Sunday, August 13, 2017

Why Obey?

Do you obey the authority in your life – your parents, teachers, coaches, pastors? What percent of the time – 75%, 90%, 95%?

Okay, now for the hard question: Why do you obey? Pause and consider the thinking behind your obedience, your reason you comply, your motivation to do what is right.

Some individuals obey their parents to make sure they get their weekly allowance. Others are motivated to keep some of the “toys” they have – cell phone, video games, car. Some want to avoid discipline, such as being grounded, not being able to go out with friends, or limited television privileges. Others want to be praised and seek public recognition for their public obedience. Some truly want to honor their parents and please the Lord.

As you can see the motives of our hearts can vary greatly when it comes to obedience. In fact, our motives are at best mixed – both good and bad.

If your parents are involved in your life, they probably faithfully discipline you when you do wrong. As a result, avoidance of discipline can be a primary motivator for many of us. But, remember that some day you will move out of you house, be on your own, and no longer be under the direct oversight of your parents. What will motivate you do then?

We need to be motivated by a deep desire to please God. This is the mindset and attitude that will equip us for life. We will never move out of God’s domain. We will always be under his authority and rule.

We need a healthy dose of the fear of the Lord. Knowing his character and ways, we need to respect his holiness, power, and rule. Remembering he is always present and just, will shape our decisions. Knowing he calls us to be holy because he is holy will inspire us to obey his Word. Understanding his commands and the love behind each of his commands will encourage us to trust his way as we obey.

Why do you obey? At the least I hope you are thinking more about this subject. Talk it over with a godly friend or with your parents. What would they say motivates you?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Quick to Listen - Slow to Speak - Slow to Anger - James 1:19

The book of James is filled with practical teachings. These truths challenge us, and they provide a standard to measure our lives.

James 1:19 is a good example: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry"

We each know someone who does not listen well. We know someone who talks too much. And we know someone who easily gets angry. These things are easy to spot in others, but completely miss seeing in ourselves.

James holds up the value of listening. A good listener genuinely cares about others and wants to hear what others say. A good listener asks questions and focuses on the answers. A good listener is more concerned about others than themselves. A good listener learns and gains wisdom. Let’s be quick to listen.

James holds up the value of being slow to speak. Speaking too quickly leads to comments we will regret later. Speaking too quickly shows a heart focused on our self, our opinions, and our wisdom. Speaking too quickly often is a sign of arrogance. Speaking too quickly means we are not listening. Let’s be slow to speak.

James holds up the value of being slow to anger. Being slow to anger means we show patience and self-control. Being quick to anger leads to harsh comments and mean actions. Being quick to anger harms those around us. Being quick to anger leads to sin and mistakes we wish we could go back and change. Let’s be slow to anger.

The book of James is practical and up in our face. These truths force us to consider ourselves and our lives. Today consider your listening, speaking, and tendencies toward anger. How are you doing? How can you change?

Thankfully, as Christians, we do not walk out our faith on our own. The Holy Spirit enables us to walk out the Christian life. When we see areas for change, the first step is repentance and the second is crying out to the Holy Spirit to enable us to change.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer

What are your plans for the summer? What goals do you hope to accomplish?

Consider these four sections of Scripture:

1) I Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

If we can do simple things (like eating and drinking) to the glory of God, we can do everything to His glory (cell phone, social media, hanging out with friends and family, going to the beach, working a summer job…). This summer set a goal of living for God's glory in all you do.

2) Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

The Bible is a guide to light our path. We need to read it, know it, and apply it to our lives. This summer make a goal of reading the Bible every day.

3) Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ ”

Honoring and obeying your parents will great bless them, and this passage also makes it clear that it will bless you too. This summer honor and obey your parents.

4) Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Our words matter. This summer seek to use words that are helpful and build others up.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spiritual Growth

How does a Christian grow? How do we grow in faith? How do we grow in holiness?

Here are four ways:

       1.       Daily Reading the Bible – Each day I try to read one chapter from the Old Testament and one chapter from the New Testament. I read slowly, carefully considering the truths in each chapter. I ask God to reveal to me lessons for the day, and I seek to make practical application to my life. The change in my life may be small when measured on a daily basis, but over time the growth has been pronounced.

2.       Daily Prayer – Each day I try to spend time praying to my Heavenly Father. I seek to worship him, talk with him, and hear from him. I declare my need for his wisdom, guidance, and help. I lift up to him my family, my circumstances, and my future. I know I am communicating with the all-mighty, all-knowing, and all-powerful God of the universe. I know I am praying to my God who loves me and cares for me. Daily prayer feeds my faith.

