Below you will find some of my favorites.
Psalm 23:5 NIV: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
God calls me to do something, and I begin with enthusiasm. But as some point my fervor fades, and my dedication dissipates. I find I've very little left to give. Perhaps it's because I've been neglecting being filled. David said, "My cup overflows." It is difficult to find your cup overflowing if you do not intentionally hold your cup under the outpouring of God. All too often, we ask the Lord why we feel empty, or why we don't see His fruits, or why we don't feel His presence, or His power, or understand His purpose. All too often, we struggle to find His will and wonder what we're missing; all the while we have yet to diligently seek Him with a whole heart. We are like a man who eats nothing all day and wonders why he is hungry the next morning. But God is faithful, and "He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Are you empty inside? Seek the Lord diligently and with all your heart. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
Psalm 20:7 NIV: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Imagine being confronted by someone desiring to take your life. What do you do? Are you prepared for such an encounter? Now imagine being confronted by a hundred people trying to take your life. What do you do? Perhaps in the first instance, you might try to defend yourself -- and in the second instance -- you may simply fall on your face and ask God to save you. So what's the difference? At what point do you decide that situation is too big for you? At what point do you decide you need God? In all of life's situations, God is ready, able, and pleased to be your Rock and your Fortress. From the life threatening situations, to the smallest things, He is present. You do not, nor should you, wait until you reach the limit of your own self-reliance. The questions may vary, but the answer is always the same -- seek Him first and find His way to handle even that which you think you can handle without Him.
Joshua 1:8 NIV: Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Bible Study. Those words mean different things to different people. In the minds of the worldly, they seem an outdated, backward notion?superfluous with regard to reality. But to the people of God, they mean something else. But what do they mean? Do the words, "Bible study," cause us to think of something like a chore, or a task? If so, our hearts are not treasuring the Word of God as they should. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." In that case, our hearts are most likely putting something else ahead of God -- whether want or worry. Let us hope that the words, "Bible study," are endearing words to us. Words that draw to mind thoughts of learning more about our Lord, and to our hearts, feelings of drawing closer to Him.
Matthew 23:11-12 NIV: The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Surely, by now, we have all heard that what the world says makes a person a success in life, is not truly what makes a person a success. The most money, the nicest job, the biggest house, and the largest banking account do not impress our Lord. After all, we are more interested in how God views success over what the world tells us-right? The Bible tells us that the pursuit of such things will come to nothing; it is vanity-a chasing after the wind. In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs us as to what is worth seeking, and that being the righteousness of God. It is not the world, or us, or even the church that defines success, but God alone. In seeking God first, we learn to define success even as God does. Even within the church there are various ideals of what success looks like. Such ideals have often turned Christians to pursue religion ahead of Jesus. This sometimes leads Christians to seek to become people who are looked up to. But power, prestige, and self-importance have no place in God's church. It is not, nor ever will be, those who are exalted by the world, or the church, or themselves who are successful-but those who are first and foremost servants to all.
Hebrews 12:4 NIV: In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
We are blessed in that God's endless grace covers all sin. But, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" Paul asked. "By no means!" he answered, "We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Rom. 6:1). Paul goes further, in Romans 6, to tell us that we are no longer slaves to sin, but that we have been set free from sin. So why do we give up the fight? We are no longer mastered by sin, but we say, "I'm only human. I don't want to sin, but I can't help it." We see no hope, and we see ourselves as helpless to do anything to be truly free from sin. When Jacob wanted God to bless him, he wrestled with God and said he would not let Him go until God blessed him. What would happen if in our struggle against sin, we were to immediately open the Bible and say, "God, I am struggling with temptation, and I will not stop reading Your Word until You bless me and take away the urges to sin?" In our struggle against sin, we may not need to resist to the point of shedding our blood-we may simply need to quickly put God's Word between us and sin, and keep it there as long as necessary.
James 1:22 NIV: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Application of God's Word to our lives is our ultimate goal of personal Bible study, so that through His Word, we might be transformed by His truths. Depending upon where you are in your spiritual walk, application can take on many different shapes. Sometimes, application is like a salve applied daily until an irritation is cleared up. Sometimes, it is like setting a broken bone-quickly done-then clothed with a protective covering while healing takes place. Sometimes, it is a bandage covering something not terribly severe, but in need of protection from dirt and infection. Whatever the case, God's Word (like so many healing aids), won't work for us unless we apply it. God knows your heart and what you need and He has just what you need to move forward in your walk with Him. If you are not sure how to apply His Word, just ask God, and try asking a Christian friend to help. Many others have been down the path you are on, and would be more than willing to help any who are themselves willing to be helped.
