Thursday, August 31, 2006

Heavenly Care

Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”

Every day we have a new set of challenges, obligations, and work to complete, and more often than not we face more than we can accomplish before the day is over. We need the help of others, but more than anything else, we need God to bear us up as the psalmist describes.

We have a sovereign Lord who controls all. We have an omniscient Father who knows everything. We have an omnipotent God who is all powerful. And he knows and loves us personally, ready and able to care for us in our daily burdens.

He gives us peace as we see the mounting tasks ahead. He gives us joy despite the hard work we face and the challenges we encounter. He gives us strength and perseverance to complete all that we can. He surrounds us with people who will encourage and support us – our parents, godly friends, pastors, and teachers.

We need to form a mindset and a heart attitude that looks to God for our strength while we are faithful to work hard and do our part. We need to lean on his understanding instead of our own. We need to trust his ways and seek to follow them.

I believe this mindset and heart attitude is most reflected (or not reflected) in our prayer life. Do you regularly pray, looking to God for help? Do you lift up your daily needs and commitments to him? Do you start your day with a declaration of your need for the Holy Spirit to be at work in your heart and life? Do you praise God for daily bearing your burdens?

Let’s commit today to look up to our Lord who provides heavenly care for his sons and daughters. And let’s praise him for daily bearing us up.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Christ Backward, Upward, and Forward

In the book Practical Religion J.C. Ryle states, “The ancient Christians made it a part of their religion to look for His [Christ’s] return. Backward they looked to the cross for the atonement for sin, and rejoiced in Christ crucified. Upward they looked to Christ at the right hand of God, and rejoiced in Christ interceding. Forward they looked to the promised return of their Master, and rejoiced in the thought that they would see Him again. And we ought to do the same.”

Christ backward, Christ upward, Christ forward should be the motto of every Christian.

Christ backward – Jesus’ sinless life, death on the cross, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven comprise the glorious and powerful gospel message. Those who believe it and place their faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning work will be saved, their hearts made new.

Christ upward – Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us. This is amazing! The living Son of God speaks on our behalf, pleading before the Father for us. There could be no better person for the task of knowing us – our needs, motives, desires, pleas.

Christ forward – Almost all of us will meet Christ within the next 80 years. We will either pass away and meet him in heaven, or we will witness his second coming. Looking forward to the day when we come face to face with Christ should motivate us to life for him now and look forward with anticipation to that glorious moment.

Look backward today and see your Savior and his atoning work on the cross for you. Look upward today and praise him for interceding for you. Look forward to the day you will see him face to face. Let Christ backward, Christ upward, and Christ forward be the cry of your heart.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Real Faith

This summer I have been reading Practical Religion by J.C. Ryle. J.C. Ryle lived from 1816-1900 and was a pastor in England. Despite the simple and bland title, “Practical Religion,” this book is profound and pierces the heart.

In the third chapter of his book, Ryle focuses on the difference between real religion and unreal religion – the difference between genuine faith and fake faith. He ends the chapter with five ways to evaluate your faith and determine if it is real or not. Here they are in my own words:

1. Does your faith flow out of your inner most being? It isn’t enough for your faith to just be on your lips, or thoughts in your mind, or emotional feelings. The Holy Spirit must be in your heart.
2. What is your view of sin? Genuine faith will always take sin seriously – as a grievous offense to our Holy God.
3. What is your view of Christ? Real faith glories in Christ as the Son of God, Savior, and Redeemer without whom we have no hope.
4. What is the fruit of your faith? Real Christianity always shows itself in godly thoughts, words, and actions that flow from the heart.
5. What are your thoughts and habits towards public prayer, worship, and preaching and towards private Bible study, prayer, and worship? Genuine faith demonstrates itself in a person’s desire to pursue and praise God in public and private ways.

There is such a think as false assurance – believing you are saved even though you are not. Please take some time to consider the five questions above. There is a difference between real and fake faith, and it is imperative that we evaluate ourselves.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Finishing Strong (II Timothy 4:7-8)

Scholars believe the book of II Timothy is Paul’s last letter, written while in a Roman prison awaiting trial and probably death. This context helps us understand the urgency and importance of the letter. Paul loves Timothy as a son and wants to communicate some closing remarks and ask Timothy to come see him as soon as possible.

In II Timothy 4:7-8 Paul states, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Paul knows his days are numbered, and he is reflecting on his life and faith. He sets a great example for us in how to live and to finish strong. We need to follow his example and fight the good fight of the Christian life. We need to finish the race – the many years ahead of us where we can live all out for Christ. We need to keep the faith and passionately follow our Lord all the days of our life.

We do this because our triune God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – is glorious, gracious, and loving. He first loved us and is worthy of our love. He awakened our hearts and desires the full attention of our hearts. He is all-wise and all-knowing and should be the main focus our thoughts.

And at the same time, we can look forward to “the crown of righteousness” that our Lord will award us on the day we meet him. There is great reward for the Christian – in this life and especially in the future when we are with God in heaven.

How are you currently fighting the faith? Are your determined to run the race all out for God? Are you committed to finishing strong? Are you faithfully praying for help from the Holy Spirit to do this and to keep the faith?

Monday, August 21, 2006

God’s Word

II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)

How do you view the Bible? How does it shape they way you live?

If you are like me you probably have ten or more Bibles in your house and have read through most of the Bible many different times. You know the layout of the Bible, the stories of the Bible, and the facts presented in it. You believe godly men penned the Bible, and you know God helped them write it. Yet knowing the contents and background of the Bible are very different than letting it shape your heart, your thoughts, and your actions.

II Timothy 3:16-17 inspires me to more deeply treasure the Word of God. It is very words of God. He truly inspired the 40 different men who wrote various books of the Bible. He placed the words into their minds as they sat down to write or dictate the pages of the Holy Scripture. When I view my Bible as “breathed out by God,” I approach it with reverent awe, expectancy, and humility.

The Word of God has a purpose for our lives – teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness. It isn’t a quaint book for decorating a bookshelf or coffee table. It is a guidebook for the Christian life. It navigates our motives and speaks to our hearts. It describes the world we live in and the temptations we will face. It outlines the laws of God, which protect us and hem us in. It describes our triune God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And in all of this, it teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and trains us, making us more like Christ.

For what purpose? The verse ends by describing the man of God who is “competent, equipped for every good work.” The NIV version states it this way, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God has a calling for each of us. The Word of God makes us competent and thoroughly equipped for the calling.

How can you let the Word of God equip you today?