Tag Archives: Bible

Is this the beginning of the end?

end-times

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  Revelation 5:9

The Apostle John was taken in the Spirit to Heaven to see what was going to happen in the future.  He was taken to the Throne of Jesus with all of His majesty.  This was complete with jewels of all kinds, 24 elders on thrones, seven torches of fire, four living creatures with eyes going in every direction who never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  

All of the living things around the throne called out “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created (Rev. 4:11).”  I can’t wrap my mind around the sheer awesomeness of this scene.

John then saw Jesus holding a scroll and a strong angel called out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  John began to weep because no one was found worthy to do that.  Then an elder said, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals (Rev. 5:2,5).”  Jesus is the only one worthy to do such a thing.  

Why was taking the scroll and breaking open the seals such a big deal?  Because, in doing so, this will begin the events that will usher in the end of the world as we know it.  Seal by seal it will usher in the very difficult events leading up to Jesus’ return to the earth as judge and  King.  It won’t be pretty.   The seven seals that will be opened are:

  1.  A white horse and rider with a bow,  released to conquer.
  2.  A bright red horse released, taking peace from the earth so that people would slay one another.                                                                                          
  3.  A black horse with a rider with a pair of scales, weighing out wheat and barley for a great price (scarcity of food).
  4.  A pale horse whose rider’s name was Death.  A fourth of the earth will be killed.
  5.  Those who have been slain for the Word of God will be given white robes.
  6.  Cosmic disturbances erupt, complete with red blood moon, stars falling from sky, sky rolled up like a scroll.
  7.  Silence first so the 144,000 can be sealed and a great multitude will appear before the throne.  Then there will be great  thunder, lightning and an earthquake.

Why should we know these things?  Matthew 24:32-33 states, “From the fig tree learn its lesson; as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates.”  You need to know what will take place that marks the period known as ‘the end times.’  And you need to know what to do.  I believe that we will be here up until the sixth scroll is opened.  Wrap your mind around what that would look like.

The political systems throughout the world are a tinder box.  As things become more and more unstable, you wonder if we could get hit with nuclear missiles, if the world economy will collapse and if anarchy will reign.  It is good to have a clear sense of how things will unfold.  Knowing that God is control and world leaders are controlled by Him helps to allay fear.  God holds our tomorrow, and that’s good news.  

If now could be ‘the end times,’ how should we live?

  • We need to be about spiritual things more than being preoccupied with hobbies, mindless TV shows, and things that don’t have an eternal value.
  • We need to be ready spiritually.  That means that you must not put off making things right between God and yourself.  If you need to drop a bad sin habit, do it.  If you need to spend more time each day and week reading the Bible, praying and seeking God’s will, do it now.
  • We need to help others to be ready spiritually.  If you don’t want your loved ones, friends or acquaintances die without knowing Jesus, tell them now.  
  • We need to be ready financially.  Things could get tough if this is the time that the scrolls could be opened.   We could lose our jobs because of our faith in Jesus.  Get your debts paid so that you can walk when that happens.  Be a part of a community of believers that you can share goods with and trust.  

“But watch yourselves let your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day will come upon you suddenly like a trap…But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:34,36

 

*Image from Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Katy, TX

 


How do you like Me now?

rev 2.jpg

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest.  The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like know.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters.  In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.  Revelation 1:12-16

Most of the depictions that you see of Jesus are either of Him in a manger as a baby, the crucifix where He is still on the cross, or some characterization of Him as a human.  In those pictures, Jesus is usually holding little children on His lap, or teaching the crowds.  The Jesus that John encountered in his vision is the resurrected Lord.  He is not “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” (the title of a hymn by Charles Wesley), a baby, or the crucified one.  Oh no, He is the resurrected, ruling and reigning warrior King.  

Daniel encountered this same Jesus, which he described In Daniel 7:9-10: “While I was watching, thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat.  His attire was white like snow; the hair of His head was like lamb’s wool.  His throne was ablaze with fire and its wheels were all aflame.  A river of fire was streaming forth and proceeding from His presence.”  In Daniel 10:5-6, Daniel got another vision of the pre-incarnate Christ: “And I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen; around His waist was a belt made of gold from Ufaz.  His body resembled yellow jasper, and His face had an appearance like lightning.  His eyes were like blazing torches; His arms and feet had the gleam of polished bronze.  His voice thundered forth like the sound of a large crowd. (NET Bible)”

This is the Jesus who is now sitting on the throne, holding the universe together and interceding for us.  This is the same Jesus who will return one day in the clouds to take us home, and to then pour out His wrath on those who rejected Him.   John got to see this too, recorded in Rev. 19:11-16: “Then I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!  The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself..From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron rod…”

I give you these descriptions of Jesus because this is the One that we place our trust in and pray to.  Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   Jesus is holding the world together, and He holds us together.  He is not someone to be taken lightly.  Trust Jesus today and worship Him for who He really is!


