Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stepping Up

Peter often gets a bad rep because he denied Christ three times... couldn't keep his eyes on the Lord when he was walking on the stormy sea... opened his big mouth on several ocassions... even had Jesus say to him, "Get behind me, Satan." In some ways, he deserves that bad rep. But, as I look at my life and my heart, I see many of those same characteristics, perhaps not in such big situations and written down in a book that will last forever... but if I am fully honest with myself, there are many times where my actions deny Him even if my mouth does not. There are times that the words that come out of my mouth are not seasoned with salt, bringing grace to the hearer. The fact is that anything that is not of faith is sin. If my words are not of Him, they are of Satan. There is no middle ground. As Paul says in Romans, we are slaves either of righteousness or of sin.

I was reading in Acts 1 this evening and am just amazed by what the Lord does through Peter. God used him in a mighty way... yes, the fearful man that denied Christ three times even after being warned about that very thing just hours earlier. God used him. This gives me great encouragement when it comes to areas of failure. It is when we are weak that He is strong. When the apostles were sitting around praying and kind of not knowing what to do, Peter stepped up to that plate.
At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it'; and, ‘let another man take his office.’ Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
In the midst of this difficult time where Christ had just left them, Peter is there thinking clearly through God's Word and applying it directly to the situation. That is what makes a good leader. Yes, leaders have weak spots. Yes, they will stumble and fall at times. But, it is in those difficult times when they are able to listen to the Spirit within the noise of life and hear His voice through His Word. Leading isn't just hearing His voice, but rather, hearing it and being the first to obey and apply it. That is what Peter did. He explained God's Word to them and then acted on it with their full support. They kept their dependence on the Lord... "Lord, You know the hearts of these men..." and they made their request known to God. There was a healthy simplicity about their faith. They trusted the Lord fully. They humbled themselves before Him. They listened to Him. They loved Him. They obeyed Him. God, give me a heart that listens and obeys.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fixing Your Gaze on Him

This evening I decide to read what we had read earlier in family devotions. I am finding it so important to make sure that all sin (no matter how big or small it may appear) does not go unprotested in my heart. Passages like... taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ... laying aside the sin that so easily entangles us... fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness and holiness... letting the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to God... etc. all flood my mind. I have been listening to Exodus off and on in the car on the way to work and it is continually serving as a reminder that sin hardens our hearts. Letting little things go makes room for bigger things. This is the very thing we read about tonight in Proverbs 4:23-27.
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.
One of the dangers in looking closely at all the "small things" that must not go through our hearts without a battle... is that we can lose sight of the big picture. We see how the Pharisees were focused on things like mint tithe but robbing widows and not taking care of their parents. To assume that mastering the little things means we master the big things is not a safe assumption. We must watch over our hearts with all diligence in both the big things and the small things. I have been thinking lately about how His Word is sharper than a two-edged sword and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. I am in constant need of Him to show me my own motives so that my heart would be fixed on Him.

God, please help me to be diligent about listening to Your still small voice concerning my heart. Search me and know my thoughts. Reveal any sin that resists You in my heart. Cleanse my heart so that the words that I say are filled with grace. Fix my eyes on You so that when the storms of life come, I trust You with all my heart rather than leaning on my own understanding. Cause the things that would side-track me to be of no appeal to me. Let me find fullest joy in You alone. Let love for Christ, every motive inspire. I need You to be the center... my All.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Side Issues

One thing that God has been teaching me lately is that I must not ignore any kind of "side issues" in my life. I had let my room get out of hand... it was a disaster... and I hadn't been keeping good track of my finances as I ought to. I wasn't spending like I shouldn't, but I wasn't keeping track of it either. I believe that is one of my responsibilities as a steward of the money He has given me... to keep good track of it and where it is going. The Lord had been convicting me of these two things. I started noticing that Satan was starting to use them as a foot hold in my heart to remind me of those failures and attempt to make me believe that failing in other areas was okay because I "already failed"... so why worry about it? I am thankful for the Holy Spirit and the fact that He is my ever present help in time of need... when those lies from Satan come, the Holy Spirit is there to fill me with Biblical thoughts about full submission to Him.

I decided that though my room being a mess isn't "eternally significant" necessarily, it is important... same thing with my finances. I am thankful for godly friends and commitment to keep me accountable to get those things taken care of. These issues which may be deemed as small from the outside were of vital importance for my heart. I noticed that my desire for the Word the last couple days was decreasing. I wanted so much to have a strong desire for the Word. I knew I must read it even if I didn't feel like it, but I desired so strongly to "feel like it". I pled with the Lord to renew that desire though I am committed to doing it regardless of how I feel. He answered that prayer and gave abundance of joy in His Word this morning.

