Friday, May 18, 2007

Desiring Change


Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is a Christian classic. Every page inspires and challenges me.

In book 3, chapter 5 Lewis writes about sexual morality. He covers many principles that apply to morality in general. Here are three good quotes from the chapter.

“Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it.”

Have you ever prayed to God asking for him to change you, but really there is a side of you that still desires the sin? Examples: relief from conflict with a sibling, but still possess hatred towards him or her; lose weight, but still indulging in certain treats; overcoming lust, but still harboring lustful desires.

We need to truly want to change at the heart level. When we look to God to help us change at this level, we will experience real change.

“After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God firsts helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue may be this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments. And, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.”

It is easy to see how God helps us to change in a particular area. We ask him to help us stop being angry and start being patient, or we plead with him to help us resist pride and practice humility. We can often overlook the significant grace God shows us in forgiving us when we sin and enabling us to begin anew in the battle against our flesh. We have the Holy Spirit helping us, guiding us, and giving us strength to continue on even after we fail.

“That is way a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

It is possible to attend church regularly and not be a Christian. The danger is that most individuals in this situation think they are Christians. Attending church, reading the Bible, and having Christian friends gives some a false confidence that they are Christians. Having knowledge of God and the things of God, but not having a personal faith in Jesus Christ is extremely dangerous. In many ways it would be better to not be involved in the church at all. But, as Lewis states, it is better to be neither.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Unbelief


In Mark chapter 6, Jesus traveled to his hometown of Nazareth. There the people saw him as the person who grew up among them, and they rejected him as the Messiah. Verses 5 and 6 summarize his time there, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”

When I read this passage, I feel a deep sense of sadness. Nazareth had among them the Lord of the universe, the Savior of the world, and the Messiah they longed for, but they never even knew it. A little boy grew up in their town, matured into a man, and began to work wonders throughout the nation. Then, when he returned home, they did not believe he was the Christ, the Messiah.

The section closes with Jesus marveling at their unbelief. That is, Jesus saw their clear lack of faith in him and who he was.

We can look down on the people of Nazareth and how they missed it completely, but the reality is we are very much like them. In our everyday living we can demonstrate the same unbelief. When we get a low test grade, we can doubt God’s faithfulness. When we have an extremely busy week ahead of us, we can question God’s ability to help us accomplish all we need to do. When we suffer physical trials, we can complain to God. When all is well and we are prospering, we can think we are successful and forget God controls all.

I suspect God looks down and marvels at our unbelief too.

Are there any areas of your life where you tend to struggle in your faith in God and your confidence in him? Confess this to God, and ask him to strengthen your faith in him. Repent of placing your confidence in yourself, your gifts, and your wisdom and lean on him. Turn from trusting others and begin to trust God as he works through others.

Let’s learn from the mistakes of the people of Nazareth, apply this lesson to our lives today, and believe in Christ for salvation and for strength in our Christian walk.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Communication (Ephesians 4:29-32)


What characteristics or qualities should mark a Christian’s communication? How does God want us to talk to our friends? How does Jesus Christ want us to listen to and speak to our parents and siblings? What should the Facebook posts, Instagram posts, text messages, and e-mails of a Christian look like?

Communication is essential for life. Every day we are interacting with others, listening to their thoughts and sharing our own. Like any other aspect of our lives, we need to consider how God would want us to act and the direction he has given us through his Word.

We need the same desire as the Psalmist describes in Psalm 119:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Ephesians 4:29-32 describes both what our communication should avoid as well as what it should include. “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…Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

How does your communication measure up to God’s Word?

Because of our natural sinful hearts, communication is particularly difficult. Laziness can result in not asking good questions or just giving short answers. Selfishness can lead to talking only with our closest friends and not reaching out to others. Arrogance can prompt us to talk a lot about ourselves and our accomplishments.

This is because “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” which Jesus taught in Matthew 12:34.

