Friday, January 30, 2009
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).
What a simple but profound statement about two men: Enoch and Noah “walked with God.” As I read this in my quiet time this week, I began to meditate on what it means to walk with God. Here are my thoughts.
Walking with God means:
1. You have a relationship with God.
You don’t walk with someone unless you have some kind of relationship with that person. Walking with God involves, first of all, receiving Christ as the Forgiver and Leader of our life. Jesus said we must open the door of our life and welcome Him in, and then He will come in to dine with us (Rev. 3:20). Have you received Christ? If so, you have the amazing privilege of walking with God.
2. You converse with God along the way.
Walking with someone involves conversation. Seldom would you walk with another person and never say a word to each other. Walking with God involves spending time with Him, talking to Him in prayer, and listening to His voice through the Word and prayer. Are you spending time with God in the Word and prayer? Do you converse with God throughout the day?
3. You make progress.
When you go on a walk, you do not remain stagnant. You go somewhere. You make progress. Walking with God means we don’t remain complacent and stagnant in our relationship with Him. We are always seeking, growing, and becoming more mature. Like walks we take around a track, we may feel at times that we are going in circles, but even then we are making progress because we are still burning spiritual calories! Are you maturing in your walk with God? Are the fruits of the Spirit (see Gal. 5) more evident in your life this year than last year?
4. You go at His pace.
Walking with God involves what Gal. 5:25 says: “keep in step with the Spirit.” We are not to get ahead of the Lord out of impatience. Nor are we to get behind the Lord out of laziness and disobedience. Rather, we are to walk alongside of God allowing Him to set the pace and direct the course. Are you seeking to stay in step with the Spirit in your life? Are you allowing Him to call the shots?
5. You obey when He says it is time to go in a different direction.
Sometimes God tells us it is time for a change in direction. This may involve a career change, a relationship adjustment, or an area of sin we must deal with. I experienced a change of direction when God told me I was to leave a very fruitful and comfortable ministry in Wisconsin and move to Georgia. This has not been easy in the least, but I have no doubt it is what God told me to do. When Jesus is our Lord, He calls the shots. We are responsible to obey and follow Him. Are you following Him?
6. You stop and rest along the journey.
We all need rest at times – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. God knew this when He gave us the Sabbath. I believe the main reason God gave us the Sabbath principle is to remind us that He is in control and we are not ultimately necessary for the world to continue functioning. God understands pace. He is not a driver that requires His children to go 90 miles an hour. I love the phrase, “walk with God.” It does not say “run with God.” His will is “good, acceptable, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Right now I am in a season of rest from formal ministry, and it has been good for me. We all need to take time to rest, lest we burn out. Are you doing life at a sustainable pace? Is it your pace or God’s pace?
Walking with God – what a powerful phrase. What a privilege to walk with God. Are you walking with God? If so, how close are you walking with God? Do you allow Him to be part of every area of your life, or do you go off on your own at times? Are there some adjustments you need to make in your walk with God? Most of all, seek to enjoy walking with God! Let me know in the comments section what you have learned about walking with God.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I so admire the Apostle Paul. If anyone had it difficult, it was Paul. Just read 2 Cor. 11 to appreciate all the trials he faced. He writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
Do you feel hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down? I want to suggest 8 biblical principles that may help. When you are discouraged be sure to:
1. Allow God to search your heart.
There may be sin or other issues in your life that God wants you to get in touch with. Your emotions just might be the vehicle He is using to get your attention. Therefore, beware of medicating your pain away, giving in to your fleshly desires, or wallowing in self pity. Instead, pray this passage and open your heart to God: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
2. Stand on the attributes of God.
Affirm to yourself some of God’s wonderful attributes such as: goodness, mercy (new every morning!), faithfulness, love, grace, forbearance, immutability, and omnipotence. When discouraged, we easily loose perspective, especially on God. It takes faith to believe in His goodness even when we don’t feel like it. Be sure to stay in the Word of God so as to be reminded of who He is.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13; NASB).
3. By faith, praise and worship God.
Once you have done #2, the proper response is to praise and worship God for who He is. Many of the Psalms begin with pain and discouragement, but they almost always end in praise. I don’t think this is because the psalmist always felt like praising God. Instead, he chose to worship God for who He is in the midst of discouraging situations and emotions.
“Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter… I will praise You” (Ps. 71:20, 22).
4. Give thanks for everything you can think of.
When we are emotionally discouraged, everything can feel dark. We start seeing the cup as ½ empty even if it is ¾ full. Make a list of everything you can think of to give thanks for (i.e. your 5 senses, food on the table, transportation, free country, your Bible, friends, etc.). This may seem trivial, but it is very important and biblical to give thanks in all situations: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).
5. Cover the spiritual warfare base.
We have an ultimate enemy, Satan. He is seeking whom he may devour. Sometimes discouragement is a demonic attack. Be sure to do James 4:7: submit to God and resist the Devil. Bind him in prayer and command him to flee from your presence. Praise and worship will also help to cleanse the spiritual atmosphere.
6. Share your burden with a godly friend (of the same gender) and ask for prayer.
“Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). We need each other, especially during times of despair. Even Moses needed someone to hold his arms up when he was tired. By the way, if you are on the receiving end of this call, be sure to listen, offer little advice (unless you have clear leading from the Lord), and pray for the person over the phone or in their presence.
7. Be on guard against your flesh and other temptations.
When discouraged, we are particularly vulnerable to our fleshly appetites. Temptation will likely increase when we are discouraged. Our flesh will whisper such things to us as: “You deserve to have your needs met, so go here to get what you need. God is not meeting your needs, so you are justified in sinning.” Remember how Jesus overcame temptation: by quoting Scripture!
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14; NASB).
8. Hold fast to Romans 8:28.
God promises us that “all things work together for good.” All things mean all things. However, all things work together for good only to those who “love God and are called according to His purpose.” This means we must hold fast to God, remain in His will, and trust Him … or else all things will not work together for good.
This promise is not for those who do not love God or for those who get out of His will by sinning or resorting to the flesh. One more thing: what does it mean for all things to work together for good? Romans 8:29 tells us: being conformed to the image of Christ. God’s ultimate goal is to make us like Jesus. Often the process of becoming Christ-like is trusting God in the midst of hardship.
If you are discouraged, go through each of these steps. Hold fast to God. Don’t let go. Don’t resort to the flesh. Stay on the Word. Resist the Devil. Guard your heart with all diligence because from it flow the issues of life. Wait on God’s provision. He will bring you through! “Though weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD” (Ps. 27:13-14; NASB).
Friday, January 23, 2009
Blind spots in our lives are very similar to blind spots on the road. They are there, but we don’t see them unless we take a second look or someone else shows us. Blind spots can be character flaws, hidden sins, the way we come across to others, or anything we are oblivious to that we actually need to see.
Becoming more like Jesus involves being willing to see and address our blind spots. Everyone has blind spots, but not everyone is willing to see and deal with them.
God’s Word addresses blind spots in a number of different ways:
"Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults." Ps. 19:12
We all have hidden faults. Hidden faults are blind spots.
"You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." Ps. 90:8
Secret sins can be sins we try to hide or sins we are not aware of.
So, what does God use in our lives to reveal our blind spots, and what should our response be to these instruments of sanctification?
1. Prayer and the supernatural revelation of God; therefore, spend time with God and ask Him to reveal to you your blind spots. Ultimately we are dependant upon God showing us our blind spots. However, we have a responsibility to be humble, teachable and receptive to the work of His Spirit in us.
