Archive for March, 2018

The other side of faith? (Genesis 22)

March 16, 2018

17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[d] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Abraham, what is on the other side?  Isaac, what is on the other side?  And by the way, What is on the other side of this day for you and I?

Abraham has lived a long life.  He is well into his one-hundreds of life.  He has experienced the grace of God for so long.  Two things have characterized his years following God:

  • He has walked by faith since the day the Lord called Him to salvation and to service, Genesis 12-15.

He was not perfect, Genesis 16-18.  But he was progressing day by day.

  • He waited in faith for 25 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son.

Genesis 15 through 21 walks us through those years.  One might ask, what more could God do in this man’s life?  One would conclude, this is a mega faith guy.  But there was more to the story.

In Genesis 22, Abraham is in a war of faith.

The man who waited in faith and received the promise of God (Romans 4:25-32) is not in a war with his faith.  He is being asked to give to God his only son.  The son of promise.

Read the lines very carefully here:

God is going to test you in the areas of what is most important to you.  God will always ask for the most important thing in your life.  The question is, “Will you give it?”

Abraham crossed over to the other side of amazing faith in giving everything to God.  When he did, he discovered that God has already provided everything he and his son needed to be victorious on the other side.

Jesus is our lamb, John 1:29; I Peter 1:19; and Romans 5:12.  Jesus is the reward for a life of sacrifice and Jesus is the Redeemer who sacrificed everything for us.

The question for our moment is this:  “Is He worth the sacrifice on this side to get to the other side of where He is?”

Abraham’s answer: “Yes.”  What will be our answer today?

When the hour has come (John 17)

March 14, 2018

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, John 17:1

It was time, the hour had come.  Jesus was in the last mile of His journey leading to the cross.  The air was heavy and the unknown loomed heavy on the horizon for Jesus Apprentices.  What was about to happen?

We know the cross was about to happen.  Jesus was going to pay for the sins of the world (I John 2:1-2).

What would you engage in doing, if you came to the last hour of your life?

Jesus prayed!!!

I am amazed at this.  In complete peace, control, and focus Jesus called out to the Father.  His prayer stands as my all-time favorite prayer to read and to learn from.  Here is what Jesus prayed:

  1. Jesus prayed for His own journey, Vs: 1-5

He asks the Father to honor Him on the cross so that He could give honor back to Him. He asks the Father to validate His work by calling Him back home to heaven when the work was completed.   Jesus wanted the world to know they Father.

2. Jesus prayed for His apprentices journey, Vs: 6-19.

Jesus has taught those men of who God is.  In this moment they have come to understand who Jesus is and His connection to the Father.  He prays for their unity in the work of building the church. He prays for their protection from the evil one.  He prays for their sanctification as He is commissioning them to take the gospel to the nations.

3. Jesus prayed for your journey. Vs: 20-24.

This part of Jesus prayer always humbles me and it always recenter’s my life to the journey I am on.  Jesus asks for the church’s unity in the gospel.  He prays that the world would believe the message we proclaim.  He prays for the day that all believers would spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Brothers and sisters, if this were my last hour, I would pray to the Father that I would be able to preach the gospel to those who needed it most and I would pray for God’s favor in their eyes being opened and they heart being responsive to Jesus!!!

Take time today to reread this chapter with the mind to take notes and then with the heart to see Jesus prayer fulfilled in your life and in my life.

The Lord’s Will (James 4)

March 13, 2018

15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:15-17

“I know this is the Lord’s will for my life.”  These were the words of a teenager who was convinced they knew God’s will on a certain matter of life.  Here was the response the father gave to his son, “Is it God’s will or is it your will?”

Such is the question that we must ask ourselves on a daily basis.  What is the Lord’s will for my life.  This question arises in my heart as I read James 4.  In particular the section that includes verses 13-18.  It seems as if James has set before us a person who believes they have their future set.  But the reality is, no one knows the future but God.

Here is a big deal moment for us: “We are not in charge of time.  We only have the moments God will’s for our lives!”

