Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Not Lacked A Thing!

Work has been crazy lately. I've been working longer hours than normal. The overtime is a blessing, but I'm not really a fan of it in general. There is a lot to say for having time with family and not being completely wiped out upon arrival at home. I'm not complaining... overtime at work is always optional and so it has been by choice. However, it has given me a greater appreciation for those that work long hours almost every day. I am very blessed and thankful.

I was reading in Deuteronomy 2 this evening and a phase caught my attention from verse 7...
These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.
That is quite a statement to make! I am all of 26 and to even comprehend not only my entire life, but another 10+ years all spent in the wilderness is quite something... yet, in all of that and in all of their rebellion, they did not lack a thing because of God's goodness. I also look back on my life and can say that this is true of my life as well. Not only have I not lacked a thing, God has given so much above and beyond what I need. How amazing is the goodness of God?! Though I sin against Him time and time again, He still makes it so I am not lacking a thing. I am so undeserving. He is so good.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

When We Pray...

I won't hide it from you... if this is half as convicting to you as it is to me, it won't be a "fun" read, but it will be profitable. I was about to start praying for someone this evening and thought, "I should tell so and so that I am praying for them.", but gave little thought to actually praying for them. The Lord brought Matthew 6:5-6 to mind...
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
In a moment, I realized that I had created my own slightly different hypocritical way of "praying". Actually, it was worse in a way. At least they were praying! I was going to go ahead and "announce" my praying and then put half as much time into actually praying for them as it would take to "announce" it. Maybe announcing it to one person is better than on the street corner, but regardless, it is seeking to please man rather than God and it is not the fervent or effectual prayer that accomplishes much.

It is not wrong to encourage someone in the Lord by saying, "Hey, I'm praying for you!" In fact, I think it is quite uplifting when someone says that to me! However, if we say such things to get a "thank you" rather than to be an encouragement in the Lord... and perhaps not even get around to praying about it... what good is that? Wouldn't we be much better off to pray in private and not even speak a word about it to anyone but God?! I expect that when I get to heaven, there will be countless people there that have prayed for me and prayers that God has answered that I was never aware of. Maybe even people who's name I cannot even remember. I want to be that kind of man. Yes, I want to encourage people and let them know I'm praying for them. But, I want to faithfully pray for people regardless of their knowledge of it and witness the Lord's work and praise Him for it. God, forgive me for the ways in which I have been a hypocrite in prayer and make me a faithful prayer warrior for Your glory alone!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Work of Prayer

I don't know whether more people are in need of earnest prayer right now, or if God is graciously making me more attentive to the needs of others around me, but I have been so burdened to pray more. I think it is probably the later as I can be so focused on self at times that I miss opportunities to serve others around me. Regardless, I am thankful for these opportunities to bring others (and myself) before His throne knowing that He hears. Physically doing work often seems like the "more important work", but I am becoming more and more convinced (beyond head-knowledge level) that prayer is the more important work. There are certainly times to get our hands dirty... and we ought to, but if it be (and it is) true that we can do nothing apart from Him, we must be more dependent on Him. I'm ashamed of how many times I do things without even consulting Him. He ought to be at the center of everything! I will even find myself sitting and just thinking about something rather than praying through it to the Lord. So often in my times of prayer, the Lord grants wisdom and insight. He often brings passages to mind as I am praying that speak directly to the situation and it is such a joyous thing to hear from Him. It makes me wonder how I could ever not take something before Him in prayer... and yet I do!

All that to say, I am burdened and encouraged to take much more before Him in prayer. Not just saying empty words to be able to say, "I prayed for you.", but to earnestly come before the Lord and pray big things. It seems like such a huge thing for God to change a heart, but it is big only from our perspective. It is not a hard thing for God to change hearts. I love that verse at the beginning of Proverbs 21:
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
I imagine running my hand under the sink and using my hand and fingers to direct the direction of the water... that is how easy it is for God to direct the heart of the most powerful person with the hardest of hearts. Why do I ask Him to change hearts with such little faith? He can do all things and no purpose of His can be thwarted! May we pray with much more urgency and much more faith because He is the one that does the work! Apart from Him, we can do nothing!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

