Thursday, February 22, 2018

Your Love Never Fails & It Never Gives Up on Me

There are times in our lives when the trials seem to be more than we can bear and it is during those times that we just sit and rest in the character of our God and His promises.  We know that His promises are sure and that His love is constant even when we cannot connect the dots.  God's Spirit has a way of ministering to our spirit through the power and comfort of His Word.
Here are some Bible verses that I have come to cling to and rest upon as God has brought me through difficult days. Take the time to write some of them down and underline them in your own Bibles.  Pray these verses to God and may you find comfort in the arms of the Holy One.
Jesus is speaking in John 10:27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Psalmist declares in Psalm 36:5-7, "Your loving kindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast.  How precious is Your loving kindness, O God!  And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings."
Paul states in Romans 8:37-39, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
1 Peter 5:6-7 encourages believers to, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Lastly, we can stand strong because of God's character as seen in Psalm 3:2-6, "Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him.' But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.  I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side."
Find rest in His presence and His promises today.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Making Sense of Tragedy

My heart is extremely saddened by the recent high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  Needless to say many lives have been hurt and even shattered through the selfish and hateful deeds of one person.  How could this come to be and how are we to interpret it?  All too soon (within hours) there were politicians giving their input and remedy for such a catastrophe.  It would be nice if pastors could be given this same platform to share some words of comfort that come from our Creator.

I would like to say that on this side of eternity that there will always be great pain and suffering in human relationships.  Romans 8:22 informs us that all of creation is experiencing the weight and pains of sin since Adam.   At times this pain seems more than we can bear.  The entire earth and everything created are held in the bondage of decay and frustration but when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns, we’ll have a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; Rev 21:1) and then all of creation can breathe a giant sigh of relief and rejoice!  The Apostle John writes in Revelation 21:4 that when Christ returns, "God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

We must walk with confidence that nothing is outside of God's grip.  God may permit and allow things to happen but God is never out of control.  In Scripture, even evil men (including Satan himself) walked and worked within the constraints that God allowed them to work (Job 1:10; Pr. 21:11; Ex. 9:12).  We need to be careful of crediting Satan and evil men too much.  Their hearts are certainly bent on doing evil (and even hurting others) but God permits them to work within His authority.

We are told by Isaiah about the character of our God in Isaiah 46:8-11, “Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels.  Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.  What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do."

For Christians, we should daily embrace Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."   The assurance comes through the character and promises of God.  We may not like what has happened but God is not out of control and God always has our best interest at heart.  In the midst of a crisis is the time to acknowledge and pray to God for peace, comfort, understanding, and His justice to prevail.  God can strengthen us and even use us in ways to help point people back to Christ who redeems all mankind (even the violator) for His purposes.  

In making sense of tragedy, let's turn to God first for answers and comfort!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

God's Concerns Vs. Our Concerns

I’ve often wondered if God is sitting around pondering the same great thoughts that I am pondering.  Does He long for me to have the same things that I long to have?  Is He truly concerned about my happiness and my personal comfort while I live on this earth?  Does He know the things that I desire that could make me a little bit happier and a better man?  Perhaps the correct question should be, “Do I know what God is truly concerned about when it comes to my life and what brings Him glory”?  What puts a smile on the face of God?

Most people live with passions and desires that they would like to see come to fruition.  Most of the time those passions are about our self-gratification and self-fulfillment that takes place on this side of eternity.  Those passions can be found in our employment, our children, our marriage, our retirements, and even in the things that we want to own.  Is it wrong to think or plan this way?  Is God concerned about those extra things that could complete my life and put a smile on my face?

I believe that God’s greatest concern for us is our holiness that allows us to know Him personally and to understand Him more.  The initial provision of holiness came through Jesus Christ who gives us a positional holiness in which God calls us His children and we can enjoy a relationship with Him.  It happens, as Christ’s own righteousness is placed upon us; it is the work of Christ removing our sin as we repent and turn to Him (Romans 3:21-26).  We are also active participants in the process of growing in holiness.  This is called our sanctification, which is the process of growing in Christlikeness more each day.  It is not possible to be holy without the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Our holiness is produced through the internal work of the Holy Spirit of God who lives within us and helps us to make godly choices (Galatians 5:16-26).

God instructs His people in 1 Peter 1:14-16, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

God has called us to be active participants in the sanctification process (becoming holy as He is holy) until Christ returns (1 Pet. 1:13).  Needless to say, this is not at the forefront of our minds each and every day.  This is why Paul instructs believers that we need to reprogram the way that we think about this current life.  We need to think more biblically about our current life in preparation for what is next.  Too often, we lose sight of God’s desires for our lives (which is holiness that glorifies Him) in order that we can fulfill the desires of our own heart.  We are guilty of petitioning God to hear and respond to our desires—which we of course know are the best desires (not really).  We tend to get lost in the here and now and we fail to live with God’s perspective and with eternity in mind.  Our personal holiness, which glorifies God, is His primary concern for us!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Time for Something New?

What keeps us from stepping forward in faith towards what we believe God might be calling us to do?  This question could be asked about our career, getting married, having children, making a purchase, making a geographic move, getting involved in a ministry, or in making any type of life-changing decision.  Many of us are guilty of "paralysis by analysis".  We analyze things so hard and for so long that we become locked up and unable to move at all.  Some decisions may be so drastic in nature that even though they make good sense we are unable to pull the trigger and make the right decision.

I have struggled with making hard decisions many times in my life because I know that they may be permanent and my family will be affected.  The term buyer's remorse exists for a reason because there are some times that we do make wrong decisions.  Some decisions cannot be reversed and yet we are called to step forward in obedience and faith trusting in God's leading when He calls us into action.  Hebrews 11:6 informs us that "without faith it is impossible to please God."  Many times we feel that we can only make a decision with the certainty of knowing the outcome; however, this is not always possible.  We can embrace the certainty of knowing that God is always sovereign and that He is the one calling us to trust Him in the deep waters through obedience.  The challenge is that at times we look for more comfort and hope than what God wants to provide us.  In essence, we choose to walk by sight rather than by faith.  God desires to be our hope and confidence in times of uncertainty.  His promise is never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

I can't help but wonder if I would have had the boldness to have left my family like Abraham in order for God to build a great nation.  I'm not sure I would have had the confidence like Moses to have stood against Pharaoh and demanded to "let my people go."  I don't see myself as the pioneer to cross over into the enemy's camp in order to claim their land as my own such as Joshua.  All of these men exercised great faith towards something new and God added great blessings to them and their families due to their obedience.  Being strong and courageous is not something that we do in our own power or might; we often have the tendency to walk in a spirit of fear. And yet, when God calls us to make a decision to trust and follow Him down a different path He has never asked us to go alone or in our own power.  God tells His people in Deut. 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Doing great things for God and tasting the rich blessings that follow obedience may never be experienced by some of us.  May God give us the wisdom and grace to trust Him in uncharted waters for our sake and His glory!