul has performed against the saints and God reassures Him that Saul is now a chosen instrument of His.

So, why the curiosity you might ask? Here is what I am curious of. In verse 16 God tells Ananias that Saul will be shown "how much he must suffer for His name's sake." The story line would flow just fine without verse 16, so I am wondering why God would say that to Ananias.

After reading through many commentaries I have found a lot that inform us of what those sufferings looked like: "such as weariness, pain, and watchings, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, and nakedness, perils on various accounts, and from different quarters, stripes, scourges, imprisonment, shipwreck, stoning, and death, of which he himself gives a detail, 2Cor 11:23." (Gill) But very few, if any realy explain why God would have expressed this to Paul.

So I dove into the scriptures for an explanation and here is what I found.

Those who share in the sufferings of Christ
are the ones who are truly blessed.



I think Jesus makes the point incredibly clear in Luke 9 and other verses:

Luk 9:22 saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day."
Luk 9:23 And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Luk 9:24 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. (nasb)

The point here is that Jesus suffered great things and if we are to follow Him we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. I believe God wasn't showing Paul what he must suffer as a form of retaliation... You persecuted me so I will now persecute you. Not at all, on the contrary. In Gods perfect love and grace he was giving Paul a glimpse of what He suffered and was showing Paul that in order to be truly blessed in the service of God one must also suffer as Christ suffered.

Mat 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Mat 5:12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (nasb)

Mat 24:9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. (nasb)

1Pe 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
1Pe 4:13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
1Pe 4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (nasb)

Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (nasb)

Time and time again we see the men of God persevering and rejoicing in their suffering with Christ. He reveals His glory to us and gives us the faith and the strength to endure anything that comes our way.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Made Alive In Christ

I overheard a radio program while I was in the gas station the other day. I am not fully certain what the program was or the topic for that matter, but what I did hear was two people talking about homosexuality and that God will come down and judge people who are homosexuals. My very first thought was that God will actually not just limit His condemnation to homosexuals, but He will judge the entire world and those who are in Christ will be saved from His condemnation.

This got me thinking as I drove away from the station. "Is this the message I want to share in my life to and/or about the sin of homosexuality." My other thought was, "What does the Bible say about this?"

I think it is really easy for Christians to condemn and throw out phrases such as 'you are going to go to hell for this or that' or 'God is going to get you.' But is that the message we want to send? Do I want to go around condemning the world or loving them. I heard a quote one time, "No one has come to Jesus because they lost the argument." We can spend all day trying to convince a sinner of their sin and for the most part it will be an exercise in futility. People know when they are doing wrong and if they don't it isn't our job to convince them of it. Let the Holy Spirit do his job and we should do ours...

Does God hate sin? Absolutely He does. Here are just a few verses that talk about this:

Joh 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

1Jn 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

But more than God's hatred of sin is His love for his children:

Rom 5:7-8 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Eph 2:4-8 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

Even when we were dead in our sins Jesus died for us. That is the message I want to share.

Blessings...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Have You Ever Healed A Beggar?

Act 3:1-10 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (esv)

I have recently started a new Bible study and the first part is to begin in the book of Acts and read the first five chapters. Once I have read the chapters I will begin to memorize the titles within the chapter. Each week I add five more chapters and when it is all said and done I will have read all of the New Testament and memorized all of the titles within the books... That sounds like a lot of work, what have I got myself into? Ok, let's just start with Acts chapters 1-5.

As I was reading through the first five chapters in Acts I came across this passage in Acts 3. It really got me to thinking about how I treat people and especially those I encounter on the streets that are deemed the least desirable. As Peter and John were approaching the temple they ran into a beggar who was a pretty common fixture at the gate. When the lame man asked for money, rather than brushing him off and telling him to essentially go away, they offered him Jesus Christ. They looked at him and with authority told him to rise and walk.

Now here comes the part that I was really impacted by... Not only did they give this lame man a dose of Jesus, but they also walked along with him into the temple praising Jesus. The stopped, shared the Lord, picked him up, and walked along side him praising our Savior. Boy do I fall short of that. I can't even tell you how many times per week I get approached by beggars and I either ignore them or brush them off with a "Sorry, I can't help you."

