Friday, January 31, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 4 - January 31, 2014

Job 2:3-7 (New Living Translation)
3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

4 Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

6 “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

Losing those around us is one thing, but how would we react if we "lost our health"? How would we react to God if He allowed us to be stricken with a debilitating illness? I am sure that this is very close to home for many Christians, because many who love God suffer daily as their lives waste away. When you read Job, you wonder how God could so callously allow such a righteous man suffer so for the mere sake of proving Satan wrong. How could God play with people in that way?

In reading this I was struck by a couple of things. First, it is Satan who brings disease and trouble into our world. He is the originator of all that is evil and bad( it's a wonder that so many people unwittingly serve his side by turning their backs on God). Second, God permits the righteous to suffer at the hands of evil. That is a real eye-opener for some people; how could a loving God in His permissive will allow evil to happen to good people?

My belief is that the story of Job shows us that God is ultimately the steward of our lives, and even though the go through tests and trials, they are meant to strengthen us in our faith. God desires ultimate good for us and eternal intimacy with all of us, but we go through a process to get there. The Book of Job is one of the oldest in the Bible, and as you chronologically go through its narrative, you experience God's working through His relationship with mankind, eventually restoring His communion with us in Jesus Christ.

Sickness and ill health our very difficult for us to go through, but God has a purpose for everything we go through. Our responsibility is to seek Him and to stay close to Him, reflecting the love of Jesus as we go through our trial. Many do this, and they are a testament to all of us. There is nothing that brings Him glory more than when we identify with Christ in our suffering and we maintain the joy He gives us. He will see us through our circumstance, and at the end He will bless us for it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" Part 3 - January 30, 2014

Job 1:13-22 (New Living Translation)
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.

Praise the name of the Lord!”

22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

Can you believe this story? Can you imagine for yourself Job's reaction to this horrific news? Imagine if you went to work one day, and a friend came by your office to tell you that you had lost everything, your home, your possessions and your children, how would you react? Would you react in the same way? Could you react in the same way?

I am hard pressed to think that anyone would be able to, yet we are called to put God ahead of everything; He is to be first in our lives. How many of us really do that? The Ten Commandments tell us that we are to have no other gods before Him(Exodus 20:3), and Jesus carries it further saying, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me"(Matthew 10:37), yet how can we do that?

The key to Job's reaction and the key to how we put God ahead of everything lies in the realization that God is control of everything. As Job stated, "the Lord has given me everything I had". He is the source of our life and the source of every breath we take. He has blessed us with our possessions, and He has blessed us with the family that we have. If He should choose to take it all away, we have to have the confidence, no the faith, in Him to know that His ultimate plans for us are greater.

For some of you that have experienced the loss of a child, or loved one, this is hard to take, yet as a Christian you know far better than us that God does heal and restore. Job's was so close to God that He knew that God had a purpose in what He was doing. Yes, this is a hard lesson, but it is one that all of us must learn. Sometimes God loves us so much that He takes away everything He has given us, but we must stay faithful in knowing that He has better blessings for us in the future.

Illustration of "Job" from

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life", Part 2 - January 29, 2014

Job 1:6-12(New Living Translation)
6 One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them.

7 “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

9 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. 10 You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! 11 But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

12 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.

What are we to think of this story? When we became Christians, many of us thought that life with Jesus Christ would be close to perfect! From then on little if anything would go wrong! Here is the truth: as long as we are lost and a servant within the world, Satan doesn't pay attention to you. Why should he? He already has you. That is why it seems that things around us are becoming more and more corrupt everyday. The world sinks deeper and deeper into sin, and those caught in it can't see what is happening.

If you are truly a follower of Jesus Christ, you are trying to live a righteous life, and you are serving God, you will be noticed. There is nothing more attractive to Satan than a believer "sold-out" to Christ. If you are, you are messing with his territory and he will notice you. That is why once you become a Christian you have to be "all in", because if you are just going through the motions, your true self will soon show up. God does not want those who are lukewarm about their faith. A lukewarm witness will not go the distance in convincing anyone to live for Jesus.

Now for a bit of a warning: living for Jesus Christ makes you a target for the enemy. He will throw everything he can at you to get you to give up on God. As for God, He wants you to be sure that you are in for the long haul, because your final destination is not what the world offers. Your final destination has to be focused on being with Him. You may be wondering why God allowed Job to be tested; you will wonder why God is testing you and allowing difficulty in your life. He wants to be sure that you arrive at your final eternal destination, and only in testing can your faith and determination in Him grow.

Photo of the painting, Satan Before the Lord by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1750

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Symphony of Faith - January 28, 2014

Romans 12:4-8 (New International Reader's Version)
4 Each of us has one body with many parts. And the parts do not all have the same purpose. 5 So also we are many persons. But in Christ we are one body. And each part of the body belongs to all the other parts.

6 We all have gifts. They differ in keeping with the grace that God has given each of us. Do you have the gift of prophecy? Then use it in keeping with the faith you have. 7 Is it your gift to serve? Then serve. Is it teaching? Then teach. 8 Is it telling others how they should live? Then tell them. Is it giving to those who are in need? Then give freely. Is it being a leader? Then work hard at it. Is it showing mercy? Then do it cheerfully.

