Are we really any different?

As I was reading my morning devotional the other day I realized that I don’t think were any different than ancient Israel. The devotional was based in Exodus 20:25, If you make an altar if stones for me, do not build it with sreased stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. The point is that God wanted any altar built by the Israelites to be untouched by them and only by the work of God. If they did used dressed stones then the Israelites could take credit for some of the work in creating the altar and make it look how they wanted it to look.

So, how different are we today when we take God’s Truth in His word and interpret it to suit our needs or wants or desires? Unfortunately we only want to hear the good part of God’s Word anymore. We don’t want to hear about the fact that we are sinful and need a savior. We don’t want to hear that it’s only because God’s grace and mercy and completely faithful love for us that we are allowed into His presence.

We so easily justify our salvation through what we perceive to be good actions and intentions. God’s Truth is not always the easiest to hear, especially when it impacts the way we live and our worldly desire to live the “good life”.

Does God need to our good deeds and sacrifices? No. He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Humbly, humility, understanding who God is and who we are.

God gives us His word and Holy Spirit to guide us and speak His Truth into our lives. But it’s only because of His love for us that we can be in His presence and have the opportunity of eternal life. He loved us first.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:9‭-‬10

See, God’s wrath was unleashed because of our sin, but it was Jesus was took the wrath for us, it was Jesus, God’s most precious Son, who stood in our place so that we could enter into God’s presence.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4‭-‬5 NIV

I’m not saying we should stop doing our good deeds and serving others, because this is how we can love others and show them who Jesus is, but we can’t depend on our good deeds for our salvation. We can’t justify our sinful nature through our good acts. We have to follow Jesus and be tuned into His Holy Spirit every minute of our lives, not just on Sunday.

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Pride and fear

This Sunday in our bible study class we were studying Proverbs 6:12-19.  We got to discussing pride and why we have pride.  It got me thinking that I believe part of it is because of fear and that if we have pride maybe we’re afraid of giving God total control of our lives and having the mindset that we think we know better and actually have control over our situations and circumstances.

Its easy for us to use our logic and reasoning to think through our situations and reason why things are happening.  But in reality, as Oswald Chambers writes, its God who really engineers our circumstances.  The part we play is that we have a choice to trust in God and the Holy Spirit to guide us through the situations and follow His lead and will or to follow our own reasoning, logic and desires.

God has our best interest at heart and we don’t always see what happening in the big picture, but we can be assured that what He has planned for us is better than what we can plan.  In some ways its like following our GPS when we know there are different routes we can take.  A few months ago I was traveling for work and had about a 2 hour drive back to the airport.  About 30 mins into my drive the highway patrol was forcing all traffic off the road and causing us to take alternate routes.  As a result, I started worrying about making my flight back and trying to figure my own way back.  I eventually made it back but shortly before the flight left but made it.  Turns out there was a person driving a truck swerving at other cars for whatever reason and wielding a machete in the process.  The news reported seven different local and state authorities were involved in responding to the incident in some fashion.

See, the authorities new the situation and were protecting travelers.  God is like that, He knows the plans and sees the situations far better that we can and He has angel armies looking out for us along with His Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God can do more for us that can ask or imagine, we just have to let Him work within us.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:9 that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, or mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

It’s us who allows fear to creep in.  2 Timothy tell us “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and of self-discipline.”  With our hope and trust in Jesus we have nothing to fear.  1 John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love.  but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made in perfect love.”

Give God the reigns and let Him guide you through all the situations and circumstances you face.  Walk by faith and not by sight.

Being active

I was reading my Morning by Morning devotional yesterday and read from Psalms 40, but specifically came read verse 16

But may all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted.”

It reminded me that we need to be actively seeking God in all things we do and all aspects of our life.  Psalm 1:1-2 says Blessed is the one, who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

As we become believers we enter into the process of sanctification.  This must be a process we actively participate in.  Its not just a decision we make and ride out whatever happens.  I enjoy exercising and working out.  But I have found that as I get older, if I take days off, I lose what I have gained from the days before.  Our spiritual walk is the same.  Charles Spurgeon says “If I neglect prayer, even for a short time, I lose the level of spirituality I had achieved, and if I draw no fresh supplies from heaven, the old grain in my storehouse will quickly be consumed by the famine raging in my soul.”

He goes on to say “The only way ll my days can be like the sleek, “fat cows” is to feed them in the proper pasture and to continually immerse them in the Lord – in His services, His fellowship, His reverence, and His will.”

We have to be intentional about it though, its a choice we make.  We are always listening to something and walking in some direction.  At work I listen to Christian music while I work as a constant reminder that its Jesus I should be focusing on.  He will bless the things we do if we keep our focus and eye on Him.

