Archive for October, 2016
“(As it is written, ‘A father of many nations have I made you’) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Romans 4:17).
It’s never a question of whether or not a person is going to have faith. Everyone lives life with faith in something. The greater issue has to do with the object of faith. The hope and confidence of Abraham’s faith is because God was the object of his faith; not his circumstances; not his emotional state; not his financial portfolio, but the nature and character of the one true living God, who reigns over life and death. Faith in anyone or anything else is a misplaced venture.
“Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they?'” (Luke 17: 15-17)
Who do you most resemble? The one returning in humility and appreciation to offer thanks, or the nine enjoying the blessings given while forgetting the Giver of blessings? Gratitude is a rare commodity. Those genuinely appreciative view life differently. They are always on the lookout for opportunities to express thanks. A disciplined life of offering thanks is therapeutic. It can transform a grumbling spirit into one of contentment, and enables one to see the many mercies of God that would otherwise be overlooked. Count your blessings and your blessers. Tell them how they have blessed you.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
I have always sought to answer the charge of hypocrisy in the church by saying, “You’re right, the church is full of hypocrites, but we always have room for one more.” The truth of the matter is, hypocrisy is to be found in each of our lives because none of us have, yet, fully become what we are supposed to be and are striving to be in Christ Jesus. Don’t let a hypocrite stand between you and God. When you do, the hypocrite is closer to God than you.
“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
The difference between a mature and immature faith is easily recognized. Immaturity is marked by a self-consuming preoccupation, while a mature faith directs its energies outward into the lives of others. Immaturity sulks, withdraws, and displays a passive-aggressive spirit that seeks to undermine the vitality of congregational life. Maturity recognizes its position of influence in the life of others and deliberately engages them in a way that stimulates them to a life of robust faith.
“The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (Exodus 16:3).
Nostalgia and sentimentality are temporal emotions that hold us hostage and become roadblocks to the places faith would desire to take us. Together, or alone, they become the poorest interpreters of history — glorifying the past while ignoring the challenges. Longing for yesterday deprives you of experiencing life today. Instead of lamenting for the past, pretend today is yesterday and joyfully embrace life. Celebrate the miracle of now.
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Do not misconstrue the sufferings and hardships of God’s people as our defeat. This is the faulty interpretation of those who are the enemies of the cross. What may appear as our trouncing is, in fact, our unexpected triumph. There is a transcendent element to our suffering that points to a higher purpose.
“Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered’” (Romans 8:36).
The hardships of life (a sample listing in vs. 35) confront us on a never-ending basis; seemingly, all day long. In our inexperienced youth, we mistakenly think that once we have faced a trial, life will return to the place it once was. Experience, however, has come to teach us that any present adversity is but a precursor and a preparation for the one that is forthcoming, and that nothing will ever be as it once was.
“I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word” (Psalm 119:101).
It seems that in every forum requiring communication and dialogue, the rhetoric has taken on a tone of incivility and hostility. Instead of thoughtful conversation about various ideas, we hear only extreme opinions expressed with the most extreme voices. In the midst of this, the church has a unique opportunity to be a restrained and measured voice that properly reflects the word of God and the Spirit of the living Christ.
“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. And it came about when they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:4-5, 8).
It’s not just Cain’s problem. Envy invites each of us to lament the inequities of life. It beckons you to a constant comparison of what others have to what you don’t: the sibling with the happy marriage; the co-worker whose salary is higher; the neighbor with bright, intelligent, well-adjusted kids; the friend with dark hair while yours is graying. Envy is what prompted Cain to kill Abel. And even if envy doesn’t go to this extreme, it will murder your soul nonetheless.
“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).
Based upon the promises of scripture, we are confident that God hears and answers the prayers of his people. Why, then, are so many frustrated in their prayer life? Could it be that most people consider a prayer to be answered only when it is fulfilled as they have asked and desired? The promise is that every prayer will be answered. The seasoned believer recognizes that prayer is often answered in ways we never expected, and sometimes never wanted. Of this you can be confident.