Most everyone has been to a symphony performance. When it comes to the listening experience, the worst time for the ears is when all the performers are tuning up prior to the beginning of the concert. There is a myriad of sounds, from the woodwinds, horns, percussion and strings. Each readies themselves by playing their notes and scales. Then, just before the conductor walks onto the stage, the first violin plays a long drawn out note, and everyone in the orchestra tunes themselves to that one note.

The conductor walks on, the audience applauds, the orchestra stands...they all sit and as the baton comes down the music begins. Then for the next hour or so, the rooms fills with glorious music. All separate, yet all together, each instrument lending its own sound, as each performer plays, and together they piece together a vision of sound written down many years or centuries before. It all follows the lead of the conductor as he brings out the sound and emotion that the composer wished for all to hear.

Just as a symphony orchestra has many different performers and instruments that combine to play beautiful music, so too the church of Jesus Christ has many different people, gifts and talents, that combine to do the works of God in the world. Each is important to the whole, and all perform their particular task at the direction of the Master. All are important and all must be in unison, for the master work of Christ to be done in the lives others.

God has created all of us to play beautiful music in the symphony of life. It is up to each of us to pick up our instrument and play.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Living Through "Job's Life" - January 27, 2014

Job 1:1-5(New Living Translation)
1 There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters. 3 He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.

4 Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. 5 When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.

It all began as, "There once was a man named Job". So begins every life, an so begins the life of a righteous person. He was a good man; so good that he even sought to seek God's forgiveness for any sin's that his children may have committed. He spent each and every day, seeking God and living a life that was pleasing to God.

We all start life and if we pursue right living, and if we are authentic Christians, we try to live a life like Job's. Our goal as the faithful needs to be to live that way. Although Jesus Christ has already paid for all of our sins, past, present and future, our aim in life needs to be a life of righteousness. That is how we thank God for what He has done for us.

But what we will soon see, as we take a look at a "Job's Life", even though we may lead a life pleasing to God, that doesn't necessarily make us immune from the attacks of the enemy, and the troubles that surely come our way. Over the next several posts, we will look at the parallels of Job and what many good Christians are going through these days. We will try to study and learn the lessons that Job had to learn in all of this. We will look at "Why bad things happen to good people".

If you have never read the Book of Job, take out your Bible and get started. It is one of the oldest books, having been originally written over 4000 years ago, yet it's wisdom is timeless. Let's take a look, and I pray that God's truths will be revealed to you.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cleaning Up Pollution - January 26, 2014

Mark 7:5;14-23(New Living Translation)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

There has always been an argument in society about what causes are person to be bad. How does a seemingly innocent baby grow up to be good or bad? Some will say it is because of the way a person has been brought up; they state that their environment had everything to do with it. On the other side there are those who say that the person was born that way; they can't help how they are because that is just the way they are because it is in our nature.

In a sense Jesus jumped into this argument when faced with criticism from the religious leaders of the day. It was believed that all Jews should follow the tradition on ritual cleansing before they ate to make sure that they would not be affected by what they ate. Although the command by God was instituted in ancient day for health reasons, the Pharisees believed that if one did not follow the traditions and did not wash oneself that you were sinful, or bad.

Jesus made it clear that thanks to our natural man, we are born with a heart susceptible to sin already. No matter how much we try to be careful about what we take in the body, it is not what we eat, or see, or read, etc. that causes us to be a sinner, or bad. It is what is in our heart already that pollutes us; in other words everyone is born with the propensity to be sinful. Our environment or what we touch might influence us, but we are the one who decides to follow after bad or good.

That is why without Christ we stand condemned and polluted already, but the great thing about belief in Jesus Christ is that if we will accept His death on the cross to pay for our "pollution", we have the opportunity to clean up our hearts. That is when the Holy Spirit takes residence within us, and cleans us up. God then sees us as clean an pure and pollution-free as He sees His Son Jesus.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Praise! - January 25, 2014

Psalm 71 (New King James Version)
God the Rock of Salvation
1 In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
2 Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
3 Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
6 By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.

7 I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.
8 Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,
11 Saying, “God has forsaken him;
Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 Let them be confounded and consumed
Who are adversaries of my life;
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor
Who seek my hurt.

14 But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
16 I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

17 O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.

19 Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high,
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?
20 You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
21 You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side.

22 Also with the lute I will praise You—
And Your faithfulness, O my God!
To You I will sing with the harp,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You,
And my soul, which You have redeemed.
24 My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long;
For they are confounded,
For they are brought to shame
Who seek my hurt.

In the face of any difficulty, it is always important to give God continuous praise. No matter what, as a believer the Lord will be your deliverer. He will restore you in times of trouble. We need to always have His praise on our lips. You will be amazed how quickly you will find rest in Him.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Living Out Your Assignment - January 24, 2014

Hebrews 13:15-16(New International Version)
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

What is our greatest reason for being here? Why has God placed us on this planet, in this country, at this time? What is the meaning of our lives? Is it the pursuit of riches or fame? Is it to live out our days and enjoy life as much as possible? What is our true mission in life?

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God has made that all possible, and His instruction for us is to tell as many people as we can about Him. From the moment of our birth, God's ultimate goal for our lives was to be a living, breathing, telling witness to the love of Jesus. It is a Divine Assignment that everyone who calls themselves a Christian is to undertake.

