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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Friday, January 18, 2013

Who Am I? Finding Identity In A Mixed Up World.

1 John 3:1-3 ESV  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.  (2)  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.  (3)  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

There are so many things for us to identify with. Our identity is central to the things we pursue and what we believe to be true about ourselves. Many of us identify ourselves with our job. I am a...doctor, school teacher, contractor, stay at home mom, etc... Often we identify who we are with our athletic capabilities. And on the darker side of things, many of us identify ourselves with the negative beliefs we carry from our past. Most core beliefs we have about our identity were formed when we were a small child and changing them on our own is not easy. You have probably heard the phrase quoted many years back by Henry Ford, the creator of the Ford automobile.

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right."

What we believe about ourselves, whether it stems from childhood or has been developed over the years, will shape who we are and who we become.

John shares with us in the book of 1John that we are called "Children of God." When we lay down our past hurts, our accomplishments, and our challenges at the foot of the cross we are then able to begin the process of building our new identity in Jesus. Paul tells us that when we give our heart to the Lord we are a new creation. The old self has passed away. The things we struggle with, the accomplishments we think prove our worth, and the insecurity of future events no longer have to be our identity. We are now a child of the King. Our identity can now be based on something unchangeable, unshakeable, immoveable.

As children of God all things are possible. We no longer have to be burdened by our past failures because we have the Creator of the universe as our Heavenly Father. With Christ as our identity we no longer have to strive for the things of the world to bring us fulfillment. Our purpose and pleasure is to please Him.

Gal 1:10 - For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

If you identify in you job, you will need to always perform in a way that you wont let yourself down. If you identify yourself as an athlete you must be the best athlete or you will begin to feel like a failure. And if you are seeking the approval of men and try to identify yourself with whether or not you are accepted, you will always be let down. But when you seek your identity in Christ and pursue Him you will never need to perform. You will never feel like a failure. And you will never be let down.

Where is you identity placed? Do you see yourself as a Child of God. One who has an eternal inheritance that will never be lost, stolen, or replaced. Or do you identify with the things of the world that are shaky at best?

Prayer: Lord, I want to find my identity in you and you alone. Help me to release the negative beliefs I have carried for so long and see myself the way you created me to be. I want to find all of my joy, hope, and fulfillment in you Lord and not the things of this world. You are my Rock and I am so thankful that you call me your child. Amen...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Trying To Understand The "Why" Question In Suffering

Psalms 10:1 ESV  Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? 
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Headline News:
  • Bus Crashes On Oregon Highway Killing 9 Injuring 38
  • School Shooting In Conneticut - 26 Dead
  • Charred Bodies Found After Japan Tunnel Collapse
  • Mall Shooting Leaves 2 Dead and 1 Critically Injured
  • Divorce Rates In The US Are At An All-Time High
  • Iran Intensifies Persecution Of Christians
  • Short Rains Intensify Kenya Food Insecurity
  • 16,000 Children Die Daily Of Hunger Related Causes
  • Natural Disasters Pose Serious Financial Threat To Asia
When we look at the events that are occurring around the world one of the first questions that most of us ask is "why." Why do these terrible things happen to so many people? Why do not only the unsaved suffer, but those who love and follow Jesus as well?

I was recently visiting a church in another state and the day my family and I were attending they had a memorial video for the passing of the daughter of the pastor. She was a beautiful five year old girl. Her big eyes and contagious smile would capture of the heart of anyone who was around her. Her precious little life was stolen from her a few days prior to Christmas of an asthma attack. As I watched the video my eyes welled up with tears. I had never met this precious little saint but I did understand the pain of her passing. After the video, mom and dad came onto the stage and shared their feelings about their grief of loss and their hope for what God is doing through this tragic event in their life. Many wept, many listened in a sort of mesmerized disbelief, and as I listened, I heard hope in their voice.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to His children? That question is often on the minds of many in times of trials and temptations. Why do we go through ugly bitter divorces in the church? Or why do our little ones die too soon? Why does disease strike at the most inopportune times? What about job losses and not being able to care for some of our basic needs?