The finish line

 

finish line.jpg

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, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever.  Amen.  Jude 24-25

 

These words were embedded into me at a camp I worked at in my twenties for several full summers.  We sang it as a benediction countless times when we met for chapel services at a point that jutted out into a huge lake.  We would canoe to get to it, and met up with two other camps around the lake.  When we sang, nature sang with us.  A thousand strong, we would sing:  “Now onto Him who is able to keep, able to keep  you from falling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…”

They still echo in my heart some thirty years later.  It is a great promise of the faith.  God is the One who keeps me from falling and will bring me safely home to Heaven.  One day I will stand faultless before Him, with exceeding joy.  Philippians 1:6 reinforces this: “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  God started my faith, and God will finish it.  What great news as I muddle through most days.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in John 17, He said to the Father, “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction (Judas), that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”  Add to that Luke 22:31-32 when Jesus speaks to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

Jesus was guarding Peter’s faith, the other disciples’ faith walk, and he guards ours.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “Consequently, He (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost (completely, for eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  In other words, Jesus is praying day and night before the throne to guard our faith.  We probably all get sifted like wheat because Satan is the enemy of our souls, but our faith will still stand.  That’s a promise.

This does not mean that we can live however we want and Jesus will pick up the pieces.  If you really belong to Jesus, God is at work changing your desires and giving you the power to live for Him.  Philippians 2:13 tells us, “It is God who at work in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.”  If you see yourself not longing for holiness and obedience, pray and ask God to change your heart, to place His desires on your heart, and to give you the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to carry it out.    

When God does a work in you that you didn’t have the desire or power to accomplish on your own, then use that as a sign that your faith is driven by God and that you belong to Him.   God is able.  He is able to bring you safely home.  I cry out with David in Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”

 


The Overcomers

overcomers

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…For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 4:4 and 1 John 5:4-5

John was writing about false prophets, lying spirits and antichrists that deny that Jesus lived in the flesh and rose from the dead.  That’s who he was saying that we have overcome.  Why?  Because we’re on the power side, the winning side.  The false prophets and lying spirits are from the world and the world listens to the lies.  But we are from God.  God is greater than Satan, greater than false notions and ideas about what is going on and what we need to do.  And He is in us, so that makes us overcomers.  To be an overcomer means to prevail, to conquer or to win the victory.  It also implies that we face a battle.

Do you feel like an overcomer?  Or are you weighed down by the many things from life and from ‘the world’ that pull at you?  We are overrun with ‘fake news’ that makes you wonder what is true and what isn’t, and who’s lying and if there is anyone out there that isn’t involved in deception.  In our daily lives we encounter mockers, haters, obstacles, and internal struggles of all kinds.

The good news  to anchor our souls in is the fact that God is on the throne.  And through faith in Him we can experience joy, freedom and victory.  Our faith isn’t just a random, fuzzy faith: “As long as you believe something sincerely, that’s all that matters,” or “Everything is all the same, just under a different name.  You just need a higher power of some sort.”  1 John 5:5 counters that with this truth:  Our faith must be in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

In Acts 4:12 it says that there is “No other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  That name is Jesus.  Don’t believe anything else, no matter how sincerely you think they are okay to blend into your life.  Everyone has to leave some belief system to follow Jesus.  Further, Colossians 2:9-11 declares, “For in Christ the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.’  (NIV)

Jesus is the top dog, with all of the power.  Don’t settle for anything less by doing what Colossians 2:8 tells us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  When you place all of your trust in Jesus, you will have the power to overcome whatever comes your way.  

You don’t have to fear, nor do you have to resort to your old way of getting things done.  Maybe you used to use anger or some sort of manipulation to get what you want.  Now, you commit your situation to God and let Him do His work.  You may have been consumed with worry, thinking that somehow through your fretting that things would change.  Now you pray.  Or, you might have taken things into your hands to control, taking charge over others to make them comply to get things done.  With Jesus in your life, now you only concern yourself with your matters and leave God to work in other people’s’ lives just like He has in yours.