It brings God pleasure when He sees us living out our assignment, forsaking everything else in life to give it all up for Him. It pleases Him when we boldly take on our assignment and tell everyone we know about the love and sacrifice of Jesus. So, as long as we have breath we need to be about praising God and telling about our lives with Jesus. Anything less than that is a waste of what God has equipped and appointed us to do.

Photo from The Family International, Photo Gallery: Relief-Disaster

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chosen and Restored - January 23, 2014

John 21:15-19(New Century Version)
15 When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

17 A third time he said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" Peter said, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!"

He said to him, "Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger, you tied your own belt and went where you wanted. But when you are old, you will put out your hands and someone else will tie you and take you where you don't want to go." 19 (Jesus said this to show how Peter would die to give glory to God.)

Then Jesus said to Peter, "Follow me!"

Yesterday I reflected on the incident where Peter failed to stand up for Jesus and deserted Him in His darkest hour. I went further to discuss that we do that same thing every time we fail to stand up for Jesus Christ in today's world. In light of our failing to do what we should as Christians, what are we to do?

Not long after the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, Peter had another encounter with Jesus where he was asked to take a stand. With the benefit of encountering the crucifixion, Christ's resurrection, the empty tomb and His appearance to the disciples in the upper room, Peter again was confronted with where he stood with Jesus. Just as Peter denied Christ three times, Jesus asked him whether he loved Him three times. In doing so, Jesus was restoring Peter to discipleship, and at the same time He gave him instruction to "feed His sheep". Peter was called to carry the message of Jesus to all mankind.

We all will sin and we will all fall short, even after we have called on Jesus Christ to save us. We will all fail to take a stand for our faith, and for Jesus. We will all let God down at some time or another. It is by His grace though that He chooses to restore us unto Himself. Even though we constantly fail to stand up for Him, He always will take us back if we will turn back to Him. Just as Peter, He will ask us in light of our redemption, reconciliation and restoration unto Him, to pass on the message of His love and sacrifice to all we encounter.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taking a Stand for Jesus - January 22, 2014

Luke 22:54-62(The Message)
54-56Arresting Jesus, they marched him off and took him into the house of the Chief Priest. Peter followed, but at a safe distance. In the middle of the courtyard some people had started a fire and were sitting around it, trying to keep warm. One of the serving maids sitting at the fire noticed him, then took a second look and said, "This man was with him!"
57He denied it, "Woman, I don't even know him."

58A short time later, someone else noticed him and said, "You're one of them."

But Peter denied it: "Man, I am not."

59About an hour later, someone else spoke up, really adamant: "He's got to have been with him! He's got 'Galilean' written all over him."

60-62Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about." At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and cried and cried and cried.

In all of the Gospels in the New Testament we read about this incident, where Peter denied that he knew Jesus and was one of his followers. In the humanity of Jesus, this must have been the low point of His life, to have his friends deny and desert him. Peter was especially close to Him, and his denial must have hurt Jesus the most, even more than the betrayal of Judas. We can imagine that hurt, when a friend that you love really lets you down, but Peter not taking a stand for Him would have surely added to the humiliation that Jesus Christ had to go through for our sakes.

Living in a time almost 2000 years after this incident, it is probably something that is difficult for us to comprehend. It is hard enough for us to imagine the life and death of Jesus, much less fully understand what He felt going through this situation with His friends. One thing we can understand though is when we deny Him, when we are called to take a stand for Him. All of us can recall situations where our own pride and position took priority over taking a stand for Jesus. Each of us has more than likely failed to stand up for Jesus many more times, than just the three times Peter denied Him.

How do we do this? By failing to let those around us know how much Jesus means to us; by failing to taking a stand for Christianity in the work place; by failing to take a political stand for His morality when we consider who to vote for, if we vote at all; by participating in activities that He would be hurt by watching us do them; by failing to support those who are bold enough to take a stand instead of us; by failing to demonstrate His love and compassion to everyone we meet; by not wearing our faith in Jesus Christ on our sleeve, and making sure that everyone else knows about what He can do for them. In many ways, we have denied Him and failed to stand up for Jesus.

We find ourselves in a rare place in the events of history, and we are in this time and place for reasons only truly known by God. If you call on the name of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have an obligation and a responsibility to Him. Don't let another situation pass you by; when you are called to take a stand, and I am sure you will, make sure that you do.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Down by the Riverside - January 21, 2014

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (New Living Translation)
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

If you have driven along the highways and farm roads on the prairies of Texas, you will notice the tree lined paths that seem to break up the rolling grassy landscape. These delineate the many rivers that flow across Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. Along these rivers are lush green stands of firs and hardwoods that receive the much needed moisture that sustains them in the dry southwest climate of our state. If they did not grow close to the river, they would quickly wither under the summer heat, and you will notice that that the trees do not grow too far from the riverbank.

Much in the same way that the trees stay close to the river for its live-giving water, properly placed trust keeps us close to the life-giving spirit of God. As we stay close to Him, we receive everything we need, and we will grow deep roots that will provide us the strength through the times of "drought" in our lives.

If you need hope and confidence to make it through this life, place your trust along side the One who will provide life-giving "water" for your soul.

John 7:38-39 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
38As Scripture says, ‘Streams of living water will flow from deep within the person who believes in me.’ ” 39Jesus said this about the Spirit, whom his believers would receive. The Spirit was not yet evident, as it would be after Jesus had been glorified.

