Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Being an Encourager

The Lord recently convicted me of how my words were not "seasoned with salt" and "spreading grace to the hearer". Humor is a good thing... I believe it is a gift from the Lord; but, it must be kept within His boundaries. I found that I had actually started discouraging things that I ought to be encouraging through my unwise use of God's gift of humor... saying things that discourage rather than encourage. As I am reading in Ephesians 4, I see so many important areas in which I must grow.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all... Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
My words and my actions ought to reflect the calling of God on my life--to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

As my words and actions reflect this, they ought to be a means of uniting the people of God together. I must humbly realize the truth of 1 Corinthians 4:7... that I have nothing that I did not receive. God has given me absolutely everything that I have, including the grace to turn to Him in the first place and to want to be obedient to His ways. It is not that I am a better person than the unsaved guy at work... it is simply that God mercifully gave me grace to love Him.

As I think of patience and tolerance, I am reminded of how my dad taught me so many things... as did several other mentors in my life. This men could have done jobs so much faster if I wasn't in their way and yet they chose to invest in me so that I could learn a new skill. I was praying recently about my involvement in ministry and just wanting so much for the Lord to use me not only to serve His people, but to also build others up in serving His people as well. I haven't done a great job of that up to this point, but I pray that with the Lord's help, I will be more aware of those opportunities. I love how the Lord works... I was thinking through these things on Saturday and the Lord provided a wonderful opportunity on Sunday evening to do this very thing. Perhaps God has been providing these opportunities all along and I have just been missing them, but it was a blessing to be able to put into practice some of what He was teaching me.

The Lord is also teaching me more about His love and compassion. I think that sometimes I get an un-Biblical view of manliness... be "tough"... be "hard"... be "manly". Some of this is good and I believe God made us men to be tough physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. However, He also calls us to be tenderhearted. This isn't a command just for women. This is a command for men. We were reading the other day during family devotions in Mark and it said that Jesus felt compassion for the people. Christ was not a weak man. He is the one that cleared the temple when it was being used for personal gain. But, He had compassion. Compassion along with the will of the Father drove His years of ministry. His death was compassion. I have so much to learn in this area, but I know that He is always at work and am so thankful for that.

God, I confess that I have not used the gift of words and the gift of humor to serve others as I ought. I have used them to discourage rather than encourage, to separate rather than unite. Forgive me. Make me an encourager. Give me opportunities to build up others in Christ. Grant wisdom in my words and actions so that I use Your gift of humor to honor You and bring joy. I ask that You would build me up in patience for others... that I would see Your work in them and be able to tenderly lead them to press forward in their obedience to You. Give me humility and freedom from the fear of man that I would not be afraid to associate with the lowly like Your Son modeled for us. Give me compassion for the hurting. I am overwhelmed by my deficiencies, Lord. I know that even my righteousness is only because You put within me the heart to be obedient. God, I have no good on my own. Thank You for Christ. I ask that You would grant joy in obedience and submission to Your ways. God, I am so thankful that You cannot dwell with darkness. By Your grace, shine the light of the knowledge of Christ into the deepest and darkest corners of my heart that all darkness would flee and that Christ would reign without any resistance. God, I love You, though not as much as I should. Help me to love You more. Make me more like Your Son. Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Satisfied in Him

The Lord has been at work in my heart these last several days especially in the area of helping me to be more satisfied in Christ alone. He has been so gracious and faithful to show me the reality that there is no joy in any kind of sin. Fellowship with Him is the one and only foundation for true joy. I cannot ignore sin I deem as "small" if I intend to find joy in Christ. Yes, Christ has completely paid for my sin in full, but sin breaks fellowship with Him. The reality is that even if I had everything just the way I wanted it, I would have absolutely no joy without Christ. This truth must be deeply embedded within my heart so that I am seeking the things above... so that I am finding His commands as not budensome... so that I love Him more than any "good thing".

