Category Archives: Devotional

A stripped down, boring Jesus

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.  1 Corinthians 4:20

I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.  Psalm 78:4

I have been bothered for several months now by a question that has been tumbling around in my mind.  It has to do with the local church that I go to.  I’ve been noticing that the a large majority of the families’ children grow up and don’t end up walking with the Lord into their adult years.  It is something that I have been praying about and quietly analyzing in my brain, wondering what is really missing in our spiritual DNA.

I finally got an “Aha” about it over the last few days.  I’ve been talking with a friend BoredGirland fellow church goer who has an eight year old daughter.  She is concerned that her daughter is “bored” at church and Sunday school and we’ve been talking and praying about how to see change in her spiritual attitude.  I was telling this friend about this Youtube video that I watched when it hit me.

It was a video from Skywatch TV where Josh Peck and Steve Bancarz were giving their testimonies about how they grew up in church, but then went into New Age practices in their teen-aged years.  They got heavily involved for years and then God got a hold of them and they recommitted their lives and are now speaking out about how the New Age practices are infiltrated into the church.

Josh Peck said something that peaked my attention.  He said, “I quit going to church when I was 12.  I was bored.  I had heard all of the stories by then and thought I knew it all.  I didn’t, but I thought I did.”  Josh told of how he found supernatural power in New Age practices and got involved in astral projecting and other things.

That’s where I really got to pondering.  Could it be that others are the same way?  They are bored because they are we are giving them a stripped down version of the Bible–what I mean is this:  We are teaching the Bible hermeneutically correctly (not violating the principles of interpreting Scripture).  But when you don’t include the power and work of the Holy Spirit as a regular, every day, real life experience, you have a ‘boring’ stripped down version of the Christian life.

It is no wonder that when our kids are 18 (or younger) they look else where for ‘real fun,’ like partying, sleeping around, materialism and other thrill chasing.  It is because they haven’t found it in Jesus because we haven’t given it them!

This is tragic!!!  I have been a self-confessed Holy Spirit chasing, Jesus freak stuck in a Baptist body for decades.  It’s kind of an anomaly.  Now a-days it’s okay to raise your hands, but if I start talking about how God has spoken to me in a dream, people start edging for the door and saying, “Oh, look at the time,” or saying, “Oh, another one of your dreams.”  They don’t take it seriously, like they should maybe hearing from God.

Or when I start a sentence with, “God spoke this to my heart the other day, and I know I need to do —,” it’s as if it’s an alien language.  Or even to find more people than a small handful that join our weekly all-church prayer meeting–and then respond to any subtle or less than subtle invitations to join.  There are pockets of people that have enjoyed digging deeper into the Word and talking about what God is doing in their lives, but it is difficult to do it as a church body corporately.

And the outcome is…as 2 Timothy 3:5 states, Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Now that is a scary description.  That is supposed to be for the pagans.  No, I don’t think they would have an appearance of godliness.  That would be for us!

(I do want to say that my husband and I are blessed with a small group Bible study  of about eight or so believers that are from all over.  Together we are enjoying practicing the gifts of the Spirit and sharing how God is at work in our daily lives.  We have seen the power of God in healings, we talk about how God has spoken to us in dreams, etc. and we pray together for boldness to impact the people we are connected with.)

What is the anecdote?  How do we avoid making church and Jesus boring?  How do we not have an appearance of godliness but deny its power? Here is a start:

  • We pray corporately for specific things and then celebrate when those things are answered, so young and old alike can see that God is real, that He cares about us and our daily lives, and that He answers prayer.
  • We have more corporate testimonies of how God is at work in our lives, how he has answered prayers, how He is using us, how He has spoken to us–whether it is in prayer, promptings, dreams, or even visions.
  • We get out of our comfort zones and go minister in Jesus’ name together.  If kids think that they have heard all of the stories before, nothing brings them alive better than telling someone who has never heard them before.  That’s where the kingdom of God is not just about words, it is about action.  Let’s put our faith into action!
  • We start inviting the Holy Spirit into our church in an active way.  We don’t just sing songs like, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here.”  We must really start teaching about His function and work, and then put those teachings into regular practice.  It doesn’t need to be hokey or undoctrinal, just apply Scripture.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:31

Oh God, may that be our church and the church across America.  May we not have a stripped down version of You so that others find you boring.  May we shake up our church buildings and gathering places because we are filled with the Holy Spirit and with boldness.  Fill our hearts with passion–fill my heart with the overflowing joy, peace in believing and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).  Don’t let me be boring or bored with You and may it catch like fire.