Photo "Riverside" by RedVari, 9-17-2009, from stock.xchng

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Faith Can Do - January 20, 2014

Ephesians 6:16(Common English Bible)
16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Ephesians 6:16(Amplified Bible)
16Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

It has really been tough for many people over the last few years, and even if it has been okay, life for others just doesn't seem like it is getting them anywhere. Obstacles seem to always come up that either sidetrack our plans, or turn things completely around. After awhile, even the strongest Christian gets weary from the battle. Even those who feel closest to God wonder, "Why is God allowing so much difficulty in my lives?". After awhile, disappointment with God sets in and we call into question if He will ever make things better.

This is the time where we as believer's in Jesus Christ need to be especially on our guard. These are the times that we are easily susceptible to leaving ourselves vulnerable to the attacks from Satan. Nothing gives the "evil one" a bigger thrill than to get us side-tracked and focused on our circumstances and disappointment. He relishes in the fact that we feel letdown by God. Unfortunately at these times we might find ourselves falling away from God, or at least not trusting Him for help in our daily struggles.

This verse is taken from the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians, where he warned us to put on the full armor of God. One of the elements of in our armory has to be the "shield of faith". I believe that when we feel letdown and away from God, that is the time when we need to pick up that shield. That is when our faith that has been built on God's past goodness, mercy and grace to us, needs to guard us against this attack from Satan.

We need to remember that God is good; He is good all of the time. Because of Jesus Christ, and because of His love for us, He identifies with our difficulty and He wants to help us. We need to be patient and wait on the solution that He will provide.

If this sounds like the situation you are in, go to your Father in prayer. Lay your hurt, pain, difficulty and disappointment at His feet. He will give you His peace, and sooner than later you will see Him work on your behalf.

Illustration from Wisdom Life Mimistries blogpost, "Taking the Sheild of Faith", 5-24-2010

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Praying Always - January 19, 2014

Luke 18:1-8 (New Living Translation)
1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

In the passage above, Jesus illustrated through a parable the importance of persistent prayer. The point here is that none of our prayers gets unanswered. We may not feel that way sometime, and there are times when we feel that God has abandoned us, but God does answer in the time that will benefit His children most.

There are circumstances that may hinder your prayers. If you are in sin and non-repentant, God will not listen to your prayers. Notice that I didn't say that He will not "hear" your prayers, because He is aware of everything, even your sinful state. If you will humble yourself, and ask Him for forgiveness, it will open up the line of communication.

What we pay for does have to be in His will for us. If we are frivolous in our prayers, or we are asking for things that are not within His plan for us, God will not gives us what we ask for. We need to always pray for wisdom and make sure we seek His will in our requests.

There are times when the answer you get is NO. Yes, we don't get everything we pray for, for God did not promise us everything when we came to Jesus. He did promise that he would meet all of our needs. In fact, as we mature in our Christian faith, we will ask for personal things much less frequently. If we focus on the needs of others and try to meet those needs, we will find that the very things we might have wanted we will get.

The New Testament talks alot about prayer, and this parable is just one example. Bottom line is this, we need to pray about everything all the time, because this is how we communicate with God. Jesus extended his love to us, now it is our turn to love Him back.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Broken Hearts - January 18, 2014

Joel 2:12-14(New International Reader's Version)

12 The Lord announces to his people,

"Return to me with all your heart. There is still time. Do not eat any food. Sob and cry."

13 Don't just tear your clothes to show how sad you are.

Let your hearts be broken.
Return to the Lord your God.
He is gracious.
He is tender and kind.
He is slow to get angry.
He is full of love.
He takes pity on you.
He won't destroy you.

14 Who knows? He might turn toward you and have pity on you. He might even give you his blessing. Then you can bring grain offerings and drink offerings to the Lord your God.

How often God pleads for us to return to Him! Throughout the Bible we read of times when despite their disobedience and gross sin, God gave them opportunity after opportunity to return back to Him in faith and obedience. He had no joy in allowing His people to go through trials and suffering, but if it turned their hearts, and helped them to once again follow God, then it was worth it.

God's desire is to be with those He has created. In His love for us, He longs for us to follow Him. He doesn't want us to just go through the motions of being religious; He expects us to be broken hearted over our disobedience to Him, and to turn back to Him. He has even taken it a step further with us by having Jesus pay the debt of our sins.

Let's face it; it is in our nature to be disobedient to God. So much so, that we have invented countless ways to justify the bad we do, taking it so far as to form "religions" that give us permission to sin. One day we will all come to the realization that the One true God is unchanging, and He expects a "contrite heart"(Psalm 51:17), a heart that breaks when we disobey Him. And in that brokenness we reach out to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and redemption.

Then and only then, He will bring us back to Him. Then and only then can He bless our lives.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Living Like the Frog - January 27, 2014

James 1:14-15 (New Living Translation)
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

There is a anecdote about boiling a frog that has been used to illustrate everything from business to the human situation. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.[1]

In our own lives we tend to tolerate those little sins. It might be as benign as telling you kids to tell someone on the phone that your not home, or it could be as simple as speeding and breaking other traffic laws. Have you ever gossiped about someone at work or have you told someone that you were something you weren't? Did you "borrow" your neighbor's newspaper and failed to give it back, or did you keep the extra change a clerk mistakenly gave you? The list could go one and one, covering every aspect of life.