Matthew 4:17 KJV: From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Consider the words, "at hand." If we have a pencil at hand, we have a pencil near and in our reach. When Jesus came to us, He placed the Kingdom of Heaven in our reach. The Kingdom of Heaven was not only something near as in the future, but near as in "Stretch out thy hand." As a man seemed to grasp what Jesus was teaching, Jesus told him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). As children of God, we belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. We are part of His glorious and eternal Kingdom. We need not wait to enjoy the riches of our relationship with God. He is near--even within our reach.
Romans 12:2 NIV: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Perhaps the greatest struggle we have within our spirit is simply learning to notice we have one. The physical world around us demands our attention and that we respond to it in a physical manner. We are so conditioned to base our thinking on what we can hear, touch, taste or smell, that the small, quiet voice of our spirit within is stifled?or just plain ignored. The effect is that we react to life more out of a mind of flesh, than a spiritual mind controlled by Christ. What can we do about it? We must be "transformed by the renewing of" our minds. Through continuing in prayer, God?s Word, and receiving godly counsel, we make ourselves available to be reshaped by the hand of our Father. In time, we will begin to respond more often as Jesus would, and not so much as the flesh would.
Matthew 5:38-39 NIV: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, 'Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.'"
It can be like a slap in the face. Someone takes advantage of you or cheats you, and does so without a care. It's evident that you are nothing to that person. You are simply a means to an end. What do you do? The easy and quick answer is to stand up for your rights. Some will tell you that, "You have to look out for yourself," and, "You can't let people walk all over you." But the wisdom of Christ says something different. Jesus tells us to "turn the other cheek." He tells us, "vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." He tells us, "bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." About this time, something in my flesh may want to rise up and say, "But what about..." in this case or that? Am I willing to put aside my desire for vindication, and seek God's desire above all? I can go to His Word and find direction if I am willing to follow in faith and obedience. I can find through Him a peaceful resolution that will ease my heart, and also bring Him glory.
Acts 20:24 NIV: However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
Consider how we care for objects of value. Consider how we give special attention to making sure a thing of value is well kept, safe, and secure. Can you think of something in your own life that you take special care of? What is it worth to you? Is it something that you care not only for its safety, but you also put money or time into it to keep it in good repair? What about your life? How do you consider it? Do you invest time and money into it? And to what ends? What is your life worth to you? It is true that we pour our resources into the things that are worth the most to us. And while many of us would consider our lives worth a great deal, and needing time, attention, and care; Paul would say, "I consider my life worth nothing." He could say this because he kept his eyes on that which was of even greater worth that his own life. As we grow in Christ, we too may discover what it means to find life, not by pouring our resources into our lives, but through pouring our lives into the cause of Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV: But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power.
There is within all of us a desire to "slip into something more comfortable;" to give into that desire is most likely selfish, many times sinful, and so often hedonistic. By its very nature, the part of us that seeks comfort and pleasure, seeks to avoid truths that bring the opposite. As a result, in this day we live, the church is full of hedonism. It is practically overflowing with people seeking pleasure and comfort first and foremost. We would like to believe that not to be true. But we do so because thinking so is too disconcerting, and causes us grief to consider. Think about how much within the church, and within our lives is not done without considering the way it will make us feel. What we know to be good and right is losing ground to what seems to feel good right now. Perhaps the biggest part of the problem is the refusal to see the problem--that to is influenced by desire not to think about uncomfortable things. Only when we decide to admit a problem, will we be able to take action regarding the problem. Pray, therefore, that you do so, and that I do so, and that we will all humbly seek God's truth above any that makes us feel comfortable.
Romans 6:6-7 NIV: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Perhaps nowhere is it seen stronger, than in the lives of the freed. Those who have been delivered from slavery demonstrate their joy in and through every aspect of their being. It's in their words, their actions and their eyes. To those who look on, there is little doubt they look at someone who knew bondage-someone who now knows freedom. Freedom, once tasted, will lead a person to do anything they can to keep it, and to avoid getting near anything that endangers it. It is something a person is willing to live for, and to die for. The Bible tells us we were slaves to sin, but that Christ has come to deliver us from the bondages of sin. If we have truly tasted His freedom, how does it show through? Can you see it in our eyes, attitudes and actions? Is freedom in Christ something we are willing to live for, fight for-die for? Is it something we now take for granted? Freedom has always come at a high price. Christ was willing to die to bring it to us. May we be willing to return the favor so many more may come to know God's freedom through the redemptive power of Christ's sacrifice.