You are from God, you have overcome and you will overcome future problems through faith.  You have placed your faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Through that you have a power to see God work in situations that look hopeless, and to use you for His glory in ways you could never have dreamt of on your own.

 


Sin and the Blood of Jesus

Jesus blood.jpgIf we walk in the light in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

If you asked 100 people what they think our biggest problem is, you might get quite a broad range of answers.  Some might say something about politics, others about countries who want to attack, others may talk about the environment.  God tells us in the Bible that our biggest problem is sin.  When Adam fell in the Garden of Eden, we fell, separating us from God and alienating us from Him, ourselves, others and nature.

God sent Jesus as a perfect sin offering to save us from the His wrath and the penalty of sin.  This is the heart of the Gospel, the good news of salvation because of Jesus.  When we repent of our sins, asking God to forgive us and to give us a new heart, we receive the righteousness of Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus.

But after this glorious transformation, we still sin.  We still need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the guilty stain that sin leaves so that we can stand clean before God.  The good news of our verses for today is that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness–if we confess our sins.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We can’t just do things that are offensive to God and everything to be okay because “it’s all under the blood.”  It is all under Jesus’ blood once you confess that sin and turn from it.

The other error that we might be prone to is to fall apart because of our sin.  It’s like falling down and not getting up again.  The good news is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us,” as Psalm 103:12 declares.  He wants us to come and repair our broken relationship with Him, the sooner the better.  There is no sin too dark or too big that God can’t or won’t forgive.

When we sin, we have a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Picture a courtroom scene.  When the judge asks “How do you plead?”  We say, “Guilty.”  The Judge delivers his sentence and then offers for his Son to pay it for us.  Though that would be preposterous in real life, that is exactly what happens when we confess our sin.  Jesus, our advocate, stands in our place.

This is made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, from the very beginning, blood had to be shed.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig  leaves after they sinned.  God stepped in and covered them with animal skins.  In doing so, blood had to be shed.  All of the way through the Old Testament, the people brought animal sacrifices and their blood spilled out on the altar to show that their sin was covered by blood.  It was a down payment until Jesus came and shed His blood once and for all on the cross.  

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  In Revelation 12:10-11 it says that the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…  Satan accuses us day and night, trying to get us to wallow in guilt and shame.   But if we stand in the blood of the Lamb, bringing those sins that Satan is accusing us of to God and confessing them, then Satan has no dirt to dig up on us.

If Satan is badgering you about certain events and sins of the past, confess them to God out loud, announcing to yourself, to God and to Satan that the debt is paid.  If there is something you need to do to make something right, do it.  Then you can stand free before God and before everyone else.  

Finally, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He will use any open door to torment and to taunt us.  If you have been abused or wounded in spirit, that puts a hole in your heart that Satan can use to mess with you.  Perhaps you have held bitterness against the offender, against yourself or against God.  Bring that incident, or string of incidents, to God in prayer, asking Him to cover those holes by the blood of Jesus.  He will set you free from that bondage and from the torments of Satan.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

*Image from speakthewordonly63.wordpress.com


The Bible: Written by men moved by the Spirit

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Spirit.  2 Peter 1:20-21

writing Bible.jpgAs Peter is writing this book,  he is about to die (2 Peter 1:14)  so this is his final words from a life of following Jesus.  If you remember from the Gospels, Peter was this bold bumbler that was brought in as a disciple early on by Jesus.  After the shame of denying Jesus, Jesus restored Peter and gave him a prominent position as an evangelist in the early church.  Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16 that he did not follow cleverly devised myths, which is exactly what some people view the Bible as being.  He was an eye witness of Jesus and His majesty.  In 2 Peter 2:1 Peter warned of false prophets and false teachers that would  secretly bring in destructive heresies.  And in 2 Peter 3:15 he talked of how they twist Scripture, to their own destruction.  

What was written in the Bible is not cleverly devised myths, nor should it be twisted or interpreted according to one’s own personal whims.  That means we cannot take and twist the words of the Bible to conveniently suit whatever personal theology or position on God that we want.

The books of the Bible were written by 40 different men, over a span of almost 1500 years.  Many of the writers did not know each other, but yet what they wrote about does not contradict or negate each other.  Peter here is talking about words of prophecy, which are words about what Jesus was going to come and do from the Old Testament, what He did, as written in the New Testament, and what He is going to do when He returns, which is woven throughout the Bible.