Yes, we tolerate those little sins, white lies, casual fibs, exaggerations, inerrant glances, and others. For some you might do these things so often that you forget that what you really are doing is wrong. You become so desensitized to that "little sin" that it seems to be okay. Sooner or later those little things catch up with you and soon becomes a very big thing. It's almost like your that frog in the cold water, waiting to be boiled to death.

Why do we allow this in our lives? In God's eyes, a sin is a sin. They are all equal; they all cost Jesus the same. If this seems to be touching you and these words seem to be an illustration of your behavior, it's time to stop. You can't continue to do this without consequence. You may wonder why your spiritual life feels like its of track, or that you are venturing far from God.

If this describes you, our merciful and loving God has an answer:

1Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. 2We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. 3Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

[1]"Boiling Frog" from Wikepedia
Photo "Frog 2" by Emma-frost, 8-16-2007, from stock.xchng

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In His Care - January 16, 2014

Psalm 16 (New International Reader's Version)

1 God, keep me safe. I go to you for safety.

2 I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord. Without you, I don't have anything that is good."

3 God's people who live in our land are glorious. I take great delight in them.

4 Those who run after other gods will have nothing but trouble. I will not pour out offerings of blood to those gods. My lips will not speak their names.

5 Lord, everything you have given me is good. You have made my life secure.

6 I am very pleased with what you have given me. I am very happy with what I've received from you.

7 I will praise the Lord. He gives me good advice. Even at night my heart teaches me.

8 I know that the Lord is always with me. He is at my right hand. I will always be secure.

9 So my heart is glad. Joy is on my tongue. My body also will be secure.

10 You will not leave me in the grave. You will not let your faithful one rot away.

11 You always show me the path that leads to life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will give me endless pleasures at your right hand.

In these verses, David meditates on his relationship with God. He rests in the knowledge that God cares and will always care for him. The picture is one of a close and intimate friend that brings safety, good things, joy, and guidance. You may have enjoyed this same type of closeness with a dear friend or parent.

Take a few minutes to think and meditate on these words; reflect on the picture it gives you in your mind. Seek comfort and rest in the Lord. As you settle down to another night of sleep, you can feel safe and secure in the loving arms of your Savior Jesus.

Photo of Zeke Clanton, from Juana Clanton's blog: Sweet Bedtime Prayers, April 13, 2011

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Heart for Lawbreakers - January 15, 2014

John 1:16-17 (New International Version)
16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 14:6 (New International Version)
6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

2 Corinthians 9:15 (New International Version)
15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

We can't help ourselves. No matter how much we try, we can't seem to do what is right. We stretch the truth a little bit here; go a little over the speed limit there; talk about someone we dislike behind there back; linger as we stare at someone on the beach. We borrow a few things from work that we never return; decide that church can wait another Sunday as we go the lake; focus on how much money we can make day in and day out; have no problem disobeying our parents; think that we should have the car our neighbor drives; and join in as our buddies curse without a thought.

If we can see ourselves in any of the things that I have mentioned above, we will find that we have disregarded and very blatantly broken every one of the laws of God given to Moses, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). If we care anything about what happens to us after this life, there will be a day when we finally realize that we cannot keep from doing such things unless we get outside help. We don't like who we are anymore, because the Law of God acts like a mirror showing us how much we really disobey God. By then we have accumulated so much junk and carry so much bad stuff in our lives, that we one day the burden becomes too much for us to bear.

Thank God that He has a heart for lawbreakers! Thank God that His love extends beyond what we have done! Thank God that in His grace and mercy that he has given us a way out; someone to carry the burden of our wrongdoing; someone who took them upon his broken body as he hung on the cross; someone who shed His blood to cover our sins; someone who stepped out of the grave to show us the way back into the love of God. Thank God for giving us the gift of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our peace and our comfort.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting Washed Up - January 14, 2014

Isaiah 1:16-17 (New Century Version)
16"Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean.
Stop doing the evil things I see you do.
Stop doing wrong.

17 Learn to do good. Seek justice.
Punish those who hurt others.
Help the orphans.
Stand up for the rights of widows."

In the Old Testament of the Bible, we often read how the Israelites did "detestable" things. Although they were God's chosen people, they often fell into the sinful lifestyle of the peoples they were surrounded by. In order to make themselves right with God, He would often admonished them in Scripture. He hoped that they would return to Him and follow His agenda for them, by changing their ways and seeking after the ways of God.

We too often neglect the desires of God and seek after our own way of doing things. If you have lived for anytime on this earth, you know that taking God's path is usually not your first priority, but His will is that we too will seek after Him and follow His ways. But for us, God has taken it a step further, by washing us in the blood of Jesus Christ, and making it possible through the power of the Holy Spirit to follow after Him.

Out of thanks for His mercy and grace, we need to prepare ourselves to do the things that come close to God's heart. We need to first accept the washing He offers us, and then extend His justice and mercy to the world around us. In this new year, we need to make sure that we are following His agenda rather than our own.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Knowing the Hope - January 13, 2014

Ephesians 1:18(New Century Version)
18 I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people.

In this fast and furious world, we seldom take a moment to pause and remember what God has in store for us. We get so focused on our daily lives that we fail to remember that this is only a short stop on our way to eternity. This is a place for us to learn and serve, because we will all have specific things to do in Heaven. Our objective is to gain understanding of the hope that God has for us, that is the hope of a future with Him.