2. The Word of God; therefore, be in the Word and allow it to show you when you are operating out of your own flesh instead of by the Spirit of God.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebr. 4:12
3. People speaking into our life; therefore, develop deep relationships where you invite people to show you your blind spots. I have said to my iron man group, “Feel free to share with me anything you see in my life that you think I need to see.” It has taken time for our group to get to this point, but it is a wonderful blessing to have people in your life who will speak the truth to you in love.
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Eph. 4:15
Today I met with a group of men who are involved in men’s ministry in this area of Georgia. I told one of the men afterwards, “Please feel free to come to me at any time if you see something in my life that concerns you.” I believe in being intentional about developing deep relationships.
4. Our negative emotions; therefore, when you experience anger, depression, anxiety or fear, allow God to reveal to you what is behind these feelings. For example, unrighteous anger is often due to an ungodly goal. You want something and are not getting it, and this is causing your anger. You need to yield that ungodly goal to God.
"In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. " Ps. 4:4
5. Dreams, visions, and prophecies; therefore, be open to this form of revelation. Sometimes God shows us something we were blinded to through a dream, vision or prophetic word.
"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:17
6. Our marriage partner; therefore, listen to him or her. I purposefully separated this point from the other one dealing with relationships, because the marriage relationship is the closest human relationship we have on earth. At least it should be. We should be so humble and teachable in our marriage that we would welcome our spouse speaking into our life. I know this is not easy to receive. It is quite humbling to have your spouse point out a blind spot to you. You naturally want to respond in defensiveness. But if you will listen, consider, and pray about what he/she says to you, you will likely find a pearl of truth that can help you become more like Jesus.
Once you become aware of a blind spot, then what? Here are some suggestions in dealing with your blind spot:
1. Confess it to God.
2. Yield it to God.
3. Ask God’s Spirit to supernaturally help you in this area.
4. Find a passage of Scripture that relates to your blind spot and pray it into your life.
5. Ask a trusted friend to help you.
6. Get professional help if you need it.
When driving, a blind spot can be fatal. In life, a blind spot can be fatal as well. Don’t let your blind spot(s) ruin your life or the lives of those around you. Allow God’s Spirit the freedom to search your heart and life. And when He shows you a blind spot, surrender it to Him!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Have you ever stopped to consider how often God experiences unfulfilled longings? For example, His longing heart desires for people to walk close with Him, yet they refuse. He reaches out with His loving arms, only to have many turn Him away. He deeply desires to bless His people with good things, but they refuse to give Him the time of day. He longs to bring inner healing to many, but few allow Him into those painful areas of their heart.
Recently in my quiet time with God, I read Psalms 81 and noticed the longing heart of God. Read this passage and take special note of the words I have highlighted:
"Hear, O my people, and I will warn you--if you would but listen to me, O Israel!
9 You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god.
10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. "But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me…13 "If my people would but listen to Me, if Israel would follow My ways, 14 how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! 15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before Him, and their punishment would last forever. 16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." Psalms 81:8-10, 13-16
Consider also the words of Jesus in Mt. 23:36-38:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
Do you sense the heart of God in these passages? Do you feel His intense longing for His people? Do you see how much He wants to give good things? Remember, He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebr. 11:6). Yet, time and time again His people refuse to listen to Him, submit to Him, and allow Him to feed them with the finest of wheat. How tragic! God has such good things for us, but we think our way is better.
This is the heart of God for YOU, my friend. God wants you to come to Him – fully come to Him – that He might bestow upon you the finest of wheat. Why would you hold back? Why would you not give Him your all? Why would you not seek Him with all your heart? Why would you not give Him your pain and abuse, so that He might heal you at the deepest level possible?
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28)!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
If so, there is hope, so keep reading.
Two truths are sure in God’s Word:
1. Following Jesus is not easy. “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33a).
2. Despite the difficulties, Jesus offers hope and joy. “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
So, how do we experience this joy in the midst of the hardships we will face? The answer is learning to live the “Exchanged Life.” The Exchanged Life is when we exchange our human attempts to live for Christ for His power and ability to live the abundant life. It is not a matter of us trying hard to be a good Christian. Instead, it is about Jesus living His life in and through us. It is about allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us from the inside out.
Many Scriptures support the Exchanged Life. Consider these and make special note of the sections highlighted:
“For it is God who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him.” Hebr. 13:20-21
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant.” 2 Cor. 3:5-6
“To this John replied, 'A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.'” Jn. 3:27
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:27
If you think about it, the entire Christian life is an exchange: We exchange our sin for God’s forgiveness, our old self for a new nature, our weakness for His power, our slavery for His freedom, our flesh for His Spirit, our anxiety for His peace, etc., etc.
To summarize: The Christian life is not about trying hard to be a faithful and obedient Christ-follower, but rather exchanging our life for Christ’s – allowing Jesus to live His life in and through us. The exchanged life is what Paul spoke of in Gal.2:20: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.”
The following are some practical suggestions for living the Exchanged Life:
1. Begin each day by admitting to God that “apart from Jesus you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5), and God to fill you with His Holy Spirit.
2. When you find yourself frustrated during the day, allow that emotion to remind you to pray something like this, “Lord, I am doing it on my own and I am sorry. Take control and live Your life through me right now.”
Saturday, January 17, 2009
As I reflect on this situation, I find the following parallels to life and the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
1. We are all on an uncertain journey each day.
As these passengers boarded this flight from New York to North Carolina, they had no idea what was about to occur. They expected a smooth and uneventful flight to their destination, where they would go about the other activities planned for that day. Obviously their day did not go as originally planned.
Many times our days, not to mention our lives, do not go as planned. We have to expect the unexpected. God’s Word encourages us to not be presumptuous about tomorrow: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (Jas. 4:13-14).
2. We never know when the end will come.
This could have been the last day on earth for every one of those passengers. Like them, we never know when our last day will come. We must be ready at all times to die. We should live each day as if it were our last. God wants us to be ready at all times to meet our Maker.
“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Mt. 24:44).
3. Sin is serious; it will cause a crash landing.
The engine difficulties on this plane made it impossible to fly. Therefore, a crash landing was imminent.
Sin will cause crash landings in our lives, be it the sin of sexual immorality, greed, or gossip. More serious still is the separation from God that sin causes. This separation from God will last for all eternity if it is not forgiven and removed. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
4. We need the help of Another to be rescued.
Those on this plane could do nothing to save themselves. The plane was going down, and it was going down fast. When they realized this, they had to place themselves at the mercy of the pilot and flight attendants.
When we realize the seriousness of our sin, we must place ourselves at the mercy of Jesus Christ, the only One who can rescue us by His death and resurrection.
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:3-5).
5. Jesus is able to bring us to a safe landing.
Thankfully, the expert pilot of this plane was able to land the plane safely in the river, and all the passengers were saved. To a greater degree, Jesus Christ is able to save us from sin. His shed blood can save us from the penalty and the power of sin. It is only through Jesus that we can be reconciled to God and given eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn. 3:16-17).
6. We must receive the help offered to us.
Even after the plane was safely landed into the river, those aboard still had to receive the help offered to them. Here they were in the river, but they were not yet fully “saved.” In order to get to land, they had to receive the help offered to them. They had to get up, get off the plane, and receive the gift of the boat ride to land. If they stayed on that sinking plane, they would die.