God used these men’s personalities, but He told them what to write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Peter wrote in his writing style and from his own vantage point in history, but God told him what to write.  2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”  The Bible is God’s breath, His words, His authoritative commands.  

With that in mind, here are some principles in approaching the Bible:

  • There is a true meaning to the words of the Bible, and there are false meanings.  We must submit our minds to the discipline of finding out what the true meaning is, rather than presuming that whatever pops into our minds or suits our lifestyle is the true meaning.  
  • The Bible is not our story, but it is God’s story.  God is telling us a complete story of who He is, who we are, what sin is and how, in His perfect plan, He prepared a people (Israel/the Jews) to produce a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus, who is perfect God come down in the form of a man to die on the cross for our sins.  One day He will return and establish His kingdom, and only those who put their trust in Him will be there.  Get to know that story by reading the Bible from beginning to end over and over.  Don’t just look for random verses that produce a good feeling for today.  We fit into God’s story and plan, not the other way around.  So often people want their own “personal” God that helps them to find good parking spots or to get them out of jams.
  • God’s words are authoritative for our lives.  That means we can’t pick or choose, taking only the promises and leaving out the commands.  His words are difficult and radical, and sometimes hard to understand.  Don’t water them down, or skip parts.  So often I hear people say, “My God isn’t like that.”  If the Bible says that God is a jealous God, for instance, then that’s what He is and we ought not to put anything ahead of Him in our heart’s passions.
  • The Bible demands our obedience and humility.  Since it is the very words of God, we must obey God’s directives.  In order to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of His words, we need a humble spirit that causes us to say “no” to our flesh and its desires and to say “yes” to God’s leading in our lives.
  • Don’t be like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who He rebuked in John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.”  Some people can be experts in the Bible, but yet they refuse to come to Jesus.  The Bible is about Jesus, and eternal life is found in Him.

There are many more principles to approaching the Bible, but this is a start.  May you grow in your love of the Bible and of the God who wrote it.  And may its very words get under your skin and change your life!

*image from Christianity.com

 

 


Fully supplied

divine power

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  2 Peter 1:3-4

God’s divine power has given us everything we need for our lives and our path to godliness.  When we take a hold of this we are fully supplied, in other words.  The Christian life isn’t about just accepting a bunch of doctrinal creeds that we nod our heads in agreement to.  It is a power to be experienced and a divine power that saves us and changes us.  In 1 Corinthians 4:20 Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”  And in Ephesians 1:19-20 he prayed that we would know this power in our lives, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead.

What we need to get through this life and to be godly comes from relying on God’s divine power, not our own striving.  According to Peter, this power comes through the knowledge of God.  That is, the more we get to know God, the more we are able to access this power.  Some people want more of God’s power so they can heal others or do big things for God.  But here it implicates that we get more of God’s power so we can be godly and have what we need for this life.

As we get more godly and get life figured out, it isn’t so that we become great somehow, but it is for God’s own glory and excellence.  We become like John the Baptist, who got people ready for Jesus, introduced them to Him, and then got out of the way.  He didn’t look for his own glory or legacy, only that which would point to Jesus.  The more we walk in this divine power, the more humble we become.  The less credit we get and the more Jesus gets.  And it’s okay.

Peter indicates that our knowledge of God’s divine power comes through grabbing onto His precious and very great promises.  We get to know God’s character through actually doing something because we believe in those promises.  Maybe that’s where we move from less talk and more action.  If we believe the promise of James 1 that if we lack wisdom we can ask for it, then we will ask for wisdom and actually expect an answer.  If we believe the promise of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” then we will actually do the things that God has put on our hearts to do–without fear or hesitation.

When we grow in the knowledge of God and put that knowledge into action, we become more like God and less like our flesh driven self.  That’s what it means to partake in the divine nature.  In other words, we are changed to wanting more of God and less of ourselves.  This will lead us away from the corruption of the world and from our sinful desires.  

I want more of God’s power.  It is easier to talk about what God can do than to actually get out and do something He is prompting me to do.  Right now I am trusting God, along with a small group of people, to establish a halfway house for women once they get out of jail or prison.  It is so difficult to continue walking with Jesus if women go back into their old environment, or if they really don’t have a place to go.