Give thanks to Him that He has given us the gift of salvation, and that He has loved us enough to want us with Him forever.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Walking the Talk - January 12, 2014

Galatians 6:2 (New International Version)
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

It has been a tough several years in this country. Jobs continue to be lost, and many remain underemployed. For others, financial pressures have broken up families. The number of people on some type of government assistance is the highest ever, highlighted by the fact that over 47 million are on food-stamps alone.

Food pantries are empty and shelters are full. Those who have lost their homes is the worst since the Great Depression, and there are more homeless on our nation's streets than ever before. Although those on Wall Street and who are  invested in the stock market are doing seemingly well, the over printing of our money has created a false sense that everything is going well, and those who are rich have gotten richer still. But under the surface, over 76% of the American people are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The slightest upset in their situation will get most people into financial trouble.

To add to this, there is growing spiritual poverty in our country as well. More and more people are lost and have no where to turn to relieve the stresses and pressure of their lives. Depression, anxiety, addiction, compulsive behaviors (over-eating, excessive gambling, spending, etc.) and substance abuse are also soaring. Fewer people are attending church, fewer people believe in absolute truth(versus relative truth, meaning "what's good or bad is up to me, not God"), and fewer still hold the morals and values that we all assumed were "sacred" just a few short years ago. All you need to do is tune into the mainstream television stations any evening between 7PM and 10PM, and you will see things that you need to definitely hide from your children and grandchildren.

The times are hard, but the relief is close to everyone. It is times like these that the church of Jesus Christ can be at its finest. As believers, we are to be the "hands and feet" of Jesus. We are to be those who provide help and assistance, along with the hope and grace that are available through a commitment to God's gift of Jesus. Our eyes need to be open to opportunities to help, and our hands need to be open to share in the blessings that God has given us. If someone you know is in need of a helping hand, now is the time for you to be what you have been called to in Christ. Now is the time for you to pick up your brother or sister and let them see Jesus through you.

In addition, now more than ever God calls us to "walk the talk"; we need to be His examples of purity, and His witness of what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We need to start in our own families, and then move into to the communities in which we live. We need to be involved in our churches, schools and public places, and by all means, we need to hold our elected officials to a much higher standard of morality and compassion. Only then will we be able to turn things around. We have already seen what dependence in the government and the economy does to our society. Isn't it time we demonstrated what millions of true Christians can do?

Photo "Baby's Hand", 6-22-2008 from

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Give the Lord Praise! - January 11, 2014

Psalm 121 (New International Version)
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Even though it is early in the year, it is always time to give the Lord praise! God is working in all of our lives, and we need to remember to thank Him for it. He is the only One we can truly depend on, no matter the circumstances. He will truly "watch over your life". All you need to do is make sure that you let Him!

Photo from Breckenridge Mountain, Summer 2009

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Actions of Godly Character -

Psalm 101 (New Living Translation)
1 I will sing of your love and justice, Lord. I will praise you with songs.
2 I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.
3 I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them.
4 I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.
5 I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.
6 I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.
7 I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence.
8 My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the Lord from their grip.

A psalm of David serves as a great example of characteristics of Godly character. It calls all of us to lead a life that is above reproach, and encourages us to seek like minded people that will help us walk a righteous path. It also takes on the task of rooting out evil in the area where the we are responsible.

If you will meditate on each verse, it will also give you a daily action plan to follow, starting with praise for God, and ending with an admonition to keep evil people from places of influence in your life. Take a minute, put yourself in David's shoes, applying each directive as you live out your role, whether at work or at home. Build yourself up with God's word.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reading and Believing - January 9, 2014

Revelation 4:1-3 (New International Reader's Version) 1 After this I looked, and there in front of me was a door standing open in heaven. I heard the voice I had heard before. It sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, "Come up here. I will show you what must happen after this."

2 At once the Holy Spirit took complete control of me. There in front of me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 The One who sat there shone like jewels. Around the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.

Revelation 22:1-6 (New Living Translation)
1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

6 Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

In the Book of Revelation, after the messages of Jesus to the churches, John gets very descriptive about his visions of Heaven. We are taken into the very presence of God and the throne room of Heaven, after which we read through a long narrative about what occurs to the earth and mankind. It is interesting reading the visions of future things through the eyes of someone living almost 2000 years ago.

I am very confident that what I read must be accurate, because rarely is a person as detailed about what they are seeing unless they truly witness what they describe. Yet in today's society, what is written in the Bible is rarely taken at face value.

The more you read and study the Bible for yourself, the more you will be able to trust in the literal meaning of what you are reading. God through the Holy Spirit has a way of opening up your mind to understanding, if you have surrendered yourself to Him. You can trust that, “Everything you have heard and seen (read and studied) is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets (and brings understanding to His people), has sent his angel (and inspired authors)to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

Photo Credit: John’s Vision of Heaven, Revelation 4:1-11, 5:1-14, Ottheinrich Bible, Matthias Gerung

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Truth versus Religion - January 8, 2014

John 10:9-11 (New International Version)
9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Don't you get confused about "religion" these days? In today's thoroughly modern world we have been told so many things concerning "religion". "In a relative sense, they are all the same." "All religions lead to the same place; they all lead to God." "Religion is okay, as longs as you keep it to yourself." "You really don't want to be one of those fundamentalists, because we know how bad they are." "Religion has led to more conflict and death than anything else in the history of mankind!"