I am under the impression that God was teaching David some of these same things as he wrote Psalm 16.

I have no good besides You.

                  You support my lot.

                                    I will bless the Lord who has counseled me.

                                                      You will make known to me the path of life.

~In Your presence is fullness of joy.~

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Make Me a Servant

This morning in men's Bible study, we looked at John 13 (right before Jesus went to the cross). I am convicted of my self-centeredness.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
What a beautiful picture of love and servanthood. This was God in the form of man preparing to die a cruel death and bear the weight of sin for all people, once and for all. Should He not be looking for comfort from His disciples? Should He not be the one being served? Rather than being served, He knew full well that this was the end and in that knowledge, He loved them and He served them.

God, I am so self-centered in my thoughts and actions. I naturally lean toward being served rather than serving. God, convict me of the sin of selfishness and give me a heart of servanthood--the heart of Christ. Show me the needs of others around me and give me a heart to meet those needs so that Christ would be glorified in me. Help me to serve those in my family. Help me to serve those in my church. Help me to serve those I love. Help me to love and serve those that I do not naturally love. Make me like Christ. Make me a servant.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Enlarge My Heart

I was listening to a sermon on the way home from work today and it was about Psalm 119. I was reminded that Psalm 119 was how Jewish children would learn the alphabet. How awesome is that? To have these truths about God's Word so ingrained in your head that it might as well be the alphabet is really quite something to think about. Over the next several days if not weeks or months, I'm going to be spending some time meditating on the truths in Psalm 119 throughout the day. If it was so valuable to them that they learned their alphabet using Psalm 119, it ought to be of great value to me as well... and that means spending time meditating on it.

I love the faith expressed here in verse 32 of Psalm 119.
I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.
The first statement, "I shall", is a statement of stability and confidence. It comes from the heart of one who is steadfast and immovable. Perhaps it sounds presumptuous... as James says, shouldn't we say, "If the Lord wills, we will do this or that..."? When we look further into this verse, we see why such confidence can be claimed. Running in the way of God's commandments is in fact God's will. We don't need to say, "If the Lord wills...", we can claim it as His will from the start and boldly commit to running in His ways. While we can say these things, again, it is kind of presumptuous that we would just say with that kind of confidence that we will run in obedience to God knowing full well how sinful our hearts are. We have two things and with these two things, we can be confident.

1) We know it is the Lord's will for us to run in the way of His commandments.

2) We know that God will enlarge our hearts to put within us the heart of obedience.

The reality is that we do not desire to obey Him in and of ourselves. We desire only to please ourselves. But, thanks be to God for the boldness to be found and claimed in Christ as our own. Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1). The power to run with endurance the race that is set before us is not found in our ability to endure. It is in looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, that we find the joy of Christ as our strength. Oh that God would enlarge our hearts to be obedient. I am in need of constant heart enlarging. I look forward to the day of complete sanctification when I stand before Him complete in Christ, but until then, I must be growing ever closer, my heart must be filled more and more with His truth, and I must, by God's grace, be more and more obedient to Him.

God, teach me the way of Your statutes, and by Your grace, I shall observe them to the end. This is my desire... not one that I can accomplish alone, so I put all my hope in fulfilling this desire in Christ and Him alone. Help me to come to Your Word with the desire learn Your ways and obey You completely. Give me a longing for Your precepts and revive me through Your righteousness. Produce in me a reverence for You through Your Word. Give me a heart that delights to do Your will.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

His Eyes

The weather has been absolutely beautiful here. We have had some rain off and on, clear crisp air that seems to just makes all of life seem a bit more vibrant and exciting, scattered clouds, bright blue sky, sunshine, brightly colored flowers blooming one last time before fall, etc. I was sitting here reading in 1 Peter 1 and had a random, "I should go for a run right now!", thought. I ran around the lake like I usually do, but decided to mix it up a bit and instead of just running at a normal pace the whole way, I decided to sprint every couple hundred yards on the second mile and then walk the last .2 or so. There was almost no one around, so I decided to take some time to just be still before Him and pray.

