Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cultivate Your Heart

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

A Christ follower knows that, at any given moment, the condition of the heart is what determines his/her response to God’s Word. For example, if your heart has been trampled, and is hardened by bitterness and an unforgiving spirit, you will find it much more difficult to hear God when He speaks to you. If your heart is like shallow soil, you may get a fleeting view of God’s truths, but they can’t take root, making a real difference in your actions. Likewise, if you are more concerned about acquiring the riches in life, then your pursuits will prevent the Word from producing quality fruit in your life. A properly cultivated heart receives and applies God’s Word, which in due season will produce an abundant harvest of fruit. 

The big question before us is how do we cultivate the heart? Here are a few ideas: 

Repent of any bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, or any sin for that matter, that is hardening your heart.

Seek God and ask Him to thoroughly search your heart, and to point out the weeds that choke out your growth. 

Begin to take active steps to cultivate your heart with spiritual disciplines, with the likes of: prayer, fasting, meditation, solitude, humility, service and others. 

Sow seeds of righteousness and you will soon see fruit fit for the kingdom. Cultivate your life in Christ — and He will produce His fruit through you.

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Heavenly Mindedness

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Have you heard this old axiom, He’s so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good”? I don’t think I’ve ever had that problem. I struggle more with, I’m so earthly minded that I am little good at all!

But let’s take a step back and consider heavenly mindedness. What do we mean by that and what did Paul mean when he told us to be heavenly minded? It’s found in Colossians 3, you know. He said, Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things [Colossians 3:2]. By the way, the verb here is a command - STOP focussing your attention on earthly things and START focussing your mind on heavenly things! It carries with it the idea of an ongoing activity.

I suppose there are some who are so wrapped up in spiritual activity that they miss opportunities to be of practical help to those around them, but I can’t name any. All the truly spiritual people I know are actively engaged in “earthly good.” It’s the pretending spiritual people that aren’t of earthly good!

Every Christ follower has a great example of heavenly mindedness and earthly goodness. His name is Jesus. He demonstrated both of them to us by spending hours with His heavenly Father in prayer, then more hours meeting the needs of those who came to Him.

We can do the same if we follow His teaching. We can have a heavenly mind, and be of earthly good if we “love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourself.”

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26 

Relationship, Then Service

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Solomon set out to build a Tabernacle for the Lord. What was the most important thing for him to do; Hire a competent architect? Gather the best builders money could buy? Shop for the best bargains on building materials? Orchestrate exciting service activities for the worshippers? 

Actually, none of these things were the main thing to build the Tabernacle. When the Lord spoke to Solomon about it, He told him to "SEEK THE LORD!" If I grasp what the Lord is getting at here, He’s saying that our relationship with God is more important than service. 

That may be hard for some of you to grasp because, if you are like me, the churches you attended as a youngster, focused on our spiritual activity, and would orally reprimand us if we weren’t involved “in the service of the Lord.”

So, first things first; build up your relationship with God. Worship will shape the activities we pursue—our “service for the Lord.” One great benefit of that is that we will not be motivated out of obligation, but of love for the Lord.  

Remember - relationship first, then service. Keep the first thing the first thing.

Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a house built for the name of the Lord. 1st Chronicles 22:19 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our Triumphant Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Today starts the seventh day of the government shutdown. My eDevotion is not about politics, but this event is another illustration of the dysfunctional and broken world that we live in. And it’s not just the government, the evidence of it is everywhere; weeds grow in beautiful gardens, secularism and the rejection of godly morality is the norm of the day, and what about the explosion of selfishness! Everywhere we turn we witness the result of the Fall—the result of sin!

Is there a solution for our dysfunction—our fallenness? Absolutely! Andrew Peterson wrote about it in his song, Behold the Lamb of God. Here are the powerful words:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

And that is just the beginning. It points to the cross upon which Jesus paid the price for sin. But there is so much more! The third verse provides the ultimate victory:

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

The solution we need is the triumphant Christ! He will one day set everything straight. I’m good with that, how about you?

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Doubt, Discouragement, and Hopelessness

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Christ followers are not exempt from doubt, discouragement and hopelessness. But there are good and bad ways to work through them. The worse possible scenario, in my mind, is to succumb to victimhood and begin to wallow in self-pity. Unless you are careful, that seems to be the default attitude in today’s culture. And if that has happened to you, you are not alone. We’ve seen in happen in the lives of great men of the Bible as well. We should learn from them!

Take Elijah for example. Probably the highlight of his ministry came atop Mt. Carmel when God gave him a great victory over Ba’al, the god of the Phonecian prophets. Soon after that great victory, Elijah was running from Queen Jezebel who threatened to kill him. (See 1st Kings 19)

He ran from Carmel to Be’er Sheva [Beersheba], stopped and sat under the shade of a tree, and in a state of despair and discouragement, prayed to die. The last line of his lament reveals his hopelessness, “And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1st Kings 19:10).

In a state of victimhood, he became emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent, which led to an overwhelming sense of self-pity, and loneliness. The question I ask is, had God abandoned Elijah? ABSOLUTELY NOT! God was just as close to Elijah in the desert as He was with him on the mountain top. He lost sight of the truth that God will not leave, abandon, or forsake His people.  

What do you do at times when you lose confidence and doubt God’s faithfulness? This is where truth must reign over emotions. While you may not always feel or sense God’s presence, or understand your circumstances, you can take God at His Word! And the truth of the matter is that He will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and His good will will always be accomplished in you (Romans 8:28).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More On Spiritual Warfare

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

There’s an oft repeated story about Martin Luther and his conflict with Satan. Over some time it became so intense that Luther picked up his inkwell and threw it at him. It hit the wall - CRASH - ink splattered everywhere. It is told that the ink stains were visible for many years, and that they were a reminder to all who saw them just how vivid spiritual conflict can be. 

I have never encountered spiritual warfare like that, how about you? Regardless, it is just as true of you as it was for Luther. We have an enemy. And whether we accept it or not, we are in mortal combat with Satan and his minions. Paul warned us about it in his letter to the Ephesian Christ followers. 

Spiritual assaults may seem overwhelming at times, but dear Christ follower you have nothing to fear. Likewise, there is no need to be discouraged. Satan’s efforts are futile. He knows he’s defeated so whatever he does is a last-ditch effort to inflict whatever damage he can on all things godly.

Be of good cheer; the Lord will strengthen and protect you, just as He did Martin Luther and all believers before you.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against...spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms. [Ephesians 6:12]

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Remember What God Has Done

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I wonder what went on in the mind of Joshua as he led the children of Israel into the promised land. Think about it; God gave them, according to all earthly standards, an impossible assignment — to conquer a hostile land with fortified cities and well trained and suppled armies, which, by the way, were much larger than their own. All he had to go on were God’s promises. As he moved forward, it would be by faith and not by sight.  

How do you tell your untrained, understaffed, under supplied army to move forward in faith? Well, Joshua reminded them of the past—that God has never failed them. He told them not to forget what God had done. 

Dear Christ follower, you too can rely on God's faithfulness! 

What challenge are you facing at the moment. A crisis? A sickness? Whatever you are facing, be sure to remember all the miraculous ways God has worked in your life in the past. While it’s true that we often forget our promises to God, He never forgets His promises to us! Let's do this together: let’s spend time recounting the victories God has given to us. If we do, we’ll be inspired to exercise faith for the obstacles we face today.

Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed. Joshua 23:14