1 John 1:9 NIV: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
The power of forgiveness in an awesome thing. It is the device that tares down the barriers that stand between people and people, and between people and God. Where forgiveness is provided, there is no fear of retaliation. There is no concern that the one who truly forgives will exact revenge at a later date--at "the perfect moment." There is no anxiety or tension any longer, as two who were at odds come together, having reconciled and renewed fellowship. The Lord assures us over and over, that He has established forgiveness for us. Therefore, we have nothing to fear in seeking Him, for in seeking Him we shall find Him (Dt.4:29). Through the work of Christ (nothing of ourselves), we are able to approach God and embrace Him fully. There is no reason for apprehensiveness on our part, as the work of reconciliation has already been fulfilled.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul did not tell us that SOME scripture is God-breathed, but that ALL of it is. We cannot say we believe the Bible if we completely disregard the scriptures that escape our ability to understand them. To do so is no different than to pick up a Bible and begin ripping out page after page. Imagine how thick some Christian's Bibles would be if comprised only of the scripture that they understand-or perhaps, have even read. A. W. Tozer tells us, "The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian." At times, it would seem that people are more intent on changing the scripture, than they are on having it change them. How sad that there are those who still seek to put word's in God's mouth, rather than taking His Word to heart.
James 2:19 NKJV: You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble!
At a Christian university, a Philosophy professor asked his class how many of them believed in God. All hands went up immediately. He then asked, "Which God?" Puzzled faces filled the room. The simple point he was making is that to say one believes in God, can be an ambiguous statement outside of the proper context--just as it has become to call oneself a Christian. Christian can mean different things to different people. James writes, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble!" Believing in God goes much deeper than believing that He exists. It goes to the point of trusting Him with your eternal life, as well as your day to day. It goes to the point of placing trust in the work accomplished through the Son; that what He did was sufficient to cleanse of from sin, and reconcile us with the Father. And it goes deeper still, to the point that we say, "I believe in You God; in what You do, stand for, and how you work." It goes to the point where we trust Him as a child--even when things don't make sense--and especially when they do.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NAS: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
I have heard well intentioned people express to me, through a tone of regret, that they just cannot get themselves to sit and read the Bible, or that it's too difficult for them to understand. But I have never heard a Christian tell me that he or she spends enough time reading and studying the Word of God. So the question is: How do we get inspired to spend time in God's Word? I'm not sure I know the best answer to that. Perhaps it is one of those things that once you begin to feel the effect of it, you simply crave it more. Maybe that is oversimplifying it a bit. But one thing I know: there is an indescribable joy when God brings back to mind, scripture you have committed to heart. There is an excitement stirred when you hear someone quoting a scripture that has touched or changed your life. There are wonderful treasures that wait for us within the Words that the God of the universe desires to speak to us. And once we commit to open His Word like a treasure chest-it is then that His treasure will be revealed.
Matthew 15:14 NIV: Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.
Ever notice how children and teens often will take the advice a peer offers, over that of a parent. For some strange reason, so many people will more readily accept the thoughts and opinions of someone at the same life-stage as themselves, rather than that of someone who has many more years of experience from which to offer counsel. It is often frustrating to a parent when a child rejects good sound counsel to blindly follow the words of a friend who knows no more than the child does. How much more might we consider the same thing about how God sees us? It must trouble Him to see his children blindly follow poor advice and "reasonable" worldly counsel. But so often we turn a deaf ear to God in favor of personal experience, or experience of others, when what He offers is the best counsel we could ever possibly receive.
John 14:27 NIV: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
You cannot find God's peace by seeking it, but only by seeking God do you find it. When we are faced with troubled times, it is often our first impulse to find the quickest escape. But if we must endure, perhaps then we ask God for His peace as we endure. We know there are storms we must weather; yet we would hope for God's peace to get us through; perhaps to sedate us until the storm is over. But the peace of God does not come to end our troubles, or to make us comfortable or unaware of our pain. His peace comes to us as we seek Christ who is the bringer of peace--not because we seek the peace itself. In troubled times, we seek Him. While pain persists, we seek Him. We open His Word, we open our hearts, and we seek Him. And peace is there within Him.
