Thursday, June 18, 2015

Faith


In Mark 11:22-23 Jesus said, “Have faith in God…I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”

In his book Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark, J.C. Ryle makes two points:
1) “Happy are they who know how to rest their whole weight continually on a covenant God and to walk by faith, not by sight.”

Faith in God is resting our whole weight on him. He is a covenant keeping God; he is strong and faithful. What he says he will do he does. His love for us is strong and his compassion for us is abounding. He never leaves us or forsakes us. If we fully trust in him, we will find joy and peace whether we experience blessings or trials in this life.

2) “Do we desire to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we wish to make progress in our religion, and become strong Christians, and not mere babes in spiritual things? Then let us pray daily for more faith, and watch our faith with most jealous watchfulness.”

We need to daily ask God to feed our faith – to enable us to trust him. When the busyness of life creeps in, we need to pause and lift all to God and trust him to lead us. When the trials of life flood us, we need to remember that God is faithful and present to help and care for us. When we experience success, we need to direct the praise to God, who equipped us and enabled us to accomplish everything.

Let’s rejoice in our covenant keeping God!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Daily in the Word (Hebrews 4:12)


Do you believe God is real? Do you believe the Bible contains the very words of God? Do you believe the Bible has specific guidance for your life today?

These questions get at fundamental beliefs. If God is real and the Bible contains his words, we need to value them highly. If his words apply to us today, we need to be daily reading and studying them. And this daily reading should not be like the daily reading of the newspaper or favorite websites, but instead be with reverence and an intention to live according to the principles and commands laid out from God for us.

II Timothy 3:16-17 states, “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.”

God is the source of all of the Bible, and he uses it to teach and correct us. He wants to help us in every facet of our lives, and the Bible is a key tool he uses. Do you use the Word as an equipping instrument from God, helping you be ready for the day, the month, and the year ahead?

Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Bible doesn’t just speak about actions or the outward behaviors we perform. It also addresses our hearts, our motives, and our thoughts. Do you let the Word of God penetrate your heart? Do you use it to reshape your thoughts and intentions?

I would urge you to be in the Word every day. Read one chapter from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Pray that God would speak to you, and anticipate that he will. Look for one verse and one idea that jumps out at you, and consider what God may be saying to you today. Is there a sin you need to repent of? Is there a motive in your heart that needs to be changed? Is there a specific action you need to start doing.

When we are daily in the Word, we will daily be growing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What is God Looking For?


In Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 2), C.S. Lewis talks about four important virtues: wisdom, self-control, justice, and courage. “After discussing each he states, “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.”

Lewis makes a profound point that we need to remember. God doesn’t call us to just follow a set of rules or commandments; he calls us to have a heart that fears him and wants to live all of life in a way that glorifies him. He wants Christians who are humble in heart, which leads to humble living. He wants Christians who fear him, which leads to holy living. He wants Christians who are wise, which leads to choices that honor him. He wants Christians who are self-controlled at heart, which leads to self-controlled living. He wants Christians who are truthful and just, which leads to honest living. He wants Christians who are courageous at heart, which leads to boldly living for God.

So easily we can want God, our pastors, our parents, our coaches, or our teachers to give us a list of things to do and a list of things to not do. In the short run this may look easy, but in reality this it is extremely difficult to make humble choices if we are not humble in heart or wise choices if we are not wise or self-controlled choices if we are not self-controlled in heart. This type of living is exhausting and drudgery.

God is looking for us to cultivate Christian qualities in our hearts, deep down within us, part of our core. And when we do, we will find living the Christian live is joyful, easier, and more fulfilling because it is more the natural outflow of our love for God.

What do you focus on – your particular actions or your heart? Commit today to focus on your heart first and then the actions the flow out of it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Plant Us In Your House (Psalm 52:8-9)


Psalm 52:8-9 says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.”

David writes that he is “an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” Olive trees lived for hundreds of years, but they were not planted in the house of God. Yet he felt like an unworthy soul abounding in God’s presence.

David’s humility is inspiring. The King of Israel and a man after God’s heart felt unworthy to be in God’s presence. But he craved nearness to God, and he found prosperity in God.

David flourished. There is no better way to prosper than to stick close to God for he knows all, control all, and can do all.