Truth is, all religions are not the same. They all don't lead to the same place, and they all don't lead to God. Yes, some have even led to more conflict and death in the history of mankind, and they continue to do so. The confusion is what is meant by religion, which can be defined as " a belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe, and the expression of such a belief in conduct and ritual".

And that is where the problem lies. Many of us get stuck on following the definition, without bothering to get to the heart of it. Too often we believe that if we will just act right and go through the rituals, we will be religious, and because of that, God will like us. In that sense of the word, all religions would be equal, if all that mattered was whether or not we believed in a higher power, and acted a certain way, or followed a particular ritual.

Here is the TRUTH of the matter: Christianity is not just another religion. In what other religion does the leader of it claim to be God, and that by coming to earth as a human being and dying for you, you will be made right with God? And because of that, you can know for sure you will be accepted by God and spend forever in His eternal presence? In what other religion can you say with utmost conviction that 100 years from now you will not be just another pile of bones? In what other religion does your work (what you do)count for nothing, because your "salvation" doesn't depend on you?

Jesus is saying that He is the only way to God. By believing in Him, we can come and go through this life and not have to be concerned. Although Satan might try to trip us up, God will give us a fulfilled life. He is our caretaker and He has given up his life for us, but because he is God, we can enjoy eternity with Him. Now that is a religion we all need to believe in!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pruned and Purified - January 7, 2014

John 15:1-4 (New Living Translation)1“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

Have you often wondered why life goes the way it does? You do all that you can to do good and live a humble and productive life, but things always seem to be difficult. Life is hard! You ask yourself, "Even though I try to do what is right for God, what do I need to do to get a break?"

Once again Jesus tries to comfort us and explain how God works in our lives. In ancient Israel cultivating grapes for wine was not only big business to provide a livelihood, but a necessity to provide a staple for living. The rugged hills and arid climate, were ideal for growing grapes, and vineyards and people working among the rows of grapevines was a common sight. Jesus often chose the example of the vineyard to instruct his followers.

In these verses Jesus tries to teach us a lesson through symbolism. In saying he is the true grapevine, he tells us he is the root of who we are, taking us back to the creation. This is what we are told in John 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 In the beginning, the Word(Jesus Christ) was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him.

God we are told is the gardener; He goes through the vineyard, which I believe is the world around us, and he cuts off, removes, judges, every branch of the vine, person, that does not produce fruit. Here the fruit is the spiritual product of our lives, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are known as the "fruit of the Spirit".

Through pruning, defined as cutting back of what is unwanted for more fruitful growth, God helps us to be more fruitful. Meaning that through the difficult times and struggles that we go through, God desires a result that we will exhibit the characteristics of a godly life. Jesus goes on to explain that by hearing his word, we already are undergoing life change and we are "cleaning up our act", because of what we have already learned from God's word.

He once again gives us the comforting message that if we will remain in him, stay close to him, seek to include Jesus in our daily lives, and follow his example and instruction as we live our lives, we will be productive for God and for those around us. Our lives will fulfill God's original intent for mankind, to bear the fruit of making this a better place to live.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Finding Identity - January 6, 2014

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New International Version)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Another question that we often ask ourselves is, "Who am I?" We spend a lot of time working on ourselves, seeking to present just the right image for the world to see. As young people, we wanted to fit in and to be liked by those around us by wanting to be identical to everyone else, but at the same time we went to great lengths to create our own individual identity and personality. We longed for self-worth and acceptance, and as we grew up, I would venture to say that not much really changed.

In the book of Corinthians, Chapter 5, Paul is very clear to let the Corinthian church know their identities as believers in Christ. He contrasts the earthly from the heavenly; the temporary from the eternal. He further encourages followers in Christ that they are no longer the same, and as such they are Christ's representatives of what God has done for His people.

When we decide to take the step to follow Jesus Christ we finally have true identity. God's love changes who we are from the inside out. We no longer are our "old selves", but we are transformed into something new, a "new creation"! As such, we also accept an awesome responsibility to reflect Christ to those around us, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives. Romans 10:15 (New Living Translation)15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”(Isaiah 52:7)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Finding Value - January 5, 2014

Jeremiah 31:3 (New International Reader's Version)3 The Lord appeared to us in the past. He said,"I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.I have kept on loving you with faithful love."

John 3:16-17 (New International Version)16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

As we journey into the new year, it may be difficult for some to know how much they are truly valued. It is difficult to move forward into a season of renewal, because the past may carry with it burdens of hurt and pain that hold them back from truly accomplishing what God has planned and designed for their lives. A first step in the direction of letting go of the past is to realize that we are intensely loved by God.

The Bible gives us many passages that tell us how deeply God loves us, His creation. As you read in the passage to His chosen people Israel above, God loves us with an everlasting love. That means a love that is unending, eternal, lasts forever, endures for all time. He has known us since before we were born, and continues His love for us by providing a way for us to always be with Him. That way is highlighted above in the words of Jesus himself.

Do you realize how much you truly mean to God? Do you understand how truly valuable you are? When you come to realization of your value and worth, it will make a world of difference to everyone and everything else around you. As you move forward into the new year, you cannot truly value and love others unless you first understand the intensity of God's love for you.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Finding Purpose - January 4, 2014

Ephesians 2:10 (New Century Version)
10 God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.