Matthew 5:44-45 NIV: But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Sometimes the rains come softly. Sometimes they come in fierce torrents. Regardless of where we are today, we know that there will be days we fall beneath the shadows of the storms. And as the storms prevail, we sometimes stand—we sometimes watch—we sometimes wonder if we shall make it through. Yet, we know just as with many storms before, this too shall pass. And once the sky has cleared and the sun breaks through, we rest and enjoy the season of peace. And as we see new growth, we know the storms were not for nothing. The storms of life are hard and often seem relentless. But new hope always will emerge with the coming of the Son.
1 Corinthians 51-52 NIV: Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
"We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed." I will never forget the time I saw these words posted on the door of the church nursery. It just goes to show how putting words in a different context can take on an entirely different meaning than what was originally intended. All kidding aside, scripture is often taken out of context—sometimes with the best intentions—sometimes not. Since the beginning, Satan has twisted the scriptural text to deceive and distort. He did so in the Garden of Eden. He did so in the wilderness with Christ (to no avail). And he does so today. Jesus was able to withstand Satan's snares because of His own understanding of the scriptures. But many have fallen for the devil's deceptions, mostly due to a lack of scriptural knowledge. For whatever reason, there are too many people today twisting the scripture to accommodate personal viewpoints. It is crucial we understand the Bible in context, so not to be led astray by those who twist the Word of God for their own desires.
Psalm 67:1 NIV: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah.
I think of the blessing I could be to others, and how they are not even aware of it. But it is not me, but Jesus who resides within me. I have seen Him bless others through me, and I know He is able to do even more. But sometimes the offer is extended and politely ignored. I think of the blessing I could be to others, and how I am often too busy to consider it. I have seen Jesus work through me to bring His goodness into the lives of others, but there are times too much of me gets in the way–preventing His blessing from being shared. I think of the blessing that Christ could be to others, and how often we fail to grasp the truth of it. Pride prevents me from letting others bless me, and selfishness prevents me from letting Him bless others through me. I would hope and pray that one day we will not look back on our lives regretfully, when we consider the potential we had to be a blessing, and we let those moments pass.
Matthew 7:13-14 NIV: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Our lives offer us a series of choices. We can choose to take the easy way; the way that our human reasoning often resorts to. Or we can choose the hard way; the way that affords us the greatest reward—the way of Christ. So then, should we seek a certain way because it is harder? Not at all. For it is not the way itself that we seek, but the Lord. Yet we know that seeking Christ will mean many hard decisions, and often will require us to choose the way that is hard over that which is easy. There are many times in our Christian walk that we long for an easier path. We wish to follow Christ, but we want the way and the work to always be fruitful and full of joy. Yet pain and suffering are characteristic of the path that leads to the cross. And to follow Jesus is to follow the path to His cross. In our following His path, we must be willing to choose the hard way—the way of sacrifice and sometimes sorrow—the way that yields to God within our private Gethsemane and declares, "Not my will but Yours."
Matthew 24:6 NIV: You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Look around these days, and you may wonder what the world is coming to. The simple answer might be, that it is coming to an end. When, however, is completely up to our Lord—not presidents, politicians, priests, or any other people. And though the world around us may seem to be falling apart, let not your hearts be troubled, God is in control. We know our Lord could come tomorrow, or perhaps not even in our lifetime. Yet we know with certainty He will come, and we know without question, the world will come to an end. At times, it is easy to see why we would become preoccupied with the end of the world. But worry and over-speculation are not fitting for the mind of a believer. We acknowledge what is, but trust that He is greater. We continue on in Christ, and we continue to love God and to love others. The whole world may be crumbling around us, yet we need not fear, but simply find peace in the eyes of Christ. For our home is in Him. And He will never be shaken.
Psalm 20:7 NIV: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Imagine being confronted by someone desiring to take your life. What do you do? Are you prepared for such an encounter? Now imagine being confronted by a hundred people trying to take your life. What do you do? Perhaps in the first instance, you might try to defend yourself—and in the second instance—you may simply fall on your face and ask God to save you. So what's the difference? At what point do you decide that situation is too big for you? At what point do you decide you need God? In all of life's situations, God is ready, able, and pleased to be your Rock and your Fortress. From the life threatening situations, to the smallest things, He is present. You do not, nor should you, wait until you reach the limit of your own self-reliance. The questions may vary, but the answer is always the same—seek Him first and find His way to handle even that which you think you can handle without Him.
