Confidence in our calling

Posted: August 8, 2017 in Thoughts on God

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8 ESV)

This was a tall order the Lord was setting before Jeremiah, as he was called to declare the coming of God’s judgement upon the nation of Judah. This would frighten anyone.

Jeremiah had never done this before. It even appears he wasn’t an eloquent speaker (Jeremiah 1:6). But, God assured the young Jeremiah he would be with him. And isn’t that the most important to any calling—that God with us? Jeremiah didn’t have to worry, because God called him to speak. And not on his personal authority, but on God’s.

Each of us has a calling and a part to play as a member of the Body of Christ. This can be a scary thought for us too, as we imagine the responsibility we have to other believers.

Amazingly, God’s call never requires us to lean on our own talents and abilities first and foremost. But upon his empowerment!

God doesn’t require us to equip ourselves before he calls us. Rather, he equips the people he calls.

So, what has God called you to be? Are you letting fear hold you back?

Read and meditate on 1 Corinthians 12 today, and consider your calling.

How to deal with anger

Posted: August 7, 2017 in Thoughts on God

A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
But a wise man quietly holds it back.

(Proverbs 29:11 ESV)

The question of how to deal with anger in a biblical way is an important one. But it’s certainly not the cookie-cutter answer many of us have heard.

Have you ever had a moment where you said something in red-hot anger? Only to ask yourself moments later: “How could I say that?”

Sadly, I’ve had far too many of these moments. And today’s devotional verse calls me out as acting like a “fool” who let anger control my words and actions.

However, I don’t think the heart of this passage is to simply suppress anger or other negative emotions. It’s not about pretending like anger isn’t there.

After all, psychologically speaking, shoving emotions aside doesn’t make them go away. Instead, it creates a tangled pile that will surface and need dealt with later.

So, what does the Bible teach us?

Jesus has some pretty tough words against acting in anger.

He taught that everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to the same kind of judgment as a murderer (Matthew 5:20–21). And yet, he also chased predatory business people out of the synagogue with a whip (Matthew 21:12)!

Here are three ways to deal with anger biblically:

  1. Ask for the Holy Spirit to increase the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Galatians 5:22–23). When we’re angry, it’s actually the quickest path to being pruned and prepared for incredible growth. And understand that we absolutely need the Holy Spirit’s power to mature us here!
  2. Address the anger head on by making peace with the person or situation you’re angry with. Jesus teaches us that conflict is actually the path to peace (Matthew 18:15–17Matthew 5:23–24). Lashing out and attacking is not the way Christians do conflict. But avoiding it altogether and seething in anger is unbiblical as well.
  3. Ask if your anger is righteous and justified—which is sometimes the case. And if so, does it require action? Is there evil or injustice to confront? Someone who is weak to defend? If so, act! But don’t do so to give “vent to your spirit” just to make yourself feel better. Be angry, but do not sin (Psalm 4:4). Righteous anger is aligned with God. It’s being angry at what makes God angry.

How will you deal with anger in a God-honoring way? Is there unresolved conflict that you need to deal with?

Walking with God

Posted: August 6, 2017 in Thoughts on God

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

(Micah 6:6-8 ESV)

God does not want just our sacrifices or our good deeds. He will not share us with our ambitions or hobbies. He wants all of us.

Sunday mornings and a few quick prayers said before we lay down to sleep are not enough. He wants us to relentlessly pursue him. Not because he needs us, but because we need him.

We were created for worship and to bring honor and glory to his name. When we don’t give ourselves fully to God, we are the ones who suffer. The endless pursuits of personal pleasure always lead to emptiness. God is jealous, not because our rejection hurts his ego, but because it hurts his heart.

He knows our greatest needs and that he can only truly fill us with joy.

When Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). He made it clear that everything we needed would be given if we would simply put him first. This is in no way a prosperity gospel.

Jesus cast no illusions that the Christian life would be easy. He meant that He is all we truly need. Paul got this. He learned to be content no matter what his circumstances. He learned the secret of true happiness.

When he said “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:9). He was essentially saying Jesus is enough.

Jesus is not one of many great things, He is the only great thing. I am tired of serving the god of self. I am tired of giving Christ only part of my heart. I want to do the will of my Lord. I will seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God!

Are you walking humbly with God, or are you serving the god of self?

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 ESV)

This scene of Job’s right heart toward God is beautiful. Even stricken with grief, he worshiped.

What anguished him was the devastating news he received from four messengers in rapid succession. They brought him the news as follows:

  • First Messenger: The Sabeans have plundered your oxen and donkeys, and have killed your servants with swords.
  • Second Messenger: A fire storm of some caliber fell from heaven, consuming your sheep and servants.
  • Third Messenger: Three groups of Chaldeans raided your camels and killed the servants who were with them.
  • Fourth Messenger: Your sons and daughters were enjoying each other’s company when a freak wind storm destroyed the house they were in, crushing them dead.