In the same way, Jesus has done everything necessary for us to be saved from our sins, but we still have to receive the gift before it is fully ours. We do this by repenting of our sins and receiving Jesus into our life as our Forgiver and Leader. At this moment we become a follower of Jesus and begin a relationship with God that will last forever.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it’” (Mt. 16:24-25).
7. Give praise to the One who rescues you.
Much praise has gone out to the pilot of this plane, and he deserves all that is given to him. More so does Jesus deserve our praise and eternal adoration for what He has done for us. As followers of Jesus, we are to live a life of praise and gratitude.
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).
What an amazing event that took place this week on that US Airways jet. But what a more amazing truth that we can be eternally saved from our sins through Jesus Christ! Have you received the free gift of eternal life in Christ? Are you prepared to face Him today, should this be the day your plane goes down?
Throughout the season Tim Tebow, the 21-year old quarterback for Florida, has put “Phil. 4:13” under his darkened eye. He does this to witness of his faith in Christ as he plays football. Often the television camera reveals the “Phil. 4:13” as it shows a close up view of his face. In the national championship game against Oklahoma a few weeks ago, Tebow chose to put “John 3:16” under his eye. What was the result? Not only did he play an excellent game and win the national championship, but more importantly he had a powerful witness for Christ. How so? Well, an article in USA Today said, “for a time that evening, it was the most popularly searched item on Google.” To think that across this great nation, more people were googling “John 3:16” that anything else during part of that game, is an amazing reality.
This shows me two things. First of all, it surprisingly reveals how few people know what John 3:16 is. You would think everyone would know this is a Bible verse and what it says. This might have been true 20 years ago, but not any more. We live in an increasingly biblically illiterate culture.
Second, it shows how Tebow is having an impact through something as simple as this reference under this eye black. I would not be at all surprised to learn one day that some people became Christians through looking up John 3:16 that night. Remember, the Word of God will never return void! In the same way Tebow witnessed through such a simple act, we can have an impact through the simple things we do as followers of Christ. Let us endeavor to be intentional in our witness for Christ, each and every day.
And all of this from a Georgia fan. Take note!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Before I share with you the results of this book, let me say very clearly that my intention is not to shame anyone who has been through or is going through a divorce. Life can be very painful. Marriage can become so difficult that one feels the only way out is a divorce. Forgiveness and healing is available to anyone who cries out to the Lord. I am so glad we serve a God who is willing to forgive sin and heal the human heart. “He heals the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
At the same time, God says He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and one of the main reasons is because He is “seeking Godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). When we see how divorce affects the children, we can understand why His seeking Godly offspring is one of the main reasons God hates divorce.
My reason for sharing these findings is to enlighten us all concerning the many negative effects of divorce. It is so important that we count the cost before ever considering divorce. Perhaps this blog will help to save a marriage headed for divorce. Perhaps this blog is for you – to cause you to reconsider divorce. Perhaps this blog will help you in ministering to someone you know who is considering a divorce.
The bottom line is this: divorce brings many hardships on all involved, especially the children. Marriage is worth fighting for. Marriage is worth whatever it takes to stay together. Marriage is for the glory of God. Marriage is designed to be an earthly picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:21-33).
I also hope that teenagers and singles will read this blog. Let this study of divorce cause you to be so prayerful and careful about marriage. Be sure you know it is God’s will for you to marry. Be sure you marry the person God wants you to marry. Take it slowly and carefully. I alwayts tell my kids, "You can never go wrong waiting, but you can go wrong rushing." Get the counsel of many Godly people before you even think about marrying someone.
Here are some of the major findings from this book. This 25 year study revealed that divorce often brings about:
1. Decline in the health of the couple.
2. Decrease in the financial stability of all involved.
3. Emotional pain and scars that may never go away.
4. Loss of respect from community, children, and family.
5. Children suffering in the following ways:
a. Tendency toward unhealthy relationships.
b. More prone to pre-marital sex, drug and alcohol use.
c. Tendency to run from conflict in their own life.
d. An unhealthy and excessive fear of marriage.
e. Anger at life, God, and their parents.
f. Faith in God shaken.
f. Increase in loneliness, fear, anxiety, and depression.
i. Loosing significant parts of their childhood because they are forced to grow up too quickly due to the increase in emotional stress and responsibility. One woman named Karen said, “The day my parents divorced is the day my childhood ended” (p. 296).
The authors of the book said their most surprising discover was this: the greatest manifestation of negative impact on the children of divorce does not come until those children are in their adulthood. We often think the greatest negative effect will come when they are children, and that it will get better when they become adults. However, the studies are showing that this is not the case. Here is a quote from the book: “The major contribution of this book has been to recognize, for the first time, that when children of divorce become adults, they are badly frightened that their relationships will fail, just like the most important relationship in their parents’ lives failed. They mature with a keen sense that their growing-up experiences did not prepare them for love, commitment, trust, marriage, or even for the nitty-gritty of handling and resolving conflict” (p. xiii).
So many people often say, “The kids will be better off if we divorce, because at least they don’t have to be in the middle of our fighting/unhappy marriage.” This book says this is not true. This study revealed that children in homes where the marriage is not very good, but where the parents stay together, are better off than those whose parents divorce, because by their parents staying together the kids learn that marriage can be hard but you stick it out.
Finally, the book shows that second marriages are even more likely to fail than first. “First marriages stand a 45% chance of breaking up and second marriages have a 60% chance of ending in divorce” (p. 295). I guess we are not learning from our mistakes.
Of course there are exceptions to all of the above. May we be the exceptions.
Recently I have been greatly ministered to by the Lord in Psalm 131. The central message of this Psalm is that we can rest in God’s care and love and sovereignty, even when we don’t have the answers to the complex issues of life. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), considered by many the “Prince of Preachers,” said that if the Psalms were a gem Psalm 131 would be a pearl.
In my ministry I constantly find people struggling with the “why” questions of life: “Why did my relative die in the car accident? Why did I get cancer? Why was my friend not healed? Why did this tragedy occur? Why do bad things happen to good people?” Perhaps you have some “why” questions. I know I do, especially at this period of my life. Perhaps your “why” questions are creating distance between you and God. If so, this is not what God would want. Psalm 131 provides some help!
This is a “song of ascents,” meaning that it was one of 15 psalms (Psalms 120-134) used as the people of God would go up to Jerusalem and “ascend” to the Temple. There is some historical data indicating the people of God would actually chant these psalms as they made their way to the Temple for worship. I think it is safe to say that for us this psalm gives us insight in how we might “ascend” to greater heights with God.
Ascending to greater heights is not easy. It will involve some barriers and hardships. Climbing a mountain is not easy. I have hiked with my father on the Appalachian Trail and know from experience that the climb is hard, but the view from the top is worth it. This is true in our relationship with God.
In climbing with God, we have to get past the questions that we may never have answers to. God tells us that we will encounter difficulty (John 16:33). God tells us that our lives will be filled with all kinds of trials (1 Peter 1). Jesus said that good things happen to good and bad people, and that bad things happen to good and bad people (Matthew 5:44). God’s Word assures us that all things can work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). However, this still does not fully answer the “why” questions that we ask.
We need to get to the point where we stop asking “why” and simply trust God’s character and goodness. When I have wrestled with God over unanswered questions, sometimes God has said to me, “David, you need to file that question in the 29:29 file.” The 29:29 file is based on Deuteronomy 29:29. It says, “The secret things belong to the Lord but the things revealed belong to man.” Some things God keeps secret from us, while other things He reveals to us. We must learn to be content with those things that He chooses not to reveal to us. In Psalm 131 David says, “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me” (v. 1). He is choosing here to be OK with not knowing all the answers. He is letting God carry the answers to the questions. He realizes that he is not God and therefore has limitations. This is called humility.