Why am I here? That is the biggest question we all ask of ourselves. It is probably the single most asked question that is common to everyone on the planet since time began, and it will be asked by everyone living after we are gone.

Tradition tells us that Paul wrote this verse in the 1st century, while in prison in Rome, as part of his letter to the Church in Ephesus in modern day Turkey. The church was very multicultural, and Paul sought to unify this diverse group of Jews and Gentiles, emphasizing the central theme that we all were created by God. He then reaffirmed who they were as believers and laid out guidance for spiritual living.

This verse of the Bible tells me that we are all created by God. He planned out our lives long, long, ago, and each one of us has a particular reason for living, and mission on this earth that is part of His overall plan. Every life has intrinsic worth, value and purpose, although some in society today would seek to tell us differently. As such we need to take time to discover what it is that we should be doing. We need to ask ourselves, "Now that I am unique and of great value to God, what it is it that He has made me to do? What is the good work, mission, or purpose that I should be doing?"

We can only answer this by first knowing Jesus Christ, and then spend time in prayer seeking God. When we take this step for ourselves, He will be anxious to reveal His plans in our hearts. Have you taken the time in this new year to discover God's purpose for your life?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Setting New Year's Goals - January 3, 2014

Matthew 6:25;33-34 (New International Reader's Version)25 "I tell you, do not worry. Don't worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And don't worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn't there more to life than eating? Aren't there more important things for the body than clothes?

33 "But put God's kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you. 34 "So don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Easier said than done! As we look forward to a new year, set our goals, and make our plans, we tend to worry about what a new year will bring; taxes, job changes, personal issues, struggles of all kinds. It is very hard not to worry, when you add to that everything that is going on in the world around us; runaway government spending, Obamacare, ballooning national debt, crime, hunger, terror plots, and so much more.

These statements were made by Jesus, shortly after he began his ministry around 30AD. He was spending his time traveling throughout a region North and West of the Sea of Galilee, which is in modern day Israel, teaching in synagogues, gathering his disciples, and healing people of many kinds of illness and sickness. It is part of what has become known as The Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 4-7). The Sermon is a compilation of the moral teachings of Jesus and addresses God's perspective on the needs of the people. Here he specifically addresses what our response needs to be to the "worries of this life".

Jesus is very clear here on where our priorities need to be when we face worry, personal needs and struggles, and the future. Our focus needs to be on God, seeking Him in all the decisions that we have to make. Making Him top priority in our lives. The best part about his statement is His promise take care of all the things that worry you. We just have to make sure that we are following His will.

What struggles are you facing as you look towards this new year? What do you need to turn over to a loving Father that is concerned about carrying your burdens and troubles? Put God first this year, and the rest will work itself out.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Preparation for the Journey - January 2, 2014

James 4:13-15 (New International Version)13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

By now many of us have made plans to go here or there this year, set goals to lose weight or accomplish this or that, planned calendar events such as vacations or weddings, committed to change jobs or find one, or set resolutions to bring about change. I am in the process of doing so and have done it in the past. In order to go anywhere in life, you need to have goals, and construct a plan on how you will accomplish them. Many fail in attaining their dreams and living a truly satisfying life, because of their failure to do so. Nothing is worse not packing everything you need for a trip.

James, the brother of Jesus, was interested in vital Christianity, that results in consistant character and is lived out in serving those around us. In this passage, he encourages us to make our future plans with God in mind. As you sit down and take time to do the work of setting goals and making plans for the new year, meditate on what God might desire for your life. What can you accomplish in your life and for those around you with God's help? What are His purposes for you in 2014?

This life passes quickly by; we need to do the work of seeking God, placing Him first in our lives, and include His work in our plans. Commit yourself in the new year to seek Him in prayer before you go on the journey.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Forward to What Lies Ahead - January 1, 2014

Philippians 3:8-16(NLT)

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Today marks the start of another new year; today is a time to reflect on what has happened in the last year, and on our lives in general. The great thing about a new year is that it gives us the opportunity to start over; it allows us to began anew, and to correct the wrongs that we have left behind us. It is a time for a fresh approach to accomplish our heartfelt dreams, and to set out to achieve something special. It is a very personal time, because no one else can or should set our direction for us, but we must be certain that our choices line up with what God would want. It would be arrogant on our part if we exclude Him from our plans.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to ask myself if I have accomplished everything to "possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me". That is something we all should be asking ourselves, because we are here to specifically follow and please God, and not pursue our own agendas. God calls all believers to a life of obedience, following after His desire for us to know Jesus Christ and help others do the same.

In the verses above Paul was writing from prison in Rome to the Philippian church, to encourage them in the midst of difficulty and persecution. This was a congregation of believers that he loved deeply, because it was a missionary church he planted several years earlier, and it always had a special place in his heart. He wanted to lift them up and help them to look past their present circumstances to the hope that they had in Jesus Christ, and that no matter how difficult it would become, that their trust and salvation in Jesus should be their main focus.

The New Year 2014 will bring its own set of difficulties, challenges, and opportunities, but we need to be sure to "seek first His kingdom and righteousness" and we won't have to worry about accomplishing what God has planned out in His will for us. In the new year, make it your goal to "forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead; press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling you". We should let Christ Jesus and God's will be our primary focus, and make sure whatever we plan to do in 2014 is in obedience to Him and for His glory.