Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Obey in Faith

Abraham walked with God.  He obeyed Him, served Him, and was even willing to sacrifice his son for Him.  He “believed the Lord” (Genesis 15:6).  He had faith.  Many examples of Abraham’s faith are recorded in the Bible. However today I want to specifically focus on His journey of faith; that is, his decision to travel to the land of the inheritance.  Hebrews 11:8 says this about the event: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”  He had no idea where he was going.  All he had was the command of God.  And even that was only three verses long.

God commanded, “'Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’”
(Genesis 12:1-3).

That’s it.  No details. Abraham didn’t know how long it was going to take. He didn’t know where in the world he was going. He didn’t know if it would even be worth it.

But he went. He stepped out in faith and in obedience.  God didn’t fill in all the details, He simply asked for obedience.

And He does the same for us today.  He calls us to do things that seem strange. Things that sound hard. Things that look difficult.  And He asks us to step out in faith.

Consider prayer, for instance.  Like Abraham, God has given us a command.  “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands.  “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving,” Colossians 4:2 adds.

We don’t have a direction manual for prayer (although we are given guidelines).  We don’t know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what the answers of our prayers will be.  Yet we do have this promise, just as Abraham’s command was accompanied by a promise: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).  We are called to step out in faith, believing that if we fulfill the command of Christ to pray, we will receive the answers to our prayers as the Lord has promised.  Obedience and Faith.  These two go hand in hand, in this generation just as they did for Abraham.

What about memorization as well? Clearly, this too is a command:  Colossians 3:16 says,  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Deuteronomy 6:6 also says, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.”

So we have the command.  What is the promise?  “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).  Jeremiah 15:16 adds, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”

We have both the command and the promise for Scripture memory.  Now we must believe that this promise is true. And we must act on that belief.

Just as Abraham had to believe that God was indeed leading him to a worthy inheritance and would bless him as He has promised, so we must believe that God will indeed fulfill His promises even in this generation.  We must act in obedience to the commands of Christ by faith. Let us take Abraham as our example: “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:20-21).  Obey in faith!

Monday, February 23, 2015

From Stressed to Blessed

I whispered a hurried prayer as I rushed to begin my morning chores. I had an endless list of to-dos, on top of chores and family responsibilities.  An impossible list stared me in the face.  How was I going to get everything done?

My school and other tasks reached an overwhelming peak, to the point where I was really discouraged at the impossibilities facing me.  I paused momentarily before rushing to the laundry room in order to ask for the help of the Lord.  I knew I needed His help.  However, even though I knew I had His guidance, it didn’t really affect the way I felt or acted.  I still rushed about on my own strength. I was still discouraged at my massive to-do list.

What I had failed to do was meditate on who He is.  When my thoughts turn off my problems and onto Him, my whole perspective changes!

Consider Psalms 1, where it talks about the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).  He is like a tree, firmly planted by the streams of water.  His leaf does not wither. He does not burn out.  He is not stressed.  He bears much fruit.  Because he is meditating on the law of the Lord, he is able to obey the commands of Christ and bear much fruit. He is not so focused on his circumstances that he forgets to love and serve others.  And finally, “whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).  The work of his hand prospers.  He is able to complete his tasks with excellence.  And all these blessings are poured out on this biblical example because he meditates on the character of God.

Today, if you are faced with an endless to-do list, focus on the character of God. Remember: He is much stronger than your problems. He is greater than your to-do list.  He is in control of your environment.  And He has promised to be with you and bless you throughout your day. Truly, He is great.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Acknowledge His Blessings

The following has no author connected with it, but its message is touching and inspiring, so I thought I'd share it with you.

I dreamed that I went to Heaven and an angel was showing me around.
We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels.
My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, "This
is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received."

I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many
angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and
scraps from people all over the world.

Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section.

The angel then said to me, "This is the Packaging and Delivery Section.
Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and
delivered to the living persons who asked for them." I noticed again how
busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since
so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of
a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly
doing nothing. "This is the Acknowledgment Section," my angel friend quietly
admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed. 

"How is it that there is no work going on here?" I asked.

"So sad," the angel sighed. "After people receive the blessings that they
asked for, very few send back acknowledgments."

"How does one acknowledge God's blessings?" I asked.

"Simple," the angel answered. "Just say, 'Thank you, Lord.'"

"What blessings should they acknowledge?" I asked.

"If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead
and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world."
"If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish,
you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy, and if you get this on your
own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity."

"If you woke up this morning with more health than illness... You are more
blessed than the many who will not even survive this day."

"If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of
imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation...
You are ahead of 700 million people in the world."