The next step in the journey is the key. In v. 2 David puts his total trust in the Lord. He says, “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (v. 2). Two times he mentions a weaned child. Why this reference to a weaned child? Because a weaned child does not come to its mom for milk. It has been weaned. Instead, it comes simply for strength, love, and comfort. The child is totally content to simply be in the presence of the mother.
Our soul will be quieted and still when we learn to come to God, not so much to get answers, but rather to just be in His presence and transformed into His image. This is what it means to “seek His face” and not His hands. We must seek Him for who He is and not so much to get something from Him. Someone once said that the highest level of faith is when we trust God when there is no apparent reason to do so, except that He is God. In other words, we trust Him just because of who He is, even if things do not go like we want them to. This seems to be why this short psalm ends with: “Put your hope in the Lord” (Psalm 131:3)!
Are you putting your hope in the Lord? Are you content to simply be in the presence of the Lord? What is that you need to bring to the foot of the cross? What do you need to file in the 29:29 file?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
1. Pray this prayer: “God, if You are real and if Jesus is the answer, I ask You to show Yourself to me in a way that I would recognize.”
2. Read one chapter out of the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible. Day one you would read John 1. Day two you would read John 2. You get the idea.
Do this for 30 days and see what happens. You have to do this with a truly open and sincere heart. If you do, I believe God will show Himself to you in some exciting ways. Here are some passages in the Bible to consider as you do this:
"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' "
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD."
As you do the 30 Day Challenge, please know me know how God reveals Himself to you. You can email Pastor David at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, January 11, 2009
- Focus on the beauty of grace that your sins have been forgiven.
- Get to know the fatherhood of God. I suggest the books: "Abba's Child" and "The God You Can Know."
- The more you can learn about the character of God, the more solid your foundation is very a solid Christian life. I view the character of God as the foundation of the house for a balanced Christian life. I suggest "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer.
- Begin to spend daily time in God's Word and prayer. Start with a book like the Gospel of John or the epistle of 1 John. Read a paragraph of two, stop to meditate on what you just read, and then pray the ACTS of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication).
- Learn who you are in Christ through a book like "Victory Over the Darkness" by Neil Anderson. Use the "Who I Am" sheet provided in that book.
- Begin to meet in some kind of small group or accountability relationship for encouragement.
- Enjoy the awesome privilege of a personal relationship with your creator God.
Young Man ("I write to you, young men, because you are strong, the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one"):
- Begin to exercise some of the spiritual disciplines such as consistent time alone with God, fasting, prayer, scripture memory, extended time with God, transparency in accountability relationships, rest, etc.
- Begin to have some kind of ministry or service in your areas of giftedness and passion. You must have outflow to be healthy.
- Seek to go into the meat of the Word through a tool like "Systematic Theology" by Dr. Wayne Grudem. Find someone with whom you can read and discuss a chapter every week from this book.
- With the help of a trusted friend or pastor, seek to resolve any past issues that might be holding you bakc. For many these include, but are not limited to, such issues as: poor relationship with father or other authority figures, childhood abuse or neglect, performance orientation to life, poor self-image, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, bitterness and unforgiveness toward those who have hurt you, inability to receive love, etc.
- Biblical study the issue of spiritual warfare and how to overcome Satan through the victory of Christ and your authority in Him. I suggest "Victory Over the Darkness" and "The Bondage Breaker" by Neil Anderson.
- Continue to build on items established in the childhood stage such as daily time with God, identity in Christ, character of God. and fellowship.
- Expect big time opposition, temptation, and spiritual warfare and be ready to fight the fight of faith so as not to fall.
- If you fall, get right back up in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Learn how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Father ("I write to you fathers because you know Him who has been from the beginning"):
- Continue in all the areas listed above, especially time with God, filling of the Spirit, fellowship with others, ministry to others, knowing the nature of God, and holy living.
- Go deep into the character of God, especially developing a conviction about His sovereignty (that He is in total control and worthy of trust no matter what happens to us!). I suggest such books as "When God Doesn't Make Sense" and "Disappointment With God" as well as the section in "Systematic Theology" by Dr. Wayne Grudem dealing with the nature of God.
- Be in a very transparent small group or accountability relationship.
- Make a rock solid conviction to not compromise morally and sexually. Sexual sin is certain to ruin your testimony.
- Be involved in evangelism and discipleship. Remember, you are not a spiritual father until you have children (i.e. led someone to Christ) and involved in active parenting (i.e. discipling someone).
- Expect to go through the "dark night of the soul" and cling tightly to God until He brings you out of this severe trial. I suggest "Pain, Perplexity and Promotion" by Bob Sorge.
- Analyze your motives so that you are living for God for His glory and not for self promotion.
- Be sure you are living out of grace and not performance. Be content to just rest in the Lord and abide in Him.
I'm sure you can suggest other ways to grow at each level, and if so, please email me at email@example.com. I will continue to add to this blog as good suggestions come my way. What a privilege to know and grow in the Lord. Let's seek to become as mature and fruitful as God would will for us to be!
Saturday, January 10, 2009
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him"- 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that He may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-16
1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us “we have the mind of Christ.” What does this mean? Let’s begin with what it does not mean? Having the mind of Christ certainly does not mean we always think pure thoughts. Therefore, the mind of Christ cannot refer to our natural brain or that which controls the thinking in our head. But isn’t this the only “mind” we have? Maybe not.
The context tells us exactly what it means to have the mind of Christ. First, notice how much the Holy Spirit and the human spirit are mentioned: “His Spirit” (v. 10); “The Spirit” (v. 10); “man’s spirit” (v. 11); “Spirit of God” (v. 11); “Spirit who is from God” (v. 12); “the Spirit” (v. 13); “the Spirit” (v. 14); “the Spirit of God” (v. 14); “spiritual man” (v. 15). Second, notice how many times Paul mentions spiritual discernment or the ability to know something that is of God: “revealed to us by His Spirit” (v. 10); “understand what God has freely given us” (v. 12); “spiritually discerned” (v. 14); “known the mind of the Lord” (v. 16).
Now, let’s put the two together. To have the mind is the supernatural ability, from the Holy Spirit, to know in our spirit the things of God.
In other words, when we receive Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit into our spirit. We are indwelt with the Holy Spirit at this moment and forever. An added bonus to receiving the Holy Spirit into our spirit involves our spirit receiving a “mind” of sorts. This spiritual mind allows us to know in our spirit the things of God. These things from God can include our identity in Christ, insights into Scripture, knowledge of God, discernment, direction, the love of God, or anything that is of God.
The verse that best summarizes what it means to have the mind of Christ is v. 12: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” What a blessing to have the mind of Christ. All Christians have this spiritual ability to know and discern what is from God. Like most gifts, we have to exercise it in order for it to be strong.
So, how can we make sure we exercise the mind of Christ? Here are a few suggestions:
- Whenever you read or study the Bible, don’t simply rely on your natural brain, but instead ask God to supernaturally help you to discern truths with your spiritual mind.
- Concentrate your attention on two main areas: the character of God and your identity in Christ.
- Whenever you don’t know what to do, ask the Holy Spirit to give you direction.
- Take time in prayer to listen to God. Ask God to reveal to your spiritual mind whatever He wants to tell you. Be silent, wait on the Lord, and receive whatever He gives to you.
