Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don’t Play with Fire

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I can hear it now, as plainly as day, “Rickey, don’t play with fire!” I can tell you why that warning came from my parents so many times, but then, I’d never get to this devotion. For many, the words “Don’t play with fire” were enough. For others of us, it took a few blisters to get the message — from playing carelessly with matches, to touching a hot stove, to walking on hot, campfire coals, well you get the point.

With these kind of dangers in mind, you can easily understand why the proverb “if you play with fire, you get burned” is so memorable. When handled carelessly, fire causes a variety of injuries. We should pay close attention to the proverb. The imagery can be used in a broader context as a warning to not get involved with potentially dangerous situations or people. When we do, it’s hard to escape injury — “If you play with fire…”

Far too many Christ followers think they can entertain temptation, or stay close to a particular sin and not get burned; fall into transgression. That alone shows us the importance of this proverb. Here’s what I suggest: Avoid those occasions, places, and people where you might find yourself playing with the fire of sin. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Likewise, don’t compromise the holiness to which the Lord has called us.

Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants? Can you walk barefoot on hot coals and not get blisters? Proverbs 6:27-28 (The MESSAGE Paraphrase)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Keep Following

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Christ followers have two words that they don’t want to use, but if we are honest, we keep them in ready reserve. What are they, you ask? I Quit! We hold them as a sacred possession, like a trump card, ready to use for that insurmountable challenge, or irresolvable problem, or the daunting task. If, and when, that occasion comes, we think “I quit” becomes a reasonable solution.

There was a time when many people that followed Jesus threw up their hands and said, “I quit.” Sure, they relished His miracles and, for a time, hungered for His teaching and leadership, but when He began to explain the high cost of what it meant to really follow Him, many thew in the towel and said, “I quit!” [See John 6:41-66]

I quit! It’s a quick and easy solution, but not the response that should be offered to the Lord. Following Jesus can be challenging at times. Perhaps you’ve experienced some of the frustrations, like rejection, persecution, and the weakness of your sinful flesh. But don’t listen to the taunts of the evil one and be drawn to an incorrect conclusion. 

You are in Christ and He is in you! You are a new creation bought with the precious blood of Christ. You are filled with the Holy Spirit of promise. Because of that, you have sufficient strength to persevere. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Paul said. And so can you.

I quit! Although many people decided to forsake the Lord on that day, through faith we can draw a different conclusion. Because all Christ is to you — what He has done and continues to do — here’s the response needed: Jesus, You lead; I follow You — no matter the cost!

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. John 6:66 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Make God Look Good

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

From the first century until now persecution has continued to follow believers at many times and in many places. It has never been absent among Christ followers. While here in America, where persecution has been extremely limited, we see and hear about it in societies where it is unacceptable or illegal to confess to be a Christ follower.

The Apostle Peter wrote to Christ followers during a time of Roman persecution around 60-64 AD. His words of encouragement meant a lot to those dear saints, and to you and me as well. In essence he told them to live in such a way that their godly lifestyle would refute the pagans’ accusations against them, and potentially bring them to Christ — to make God look good.

Our marching orders are from Christ. We follow Him, and that should make us different from the world. It certainly did for those early believers who confessed Jesus as their Lord, and not Caesar. During those times, husbands treated their wives as they would cattle. That’s why Christ following men were instructed to treat their wives with dignity, respect, and faithfulness. Children were abandoned (especially baby girls, as was a Roman custom). That’s why Christ following parents were taught to love, protect, provide for, and emotionally nourish their children. These kind of things make God look good.

Throughout the centuries we’ve seen other ways Christ followers exemplify the goodness of God. When epidemics struck, Christ followers remained in cities to care for others, risking their own lives in the process. Things like that make God look good, and the world takes notice.  

The world still needs that kind of testimony — lives that make God look good.