"If you can attend a church without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or
death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world."

"If your parents are still alive and still married... you are very rare."

"If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you're
unique to all those in doubt and despair..."

"Ok," I said. "What now? How can I start?"

The Angel said, "If you can read this message, you just received a double
blessing in that someone was thinking of you as very special and you are more
blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all."

Wow!  When we think about it, how blessed we are!  Yet, sadly, how often we fail to thank Him for the His many blessings.  Take some time today to praise and worship the King of kings, giving thanks to His name for "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Devil's Attack on Scripture

"If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and traps, to frighten people off. With smug conceit, no doubt, as if receiving a compliment, I should acknowledge that wise old Jonathan Edwards (1703- 1758) had me absolutely pegged when he wrote:
'The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule. . . . Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? . . . The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light. . . . He is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it.'

I should labor every day to prove Edwards’s words true.

How? Well, I should try to distract all clergy from preaching and teaching the Bible, and spread the feeling that to study this ancient book directly is a burdensome extra that modern Christians can forgo without loss. I should broadcast doubts about the truth and relevance and good sense and straightforwardness of the Bible, and if any still insisted on reading it I should lure them into assuming that the benefit of the practice lies in the noble and tranquil feelings evoked by it rather than in noting what Scripture actually says. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message." ~J.I. Packard, Knowing Scripture

The devil is trying to attack God's Word. We must take a stand against it.  He has four general methods of warfare against the Bible:
1) Doubt
2) Destruction
3) Distraction
4) Distortion

We cannot stand back and allow our Sword to be battered to pieces.  This is the Word that brings life!  We cannot let it die.

Take a stand for truth today.  Guard against the devil's work against the Word in your own life.  And in the lives of those around you.  God's Word is truth!  Let us never doubt.  Let us take a stand for the truth.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Abide in His Love

As with each Valentine’s Day, most of us usually spend a little more time thinking about love.  Our love for others. Their love for us. We recount our love and devotion to others through cards and gifts. 

However, all human love pales in comparison to the greatest Love of all. The One Who is Love.

We might receive or give flowers and chocolate.  We might demonstrate our devotion through hugs and kisses.  But there is One Who gave His very life’s blood for us. There is One Who demonstrated His love by dying on a crude wooden cross. This One is Love.

Today, of all days, is the day to spend some extra time meditating on God’s love.  On what He has done for us.  On His surpassing greatness and faithfulness to us, His unworthy servants.  Let us abide in His love.  Jesus said,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).

Our Savior’s love for us surpasses all greatness!  Jeremiah 31:3 reminds us,

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”

He loves us with an everlasting love!  He has drawn us with His lovingkindness.  And now He has invited us to feast on His love. To abide in His compassion.

God’s love is beyond comprehension.  And it is our desire “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).  We haven’t even scratched the surface of His great love for us.  Yet we are invited to dive deep into the rich oceans of His lovingkindness.  We have been summoned to abide in His love.

We can abide in His love by meditating on the Scriptures that exemplify His amazing sacrifice for us.  In the Scriptures, God reveals His heart of mercy and lovingkindness, and when we dive into its pages, we too can catch a glimpse of the majesty of His love.  His heart is for us.  He loves us.  He longs for us.  And we can behold that glorious truth through the Word of God.

There is so much of God’s character that is hidden beneath the surface of the Scriptures.  To uncover the veiled truths, we must truly meditate on the Scriptures.  In the words of John Chrysostom, “To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches.”  I invite you today to bask in His love. To meditate on His love.  To abide in His love.

And, as His love takes first place in our heart, as we are filled with the knowledge of what He has done for us, that love bubbles forth from our soul.  We are filled to overflowing and just can’t keep it in.  And so as a result of God’s love for us, we demonstrate love for God.  As 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.”  It is His love that prompts our love in return.  As a result, the more we know of His love for us, the more we love Him in return. This isn’t really a concept that can be explained, so I encourage you to try it for yourself. Then you will truly understand.

So today, and every day, take some time to abide in His love.  “Feed on His faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).  Taste His goodness (Psalm 34:8).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lessons from the Life of Enoch

“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” –Genesis 5:24

This is the only note (outside of genealogies) that we have from the life of Enoch.  What could we possibly learn from the life of Enoch?