Any one of these messages would have been difficult in their own right, but imagine receiving this news all at once. He simultaneously lost nearly everything he had, from property to his children, and was left with little more than himself and the clothes on his back.

How did Job respond?

He “fell on the ground and worshiped.” He worshiped God through His right heart, without sinning.

Often, we don’t think of worship as anymore than more singing songs at church. But let us learn to worship God always as Job did, especially in the hard times.

Remember, our hearts are never so honest as when we are in the midst of trying circumstances. How will the Lord find our hearts in difficult situations?

Worship God with the knowledge that He is unchangeably good, even in the worst moments of our lives.

The question of how to deal with anger in a biblical way is an important one. But it’s certainly not the cookie-cutter answer many of us have heard.

Have you ever had a moment where you said something in red-hot anger? Only to ask yourself moments later: “How could I say that?”

Sadly, I’ve had far too many of these moments. And today’s devotional verse calls me out as acting like a “fool” who let anger control my words and actions.

However, I don’t think the heart of this passage is to simply suppress anger or other negative emotions. It’s not about pretending like anger isn’t there.

After all, psychologically speaking, shoving emotions aside doesn’t make them go away. Instead, it creates a tangled pile that will surface and need dealt with later.

So, what does the Bible teach us?

Jesus has some pretty tough words against acting in anger.

He taught that everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to the same kind of judgment as a murderer (Matthew 5:20–21). And yet, he also chased predatory business people out of the synagogue with a whip (Matthew 21:12)!

Here are three ways to deal with anger biblically:

  1. Ask for the Holy Spirit to increase the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Galatians 5:22–23). When we’re angry, it’s actually the quickest path to being pruned and prepared for incredible growth. And understand that we absolutely need the Holy Spirit’s power to mature us here!
  2. Address the anger head on by making peace with the person or situation you’re angry with. Jesus teaches us that conflict is actually the path to peace (Matthew 18:15–17Matthew 5:23–24). Lashing out and attacking is not the way Christians do conflict. But avoiding it altogether and seething in anger is unbiblical as well.
  3. Ask if your anger is righteous and justified—which is sometimes the case. And if so, does it require action? Is there evil or injustice to confront? Someone who is weak to defend? If so, act! But don’t do so to give “vent to your spirit” just to make yourself feel better. Be angry, but do not sin (Psalm 4:4). Righteous anger is aligned with God. It’s being angry at what makes God angry.

How will you deal with anger in a God-honoring way? Is there unresolved conflict that you need to deal with?

Jesus is for you

Posted: August 2, 2017 in Thoughts on God

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV)

King Jesus is alive and glowing with power, like the sun (Revelation 1:12-16).

He is sovereign, which means possessing supreme or ultimate power. He is worthy of our adoration, our worship, and our lives. But before all of these, he’s also worthy of our hearts.

Jesus is worthy of our worship and our lives—he’s also worthy of our hearts.
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Yesterday, we considered our response to King Jesus in light of the Apostle John’s reaction to him. He literally fell at Jesus’ feet “as though dead.” But what happened next?

King Jesus “laid his hand on me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Jesus displayed his heart toward his worshipper. The King’s heart is for us. It is not hardened by power, but compassionate.

His work on the earth has brought salvation to us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). And his reign extends that grace! He still reaches down to pull us up, still places his mighty hand upon our shoulders, in love.

We worship a mighty King—but more importantly a loving God.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)

Our modern perspective makes it tough to understand how uncomfortable and offensive Jesus’ words in today’s verse were.

In our culture, the cross is often relegated to being a good luck charm. A stylish piece of jewelry, a cool tattoo, or a symbolic piece of art to hang on a wall.

Even in Christian circles we’ve sanitized our perspective of the cross with pictures of a smooth-skinned Jesus with little more than small trickles of blood.

People from 2,000 years ago would be shocked at how we utilize the cross.
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In their time, it was considered the most painful, gruesome, and shameful way to die.

Good Roman citizens were not supposed to talk about it, and the ancient Jewish historian Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths.” Jewish people had witnessed literally thousands of their countrymen crucified on hillsides, so their picture of the cross was radically different than ours.

The Romans purpose behind crucifixion was simple: to provide the most painful, gruesome, and publicly shameful death imaginable. It was a terrifying way of ruling by fear.

The condemned person was forced to carry the horizontal portion of the cross, weighing about 110 pounds, through the streets in a procession to the place of execution. As the condemned would walk the streets people would scream insults and spit as he walked.

Historical Roman accounts have established that rough seven-to-eight-inch nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists, rather than the palms. The soldier would then take the left foot and press it backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, one nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.

The condemned is now crucified.

This is the picture they saw as Jesus spoke the words from today’s verses.

As we let this sink in, we should be assured that our journey was never meant to be easy.

Re-read the verse and reflect on what it means to you now. How does this change the way you approach following Jesus?