 

 


El Roi–The God Who Sees

I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.  Revelation 2:19

In Revelation chapters 2-3 there are letters to seven churches that are scattered throughout what was then called Asia.  God told John to write down both their strengths and their weaknesses. What strikes me as I read the letters again is this:  the words, “I know your works,” are repeated again and again. They are phrased a bit differently in some of the letters, like to Smyrna in 2:9, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and to Pergamum in Rev. 2:13, “I know where you live.”

Not only does God know the seven churches’ works, but He knows our works.  He told them things like, You have lost your first love, in Rev. 2:4 and, You have reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.  Rev. 3:2-3

God didn’t just tell them words of rebuke, but also words of encouragement.  For instance, He told the church at Ephesus that they worked hard and had patient endurance.  Plus, they didn’t tolerate false teachers. To the church in Philadelphia, God told them that He knew that although they had little power, they had kept His word and didn’t deny His name.  God spoke of rewards to those who conquer and who keeps His works until the end.

† My question: What if God were to write you a letter?  What would He say? What strengths would He mention and what words of encouragement would He give?  Does it help you to know that He sees your heart, that He knows the things that you have done that no one else knows about, and that He knows the path you have taken?  

If God were to say to you, “I know your works,” would that be a comforting and encouraging statement?  When Hagar fled from Sarai in Genesis 16 because Sarai was dealing with her bitterly, the angel of the Lord came and spoke blessings to Hagar in the wilderness.  So Hagar called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You are a God of seeing,for she said, Truly here I have see Him who looks after me. vs. 13.  That is where the name of God, “El Roi” is first used.  

El Roi, the God who sees, is a good thing.  God sees our works and                      He looks after us. He God who sees me.jpgsees our love and faith and service and    patient endurance, and He will reward us for those things.  On the flip side, He also sees the things that we need to repent of. As Hebrews 4:13 tells us, No creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to   the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.  It is much easier to shed off the yuck knowing that God  has my best interest in mind.  

Forgive me for when my love grows cold and I tolerate false idols and teachers.  Wake me up so that you will not find my works incomplete. And thank you that You can trace my path and see my heart for You when no one else can.  You are the God who sees and who rewards.

 


To the God who is able and who is greater than all

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.  Jude 24

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  John 10:29

Have you ever  had bad stretches where things are just hard?  I’ve been in one of those stretches.  It’s kind of like that book, Alexander’s No Good Horrible Day that overstays its welcome.  I messed up my shoulder this summer from a pickle ball injury, just short of a rotator cuff tear.  Someone suggested I should come up with a better story than that, but in the interest of truth, it wasn’t from sky diving or fighting a bear–just a collision in pickle ball gone bad.  And it has lingered to the point where my left arm has not been useable for two months, in constant pain, and I’m awaiting a cortisone shot that will hopefully fix things a bit.

In the middle of that I went to the eye doctor thinking I needed new glasses and I found out instead that I had cataracts.  This week I go to get the first eye done, and the next soon thereafter.  I don’t appreciate getting cataract advise from people twenty years older than myself.  But apparently with computers and UV rays, younger people are getting them.  But it doesn’t fit into my busy school schedule.

Doesn’t pain know  this isn’t a good time?  I had to get a shot in the rump the other day just to make it through the day.  So the two above verses are well timed words of encouragement, cups of cold water in the desert:

God is ableGod is able, and He is greater than all.  Aren’t they good words?  No matter what we face and when–God is able.  Ephesians 3:20 starts with the same proclamation: Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.  And 2 Corinthians 9:8, And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  All things at all times for every good work.

Do you get it?   God is able.  Do I get it?  God is able.  Get my eyes off of  my issues and put them on the God who is able.

And He is greater than all.  It is one thing to boast about your                                   football  team that you God is greaterthink is better than everyone, but then that team gets beat.   God never gets beat, so you never have to go to work on Monday and eat crow.  God always wins!  We can boast about Him all the time.  So why don’t we?  We know 1 John 4:4, Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

So it is time for us/me to live like it.  What’s a little pain, or a few setbacks?  Paul said, Our light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, in 2 Corinthians 4:17.  They are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us.

There, I’m encouraged already.  I hope you are too.

*Images by lovethispic.com; engageyourstory.com

 

 


Real Change

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates.  I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there.  I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming.  But God knows.

Change was on my heart.  Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need.  If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse.  I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.