Well, in my study of Hebrews 11 (where he is mentioned) I was wondering why he was included. It mentioned that by faith Enoch was taken up to heaven.  That sounded a little puzzling to me.  Read it for yourself:

“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”

Did that mean he had faith that God was going to take him to heaven? How am I supposed to have faith in such an improbable possibility?  I believe he didn’t know he was going to be taken up, because the passage in Genesis makes it sound like it was sudden and unexpected.  So he believed that he would never die, even though he had no promise to back it up? That would be like me believing I would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. Completely ridiculous!  Is that what this example of Enoch is teaching us?  As I wrestled with these questions, the Lord, in His own way and timing, opened my eyes to what the verse in Hebrews was really saying.

Let’s follow the simple thought process of Hebrews 11:5.  Why was Enoch taken?  Because “he had this testimony.”  What was his testimony? “That he pleased God.” How did he please God? That one’s a stumper, until you look down, for the very next verse says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  So there you have it. It all started with faith.  Faith was the starting point, the catalyst if you will.
But now, what does this mean for us today?  Just like Enoch we want to please God.  We want to glorify Him.  It is our life’s goal to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).  But how do we do this?  As Hebrews 11:6 says, we need faith to please Him.  Yet, where can we find this faith, you ask.  Well, how did Enoch grow in faith?  The passage in Genesis makes mention of his relationship with God; it said he walked with God.  That is our answer!

In order to grow stronger in our faith, we must get to know the King of the universe. We must spend time with Him. We must converse with Him. We must get to know His heart. And we must walk with Him.

This is how we gain faith.  And by our faith, we can move mountains, accomplishing the unaccomplishable.  But it all starts with the knowledge of God. Will you invite Him into your life today and dine with Him?  As Revelations 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  Will you spend time pouring into the Word and seeking out His heart? Will you “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), that you might draw close to the heart of God? Will you walk with God, like Enoch?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Redeem the Time

"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time." ~Colossians 4:5

Our life is but a vapor, and every moment counts. We must strive to redeem the time. Our goal and purpose in life is expressed in Colossians 1:10 which says, "that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Because of our limited and fleeting time on this earth, we must make use of every moment of time for the Lord's glory, storing up treasures in heaven.

One day we will get to heaven and wish that we had spent more time with eternity in mind. Now is the time to pursue a relationship with your King. Now is the time to stir up others to love and good works. Now is the time to sow the seeds you will be reaping for all eternity. Now!

Here are some ways that we can redeem the little snippets of time that we have between activities, school, etc.
-Prayer! This is something we can do anytime, anywhere, for anyone. Make us of this great weapon! Imagine how many problems are unfixed, blessings are un-given, and lives are un-touched because we have not prayed about it!
-Memorize His Word. Write the verse you are memorizing down on an index card, put it in your pocket, and then pull it out whenever you have a spare moment, in the car, while washing the dishes, waiting in line, etc. Anything to make use of that extra time.
-Look for ways to encourage others. Praise your siblings on something that they've been doing. Invest in them. Ask how their day has been going. Talk about what they read in the Bible that morning. Encourage them to walk worthy of the Lord.
-Do some little act of service. Sometimes, when I'm waiting for my mother to come downstairs so that we can begin whatever we are doing, I see a shirt lying on the floor, or a couple pencils on the table, or whatever. Right there I have an opportunity to serve. And according to Matthew 6:4, we will be rewarded for "being faithful in every good work."
-Pull out a Bible and read. If you are in the car, or watching your brother's baseball game, this is a perfect time to be "increasing in the knowledge of God."
-Meditate on God's Word. Again this is another chance to "increase in the knowledge of God" and it can be done anywhere, whether or not you have a Bible available.

Now my question for you is, will you make use of all the time you have now or will you look back upon your life someday and wish you had spent it differently?

Photo credit:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Written on the Tablet of Our Heart

“My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.”
~Proverbs 3:1-4
Here Solomon is urging all believers not to forget his words of wisdom found in the book of Proverbs.

In Proverbs chapter 1 verses 1-6, this wise man lays out the goals for his book. He shows us what reading and studying this book will accomplish in our lives. He says we will gain wisdom and instruction; we will be given justice, judgment, and equity. The simpleminded will be granted prudence and the wise will increase in learning. Who does not want blessings like this? All we have to do is what Solomon laid out for us in Proverbs 3:1, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commandments.”

“Beyond getting more wisdom, who cares about Scripture memorization?” you may ask.

The answer to this is in the next verse, where it promises, “Length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.”  This verse provides extra support for the other verses we have been looking at like Deuteronomy 32:47.  When we obey God’s command to memorize Scripture, we will like long lives spiritually and physically because of the peace His Word brings.  No longer need we stress about our next deadline, for we know, “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

We remember to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Verses like these give us peace, even in the hardest of times. When we face trying or difficult situations, the Lord can use the verses we have memorized to comfort and encourage us.