True Value... No, Not the Company

The Lord has blessed exceedingly beyond all I could ask or think. I haven't really made it public because it really isn't of importance unless God, by His grace, allows me to use it for eternal purposes... but I bought a house a little over a month ago. It has been an interesting process for sure... tons of work (but fun work!)... and I've found that I can't leave Lowe's without spending like $100+ on "essential things". It's amazing how fast everything adds up. It's been well within my budget thus far, but it's still crazy when you get down to the little details. Anyway, I thought that today would be a good day to share this because I was reading in Psalm 49 this morning and I think for me personally, the process of buying this house and thinking through everything in new ways has caused me more than ever to think about material possessions and what place they ought to be in my life. I wanted to share verses 16-20 of Psalm 49:
Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not descend after him. Though while he lives he congratulates himself— and though men praise you when you do well for yourself— he shall go to the generation of his fathers; they will never see the light. Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish.
I almost want to just post this on my wall in my house... in fact, I may actually do that. It sounds crazy, but I need big Biblical thinking about the "stuff" of this world. Yes, I am enjoying making it nice, but I want to keep an eternal perspective in mind as I think about it. Am I making it nice so that I can "congratulate myself" and others will "praise me"... or am I making it nice so that it can be more pleasant to be in and serve the Lord better in serving others in the form of hospitality? It's not wrong for people to compliment hard work, but if this is my motivation in doing what I am doing, I am doing it all for the wrong reasons. It must be done to glorify the Lord. I am in constant need of the Lord's work in my heart to cause me to think the way I ought to think about "stuff". I am thankful for the continual reminders that He has given me (this one included). So the true value is not in the house... it will burn someday. The true value is in it being used for the glory of God to make a difference for eternity.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

When "No" is Best

Without saying anything more, let me just say that when God says, "no", it is always best! It's easy to say that, but when we get into situations where we really want something, it is very easy to start thinking that God doesn't know what we need. We would never say that out loud, but we live that way sometimes in the pursuit of the things that we think would fulfill our wants or needs.

God reminded me of His "no" always being best when I was at work yesterday. In February 2010, I was laid-off from my previous job as a software developer due to financial issues. When this happened, I knew it was a blessing because it kind of forced my hand at moving forward... and it was time to do so. I put out my resume to many companies even out to a company in TN. I found a company that does a lot of government contracts with an office only about 10 miles away... they had the foosball table and everything. It was the model of "fun and enjoyable place to work". I sent in my resume to them and had a phone interview. They called me back to set up an in-person interview then had to reschedule... then they never called back. I called them back a couple times (tip for job hunters out there... don't be annoying, but take the initiative and call them if you are interested)... and they basically said that they no longer needed someone for the position. I was disappointed. This process... phone interview, in-person interview, sometimes a second in-person interview only to get a "no"... happened over and over and over again. I really thought this one was the perfect job, but God said, "no".

Yesterday, I was part of an interview process for a new programmer at work. I downloaded her resume and started reading. Her last job was none other than THAT JOB in April 2010! Management changed shortly after she got the job... the foosball table went away... anything "fun" or "enjoyable" went away... the company struggled financially and closed down the close office and the commute changed from 10 miles to 80 miles... etc. So let me just say that when God says, "no", why do we not just believe Him? If He wouldn't have revealed that to me yesterday, would His "no" be any less wise? He doesn't need to tell us why. He knows all things and does not withhold any good thing from those that walk uprightly. Let's live uprightly and trust that anything that seems "good" that He withholds from us is not actually "good".

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

In Light of the End

I have been really challenged the last several days by 2 Peter.  Tonight, I was reading in chapter 3 and verses 10-15 really caught my attention.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
My eyes must be turned toward the things that are eternal. The things of this earth will be burned up someday. One of the guys at church who has some really nice guitars often reminds me that it is just "firewood". What a great reminder that is. The stuff of this world is all going to be burned up... so in light of the end, what is at the center of my attention? Praying that I would grow in Christ-likeness and that my heart would be turned continually toward eternal things.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hearts Inclined to the Lord