I have learned a lesson from the book of Acts today that will impact me forever. I will keep you updated if I heal any lame beggars, or just share the love of Jesus with them... Either way, I really see that the way I have been treating them is definitely not the way the Bible shows me to.

Lord, forgive me when I see someone who is in need of you and I only look at them as a nuisance. Please do a work in my heart so I can impact the lives of those I encounter each day on the streets.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Have You Been Transformed?

There is a sense in our American Culture that we are a Christian nation that does Christian things filled with Christian People. I often ponder what God might think about the idea of this. "One nation under God" we say. But what does it really mean for a person to be under God? According to the verses in 2Corinthians to be under God means that we have been reconciled to God through Christ Jesus. That we are a new creation and the old ways of living have passed away and the new way of living has come.

2Co 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (esv)

Being a Christian doesn't mean believing in a philosophy of doing good things for people. There are a lot of non-Christians who help others and do all kinds of good for people. It doesn't mean we are a Christian nation if we profess to be bigger, stronger, and nicer than everyone else. In order for our nation to be a Christian nation we need to look at ourselves and ask one simple question... "Am I a Christian?" Am I following the ways of Christ or am I doing things my way and living the way I feel best fulfills my wants and personal desires? Am I reconciled with God through Jesus Christ?

There are a lot of churches that proclaim that if you said the "sinners prayer" then you are saved and will be for the rest of your life. There are others who say that you need to be saved and then do all sorts of good things for God. And then there is God's Word which says this:

1Jn 3:4-9 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (esv)

Following Christ isn't about good works or trying to keep the law of God, it is about experiencing firsthand the grace of God and abiding in it. If God's seed abides in you then you desire the things of God and you don't desire to live continually in sin. Practicing righteousness isn't about working for God. It is about being righteous in Christ and evidence of that comes out in our life by how we relate to God and others. If we continually live in sin, this passage declares we have neither seen God or even know Him.

If we claim Christianity in our life we need to do a reality check and see if we are abiding in Him, otherwise it is simply lip service and a way of convincing ourselves we aren't going to go to hell. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew.

Mat 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' (esv)

Christ will say to the posers of the Christian faith, "Depart from me you poser, you may have tried to look like you were a Christian and even done good things, but I never knew you because you did not abide in me. You did it all for your benefit and your glory and your joy. You were not sheep of my fold."

Today I encourage you to do a reality check. If you have been abiding in God and fighting the effects of sin in your life then praise God for His sustaining grace. If you have claimed the grace of Jesus as your own but have been living life to benefit yourself and not for Christ then I implore you to turn your heart back to Him. If we want to be a Christian nation then we first and foremost need to be nation of Christians. Let's allow Christ to make a difference in our life so we can help impact the lives of those around us.

Blessings...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our Good Comes From The Lord

The Lord is our source of all things good. True humility understands that apart from the Lord we are filled with all kinds of evil. When we measure ourselves against the things of this world we have a tendency to compare ourselves with others. It is simple to look at someone who we may look better than, act better than or are smarter than and think how good we are.

Our goodness comes from the Lord. Not from our education, status, or income level. It doesn't come from our race, country of origin or religious denomination. Our good comes from being in Christ. We are to be a reflection of His good and put all self aside.

Psa 16:2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good besides You."

May you seek Him today and find your goodness in Him.

Blessings...


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Finding Hope In Our Struggles

Sometimes we experience a tragic event, loss of a loved one, or some form of physical suffering and we become angry and bitter. Frustration at God and those around us pours from our life like water from a faucet and the only way to close the valve is through the grace of God. I ran into a gentleman today who has experienced great loss. He had a family member die tragically and her fourteen year old son was there to witness it. Unfortunately it shook his faith to the point of bitterness towards God and anger at the church. He lost his family member, his faith, and his hope in a matter of seconds and his life will be forever changed because of it.

Has this happened in your life? Have you ever been so frustrated at God because of a tragic situation that you became angry? I know I certainly have and I believe it is a common reality we share as Christians from time to time.