I lay down on the grass looking upward toward the clouds that were blowing across the moon varying the amount of light that was glowing on the water and I just had to think about the difference between God's eyes and my own. I could see that there was light behind those clouds. By faith, I believed that it was the moon reflecting the light of the sun. Yes, I meant that to be funny, but I also meant to make a point. You see, that is faith! Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. I could not see the moon. I could see evidence that it was there and was assured based on what I know about when the moon comes out and what it is supposed to look like that behind those thin clouds was the moon. In the same way, I can be fully convinced that God is working. I may not see the full picture (just like I couldn't see the moon), but I see so many evidences of His work that I can say with full confidence that He is at work. He lives to make intercession for the saints! Now I contrast that with God and His eyes. God does not need faith. He not only sees through the vastness of space to this little planet, but He sees through those clouds that prevent me from even seeing to the moon clearly... and He sees me. He not only sees me and all my actions, but He hears every word that I say, He knows my every motive and thought. Before I even say a word, He knows it was on my heart. I can't even see past the clouds!

How small I am! What is man that You are mindful of him? To say that He is intimately acquainted with all my ways is an understatement. I cannot even begin to fathom how God sees all, comprehends all, and does all things for His glory and our ultimate good.

In light of all this, I can't help but bless the name of the Lord for the riches of His kindness to me in Christ. He has given bright hope through the resurrection of Christ. He has made us heirs with Christ. He is the giver of joy and the restorer of it.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
He goes on to remind us that we were not redeemed with things that are corruptible, but rather with the precious blood of Christ--such an infinitely high cost for the redemption of my soul. I need His grace and help to be reminded of that moment by moment so that I truly prepare my mind for action, so that keep my hope fixed completely on the grace of Christ, so that I walk in obedience, forsaking sin, and walk in holiness.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Heart Obedience

Missing fellowship with His people this morning. I am thankful for the Lord's work in allowing me to have fellowship with godly friends as well as Bible study in the mornings with teammates while I have been away. God has been very good and faithful. God provided many opportunities to serve the guys on the team and I am very thankful and blessed to be used by Him in whatever means He chooses to use me.

As I sit here in the airport listening to music and sermons this morning, the Lord used a song really minister to my heart. It talks about the character of God and how He has never failed to provide for the birds and their needs and how He sees us as much more valuable than them. It continues with the challenge to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:25-34) and combines that truth with the command from Proverbs 3 to trust in the Lord with all your heart, to not lean on our own understanding, to acknowledge Him in all our ways and know what God will direct our path.

There are so many thoughts that fill my mind... so many decisions and directions I could go. The temptation is to try to figure things out for myself, but there is no peace in that. The peace that surpasses all understanding comes only from the Almighty and All-Knowing God in giving all anxiety to Him. The call is to rejoice in Christ and be thankful from my heart to Him for what He has done thus far and cast all burdens on Him so that He can guard my heart (Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Peter 5:8). He alone has the wisdom to guide me in the right way.

I was reading in Proverbs 3 this morning and the end of verse 1 really stood out to me. It says, "Let your heart keep my commandments." Obedience that is not from the heart serves only to please men. When we obey only with our actions, but not with our heart, we are disobeying the command of God in Colossians 3:22-24.
Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
This command is so simple... "Let your heart keep my commandments."... but what a challenge to live completely for God through each of the adventures of the day--to obey Him from my heart. I so desperately need God to put in me a heart of obedience, that I would do all for the glory of God, that I would truly fear the Lord and obey His commandments. This obedience won't happen because I "set my mind to it", but rather because the Holy Spirit fills me with the desire to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and that results in heart obedience. Heart obedience always results in practical obedience. God is the revealer of the secrets of the heart whether it be a heart of obedience or just the superficial obedience based solely on pleasing man.