Psalm 4 has been on my heart since about the end of March. I read that along with some other passages. It is such a great reminder for me to trust the Lord and be obedient.
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord.
God, thank You for restoring my soul, for leading me by the still waters of Your Word. By your grace and mercy, I ask that You would continue to cause the desire for Your Word to grow in my heart. Even more than that, cause my desire to obey Your Word to grow. Let no vice or sin remain that resists Your holy war in my heart. I want you to dwell here in my heart without rivals. Make me as soft clay in Your skillful hands. Thank You that Your mercies never cease. Thank You for drawing to mind the "side isues" of life that are really main issues. Continually search my heart and show me if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in Your everlasting path.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hang In There

There are times that I feel a bit overwhelmed, perhaps because I am not trusting God enough. It is in times like these that I am even more overwhelmed by His grace... almost like He has His arms around me saying, "Hang in there. You can trust Me. I'm not finished." He often speaks to me in this way through His word. I was reading Psalm 94 this evening.
If I should say, "My foot has slipped," Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
We used to go to Colorado every summer and dad spoke at Summit Ministries. This verse brings back a memory from one of those days in Colorado. Every 2 weeks, they do a "manly hike" early one morning up Red Mountain. It's only about a mile or so, but it's a steep mile. On the way down, several of us run down. There is loose gravel so it is almost like you are jumping and sliding... jumping and sliding all the way down. It's a blast. The one thing that always makes it more exciting is when the loose gravel ends and the sharp rock section begins. It had been raining and I slipped on one of these rocks going almost full speed and kind of ate it face first into more rocks. You know that feeling right before you fall... that feeling of... "This is going to hurt." It is in those very times (in the spiritual sense) that God is right there to hold me up. When there is not a thing I can do to save myself and by all fleshly feelings, I am done for. He will take hold of me with that strong Fatherly grip that never slips.

It is in this confidence that I can have great delight. He robs sin and death of their victory and claims it for His own. Isn't it amazing that those last moments before death, when hope is gone and you "give up"... that is when He wins the ultimate battle in us... completely purifying us and bringing us into His presence? This experience of Him gaining the victory in the completion of our sanctification isn't a unique experience. He is holding us now. When we don't know where our foot is going to land... we just know it's in the air and hope that it lands in a solid place... that is the moment that we must trust the Lord. Actually, there is never a moment that we may stop trusting Him, but especially when we don't know what will happen next. It is such a God glorifying thing to trust Him when we can't even fathom what He will do. God, give me that kind of dependence on You.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

This Time I Will Praise the Lord

Jonathan and I had a neat opportunity today to play the piano at a city event. It was neat to see their openness to the Lord. When Jonathan was asked about his aspirations regarding music, he said he just wanted to glorify God. Those words make a big brother so proud (in the right way). :) I am so thankful for Jonathan and love getting to see him and play a small part in his growth in the Lord. God is making him into a very neat, godly young man. I am so thankful! It was neat to see others singing Christian songs as well at this public event. I played things from the top of my head. I was playing "It is Well" and a lady that was sitting near by was singing along. At first when I was asked to do it, I really didn't want to do it. I don't like performances, but I finally decided that if I was going to do it, I must worship Him through it. I really enjoy just sitting at the piano and playing to the Lord (in the quiet of my home)... and I decided that I could do so in this case as well. I was thankful for the opportunity and pray that God used it to encourage someone listening.

I was reading this evening in Genesis 29. The ending is sad with Jacob being deceived regarding marrying Leah... but even more sad than that is the lack of love that Jacob showed to her and her trying to impress Jacob so that she would be loved. Take a look at verses 31-35.
Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
I think it is important to note God's part in all of this. Sometimes we feel that He doesn't see or doesn't care about our trials, but not only did God bless Leah with children, He chose to withhold them from Rachel. Having said this, we see Leah continually hoping that her husband will love her. Yes, Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, but that does not remove his responsibility before the Lord to love her. Love is a choice. Even through it all, we see that God is at work in Leah's heart to teach her to depend on the Lord even though she was unloved by Jacob. That phrase "This time I will praise the Lord." really caught my attention. She finally got it. God blessing her was not for the purpose of manipulating Jacob into loving her... it was simply for her to take joy in the Lord and praise Him! I am not advocating that any man treat his wife in such a manner (just to clarify). Jacob failed in a major way to meet the needs of Leah; yet, the Lord was enough.