The days seem to be flying by this summer. Work is going extremely well... enjoying more time with the family... etc. This afternoon, I even got in a nap before we all went out and played some volleyball. Ran into Pastor Tim and his wife at the park and they joined us in playing volleyball for a while... ran into some other friends walking by the park and we talked with them for an hour or so. We are so blessed. We have been studying 1 Kings in family devotions and chapter 8 caught my attention. I've been reading and meditating on little pieces of it. I love this prayer from Solomon and echo it in my heart to the Lord.
May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers. And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else.
So often we want God to be with us and not forsake us, but when it comes down to it, we may not actually want to walk in all His ways and keep His commandments, statutes, and ordinances. We like the idea of God doing good things for us, but obedience just doesn't sound fun all the time. Sometimes it is hard to obey. Sometimes it doesn't feel like obeying is what is best for us. But I think that phrase "as each day requires" is so key to obedience--God is actively granting grace to enable us to obey. When we obey, God is glorified not only in our hearts, but in the world. When God asks us to obey in ways that may same "unreasonable", we must remember what He did on the cross... talk about unreasonable! Is He not so glorified when His children can say to Him... "God, this doesn't really make sense, but I know I can trust you and I will obey because You are worth trusting."? Oh how much I need to have my heart inclined to the Lord! That is not a something that if I think hard enough and work hard enough, my heart will be inclined to Him... no, the Holy Spirit does that work. He must do that work! Yes, it does take work on my part sometimes... He speaks through His Word and if I'm not reading it, I am losing out on so much of what He has to say... but, it is His work. I could read the Bible all I want, but unless the Lord does a work in my heart, I will not be inclined to obey Him. God, give me a heart of steadfast obedience!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trust Him - At All Times

My internal alarm woke me up around six this morning (which I like).   It's such a blessing that we have the freedom to worship the Lord together openly.  I ought to take advantage of that in every way possible.  The best way for me to take advantage of it is to prepare my heart to worship the Lord that I might worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I was convicted this morning of being frustrated about certain things and yet not taking them to the Lord in prayer.  I don't want to be self-dependent in any way!  I've seen how that doesn't work over and over and I desperately need the Lord to be my Rock.  I was reminded of Psalm 62:5-8... take a look:
My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
Any frustration I have, small or big is something that I can depend on the Lord to take care of. More often than not, my frustrations are a result of my own selfishness and God taking care of those looks like Him humbling me in the ways that I need to be humbled. Other times, it is something that He needs to do in someone else (which is how I tend to first look at it before the Lord changes my heart). Regardless, I would save myself a whole lot of time and wasted energy if I would truly trust Him at all times and as a result of that trust, pour out my heart before Him. May we grow to love and trust Him more and more and cast all of our cares upon Him with full confidence that He cares for us and only gives His children good gifts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Abiding in Christ

The last couple weeks, I have been reading Colossians over and over again (along with some other passages).  This morning, I don't know if my alarm just didn't go off or if I slept through it or what happened, but I ended up getting a late start on my way to work.  My devotions ended up being reading John 15 in the car at stoplights and a short prayer time.  Certainly not the ideal morning, but I am thankful that He speaks and hears even on rushed mornings. 

I was reading this evening again in Colossians and chapter 3, verses 12-17 really stood out to me in light of John 15:1-8.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

In Colossians 3, that command to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us ties in so closely with John 15. We cannot bear fruit without being connected to Christ. Continuing in Colossians 3, we are not just to have His Word dwell within us, but it is to come back out of us as we speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with hearts of thankfulness to the Lord! When we are abiding in Him, the source of every good and perfect thing, His Word is our life and breath. We cannot help but respond in gratitude to the Lord and let that overflow to those around us.

May God give us hearts that long to be close to Him, to know and to do His will, to submit with joy to His perfect plans, and be thankful in all things to the Giver of every good and perfect thing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bible Search

I absolutely love making use of the tools available to me to find passages that come to mind with a couple key words and a couple clicks.  It is such a blessing that we have so much technology available to us to aid us in our Bible studies.  At the same time, sometimes (at least for me) it can hinder what we get out of the Word.  If I didn't know where a verse was before we had internet and before I had my Franklin electronic Bible, I pretty much had to read around where I thought it was until I found it.  It was a lot more work, but there were lots of rewards to it as well!  I had mentioned a particular Bible story to one of the men at church on Sunday in relation to Sunday school and I thought for sure it was in Nehemiah.  Rather than searching for it, I decided to read Nehemiah and try to find it.  I was so blessed and encouraged by it.  Now, I didn't find the passage that I was looking for, but God used it in my heart and I am thankful. 