So, we ask, what is God’s will for our lives?  The answer to this question is covered in the verses leading up to our focal text:

  1. We are to seek God’s will by conducting ourselves in a Spirit-filled way, 3:13-18.
  2. We are to resist the ways of the world by being humble in God’s sight, 4:1-6.
  3. We are to daily submit to what God is directing in our lives, 4:7-10.
  4. We are to resist commenting concerning God’s will for other people’s lives, 4:11-12.

These four steps are God’s path to knowing and doing His will.  But the question for us is this: “Do we do the will of God?”

To the man who knows to do God’s will and does not do it, it is sin.

I want to do God’s will.  But to do it I have to spend my day totally focused on doing the will of God.  How does this happen?  Here is how it words:

  1. I am seeking God’s will through a daily prayer life.
  2. I am resisting the ways of the world when I am pure in every action.
  3. I am daily submitting to God as I purposefully take each step in the day.
  4. I am resisting judging others as I focus on my own production of doing the will of God.

Father, may we be found doing your will today.

What must I do? (Proverbs 16)

March 12, 2018

16 The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.[a]
Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:1-3

Whenever I think of the book of Proverbs I think about wisdom literature from God.  In different seasons of my life I have often read through the book of Proverbs.  Usually it was either when it came time in my reading plan or during the times when God is bearing down on my soul.

Today we come here in our reading plan, but maybe for you there is something bearing down in your soul.

Chapter 16 begins with a straightforward statement: Each person is responsible to make planes for life.  Each person is also responsible for the carrying out of those plans.

I don’t know about you, but this is sometimes disturbing to me because my plans affect so many people.  Pay close attention to what is next: God is willing to inform you of the correct plan if you will ask.

Certainly there are moments when we believe our plans are the best, but only God knows if our plans are from Him or from ourselves.

Here is what I am sure of: If I place all my plans before Him and seek His will, the plans will be established because they will be of Him.

Question: How do you determine God’s daily plan for your life?

Here is how Proverbs 16 would direct us:

  • Take the time to be in the Word daily so that God is speaking to you, Vs: 20.
  • Take time to listen to God in a daily time of prayer and meditation, Vs: 21.
  • Value what God says as if it is worth more than gold and silver, Vs: 16.
  • Carry out God’s plan with precession knowing He is for you, Vs: 3.

Maybe you ask, how do I know God wants to direct me?  Read the sweet words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

As the day was breaking (John 21)

March 9, 2018

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. John 21:4

It would be hard for us to imagine how discouraged and defeated Peter must have been on that afternoon, just before sundown, when he said, “I am going fishing.”  This was his old go to spot when he needed to think.  It was his familiar place where he could work with his hands without thinking.  But thinking is what he was doing.  Just a few days earlier he and he fellow disciples had done the unthinkable. These men denied and abandoned the Lord.

John briefly tells us about the night of catching nothing.  Now the day is breaking!

Maybe you find yourself in a spot where you are discouraged and defeated.  The day has just begun and you don’t know where the energy will come from to give you the ability to get through the day.

2 things transpire in John 21 that give us the answer to our moment:

  • discouraging night gives way to a miracle morning, Vs: 4-14.

We see four things here:  We see the provision of God in providing what they could not work for.  We see the person of Jesus who comes to where they are.  He shows up in our moments.  We see the kindness of God in asking the men to come and dine.  We finally see the power of God in that they are eating a meal with the resurrected Lord.

  • defeated life gives way to a missional life, Vs: 15-19.

Peter is being brought to a place of humility before God.  This was a defining moment.  Peter was now realizing he was no better than the other disciples.  He was a sinner who needed the holiness of God.  He was a man who was being called to mission.

The words of Jesus ring in our ears: “Come and dine.”  “Follow Me.”

The truth is, discouragement comes to all of us.  But a not so obvious truth is: discouragement does not have to give way to defeat.  If we come before God each morning dining with Him at His table spread for us (In His Word), we will be encouraged, equipped, and energized for the work we are called to do.

Peter would, from this moment forward, face many moments of discouragement.  But each of them would strengthen him for the mission of God!!!

God’s mercies are new every morning.  Feast on them today for His glory.