I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again.  Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.

Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart.  I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23  That’s the sin condition.  That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us.  We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before.  David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan.  Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.  

When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s  day of reckoning.

But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life.  No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.

¤ That’s exactly what God does for us.  We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy.  Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table.  It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.

¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin.  Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned.  And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10).  So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.

Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  We get them washed away.  And then the Holy Spirit renews us.  Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time.  That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again.  It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.         

¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth.  Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.                 Image result for Titus 3:3-7

The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!

¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday.  Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me.  Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.

 


Are you submitting to God, or resisting Him?

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:6b-7a 

There is a hymn by Israel Houghton, “I Surrender All,” that has these lyrics:

All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken;  Take me Jesus, take me now; All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Savior wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine

It is a nice song to sing at the end of a sermon, but much harder to really live out.  Let’s think about what it really means to submit to God and to be humble for a few minutes.  Submitting to God means giving up pride, self-centeredness, and pretty much anything having to do with self.  The group ‘Mercy Me’ has a song called “So Long Self,” by Bart Millard. Its lyrics hit a little closer to home:

Believe it or not but life is not apparently about me anyways; But I have met the One who really is worthy so let me say–So long self.  Well it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else, So long self.  There’s just no room for two, so you are gonna have to moveDon’t take this wrong, but you are wrong for me…

When you die to self, say ‘so long,’ that’s when Jesus really takes over.  That’s what Galatians 2:20 says, and it’s the guts of the Christian life: I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This is where you let Jesus take over for you.  It involves submitting to God, which is a part of James’ verse.  Submitting to God means giving up your right to be right and it makes you have a teachable spirit.  You don’t shift blame when someone points out something. A blame shifter says things like, “You always point out everything I do wrong,” instead of saying, “You’re right, I need to make sure I don’t do that next time.”  

Again, someone without a teachable spirit does not receive any kind of input.  He or she might be quite adept at picking out other people’s faults, but not so able to see her own weaknesses, let alone do something about them.  She might make excuses for the obvious weakness, or place blame on someone or something else, rather than do the hard work of change.

humility is the gateway to grace.jpgOn the contrary, a humble and teachable spirit owns his faults, doesn’t shift blame, or fall apart when corrected.  Someone bent on submitting to God is able to submit to others, whether that person has his act together or not. And James tells us that when we are humble, God pours His grace on us.  

I do not want God to oppose me, but I really want Him to pour His grace on me.  James tells us the secret: Be humble. In Psalm 51:17 David wrote, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

*Image from Google Images


The Two-Edged Sword

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I was just with a group of Christian friends and one was a youth leader.  He was talking about how he was challenging the high schoolers to memorize 1 John and he would shave his head if they did.  That’s what I thought I heard. But then he clarified. He said, “No, I will shave my head if they just memorize the first chapter.”  I said, “That’s only ten verses long.” He responded saying that he didn’t know if they would even do that, they’re teenagers.

My reply was that when I was a teen, I could recite over 800 verses by heart.  Another woman sitting there said, “Yea, but you were exceptional. But we appreciate having you around so when we need to know where something is found in the Bible, you can tell us.”  That statement has stuck with me.

memorizing.jpgIs that the only reason people think that they memorize Scripture?  If that is so, then they are missing the two edged sword that is at work in their lives.  Since then, I’ve been thinking that I need to come up with what memorizing has done in my life.  This is my list of benefits. I could elaborate on each of them with many examples, but for the sake of space, I won’t.

Memorizing:

  • Changes you.  Romans 12:2 tells us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Ephesians 4:17-24 also talks about this process of being renewed in the spirit of our minds and putting on the new self.  I’ve known people who have been Christians for years, but their characters are untransformed. I’m guessing that they are not in the Word much.  Memorizing Scripture takes the transformation process a step deeper because it goes with you wherever you go, enabling you to meditate on that verse throughout the day.  The Holy Spirit can speak it back to you and roll it through your mind until you get it.
  • Keeps you from sin.  That’s what Psalm 119:11 says: Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.  I take that at face value.  Bringing up verses in the time of temptation just like Jesus did can send Satan packing.  Jesus said, “It is written” three times in the wilderness and Satan left. So say the verses you know out loud, not just to yourself.
  • Makes you fruitful.  Psalm 1 tells that if we meditate on the Word day and night we will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in season and out of season.  Memorizing is a way to totally meditate on verses throughout the day. The Holy Spirit is able to bring words of Scripture to your mind because they have been stored up in your mind.  The promise of Psalm 1 is that if this is the pattern of your life, you will be fruitful. In other words, you will see things happen spiritually as a result of this pattern. You will see change in your own life, whether it is bad habits broken, or good habits produced.  You will also see opportunities spring up to speak those words to others, and the desire to share Jesus with others in productive ways.
  • Makes you God’s spokesperson.  Jeremiah 15:16-19 talks about this.  Jeremiah said, Thy words were found and I ate them and they became to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.  I did not sit in the company of revelers but I sat alone because Your hand was upon me…Therefore the Lord said: ‘If you utter precious words and not worthless ones you will be as My mouth–you will be my spokesman.’  If you are like Jeremiah, spending time in intimate fellowship with God, knowing the Bible so much that you can quote it, you will be His mouth piece.  These are worthy words.