When we understand that our hearts drive our communication, we will seek to develop heart attitudes that lead to God-honoring communication. We need to pursue love, patience, humility, gentleness, honesty, serving others, and many more.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Likes & Dislikes


“Never, never let it be forgotten, that our tastes on earth are a sure evidence of the state of our hearts and the state of our hearts here is a sure indication of our position hereafter. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. He that hopes to be gathered with saints in heaven while he only loves the gathering of sinners on earth is deceiving himself.” J.C. Ryle in Practical Religion

Our likes and dislikes reveal something about us. Our longings show what we value. Our passions demonstrate what we consider important. The music we enjoy reveals something about us. The time we give to sports demonstrates how we value it. Our efforts in school show how much we consider the importance of education. Our closest friendships express what we want to be like. Our likes and dislikes reveal the values of our hearts.

The same is true in specific spiritual disciplines. Our likes and dislikes regarding worship, Bible reading, prayer, church, and youth group reveal the state of our hearts. Genuine Christians should love God and enjoy things that help them learn more about him and live more effectively for him.

Our dislikes say a lot about us too. Christians should dislike the sin they see in their lives, take it seriously, repent, and seek to change. They should dislike unwholesome language, which is so common these days. They should dislike worldliness in music, movies, television shows, Internet sites, and friendships. Our dislikes reveal the true state of our hearts.

What do your likes and dislikes say about you? Do you like things that God likes? Do you dislike things that God dislikes?

If you are like me, your answer is probably both, but I want to like and hate the things God does. I want to grow in godliness and lessen in worldliness.

Take a minute to think of one area you would like to grow in your love for. Now think of one thing you need to dislike more. Pray that God will help you change; he is eager to answer this prayer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our God is Real


I Kings 18 records one of my favorite Old Testament stories.

Ahab is king over Israel, and he is evil in the eyes of the Lord, worshiping the Canaanite god Baal. God’s prophet is Elijah, who Ahab despises. A famine has come to the land, and Elijah is the mouthpiece of God, communicating God’s anger towards the sin of Ahab and Israel.

Then Elijah issues a challenge to the priests of Baal. He challenges them to a competition in which they and Elijah would make separate altars, place a slaughtered bulls on each altar, and call to their god/God to light it. They would do this in front of many of the people of Israel.

The drama begins as the priest of Baal, all 450 of them, build their altar, gather the wood, chop up their bull, and place them on their altar. They then spend all morning crying out to Baal to light the wood and take their offering. Nothing happens. They continue. Nothing happens. They begin to cut themselves. Nothing happens.

Then Elijah builds his alter to God. He slaughters his bull and placed it on the altar. He then has his assistants pour four buckets of water onto the wood and bull. And then he calls on the name of the living God, asking him to demonstrate his power and reality and bring fire to the altar. God responds with amazing power, sending fire and consuming the offering.

The people respond in faith in the one and only God. They know he is real and Baal is not. They follow Elijah’s command to seize the 450 priests of Baal, and they kill them all.

There is a lesson in this for us today: God is real, powerful, and desires our worship and devotion, and all other gods are false, without life or power.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Seeking Wise Counsel


Who do you go to when you need advice? What do you do when you need direction in your life?

In I Kings 12, Rehoboam had just become king after Solomon’s death. The people came to him and asked that he lighten the heavy workload that Solomon had demanded of them. Rehoboam took three days to consider their request. He sought advice from some of the old men and some of the young men. The older men encouraged him to lighten the load and win the favor of the people, but the younger men urged him to not give in but instead increase the burden and decisively exercise his authority. Rehoboam followed the advice of the younger men, the people quickly rebelled, and the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms.

This is a sad story in the history of Israel, yet we can learn from Rehoboam’s mistake.

We all face challenges in life, dilemmas where we do not know what is best. Our friends invite us to go see a movie, and we have to decide if we should go. We find ourselves attracted to a girl at school, and we consider what the best way to proceed. We hear of a new and popular band, and we need to determine if we should download their first album. We are in our last year of high school, and we must decide what college we should attend.

What do you do when you face a difficult decision? Do you rush into the decision? Do you take time and think about it? Do you pray or go to God’s Word? Do you listen to your friends’ perspectives? Do you seek advice from godly, mature individuals around you? Do you ask your parents for their counsel? Do you talk with your pastor and get his guidance?

Each of us needs some trusted, mature, wise Christians to go to for advice. We need help, and we need the perspective of someone who fears the Lord, cares for us, and has lived more of life than we have.

Consider today your practice in making decisions. Commit to seek wise counsel, and experience the grace of God in your life.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Lure of the World


We make real choices that have real consequences. In them, we choose to honor and obey God or not.

I Kings chapter 10 describes the high point of King Solomon’s life – wisdom, wealth, prosperity – as the Queen of Sheba comes to see Solomon. She leaves vast amounts of gifts behind her and is completely impressed with the wisdom of the king.

Chapter 11 takes the reader totally by surprise and details how Solomon turns away from God. Despite his amazing wisdom, he decides to disobey God and marry women from the nations that surround Israel – the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites and more. He was captured by them and loved them deeply. They swayed his heart, and he began to worship their gods, even building places of worship to these false gods.

Think about it for a minute. Solomon had directly heard from God on two different occasions in his life, other than Jesus he was the wisest man to live on the earth, and he experienced wisdom, riches, and peace from God. For much of his life, he demonstrated complete devotion to the Lord, even building the temple in Jerusalem. If he can be lured by the temptations of the world, cannot you and I be too?

Yes, we can. It is surprisingly easy and common to become caught up in the pleasures of this world and have our hearts drawn to things other than God. We can want an impressive career and be caught up in study, degrees, and work. We can long for a new car and spend hours surfing the Internet, thinking about it, and talking about it. We can desire a beautiful or handsome spouse and discard biblical values in our never ending pursuit of her or him. We can give ourselves to sports to such a degree that we have little time for God, the church, or Bible reading.

Or we can do all of these things to the glory of God. We can live in the world yet not be attached to it. We can live with God on the throne of our hearts and please him in the daily aspects of life. We can live with a conviction that God is the number one priority and all else is secondary.

In what areas are you lured by the world? Is God #1 in your life? Commit to day worship God alone and let him be Lord over all of your life.

Friday, March 30, 2007

What Should We Do When Someone Sins Against Us?


Every one of us is sinned against. It is a normal part of life.

Can you think of specific examples in your life?
- Your brother yells at you in anger
- Your sister arrogantly looks down at you
- Your classmate mocks you
- Your friends gossip about you
- Your parents treat you impatiently
- Your teacher critically judges you

Because of the sinful nature within each of us, we sin against others and they sin against us. It is sad to think about, but a reality of life.

What are we suppose to do when someone sins against us. In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus teaches the following four steps:
1. Go to the person in private.
2. If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you and go to him again.
3. If he doesn’t listen, go to a leader in the church and get his help.
4. If he doesn’t listen to the church leader, the church should place the person under church discipline.

Scripture really does apply to real life. God has given us a clear guide to respond when sinned against. The question is will we follow his plan?

What are some common mistakes we can make? 1) We can neglect to take the first step. In laziness or fear we can neglect to even go to the person. 2) After step #1 fails, we can fail to take the matter to the next level. We can wrongly think we have done our part and the rest of the matter is up to God. 3) We can talk with the wrong people. We can talk about the matter with our friends (Scripture calls this gossip) or talk down about the person who sinned against us (Scripture calls this slander).

Someone is going to sin against you – maybe today or this week. Be ready for it. Commit to following the Matthew 18 principle and be ready to forgive the person as God has forgiven you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Family Traits


I have a friend who grew up in New York City and loves the Mets. Despite living in Maryland for over 30 years, he is still passionate about the Mets, and he as passed this love on to his sons.

I have a friend who teaches literature, loving Dante, Shakespeare, and Twain. It has been a great joy to watch her inspire her students year after year. Recently her daughter earned a degree in English and is now a teacher too.