God, search my heart and show me where my motives are impure. Show me where I am seeking the love and praise of man rather than the approval of You. Show me where I am using Your blessings for selfish gain. Convict me of sin and lead me to repentance. Cause my heart to overflow with praise for You for Your abundant blessings. Make me a man of thankfulness. Cause me to see how You are fulfilling my every need and praise You for it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Remember

I have been continually amazed by God's goodness these last several weeks. I am so undeserving of His blessings and yet He is continually blessing. I had the opportunity to go to a pretty important meeting for work the other day. I really enjoy those kinds of meetings where I am listening to different people and gathering information on what we need to do in order to develop the software to meet the needs of different people. I was surprised when I was asked to go because I am the newest member of the development team... certainly not the smartest or most talented. My boss said that he would probably be using me for more meetings like this in the future. I was praying before the meeting that God would put a guard over my mouth. It is so easy to say too much or too little in these meetings. It really is one of those things where I have to be constantly dependent on Him for wisdom. I am very thankful to the Lord for His blessing in this regard... I am definitely undeserving of it, but very thankful.

This evening I was reading in Deuteronomy 32... such a beautiful passage about the character of God.
Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord's portion is His people.
I needed this reminder tonight of being owned by Him. He is the one that sets our boundaries. He is the one that establishes us. The cool thing about this is that since He has always been faithful, there is not an earthly father that you can't ask about God and His work... and if they are truthful, they can't deny His work and His faithfulness. They can't deny that His boundaries are in fact best. There is so much rest in that. He is our Rock! All His work is perfect. He has never once been unjust. God, help me to remember your character so that I love You how I ought to.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

He Meets Our Needs

I was thinking last night about some of my frustrations with lack of young men my age with whom I can have continual fellowship. I was reminded that if He is the One who is daily bearing all my burdens, He needs to hear what they are. Yes, He knows my burdens better than I know them, but He commands us to cast our cares on Him--to leave them at His feet and let Him do with them as He deems best. I had kind of forgotten about that today until the Lord totally met those needs. He blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with a good friend of mine this morning for about an hour and then received a text message from another friend asking if I had time for lunch. The Lord graciously worked it out in such a way that I worked extra yesterday and was able to take an extra long lunch today. I am so convicted of my slowness in taking things to Him in prayer. God, give me the humility to take all to You in urgent prayer. I can't afford to be self-relient in any way. Cause me to be constantly giving You all my cares so that You can carry me. Thank You for being such a gracious and loving heavenly Father. You truly do lead me by still waters and restore my soul.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

When He Gives the Words

It is such a huge temptation to take things into our own hands... to depend upon our own wisdom... etc. I woke up this morning with a song in my head which has Proverbs 3:5-6 in the middle of it. I have had that specific part stuck throughout the day. I love when things like that are stuck in my head. The truths are so foundational and simple, but can be such a challenge.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
That phrase, "with all of your heart", is too often overlooked. We can't compare ourselves to others and then tell God how good we are by trusting Him with some or even most of our hearts. God is not impressed by my wisdom. Actually, if it truly is wise, He gave it to me. Leaning not on my own understanding must be what drives me to my knees in prayer. He said that if anyone lacks wisdom, we can ask of Him and He will give it--that is submission to His ways... that is acknowledgement of Him. When we do this, He doesn't promise a road of ease, but He does promise that it will be straight. I think we are often surprised by what He does because we are trusting our own wisdom to make decisions far too much of the time. If we were fully in-tune with Him, I think we would be surprised very little by what He does. In fact, I believe He would be creating those desires in our heart to prepare us for it. His ways are higher than our ways. I am not trying to say otherwise, but I do think that there are unnecessary "surprises" due to our lack of seeking His wisdom before our own.

I was reading tonight in Acts 6 and looking at the example of Stephen who was clearly in-tune with what the Lord was doing not only inside himself, but also in those around him. Take a look at this:
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking... and fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.
When we submit ourselves to His way, He provides the words far above and beyond what we could even dream of thinking to say. God is so infinitely wise and He is not only willing, but He has told us to ask Him for wisdom. It is His will for us to have it. It's not like we are trying to get something out of Him that He is holding back... He wants us to be wise children.

God, give me humility to see the ways in which I am leaning on my own understanding. Teach me to trust You with all of my heart. By Your grace, don't let me be content with anything less. I ask that You give me wisdom... You know more than I just how desperately I need it. I have no wisdom of my own even though I try to act like I do at times. Crush all of that pride and turn my heart toward glorifying You with all that is within me. Take all that I am... not just some of me... not just what I feel like giving you... I need You take take it all.