Friday, August 30, 2013

Full of Grace and Truth

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One of my favorite statements about Jesus is the last phrase of John 1:14. It says He was “…full of grace and truth.”

He demonstrated this on many occasions, but the one that captures my heart is found in John 8, where a woman was caught in the very act of adultery. She was whisked away and brought in into His presence. Her sin was exposed and her conviction sure. But then an amazing thing happened. 

Her accusers, the self-righteous religious leaders, hated Jesus with such contempt that they wanted to use the Law to condemn Him even if it meant sacrificing the woman. But Jesus, being “full of truth,” turned that hatred into conviction ("let him who has no sin cast the first stone"). Likewise, being “full of grace,” he freed her (“neither do I condemn you”), and restored her life (“go and sin no more”).

I’m an awful lot like the woman in this story—“guilty of sin.” And I have an accuser, one that is relentless in bringing every one of my sins to God. But my Savior, “full of grace and truth” forgives and restores. I stand amazed, and grateful, at His grace!

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." John 8:3-5, 10-11

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Change that Matters

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Religious activity, in and of itself, does not change a life. Jesus made that very clear when He told a group of people one day, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). “Pure in heart” is another way of saying you have encountered God and dealt with the sin issue in your life. Once you have had that encounter with God, your life will never be the same.

There is an outstanding illustration of this in the life of Isaiah. Something happened, which changed his life forever. Concerned with the death of the good King Uzziah, he went to the temple one day. While there, he became aware of the awesome majesty of God. Not only God, but other heavenly beings were present also. But it was God’s presence that made Isaiah aware of His sinfulness. Isaiah engaged God in a conversation in which he admitted how sinful he and his people were.

One of the spirit beings there took a burning ember from the altar of sacrifice and touched his lips with it, symbolizing the cleansing of his sin (like the sacrificial animal that would have been placed on the burning embers of the altar for the sin of the one offering it).

Instantly, Isaiah was aware of a heavenly conversation about finding someone worthy to be God’s messenger to the people of Israel. “I’ll do it!” he cried out (my loose translation of Isaiah 9:8 “…lo, here am I, send me.)  

It was only after his cleansing that he was aware of godly concerns. Likewise, after his cleansing he was ready to make himself available in the service of the LORD God. When our sins are cleansed—when our hearts are pure—there is nothing to hinder our relationship and service with God. And that’s the change that matters.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" (Isaiah 6:8)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monopolized by the Holy Spirit

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I’ve read several biographies on the life of D. L. Moody. What an inspiration he was to people in his day—and in ours as well, as his devotion to Christ still inspires believers today.

He left his church for a period of time to lead a revival in England. At a meeting of pastors in London, one old and influential pastor argued, “Why do we need this 'Mr. Moody'? He's uneducated and inexperienced. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?"

A much younger, and wiser pastor responded, "No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody."

I want to be like that! I want the Holy Spirit to be so active in my life that others will say, “That pastor Rick, he’s full of the Spirit!” And to be honest, we have a lot to do with the degree of the fullness of the Spirit of God in our lives.

Paul commanded, “Be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18). Yes, it is a Greek imperative (command), which indicates that being full of the Spirit is something we do. I suggest that His fullness in us is in direct proportion of our true desire to let Him control our lives. One of my seminary professors was fond of saying, “The reality of the Spirit-filled life is this: You have as much of God as you truly want”

So, how about it — do you desire a more profound, vital relationship with the Lord? I do! Let’s seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him together, shall we? Here’s the goal: Allow the Holy Spirit to monopolize your life. If we do, we’ll be empowered to do what He has called, and equipped, and assigned us to do.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:13

Monday, August 26, 2013

Opportunities for God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I heard about an organization that offered a bounty for every wolf captured alive. Two guys decided to head into the hills of Montana to make some “easy money.” They scoured a large area for a couple of days but had no success. Finally they set up camp and, under a star-lit night, fell asleep.

Startled by a noise, one of the hunters woke up to find that they were surrounded by a pack of wolves. The animals bared their teeth and growled at what looked like an easy supper. One camper called his friend, “Hey, wake up! We're gonna be rich!"