2Co 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 2Co 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2Co 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 2Co 4:18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

Paul says something in this part of 2Cor that took me several years to really grasp. During a difficult situation about 10 years ago He led me to these verses and I really looked them over and studied them. I had to believe that what I was going through was important to God and that His hand was working through this time in my life. A couple key words for me were "do not lose heart" and "light momentary affliction."

Paul had gone through some tremendous difficulties in his ministry and his life and for him to be able to call what he went through momentary light affliction and to not lose heart really got my attention. I wasn't sure what it was that Paul had, but I certainly wanted it. The more I studied these verses the more I began to realize what they were saying to me...

Here is my paraphrase, "Keith, what you are going through is hard, really hard. But you are going through it for a purpose and that purpose is so that my grace will be revealed to you and others. Through that grace will come overwhelming thanksgiving in your life because you aren't comparing your difficulty to the things of this world but to the things of God. Those things are unseen right now. One day they will be glorious and this trouble now will be so small in comparison to what is to come. Don't give up, don't lose your faith, and keep your eye on those eternal things."

I know that suffering is hard. I know that some who read this today are going through intense difficulties and my heart and prayers go out to you. I also know that Paul is right. I have and continue to experience God's grace daily in my struggles. I pray for you today to embrace the Lord during your difficulties, love Him with all your heart, and trust that He is working out far more than what we can see in front of us. As for the gentleman that I was talking with today. He is still bitter at God after 10 years. I encouraged him not to give up on his faith. It is between him and God now...

Lord, please help us when we suffer. Lead us through our difficulties and help us to not become angry at you and blame you for them. You are a loving kind God and we know that you care for your children. In your name, Amen

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Turn Again, And Strengthen Your Brothers

In Luke there is a story of Satan requesting to "sift Peter like wheat" in the 22nd Chapter. Jesus tells Peter that he will give into the temptation and deny him three times and Peter told Jesus that he would never do such a thing. Well, just like in our life, he denied Jesus and gave into the pressure of the crowds and denied even knowing Jesus. It then tells us that he went away and wept bitterly.

This story reminds me of times in my own life where I fall short in my walk with Him. I look at the cost of identifying with Jesus and instead of boldly proclaiming my faith to those around me I keep it quiet and blend into the crowd like a chameleon on a leaf. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 10 (Mat 10:32-33) So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (esv)

There is great gain in acknowledging our Savior before those we encounter. And there is great consequences in denying Him as well. God understands our heart. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him and he also knew that Peter would again return. (Luke 22:32)

Peter went through a time in his life where identifying with Jesus seemed too costly. He denied Jesus three times and then went out and wept bitterly. He repented from this unfortunate incident and was know throughout history as the rock. Peter went on to preach the good news until the day he was martyred. One commentary tells of him like this:

A wonderful change was wrought in him by his restoration after his fall, through the grace of his risen Lord. His zeal and ardor became sanctified, being chastened by a spirit of unaffected humility. His love to the Lord was, if possible, increased, while his mode of manifesting it now was in doing and suffering for His name, rather than in loud protestations. Thus, when imprisoned and tried before the Sanhedrim for preaching Christ, he boldly avowed his determination to continue to do so. He is well called “the mouth of the apostles.” His faithfulness led to his apprehension by Herod Agrippa, with a view to his execution, from which, however, he was delivered by the angel of the Lord.
After the ascension he took the lead in the Church; and on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he exercised the designed power of “the keys” of Christ’s kingdom, by opening the door of the Church, in preaching, for the admission of thousands of Israelites; and still more so in opening (in obedience to a special revelation) an entrance to the “devout” (that is, Jewish proselyte from heathendom) Gentile, Cornelius: the forerunner of the harvest gathered in from idolatrous Gentiles at Antioch. This explains in what sense Christ used as to him the words, “Upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mat_16:18), namely, on the preaching of Christ, the true “Rock,” by connection with whom only he was given the designation: a title shared in common on the same grounds by the rest of the apostles, as the first founders of the Church on Christ, “the chief corner-stone” (Eph_2:20). A name is often given in Hebrew, not that the person is actually the thing itself, but has some special relation to it; as Elijah means Mighty Jehovah, so Simon is called Peter “the rock,” not that he is so, save by connection with Jesus, the only true Rock (Isa_28:16; 1Co_3:11). As subsequently he identified himself with “Satan,” and is therefore called so (Mat_16:23), in the same way, by his clear confession of Christ, the Rock, he became identified with Him, and is accordingly so called (Mat_16:18).