Those aren’t all of the by products of memorizing, but it’s a good start.  I know that it has kept my mind sharp. Our minds are like muscles. People say they can’t memorize, but yet they can reel off details of what they are interested in, whether it is about sports, their favorite television series that they have just binge watched, or the breed of dog that they have.  The more you use your mind muscle, the better you get with it.

So use it for the living, active and transforming Word of God that is sharper than any two edged sword and able to change your life and the lives of the people God uses you to impact.

 


I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, ‘Yet a little while, and the Coming One will come and will not delay; but My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.  Hebrews 10:35-39

The title is the last lines to one of my old favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation.”  The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;  That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never, forsake!   (Bernhard Schumacher, 1931) The writer of Hebrews could have written that hymn.

Hebrews is filled with calls to persevere in our faith, and warnings about what will happen if we don’t.  In Hebrews 6:11 we find, We desire each of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  There the writer called them sluggish, in Hebrews 5:11 he called them “dull of hearing.”  

And the writer says, if you don’t stop drifting (2:1) and neglecting your salvation (2:3) and forsaking the assembling of yourselves together (10:25), you are going to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and fall away from the living God (3:12–13).  Those are big warnings.  If you drift, play around with sin, don’t pursue holiness, and aren’t growing in grace, this is a wake up call for what we call “carnal Christians.”  

Hebrews 10:39 tells those carnal Christians that if they shrink back in their faith they will be destroyed, causing me to discard the word ‘Christian’ from the description.  This would be a deception, perhaps causing such people to think that they could and would eventually get their acts together. In other words, that thinking would be a mark of someone who is not really saved at all.

On the faith side, for those who do not shrink back in their faith, there is great reward.  In order to do this, you will need much endurance. In other words, the Christian life is not a cake walk.  Difficult times are to be expected. Don’t think that you are going through something unusual if hard times hit because of your Christian faith.  

In Luke 21, as well as other places, Jesus told of how we will be brought before kings and governors for His name’s sake.  We will be delivered up even by parents, siblings and friends and some will be put to death.

Luke 21:19 encourages, By your endurance you will gain your lives. And Paul stated in Acts 14:22: Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.  So get your endurance gene sharpened!enduring faith

A mark of saving faith is that it endures because God will give you the grace and the strength to endure.  That is what will give you the courage to sing “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but are of those who have faith and are preserved–no matter what.


Christ is our life

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.  Colossians 3:3-4

First of all, I read these verses over and over, trying to grasp what it means to be hidden with Christ in God.  Part of it means claiming the truths of what it means to be a child of God, like:

  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39)
  • Because of the blood of Jesus, I am justified, made right before God (Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:11))
  • I am therefore a friend of God (John 15:15)
  • My eternal destiny is in Heaven and is secure (John 3:16; 5:24; Jude 24; John 10:28)

I could go on and on!  That lifts my spirits just thinking about all of the things that are mine because I am in Christ.  What I really wanted to write about today is that Jesus is my life, and what that means. It’s all connected.

This summer we “cut the cord” on Direct TV, which has been a good thing all on its own.  We still have Amazon Fire Stick, but the only thing I’ve really watched all summer has been Christian speakers on Youtube.  It’s been really edifying. I was watching a talk by Paul Tripp (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9S7fgW8XVw) that really got me thinking about Colossians and Jesus being my life in a deeper way.  If you get time to watch it, it is really good. So most of the thoughts of this study are the ideas from Paul Tripp’s talk.

In Mark 6:45-52 there is the account of Jesus putting the disciples into a boat to go across the Sea of Galilee.  He didn’t get into the boat with them, and a storm blew up. He put them into the boat by themselves, knowing a storm was coming.  Why? To build their faith.