3.       Learning from Mistakes – It is easy to beat myself up for my mistakes and endlessly rerun them endlessly in my mind. But, I try to learn from my mistakes and see them as opportunities for growth in faith, in character, and in resilience. I confess my sins and ask God to forgive me, and I acknowledge my weaknesses. I seek to be a humble learner, listening to the guidance and teaching of God. I find that in my mistakes, I am keenly aware of my need and I am often more attentive to the lessons God has for me. I do not like making mistakes, but I value the important lessons I have learned through them.

4.       Refinement through Trials – Trials are a reality of life for all of us. We are either in a trial, coming out of a trial, or heading into a trial. I get frustrated and impatient when I have to endure difficulties. Yet I also look back at my life and see how God clearly taught me through trials. Some of the clearest truths have come through lessons learned in hardship. I have walked through significant health issues personally and within my family. They have been extremely difficult, but God has met me powerfully. I have seen his closeness, and my weakness has helped me know he is near, he is strong, and he is ready to help. Although I do not like trials, I do like the spiritual growth they have produced in my life.

I pray that God continues to help us grow!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Recommendation: Parenting Beyond Your Capacity


A few years ago my pastor introduced me to a book, and the title grabbed my attention immediately: Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. 

As parents, we feel overloaded and maxed out. How do we parent beyond our capacity?

The authors provide five principles:
1. Widen the Circle – Pursue strategic relationships for your kids.
2. Imagine the End – Focus your priorities on what matters most.
3. Fight for the Heart – Communicate in a style that gives the relationship value.
4. Create Rhythm – Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.
5. Make it Personal – Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.

I highly recommend this practical and biblically solid book. May the Holy Spirit work in us and through us as we seek to parent beyond our capacity!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Failure

Recently I heard a mom of three children say, “I want my children to experience failure before they grow up and leave my house and are out on their own. I want to help them work through the failure, learn from the failure, and overcome the challenges of the failure.”

Her statement got my attention. There is a side of me that does not want to see my children fail or experience hardships. But, I do want them to learn to be resilient, to learn to depend on God for help, and to learn to persevere.

James 1:2-4 states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Trials, hardships, and failures are classrooms for learning patience, humility, and steadfastness. Through them God can increase our faith in Him and grow our dependence on Him. 

We all want the promise at the end of this passage: “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Okay, this may not happen until heaven, but none the less trials can get us closer to these targets.

I do not pray for failure for my children or myself, but I do pray for genuine faith, true humility, and godly grit and resilience. I do not know how God will accomplish this, and I realize the clearest lessons in life often come through moments of failure. Amazingly, God works mistakes, hardships, and trials for the good of Christians. He brings victory from failure.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Intimate and Awesome Prayer

I'm reading the book Life, God and Other Small Topics: Conversations from Socrates in the City, edited by Eric Metaxas. One chapter is a lecture given by N.T. Wright in 2006.

One of Wrights statements caught my attention,

“If you read chapters 13 through 17 of John’s gospel, you’ll discover a wonderful model of Christian prayer. Prayer is supposed to be simultaneously intimate and awesome. That’s an odd combination to us, but actually that’s how it is. There is an awe in the presence of one’s Creator, but there is also an intimacy because the Creator invites us to call him Father.”

I like this description of prayer as being both intimate and awesome.

Do you stand in awe of God? Do you know his power and might? Do you have a healthy fear of him? Do you worship him?

Do you also have an intimate relationship with him? Do you know his love? Do you know his care? Do you know him as your Father?

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, Christians can approach God the Father with confidence. We can talk to him, and he hears us. We have an amazing God!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Life's Paradoxes

Charles Colson was a Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, had a daily radio program, wrote many books, and started the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He was also Special Counsel to President Nixon, where his actions led to him serving time in jail. Amazingly, God used the lowest of lows in his life to save him and completely change him. You can read the full story in his autobiography Born Again. I highly recommend it.

I am reading the book Life, God and Other Small Topics: Conversations from Socrates in the City, edited by Eric Metaxas. One chapter is a lecture given by Charles Colson in 2006. One of Colson’s statements jumped out at me,

“One of the things about my life—those of you who know much of my story will know it has been a roller coaster certainly, but one of the things that I think my life illustrates is what a paradox life is. It’s never the way we think it’s going to be, and sometimes the worst things we do turn out to be the best things, while the things we think are the best sometimes turn out to be the worst.” (p 170)

I completely agree. Life is full of paradoxes. Some of the greatest challenges I have faced have led to significant growth in my faith and character. Trials have made me stronger. Physical ailments have humbled me and made me more dependent on God and others. Hard times have prompted me to pray more and read the Word more.