- Give attention to those “impressions” you get from time to time. More often than not, these impressions are God speaking to you in this “mind of Christ” that you have.
What a great adventure to follow the Lord. Having the mind of Christ is another wonderful way to enjoy walking with God.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
This passage lays out three levels of Christian maturity: child, young man, and father. Which level are you at? Which level would you like to be at? Let’s examine the qualifications of each, so you can determine your level of maturity and what it will take to move to the next level.
By the way, this is a wonderful passage for churches to use in their discipleship ministry. Effective discipleship ministries will include providing the necessary vehicles, tools, and environments for Christians to advance to the next level of maturity.
The first level is the spiritual child. This is the brand new Christian – the person who has just received Christ. What he knows is that his sins are forgiven. He feels clean because he has moved from a sinner to a saint, and all by God’s grace. I have heard so many new Christians say something like, “It feels so good to be spiritually clean. I feel like a new person.”
This passage also describes the spiritual child as someone who knows the Father. He has entered a relationship with God, and as His child can cry, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). Oh, the wonderful simplicity of a new relationship with God as our loving and accepting Heavenly Daddy.
This is not the only passage describing a new Christian as a child. In other passages God’s Word describes a new Christian as a babe who longs for milk: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pe. 2:2-3). Notice here another characteristic of a new Christian: a hunger to grow – longing for the milk of the Word. Unfortunately this hunger often dissipates as the person gets older in the Lord. How is your hunger for the Word these days?
Hebrews 5 speaks of how maturity involves going from milk to solid food: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (v. 13-14). We expect a baby to drink milk, because their stomach cannot digest solid food, but as the person grows he should eat meat. In the same way, a spiritual babe feeds on the basics of the faith, but as he grows he eats the meat of the deeper truths of God’s Word.
So, are you a spiritual babe? If you have been a Christian for less than one year, this is exactly where you should be: knowing your sins are forgiven, experiencing the fatherhood of God, and drinking in the simple truths of the faith. However, if you have been a Christian for more than a year, you should be moving to the young man stage.
The next level of maturity is the spiritual adolescent. The young man is described as strong, abiding in the Word, and overcoming the evil one. Let’s examine each of these three characteristics. Strength requires, exercise, endurance, and good eating habits. You cannot become strong in the Lord by just sitting around and remaining passive. Abiding in the Word involves consistently spending time reading and studying the Bible, even when you don’t fee like doing so. Abiding also involves obeying God’s Word when it isn’t easy. Finally, overcoming the evil one means you are now involved in intense spiritual warfare. Satan attacks the growing Christian with relentless intensity. If you are going to mature to this level, you will have to learn tactics of spiritual warfare and overcome Satan with the Word of God, faith, and the help of others.
I think the spiritual young man has to also overcome the three enemies of our walk with God: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The pulls of the world are what Jesus spoke of when He said “the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things choke out the Word and render it unfruitful” (Mk. 4:19). In addition to the world, our own flesh will often want to do those things which are not pleasing to God. Even the Apostle Paul experienced this in Romans 7. And as stated above, temptations from Satan will seek to pull the young man out of his progress toward maturity.
So, are you a spiritual young man? Are you strong in the Lord? Are you abiding in the Word? Are you overcoming the evil one? Are you resisting the world, the flesh, and the Devil? I am not suggested the spiritual adolescent is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Remember, even “young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 43:21), but when they do, they get back up and keep running!
The final level of maturity is the spiritual father. The text says two times that the father is the one who “knows Him who has been from the beginning.” This phrase is extremely significant. It means he knows and has experienced God at many junctures in his life. God has been faithful time and time again to this person. The spiritual father has been through many tough times, wilderness experiences, and even the dark night of the soul. But through each of these challenges, this person “knows Him who has been from the beginning.”
The spiritual father particularly trusts in the sovereignty of God. Trusting in God’s sovereignty involves the deep conviction that God is in control even when the most painful things enter your life. It is like Job, when loosing everything could still say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
In addition, the spiritual father does not depend on feelings to keep going. His faith is rooted in the character of God and not in his circumstances. He is not driven and tossed by every wind of doctrine. He has convictions that determine his behavior.
Though not mentioned in this passage, another characteristic of a spiritual father is having children. A father by definition is one who has children and is actively parenting these children. Spiritual fathers have spiritual children through evangelism and discipleship.
So, are you a spiritual father? Do you know God in a deep and enduring manner? Do you follow Him more because of who He is than what He does for you? Have you fathered spiritual children and discipled others in their faith? If so, congratulations, you are a spiritual father.
In conclusion, God’s Word is clear: we are to mature in our relationship with God. God expects us to grow and develop. He predestined us to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Maturity takes time. Maturity involves many storms. Others help us in the maturity process, so we need to surround ourselves with godly people. And maturity only occurs through the power of the Holy Spirit! “God works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
God desires for each of us to move from a child to a young man to a father. Regardless of where you are now, will you strive in the power of the Spirit to go to the next level? In a future blog, I may provide some suggestions and resources for each level of maturity. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18).
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Sexual temptation is everywhere we turn, isn’t it? Unfortunately, our society is intoxicated with sex, be it on television, movies, magazines, music, or the internet. One cannot even go to the grocery store for milk without having provocatively dressed women either next to you in line or on the cover of the magazine as you wait to pay for your purchase.
Men, we have a choice: give in to the temptation or resist it in the power of the Holy Spirit. God assures us we can resist it with His help: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Sexual sin is not the new kid on the block. Throughout the Bible and modern history, many men have fallen to this fatal flaw. I personally know quite a few men who have fallen.
Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sexual temptation. After giving us a list of items he struggled with in his life (i.e. danger, persecution, sleeplessness, hunger, concern for churches, etc.), he says in 2 Corinthians 11:29, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” What does he mean by “inwardly burn?” This phrase is actually one word in the original Greek (puroo), and Paul uses this same word in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when he challenges a couple who is struggling with self-control in the sexual area. He tells them it is better to marry than to “burn with passion (puroo).” Therefore, this word can refer to burning with sexual passion – to be tempted to have sex with someone with whom you are not married.
Why is the sexual area such a struggle for so many men? The most obvious reason is that we are visually stimulated, and our culture bombards us each day with sexual images. Keeping a pure mind and body is one of the greatest challenges of our day. Jesus knew this when He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:27-29).
Deeper still is our desire to be affirmed and validated. The greatest need a man has is for significance. God made us this way. It goes all the way back to Adam being given the task of taking care of the Garden. This need for significance can be good, and it can be bad. It can be good if it motivates us to give our lives for what is eternally significant. It can be bad if we get our significance from our sex lives and look to that form of validation.
We can easily be lured into the trap of believing if a woman wants us sexually it means we are significant. A woman showing interest in us tends to affirm our worth, especially the older we get. It can communicate to a man, “I still have it. I am wanted. I am a real man.” Granted this is all a lie, but it is very easy to believe this lie.
The pull of pornography is also connected to this need for significance. We look at the beautiful picture and think, “She is inviting me to come to her. She really likes me. She is attracted to me.” You might read this and think, “That is ridiculous. No one really believes such things from a picture of a naked woman.” However, Satan will play with your mind and get you to believe such lies. Furthermore, pornography can easily lead to habitual masturbation. Once entrapped in pornography, masturbation, or a flirt with an affair, it can be very difficult to get out.