My dad works in Christian education. He started a small Christian school years ago and has been working in this field for about 45 years. He passed on to me a love for learning, teaching, and Christian education, and this year is my fourteenth year as a teacher and administrator too.

Our parents influence us. Our family traits tend to rub off on us. The likes and dislikes of our family often shape our desires. The goals and accomplishments of our parents often inspire us to achieve similar feats.

What about being a part of the family of God? What kind of traits are rubbing off on you?

Here are a few to consider:
- Do you love holiness? Do you hate sin?
- Do you pray to your heavenly Father asking for help and lifting up thanksgiving to him?
- Do you go to the Bible for direction and guidance in your life?
- Do you demonstrate love and kindness towards others?
- Do you seek to forsake the sinful values of the world?
- Do you talk about God and the things of God?
- Do you honor and obey authority?

Christianity is a matter of your individual heart, but every member of the family of God should demonstrate similar traits. Take time today to consider your life?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Temptation


Yesterday morning my senior pastor, Joshua Harris, preached an excellent message on I Corinthians 10:12-13, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

The messaged focused on recognizing and rejecting four lies of temptation:
1. I’m beyond temptation
2. My temptation is unique
3. God has left me alone, and my temptation is to much
4. There is no escape from my temptation

I can relate to each of these lies. Can you?

Read again I Corinthians 10:12-13 and identify the four truths Paul lays out for the Corinthian church.

Today stand ready for the temptations you are bound to face. As the Holy Spirit to help you see and choose the way of escape God has provided you. And experience the power of God as you seek to endure in the midst of temptation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Faith & Works

James 2:26 says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

James gives us a simple illustration to understand the relationship between faith and works – a human body. With a spirit, the body is alive; without a spirit, the body is dead.

Like the spirit and body, true faith and works are inseparably linked. Works demonstrate that the faith we claim is real, living, and active. Works reflect a heart that has been transformed by the gospel. Works reflect the Savior’s effects on our hearts.

If a person claims to be a Christian but he does live like a Christian, we should wonder if he is truly saved. If we do not live in a way that pleases and honors God, we should reconsider our own hearts. Maybe we do not possess genuine faith.

Consider today the works in your life. Do they reflect real faith? If they do, praise God for his amazing work in you. If they do not, pause now and ask God to transform your heart and make you one of his own.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Be Perfect

Matthew 5 records the first portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus lays out the distinctive marks of a Christian, and he does this with strong and decisive statements.

Consider these strong words: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 5:20; “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 5:48

At a first glance these words can be very discouraging. The Pharisees prized themselves in following every detail of the law. They were considered the godliest ones of their day. And then in verse 48 Jesus raises the bar much, much higher. He says we must be perfect because this is the standard and character of God the Father.

How are we to live up to this standard of perfection? We cannot. None of us can be perfect. None of us can live a life that is sinless of thought, word, and deed. In fact, we cannot go a few hours without sinning, let alone a lifetime.

But we are not without hope. We know the end of the story, something Jesus’ original audience did not know. He became our substitute, our Savior. Jesus fully bore the wrath of God for our sins and God credited us with the righteousness of Christ. When we believe in Jesus’ finished work on the cross this glorious exchange takes place, and God sees us as perfect.

Be encouraged this day by this glorious news.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Run with Endurance


Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes called the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” as it lists biblical heroes who demonstrated amazing faith in God. Then in chapter 12 the author turns from looking back to speaks directly at the reader and to us today.

He challenges us to look at the faith of others and be inspired to repent of our sins, lay them aside, and run hard after Christ.

What weight and sin clings closely to you? Are you ready to lay them aside and run with endurance? Look up to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith. He set the example for enduring hardship and shame, as he gave his life for us all.

Let’s let Christ’s example inspire us today. Let’s commit to running with endurance the race that is set before us.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In Name Only or In Reality?

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle states,

“When a man is a Christian in name only, and not in reality,– in outward things only, and not in his inward feelings,– in profession only, and not in practice,– when his Christianity in short is a mere matter of form or fashion or custom, without any influence on his heart or life,…He possesses indeed the form or husk or skin of religion, but he does not possess its substance or its power.”

