God does it for His name

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Thoughts on God

He restores my soul.
 He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3 ESV)

Why does God lead us and take care of us? We can probably list a number of reasons. A popular one may be, “Because of his love.” We know that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that we as Christians are to love above all (1 Peter 4:8). While these are true about God and love, they aren’t the only reason he takes care of and directs his people. Scripture teaches here that he does it “for his name’s sake”.

This isn’t an isolated verse or reason for God doing what he does throughout Scripture. We read in Ezekiel 20:14 that he took care of the Israelites in order that the foreign nations wouldn’t profane his name and the list of verses could go on. This can be hard concept to grasp. We would say a person is conceited and self centered if they do things or help others simply to look good, and have people fawn over them. But with God, this is no mere cockiness or arrogance, it is profound love.

In Psalm 109:21 we are told that God deals on our behalf because his steadfast love is good. God can be loving and also care about his name without the negative connotations that may seem to accompany it. He isn’t any of these negative things, because he is the best, because he is the strongest, because he is the kindest, because he loves the most and the greatest! And because of all of these things he deserves his name to be praised as he is above all other names.

In fact, God would be unloving if he made any less of himself, because drawing people to him will ever be for their greatest good. Understand this and be encouraged that we will be led and be taken care of by the Father, because he has a name worthy to be praised!

Thank God today for having a name that is above all names.

Tradition, good or bad

Posted: June 8, 2017 in Thoughts on God

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:6-8 ESV)

Traditions can be good things. They can often remind us of where we came from or help us to focus on Jesus during our church services. Unfortunately, they can also be a great cause trouble and turmoil in the church. Churches have split because one group won’t let go of a tradition, while the other sees no need for it.

Why do churches split over traditions? It happens when we hold a tradition as a commandment from God that cannot be changed. Jesus was responding to the pharisees looked at him as a bad person because he was breaking their traditions. Their traditions seemed good and were meant to honor God. But, they judged people by how well they kept the traditions and not how much they loved God.

As we hold on to our traditions above anything else, we are not honoring God with our hearts. We are in reality honoring him with just our lips. Are there things you are judging others by that are not commandments of God? It might be what people wear to church, the version of Bible that is taught from, or maybe the music a church plays. Remember that traditions can take many different forms in our lives and our churches.

Focus on what Jesus has called you to do and not what a tradition calls you to do.

The reasonable Christian

Posted: June 6, 2017 in Thoughts on God

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Philippians 4:5 ESV)

“They will know you by your love.” This saying is often used in the church as we talk of reaching others for Jesus. This is taken from the famous verse in John 13:35. A question we need to ask ourselves though is, “What does this love look like?”. It can be helping those around us, giving to the needy, or just lending an ear to someone as they vent. But, what if showing love meant being a reasonable person?

The greek word for “reasonable” can also be translated to the word “gentle” with its definition: seemly, equitable, yielding. Does this sound like you?

Aren’t we called to be strong in our stances and to not bend in what we believe? The answer is yes!! But we can do it in a reasonable manner.

Too many times Christians can be looked at as a hard headed group of people who want argue with everyone we don’t agree with. You know, that guy who wants to always argue and is never wrong. I know I am guilty of being one of those people at times. We aren’t going to change people by belittling their views and putting them down. We are going to win them over with love when we reasonably disagree with them and lovingly show them where we differ. Our arguments don’t change people, Jesus changes people.

Have you been a reasonable Christian today?

Grace tomorrow and today

Posted: June 5, 2017 in Thoughts on God

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5)

We often focus on the future grace we will enjoy with the return of Jesus. At the end of many church services we hear of our need to put our faith in Jesus so that we can some day get to heaven where we will receive that grace. Yes, this is correct. But, if we look closely at today’s text, we can clearly see that there was a lot more wrong than right in our lives before we came to faith in Christ.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

We followed Satan (a none too popular truth), lived in the passions of our flesh, and behaved as we desired. But, because of God’s love for us we are no longer slaves to self, sin, or Satan! No longer are we “dead in our trespasses”, we are made alive in Him. It is only by God’s grace that we can follow and obey His commandments. No more being carried here and there by the ways of the world, God’s grace has made a way for us while we live here on the earth. Now our deepest desires are to do God’s will and live worshipping Him instead of ourselves.

God’s grace is not only for the future, but to be experienced in the present.

Be a grace giver

Posted: June 2, 2017 in Thoughts on God

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

The question of genuine forgiveness is one of eternal importance. And why is it, you may ask, so crucial that Christians forgive? For starters, Jesus’ statement in today’s text is quite a compelling reason, for “if you do not forgive others…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Suffice it to say then, we had better make sure we are forgiving “our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Here’s the bottom line: forgiveness is such a central element to Christianity that it is an indicator of salvation! Not that we are saved by any works of our own, such as forgiving others, but that when we are reconciled to God through Christ, our new life will be marked by grace giving and forgiveness.

Remember, our sin was exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our wrong for His right, our injustice for His justice. God meets our rebellion and pride with grace in and through the person and work of Jesus. Those to whom grace is extended should also extend grace, and those to whom forgiveness is extended should also extend forgiveness.

Forgive as you have been forgiven. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s at the core of who you are in Christ.

The reason to fast

Posted: June 1, 2017 in Thoughts on God

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

The fourth chapter of Matthew contains this famous interaction between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness. Jesus was of course just finishing a forty day fast, and “was hungry” (Matthew 4:2). What Jesus affirms in this interchange is an eternal truth and one that still bears upon our lives today: food isn’t the only thing that sustains us.

When we fast, we are forcing ourselves into a position of weakness and humility. God obviously designed us to take in life-giving nourishment through food and water, but as we are fasting, we focus upon the deep truth that God’s word is actually more vital to our living than bread! This is a lesson not learned lightly though, but through experience.

You see, we are generally controlled greatly by our bodily impulses. Impulses to eat, sleep, drink, or even go to the restroom. But when we fast, we deny our flesh control over this extremely important aspect of our life. As we hunger for food, we are constantly aware of our weakness. Fasting then is not simply about praying for God’s intervention in a given situation, but also about the Holy Spirit creating in us a repentant heart that realizes our constant weakness often masked in the routine of life.

Remember, fasting is a great time of humility, where we may join the Psalmist in crying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 ESV)

The God story

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Thoughts on God

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
(Genesis 48:15 ESV)

As literacy increases in our cultures and instant access to information on the web is so readily available, the need to pass down history through verbal forms or storytelling is gradually dying if not already dead in your part of the world. This was not the case in the Old Testament. As Jacob was blessing his son Joseph, he reminded him of his family history and how God was so important in it.

We also see that God introduces himself to Jacob as this in Genesis 28:13 and again to Moses in Exodus 3:6. There is obviously something important about knowing your roots in God if this is how he introduces himself and we read throughout the Old Testament the Israelites constantly refer to God this way. Does God really want us to refer to him this way? Maybe.

We can also refer to him as the God who was the God of our grandparents and parents. That might seem weird because we may not really know the God stories of our parents or grandparents. They may not have been passed down to us. That doesn’t mean we can’t start doing it now for future generations.

As the world becomes more hostile to Jesus and less writing reflects the positives of Christianity, we still have our oral stories that we can pass down from one generation to another telling of what God has done in our lives and in the lives of our family members. Maybe there isn’t a tradition of God stories in your family, this is fine. You can be the one to start them. You can be your family’s first Abraham!

What God story can you tell?