Another reason sex is an intense temptation is because sex is indeed “giving oneself to another.” In this act it can feel like we are totally loved and accepted for who we are. After all, we are totally unclothed and wanted. This can falsely feel like we are unconditionally loved. And unconditional love is a God-given need. Therefore, we are particularly vulnerable to this temptation.
Randy Alcorn is one of my favorite authors. I love his eternal perspective. His writings have inspired and challenged me on numerous occasions. In the Winter, 1988 issue of Leadership Journal, he wrote something I will never forget. I keep it in the front of my Bible at all times. It is called “Consequences of a Moral Tumble”:
“Whenever I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have:
- Grieving the Lord who redeemed me.
- Dragging His sacred name into the mud.
- One day having to look Jesus, the Righteous Judge, in the face and give an account of my actions.
- Following in the footsteps of these people who immorality forfeited their ministries and cause me to shudder: (list names)
- Inflicting untold hurt on Nanci, my best friend and loyal wife.
- Losing Nanci’s respect and trust.
- Hurting my beloved daughters, Karina and Angie.
- Destroying my example and credibility with my children, and nullifying both present and future efforts to teach them to obey God (“Why listen to a man who betrayed Mom and us?”).
- If my blindness should continue or my wife be unable to forgive, perhaps losing my wife and my children forever.
- Causing shame to my family (“Why isn’t Daddy a pastor anymore?”).
- Losing self-respect.
- Creating a form of guilt awfully hard to shake. Even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?
- Forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future ministry with my wife.
- Wasting years of ministry training and experience for a long time, maybe permanently.
- Forfeiting the effect of years of witnessing to my father and reinforcing his distrust for ministers that has only begun to soften by my example but that would harden, perhaps permanently, because of my immorality.
- Undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community.
- Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the enemy of God and all that is good.
- Heaping judgment and endless difficulty on the person with whom I committed adultery.
- Possibly bearing the physical consequences of such diseases as gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia, herpes, and AIDS; perhaps infecting Nanci or, in the case of AIDS, even causing her death.
- Possibly causing pregnancy, with the personal and financial implications, including a lifelong reminder of my sin.
- Bringing shame and hurt to these fellow pastors and elders: (list names).
- Causing shame and hurt to these friends, especially those I’ve led to Christ and discipled: (list names).
- Invoking shame and life-long embarrassment upon myself.”
Wow! If this list of consequences doesn’t make you think twice, I don’t know what will. It reminds me of Proverbs 6: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? … But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself” (v. 27, 32).
If you sin in the sexual area, it will be like the “feather story.” Once upon a time a man was tempted to sin. The thrill of the sin far outweighed his perception of the consequences that would follow. So, his spiritual advisor wanted to help him understand the gravity of his offense and the many lives it would affect. The advisor told the man to visit a nearby chicken farm and collect a large bag of feathers. Once he completed this first assignment, he was instructed to wait for a very windy day. Once that day arrived, he was told to go up to a neighbor’s house, knock on the door, and confess his temptation. After doing so, he was to dump the bag of feathers on their doorstep, and watch them blow in multiple directions. Then his spiritual advisor wisely said to him, “Everywhere those feathers travel is like the far reaching effects of your sin. Not only will ‘your sin find you out’ (Numbers 32:23), but also your fire will burn down the houses of many others. Is the sin really worth the temporary pleasure it brings?”
The deceitfulness of sin is this: it never shows you what is on the other side of the offense. Temptation only wants you to see the immediate gratification. Let’s not beat around the bush: sin promises and delivers satisfaction. The problem with this satisfaction is that it is very temporary. “Moses chose to endure ill treatment with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 NASB). Sin does give pleasure for a season, but once the pleasure passes, much garbage is left behind … for someone to clean up.
I counsel many men to “do a Joseph” in the sexual area. When Joseph was repeatedly tempted by Potiphar’s wife, even to the point of her begging him to “come to bed with me” (Genesis 39:7, 12), he “ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:12). Doing a Joseph involves running as fast as you can from temptation. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lust” (Romans 13:14). Take whatever action is necessary to avoid sexual sin!
Let me suggest some ways to “do a Joseph”:
- Immediately end any relationship that could lead to an affair.
- Be sure you have a good filter against pornography on your computer.
- Do away with any form of temptation (i.e. computer, television, movies, etc.) if you have to. Remember, Jesus said to take radical measures (i.e. gouge your eye out) if you have to.
- Be accountable to at least one other man.
- Avoid places that are tempting.
- Read the books “When Good Men Are Tempted”, “Victory Over the Darkness” by Neil Anderson, and "Porn Again Christian" by Mark Driscoll. "Porn Again Christian" just came out, and it is very powerful. Every man should read it. You can google it to find it, and his ministry gives you permission to download and print it at no cost.
- If married, do everything you can to keep a strong sexual relationship with your wife.
- Saturate your mind with the Word of God because, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living it according to Your Word … I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalms 119:9,11).
- If and when you fall in this area, be quick to confess and repent of your sin. Claim the forgiveness and cleansing offered through the blood of Jesus (see 1 John 1:9).
- Resist the accusations of Satan and claim your identity in Christ.
- Get professional help if you are entrapped in any form of this sin, be it visual or physical. I would recommend Dr. Mark Laaser’s ministry: http://www.faithfulandtrueministries.com/. He even has an intensive program for those who are addicted.
- Never give up. Even if you fall, get back up in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, the movement of our culture is going to make this area of temptation greater and greater in the years ahead. We cannot expect things to get easier. Therefore, we must take radical measures to stay pure.
Let’s seek to be men who love God, are filled with the Spirit, and do everything we can to stay sexually pure. God will richly bless the man who seeks to live a holy life!
Sunday, January 4, 2009
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Boys today are in great need for something that helps them transition from late boyhood to early manhood. For most boys this period is somewhere between 13 and 16 years of age. This is the time in a boy’s life when he is experiencing physical puberty, but more importantly, the boy is asking “What does it mean to be a man?” The father, or another significant male presence in his life (or even mother if the boy is without a father), needs to be there to help this boy transition into manhood. The following are some suggestions for a father to use in guiding his son into manhood and having a ceremony to celebrate this important time in his life:
1. Seek to live a godly example in front or your son.
The most important thing we do as fathers is to live an exemplary life. How we live will have far more influence on our children than what we say. The most important thing our children can see us do is spend time with God and love their mother!
This does not mean you have to be perfect. You will fail. However, when you fail, be man enough to admit it: to yourself, to God, to the person you hurt, and to your son. Many times I have had to go to my boys and say, “Boys, Daddy blew it last night when I lost my temper. I need to ask you to forgive me.” They can learn as much from our failures as they can from our successes.
2. Take time to proactively instruct your son in what it means to be a man.
I take my two sons on regular “dates.” We include 3 things in these dates: fun, food, and “man of God” time. Our “man of God” times are where I take about 10 minutes and just feature one characteristic of a man of God. Our list includes such things as: a man of God seeks to live a pure life, treats women with respect, uses his time wisely, has other godly men in his life, etc. At each date I review our list so the boys are reminded of what we have covered. How my boys respond to this list will partly determine when I decide to do the manhood ceremony with them.
Albert Mohler has put together an excellent list of manhood qualities that you could consider using:
Spiritual maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children.
Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.
Economic maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money.
Physical maturity sufficient to work and protect a family.
Sexual maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God’s purposes.
Moral maturity sufficient to lead as an example of righteousness.
Ethical maturity sufficient to make responsible decisions.
Worldview maturity sufficient to understand what is really important.
Relational maturity sufficient to understand and respect others.