Peter sinned when he denied the Lord Jesus. Just like you and me when we fall short and do things our own way and give into the temptations of this world. But the hope is in the fact that even when we turn away, Jesus will always be there to strengthen us and help us to become a faithful heralder of the Gospel.

Are you struggling with your walk today? Turn back to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and He will strengthen you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Believe In Christ - And Suffer For His Sake

Php 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

In the Western culture the thought of suffering seems to be a topic that we leave for others to discuss. Feeling good, getting what we want, and having fun are more our style. How many times have you gone to a church or a social event because it was going to be 'FUN.' Fun and excitement rule our thoughts and lives. For the most part we are exempt from famine, oppression, and other disasters. We have a few earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornado's, but the images just seem to be a blip on our television screen and we move on to the next 15 second clip. Then it is off to sports and entertainment...

I was under the impression early on in my Christian walk that if I didn't have hope in my heart, a skip in my step, and a smile on my face I wasn't being a very good Christian. But living behind a mask is quite difficult, so trying to keep people out of my inner bubble became more and more complicated. Nobody told me that when I became a Christian I was going to still experience great loss, hardships, and opposition to my faith.

It wasn't until I hit a brick wall and found myself staring into the eyes of the Savior directly that I realized that suffering wasn't only a part of life, but it was a huge part of our Christian walk.

This verse in Philippians tells us to not only that we are to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake as well. Christ died the most horrendous death imaginable, and for us to think that we would be exempt from suffering is, well, kind of presumptuous. If we are following in the steps of our Lord then we will experience trials and suffering.

James tells us to count it all joy when we meet trials of many kinds (Jas 1:2-3) and the apostle Paul says in his letter to Timothy to "share in the suffering as a good soldier of Christ." (2Tim 2:3) All but one of the twelve apostles was martyred and numerous leaders and lay people throughout the Bible call out to the Lord because of their personal struggles and difficulties.

2Pe 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

There is hope in the midst of suffering. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, downsizing causes you to lose your job, or your hopes and dreams seem crushed... God cares about you. It may feel like He is out there somewhere looking down or maybe even ignoring us while we suffer here on earth, but that is far from true. He cares about each and every step we take and is using it for our good purpose and His eternal glory. The key is to have faith. Faith that God loves us so much that He allowed His only Son to die for our sins. Faith that God loves us so much He will not allow us to keep walking in sin and will correct us and show us the right path. Faith that when we are burdened by the loss of a loved one He will never leave us or forsake us. When life seems too difficult and the trials are coming faster than we can bear... He will take care of us.

2Co 1:8-11 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.



If we keep an eternal perspective with the end in mind rather than the immediate, we can begin to believe the promise that He will deliver us over and over again from the trials and tribulations we encounter. The Bible doesn't say it is going to be easy, but it does say that He will strengthen us, allow us to finish the race strong, and be there to welcome us home when we endure to the end.

Lord, thank you for the promise and hope that you will strengthen us when we are experiencing difficulties in our life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hope For A Dying World

Psa 31:24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD. (nasb)

Do you ever look around and feel like there is just no hope? Today was one of those days for me. I wasn't feeling hopeless for myself, but for those around me who don't know Jesus or who seem to have fallen away from Him. We are surrounded by heartache, disease, sexual perversion, and struggles of many kinds each and every day and they seem to be more numerous as the hours go by. The world is literally "going to hell in a handbasket" and nobody seems to take notice, let alone care.