“Faith isn’t natural.  Worry is, envy is, doubt and anger are, but faith isn’t.  That’s why God has to take us outside of our comfort zones to produce in us what doesn’t come naturally to us.  He has to take us where we don’t want to go to produce in us what we can’t achieve on our own. That’s grace. It’s not the grace of relief.  It’s the grace of refinement–it’s uncomfortable grace. Often the grace of God comes in uncomfortable forms because that’s just what we need.”  Paul Tripp

Then Jesus really blew them away by walking on the water to the boat.  They thought it was a ghost.  He stood next to the boat. He spoke to them and said, Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid. And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.  Mark 6:49-51  

*When you are in the middle of something terrifying, what do you say to yourself about God?  They said, “It’s a ghost.” No–it was Jesus. It showed that they just didn’t get it.

*Who do you talk to the most?  It is yourself.

Watch what you say to yourself about God, and watch what you say to yourself about yourself.  Think about it. Think about the last time you were in a jam–what did you say to yourself about you?  And what did you say to yourself about God? Were they good things? Were they faith things? Or were they things that cut like a knife, words that were so bad that no one else would ever dare say those things to you, or out loud say them about God?

Look at Mark 6 and see what Jesus said to the disciples.  He didn’t say: “Get out of the boat you imbeciles! I’m getting 12 different guys who are smarter.”  No–He said, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.” “It is I” is a variation of “I am.” In other words, “I AM” is here.  I AM has invaded your life with grace.  This is what I must say to myself. I am not in this alone because my life has been invaded by the great I AM and it has changed everything.

Don’t forget who you belong to, who has invaded your life and who you belong to.  Stop with the negative talk, the worry, doubt, anger and fear! It hurts you, and it hurts others.  You end up saying those things to others that are close to you as well, like your spouse or your children.

Suppose you got a really cool gift, but you were more taken with the gift wrapping than with the gift.  Don’t just be happy with the box and not the amazing gift of grace. Don’t be content with just a little bit of Jesus or of Bible knowledge, a small dose of worship, or a small adventure with this life of faith.  

Grab a hold of this AMAZING GRACE with both hands, saying with your life: I love this Jesus isn't a small partgift.  It is my life. I am blown away.  This is who I am and I AM has invaded      every inch of my life.  

When Christ who is my life appears, then I will appear with Him in glory.

 


Christ my energy

To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.  Colossians 1:29

Years ago one of our kindergarten teachers came out of her classroom cracking up with laughter.  It was early in the first month of school and she was trying to practice with the kids how to write their first names legibly.  One of the littlest boys, Jake, kept his head close to the paper and was mumbling and wouldn’t look up. The teacher kept asking what he was saying, and he just kept mumbling.  But she kept asking, “Jakie, what was that?”

Finally, he lifted his head, looked at her and pronounced loudly, “Mrs. Hoel, I suck at this.”  

That’s basically what God wants us to say, sooner rather than later.  He wants us to give up on ourselves so we utilize Jesus’ power and energy, which is limitless–not our own, which is pea sized.  Allow me to elaborate…

Struggling with all His energy.  This is really revolutionary.  Usually it is not until we come to the end of ourself that we discover this truth, if at all.  The quicker you realize that you cannot do something, perhaps the quicker you can fall into Jesus’ arms and say, “You do this–I am spent (or I am a failure, or I NEED YOU).”  Isn’t that what John 15:5 wants us to say? I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from ME you can do nothing.

I have mentioned the book by V. Raymond Edman They Found the Secret (Clarian Classic, 1960) earlier.  One of the testimonies in the book is by a man, Major Ian Thomas.  He had given his life to Christ at the age of 13 and to missionary service at 17 and then for seven years ago set about to a flurry of activity for Jesus.  He travelled and spoke of Jesus wherever he could, “buzzing around every holiday, every spare moment” with any evangelistic activity going on. All of this was out of a sheer desire to win souls.

The only problem was that nobody was converted.  The more he did, the less happened. Finally one night Ian sunk to his knees in a fit of despair, asking God to tell him why he was a hopeless failure.  “This was the moment God had been waiting for; seven weary years He had watched me running round and round in the wilderness! I heard His voice: To me to live is Christ…I am the way, the truth, and the life…When Christ who is our life shall appear, then we shall appear with Him in glory, to me to live is Christ!

What God revealed to Ian Thomas that night is what we all need to learn: “You have been busy trying to do for Me all that only I can do through you.  Now supposing I am your life, and you begin to accept it as a fact, then I am your strength!  

