August 27, 2008

A Higher Calling

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel

Philippians 1:9-11, 27

I often refer as a reminder of what my life should look like as a child of God to this passage. We are supposed to live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. What a high calling we have upon our life!

So what exactly does a follower of Christ look like? Paul gives us an idea in his prayer as to what that should reflect:

We should have a heart full of love.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

We should have a mind filled with God's knowledge.

Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:22-25

We should have a spirit that is so discerning that it leads towards purity and blameless living.

May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

1 Thessalonians 3:13

We should have a life that overflows with the fruit of righteousness.

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18


When we choose to follow Christ, we are accepting a completely new set of standards that are far from anything we could ever accomplish in our own strength. We could never hope to reach the pinnacle of what God calls us to without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

None of these things will we ever be able to gain on our own but are all available when we pray and seek after Him. Then and only then will we inherit these incredible attributes through Jesus Christ bringing honor and glory to God by living a life worthy of His gospel.




August 22, 2008

The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God stands forever."

Isaiah 40:8


 

"Heaven and earth will pass away but My words shall not pass away."

Matthew 24:3


 

This morning as I was writing, I opened an email to learn that an amazing woman in our church passed away last night. The news has been very hard and I have had a difficult time trying to comprehend it all. God led me to Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalms 91:4.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalms 91:4)

I began to focus on His promises. No matter how bleak our circumstances can be, God promises us His comfort through the confidence that His word offers to us. He not only offered hope to the captives but He offers hope to every one of us because
His word stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8) He is the God of Abraham just as He is the God of every one of us as well.

We all live in the real word and know that being a child of God is not an insurance policy against trials, storms or even death. God does not always rescue us from the perils of this world but when we place our trust in Him and we trust that He has secured our soul, we will not be disappointed. Nothing in this world can infiltrate the protection of God in our life and because of our trust in Him; we are eternally secure because of His great love and His victory over evil. Because of this, we can experience an unwavering stillness that surpasses all of our circumstances.

I am so thankful that His word shall never pass away and it will always be relevant in our lives as it was in the lives of Abraham, David and Paul.

His word is His love letter to us. It is a description of who He is and what His desires and plans are for our everyday life. It is His revelation of our separation from Him because of our sin and tells of His provisions for restoring our fellowship with Him through the sacrificing of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have a need for not only His redemptive love that never changes but we have a need to write His word upon our heart. His word brings us strength and comfort during those times when we feel the weakest and loneliest and it serves as a guide to follow as we continue down His path of righteousness for our life.

God's word is amazing and will always be relevant in our lives as we seek after Him in obedience to live a life that brings Him honor and glory.

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
within your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know his power
In quietness and trust

Hillsong United


 


 


 

August 13, 2008

“Magnify the Lord- Psalm 34

1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.


What an incredible passage of scripture. These words have brought me so much comfort as I prepare to speak this weekend. God has been stretching me for months in preparation for where He is leading me and as the nerves set in, He used my mentor to show me this passage. It is amazing how I have read this passage many times before but now because I am entering into a situation where I need calming and comfort, the words jumped off the page at me.

Here are some of the things that He showed me as I really studied these twenty-two verses.

First, we should magnify the Lord in all we do. We should be excited to share not only His greatness but also His place in our lives and the blessings and provisions that He has brought about in our life.

Second, we have to recognize that when we are walking with the Lord, He hears when we cry out to Him. He hears our prayers and provides us the comfort we need to calm our every fear. When we keep our focus upon Him, He works through us and provides for whatever our situation. When we look to ourselves to meet our needs or to accomplish something, we will find ourselves lacking and wanting because in ourselves there is no satisfaction.

Third, it is so important that we learn to fear the Lord and seek to serve Him because that is where we will find our truest happiness. Doing good is not enough to get us through this life but instead seeking truth and allowing it to take root in our hearts as well as living out His purpose for our life is what we should desire. We should yearn for peace and pursue it as we deny ourselves the things of this world that take our focus from God.

Fourth, as we seek to serve Him, we have to recognize that we each will have our own crosses to bear and attacks to thwart but the Lord is always there protecting us along the way. We are never alone when we are truly walking with the Lord.

Overall it comes down to our obedience to Him and His truth and loving and fearing Him above all else. Obedience should be our desire and consume our lives as we strive to live every day bringing honor and glory to Him.






August 11, 2008

Removing the Plank


"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Matthew 7:1-5

We often misuse this passage of scripture. We love to quote "judge or you will be judged" not really understanding its meaning.
We are not to tolerate sin and we should approach someone when they are caught in sin with a spirit of love and humbleness recognizing that we are all found equal before a Holy God.
It should be done out of love and not judgment.
It should not be for self-righteous reasons but out of a desire to restore one's walk with the Lord as well as our own love for God.
These verses are talking about an unforgiving condemnation of someone done with a vindictive spirit that is self-righteous and always looking to uncover the sins or mistakes of others while overlooking our very own sin.
It is hypocritical and Jesus states that fact in the passage.