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our dwelling place[a]
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”[b]
For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span[c] is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor[d] of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

An unbeatable combination (James 2)

March 8, 2018

26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:26

In my lifetime I have been blessed to experience combinations that are amazing.  Here are a few examples:  Peanut Butter and Jelly, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and Peanut Butter and Banana.  Can I get an “Amen” from someone?

Certainly there are many other combinations in life that have been unbeatable such as sports stars working together for a championship run.

However, what may be unbeatable for one person may be disaster for another.  For example, my son loves Jelly, Chocolate, and Banana’s.  But if you add peanut butter to the mix, it would be deadly because of his allergic reaction to peanut butter.

Question:  Is there ever a time when faith and works are a deadly combination?

The answer is very important to us.  Faith and works according to James are unbeatable if our faith is in Jesus and our work comes out of that faith.

In James 2 we see two illustrations of this:

James 2:1-11

  • Faith says, “God loves all people equally.”
  • Works responds: “I will show no partiality.”

This combination becomes deadly when sin enters the mix.  Sin clouds our minds to the point that we can believe our faith is real when in fact it is wrong because our works are revealing a sinful heart of partiality.

James 2:14-26

  • Faith says, “I have a relationship with Jesus that is real.”
  • Works responds: “I want to live out my faith because Jesus is real.”

Apart from each other the individual parts are of no value.  It is when they work together that they become an unbeatable combination.

I pray that this day will be productive in your life for the glory of God!

A personal matter (Psalm 32)

March 7, 2018

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Psalm 32:3-4

Something was wrong and it was obvious to those who were closest to him.  But the question was, what was wrong with him.  Some gave reasons why, but most simply said, “it was a personal matter.”  And brothers and sisters, this is exactly what it was.

When you are the King, everything is your own business.  Who was this king?  His name is David.  The story of what was wrong is found in II Samuel 11-12.  The truth that comes from the story is what is before us this morning.

David begins this Psalm with amazing truth: God blessings are upon the person who is in the right relationship with God! We see this in verses one and two.  Such a person’s rebellion has been confessed and forgiven.  This person has a clean record with God.  This person is now in the right relationship with God.

But the Psalmist admits this has not always been the case.  David gives us a glimpse into his personal life in verses three and four.  Why was David not always blessed?  The answer is simply this, he remained silent concerning his sin.

The blessing of God was restored only when David acknowledged his sin, confessed it as sin, repented of his sin, and then he received forgiveness of his sin.

Brothers and sisters, here is what the Psalmist wanted us to get from this glimpse into his personal life:

  • Godly people face temptation.
  • Godly people focus on the truth.  We do not have to give into sin.  God offers us a way of escape each time, I Corinthians 10:10-13.
  • Godly people must be faithful when tempted:
    • We must give ourselves to a lifestyle of prayer.
    • We must seek to be pure in our thought life.
    • We must be humbly dependent on God.
    • We must trust in what He says we are to do.
    • We must be holy in our actions in life.
    • We must be worshippers who have God’s glory as our goal.

When we live this way, we will not be perfect, but we will be overcomes in the personal issues of our lives.  May God be glorified in you today!!!

A trusting soul (I Peter 5)

March 6, 2018

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. I Peter 4:19

In my home state, Kentucky, people are widely known for their many sayings.  Well, at least my dad is knowing for his many sayings.  One of the sayings that came to mind as I read I Peter 5 was this, “He or she has a trusting soul.”

Usually that saying was used in jest as person was being accused of being foolish in trusting someone who was not trust worthy.  Question: “What do you and I trust in whom do we trust?”

At the end of I Peter 4, we are challenged to entrust our souls to God.  Those who do literally are labeled as, “Trusting Souls!”  I believe God is challenging us to trust Him.  Follow the path in chapter 5:

  • God challenges the pastors to trusting in their ministry for Him, 5:1-4.
  • God challenges all Christians to humbly trust in Him, 5:5.
  • God challenges all Christians to patiently trust in Him, 5:6.
  • God challenges all Christians to walk through trials by trusting in Him, 5:7.
  • God challenges all Christians to engage in spiritual warfare trusting in Him, 5:8-9.
  • God challenges all Christians to look forward to what is to come by trusting in Him, 5:9-11.