The Psalmist in Psa 10:1 asks: Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Often it appears that God is far from us when we fall into our deepest need. The waves of the enemy are crashing on our shore and there is no place to escape from drowning. There is no rest from our pain and suffering. The peace that surpasses all understand has eluded our anxieties. Where are you God when we need you most?

David cried out, "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" (psa 13:1-2) David, the man after the heart of God cries out to God... "Why?"

There are many Biblical examples of the saints of God asking that same question. "Why, O LORD, have you forsaken your child?" I remember a time several years ago where everything in my own life seemed to be spinning out of control. My marriage was on the rocks, my work load was overwhelming me to the point of major anxiety and panic attacks, my emotional and spiritual health was at its lowest. I remember crying out to God often, "Lord, if you are good then why am I going through such turmoil? I have children and I would never treat them the way I feel like you are treating me right now!" My anger and frustration was directed at God as if He were the cause of my woes. My wife had recently recovered from cancer and now this? "What was God doing to us," I thought.

What was God doing?... That is a really good place to start. And when it is asked with a genuine desire to understand His ways I believe we can find answers in His word. The key words in my question was "to us." As if God was simply trying to punish me or cause me harm. God wasn't doing anything to us, rather, He was doing these things "for us."

When we look at the story of Job we see some similar questions being asked. Job had finally came to a place of frustration in his trials to the point of even asking God, "Why did I not just die at the moment I was born?" (paraphrase Job 3:11) "Lord, why did I not just come out of the womb and die?" It would have been better for me to die than to go through all of these troubles. I have been there. God, please just take me now! All of these things you are allowing me to go through are simply too much for me to bear and I would rather just die than continue to go through them.

We even find Jesus asking the Father to remove the suffering He is about to endure. "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 22:42) No one wants to walk into a situation that will cause harm, difficulties, and suffering. It isn't a natural place for us to be. But as we see from the prayer of Jesus, we are to desire the will of the Father over our circumstances. Yes, Jesus willingly went to the cross knowing beforehand what the outcome was going to be. What is our end going to look like in this trial? That is a piece to our suffering puzzle we may never fully understand. Never-the-less, God calls us to desire His will over our comfort. Yet, in the midst of our suffering He is always there to bring us comfort when we draw close to Him. One of the ways Jesus will bring us comfort during suffering is to grab hold of the Scriptures. Psalm 119 is a clear example of the connection between our affliction and God's Word:
  • Psalms 119:25  My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
  • Psalms 119:28  My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
  • Psalms 119:43  And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
  • Psalms 119:50  This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalms 119:61  Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
  • Psalms 119:75-77 ESV  I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.  (76)  Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.  (77)  Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
Putting our focus on the Word of God is inexplicably tied to our comfort and understanding. As we read through the book of Job we realize some things about his story that we can relate to our own story. Here are just a few:
  • We should trust that God is working behind the scenes: We often neglect to see what God might be doing because we are focused so closely on what is happening right in front of us. I often hear well meaning Christians say, "You need to look at this from an eternal perspective." And yes that is good, but often eternity seems so far away. I want to see what God is doing right now... Remember that God is not only doing a work in this trial for eternal purposes, but He is also doing a work in many ways for you today.
  • Though it is good to confide in friends, they may not have the right answers: Often we hear from our friends advice that doesn't seem to fit quite right in the situation we are going through. After Job had a conversation with his friends there was more confusion than solution. Yes, it is good to receive sound advice, but the best thing his friends ever did was to sit quietly by his side and walk with him in is suffering.
  • We should not turn from God and question His goodness: After Job was done questioning God regarding the trials he encountered, God rebuked Him for his unbelief. One of the most profound cries of forgiveness is contained in the book of Job. Job 42:1-6 ESV  Then Job answered the LORD and said:  (2)  "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  (3)  'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  (4)  'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.'  (5)  I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;  (6)  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
So why do we go through trials and suffering? Why did Job have to lose his entire family only to have twice what he originally had restored to him? Why did that pastor lose his daughter at such an early age? Those are really good questions... I am not sure we can answer each and every individual "why" question about suffering, but we can find from the Word that there are some universal reasons for it. Trying to answer why to our individual circumstances may be futile. It is probably void of meaning and if you ask ten people why you are going through a particular time of suffering, you may get ten very different answers.