Jesus makes it clear that judgmental and unforgiving people cannot be forgiven by God.
(Matthew 6:14-15 and 6:23-35) When we judge others and do not find forgiveness then that is how God too judges us. (Luke 6:38)
It is also how other people in turn will treat us when we have done wrong.
We cannot expect grace and mercy if we ourselves cannot offer it to others. As we look at the effects of an unforgiving and judgmental spirit we see that when we are caught up in its destructive ways we usually assume that other people are just as vindictive and self-righteous and this puts us under quite a lot of pressure to live up to these unforgiving expectations.

We must remember that we all are sinners saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. We can no longer stand in judgment of those around us because we each played a part in putting Christ upon that cross. He died for every one of us because of every sin we commit and have committed whether it be murder, gossip, adultery, lying, stealing, cheating, insecurities, fear and the list goes on. We must love and forgive those that have wronged us or live differently than us so that this world will not be able to label Him and Christians as the hypocrite they so want us all to be seen as. We owe Christ more than we will ever be able to repay Him and it is our job while here to glorify Him and bring honor to His name.

"Father, I love you and thank you for the sacrifice you made for every one of my sins. I pray that my spirit not be one of judgment but one of mercy and grace. I pray that you fill me full with your presence so that I may radiate your love and compassion to a world that needs you. I pray that everyday my speech will mimic the life I live so that those who meet me will see the reflection of You in my life. May I wake every morning with a hunger to know you more and to glorify you in all I do. Amen"

August 3, 2008

The Hand of Providence

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD"

Jeremiah 29:11-14


 

There are so many people including myself that are struggling and hurting. People waking up every morning wondering what in the world is happening in their life and why God is allowing the pain that they are experiencing to take place.

So many times, we truly believe that we have given God every part of ourselves. We believe that there is really nothing more we can do but truthfully, we are walking in deception. Many are pleased with the twenty minutes that may give God each day if that and think that showing up on Sunday morning is all they need to live righteously. What a wicked web we weave when we fall into those lies that Satan uses to deceive us.

This past week there has been a lot of joking around about the providence of God. How He has a bigger picture for our lives than what we can see in the moment that we are living. Back in high school, I participated in a youth musical by Michael W. Smith that was about this very thing. The story is about a high school student who is accidentally killed and how it affects those in her life as they try to figure out why she is gone. It is the discovery of how God used her life while she was there to lead those to Him. I had not thought about that musical until this past week and it has led me really to reflect on my situation and the situations that those in my life are experiencing.

I have written in the past about the distress that we cause in our own lives. Sometimes we choose to take control of our own lives and think we know exactly what it is God wants us to do. We start making decisions on our own choosing to go our own way and we end up falling flat on our faces.

We cause our own distress out of disobedience to the Lord. We find ourselves in the middle of a storm and the only one, who could end it, is the One we are running from in the first place. How many times do we run away from God instead of into His arms? Clearly, His arms are the safest place to be and there is protection from the elements of the world within His arms.

Sometimes we think that not all may deserve God's mercy and grace and so this attitude will put us in harms way especially when we try to take care of situations ourselves instead of turning it over to the Lord and obeying Him.

Reality:

  1. Sometimes we cause our own distress. We can easily make a situation far worse than what it may be by not acknowledging God and giving Him control of it or our life.
  2. By trying to take control ourselves, we end up in a dark, cold, and lonely place until we become broken and recognize our need for a Savior and His mercy and grace.
  3. Once we call out to Him, He will deliver us no matter what we have done or where we have been because of His love and forgiveness.

Jonah 2:8 says, "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." A point to ponder is this: we think of idols as a wooden statue or money or TV but there is more to it than just these things. It can be people pleasing or lack of faith and trust in the Lord and these types of issues can become our idols. We worry about what others may think or whether or not God will really provide or pull us out of whatever situation and it becomes our focus instead of God. Because of our disobedience and lack of faith, we cause ourselves more distress and may miss God's grace and blessings. Wow, what a revelation!

Clearly, there are two important messages that we should not forget. First, we should never run away from God because it will not bring about positive things. When we run, we can cause some serious storms for ourselves that we can avoid if our focus is on pleasing and obeying Him. He IS the calm in our storms. Second, His grace and mercy are for everyone. We are not to judge who is worthy of His forgiveness because Christ died for everyone and He extends His grace to all. When we forget this, God will quickly remind our narrow hearts by those storms we encounter.

The question becomes, how does this all tie into the providence of God for us? Well, He has our life already planned out for us. It was written before we were born and He has gone before us and prepared the way which means when we choose to follow Him and not our own way, the road ahead will be much easier to travel because He knows just where we are headed. His providence is what we should search and strive for instead of our own agendas and plans. He knows the plans that He has laid out for us. His plans are to bring us hope and they are for our good when we seek after Him. We should find peace in knowing this and turn toward Him and His ways. By doing so, the storms of life may not be as long and as hard to endure.