Perhaps you have found yourself surrounded by circumstances postured for your destruction like a pack of wolves. When that happened you probably thought of them as trials and tribulations. Next time, try looking at them as opportunities for God to do something spectacular—something to testify of His goodness. Sure, Satan’s wiles seem overwhelming, but we have a great and almighty God who can use the enemy’s schemes for the building of His glorious kingdom.

For the LORD your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. Deuteronomy 20:4

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Don’t Forget the Source of Blessing

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

“Unclean!” In ancient times, lepers were social outcasts because of their highly contagious disease. Their only recourse was to turn to beggery. Can you imagine what it must have been like for them in those days? No medical help, bodies slowly deteriorating, shunned by family and friends, and forced to live in a camp comprised solely of people with the same disease. 

One day, ten lepers were walking the streets, and suddenly, merciful Jesus crossed their path. And in one powerful moment, their disease disappeared. It was truly a life-changing encounter. What joy must have filled their hearts. Once they were declared “clean” by the Temple Priest, they would be free to return to their families and live normal lives.

But I am struck every time I read this story. Only one of the ten lepers returned to the Healer to say, “Thank you!” It also makes me wonder if I am as ungrateful as the ‘nine.’ Am I as thankless as they were? Sometimes we are so engrossed with the blessings we receive from the Lord that we forget about the One who gave them.  

It's easy to get caught up in the blessing, isn’t it? Let’s join the Psalmist and approach the Lord with “thanksgiving in our hearts!” A good place to start is thanking God for all His goodness toward us!

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jars of Clay

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I have been to Qumran many times on my trips to the Holy Land. Qumran is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. They were found in clay pots. Each time I see the artifacts found in the area, I can’t help but think of the treasure found in those “earthen” vessels—pots of clay.

Paul virtually said the same thing about Christ followers. We are like clay pots. His focus was not on the pots themselves, but rather the treasure that was in them because, over time, jars of clay deteriorate. They chip, crack, and eventually break down.  

And just like Paul, God is interested in what is in us. His evaluation of us is not based on outward appearance because it declines with time. The indwelling Spirit, the Living Word, and the dynamic, personal relationship we have with Him are where the real treasure lies!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Living Sacrifices

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

God took great pains to describe the kind of sacrifices He deemed worthy. He gave detailed instructions on what to sacrifice and how to sacrifice it. And when the Children of Israel offered those sacrifices in the prescribed way, God said they were a soothing aroma to Him (Leviticus 1:13, 17). 

They were called a sacrifice partly because once the animal was offered to God, it belonged to Him entirely; it was no longer their possession. Furthermore, God only accepted the best animals for a sacrifice. It was an offense to bring substandard animals to Him—damaged or imperfect in any way. That was God’s way, and the kind of sacrifice He offered in His Son:

Rather, the payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb with no defects or imperfections (1st Peter 1:19 God's Word Translation). 

Christ followers are called to be sacrifices—living sacrifices! And just like the Old Testament ones, we belong entirely to Him. Therefore, be relentless in your pursuit of  holiness so that your offering to God is unblemished and acceptable to Him.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God Chose YOU!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God
Who would have been your choices to accomplish Christ’s mission to reach the entire world with His message? High Priests? Noblemen? Members of the Sanhedrin? How about fishermen? Would they have been high on your priority list? Probably not, but they are exactly the ones that Christ chose! He chose “simple" men to build the Kingdom of God.

God has done that throughout history. To deliver His children from the clutches of Egypt, He didn’t send a general or an army like you would have expected. He sent a single man, and that was enough. The world’s greatest military power at that time was no match for a single man and the power of God. It’s amazing how God uses the ordinary to confound the powerful. I have a theory about that. God loves to empower humble people (vessels) so that no flesh can glory in His presence.

If you think you are weak, insignificant, flawed, imperfect, damaged, or inadequate, GREAT! You are the perfect vessel for God to use. He’s not looking for anything in you that the world thinks highly of—wealth, status, education, prestige, power. Absolutely not! He uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.

God has a plan for your life, you know. One that will confound the wise of the world, and to bring to naught [nothing] the things that are. 

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29