I did give in and decided to search for it... it was actually in 2 Kings 19:14-19.
Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God.”
This was Hezekiah's response to a letter basically saying look at all these other kings that have been defeated... what makes you any different?

What a great response!  So often our first response to hard situations is to try to come up with some kind of solution.  Why do we not first take all to the Lord in earnest prayer?  We lose out on opportunities to bring glory to the Lord by trying to solve it ourselves, though even if we did "solve it ourselves", it is only because of wisdom we have received from the Lord.  We would do well to recognize that from the beginning and save ourselves the time and pain involved in the sin of "worry".  May we always be taking all things to Him in earnest prayer and may He receive greater glory because of it!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Heirs of Grace

This evening I had a softball game... always lots of fun.  I got pretty rocked in the back of the head by a softball as I was coming into home plate which is probably the reason I'm still up.  Considering I was safe, it was well worth it, right? :)  It's been a fun season.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to get some exercise and hopefully be a light to some of the guys in the community.  A few weeks ago, one of our players died.  He was diagnosed with cancer just three weeks before he passed away.  It was a really sad situation... wife and a 2 year old.  It sometimes makes me wonder... why not me?  Why someone with a family depending on him and a baby?  But, God knows best.  Obviously, I am very glad to be alive... just reminded that He could take any of us at any time.  It ended up being a good opportunity to pray with the guys on the team.  One of the guys bought shirts for all of us with that guy's last name on them to honor him.  It is very sad... but God knows what He is doing.

I was reading in Titus 3 this evening and was reminded of the reason we are empowered to love when we don't feel like it or do good to the one that uses us, etc. 
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
We can go back and remember how much we have been forgiven... how much grace has been given us in Christ... how much hope we have in Christ... how much of our good works (none) helped us earn favor with God... etc.  When we consider these things, our desire to love and obey the Lord and serve others increases greatly.  We have been given great grace and mercy--we can extend the same to those around us!  We were encouraged on Sunday by Pastor Tim to pray big prayers for ourselves.  I am praying that I would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and that it would be evident to others in the way I pass on some of that amazing grace that I have received.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Option

Sunday school this morning was about Exodus 33.  I was so challenged by verses 1-3 and 12-16.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”... Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
God told Moses that He was sending an angel before them to in a sense "fix all of their problems".  But, God wouldn't be there.  This is staggering to me!  God sometimes will give us the option of "an easy way out" that is not His best.  It comes down to this: when we are facing a trial, are we going to take the "easy way" without God, or are we going to hold firmly to Him and not compromise our relationship with Him no matter what pressure may be around us?  By God's grace, may we "mourn" before the Lord when we are faced with the option of the "easy way" and may we hold fast to the Lord knowing that His way is always best.  We can't go on in life without Him.  We can't pretend that everything will be fine.  Sure, the angel would have been able to drive their enemies out and things would have felt fine and dandy for a little while, but what happens after that?  Is all well when everything is smooth and easy, but without God?  No!  We need Him to be central in absolutely everything.  It doesn't matter how hot the fire gets or how hard a trial may be, if God is at the center of it all, we can say, "it is well with my soul".

Friday, April 12, 2013


I was reading this morning in several different passages and still had the browser tab open from the last one from this morning: John 14.  Those first words jumped out at me as I was reading again tonight, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me."

Christ was finishing His earthly ministry.  His disciples had grown close to Him, walked with Him for years, were taught be Him, encouraged by Him, rebuked by Him, etc.  They had left absolutely everything to follow Him and now He was going away.  These are the words that He gave them: do not let your heart be troubled.

How quickly my heart is "troubled".  It really shows me how weak I am in the flesh... how dependent on the Lord I am for strength. I am reminded of those words from Psalm 63:8--My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.  It is not about how strong I am, but rather about how strong He is. My heart becomes troubled when I am not believing in God. That sounds super cliché, but when we see things from His perspective... when we trust Him fully... our hearts need not be troubled.  When we know and understand that His plans are perfect and that no plan of His can be thwarted... when we know that God is using sinful human beings to accomplish His perfect work, we can find rest in Him.  We need not fear His plan being changed by the actions of man.  We don't need to know why, but we do need to believe Him with all of our hearts.