So why does God allow suffering? 
  • To Draw Us Closer To Him: John Piper, in a sermon on suffering, says this, "No one every cries out to God for help when they are sitting on a beach, looking at a sunset, drinking a drink with a little umbrella in it." Well, maybe he said it a bit differently, but the meaning is the same. When we go through difficulties we are forced to draw close to Jesus for our comfort, peace, and joy.
  • To Bring Him Glory: It may seem a bit strange that suffering brings Glory to God but it does. And it is intended to. When Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead he told Mary and Martha, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." And in the story of Jesus healing the blind man he tells the disciples, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." God wants to bring Glory to Himself in our afflictions.
  • For Times Of Discipline: God does discipline those He loves. (Heb 12:4-11) We should not make the mistake in assuming all difficulties are because of disobedience. We should, however, spend time in fervent prayer asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sin and see if what we are going through could be a byproduct of our sinful and disobedient behavior. 
  • To Refine Us: (Isa 48:10-11; 1Pet 1:6-7) God uses testing and trials to refine His people. Often affliction will come to a person and they will fall away. Difficulties display whether our affection to God is true, even in the difficult times.
  • To Make Us More Like Christ: (Phil 3:10) As we enter into a time of suffering and trials we discover things about ourselves, our faith, and our character that may not be revealed at any other time in our walk with Christ. To share in the sufferings of Christ will make us more like Him.
These are just a few examples of why we may go through suffering and trials. Whatever the reason may be in your particular situation, one thing rings true in all we go through... Jesus is no stranger to the struggle we are facing. He has been tempted and tested in every way, yet was without sin. He will comfort us when we are feeling alone in our greatest time of need in ways beyond our understanding. (Heb 4:15-16) He will never forsake us in our trials and promises to provide us with the strength we need to overcome it. The Eternal Son of God suffered to the point of death, even death on a cross.

However, there is hope. He overcame the grave and defeated death's sting. That is not to say that we don't grieve during hard times. Of course we do. Jesus defeating death brings us hope. It gives us a purpose and a meaning to all we go through that allows us to look to the things eternal. Our difficulties may bring others to Christ because of how we get through them. They may bring us to our knees in fervent prayer in ways we never experienced before. Suffering will afford us the blessing of seeing His hand work miraculously in and through our situation. Though the pain and sting is there, we are assured of one very important thing:

Our Struggles Wont Last Forever...

Revelation 21:3-5 ESV  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  (4)  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."  (5)  And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (emphasis added)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Will Give You Rest... So Come!

I have been spending much time in the Gospel of Matthew over the past three months. This week I am in the eleventh chapter. One of the verses that really spoke to me was verse 28:

Matthew 11:28 ESV  Come to me, all who labor and 
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Over the past several weeks we have been running kind of crazy because of the holidays. So much to take care of. Shopping for just the right Christmas gift, preparing meals, and spending time with friends and family has been a priority. Then to top it off we had a 5 day road trip covering almost 1500 miles... It is enough to wear you out!

So as I read Matt 11:28, I am compelled to ask a question. "What is this rest he is talking about?" Is Jesus saying He will give me rest from all of my busyness and sometimes overwhelming expectations and pursuits? I think that is exactly what He is saying...

As I break down the verse I see that in order to receive this blessing of rest I am required to do one simple thing. Come to Him. "Come to ME" Jesus says. It is a personal invitation. Jesus has an open door policy. Unlike the boss at our jobs who seem almost untouchable because of their position, Jesus, the creator of the universe invites us to "come."

Are you burdened today? Have you been overtaken by worry, sin, burdens, sickness, temptation, or persecution? Only Jesus can give you the rest you need. He will reassure the worrier, forgive the sinner, take the load off the burdensome, give rest to the sick, help the tempted overcome, and give strength to the persecuted. Jesus is the rest, all we need to do is come.