Does your soul hunger for, your spirit long for, and your mind desire God above all? This is where we will find lasting joy and peace. He is our source of strength and steadfast courage. In him we will experience deep peace and overflowing excitement.

Then we will praise. A song of great joy will be on our minds and tongues. Our lives will worship God – our prayers, our words, our actions, our melodies. We will give every ounce of energy in devotion to my Lord and Savior. We will smile with glee and dance with joy. We will encourage family and friends.

Where does this come? From our heavenly Father, the source of all.

Dear Lord, plant us securely in your presence; transform our hearts, our minds, our all.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Good, Right & Faithful


II Chronicles 31:20-21 says “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.”

These verses serve as a summary statement of the first part of Hezekiah’s life. They provide us with an example for us and some principles for us to attempt to follow.

Hezekiah did what was good, right, and faithful before God. We too need to see to do what is good, right, and faithful. We need to choose good friendships, good entertainment, and good speech. We need to do what is right at home, at work, and when out with friends. We need to be faithful in our commitments, our personal times with God, and our involvement in our local church. All of these can be beautiful offerings before the Lord.

Hezekiah sought his God and worked with all his heart in efforts to honor the Lord. We too need to seek God and his direction and guidance for our lives. We can do this through reading and studying the Word, through prayer, through hearing his Word taught at church and youth group meetings, and through the wise counsel of parents or other godly individuals.

This takes our whole heart. Truly seeking God and living for Christ require us to pursue him above all else and before all else. Commit today to do what is good, right, and faithful before God with your whole heart.

Monday, June 08, 2015

People of the Cross by Selah

Yesterday my pastor preached from John 15:18-6:4 where Jesus explains that Christians will face persecution from the world and God will provide the Holy Spirit to help us.

At the close of the service we were introduced to the song "People of the Cross" by Selah. It is dedicated to the 21 Egyptians who were killed in Libya in February. It is powerful!

"Jesus said 'If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.' John 15:20 (ESV) So many Christians have given their lives for their faith in Jesus. So many more will. Let's stand with them and pray that they stand strong as they glorify God through their suffering. We are The People Of The Cross. Open Doors USA" (Todd Smith of Selah)

I encourage you to watch their official video for People of the Cross and pray for the persecuted Church worldwide.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

From the Inside Out -- Hillsong United

Hillsong United produces great Christian worship songs. 

Recently I heard their song From the Inside Out. It speaks of authentic love for Jesus that starts in our hearts, leads to complete surrender, and shines out from us to the world around us. Real faith, real love, and real living are powerful.

Here are the lyrics:

A thousand times I've failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in Your grace

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing You praise

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

My soul cries out to You
My soul cries out to You
To You, to You

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out


From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

Saturday, June 06, 2015

God


What is God like? How does he act? What is he capable of doing?

How did you learn these things? Did you hear them from others? Did you think of them yourself? Did you read a book about God? Did you learn them in the Bible?

There are a lot of different views of God. Some emphasize his love and his mercy. Some highlight his wrath and justice. Some focus on his power and sovereignty.

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle writes, “Beware of manufacturing a God of your own,—a God who is all mercy, but not just,—a God who is all love, but not holy,—a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own…He is not the God of the Bible, and besides the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”

The world has a skewed view of God, often emphasizing his love and mercy. Even Christians can manufacture there own view of God, focusing on attributes they like and avoiding those they do not. This is extremely dangerous because the right view of God shapes just about every aspect of the Christian life. Therefore, we need to be sure we know who the God of the Bible truly is.

Bible says a lot about God and his many attributes. He is loving, good, merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign, eternal, unchanging, just, holy, and hates sin. He is all of these and more all at once. He is God.

What attributes of God do you tend to focus on? What ones do you tend to forget or avoid?

Seek to learn more about the true God of the Bible. In addition to the Bible, here are two books that could help you: Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. Both of these contain outstanding teaching on the attributes of our glorious God.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Three Marks of a Christian (I John 5:1-5)


I John 5:1-5 speaks directly to those who believe in Jesus – true Christians. Read it and look for three marks of a genuine Christian.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Christians should…
1. Love other Christians
2. Obey God’s commandments
3. Overcome the world

The book of I John has a lot to say to Christians. In fact, in I John 5:13 John states his purpose in writing is to help believers have assurance of salvation and the future gift of eternal life.