Great is Thy faithfulness,
O God my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not,
Thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been,
Thou forever wilt be.

Pardon for sin,
And a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today,
And bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine,
With ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness,
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed,
Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Freedom and Responsibility

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about how responsibility always comes with freedom.  Whether it be the freedom to drive a car or have keys to the office, these freedoms ought not be taken for granted.  They come as we have earned trust.  You know... we can't even earn trust.  Trust is given to us just like freedom is.  It is given generally based what has been seen, but it is still given in faith.  Take a look at these thoughts from Galatians 5, 1 Peter 2, and 1 Corinthians 8.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another... Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king... But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  
God clearly lays out the purpose of freedom.  It is for serving one another, for serving to the Lord and willfully submitting to Him and the authority that He ordains in our lives.  It is for showing honor and love to those in authority as we submit to them.  It is for being sensitive to the weaknesses of others [considering others as more important than ourselves].  What a joy it is to have the freedom that God gives and to go right back to Him and say, "God, I want to be your bondslave... not because I am forced to, but because I love to do Your will!"

You see... freedom isn't to be used for selfishness. You have a car? Use it for good... submit to authority with it... use it to show that others are more important than yourself.  As I consider these things, I am challenged to really analyze the incredible freedoms that I have been given.  Am I using them to serve God, to serve others, and to honor and submit to authority? 

Remember when you gained the freedom of being allowed to cross the street for the first time by yourself?  I remember telling my parents that if I was crossing the street and could tell that I wasn't going to make it all the way, I'd lay down really really flat and the car would go over me and I'd be between the wheels and be fine.  Freedoms are granted to those that are ready to use them in the right manner.  May the Lord graciously hold back any freedoms from us that would cause us harm and may He continue His sanctifying work in us so that we are ready to use the freedoms that He grants us in a manner that pleases Him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Our Position in Christ

A friend and I were studying Ephesians 2 this evening and discussing the joy our position in Christ in comparison to what our position was outside of Him. Take a look at verses 1-3 in contrast to 4-10.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
We were lifeless. We were slaves to sin and to the pattern of the world. We obeyed satan. We lived for ourselves indulging every sinful desire. The wrath of God was being stored up for us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Christ entered the scene and poured out the riches of His mercy and love on us when we were completely undeserving. We were dead and lifeless. He had no reason to love us. In fact, He had every reason to pour out judgement upon us, but He chose to make us alive with Christ when He died on our behalf to take the full wrath of God and rose again to conquer death. He did this so that we could have the hope of eternal life right now and so that He might actually show us the infinite riches of His grace toward us in Christ.

You know... we hardly understand what He did for us on the cross. We won't fully get it until we see Him face to face and recognize the fullness of His grace and kindness toward us. But while we are still stuck with our finite minds here on earth, we can and ought to take so much joy in what we do know about His goodness to us in Christ and accept His free gift with gratitude and humility knowing that we could not do anything on our own to save ourselves. We had to be saved by a sinless Savior. Not only has He saved us, but He has ordained His perfect plan for us. He has prepared the way of righteousness for us to walk in. He has created us for good works, not to glory in ourselves, but to glory in the goodness of God and live for Him out of the strength that He provides through our joy in Him.

May God grant us the humility to recognize the greatness of His grace and may that recognition fill our hearts with overwhelming joy so that we desire nothing other than to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Object of Our Trust

God has been so good and gracious to me, far beyond all that I could ask or think.  I am finding myself more and more aware of all the ways that I must place all my hope and all my trust in the Lord.  I was reading this evening from Proverbs 28 and verses 25 and 26 jumped to me.
An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.
God is against the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Arrogance and trusting the Lord cannot exist together. Either we believe that our way is best, or we believe that God's way is best. This foundational belief (not with the mouth, but with the heart) drives every one of our actions. This has been life changing for me over the last several years especially, but it has again come to my attention lately as the Lord works these truths into my heart again so that all my faith and hope are in God. Who has proven himself as more worthy of trust than our completely faithful God? What security do we have outside of Christ? Are we guarenteed even the next breath? Is not everything that we are dependent on the grace of God?