Solomon encourages us to “Let not mercy and truth forsake you.”  Matthew Henry examines this verse with insightful thoughts:

“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; God's mercy in promising, and his truth in performing: live up to them, keep up thine interest in them, and take the comfort of them. We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, believing he is able and wise to do what is best. Those who know themselves, find their own understandings a broken reed, which, if they lean upon, will fail.”

Again, in verse three we are reminded to bind God’s law around our neck and to write it on our hearts. Let us not take this command lightly, for when we are obedient, blessings flow out of the throne room, like this one: “And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” 

Do you like to hang around someone who lacks the fruit of peace? One who listens to the message of the world that promotes selfishness?  Or do you prefer to spend time with someone who displays “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” and a joyful spirit?  One who is obedient to God’s command to love selflessly?  As we allow God’s Word to transform us from the inside out, people will not be turned away by our presence.  We will have a greater opportunity to encourage and bless them.

Not only will we increase in “Favor and high esteem in the sight of man” but also, in the sight of God.  As we hide His words to us in our heart, we become even more like Him.  As we memorize His commands to live like Jesus, He uses those to bring glory to Himself.  Look at Moses and Joshua.  Because they were obedient to the Lord in this area, He was pleased with them and used them to begin a new nation.  He has great plans in mind for us too, as we bind his instructions about our neck and write them on the tablet of our heart.

[An excerpt from my book about the value and benefits of Scripture memorization.] 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Keep the Word; Bear much Fruit

“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”  ~Luke 8:15

You’re all familiar with the parable of the sower.  What I want to point out to you today is the action of those whose hearts are typified as “good soil.”  Many of us desire to bear fruit.  In fact, this concept is a biblical idea.  Colossians 1:10 is our goal: “So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

So how, as Christians do we bear good fruit?  John 15 offers an answer: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  In order to bear fruit, we must abide in Him.  Yet what does “abiding in Him” look like?

That’s where Luke 8:15 comes in.  Those in the parable whose hearts were “good soil” heard the word, and kept it.  And that, my friends, is how we abide in Him. That is how we bear fruit.  By keeping the Word.  I like what Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible has to say on this subject:

’Such who hear the word, and receive it;’ as the word of God, in whose hearts it works effectually; who receive it not into their heads only, but into their hearts; and having received it, hold it fast, and abide by it in the worst of times.”

As believers, we are to “hold fast” to the Word.  The Greek word used in Luke 8:15 for “keep” is katecho which means “to hold back, detain, retain.”  So, in relation to the Word of God, we must hold it back. So often, what we read or hear in Scripture goes in one ear and out the other.  Yet, in order to bear fruit, we must detain the Word in our hearts and minds.  We must meditate on God’s Word and consciously keep it in our thoughts.  Those who bear fruit retain God’s Word in their lives and hearts and minds.  They are constantly meditating on it and digging from it the rich gems that lie hidden behind mere words.

The second part of the definition of keep is “to get possession of.”  Not only are we to be retaining the words we have already receive, but we are to be digging into the Word even more.  We are to continue to gain a hold of the Scriptures, by Bible reading and memorization.  We should be continually poring ourselves over the Word.  Therein, we find the keys to life and strength.  But even more, we find the key to bearing much fruit.  It aids us in developing the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Again from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

 “as Mark says, ‘receives it’; as the word of God in faith, and with the love of it, and with all readiness and meekness; and, as Luke observes, ‘keeps it’; holds it fast against all opposition with great struggling; will not part with it at any rate, nor depart from it in the least, nor entertain any doubt about it; but abides by it, stands fast in it, and is valiant for it: and this he does in and with ‘an honest and good heart.’”

You see, God’s Word reminds us of things we need to do.  Scripture, as a tool used by the Holy Spirit, pricks our conscience and prompts us in obedience to the commands of Christ.  We need to be meditating on the Scriptures, so that we might be used as a vessel in the hands of Jesus Christ.

James 1:25 says, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  Let us look into the perfect law of liberty and continue in it.  In this way, we will abide in Him and bear much fruit, that He may be glorified.

Monday, February 2, 2015

"In Jesus' Name, Amen"

“Many people have a very strangely childish notion, that ‘praying in the name of Christ’ means simply the addition of the words ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’ at the end of their prayers. But depend upon it, they do not by adding these words, or any words, bring it about that their prayers should be in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to pray in such a way as represents Christ. The representative always must speak in the spirit and meaning of those for whom he speaks. If Christ is our representative, that must be because He speaks our wishes, or what we ought to make our wishes; and if we are to pray in the name of Christ, that means that we are, however far off, expressing His wishes and intentions.” ~Charles Gore