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world. 1 Peter 2:12 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Glorious Future

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I want you to take a moment and think back 100 years. Are you there yet? Good. Now, I want you to think about how you would describe the future to someone in 1916. You’ve seen all the advancements that would seem inconceivable in those days. How would you explain air travel that would make a trip from New York to London in under 7 hours? Or a microwave oven? Or space exploration including a man walking on the moon? Or a selfie?

I think that was Isaiah’s dilemma as he described God plan for Israel’s future. It would be nearly impossible to grasp what was in store for them. They were on the verge of one of the darkest times in their history. God was about to send them into captivity as a result of their repeated sinfulness. It was a bleak forecast at best.

But God would not leave His people there. At the close of his warnings of judgement, Isaiah wrote of a great hope. He pointed to a bright future that seemed impossible. God would bring His people back in spectacular fashion. They left in disgrace, but would return in triumph with wagons and chariots and animals and wealth — far beyond their wildest dreams [Isaiah 66:18-24].

Christ followers are blest in the same manner. How do we comprehend an enduring future that lasts for eternity? Even now, I’m struggling to put into words God’s great love for you and the good future to come. The best that I can do is to point you to Calvary. There you see God’s ultimate love to secure your glorious future with Him.

No one can completely understand what God has in store for His people. It’s impossible! But when we meditate on His Word, our faith and understanding of what He has in store for us grows. One thing is for sure, it is a bright and glorious future! When you grasp that, perhaps you can face your difficult days with confidence.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

Monday, August 22, 2016

Words of Mass Destruction

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Have you ever said something that, as soon as it left your mouth, you regretted? Or how about this one, have you ever posted something on FaceBook or Twitter that you wished you could take back? Especially if the words were harsh, or bitter, or exaggerated, or gossipy - in other words, words that tear down. 

The former NFL football player and coach, Herm Edwards, gave this advice to his rookies, “Don’t press send.” He went on to tell them that if, in a moment of heightened emotion, they feel like tweeting something, or posting something inappropriate, mean, stupid, or controversial, just take a deep breath, pause for a few seconds and “don’t press send.”

That is great advice right there! And, yes, it also goes for the words that come out of the hole underneath your nose. Coach Edward’s advice echoes the words of Solomon. It’s good to restrain the tongue because it greatly reduces the chance of sinning.

Before speaking, LISTEN. There must be some blocking mechanism between the tongue and ears because when you are talking, it’s impossible to listen. And when you do open your ears to listen to God and to the real needs of others, then your words will be valuable; your conversation will be full of grace.

Watch what you say and what you type. You don’t want to be sinning with your moving lips and typing fingers. Let your words be life-giving words—words that are food for thought and food for the soul; words that build up, not tear down.

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment. Proverbs 10:19-21

Friday, August 19, 2016

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I sat at my computer this morning with headphones on, listening to some music, preparing my heart to finish editing this week’s sermon. Then it happened! “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you!” The words were like an sharp instrument piercing my soul. 

It reminded me of a story recorded in 2 Kings 6. Perhaps you’re familiar with it. Elisha’s servant looked at the circumstance he was in, and all he saw was the army of Aram surrounding the town. That’s it. In a sense, he was spiritually blind.

Before we get on his case though, aren’t we like that at times? We see our disappointments, our discouragements, our enemies, and like Gehazi, fear starts to settle in. When that happens, we start to look down on the stranger, complain about the lazy, point fingers and blast those who disagree. We see the world as lost to the devil and that we are the ones who suffer. We take the bait of setting God aside to earn our fortune and have fun. 

The prayer that Elisha prayed is a great way to address our spiritual blindness. “Lord, open my eyes that I might see.” With spiritual eyes wide open, we see sin as sin, and the lust of anything as rebellion against God. But we also see our victory. Christ rules. The world is in His hands. Like the Psalmist, we proclaim, “I too give witness to the greatness of God, our Lord, high above all other gods. He does just as he pleases—however, wherever, whenever” [Psalm 135:6 The MESSAGE Paraphrase]. 