A trusting soul is someone who “stands firm” in faith, I Corinthians 15:1.

So, are you standing firm?  Can it be said that you are a trusting sou?  In my life I must admit there are moments when I listen to my old nature that is trained in handling trials in my own way.  In my sinfulness I will not trust my life into anyone else’s hand.  But in Christ, I have learned that I can trust Him with everything.

This every day, I want to challenge you to become a trusting soul!!!

Take a moment and sing this old hymn of the faith and see if it blesses your soul.

Simply trusting every day

TextPianoGuitar
1
Simply trusting every day;
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by,
Trusting Him, whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
2
Brightly doth His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
3
Singing if my way be clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger, for Him call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
4
Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth is past,
Till His gracious advent call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Are you Afraid? (Matthew 8)

March 5, 2018

26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  Matthew 8:26

As I stood beside the bed of this precious saint of God, I noticed how nervous she was concerning the knee replacement surgery she was about to have.  I asked, “How can I pray for you?”  She responded: “Pray for peace.”

Each of us can identify with our sister.  When we face moments of the unknown it is easy to become afraid!  As we consider Matthew 8 this day, I want to point you to the great contrast we see in the text.

We read of those who came to Jesus without fear believing He was able:

  • We see it in the approach of the leper who says: “I know you can heal me.” 8:1-4.
  • We see it in the centurion who believed Jesus had authority to speak and it would be done. 8:5-13.
  • We see it in Peter’s house when multitudes came believing Jesus was able to meet their needs. 8:14-17.

Truly we can say: “Faith overcomes fear.”

But we also read of those who encountered Jesus with great fear:

  • The apprentices are fearful because of the perceived power of the storm. 8:23-27.
  • We see people who delay their following of Jesus because they were afraid of what they would have to sacrifice. 8:18-22.
  • We see the Demons who were fearful of what Jesus was going to do to them. 8:28-34.

Truly we can say: “Fear overcomes us when we fail to place our faith in Jesus.”

Think about the centurion who placed his faith, not in his ability, but totally in Jesus.  His faith was great because it was placed in the one who was great.

This day, may the Lord direct your heart into great faith, in Jesus, that overcomes the fear that grips your heart as you face the unknown in your day.  Here are some amazing verses that remove fear:

I John 5:4-5

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Quit Shaking (Hebrews 12)

March 2, 2018

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

I can still remember when the shaking began.  I was a 20-year-old guy working my first car accident as a volunteer fireman.  The man who was in the accident died of a massive heart-attack, but the crash would have killed him instantly.  His body was a mess.  I was find all through directing the team at the scene, but as soon as I got home the shaking began.  It continued for quit a while as I replayed over and over the scene, the shock, the sorrow, and the sight of the tragedy.

Maybe you are in a place that is causing you to shake?

It was this way with the Hebrew believers.  They were experiencing suffering (10:34).  It was getting to them.  Their confidence was getting low (10:35).  The writer said, “you need endurance,” 10:36.  He gave them many examples of people who endured moments of shaking because they had strong faith in God.  Hebrews 11.

In the chapter before us we find no less than 5 actions we are to take when we (Christ-followers) begin to shake:

  1. We are to let up in the path we are in.   We are to give God our weights and we are to cease sinning in worry and doubt.
  2. We are to look up.  We look directly into the life of Jesus.  He is the Author (beginning point) and the finisher (carry us across the finish line) of our faith.
  3. We are to keep up.  God intends for us always consider Jesus in our walk and to embrace God’s discipline of our lives.  He is defining us and developing us in the midst of the storms of life.
  4. We are to lift up.  When we come to shaky moments, we are to lift up our minds above the shock and sorrow of the world.  We love people and we weep for them, but we lift up our spirits in knowing that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
  5. We are to stay up.  This day I know whom I have believed and I believe He is able to see me through!!!

 

These 5 actions helped me on that tragic day of shaking and honestly I go through these steps over and over again each time I begin to shake.  I offer these to you as well.