Christianity is personal. God desires to have a personal relationship with us, and we respond individually to him. We are not saved because our family heritage, we are not regenerated because of the town we live in, and we are not converted because of the church we attend. We either have a personal relationship with God or not.

Christianity is internal. Our hairstyle, clothing, jewelry, car, boat, and home do not make us Christians. We cannot put on a Christian coat and become a believer. We need to have the power of God living and at work in our hearts. Our hearts need to be subordinate to Christ, and our motives and desires must be devoted to all he wants and commands.

Do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Do you have the power of God within you? If you do, praise God for his kindness to you. If you do not, pause right now and pray to God, asking for him to transform you this very moment.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A True Christian

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle states,

“What do I mean when I speak of a true Christian? Do I mean everybody who goes to church or chapel? Do I mean everybody who professes an orthodox creed, and bows his head at the belief? Do I mean everybody who professes to love the Gospel? No: indeed! I mean something very different. All are not Christians who are called Christians. The man I have in view is the Christian in heart and life. He who has been taught by the Spirit really to feel his sins,–he who really rests all his hope on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His atonement,–he who has been born again and really lives a spiritual, holy life,–he whose religion is not a mere Sunday coat, but a mighty constraining principle governing every day of his life,–he is the man I mean, when I speak of a true Christian.”

Take time to consider this quote by answering the following questions:
- Are you a Christian in heart and life?
- Have you been taught by the Holy Spirit to feel conviction for your sins?
- Do you really rest all of your hope in Jesus Christ?
- Have you been born again and really living a spiritual, holy life?
- Is your Christianity guiding you every day of the week?

Choose today to believe in Jesus Christ your Savior and surrender every aspect of your life to Jesus Christ your Lord. Come experience the joyful, fruitful, and satisfying life found in Christ.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Lord, the God of Hosts

II Samuel recounts David’s ascent to the thrown, first in Judah and then all of Israel.

I greatly admire David. He clearly had the Spirit of God in him from the days of defeating Goliath with a sling and a stone. He loved to worship God, he lived with a God-ward mindset, and he turned to God in his need. He expressed both his weaknesses as well as his worship in the many songs recorded in Psalms. He demonstrated godly sorrow and repentance when he sinned.

II Samuel 5:10 states, “And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.”

This is a wonderful summary of a great man becoming greater and greater because of the MUCH greater Lord of his life. David prospered – in wealth, in land, in family, in faith – not because of his own wisdom and own strength, but because of the Lord who was with him. The God of hosts guided, protected, and lead David. The all-mighty Lord won battles for him, gave him favor in the eyes of other leaders, and prompted the people of Israel to revere their king.

We may never have the responsibilities and wealth of David, but we too desperately need the Lord, the God of hosts, to be with us. We need strength for the tasks of this day, week, and month. We need discernment in the decisions we will make. We need wisdom as we interact with others. We need perseverance to study hard and complete our school work. We need peace as we think about the future. All of these come from the God of hosts.

Pray that God will be with you today and every day. Ask him to help you with every aspect of your life. Seek to develop a mindset that looks to him and leans on him. And enjoy the Lord, the God of hosts, with you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happiness – Joy

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle addresses the topic of happiness. He warns, “You might as well try to make an elephant happy by feeding him with a grain of sand a day, as try to satisfy the heart of your’s with rank, riches, learning, idleness, or pleasure.”

We look for joy, excitement, and lasting satisfaction in so many ways. We seek a high rank, power, and prestige; we seek riches, money, and wealth; we seek knowledge, education, and degrees; we seek free time, hobbies, and leisure; we seek pleasure, excitement, and euphoria. But none of these yields true joy, lasting happiness, and soul-satisfying pleasure. These pursuits are as futile as “feeding an elephant with a grain of sand a day.”

True joy doesn’t come from things here in this world. It comes as a result of the Spirit’s work in us. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and results in our souls being satisfied in Christ and reflecting that in life. Then we can even consider it pure joy when we face trials. We can be happy in Christ even when all is not well in our lives.