Jesus died on the cross and went back to heaven to prepare a place for us.  But while we are here, God is “preparing” us for Heaven.  In all circumstances we face and things we go through, we are being prepared.  Spurgeon also says “All this is Christ’s work, for each individual believer is being prepared, polished, and made ready for his place in the heavenly temple by the prep-work of the Lord’s own hand.  Even our afflictions and difficulties will not do their work of sanctification without being used by Him for that purpose.”

Jesus never promised it to be easy, He told us that we would have trouble, but yet He also prayed that God would not take us out of the world but that God would protect us.  God protects and blesses those who seek after Him, in all things.  If you truly seek God and ask Him to speak to you He will.  I find that to be more and more true through my morning quiet times.  And a lot of times He speaks of something I’m not expecting, He knows what we need before we do.  I love spending time in God’s Word, going to worship and even just praying over God’s Word.  The more we do it the more we get a glimpse of God’s character, who He is and His love for us.

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Are you a friend or just a fan

Well, it happened again, God spoke to me very clearly this morning while listening to Focus on the Family again.  Leslie Vernick was essentially speaking on living with humility in a self seeking world.  But what struck me was the question the host John Daly asked, funny thing is I have asked the same question before as well.  When life gets really hard, the question can be, what is the purpose of this life?  If we’re supposed to find joy in living a Christian life, why is it so difficult and why are there so many struggles?

He goes on to say that part of life is being crushed, but its good because God can save those with a crush spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18 says

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

If we are right with God (righteous) He will deliver us from all our troubles, not just some.  The troubles we face, the sufferings we endure, help us grow and makes us realize that we need God in all aspects of our life, not just some.  Again we’re back to Romans 5, as we persevere, we build character, and character builds hope, and because of the Holy Spirit, we won’t be disappointed by the hope we have.

What really struck me though was Leslie refers back to Peter’s confession of Christ, when Jesus asks Peter who the people say He is.  She says that a lot of people are probably fans of Jesus but not friends of Jesus.  It got me thinking, am I really a friend of Jesus?  I can tell you that I have prayed for Jesus to take over my life, I have been baptized and truly believe He hears my prayers and He has worked in my life and answered prayers, not always the answer I want, but has answered, but am I truly and wholeheartedly obedient to His will? When Jesus called the disciples He said come and follow me, come do what I do.  So do I do what He does?  Do I love without expecting anything in return from the other person?  Do I see everyone I come across as God’s creation?  Do I reflect the character of Jesus to those I come in contact with?  I heard a question one time, I believe as part of the Henry Blackaby Experiencing God study, which asked, if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?  We can read in Matthew 7:21-23

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

I think, until we really accept Jesus as a friend, we’ll struggle to find that true joy He wants us to have.  the disciples dropped everything to follow Jesus.  There was no plan B.  We read in Luke 9 more of what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus.

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Living a Christian life is a daily walk, not just some days of the week, but all seven.  Jesus is truly our friend, one that will draw near in our time of need and whenever we call on Him.

Sidewalk Prophets – I Want to Live Like That

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. Psalm 34:7

I truly hope those of you who read this are encouraged.  I pray that this is truly the Holy Spirit speaking through me and that this goes out and does not return void.

Resilience

So here it is again a message from the Holy Spirit speaking of how we will go through trials, yet through faith in Him, we can be over-comers.

I was listening to Focus on the Family last week and happen to catch a talk by Kay Warren about being resilient. Quite a few things stuck with me during this talk, but a couple really struck me. A couple of things she says is that life is really harder than we ever expected, that we have high expectations of what life is supposed to be like and we are shocked when things don’t go our way. She talked about how us in the western world and first world countries have first world problems.

But she also spoke about how resilience can be learned. She quoted Romans 5:3-4, but for context I believe its best to look at verses 1-5.
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Because of what Jesus Christ has done and the faith we can have in Him, the sufferings we face build character within us and can give us hope. God gives us gifts in order to have this hope and build character. One is His Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit can strengthen us when we need it. We also have hope in His word. But both of these are choices. We can choose to listen to the Holy Spirit and be tuned to His guidance. We can also choose to read and have a desire to want to read God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-2 says

1Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night

I find myself more and more desiring to know and read my Bible. I love reading it and even praying over it. It offers Hope to us. God wants good things for us, He is a good daddy.

So then I read it again in Jim Dennison’s First 15 devotional.

Jim Dennison – First 15

Believe me, I have to remind myself of this same concept all the time, that God IS causing all things to work for my good. These trials, or tests of our faith, fine tune us and refine us to draw us nearer to God and to weed out the things that cause us to turn away from God in these times. God never promises an easy and completely comfortable life. As Kay Warren reminded me, Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that we will have trouble. But right after that he prays for us.