That’s what happened to Gehazi. With his spiritual eyes opened, he looked at his circumstance again, but this time, he saw “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Guarded by the heavenly army, his fear began to melt away. 

The Apostle Paul lived with his spiritual eyes open too. He wasn’t blind to his circumstances, yet he could say with all confidence, if God is on our side, “who can stand against us?” [Romans 8:31].

That was the beginning of a prayer for me. “Lord, open my eyes to see You are on my side. Help me to be fearless in this hostile, sin-sick world. I can do anything You ask of me because I am protected by Your mighty hand.” Amen.

And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Divine Purposes

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We human beings have a favorite question, and it can be summed up in one word: WHY? Parents get it from their children all the time - I’m not exaggerating! “Why is grass green?” “Why do I have to eat broccoli?” We adults aren’t much different, but our question are more complicated. “Why is my world falling apart?” “Why is God letting this happen to me?”

We all want to know “why” especially in tough times, and so we set out in search of answers. Be careful when you do this. We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world, and our limited minds may lead us to wrong conclusions. I heard this one just a couple of days ago: “I must have done something really bad to make God this upset with me.” In other words, “I did something wrong and now God is dishing out retribution.”

If you are a Christ follower, this way of thinking presents at least two problems:

It presumes you have God figured out.
It minimizes or completely ignores God’s merciful love.

One day, Jesus and His disciples met a blind man. The disciples assumed his blindness was the result of sin and asked Jesus who the culprit was, the man himself, or his parents. Jesus said the most interesting thing, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” [John 9:3]. 

There was a divine purpose in this man’s blindness. As I said before, we are fallen creatures. As such, it’s difficult for us to fathom divine purposes, especially in difficulty. We simply look for solutions. But more importantly than his physical healing, we read a little later in the story that the formerly blind man came to see Jesus as his Savior. God was at work for this man’s eternal good, even, and especially, in hardship.

As I write this eDevotion, I’m convinced that the Lord wants to remind you about this important matter. Have you been asking God, “Why are you letting all this happen to me? Why are You punishing me?” Learn the lesson from the blind man. He is not! All your sins have been punished on the cross. Your sins are forgiven when you put your full confidence in Christ alone. You are a Christ follower now, and God has divine purposes in your life that you can’t always see.

Keep moving forward and upward. Ask God to help you boldly face your doubts and despair. Trust His divine work in and through your hardship. Rest assured that His purposes are always for your eternal good … and His glory!

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  John 9:1-3

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rightside-Up People

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Sin changes everything. Because of it, we humans have lost our sense of what is good and proper in every setting. Right and wrong is foggy. Good and bad is questionable. Self-esteem and narcissism is indistinguishable. Leadership, character, relationships, everything has been transformed by sin. Our fallenness has given us leaders who crave power, not servanthood; taught us to seek security in materialism; to manipulate and exploit others for our personal benefit — to watch out for numero uno.

That is the way of sin. Thankfully, Christ followers are being transformed, turned upside-down, or more precisely, rightside-up. He’s given us many examples in Scripture to inspire us to that end.

He gave us Christ, a Shepherd that laid down His life for God’s sheep.
He gave us Noah, who trusted the word of the Lord.
He gave us Abraham, willing to sacrifice everything to honor God. 
He gave us Joseph, to show us that keeping our integrity is worth it.
He gave us Moses, Joshua, Gideon and others, to show us that godly power is not who has the most soldiers or weapons.
He gave us David, a shepherd boy, to show us that God looks for humble hearts to lead His people. 

These values are lost in our upside-down world. So, when Jesus came, He preached a rightside-up kingdom, one in which the first will be last, and the last first [Mark 10:31]. That makes total sense to me, It’s what you would expect from the One who is “meek and lowly of heart” [Matthew 11:28-30].

When Christ followers live rightside-up, it looks strange to the world. Don’t let that bother you, in fact, make it your goal. Let your friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates see that you are different—that you have values different from the upside-down world we live in.

