A call to prayer

Posted: July 19, 2016 in Thoughts on God

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)

Living in America can be similar to living in a bubble. We see all the hurt and problems happening around us, but we are safe in this American bubble. You might not even live in America, but don’t have the problems or war or poverty as many third world countries do. This can also affect the church as we focus on praying just for ourselves here in America and the problems facing our fellow citizens. From the perspective of the bubble, we have been seeing turmoil in the Middle East and parts of Africa, and we can’t forget that God doesn’t call us only to pray for those in our culture or nation, but for “all people” and those in “high positions”.

These prayers have a two fold purpose. The first purpose is to bless those who are followers of Christ. Our prayers for those outside of the bubble can change the minds of rulers and help our brothers and sisters in Christ live a “peaceful and quiet life” (who doesn’t want that?). It also blesses those who are not yet followers of Christ. Our prayers can be a powerful force in those who are far from God to “come to a knowledge of the truth”, that is Jesus Christ.

Make a commitment to pray for those outside of your bubble for a week.

A hope for the addicted.

Posted: July 17, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,k neither the present nor the future,j nor any powers,k 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of Godl that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.m

Whether it’s food, shopping, social media, pornography, substances, etc., many of us have loved (and sometimes lost) someone with addiction. In fact, so many of us struggle with addiction, that this struggle is a conversation Christians must have continually with ourselves, and with those around us.

I wonder if perhaps at the core of addiction we feel that we are unworthy of God’s love, and we either don’t understand or have lost faith in His power. Perhaps we never understood our true identity, or have forgotten it, and we feel lost in the storm. Caught in this struggle, we fight feelings of inadequacy, doubt, pain and worthlessness. We continually chase after our addiction, hoping that it will assuage our fears and pain. Believing that somehow we can overcome on our own, or that we’ll only give in “one last time-then I’m done for good”, we are often unable to fight the urges. In the following moments of self-loathing and defeat, we set up a firmer foundation to return to the addiction to fight the pain. And so the spiral goes, and with each turn the Enemy has us believing a LIE.

We must remember some important verses, a few among many, when we consider this topic.

“..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Beloved, God knows your struggle and He loves you anyway. He always has. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God if you will seek Him. Please don’t give up.

If you, or anyone you know, are struggling with addictions, please do the following:

  1. Tell someone: We are never more vulnerable to the influence of darkness than when we are alone. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you can trust about your struggle.
  2. Get help: Whatever your struggle, there IS a way to fight it. You need help to truly heal; don’t hesitate to get the support you need to recover.
  3. Pray continually: Prayer can lift you out of darkness and into an abundant life. God is mighty to save you and He can and will help you rebuild if you will seek Him.
  4. Help others: There is no greater way to encourage yourself, to get perspective and to open up your heart in humility, than helping those in need.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV)

If you have ever had young children in your life, you quickly realize how much they live in the present. They have a difficult time realizing the future consequences of their actions. They will draw on the wall knowing that once you walk into the room you will not be happy with it. You can threaten to take away a special privilege happening the next day and they will still disobey when you walk out of the room.

As followers of Jesus, we are not much different than young children who live in the tangible present and forget the spiritual realm. The Apostle Paul reminds the church in Colossae of this. He tells them that as followers of Jesus, we should not focus on the present circumstances, but on the things above, spiritual things. This is not easy, but can have an immediate impact on the here and now on this earth. Paul lets us know how this changes us:

We let go of our earthly, sinful nature, and we step into our renewed selves. Colossians 3:5-10
We become compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forgiving. Colossians 3:12-13
We become more loving, and we have the peace of Christ. Colossians 3:14-15
Our hearts are grateful and kind. Colossians 3:16-17

We hope that these would encourage you to take a moment to consider if you are viewing your life through an earthly lens, or heavenly lens. There is plenty of room for all of us to work on focusing on Jesus and his work, instead of ours here on the earth.

Prayerfully consider today where we are at in this journey.

Fear is not failing

Posted: July 13, 2016 in Thoughts on God

But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. (Judges 7:10 ESV)

When God asks us to do something it can be daunting, terrifying even, and cause us to fear. Maybe it is moving to a new city, asking someone if they know Jesus, or even quitting a job.

Gideon, a Judge in the Old Testament, experienced many daunting challenges at God’s request. There is encouragement for us in the story of Gideon; God didn’t look at Gideon as a failure because he was afraid and questioned God about the things he was supposed to do. In fact, each time he was afraid, God met him where he was at and provided for him.

In this verse, we read that Gideon was afraid to go down to the camp alone. So, God told him to go with one of his servants. God could have easily said, “In your fear you have failed Me, and I will use somebody else!” but he didn’t.

Don’t feel as if you’ve failed when God has called you to do something and you feel afraid; he will provide a way for you to make it through your fears and succeed. Being afraid is okay, but succumbing to that fear and being disobedient is not. God will call us to do hard things in our lifetime, but as with Gideon, He will be ever present and strong in our weakness!

Be encouraged today, and trust our good God to equip you for the work laid before you!

The yoke of Jesus

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

The word “yoke” can be foreign to those of us living in an industrialized nation. Basically, a yoke is a piece of wood that is used to hold two animals together, usually oxen, to help them share the load in pulling a till or a buggy of some sort. The key here is that the yoke allows the animals to support each other in pulling the heavy weight.

As we live our lives, we are often times yoked by many things. We might be yoked with a personal decision that is weighing heavy on us. We might even be yoked with a spouse who helps us in the hard times. We can even be yoked to sin as the Israelites were with Baal (Numbers 25:3). No matter how you look at it, we are yoked to something, whether good or bad.

Jesus tells us to come and take his yoke and we will find rest. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say he will take our burdens and attach his yoke to it as we standby and watch. No, he takes us under his yoke and carries those burdens with us along the way. In turn, he takes the majority of the burden and makes it “light” for us. We also “learn” from Jesus as we carry the burden with him. This allows us to learn to change from the inside instead of repeating the same wrong things over and over. Is there something pulling you down that you haven’t given to Jesus today?

Take off your yoke and join Jesus in lightening the load.

Being childlike

Posted: July 10, 2016 in Thoughts on God

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4 ESV)

Most of us want to know our life counts beyond the here and now. Jesus’ closest followers wanted to know more than that- they wanted to be the greatest in His kingdom. Jesus constantly turns our ideas of power and influence upside down. Jesus tells us we must take the posture of children to enter God’s kingdom, and that our humility will ultimately impact our influence.

In other scriptures Jesus issues a similar challenge by saying those who want to be greatest (first) must take the posture of servants and slaves (Mark 10:42-45). This requires turning away from a mindset that we are strong, wise, and competent in ourselves and approaching God with a sense of weakness, dependence, and submission. We must recognize Him as our Father and King.

-Why do you think Jesus challenges us to become like children to enter His kingdom?

-Do you ever find it difficult to take a posture of weakness, dependence, and submission
to God as your Father?

-How has pride prevented you from joining God in His kingdom activity?

Take a few minutes to ask God to show you how to take the posture of a child as you seek to know and follow Him.

The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups.

God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.

Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”