Archive for February, 2012
“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened” (Acts 16: 25-26).
The earthquaking experiences of life that inevitably come can leave us shaken to our very foundations. While these experiences would seek to imprison us to an existence of fear, worry, and dread, they may, on the other hand, be the means by which God works to unfasten us from chains of unrealized potential. The pain of your present moment eventually gives way to God’s providence and new possibilities.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16: 24).
Discipleship is the costliest of pursuits. Unfortunately, the language of the cross has lost its challenge. Its rugged and weighty symbolism has been smoothed over and made it into something light and easy to bear. Rather than the symbol of abiding faith for which it was intended, it has become an adornment of fashion. Denying, taking up, and following is a death wish. But in these you find life.
“Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘if this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner'” (Luke 7:39).
While often criticized for his associations, you never find Jesus turning away those whose sins were too great or needs too many. A fresh start awaits those who drop all pretense and self- righteousness. Taking hold of God’s forgiveness opens the door to a new life.
“And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt’” (Matthew 14: 29-31)?
Just as walking on water is humanly impossible, apart from Divine help, so is living the Christian life. It’s a supernatural act, accomplished only as we allow the Holy Spirit to play out the purposes of God in our life. Try to do it on your own determination and self-sufficiency and, like Peter, you soon find it to be a sinking proposition. Faith releases God’s power and opens the door to other possibilities.
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 8-9).
To confess one’s sin is to say the same thing as God regarding a matter. Most of the time we don’t have a very accurate assessment our shortcomings. What God’s word would define as sin, we dismiss as an addiction, a disease, a predisposition. Until we confess and agree with God on those things that are destructive and impede the accomplishment of His purposes in our life, we can never move forward. It’s not about wallowing in guilt but wanting more.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).
God’s grace allows us to live each day with a sense of vibrancy and abandonment for Him; not cowered down in the fear of some cruel punishment at our slightest mistake. Our Heavenly Father knows that the most effective discipleship and faithful service grows out of love and not fear. Go ahead–live and love.
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
It was when I became a father that my confidence in God’s providential care and provision moved from being a doctrinally held position to an experiential reality. The inference being that if my children can have an unshakeable confidence that I, as an imperfect father, am always going to act for their best interest (though they may not realize it until they become parents), then how much more confidence I have in my Heavenly Father; the Perfect One.
“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 they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5).
Prayer, like the practice of any discipline of our faith, is done for an audience of One. Yet, how easy it is to find yourself caught in the performance trap–seeking to impress those around you with the length of your prayers, or a lofty, over-spiritualized vocabulary. Prayer, however, is intended to both natural and reverent. We speak to the Father with honesty and transparency, while remembering that it is God to whom we are speaking. He knows your heart. Be real.
“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).
Upon conversion, and the scriptures describe this various ways, we received the gift of the Spirit, we were filled with the Spirit; baptized by the Spirit; sealed by the Spirit, indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Instead of debating these as separate actions to be experienced at different times, they are best understood as reminder of the supernatural phenomenon of salvation that has and is being accomplished in us. It’s not something that can be manipulated by man or institutionalized by the church but is a miraculous act of God.
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart…(Luke 18:1).
We often thank God for the privilege of prayer. The teachings of Jesus, however, indicates prayer to be much more…it is a responsibility. The word “ought” implies a moral obligation. It’s not something we do when it is convenient or when we “feel” like it. Prayer is the natural breathing pattern of God’s people. It is an unceasing exercise.