It all reminds me that God is in control. He uses trials to refines us. For Christians, He works all for our good.

Are you going through a challenging time now? Do your circumstances discourage you? Remember your Heavenly Father loves you and holds you. He will make you strong for the task at hand. He will grow your faith. He will work this for you good.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

God’s Voice

What is God’s will for your life? How do you hear His direction? How do you discern His voice?

In chapter 12 of Chase The Lion, Mark Batterson states,

How do you discern the voice of God? It starts with the Word of God. If you want to get a word from God, get into the Word of God. That’s how you learn to discern the voice of God. After all, it’s the Spirit of God who inspired the Word of God. And when the Spirit of God quickens the Word of God, it’s like hearing the voice of God in Dolby surround sound.

Christians want to do God’s will. We want to hear His voice, follow His lead, and accomplish His goals. The challenge is hearing His voice.

Mark Batterson reminds us that this should start with getting into the Word of God. Daily Bible reading places God’s words right in front of us. Studying Scripture helps us discern His voice.

The Word of God is alive and active. Scripture is God-breathed. We have the opportunity every day to read the Holy Word of God.

Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

II Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Read one chapter from the Old Testament and one chapter from the New Testament every day. Read carefully, meditate on the Word, and anticipate hearing God's voice.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Before & After Age 30

I am reading Mark Batterson’s book Chase The Lion. Batterson leads National Community Church in Washington, DC and has written many inspiring books. In Chase The Lion, Batterson seeks to inspire us to pursue big goals for our big God. The book’s subtitle is, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.”

On page 48, Batterson tells the story of Albert Schwitzer: “It was a summer morning in 1896 when Albert made a resolution. ‘While outside the birds sang…I came to the conclusion that until I was thirty I could consider myself justified in devoting myself to scholarship and the arts,’ Schweitzer said, ‘but after that I would devote myself directly to serving humanity.’”

What a fascinating and inspiring resolution! Schwitzer had a heart to serve the Lord and serve others. He also realized he had knowledge to gain, skills to learn, and gifts to develop. He saw the first 30 years of his life as the season to sow into himself and prepare for the future calling God had for him. But, he was also determined to not live a life focused on himself. After 30 he was determined to serve humanity—to serve others.

There is a time for everything—a time to learn, a time to train, a time to prepare yourself. There is also a time to act, a time to serve, a time to bless others.

What season are you in? How are you making the most of today? How are you devoting yourself to growth? How are you serving humanity?

I highly recommend Mark Batterson’s book to you. You will be inspired and encouraged.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Follow Me (Matthew 4:19-22)

After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he began his public ministry. In Matthew 4:19-22, he calls his first disciples. To Peter and Andrew he said, “‘Come, follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

He made the same call to James and John, and “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus calls out to us and beckons us to follow him? He loves us, desires a relationship with us, and asks us to follow him.

The four disciples teach us a valuable lesson through their examples. They heard and responded. They immediately dropped what they were doing and followed him. They stopped their labor, changed their priorities, and focused on Jesus as their teacher, leader, and rabbi. And they were never the same again!

Has Jesus called you to follow him? The main focus of a Christian is Christ, and our main job is to surrender and follow Jesus. We surrender our will to his, our goals to his, and our desires to his. We stop leading ourselves and instead surrender and follow him.

This isn’t easy, and it isn’t our natural instinct. This requires us to humbly say Jesus is better, his ways are better, and his path is best. This requires us to trust that Christ is worth much more than anything we would give up to follow him.

Choose today to surrender your heart to Jesus Christ. Submit your every thought, word, and action to him. Drop everything and follow him.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Popularity

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle states,

“If you take up heart-religion I cannot promise you the praise of man. Pardon, peace, hope, guidance, comfort, consolation, grace according to your need, strength according to your day, joy which the world can neither give nor take away,– all this I can boldly promise to the man who comes to Christ, and serves Him with is heart. But I cannot promise him that his religion will be popular with man.”

We all want to be popular. We want people to think highly of us, praise us, respect us, and ask us for advice. Whether teenagers, college students, or adults, we want to be known, liked, and admired. Yet this longing trips us up time and time again.

True faith in Jesus and a life fully devoted to Him will not win us praise from the majority in the world. But look again at the promises Ryle lists in his second sentence above: peace, hope, comfort... Yes, these are true, and they are far better than the praise and popularity from men and women of the world.