There is a pattern throughout the history of mankind, starting with Adam and Eve and continues today--God pours out His amazing blessings, we take those blessings and start trusting in the blessing that was provided rather than the Provider of those blessings, and we turn our hearts away from the Lord until He humbles us again to the point of having no choice but to trust in Him. I think of the Israelites in the wilderness after leaving Egypt... they had nothing to eat or drink even, but God provided both of those things. They had to be dependent on Him.

I feel that I am at that time of experiencing the blessings of God. He has been so infinitely good to me. You know, if all we had was Christ, that would be enough, yet He blesses us with so much above and beyond even that. I am so aware these days of my need to trust Him in the midst of His blessings. I must love and serve the Giver of every good and perfect thing with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Trusting Him doesn't always seem pleasant at the time. Being completely honest reagardless of the consequences... putting others as more important than ourselves... being a peace maker... humility... etc. It is not always easy, but if we truly believe that He is worth trusting, we would obey Him fully without even considering an alternative. May God give us His grace and help to trust Him more. It is a sweet thing to trust in the Almighty God.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Light

The lake near our house was just stocked with 1,200 lbs of trout this last week and they had a fishing derby.  Hardly anyone caught anything (I didn't even get a bite), but they had a raffle at the end to raffle off some prizes.  They drew my name for a little mag-lite... and actually, I'm super impressed with how bright it is!  But anyway, I was thinking about it that evening... what a random, completely unnecessary blessing!  It was a reminder to me that God takes joy in blessing His children.  I didn't need a new flashlight... and if I did, the Lord has provided for me to go out and purchase one... but He chose to just give it to me.  A light is such a little thing in comparison to the infinite riches of Christ, but I am learning more and more these days to see the Lord in the "little things" of life.  I am thankful for this increased awareness as it is so easy to go through life without being thankful to Him who gives every breath. 

I have been reading in Joshua lately about some of the big actions of God in blessing His people with land and giving them victory over their enemies... a little flashlight seems so small in comparison, but I think it is important that whether it be a small thing or a big thing, I recognize God as the giver of every good and perfect gift and thank Him for it.  God has blessed me so much beyond that, but I pick the story of the flashlight specifically because it is small.  God is honored with we thank Him for the small things just like He is when we thank Him for the big things.  God is doing a lot of big things... He always is, even when we don't see it.  Let's look for Him in every good and perfect gift and take joy in praising Him for His goodness and faithfulness to us.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Goodness of God

I have been so overwhelmed by the goodness of God.  It's not because He changes, but rather because by His grace and help, I do.  His goodness to me far exceeds my ability to recognize them, but what I do recognize, I am so thankful for.  I was just sitting here thinking of some of His kindnesses to me this morning.  The next breath is only because He enables me to take it.  That random question from a co-worker, the Lord put within their heart and granted me wisdom in responding.  That prompting from the Lord to double check my blind-spot before changing lanes that likely saved an accident was His doing.  That conviction for my bad attitude was from Him.  That empowerment to reflect on His mercy and grace and extend it to others was from Him. The spiritual refreshment in fellowship with friends that desire to please the Lord... He put them in my life... He gave them a heart to please Him and to minister to me.  That peace that is unexplainable when there are so many unknowns... that is from Him.  The desire to want to please Him... it's from Him.  The challenges at work that cause me to grow in character... those are from Him.  The fact that I recognize any of the above or any of the below, it's from Him.  The ability to put into memory His Word and that He brings it to mind just when needed most, it's all from Him.  For music that points me to Him and the writers of it and the recording artists and the technicians that made it sound great... all skill comes from Him.  For technology and the ability to fellowship with believers across the world in multiple ways.  For a constantly changing heart because of His work in it.  For every spiritual blessing that is given me in Christ.  For God's kind intentions toward me.  For God never withholding any good thing from those that walk uprightly.  For the cross. For His unchangingness.  For His faithfulness.  For the unending love of God that I cannot be separated from.  For being taken out of darkness and brought into light.

I am just scratching the surface.  May the Lord grant us the eyes to see His goodness and may that turn our hearts toward repentance, humility, grace, and love for others so that they would see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.  Thank You, Lord for Your unending goodness.