Social maturity sufficient to make a contribution to society.
Verbal maturity sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.
Character maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire.
Biblical maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.
3. When you feel he is ready, plan some kind of manhood ceremony whereby you publicly announce that your son has now moved from being a boy to being a young man.
We have public ceremonies for birthdays, graduations, weddings, and other achievements. I believe the transition from boyhood to manhood is one which should involve a ceremony. This manhood ceremony will affirm a young man as well as challenge him to assume greater responsibilities in life. You have to prayerfully determine when you feel your son is ready for this. I had a manhood ceremony for my son when he was 15 years old.
a. Discuss the ceremony with your son.
Tell him why you want to do this and what it would be like. I think you will find that most boys will be a bit hesitant about it at first, but deep down they will like the idea.
b. Give your son some assignments to complete to “earn his way” into the ceremony.
For my son, I had him look up some passages on being a man of God, write a one page description of a man of God, and do some reading. You have to determine the assignments appropriate for your son. I have heard of some fathers who require their son to take their mother out on a date as part of their assignment. I like this idea.
c. Invite family and special friends.
You can determine how large to make this, but I personally like to keep it sort of small and private (i.e. 10 – 15 people max). Be sure to invite some godly men that you consider a good example to your son. You can come up with the list of invitees with your wife and son. Your son will want some of his peers present, and you can invite their fathers to come with them. Everyone who comes does not have to be a Christian. This ceremony can be a great testimony to unsaved men and their sons.
d. Encourage those who come to bring a special symbolic gift to your son.
For example, someone might give your son a nice sword and use that gift to challenge your son to be a mighty warrior for God. Another might write a special letter to your son and include a gift. At the ceremony, each person will present their gift and say a few words to your son.
e. Plan the details of the ceremony with your son.
Many men like to do something outdoors to celebrate this event. You might do a cook-out, bonfire, and then have the presentations around the fire. You could involve something challenging or recreational as part of the event (i.e. paintball, baseball game, frisbee golf, etc.).
f. Prayerfully consider what you will share and give to your son at the ceremony.
As the father, your part of the ceremony is the most important. Choose a gift he will always remember and keep. When you share, seek to affirm the positive qualities you see in your son, as well as appropriately challenge him to pursue greater godliness. You could ask your wife to share as well.
g. Take some time to pray over your son and speak a blessing to him.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of a father imparting a blessing over his son(s). A blessing is a spoken word of encouragement and acceptance to your son. This could actually be the most important part of the ceremony. Whatever you say to your son, also give him a copy in writing.
I think you will be amazed at the huge impact this will have on your son. I would love to hear from you concerning how this goes for you and ideas you have to help others who might do it. Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. May God bless you as you seek to be a godly father!
Resources to help you: Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis; Mantracks, A Rite of Passage Program for Christian Men by Ellis Hackler; Raising Boys by Dr. James Dobson; The Dad Difference by Josh McDowell; http://www.albertmohler.com/.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
“When we arrive at the end of our own strength, it is not defeat, but the start of tapping into God’s boundless resources. It is when we are weak that we are strong in God.” Brother Yun
Did you know your liabilities can actually be your greatest assets? When you experience feelings of inadequacy and weakness, do you struggle to overcome them, or embrace them and exchange them for God’s power? Do you feel you need to be strong around others in order to lead effectively, or can you be vulnerable with your struggles, and in so doing, model the “strength through weakness principle”?
The “strength through weakness principle” is this: God’s supernatural power is made perfect in our human weakness. If we will learn to embrace our weakness, and through our weakness turn to God, then we can experience His power in ways we never dreamed possible.
We all long to experience God’s power in our lives and ministry. However, God will often have us travel down the alley of weakness before we can drive on the highway of His power! He desires to use every situation and emotion that we perceive as negative, to lead us to greater dependence on Him.
Because we all tend toward pride and self-sufficiency, God will often orchestrate difficult circumstances to teach us this important principle. J.I. Packer, in the book Knowing God says,
“God at times overwhelms us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and drives us to cling to Him more closely. This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort or another – it is to insure that we shall learn to hold Him fast … God wants us to feel that our way throughout life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on Him. Therefore He takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in Himself.
Consider the many passages in God’s Word affirming the strength through weakness principle:
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).
“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, … whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:32-35).
“For to be sure, Jesus was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with Him to serve you” (2 Corinthians 13:4).
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
One of the strongest Christians who ever lived, the Apostle Paul, spoke of the value of weakness. He was going through a particularly difficult time in his life when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the following passage:
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-11).
Paul had experienced many supernatural visions and insights (2 Corinthians 12:1). These experiences with God could have caused him to become prideful. God knew this, and therefore, brought a “thorn” into Paul’s life. What was this thorn? We aren’t told, probably because if we were told we would compare our thorn to Paul’s.
The purpose rather than the identification of the thorn is what is most important, and the purpose was to keep Paul humbly dependent on God.
The same is true for us. God often orchestrates thorns in our lives. Our thorn may be circumstantial, relational or emotional. Anything which causes us to struggle, feel weak, or inadequate is a “thorn” of sorts. We can ask God to remove the thorn, as Paul did. And He may remove it. However, He may not remove it. When God doesn’t remove our thorn, we can be sure He has a greater purpose in it. That purpose is to teach us to embrace our weakness, that we might be supernaturally empowered by His Spirit – “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul had experienced the strength through weakness principles so many times he could actually say “I delight in weakness.”
Let’s apply this principle in YOUR daily life and ministry, so you can begin to delight in weakness. Whenever you feel inadequate, weak, intimidated or fearful, rather than run away from those weaknesses or camouflage them in some way, learn to embrace them and exchange them for God’s power.
For example, when you are experiencing frustration with some area of personal holiness, instead of beating yourself up, pray this prayer, “Lord, I feel so weak and powerless right now. This is a good reminder that apart from You I can do nothing of any eternal value. I yield to You and ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Help me to resist all temptations and live holy for Your honor. Thank You for this feeling of weakness, so I can depend wholly on You.”
Suppose you are about to do some kind of ministry, but you feel intimidated and inadequate. Instead of backing away from the challenge or trying to muster human confidence, step into it knowing God’s power is going to flow through you as you do. Ask God for a fresh filling of His Spirit as you go into that ministry situation.
Finally, imagine being in a relationship with someone that is difficult to love. Instead of selfishly focusing on where your needs are not being met, embrace your weakness and ask God to fill you with His love for that person. By an act of your will, do loving acts for that person and ask God to supernaturally give you His love for the individual.
Your weakness is the very springboard to experiencing God’s power.
If you are taking to heart what I am saying, you might actually begin to look forward to the next situation in which you feel weak! Embrace your weakness and exchange it for God’s power.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10
Friday, January 2, 2009
The purpose of this blog is to give you some of the many benefits of being a follower of Jesus. We need to rejoice in what we have in Christ. Life can be very difficult at times . Life can be even more difficult for the serious follower of Jesus. And yet, through all the difficulties and challenges, we can rejoice in the many benefits we have in Christ.
During one particularly difficult time in my life a few years ago, my wonderful wife said to me: “David, I think you need to take some time to just focus on the many things you have to be thankful for.” She was absolutely right, and it did help me with my attitude. At that time I focused a lot on the physical and material things I had to be thankful for (i.e. home, food, clothes, job, children, etc.). There is some value in this. However, there is far more value in focusing on what is eternal and spiritual. The blessings of our salvation are just that – spiritual and eternal. These truths cannot change. They are true for every follower of Christ the moment we receive Christ. Therefore, “forget none of His benefits” (Psalms 103:2).