How do you seek to find joy? Where do you go to find lasting happiness?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Praise for Salvation

In I Timothy 1, Paul urges Timothy to stand strong against false teachings in the Ephesian church and lead in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul cannot hold back his praise and adoration of God for the precious gift of salvation, and in verse 17 he burst out praises, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul is keenly aware of his past life apart from a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. He remembers being humbled and transformed on the road to Damascus. He knows his fierce persecution of the church. He pictures where he would be apart from salvation. He knows his past and present sin. A02340202.3.nd he deeply appreciates his saving Lord.

I am inspired and challenged by Paul’s example. Do I understand my natural and pervasive sinful nature? Do I truly value God’s freeing me from the rule and power of sin in my life? Do I treasure my Savior and my salvation? At times I do, but often I take these for granted.

What about you? Join me today in praying for more gratefulness for salvation? Let’s pray that God would help us to understand the depths of our sin and the amazing salvation we enjoy.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Is Your God Active or Passive?

In Basic Christianity John Stott states, “Many people visualize a God who sits comfortably on a distant throne, remote, aloof, uninterested, and indifferent to the needs of mortals, until, it may be, they can badger him into taking action on their behalf. Such a view is wholly false. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it even occurs to man to turn to him, while man is still lost in darkness and sunk in sin, takes the initiative, rises from his throne, lays aside his glory, and stoops to seek until he finds him.”

How do you view God? Do you think of him as distant and unaware of your circumstances? Do you think of him as passive and waiting for you to call on him?

Because we cannot see God, it can be easy for us to forget about him or to think he is not always present. But believing he is indifferent or uninterested is wrong.

The Bible describes God as all-knowing, everywhere, and sustaining all. He is an infinite God who cares about individual, finite beings like you and me. He created the world, including mankind. He initiates a relationship with individual humans. He calls us to be his sons and daughters. And he conforms us to the image of his Son.

We serve an active God, which should give us peace and joy. We can pray to him with confidence that he hears us and will act according to his will. We can trust him because we know he is up to the task and will guide and comfort us in life.

What an amazing God we have!!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Devotion to God

In Growing Your Faith, Jerry Bridges writes, “Devotion to God is not an activity; it is an attitude toward God. God is the focal point of the godly person’s life. He or she seeks to practice the presence of God, to enjoy fellowship with God, to do all things to the glory of God, and to see God’s name hallowed or honored on earth as it is in heaven.” (p 131)

We do not do devotion to God; we have devotion to God. It is a quality within us, an attitude of our heart, a bent deep down within us.

What does it mean to be devoted to God? Bridges sums this up as God being “the focal point” or a person’s life. This means God is at the center of a person’s life, the most important thing. He is on our minds, on our lips, and in our actions.

Is God the focal point of your life? Do you understand your need for him in the tasks at hand and the decisions you need to make? Do you comprehend your need for direction from his Word? Do you think frequently about God? Do you speak of him? Do you consider his perspective on the simple and complex situations in your life? Do you have a healthy fear of him?

As you consider this topic, please understand that we can always grow in developing a more God-ward mindset. Due to our natural sinful nature, no one is perfectly devoted to God. But we can grow in this area. In fact, this is part of growing in our Christian faith.

Consider today your heart. How can you grow in your devotion to God?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our View of the Word

In his book Growing Your Faith, Jerry Bridges states, “One who delights in the law of God sees the Bible not just as a book of rules that are difficult to live by but as the Word of his or her heavenly Father who is the God of all grace and deals with him or her in grace.”

The Bible contains many rules and instructions for life. Many of them are difficult to obey because of the world we live in and the natural bent of our hearts. But the Bible is much more than a rule book. It is the very words of our eternal, sovereign, loving God.

Consider what it would be like to know all of the rules of the game of basketball but never play it. You would know you have 10 seconds to bring the ball up over half court, 3 seconds in the offensive lain under the basket, 5 seconds to pass the ball in bounds, etc… What if this was all head knowledge, but you never played the game of basketball and experienced the excitement and thrill of the game? I think this would be lifeless and lacking true joy for the game.

