The joy of patience

Posted: September 29, 2016 in Thoughts on God

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

From Ryan:

I really enjoy it when people come to me for advice. I am a straight shooter and I genuinely like helping people. I like to admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak. There is one thing I don’t like though, being patient. I want them to take my advice and start applying it to their lives right away. I want changes to start happening in the way they live or the decisions they need to make right away! As we read this verse, there are a couple questions we can be asking ourselves:

When I try to help others, am I doing it with patience?

Do I expect them to stop sinning right away or take my advice and do it first thing?

We read of Jesus in the Gospels, taking a group nobodies and turning them into somebodies. But, this didn’t happen overnight and many times he had to teach them the same things over and over. If we are truly giving advice for the right reason, then patience should be a fruit that is growing in our actions. It isn’t about doing what we think is best, but helping others grow in their walk with Jesus, even if we think it is taking forever.

Is there somebody in your life you haven’t shown patience to?

Go out and stand

Posted: September 20, 2016 in Thoughts on God

He [Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” (1 Kings 19:10-11a ESV)

Most mornings, I’m not jumping out of bed, excited for another day of work. I usually drag myself to the kitchen to make coffee, thinking about all the tasks I haven’t yet completed in the office, at church and at home. I can sometimes find myself discouraged & overwhelmed within the first few minutes of the day.

It’s pretty human to get caught up in the rhythms of life and feel the strain of the endless amount of expectations set on us. But this is certainly not the life that we have been called to as followers of Christ; we have been promised us a life of abundance! (John 10:10)

I find myself relating well to Elijah. He was tired, fed up and simply wanting a break; he tried to make himself feel better by hiding from God. We may also try to “hide” from the Lord, but our Father keeps close by our side.

God calls us out of our “hiding” and His is not a complex instruction, it’s a simple request for an act of faith. He says to us “ Go out and stand”. But are we alone? No! He gives us the strength we need. Phillipians 4:13 promises “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” When we follow the Lord with all our heart, He will surely bring glory to His name.

Have the courage today to stand with the knowledge that God is always with you, and trust in His purpose for your life.

Seeking God’s favor

Posted: September 19, 2016 in Thoughts on God

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
(Daniel 1:8 ESV)

There are two things we can learn from Daniel’s response to the king’s decree that they eat a certain food and drink wine (Daniel 1:5). First, we learn that Daniel remained faithful to God when it seemed as though God was not faithful to him. Daniel just had his home destroyed by the king of Babylon and was subsequently taken into captivity (Daniel 1:1-4). To many of us it may seem as though God had not taken care of Daniel and his fellow Israelites. Even though it appeared that way from a human perspective, Daniel stayed faithful to God and his commandments; even when it came to food.

Secondly, we learn that Daniel looked for God’s favor above man’s favor. We know that he was taken captive because of his handsome appearance and knowledge (Daniel 1:4). He possessed what was required to succeed in the Babylonian King’s court. But, instead of working his way through the ranks, as all the other young men undoubtedly tried to do, he chose to find favor with God by obeying his commandments. He did this rather than doing what was expected of him by the ambitious men surrounding him. This is very similar to what many of us deal with as we work our way up the corporate ladder in the business world today. Decisions like, “Do I stick with my morals, or do what all the others did before me to make my way up?”, or, “Is God really going to care about this minor detail I don’t obey if I use my new found position to positively influence others?” Resolve, like Daniel, to seek first God’s favor before men’s, and seek position into his presence, rather than position in a corporation.

Do you seek God’s favor, even when it appears as though he’s placed you in an adverse situation?

What happens after death

Posted: September 16, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Within the Christian faith, there is a significant amount of confusion regarding what happens after death. Some hold that after death, everyone “sleeps” until the final judgment, after which everyone will be sent to heaven or hell. Others believe that at the moment of death, people are instantly judged and sent to their eternal destinations. Still others claim that when people die, their souls/spirits are sent to a “temporary” heaven or hell, to await the final resurrection, the final judgment, and then the finality of their eternal destination. So, what exactly does the Bible say happens after death?

First, for the believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that after death believers’ souls/spirits are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). However, passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describe believers being resurrected and given glorified bodies. If believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, what is the purpose of this resurrection? It seems that while the souls/spirits of believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, the physical body remains in the grave “sleeping.” At the resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirit. This reunited and glorified body-soul-spirit will be the possession of believers for eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22).

Second, for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment. However, similar to the destiny of believers, unbelievers also seem to be sent immediately to a temporary holding place, to await their final resurrection, judgment, and eternal destiny. Luke 16:22-23 describes a rich man being tormented immediately after death. Revelation 20:11-15 describes all the unbelieving dead being resurrected, judged at the great white throne, and then being cast into the lake of fire. Unbelievers, then, are not sent to hell (the lake of fire) immediately after death, but rather are in a temporary realm of judgment and condemnation. However, even though unbelievers are not instantly sent to the lake of fire, their immediate fate after death is not a pleasant one. The rich man cried out, “I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24).

Therefore, after death, a person resides in a “temporary” heaven or hell. After this temporary realm, at the final resurrection, a person’s eternal destiny will not change. The precise “location” of that eternal destiny is what changes. Believers will ultimately be granted entrance into the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Unbelievers will ultimately be sent to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people—based entirely on whether or not they had trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).

The life stealer

Posted: September 15, 2016 in Thoughts on God

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ESV)

Jesus came to bring us truth (John 18:37), freedom (Luke 4:18), light (John 8:12), and as we read today, life. As we often hear, to do this he lived blamelessly, not once compromising or submitting to temptation, and never forsaking the Father’s will. As followers of Christ we find this life and give glory to Him by obeying Him and walking as He walked. We have been redeemed, literally taken from a domain of darkness to a kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14) and this changes us. Our deepest desires now resonate with the things that are of the light, that glorify God and conform us to His image. God gives us the ability to face the hard things in life, things that require great effort, courage, and strength.

However, though we are upheld by the Lord, we should never forget is that there is also a powerful enemy in this world. This enemy is a thief, a liar, and as strong as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He is also clever, and doesn’t always display his strength in such obvious ways; remember, he is of the darkness. God brings us into our purpose and calling, with the Spirit leading us into partnership with God. When we look at our lives, can we say that we are accomplishing what God has set before us?

What is your calling? Is it to be a Godly husband and father, spiritually leading your household even when you’re tired? Is it to be a student of God’s word, entering more deeply into its truth, even when there are video games around? Whatever it may be, do not let the enemy steal your life through apathy, distraction, or fear. Jesus lived, incarnated, and died so that we could be in right relationship with God, the enemy will employ any means necessary to keep us from that. Though his fingerprints are not so easily visible, they are all too often effective in keeping us from fulfilling our glorious purpose.

Take a moment to reflect on just what or who God has made you to be. Now what is keeping you from doing or being that man or woman of God? Resist the enemy, the stealer of life, and press into the Giver of life.

Empty promises

Posted: September 14, 2016 in Thoughts on God

for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b ESV)

Have you ever made an empty promise? Has anyone ever made an empty promise to you? Maybe you’ve assured someone that you would perform a task with the best of intentions, only to fail in completing it? There are a host of issues that surround assuring another person of anything. If we’ve been hurt before, it can be difficult to maintain trust in others, even if a new person you’re having trouble trusting has never let you down. This is because we know that at the end of the day, he or she is still a human, and all humans make mistakes. But, how should we respond to God when He makes a promise to us?

“He has said” is a profound statement. When we read these words it should cause us to pay keen attention to any phrase that would follow. Remember, when God speaks things happen! He spoke the universe into existence (Psalm 33:8-9), determined when and where we would live (Acts 17:26), and sustains all things by His word (Hebrews 1:3). Of this statement Spurgeon so aptly commented that “whether for delight in our queitude, or strength in our conflict, “He hath said!” must be our daily resort” (Thoughts for the Quiet Hour, Nov 15). What is it that “he has said”? “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” His promise is sure.

Walk in peace and confidence today, knowing that amidst any trial or uncertainty, we have a covenant promise from the Creator of all things. We will never be alone.

Feed me

Posted: September 13, 2016 in Thoughts on God

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103 ESV)

Have you ever heard of anyone asking for prayer that they might be able to be a more faithful eater? Chances are, you probably haven’t, and for good reason too: eating is not a difficult activity for most people. In general, eating regularly comes as easy as breathing, especially around a holiday.

To be fair though, there is a joy to be had in great food. Genuine pleasure is almost guaranteed when picking tender meat from perfectly glazed ribs, and the satisfaction is heightened when we enjoy these excellent meals with family and friends. The reason we don’t need accountability from our Christian brothers and sisters in regular eating is because we so often derive pleasure from food, in other words, we desire it.

How many times, however, can you remember hearing someone lament that he or she did not spend enough time in Bible reading and study? Maybe that someone was even you?

The answer to faithful, consistent time in God’s word is very simple and in all reality, is as effortless as eating. It is not to mentally beat yourself up for not trying hard enough, and it doesn’t lie in yet another “Through the Bible in a Year” reading program (though we’re not saying those are bad things, they can be very helpful). The answer rests in something you cannot give yourself, but you have it for everything from fun to food: desire. It is effortless to do something you greatly desire or long to do, and studying the Bible can be such a thing! Think about it, the same God who made you with taste buds that desire the sweetness of honey revealed Himself through the Bible to us. Once you begin the path of discovering God’s truth in Scripture, you will echo that God’s words are “sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Before you begin to read the Bible pray to the God who created tastebuds, that He would place a deep desire for His words in your heart and head. He will be faithful, and in turn, so will you!