2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV: That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Our greatest weakness is not that which causes us to fail, but the pride that keeps us from admitting it. Like it or not—we are weak. We would like to think that we are strong and can independently handle the things of our lives. Even work we do in service to the Lord often raises pride in us as we try to glorify God, but without help from any others—this so that people will see what we alone have done in His name. But let us see ourselves as we are, and personal regard is of little consequence. The work of God becomes more important than self-esteem, and we learn to unashamedly lean on Him and others in our weakness. As we humbly accept our imperfections, pride loses its power to inhibit us from walking strongly in Christ. And then we discover first hand what Paul expressed, "For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Psalm 1:1-2 NIV: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Consider the things we delight in the things that bring us pleasure. They are things that will occupy our thoughts at times throughout the day. They are things we look forward to with great expectation. They are the things we choose above many other things we could spend our time or energy on. Imagine if you will, that as you go through your day, you find yourself anticipating your time with God. With great expectation, you look forward to some free time in which you will be able to sit and read your Bible, or reflect on passages you have committed to memory. There are other things you want to do as well, but they fade in comparison to time with your Creator. As the children of God, it is a truth, and blessing for us, that our Heavenly Father delights in us. May it be that we live lives that delight in Him as well.
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV: "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
We purchase gifts excitedly. We think about the expressions on loved-one's faces as they open their presents. We pick the perfect paper, the perfect bow, wrap the presents and place them under the tree to await revealing. Finally the day arrives. The presents are handed out. The perfect paper is ripped off. The perfect bow is tossed aside. And the remainder of the gift's container is quickly torn open to allow access to the contents inside. "Thank you," you hear, "It's just what I wanted." In a similar way, we can present ourselves as gifts to God. We say, "Here am I, dear Lord. I am yours. I am wrapped in so many things. Some things, I think, to make me more presentable. Some things just get in the way. Some things make it harder to get to what's inside. But here I am. Merry Christmas Jesus." May we look at others and ourselves as Jesus does--seeing beyond the wrappings to the wonderful things that are only found on the inside.
Psalm 61:4 NIV: I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah
Do you lead a sheltered life? As long as you stay near to God, you will be exposed only to what He allows. Worldly wisdom might see leading a sheltered life as a bad thing--something that hinders personal growth and development. But consider the growth of a tree. Would you help a tree to grow by giving it gasoline instead of water? The Creator knows what a tree needs to flourish, as He also knows (better than we) what we need to develop according to the way He created us. The wisdom of this world would have us believe we are missing out on something if we remain beneath God's sheltering wing. But, "the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight" (1 Cor. 3:19), and "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:25). A teenager, in his or her immaturity, will often opt for the opinions of peers above the wisdom of a parent. Isn't it amazing how we can think we are all grown up, when so often we pay more attention to the limited wisdom of human reasoning above the everlasting Wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 3:2 NIV: I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
Perhaps you have heard people say that they don't like the worship style at their church, or the music, or that they can't seem to get anything out of a sermon message; the preacher's too loud, too boring, or doesn't have enough meat in his message. Isn't it funny how even when it comes to church, so many of us approach it with a "what's in it for me" mentality; while neglecting to consider what's in it for someone else? If I leave a service empty, it is most likely my own fault, my attitude, or my selfishness that gets in the way. And rather than making the matter worse by casting blame on ministers, music, and the like; maybe I could turn my thoughts toward Christ and apologize to Him for my not worshipping Him that day. And after that, maybe I could thank Him for those He did minister to through the music, and message. Maybe I could give God glory for the lives He changed and hearts He touched. After all, it's not all about me, now, is it?
Romans 6:16 NIV: Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey -- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Many well-intentioned Christians have accomplished much while being more obedient to their own leadership than to God's. Many, as well, have failed to be obedient to God for reasons of feeling ill-equipped, or second-guessing their understanding of the will of God, or refusing to do God's will for the wrong reasons. The commonality in all of these things is that human reasoning is being heard above the voice of God. If I feel God directing me to do something but I fear I will seek glory for myself, the command of God has not changed. If I talk myself in circles, expecting to reason out God's direction, His will does not wait for my nod of agreement. Our obedience is not to be chained to our ability to understand, but to our faith to follow. In all I can muster, I will never be ready to do God's will -- yet God's will can be accomplished through me, when I faithfully obey and trust Him with every part of the outcome.
