Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Dare to Believe

I have been thinking a bit lately about Biblical ways of challenging people to love and serve the Lord. I am kind of turned off by the "try before you buy" type Christianity. When Christ called people to follow Him, it wasn't a "try and see if you like it" kind of thing. It was a "take up your cross and follow me", whole-hearted commitment. It was a "if you love father or mother more than Me, you are not worthy of Me" commitment. Yet we also see Paul pleading with people to be reconciled to God. I struggle in how to balance these things, but as I was reading 1 Peter 2 this evening, I was once again challenged to believe and obey Him and I want to offer this same challenge to you... not with my words, but with His.

We are offered this hope:
He who believes in Him will not be disappointed.
The question is... do you believe it? Do you truly believe that doing things His way will never disappoint you? Do you truly believe that His ways are always best?

Sin is disbelief... a lack of faith (whatever is not of faith is sin... without faith, it is impossible to please God). Obedience is just the outward expression of belief. It is an essential thing, but it is not the foundation. We can pretend to be obedient for a while, but if it doesn't come from a heart of full trust in the God who never disappoints, even that "act of obedience" is deceiving ourselves. My challenge to you is this: think through five big things in which you need to trust the Lord. Write them down. Spend some time reading the Word and write down specific ways in which you must be obedient to His ways regardless of the cost. You will not be disappointed. It is a promise from the Creator of the universe. Trust Him. Obey Him. Love Him.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Living to Please Christ

This week was a good, but stressful one at work. Several unexpected things came up (an internet service provider company messed up the routing to our website which took down almost half our customers... had to get test materials delivered with one days notice... etc.). It all worked out well in the end, but it was a bit stressful at times. I am thankful for His grace and help through this week. I have been thinking quite a bit about what it means to please God rather than man this week. I am in constant need of reanalyzing my heart and asking Him to show me the areas in which I am not fully pleasing Him. This evening I was reading in Deuteronomy 12 and verses 5-11 caught my attention.
But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; for you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the Lord.
Obviously, a lot of these things don't apply in the practical sense... we don't offer burnt offerings now. However, what God is teaching them through this is something I need to be continually reminded of. I am thinking specifically if the emphasis on doing what is right... doing it at the right time... and at the right place. The purpose is to please Him. The place in which God has chosen for His name to dwell is your heart (if He is your savior and Lord) and my heart. We are not to do whatever is right in our own eyes. My job (even in the areas in which I am called to be a leader) is not to think of a great plan and then carry it out. That is "leaning on my own understanding" and "doing whatever is right in my own eyes", but rather, my job is to seek the Lord, rejoice in Him, rest in Him, offer the living sacrifice of my heart to Him, and do what is right in His eyes. It is for His fame that we must live.

God, I ask that You would make my ways straight as I acknowledge You in all my ways. In order for You to do that, You must first give me a heart that acknowledges You and seeks Your will above my own. I ask that You would reveal to me any area in which I am doing what is right in my own eyes and turn my heart to do only what is right in Your eyes. Continue teaching me what is pleasing to You and give me the courage to live it out day by day, moment by moment. Strengthen your Spirit in me and cause me to continually present myself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to You. It is the only reasonable thing that I can do since You have ransomed me. "Faultless I stand, with righteous works not mine. Saved by my Lord's vicarious death and life. I cling to Christ and marvel at the cost. Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God. Bought by such love, my life is not my own. My praise, my all, shall be for Christ alone." God, give me that heart--a heart that understands the depth of Your love for me and responds with living for You alone.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Being Wholly Illumined

It's hard to believe how fast time is flying... we are already half way through January! If the rest of the year goes anything like these first couple weeks, it is going to be an awesome year. Pastor Tim preached last week on the passage in Luke 20 where Jesus is responding to whether or not they ought to pay taxes to Caesar and He responded, "Whose likeness and inscription does it [the coin] have?... Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." I have always wondered about this passage in that in reality, all things belong to God. Pastor Tim made the point that in Genesis 1, we are created in the image of God. So, whose likeness and inscription do we have? Render to God, the things that are God's!
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
It never ceases to amaze me at how He takes His Word and continually drives it into my heart. I am so thankful for His work and perseverance. We were reading the other night in Luke 11 during family devotions and I have been pondering over verses 32-36.
No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.
God calls us to "watch out" that the light in us does not become darkness. We must guard our hearts so that we have "no dark part in it [our heart]".

God, I ask for You to purify me as You did the sons of Levi as they were preparing to come before You. I want to be wholly illumined with the light of Christ. Shine the light of Your Word on any area of darkness in my heart. "O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, even the shoot which Your right hand has planted, and on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself." You are the One that both plants and strengthens the hearts of man. I ask that You would look down and that You would utterly destroy any darkness so that I would be strengthened for Your sake. Fill my heart with a longing for complete obedience. Grant courage and help for Your glory in my heart.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just the Beginning

Life and work has resumed at full speed once again. There have been some interesting changes at work including many more responsibilities on my plate. It is a good thing... but it is challenging to prioritize all the different tasks being thrown my way. It's been very much enjoyable though. I actually spent about an hour taking staples out of test booklets today. I am continually amazed by the work that God has done in my heart. I remember the first time I was asked to do such tedious tasks at work... and how I really was not in any way happy to do it. By His grace, I am able to take joy in such tasks now. It really comes down to living "not for yourself". God has graciously showed me many areas in which I have been far too self-centered and given me opportunities to make Him the priority and in doing so, serving others.

I was reading this evening in Deuteronomy 3 and verse 24 jumped out at me.
O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?
This is Moses talking. This is the Moses that was saved at birth by Pharoah's daughter. This is the Moses that God spoke to in the burning bush. This is the Moses that God used to part the Red Sea. This is the Moses that God gave the 10-Commandments. This is the Moses that God used to bring the plagues on Egypt. If this Moses says that all these things are just the beginning of God's greatness and the strength of His hand... I have so far to go in knowing and trusting Him. There is a huge difference between "knowing" and "believing". May He continually cause us to reflect on His amazing works and meditate on His deeds so that our minds and hearts are filled with the knowledge and full belief in His infinite power and worth.

God, I ought not be surprised by Your marvelous deeds... for You can do all things. I want my love of Your works to increase and my surprise by them to decrease. I have so far to go in knowing You. I long to see Your marvelous deeds and know without a shadow of a doubt that You can do far more and yet I also want to value Your works more than I do now. Unite my heart to fear Your Name. I don't fully understand how this can happen in this heart of mine, but You did this work in the heart of Moses. You can do it in my heart. Help me to trust You so much more than I do.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

His Complete Control

I was reading some Psalms this evening before bed and my eye was caught in Psalm 33:10-18.
The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness.
The frustration of my plans is one of the most valuable graces of God on my life. It is humbling when things don't go like I plan them... and He fully intends them to be so. I need that. I need His constant reminder of His complete control over everything. While I am responsible to take action as He leads, there is no strength apart from Him. There is no victory without Christ. It is on this hope for His lovingkindness that I fix my eyes as I enter this new year. I have made several "resolutions" (many of them are not so much resolutions as they are areas that I want to make progress in). I believe these things are God's will; however, I am fully aware that they may not happen as I think they will. This will be His grace in the form of frustration of my plans. This is His goodness upon my life. It is His perfect plan to keep me dependent on Him. In this, I rejoice greatly and look forward to living moment by moment for His glory in 2011.