We are believing that God is in this, and now it is time to take action.  We have looked at three different houses, but none of them seem to be ‘the one.’  We are also trusting God for a supervisor to live there, that could hold them accountable to a different way of life and to keep them safe from old ties.  This involves both a larger money and time commitment on our parts, and it is scary.  We are standing on promises such as the ones in Isaiah 58 that talk about spending ourselves on the poor and the oppressed,  the hungry and the afflicted, and then we will see our light rise in darkness and  healing break forth like the noonday light.

God, may we grow in accessing this power through getting to know You better.  May we take a promise a day to stand on and then to actually do something that requires faith in You and power from You.  May we grow to be more like You and less selfish and small minded, and to put away the sinful desires that wage war against our souls.  I can’t wait to see what You will do for the glory of Your great and excellent name!


Rescued from Hopelessness

 

abundant life.jpgKnowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways (the empty way of life)  inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  1 Peter 1:18-19

In 1978 Kansas released the song “Dust in the Wind.”  It’s kind of a fun sing along song, but yet it reflects the emptiness of life, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea…”  King Solomon kind of said the same thing in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He was the wisest man, had tons of money and wives and stuff, but yet he concluded it was all “a chasing after the wind,” in Ecc. 2:17.  

I was struck by this futility when hearing of an old friend who would go to her dad’s grave every year to pour a can a beer on his grave in remembrance of him.  On her way out from the cemetery, she got into a serious car accident.  It made me think of the futile and empty ways of trying to make life have meaning.   

But with Jesus, life takes on a new meaning, or He gives meaning and value for the first time.  Things go from black and white to color.  In John 10:10 Jesus declared, “I have come that you might have life, life to the full.”  And in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus came to give us life, meaning to life, abundant life, and a value of life that we can’t know apart from Him.  

Everyone tries to figure out life’s meaning and value, with the questions of ‘where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?’  When you begin to embrace the Bible and its world view, you can see that you have been created by God, the events of your life have meaning and value, and coming into a relationship with Jesus gives you eternal life.  

This was made possible by the precious blood of Christ.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we could be redeemed, or ransomed from the futile ways of life that we inherited.  To be ransomed is to have a price paid to get you back from a kidnapper.  Our soul napper is Satan, who took us captive in our sin to do his bidding.  Jesus paid the bounty with His blood to buy us back from Satan and to set us free to enjoy this life that is abundant and joy filled.  Jesus rose again to demonstrate that He is the Son of God,  with power to conquer sin and death.  We must claim this personally, asking God to forgive our sin, crying out in belief that Jesus came from God, died for us and rose again and living a life given over to Him.

Last night I was reminded of the truths of 1 Peter 1:18-19 as I sat with women from our County jail in a Bible study.  Two women cried in despair as they described the troubles of their lives, of the struggles of addiction and of how they didn’t think that life has any purpose to it.  They listened as we talked about the hope that God proclaims that comes from finding life in Him.  

Oh God, may they find their hope in You, and may they be rescued from their empty way of life that has brought such pain.  Thank you that you have saved me from a hopeless life and that You have given me meaning to life, with the glorious hope of eternity with You.  Thank you Jesus, for redeeming me with Your precious blood.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14


Be Strengthened by Grace

strengthened by grace.jpg

Do not be led astray by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…  Hebrews 13:9

My last devotion was about not missing the grace of God because a root of bitterness springs up in you or someone around you.  This root can pull you away with a stubborn and cold heart and produces poisonous and bitter fruit, as Deuteronomy 29:18 warns.

But today, let’s think about how to experience the grace of God and have it actually strengthen us.  There are three things I can think of today that can pull someone away from grace.  I’m sure there are dozens, but let’s start with three.

  1. Thinking that how I’m doing as a Christian is about my performance and measuring up.  Christians my parents’ age seem to have been caught up in what looks good, whether it had meaning or not.  You had to do the right thing, go to every event there was because it wouldn’t ‘look good’ if you didn’t. The Christian life was one of duty and striving to measure up.  It ends up with a ‘see me’ mentality, because if I’m going to wear myself doing these things, I better get the credit for it somewhere.
  2. Strange and diverse teachings of today.  There are so many rabbit trails out there that you can go down that might seem exciting or where it’s at, but don’t really bring you closer to Jesus and what He has for you.  Some might be into the fulness of the Holy Spirit, others into end times, yet others into finding our Jewish roots, and on it goes.
  3. Getting defeated by sin, causing the Christian life to be an impossible roller coaster of some success, but more failure.  The result here is guilt, shame, not even trying to measure up and then going back to your old life.