John 7:24 NIV Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.
Imagine how much we miss out on because we allow our choices to be influenced by appearance. We may miss out on a relationship with a wonderful, godly person because maybe they seem a little odd. Or maybe we miss out on working a job where God knows we would be happiest, because it doesn't seem to pay what we think it should. Perhaps we miss out on leading a soul to Christ because of the apparent lack of time, money, etc. It is time we stop looking with the eyes of flesh and start looking through the eyes of God. Only then will we experience His will perfected in us, and have the abundant and full life that He wants for us. Only then will we be able to beyond what seems to be, to what is.
John 10:28 NIV: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
A little boy was given a piece of chocolate, which he decided to hold onto for later. After a while of holding it tightly in his hand, he opened his hand to find the chocolate and melted and left a mark in his hand. The chocolate sure didn't last very long. In fact, it didn't even make it to the boy's mouth. So much of what we hold onto in this life is like the chocolate—melting away. We hold tightly to things that seem real, yet have no truly lasting qualities. What is real to you? What do you hold on to? Is God real to you? Are you holding on to Him, knowing He is more real than anything else? A couple of thousand years ago, Jesus took up a cross for you and me. He held us in his heart and mind as he was crucified to redeem us. What He did left a mark on His hands that will never melt away. Consider today what you hold on to. Is it real? Is it eternal? Is it Jesus?
Hebrews 12:4 NIV: In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Homosexuality is sin. Promiscuity is sin. Lustful thinking, greed, selfish ambition, haughtiness, cheating in business or with taxes, lying, and selfish anger—all sin. Each sin carries with it a severity of impact on self and others. All carry the same penalty: death. For "the wages of sin is death." We so very often tend to downplay the severity of perceived "smaller" sins, while responding with astonishment at the report of the "big" sins. Perhaps the sins we are most appalled by are the sins we ourselves do not commit. Perhaps there is some confusion as to what is sin. I might attend a church that says that lying is not sin. Does that change the Word of God? God's Word is His Word—not ours. We attempt to interpret it, but our interpretations do not change His intent. If we approach His Word seeking to justify ourselves, our lifestyles, our wants—then it is selfish pursuit, and in itself is sin. But if we seek to be changed by His Word that we may become more like Him, then the pursuit is holy. The question then is: Are we willing to give up what we want or think
Hebrews 10:19-22 NIV: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Only once per year was someone permitted to enter the Most Holy Place--the place wherein they would come into the very presence of God. And the only person permitted to enter was the high priest, and only after he had undergone the proper cleansing ceremonies. We perhaps take for granted the ease of our access to the very presence of God in Spirit. Christ entered through the curtains that stand to separate us from the living God. Having being clean already, yet taking upon Himself the sins of the world He incurred God's wrath and suffered death for us all. And being given access to the very presence of God, we who are no longer separated from God by veils or curtains, can boldly and confidently approach Him with assurance that though we come into the presence of pure Holiness, we will not die but live, and that only because Christ died in our place.
Proverbs 16:28 NIV: A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
Sometimes well-intended, sometimes meant to harm—they are the words spoken in the secret places that will not remain in secret. They are perhaps one of Satan's greatest tools. He wields gossip like a cat-o-nine-tails to rip apart the body of Christ. Through it, churches divide, lives are broken, hearts are torn, and forgiveness is not easily found. It is yet another device of the devil that, as a church, we must stand united against. We must do all we can to prevent gossip from getting a foothold in our church body. Have nothing to do with it. When it comes across your ears, you must go straight to God and obey His instruction. If you have said something, why have you said it? Is it because you are seeking God's will in the matter? Is it because you are seeking the best interest of the body of Christ? Gossip is deceptive. It clouds the motives, burrows into curiosity, and festers like a sore. It will not sleep until it has claimed a life.