But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside-down [rightside-up] have come here too.” Acts 17:6

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Two Masters? I Don’t Think So!

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

No one can serve two masters. That is a fact. A guy told me one time, “I serve two masters, I work at two jobs.” Serving two masters and working two jobs are not the same. The misunderstanding is not knowing the Greek word, which is translated serve. It has nothing to do with your 9-5 employment. Rather, it has everything to do with being a slave. A slave doesn’t understand 9-5. A slave only knows 24/7 — constant devotion to his master.

When writing to the Romans, Paul told the Christ followers that they were once “slaves to sin,” but when they wholeheartedly embraced the Gospel, they were freed from their slavery to sin to “become slaves of righteousness” [see 6:16-18].

Paul got that from the words of Jesus, “No one can serve two masters,” He said [Matthew 6:24]. Exclusive devotion, single-minded, whole-hearted are words that describe a true servant.

When speaking of the spiritual, trying to serve two masters will tear you apart. One says, “Walk by faith,” the other says, “Walk by sight.” One admonishes, “Be humble,” the other, “Be proud.” One commands our affections to be set on “things above,” the other on “things of the earth.” One sees “the eternal,” the other sees “the temporal.” One says, “Be anxious for nothing,” the other says, “Be anxious about everything.” These masters are diametrically opposed to each other. That’s why you can’t obey both orders — you can’t serve two masters.

The hymn writer had it right:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise—
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart—
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
(Be Thou My Vision, Words, Mary Byrne, 1905; Music, Eleanor Hull, 1912)

The strong Christ follower serves God, alone!

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Desires of Your Heart

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Someone asked me the other day if the promises of God are true. It took me a little more than a nano-second to respond, “Absolutely!” The person was also quick to reply, “Then why don’t I get the desires of my heart?” 

I believed it to be an honest question, deserving an honest answer. The person referred to Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” A brief glance at that verse may lead to frustration and disappointment if not kept in its context. It’s a profound promise packaged in the middle of nine verses that instruct us about our heart before the Lord. Let’s take a quick look at that instruction.

Verse 1 teaches us not to fret about evildoers and envy them. Let God deal with their success while you watch your own actions.

Verse 3 teaches us to trust in the Lord, to do good, and cultivate faithfulness. I think of this as growing in maturity. When we focus on these important issues, we leave the “big things” in life to God, which relates to our deepest desires.

Verse 4 clearly teaches us to delight in the Lord. That’s another way of saying to seek what God desires, or to pursue His good pleasure. When we do that, our desires seem to fall into place.

Verse 5 teaches us to trust in the Lord and commit to His way. God’s Word helps here because it is a “light unto our path” [Psalm 119:105]. When we walk in the lighted pathway, we know we are heading in the right direction. Don’t ever expect God to bless sinful missteps; keep to His purposeful plan.

Verse 7 teaches us to rest in the Lord and wait with patience. God has flawless timing even when we don’t see an immediate response to our cry.

Verse 8 teaches us to put away anger and wrath. These two things will turn a heart toward evil if not dealt with right away. 

So when it comes to your desires, and you are frustrated by what seems to be a lack of response from God, pray through the entirety of Psalm 37:1-9. You’ll be surprised how it brings your will in line with His will.

1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 4 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:1-9

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Conformed to the Likeness of Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

For centuries, theologians, commentators, and Christ followers have tried to come to grips with divine election. Does God only choose certain ones? Does He really choose those who will be eternally separated from Him? The debate is ongoing, and I will not add to that part of it in this eDevotion. Rather, I want to focus on the purpose of our election.

While there will remain confusion to some about the subject of election, there should be no confusion as to why we are elected. We are to be like Jesus! That, dear Christ follower, is crystal clear. God wants all His children (the elect) to be “conformed to the likeness of Christ” [Roman 8:29].

So how does He do it? How does God work in us to grow us in Christlikeness? The answer is really simple; it’s called life. God uses everything in our life to ultimately make us like Jesus. Everything? Yes, I really mean that. The good and bad, hardship and blessing, suffering and abundance, are all tools God uses to help us become more and more like our Savior. 

God takes all the stuff of life and works it for good, Paul said [Romans 8:28]. How can it all be good? Because the outcome is Christlikeness. 

Our Christlikeness will not be complete until we see Him [1 John 3:2]. In the meantime, I’m grateful that I am a child of God (chosen/elect). If you are a Christ follower, you can rest in that confidence too.

For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let’s Go for a Walk

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The Bible often refers to the Christian life as a walk. It’s an interesting Greek word (peripateo) meaning literally, to tread all around, i.e. to walk at large (as proof of ability), and figuratively, to live, deport oneself, or go be occupied with.

It is a privilege to “walk” with the Lord. At times, our walk may call for a dramatic display of faith, like Noah. “Go build an ark, it’s going to rain,” God told him. Noah had no idea what rain was, especially enough of it to cause a cataclysmic deluge, but he walked with the Lord 120 years for that day to come. That’s quite a walk, don’t you think!

But in all honesty, most of us are not called for such monumental tasks. That’s OK. Our walk is more commonplace: living out godly priorities, and holding to godly values in a culture that will have nothing of God. But I discovered something early on in my walk with the Lord, that as I was faithful in the simple, mundane things of life, God began to entrust me with more to do for Him. And I think He will do the same with anyone — with YOU! — if you just keep walking the walk. 

If you say you believe in Christ, then act accordingly. You are a Christ follower, so follow Him, wherever He leads. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up building an ark!

Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Faith and Love Go Together

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

The disciples had prayed for a man’s son to be healed. He was a demoniac - seized by evil spirits to do things uncommon for human beings. Even though they prayed, and I assume fervently, there was no deliverance. So in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 17, we read that the boy’s father brought him to Jesus. It resulted in the lad’s instantaneous, complete healing.

Perplexed, the disciples wanted to know why they weren’t successful to cast out the evil spirit. Jesus responded, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” [17:20]. Jesus repeated that same truth in Matthew 21:21, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will . . . say to this mountain [the Mt. of Olives], ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”

It’s obvious that Jesus wasn’t telling the disciples that they could move the Mt. of Olives for the simple reason that it had a prophetic future. It had to remain where it was because Jesus would return to Jerusalem and stand on that very mountain. So what was His point? Mountain moving was a figure of speech in the Lord’s day meaning, to overcome great obstacles. 

When you “move mountains” — overcome great obstacles that’s faith in action. And, yes, that faith is possible, but it must be tempered. Paul talked about “mountain moving” faith with the Christ followers in Corinth. He told them that if they exercised their faith, without love, it was good for nothing. It was a harsh rebuke, but it emphasized the importance of the Christ follower’s motives. “Mountain moving” faith is neither for show nor selfish pursuits, as it apparently was for the Corinthians.

Whatever your gifts and talents are, no matter how well you speak, regardless of your biblical knowledge, it’s love that validates your work for the Lord.

Loveless faith is useless faith.

If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2c

Monday, August 8, 2016

I’m-All-In, Go-For-Broke, Put-Everything-On-The-Line Kind of Faith

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I think every Christ follower, at some time or another, has snickered at something that the Apostle Peter said or did before he really thought things through. (It’s a “holy snicker,” of course, because we would never do such things!) But wait a minute! We have to admit that ol’ Pete provided us with some amazing displays of faith. Like the time he walked on water.

Read about it in Matthew 14. After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sent the disciples home while He went to a place of prayer. After nightfall, a storm arose and the disciples struggled at the oars [Mark 6:48]. At about 3:00 AM, Jesus took a stroll on the water. When they recognized it was Jesus, and not a ghost, Peter asked if he could come be with Him. Jesus responded, “Sure, if you want, we can take a stroll together” (my very loose translation of Matthew 14:29).

Peter went over the side of the ship and walked toward Jesus. That was an “I’m-All-In, Go-For-Broke, Put-Everything-On-The-Line” kind of faith moment. There wasn’t a back up plan here. No water wings. No back door. No safety net. It was just walk or sink! 

How was that possible? It was faith on Peter’s part, but only as he kept his eyes on Jesus. When you focus on Jesus, and not on your circumstances, you can do amazing things. 

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.   Matthew 14:29

Friday, August 5, 2016

Strong Convictions

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

How did you come by your convictions, by evidence or exhortation? Either way is fine; just be a Christ follower with firm, biblical convictions. In our culture, people vacillate because of conditions and circumstances. When situations change, their loyalty changes. We see that kind of thing from some politicians today.

I’m drawn to people with strong, stable, biblical convictions. I prefer that rather than wishy-washy convictions. The Scriptures are full of examples of what I’m talking about. Take Joseph; despite years of unfair treatment, he didn’t waver in his commitment to godly things. Daniel is another example; he lived by his righteous convictions in the idolatrous culture of Babylon. So did Sahdrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, his three Hebrew compatriots. 

Their convictions withstood the opinions and persuasive arguments against them. We can be like that too, as long as we are grounded in, and trust in, what God has said in the Bible. Confidence in the Word instills a courage to remain strong amid conflicts and circumstances. So whatever you do, get firmly rooted in the things of God. Strong convictions are sure to come. 

Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Romans 14:20-23

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Use Your Faith

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We read about faith. We talk about faith. We sing about faith. That’s great. But it doesn’t do any good unless we use it!

There is an element of action to faith; it’s acting, doing, moving - it shouldn’t be inoperative. And, it should always be growing! How does faith grow? By immersing yourself in the Word of God. Paul said, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" [Romans 10:17]. So, listen up! Or as Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" [Matthew 11:15]. 

Reading/hearing the Word of God will help our faith to grow, because throughout its pages, we see who God is and what He can do. Seeing who He is and how He interacts with His creation puts things in proper perspective. 

Another way our faith grows is through use. Some people treat faith like a fragile, glass object, but faith isn’t fragile. It’s tough. It’s resilient. And like a muscle, faith gets stronger through use. The more you use your muscles, the stronger they get. The same is true of faith.

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Romans 12:3

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Confident of His Presence

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

When I read the Psalms, the confidence that David had of the Lord’s presence being with him is obvious. He was like a CSI investigator; he saw the fingerprints of the Lord everywhere. Do you have that confidence? You can if take the time, or train your spiritual eyes, to look for His divine presence in your life. That evidence will be everywhere around you. 

You can’t have that kind of confidence if you only look for Him once or twice a year, say at Christmas or Easter. Neither will you be confident if your relationship with God is merely the observance of religious rituals. Seeing God’s presence with you isn’t a now-and-then kind of thing — it’s a lifestyle. 

It’s helpful to remember the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” [Matthew 5:8]. The “pure in heart” will take captive unholy things; like impure thoughts, godless habits, unholy attitudes, and vain words. They confess and forsake sin and live in righteousness. That kind of lifestyle sharpens one’s awareness of God’s involvement — His presence — in their life, and then you begin to “see God” everywhere.

One of my Bible college professors challenged the class to take inventory of our daily activities in order to see God’s handiwork in our lives. Here are some of the guidelines as I remember them:

How did God guide my decision?
How did God answer my question?
How did God protect me in this situation?
How did God help my relationship?
(And jokingly) How did God help me pass the final exam?!

When you take inventory like this, you get to appreciate the Lord’s handiwork a second time, and it etches the reality of His presence, and love, deeper in your heart.

If you are a true Christ follower, the fingerprints of God’s love are all over your life. Examine them. Rehearse them. Remember them. It changes everything!

I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  Psalm 16:8