I won’t want to linger here, because I want to get to ways for your heart to be strengthened by grace.  I’ll stick with three again.

  1. Get off of the performance leash.  Don’t let others control you.  Learn to play to the audience of One: Jesus.  Learn to hear His voice and find confidence in letting what He’s directing you dictate what you get involved in, and where you go.  What others think of you doesn’t matter really, it is what God thinks of you.  If you are living in honest obedience to Him, then cut the leash.
  2. Just get hooked on Jesus.  Take getaways with just your Bible and a notebook, maybe even no food so it doesn’t distract you.  Don’t let up until you’ve gotten through all of the distractions to just be with the lover of your soul.  In John 13:25 we see that John leaned against Jesus’ bosom.  Get that close to Him that you can feel what He feels and you see yourself and others through His eyes.
  3. Understand that your salvation is by grace alone.  It is a gift of God, meaning that you didn’t earn this salvation, God gave it to you.  He took the scales off of your eyes.  When you bring your sins to Him, He throws them as far away as the east is from the west.  You can live in freedom and hold your head high.  You don’t have to listen to the voice of the enemy that either speaks to your mind or through others’ lips.  They are words like, “You’re no good,” “remember all of the rotten things you’ve done,” and “it’s all your fault.”  You are loved, you are free, God has good plans for you and He is well pleased with you.  He is doing a work in you that will sand off the rough edges, so let Him and it will be good.

Let your heart be strengthened today by God’s grace.  Revel in what He has done for you, rest in His presence and lean up against Jesus’ bosom whenever you can.  Grace to you!

 


Losing spiritual weight

freedom

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.  Hebrews 12:1

Years ago I was an adult leader at a youth rally.  The speaker sent teens and adults off for a half an hour, arming us with a spiritual inventory to take.  It was like a checklist of questions related to obtaining a clean heart.  It was a chance to see if we were carrying around sins and weights that were bogging us down, and then getting them right before God.

What happened next was awesome.  We regrouped and teenagers began to get up, confessing their sins that they knew God was speaking to them about leaving behind.  Kid after kid got up in tears, voluntarily and  moved by the Spirit, and renounced things.  I’ve not been in such a revival like setting before or after, where people were so visibly moved to be free.  Psalm 66:18-19 is sobering: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”

There is freedom in finding a clean heart, but it is not easy.  The reason it’s not easy is that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our own pride, unforgiveness, and stubborn sin habits.  A couple of years ago I lost over forty pounds.  What freedom to get rid of that weight!  Involved in that process was totally changing my eating habits and sticking to consistent exercise.

To put Hebrews 12:1 into practice may mean a radical change in spiritual and emotional habits.  Sometimes the things that weigh us down aren’t sins, they are just unhealthy spiritual and physical habits or things that zap our love for God and our devotion to Him.  It is like what Luke 8:14 describes from the parable of the sower: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares (of this world) and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”  Life’s worries, the deceitfulness or seductiveness of riches, and the pursuit of fun are weights that certainly can get in the way of running after Jesus.

Some checklist questions could include:

  • Are there any cares of life that rob your peace and joy?
  • Is your joy found in things other than Jesus and His Word?
  • What would you have a hard time fasting from or giving up for the sake of having a closer walk with Jesus?
  • Is there anything that occupies more of your free time and money than it should?
  • Do you listen to any music, watch any TV shows/movies, or read any books that you seek satisfaction from that either might be ungodly, or competes with your finding satisfaction from God?
  • Are there any unconfessed sins that you secretly harbor?
  • Are there any unresolved conflicts or relationships where you have wronged someone, and it needs to be made right?
  • Are there resentments against certain people or situations that have led to bitterness, rage and malice?  (Malice is the intention or desire to hurt someone else; ill will.)
  • Are you overly concerned about yourself, having most of your conversations and thoughts centering around “I”?  Or are your feelings easily hurt?
  • Do you gossip or talk unkindly about others?
  • Do you cheat, steal, cut corners, exaggerate, or stretch the truth as a habit?
  • Are you undisciplined, lazy, or neglectful of family duties or spiritual habits?
  • Do you have a stubborn heart, or an unteachable attitude?

Clear out some time alone with God and pray the prayer of Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”