The same day when I heard Kay Warren speak, I also read in my morning devotion by Charles Spurgeon writing about Romans 14:8, If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. If we really live for the Lord, we have to take the good with the, what we perceive to be, bad. We are God’s children. Spurgeon says that “we are here to glorify Christ in our daily life”. None of us has a great day everyday. We all have days that are not so good. But we are to reflect Jesus and live for is purpose everyday.

Kay Warren’s talk is in the link below.

Finding Hope Again with Kay Warren

I wish I could say that I walked with a resilient attitude at all times, but I don’t. I have times where u feel like life is so hard and question if Gid is really causing all things to work for my good. I have continually read God’s word to be reminded if his love for me. I hope this message encourages you to be resilient. I know Kay’s message has encouraged me greatly. It encouraged me that God is bigger than the things I face each day and that only with God’s strength can I overcome my fears and step out of the dark places I can fall into.

Are you passionate

What are you passionate about? Are you passionate about being a husband? God tells us husbands that we should love our wives as He loved the church. Are you passionate about being a wife? Wives are supposed to submit themselves to their husbands as they do to the Lord. How about the everyday and menial tasks? Are you passionate about taking out the trash or cleaning house? We are stewards of what God gives us. The Bible says that in everything we do we should do it as if as if we’re doing for the Lord.

Jesus was passionate about His love for us. So passionate that He sweat drops of blood. So passionate that He became so weak that God sent angels to strengthen Him in Him time of need.

Are you passionate about the job God has given you? Your work or job is how God provides to you. I love the work I do and God has certainly proven Himself faithful to provide through my work. Not everything I want but certainly everything I need.

Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24.

Empty hands

I feel unworthy to be writing this blog.  I am thankful for the Holy Spirit that I can pass along the things which I believe God speaks to me.  I am thankful for those who read it and hope and pray it is an encouragement to you.

I was reading last week in Charles Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning and the verse was from Psalm 107:7, He led them by a straight way.  He talks about how change brings anxiety to a believer and we wonder why change happens.  he also quotes Psalm 30:6-7 saying I will never be shaken.  he goes on to say “Today my spirit has no hope, only fear; no joy, only great distress.  Is this part of God’s plan for me?  is this really the way that God would have me travel to heaven?”  And he says in the next paragraph “Yes, it is by this way.”

The thing about this is, just the day before I was listening to Focus on the Family and they had Cynthia Tobias on giving a talk to an audience and she was telling part of her story.  And in one part she spoke of going through divorce and holding on to certain pillars in her life and how she could depend on those pillars. And yet the last one she had was finances and finally this one fell.  All of her dependable pillars had fallen.  What struck me was that she spoke of listening to a pastor speak on the radio and the pastor said that “The things that can be shaken will be shaken so that things that can’t be shaken will remain.”

She also spoke about how, through this time she used to sing the lyrics of Rock of Ages

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;

In my morning quiet time lately I have been praying these same words.  I used to, and sometimes fall back into this trap, think that I could manage my environment and things around me to navigate the issues I face.  I honestly believe God has given me the gift of administration and skills to manage things and activities, I believe I can step back and see the big picture in things fairly well.  But I have to keep reminding myself that God is one who is truly in control of things and that He orchestrates my circumstances.  I just have to be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and be seeking it continuously in order to follow God’s will and His straight way.

Spurgeon goes on to say that “The obscuring of you faith, the darkness of your mind, the fading of your hope – all of these are simply God’s method of maturing you for the great inheritance you will soon enter.  These trials are designed to test and to strengthen your faith.

I keep reminding myself of an image of being refined, like a silversmith or tinsmith refines the metal he is working with, he works the metal over and over again until he has the pure metal he is seeking.  God is refining me  throughout my life, getting rid of the impurities of my life and making me more like Jesus, so that on the day He calls me home I will be able to stand before Him and walk victoriously in His presence.  God doesn’t want or need our skills and abilities that we develop, God develops them within us.  He wants us to come to him with empty hands and an open heart, giving our whole heart and soul to Him.  Like Psalm 107:5-6 says when we cry out to God He will deliver us.

They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

We need to let the Master work within us to make us into the masterpieces we are meant to be, as painful and unpleasant as it it is at times.  Let Him work within you.  Grab hold of Him with both hands and let Him lead you.  If you are clinging to things of this world , its not possible to grab Him with both hands.  Life can be overwhelming and incredibly hard at times.  The thought of leading a family, raising kids in this age can be paralyzing.  But I was reminded just today that God gave us a spirit of strength and power.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

But God does cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him, loving Him with all your heart and soul and strength, not some, but all.  He is faithful and will continue the good work He has started.

Switch ft. Dillon Chase – Symphony