Corinthians 11:1 NIV: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
It is the picture of a lifeline. It spans the length of life and time, stretching from the newest believer to those who near their journey's end. Hand in hand they move from new life to afterlife, holding one another in a grip of love--held between the outstretched arms of Christ. There are good and right examples for each of us to follow. It is the wiser person who realizes the need to depend on others. We were not salvaged by God to be an island unto self, but to become a link in a chain that is firmly secured to our Lord Jesus Christ. Each link has other links ahead of it. And each link has links behind. As we remain linked to one another, and secure within Christ, we are strong. We have had examples to follow, and we will be the example--each of us following the example of our Lord.
1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV: If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
As time passes, and the definition of Christianity becomes one that varies with each person, and is often lived out the same; it will likely be found to be certain that one of the most valuable commodities a Christian possesses will be his or her own character. A Christian will not be defined by knowledge or doctrine, or by church affiliation—but instead by how much he or she resembles the Lord Jesus in both actions and words. For the true follower of Christ, there is within the heart a deep-seated desire to see others come to Jesus. Yet they hear nothing in our words if our lives are not the very definition of Christianity—not perfect—but certainly bearing genuine evidence of the Savior who resides within.
Proverbs 22:6 NIV: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Raising children can be a great adventure. You may be thinking, "That’s one way to put it." From infant to adolescent, and into adulthood, we find joys as well as sorrows—easy times and challenging ones. And finally the day comes where its time for the baby bird to spread its wings. You look back at the long road you traveled to get where you are, and reflect. You look ahead to what is held in an uncertain future and you pray, and you hope, and you pray some more. Being a parent is not easy, as any parent will testify. It is so very hard when you see your children make poor choices, or finding themselves in the middle of suffering the consequences of their actions. You wonder, you worry, and you weep. Yet we are offered hope. We can place our children in the arms of our Lord—trust Him with their safety—knowing He will actively work in their lives to draw the prodigal children back home.
1 Samuel 17:45 NIV: David said to the Philistine, ""You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."
The time will come when you stand face to face with your personal Goliath. The gauntlet will be thrown down and the challenge will ensue. It is then that you will face the moment of truth, and the once rhetorical question now bears down with pressing reality: "Do you believe?" You know what you have said you believe. You believe in God's Word, His protection, His provision, and guidance. You believe that He is able to take you through the darkest of valleys and lead you again beside green pastures. So now the test. What will you do? Will you remember God is with you? Will you remember to turn to Him first? Whatever giant you face, you must not lose hope. Before you reason, before you think, feel or react; before you give your situation another thought—stop. Open God's Word, pray, and seek His face. Only then will you be ready to face the giants of your life.
James 2:15-16 NIV: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
We are a people guided by pastors and theologians who diligently dissect the Word of God to further discover its truths. We have our meetings and times of Bible studies, and leave such sessions thrilled by intellectual stimulations and new spiritual insights. Yet, all too often we then take our bits of truth home with us and put them upon our bookshelves to gather dust, to later wonder why we don't see God's power in our lives. James tells us that, faith without works is dead. All the devotional readings, sermons, and Bible studies in the world will mean nothing unless practically applied to your life. Paul reminds us, "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2). What we learn from God is meant to be practically applied—lived out in faith—and expressed to others with love.
1 Cor. 1:10, 12-13, NIV: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
Is the church becoming a democracy—of the people, by the people, for the people? To look at the church at large today, you will find vastly differing viewpoints, doctrines and dogmas. Yet we are exhorted by Paul to be of the same mind, and that there would be no divisions among us. Are we a church inundated with worldly philosophy and relativistic thinking? Paul encourages us not to conform to this world, but to be transformed (Rom. 12:2). Yet today, the church struggles to maintain the moral high ground, and not slide down the slippery slope of secularization. The church is not for the people, but for God—not of the people, but of Christ—not by the people, but by the Spirit. It is God's church, not ours, and as such, must be defined and directed by the will of God—not the people.