The first five verses of chapter 5 list three actions that should be seen in the life of every Christian. Are they in your life?

We always want to read Scripture with the desire to apply it to our lives today. We need to understand what it says, identify the principle taught, and look for specific application and practice in our lives today.

To help with application in I John 1:1-5, answer the following questions and consider what needs to change in your life.
  • Do you believe Jesus is the Christ? Have you been born of God?
  • Do you demonstrate love for other Christians? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you obey God’s commands? Do you joyfully obey? Do you quickly obey? Do you repent when you disobey?
  • Do you seek to overcome the world? What do you do or not do to help overcome the world? How are you specifically drawn to the world?

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Is God Real?


A few years ago I have had two different conversations with two different teenagers in which they each expressed their occasional doubt that God really exists.

The first conversation was with a girl in her early teens. She told me that when she is going through tough times or trials she knows her need for help and turns to God. But when things are going well she begins to wonder if God really does exist and if she really needs help.

The second conversation was with a boy in his early teens. He expressed the opposite. He said that in hard times and struggles he wonders if God really exists. In trials he questions why God would seemingly abandon him and not look out for him or his family. But when times are better he believes God is real and working in his life.

Can you relate to either one of these teens? In many ways I can relate to both of them. I have been caught up in the good and the many blessings of life and have forgotten about God and failed to recognize he is the source of all good. I have also been discouraged in trials and hard times and wondered if God exists and cares for me.

Yet God is real, active, and fully aware of every one of my circumstances. My emotions and feelings may change according to my changing situations, but God is unchanging. My pride grows in good times, and I focus on myself instead of my God. My self-pity increases in hard times, and I focus on myself instead of my God.

The other reality is that in this life we only see in part. We do not see all of God’s actions, purposes, or ways. We do not always know how he works all circumstances for good for the Christian (Romans 8:28). We do not always understand how his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

Prepare yourself today to have the right view of God in both the good and the bad that you will face in life. He is real, he is powerful, he is ever-present, he is good, he is just, and he is with you. Knowing these truths will help you praise him in the time of blessing and trust him in times of trials.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Unstoppable Love (Romans 8:38-39)

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Broken relationships are all around us. A married couple files for divorce. Best friends end their friendship completely. Father and daughter have not seen each other in years. Business partners sell their company because they cannot get along.

Humans are designed for relationship, yet not all of our relationships go smoothly. Conflicts arise, people move away, and different priorities come up. Sometimes a relationship ends quickly, and sometimes it fades over months.

God’s love for us is totally different. His love is unstoppable. There is nothing we can do to stop his love. Even when we fail to honor and obey him, he loves us. Romans 8:38-39 drives home the point that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing!

This is a promise for you. This is a promise to embrace today. Nothing in all creation can stop your loving Father from loving you.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Summer Reading Suggestion -- Humility by Andrew Murray

I hope you have exciting plans for summer -- travel, beach, pool, hobbies, friends, family, and more.

I also hope you plan to read this summer. Read for pleasure and read for growth. Specifically, read for spiritual growth. Read books that will feed your faith and prepare you for the future calling God has for you.

Let me offer a summer reading suggestion: Humility by Andrew Murray. It is only 64 pages, and it is easy to read. Andrew Murray (1828-1917) is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of his best books. I highly recommend it to you.

Be challenged to die to self and live for Jesus Christ. Be inspired to live the selfless Christian life.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Life or Death (Romans 8:13)

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

This verse scares me. It highlights the radical difference between the life lived in the flesh and the life lived by the Spirit. One ends in death, and the other in life. One leads to eternal separation from God, and the other leads to eternal life with the Father in heaven.

So why does this verse scare me? I love Jesus Christ, I have placed my faith in him, and Jesus is Lord of my life. But, I still battle with my sinful nature. My heart of stone has been changed by Jesus Christ, yet I still struggle with sin. The Holy Spirit lives in me, yet I stumble.

This verse also encourages me. We all have a sinful nature, but we do not need to live by it. A heart that has been truly transformed by Jesus will live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh. Although we will battle our flesh here on earth, a genuine Christian can anticipate a day when there is no more sin, no more sadness, and no more trials. We will experience the beautiful presence of God forever.

Be warned by this verse. Do not live according to the flesh. 

Be encouraged by this verse. Live by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh, and anticipated eternal life with our Heavenly Father.