Archive for January, 2018
“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:25).
Life is filled with things that test our patience. The apostle Paul had to wait patiently while sitting in a prison. Moses had to wait while wandering forty years in the wilderness. Jesus himself waited thirty years before beginning his ministry. Yet, what is discovered through patient waiting is that the end result is far greater than that for which we so impatiently longed.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Be encouraged. You are not making new footprints when it comes to the life of faith. Any battle that confronts you, others have been there. The temptation you struggle to overcome has already been a victory for someone else. The referenced witnesses are not spectators watching their successors but everyday saints who were victorious and give witness to faith’s possibilities.
“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Discipleship is but the pursuit of a call extended by Jesus to follow him. To answer the call is that decisive moment of stepping from the darkness to the light. It is a declaration of faith that becomes the defining quest of one’s life. It is not an intellectual attitude that does nothing but, rather, works, labors, strives, and competes for the purposes of God to be fulfilled. It is a calling that never stops.
“This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5).
The clearest indication of faith isn’t that you have joined a church, or been baptized. Those are things that Christians should do, but doing them doesn’t make or mean you are a Christian. Unfortunately, such things have given too many a false sense of security. Besides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), Paul writes that true faith is characterized by a continuing enlargement (v.3) and an indomitable spirit that endures to the end (v.4). Genuine faith does not breed indifference to the things of God, nor an apathy toward or an absence from the church.
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
David, the man after God’s own heart, prays that the life of his child would be spared and, yet, God said, “No.” When Jesus, his own son, asked that the cup of suffering might pass from him, God answered, “No.” When his faithful servant, Paul, asked that the thorn be removed, God responded, “No.” It’s a needed reminder that God’s “No” serves a greater purpose than would his “Yes” to our proximate request. God’s “No” means more and has fuller implication than our finite minds could ever fathom.
“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17).
Free will is not a contradiction to the sovereignty of God. In fact, free will is vitally necessary in any argument for the existence of God. While the behavioral and social sciences would seek to reduce humankind down to nothing more than a product of genetic predispositions and environmental nurturing, we are not like the animals of the field. Free will means we are not puppets dangling from strands of DNA. Free will means we are not hostage to social conditioning. We are not victims to the uncontrollable external circumstances of life unless we choose to be. The one thing over which we have sole control is the exercise of our free will and the response we make in the face of such circumstances. That I can choose means there is a path beyond victimization. Free will is a vital component in the packaging of God’s hope. Otherwise, life is a spinning, godless, rollercoaster of external forces acting upon us.
“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil” (Matthew 5:37).
Saying “No” can be difficult. It is a learned craft. For the sake of getting along, wanting to be accepted, liked, and to fit in, most fall into a habit, by word and deed, of saying “Yes.” Unless diligent, you can easily find yourself sucked in by the herd mentality. What if you were to follow the directives of your faith instead of the direction of the crowd? By saying “No” to the crowd, you are disciplining yourself in the art of saying “Yes” to what truly matters.
“And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:3).
The members of the heavenly host are portrayed as regularly worshipping and praising God. Their worship, and the worship to which we should aspire, is dominated by a sense of God’s presence and His being the sole object of worship. It is only when He dominates heart, soul, mind, and spirit that worship is truly accomplished. Anything else is idolatry.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Many think the burden of the preacher/teacher is to prove the relevance of God’s word. The truth is, whether you consider the Word relevant is irrelevant. Of greater import is that our seemingly irrelevant lives are relevant to God. As sermons are heard, lessons absorbed, and a disciplined reading plan is pursued, the word of God works its way into the deepest, innermost parts of our being. It is in these places that the word actively shapes and forges us into the people we are in the process of becoming.
“And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24).
The twelve days of Christmas have given way to the twelve days of the new year. The annual resolutions of the masses have had their futile run at change, while those of a mature faith have continued forth in the passionate pursuit of the new self; a transformation that God has accomplished and is accomplishing by His mercies. What we desire cannot be realized by starting next Monday, the first of the month, or next January. Our longing isn’t for a change that might start with a day on the calendar; ours is for a transformation that begins with a cross and culminates with a resurrection of hope and boundless, unimaginable possibilities.