Hebrews 3:13 NIV: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
When it comes to attending church, how often is often enough? Some have said they do not need to go to church to worship God, but that they can worship Him anywhere. That is true. And if the only purpose for church was to worship God, perhaps that reasoning might stand. But there is so much more that takes place in a body of believers than corporate worship. The writer of Hebrews entreats Christians to "encourage one another daily." Throughout the New Testament, we are taught the principles of caring for fellow Christians-that, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). Brief Sunday morning encounters seldom provide opportunity to truly encourage, or to be encouraged. Anyone who believes he does not need the church does not understand the purpose of the church, and is driven more by selfish desire than godly vision. Therefore, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV: For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
True forgiveness is unconditional. That is what is so great about the forgiveness of God. He sees our imperfection, our self-centered nature and our tendency to wrong Him, yet He forgives us today knowing very well that we will fail Him tomorrow. He opens Himself up fully and freely to us, His arms open wide to receive us in love--knowing all too well that we will forsake that love if at a particular time we believe it is to our benefit to do so. (Therein we define "sin"). Shall we demonstrate the Love of God to enemies and friends alike, then we must also show forgiveness. Shall we truly forgive another of their wrongs against us? Then we, for the sake of true forgiveness, must forgive not only the sins of today or the past, but also the future.
Romans 14:13 NIV: Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Consider the private sin—the sin that is between you and God, and no one else. What would that sin look like? It might be a matter you may choose to keep to yourself. It might be a matter that you should keep to yourself—or rather—only confessed to God and no other. It is certainly something to be confessed, to be repented of, and dealt with. It may be your worse stumbling block—or your greatest embarrassment. But rest assured, you are not the only one affected. There is reason to deal with sin; reason that goes beyond ourselves. The sin in our lives hinders us from being the men and women God calls us to be. It causes us to stumble, and in ways we may not even see, bring others down with us. It has been said that, "No man is an island." This is a very real truth in relationship to our Christianity. The sin may be private sin, but it hurts far more than just the sinner—and demonstrates that our need to overcome is of greater importance to the body, than just to the self.
Philippians 2:14-15 NIV Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
It's euphemistically referred to as, "Getting up on the wrong side of the bed." It is something each of us can expect to be at one time or another. It is something that when we are it, we desire those around us to be forgiving. But so often we are not as forgiving with others when it is they who are cranky. Can you think of a time when you were irritable, ill-tempered, short-tempered, cross, cranky, touchy, tetchy, grouchy or petulant? So can I. And I don't envy anyone who has had to endure me so. But as my wife is fond of reciting, "You can get glad in the same shoes you got mad in," and "You can choose to be happy." I'm not sure it's the best idea to say such things to someone in a cranky mood, yet there is a certain amount of truth in those words. As hard as it is, it is best for crankiness to be overcome—better for us, and better for others around us. Imagine how your face looks when you are cranky. Is it a face you want to look at? Is it a face that tells the world, "Jesus loves you?" We often do not realize how our moods impact others around us, and all the more if we are continually cranky. And so I leave you with one final, but important, cliché: "It won't always be easy—but it will be worth it."
Luke 12:38 NIV It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.
Time ticks on. The end is nearer. We mark our days by usual occurrences, and frequently give little thought to the fact that today could be our last day on this earth. So focused are we on the events of today, that the certainty of our Lord's return often escapes our attention. And while we must continue each day to work and live and continue on; we must also keep watch, for we do not know when the Master will return. His return is imminent. His return is certain. We must make no mistake. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. This is the charge to us as well—to watch and pray so that we do not fall to temptation—so that we will be watching steadfastly for the Masters return.
Genesis 50:20 NIV You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
His Hand is there—there behind the bad scenes working all things together for good. Tragedies and pain provoke many hearts to cry out, "Where is God in all of this?" And yet, His Hand is there. So much of what He does goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and unseen. His invisible Hand is unappreciated, while His visible Hand is written off as coincidence, and random occurrences of chance events. But for those who have eyes to see, God is ever present—bringing good out of bad—triumph from tragedy. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55). Through the death of Christ many have found life. Our hatred of death blinds us to the life that comes through it. We detest the trials and tribulations forgetting that through such fires souls are purified, made holy, and strengthened for the coming storms. But your life is not chance, nor is it guided by circumstance. Instead it is purposeful, and part of the plan and providence of an almighty and ever-loving God.
Luke 2:29-30 NIV: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation."
If we were not promised eternity—if our only reward was satisfaction in a good standing with God, and serving mankind—if this life was all there was—would you still seek to follow Christ; loving God and others with all your being? Would it be enough to see God's salvation for the world? Jesus said that if you would seek to gain your life, you would lose it, but if you lose your life for His sake, then you will find it. If we come to Jesus for our needs and our eternal life alone, we are like so many others who have done so before. But if after we have been redeemed, we seek to follow Jesus for personal riches in Glory, then we have lost sight of the Savior we seek.