You have been pleading and begging for that for seven years.  I am your victory in every area of your life, if you want it.”  

Ian left his room after that night a changed man.  He left with a “sheer cold-blooded faith, that Jesus was His life, his victory, his strength, his power and his future.”  He began to see people come to the Lord all over the place. The striving had ended and he finally found joy and peace. (pages 165-171)

It might look different applied to your life.  Everybody has different circumstances. But everyone needs to make a choice each day: Am I going to live today in my own strength, using my own wisdom, my own resources, my own choosing?  Or, do I start each day with prayer and Bible study, knowing that apart from God I can really do nothing?

–Knowing that all kinds of things could happen today that are out of my control, but aren’t out of God’s perview.  –Knowing that I only look on the outward appearance of people but God looks at the heart. –Knowing that I could easily get deceived by other people, or taken advantage of, and knowing that people’s hearts are really desperately wicked.  –Knowing that if someone that’s driving in an oncoming car could be texting or swatting a fly and veer into my lane. –Knowing that I could think I’m making a good choice but it’s really not a good one for some reason. –Knowing that I’m exhausted and I just got up and I have twenty things to do today.  –Knowing that my spouse keeps randomly exploding and I don’t know what it is that is going on deep inside…

Jesus, would you be my energy, my wisdom, my strength, my victory, my peace, my rest?  I want to live each day with Your energy, and thus be victorious, fruitful, joyful, resting and abiding in You.  

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Accepting Christ is just the beginning

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 1:23; 2:6-7 NIV

This is just my pet peeve, so allow me to get it off my chest.  Then maybe I can move on from it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I have sat through that the application point is, “So, if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, now would be a great time to do that…”  I am not against pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached, don’t get me wrong. Repentance and faith in Christ are a big deal, not just for those who have never placed their trust in Jesus, but for all of us.

Here is where I struggle:  I want the application points to be brought to the point of growth, not just to stop at accepting Jesus.  Parents don’t just have babies and say, “Well, my job is done. You’re on your own now kid.” No, that would be absurd.  Birthing a child is just beginning. So it is with the Christian faith. Now it is time to continue in our faith, to be established and firm, to be rooted and built up in Jesus.  We need to help each other learn how to be established and firm in the faith, and to put our faith into practice.

The “Great Commission” verses of Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you.  The whole idea of making disciples reaches beyond simply making a decision for Christ.  The application points of sermons then should reflect what it looks like to be established and firm, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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With that in mind, the following are some of my application points of what that would look like:

  1. Established and firm.  Hebrews 12:1-2 urges, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  There are a few things in that passage.  One is that being established and firm means to get rid of any known sins and weight in our life.  No sin habits, no hidden sins, no bad habits, no questionable things–put them aside. This Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  It calls for endurance. Just like a die hard runner has a whole different lifestyle (no sweets, early morning runs, geared for the long haul), so must we be.  
  2. Not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  That is one way to stay steadfast and strong. Encouragement is another way of staying the course.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  The root of encourage is courage.  We meet together to give courage to one another.  Sermons are a way of speaking courage into the body of Christ, to say “Stay strong and don’t give up–you are on the right track.”  The more we see evil amping up in our society, the more we need to depend on this because the more outnumbered we will be.
  3. Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.  Psalm 1 is a marvelous psalm that gives the contrast between the one who does not stand in the way of sinners and the one that does. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night.  And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of waters that brings forth its fruit in its season.  Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does he prospers.  The godly feeds on the Word of God, delights in it, and his roots go down deep.  When the storms come, he stands strong. He bears fruit. “As you were taught,” connotes that this grounded person takes advantage of godly teaching, which includes Sunday school, regular church attendance, small groups and personal Bible study.  “And in all he does, he prospers.” That’s a promise of a blessing.
  4. And overflowing with thankfulness.  In Romans 1:21, Paul wrote that when things fell apart being unthankful was to blame: For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  It is the start of the downward spiral.  On the opposite end, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul commands: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  If you want to know God’s will in your life, start by giving thanks in all of your circumstances.

My application is this:  Take a look at these four areas and pick a couple of things, maybe just one to work on.  If you have been grumbling a lot lately, pick #4 and list out all of the things you have to be thankful for and start giving thanks.  If you have some sin habits you need to shed, get rid of them now. Ask God to search your heart and spotlight what it is that is grievous to Him and hurting you.  

May you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, established and firm, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness!