Christianity is a Verb

Posted: December 10, 2016 in Thoughts on God

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 ESV)

Jesus, in Matthew 15:8, quoted Isaiah saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me”. The scribes and Pharisees He was speaking of had substituted their own laws for those of God’s, simply giving lip-service to the Lord. We are guilty of the same when our actions do not follow the truth, but our lips declare we believe. When the way in which we live does not reflect our professed beliefs, I have news for you; we don’t really believe them! It’s like a man talking about the power of gravity, but then walking off of a cliff because he didn’t really think he would fall.

When we don’t live out the truth we say we believe in, our faith is dead. For “as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). The life, the essence, is gone from our faith when we don’t live according to it. All our Christianity is in this condition is an empty husk, a mausoleum for our decaying words. If we are genuinely following Christ, we “ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). It is the Spirit led flow of a believer’s life to “do”, or put into practice, what we learn from Scripture.

Ask yourself these questions today and answer honestly both to yourself and the Lord:

  • Is there a lack of joy in my Christian walk?
  • Do I neglect prayer because I don’t actually believe it does anything?
  • Do I neglect the Bible and simply listen to what others have to say about it?
  • Do I, like the Pharisees, honor God with my lips but not with my heart or actions?

Be encouraged to live out the truth that we profess: abiding joy is possible and it grows from living faith, prayer is both heard by God and powerful (James 5:16), and it is our glory to search Scripture for its deep wisdom (Proverbs 25:2).

Persevering

Posted: December 9, 2016 in Thoughts on God

….on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:26-27 ESV)

When you are working to build or maintain a ministry, whether it be international, local, or contained in the confines of your home, it is almost inevitable that doubts in the form of a myriad of negative thoughts will plague you. As you face obstacles, bumps in the road, and even roadblocks, you may find yourself wondering if this vision or dream of yours is really from God. You may even find yourself questioning God, wondering if He knows what He’s doing or if He made the right decision in choosing you to do what it is He called you to do. After all, if you were meant to do this, wouldn’t it be easier? Wouldn’t more people support your efforts?

As we look at the above scripture, we must remember that what Paul is speaking of occurred not only when he was working in his calling, but also when he was working within the will of God. He was doing what God charged him with doing, what He called him to do, and still he was met with opposition after opposition and trouble upon trouble. What this scripture shows us is that doing the will of God does not exempt us from trials or obstacles. God does not promise us that the road to fulfilling our calling will be easy. What He does promise us is that He will be with us and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6) He also promises us that our reward will be worth the trouble we face. (Galatians 6:9)

If you find yourself feeling discouraged and wanting to give up on your ministry or life’s calling, remember Paul’s sufferings and his impact on our faith despite it all. His words are still inspiring us today! See the fruits of your labor instead of concentrating on the thorns. If your ministry brings one single soul to Christ, isn’t that worth the trouble?

Your suffering is not in vain.

Mark of the believer

Posted: December 8, 2016 in Thoughts on God

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (I Timothy 1:5 ESV)

Love is so vast and deep that humans will never reach its end in understanding or experience. Here, love is the believer’s “charge”; in Romans it is the “fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10); and in I John it is an accurate depiction of our God, “God is love” (I John 4:8). So love is both something to be felt and enjoyed together, and an attribute of our God to be learned and emulated over a lifetime. Essentially, what it boils down to is that genuine biblical love is a life’s work in itself!

Love is both an experience and a pursuit. The commentator John MacArthur describes love as, “characterized by self-denial and self-sacrifice, for the benefit of others, and it is the mark of a true Christian.” For God loved us first, even as ill-deserving rebels, by sacrificially sending his only Son for our great good and his great glory! This indeed is how we ought to love one another, at a cost to ourselves on others’ behalf. Love is expensive, costly, and not a thing to be taken lightly.

Meditate on the passages used in today’s devotion. How do they change your understanding and perception of love?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)

Even amidst our Christian lives, arguments, disagreements, and tension-filled conflict will come; but when it does, here are five Biblical principles to consider before we ever open our lips:

Listen. Be silent in your mind as well as in your mouth. “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

Be teachable. Are you in the wrong? If so, how can you respond in humility, grace, and repentance? If you genuinely desire to grow in Christ-likeness, then remember that God uses iron to sharpen iron, and frequently, there will be sparks (Proverbs 27:17).

Think. Take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We are in a spiritual struggle against an enemy who seeks to divide us. Don’t let your thoughts grow vengeful, spiteful, or believe lies about others. Be disciplined in your thought life.

Seek unity. We are one body with many parts. If this is true (which today’s text says it is), that means each believer’s mission is the same. Think about it, is the eye’s mission different than the heart’s? In its function—what it does—yes. In its mission—why it does it—no. Remember, we are one, a unified whole. Seek unity between yourself and your brothers and sisters because we’re playing for the same team.

Model love over winning an argument. Always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), because love seeks unity over division and peace over strife (See especially 1 Corinthians 13:1-7). Sometimes though, people are simply wrong, misled, or in sin. When this is the case, don’t shrink from the truth, but don’t use it as a weapon to wound either. Love reconciles; pride dominates.

Our lives will not be free of controversy until Jesus returns. Until then, let’s remember his words, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Unboxing God

Posted: December 5, 2016 in Thoughts on God

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

We love gifts during Christmas. We love seeing the package delivery truck pull up in front of the house, and we eagerly hop down the stairs to answer the door. Once inside, the package is immediately ripped open and whatever was contained inside is put to quick use. Many times, when we begin using the new product,( if it’s a good one that is), we discover many features we never knew it had! Sometimes, things turn out to be even better than we had anticipated.

The same is definitely true with God, he is infinitely better than we anticipate. But, we still try to keep God in a “God Box” and think of him in terms of the nifty features he comes with. In reality he wants us to let him come bursting out of the box and show us how much more he is. God did this with the shepherds. He told them they would find a baby, who would save the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feed trough. That is thinking outside the box! More than likely, they had their own “God Box”, likely with the savior being a military dictator-type. But, God burst that paradigm and displayed his abundant mercy and compassion. When He got out of “the box” , he showed them that He is a God who reaches out to those that no one else wants to. Shepherds weren’t considered the most moral. In fact, they didn’t often go to church because sheep needed to be constantly tended, and they couldn’t even testify in court. Yet, they were the first to hear the good news of the Savior’s birth. This was no accident!

As you read your Bible, don’t let your preconceived notions of who God is interpret what you read. Instead, let scripture and the Holy Spirit guide you in the characteristics of God. Let God break out of his box in your life today and show you who He really is. Remember, His thoughts and ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8).

Think today of the “box” you may have put God in….and then, set Him free!

 

Time for Him

Posted: December 2, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. (1 Peter 5:7 TLB)

We will make time for those who are important to us. While this is not a hard and set fast rule, it’s true for most people. I have at times tried to plan on spending time with someone who continually put me off, but I would see them doing things with others. They would proclaim “I’m busy” when in truth they were too busy for me.

Ever felt like you were unimportant to someone?

I know Someone who thinks you are important. You are the apple of His eye. His mind is always on you. He is continually aware of your wants, needs and desires. He watches over you when you are hurting, suffering and in trouble. He plans for your success. His thoughts towards you are immeasurable and unfathomable.

So with that in mind, how IMPORTANT is He to you? Are you planning your day around Him or trying to plan Him into your day? Are you hanging out with another during the time you set aside for Him?

It hurts Jesus when He is cast aside. He longs to commune with you. He longs to just sit and chat. Invite Him over today for some coffee. He is waiting to spend some time with just you.

Father, help us draw near to You today and make Jesus first and most important in our life. CK

The sheep gate

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. (Nehemiah 3:1 ESV)

In Nehemiah, we find the story of the Israelites rebuilding Jerusalem after returning from their exile in Babylon (which was due to their sin). The wall around Jerusalem was the first project for the people. This was the first line of defense against their many enemies. The first part of the wall that was rebuilt was the Sheep Gate. This might not sound like a priority, but to the people of Israel, it was of the utmost importance in their worship of God.

The Sheep Gate was the gate the sheep were lead through as they came to the temple to be slaughtered for the sins of the people. In essence, their first project was to bring proper worship back to Jerusalem. We are no longer called to offer up animals as sacrifices for worship, but we are called to offer our lives instead (Romans 12:1). Just as the Israelites knew there were walls that needed to be repaired for proper worship, there are walls in our lives that have been destroyed by sin that need to repaired before we can offer our lives completely for worship. These walls must first be rebuilt before our lives can be offered as a proper sacrifice to the Lord.

What sin in your life is keeping you from presenting your body as a sacrifice to God?

 

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