I think the thing today that has really struck a chord in me is the rampant sin that goes on in people's lives. It is certain to bring about eternal destruction and we, as Christians, are forced to stand by and watch for fear of being labeled hate mongers, hypocrites, or bigots. Our pastor made a comment today that Christians get lulled into becoming "Politically Correct" rather than promoting a lifestyle that is "Biblically Correct." I have come to the conclusion that the world just doesn't want to hear it anymore. So how do we find hope in this world when those we love are giving into sin and following the lusts of their heart rather than the ways of God?

Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
Rom 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (nasb)

For me to find hope, I first need to trust that God is doing a work in the lives of those around me that I love and care about. Rom 1:24 says that God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts... God is not only sovereign over the good things that occur in our life, but he is sovereign over our sin as well. God gives Satan a leash on each and every one of us and how long that leash is will be determined by God. When our loved one is tempted to live a life of homosexuality, God has allowed it. When one of our children or friends gives into the temptation of drugs and alcohol I need to remember that God is working in that situation as well. Even when a friend or family member is caught in the sin of adultery God isn't taken by surprise.

Somethings in life seem to be a mystery to me. The why question comes up often and many times it goes unanswered. Why does the Lord allow me to struggle with sin? Why does God allow Satan the freedom to cause so much chaos in people's lives. Why do those I care about that claim to know Jesus keep going back to their addictions and lies? Sometimes it is just a series of why, why, why... Well, God doesn't promise in His Word to answer the why question for me, therefore I am forced to look at what He does say. In regards to the sin I see in my life and the lives of the people I love, I look at this verse in Isaiah. I am able to see a God who is filled with compassion and love and will restore those who turn back to Him.

Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. (nasb)

God will pardon those who have turned from His ways when they call upon the Lord and return to Him. When we exchange the lie of the world for the truth of God we again will find hope. 1Cor 10:13 tells us that God will provide a way of escape when we are tempted beyond what we can bear. He is the only source of hope to a dying world. When the temptations of fleshly desires creep into our life and we turn away from the truth, God will give us a way out. Knowing this gives me comfort, but the question still comes to my mind, "why are so many of those close to me not choosing to find that way of escape?"

The answer to this question will probably be a mystery to me for a very long time. I may never fully understand why people won't turn from their sin and follow Christ. Remembering what the rest of this passage in Isaiah says helps me to understand the mind of God a little bit better.

Isa 55:8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
Isa 55:9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. (nasb)

God's ways of working in the lives of human beings are not the way you or I might deal with them. His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I can't see the big picture the way He can, so when someone close to me is living in sin, God may be doing a thousand things in their life that I may never see. When we look at the life of King David and his adulterous relationship, we see God's hand of restoration working from the beginning.

The story of Jonah is another good example of the hand of God being sovereign over man's sin and working out all the details ahead of time. Jonah disobeyed God and decided to try to flee from Him and do his own thing. However, God had a plan to save a group of people and he intended for Jonah to fulfill that plan. In spite of Jonah's sin against God, God was planning and preparing before Jonah even knew what had hit him. God had prepared a boat ready to sail, a storm ready to blow over the sea, and a big fish in place to swallow up Jonah when he was thrown overboard. And when Jonah finally repented and came back to God he turned the entire nation of Nineveh to the Lord.

God's ways are not our ways and there is hope to be found in understanding that He is sovereign over the sins of me and those I care for. He is sovereign over the sins of this nation and the people who live in it. God isn't taken by surprise when a large group of people march through the city streets celebrating gay pride, so neither should I. He doesn't say "oops, there goes another one" when a loved one turns away from Him and lives a lifestyle that is contrary to His ways. God knows it and allows it because He is doing something that we may never understand. The hope for me comes from the promise that He makes to you and me in verses like Romans 10:13.

Rom 10:13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." (nasb)



So today I find hope. I find hope in praying for my friends and family who have turned from Him and know that it isn't a surprise to God. I find hope in knowing that His hand is working even when I can't see it. And I find hope that He promises that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Thank you Lord for renewing my strength today when everything around me seems so hopeless. You are the door of hope this dying world needs. I pray that we, as Christians, can be bold in our faith, courageous in our walk, and proclaim you to those around us. Praise be to You! Amen