Viewing the Bible as just a rule book would be much worse. The Christian life would be about following the rules, checking off items on a to-do list, and staying in line. It would lack life and meaning. It would be far from the genuine Christianity God wants for us.

God is full of grace and truth. He has bestowed on us undeserved kindness in many forms – sending his Son to die for us, calling us to be his son or daughter, continuing to conform us to the likeness of his Son. He does speak the truth to us, love the truth, and outline the truth in his Word. Our God is full of grace and truth, and we need to be too.

Commit today to view the Bible as words from your Heavenly Father. Seek a vivacious Christian faith and life that is motivated by love for God and views the Word as God’s grace to you.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who's Following Who?

“I find, very often, that the God I’m looking for is the God who follows me…But I fear the God who becomes concretely personal in Jesus, who confronts me with a start command, barren of option: Follow Me.” Mark Buchanan Your God Is Too Safe.

Two young children play, one the lead and the other following. Maybe the oldest game known to man, with the exception of tag. It’s follow the leader. But both of them want to lead and neither wants to follow. Call them type A personality or Alpha kids. Call them whatever you want, but don’t say they are playing follow the leader.

Biblical Christianity is about following first. We follow the gospel call of our heavenly Father and we repent of our sins. We abandon our former ways and our worldly goals and follow His standard for living. We read and absorb the content of Scripture, seeking to grasp his design for our living. He leads, we follow.

But this goes against our natural tendencies. How many of our mothers said, “Follow the crowd”? How many of our fathers dreamed of us being a follower when we grew up? From a young age, we have been warned against the dangers of following peer pressure and the masses. We have been pushed to lead, prodded to step out and stand up for righteousness.

Christ beckoned the disciples to drop their nets and follow him, which they did immediately and with joy. They followed him for three key years of training and instructions. Then they became leaders of the early church, apostles of the Way.

Christ extends his arms to us. We are the ones standing at the shores of the Sea of Galilee holding the nets. We hold our toys, our goals, our possessions, our pride. And he urges us to throw them down and follow him.

How long with our three years of training be? We do not know, but as we follow him we will grow in our love for him and our convictions will strengthen. He will prepare us for the day we lead others.

Following Christ, never leading Christ. Preparing to lead and follow other believers.

Book Recommendation

Recently I’ve been reading Growing Your Faith by Jerry Bridges. I highly recommend anything by Mr. Bridges, and I have found this book to be inspiring. It is a collection of chapters from previous books. He has written a good deal about spiritual growth in his other works, and NavPress decided to bring them all together in this one title.

Are you interested in understanding grace, living according to the Word of God, balancing personal discipline and dependence on God, growing in holiness, and trusting God? Then pick up a copy and begin reading it.

Mr. Bridges writes in a clear and concise format, and he draws his points from Scripture. I recommend this for anyone who wants to strengthen their faith and walk.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Evidence of Salvation

In his book titled Assurance, J.C. Ryle discusses the ways we can identify if a person is genuinely saved.

He asks, "How are you to know whether you have the Holy Spirit? What are the evidences by which a man may discern of the grace of the Holy Spirit in his heart?"

He then gives the following five answers:

Where the Holy Ghost is, there will be...
1. Deep conviction of sin, and true repentance
2. Lively faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior
3. Holiness of life and conversation
4. The habit of earnest private prayer
5. Love and reverence for God's Word

Our salvation is the most important issue of our lives. Our eternal destination is a stake.

I bring these items to your attention and ask that you examine the fruit of your life today to determine if you are genuinely saved. Probe your heart, look at the evidence in your life, ask others what they see, and determine if you are truly saved.

If you are not, today may be the day God is drawing you to himself. Acknowledge your need for a Savior. Repent of your sin and place your faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Believe in him.

If you are saved, take time to praise and thank God for his work in your heart. This truly is a miracle from your Heavenly Father, and he is worthy of your adoration.