In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, there was a man named Mr. Yates. He lived in Texas. Though he owned a lot of land, he was living in poverty. He was barely making ends meet. One day a representative from an oil company knocked on Mr. Yates’ door. He said, “Mr. Yates, we have reason to believe that there could be oil on your property. With your permission, we would like to drill. If we hit oil, you get half the profit.” That was enough for Mr. Yates to give his permission. They drilled and sure enough found oil, and lots of it. I have heard that to this day, that is still one of the most active oil wells in all of Texas. Mr. Yates became a millionaire overnight. However, the moment he purchased the land he acquired all the property and mineral rights to that land. The only problem was that he did not know how to tap into that oil reserve. He was living in poverty with a wealth of possessions right below him.
Many Christians are just like Mr. Yates. We have an oil well of riches in Christ that we acquired the moment we accepted Jesus. However, we are either ignorant of them or don’t know how to tap into them, and thus we live in spiritual poverty when we have this spiritual wealth within us. We have “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), but we live as though we had nothing. This needs to change. This can change. This blog can help that change, if you learn and apply what is in this blog. Christian, you already have “everything you need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3; emphasis mine). Notice that we need the knowledge of what we have.
These truths are only for those who have received Christ. So, if you have not received Christ, you can do so now by:
a. Admitting that you are a sinner and in need of God’s forgiveness (Romans 3:23).
b. Realizing that Jesus Christ died for yours sins (Romans 5:8).
c. Repenting (i.e. turning away from) of your sin and turning your life over to God’s control (Acts 20:21).
d. Receiving Jesus as the Forgiver and Leader of your life (John 1:12).
Here is a suggested prayer you can pray to become a follower of Jesus: “Lord Jesus, I need You. I admit that I have been living for me and not for You. Thank You that You love me. I admit that I have sinned and violated Your holy standards. Thank You for dying for my sin so that I can be forgiven. I receive Your payment for my sin. I exchange my sin for Your righteousness. I invite You to come into my life to forgive me of my sin and to take control of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Fill me with the Holy Spirit and help me to live for You. Thank You for doing this right now, because You promised You would. Amen”
For everyone who is a true follower of Jesus, the following 10 benefits are yours. Let’s go through them one by one and rejoice as we do:
1. Relationship with God.
When you received Christ, you began a relationship with the living God. Christianity is not a religion as much as it is a relationship. A religion is man’s attempt to reach God through works and ritual. Christianity is God’s attempt to reach us through Jesus. God wants a living, dynamic, and daily relationship with each of us. This is why He sent Jesus – to remove the sin barrier that keeps us from having that relationship.
This relationship can never be taken away. Like any relationship, there will be times when you feel close to God and times when you don’t feel as close to God. But the relationship is still there no matter how you feel. God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
God wants this relationship to grow each day. God wants us to get to know Him more each day. God wants us to become more like Jesus, and this takes time. God wants to use each and every situation in our life to draw us closer to Him. Our relationship with God will not be perfect until we get to heaven, where we will be with Him forever.
Rejoice right now in the fact that you have a relationship with the Creator of the universe! Pledge to do everything you can to work on this relationship growing and growing.
2. The Forgiveness of Sins.
We have a relationship with God because our sins are forgiven. God is holy, and therefore we cannot approach Him in our sin. This is why it is so important that Jesus died for our sin. Through Jesus’ death for us, we can be forgiven. When we receive Christ, God forgives all of our sins: past, present, and future. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13-14).
Because our sins are forgiven, we are called saints (Ephesians 1:1). A saint is a holy one. We are not holy in all of our behavior, but we are holy in our spirit because we are forgiven. God sees us in our spirit. He throws our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103). This is an endless distance. He also says “He remembers our sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). It is not that God has a bad memory, but rather that He chooses to not remember our sins because they are covered with the blood of Jesus. He chooses to not hold our sins against us. We are now spiritually pure and can thus approach the throne of God boldly (Hebrews 4:16).
Rejoice right now that all of your sins are forgiven! You might feel really bad about some things you have done in your past. Satan is the one who seeks to condemn and accuse us (Revelation 12). When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If Satan reminds you of your past, respond by reminding him of his future (i.e. lake of fire forever). Remind yourself that God has forgiven your sin!
3. The Total Acceptance of God.
You are a child of God and thus have the total acceptance of God. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1; emphasis mine). I love the way the Apostle John writes this: “that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.” In other words, we are not only called children of God, we really are children of God. This is our fundamental identity! I am a child of the living God. I am more a child of God than I am a child of Joe and Melba Holt. Yes, I am a Holt. But for now and all eternity, I am a child of the Most High God. As God’s child, I am totally accepted by God. I don’t have to perform at a certain level or meet some external criteria to be accepted. I am accepted by God based on the performance of Jesus for me.
God wants us to rejoice in this truth. He wants us to rest in the fact that He accepts us in Christ. Just as I want my children to rest in my acceptance of them, so does God want this for us. I don’t want my children to feel that they have to perform at a certain level for me to love and accept them. I love and accept them just for who they are. I want my love for them to motivate them to live a holy life. In the same way, God wants His grace and love to motivate us to live for Him. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).
4. The Indwelling Holy Spirit.
Now this next truth might blow you away. You might find it difficult to receive. But please meditate carefully on the truths from God’s Word. It is not too good to be true. It really is a fact that you have the Holy Spirit living in you. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit comes inside of us the moment we believe on Jesus for salvation. His presence is like a deposit, guaranteeing that we will have eternal life and all that comes with that.
Who is this Holy Spirit that comes to live inside of us? He is the third Person of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:18-20). He is the invisible presence and power of God. He is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). Notice two things in this verse. First, notice the Holy Spirit is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We are talking about a pretty powerful Spirit, aren’t we?! Secondly, notice that this Holy Spirit is said to “live in us.” Wow. God’s Spirit living in us. The Holy Spirit lives in the spirit of every child of God.
It is God’s Holy Spirit living in us that makes us a temple of God. “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). In the Old Testament, the temple was the physical place where God met with His people. It was the place where God’s presence dwelt in a powerful and real way. With the coming of Jesus and Pentecost (i.e. the Holy Spirit coming to indwell all Believers), the physical temple was no longer where God’s presence lived. Instead, God chose to live inside of His people. We are the temple of the living God! Everywhere we go, we have God not only with us but also in us. In our spirits we contain the very presence and power of God, the Holy Spirit. We “house” the God of the universe!
The Spirit of the living God, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, is living in you. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers you to live for Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who gives you gifts to serve God. It is the Holy Spirit that can enable you to handle any challenge that comes your way.
Now this is something to really rejoice in! Thank God right now for this amazing truth. This means there is nothing you face that is bigger than the Holy Spirit who lives in you. “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Whenever you feel down or defeated, just remind yourself of Who lives in you. Tap into this power like Mr. Yates tapped into that oil well. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
5. Victory Over Satan.
The Bible makes us very clear that there is a literal Satan and demons. We are in a spiritual battle with the forces of darkness (Ephesians 6). However, Jesus defeated Satan at the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). Though the ultimate war has been won, we still fight battles along the way until we go to be with the Lord.
The key to our victory is not to try to overcome Satan by sheer human effort. Instead, the key to victory is to enforce against Satan the victory that Jesus won for us. We stand under the blood of Jesus. We proclaim the Name of Jesus. We declare the Word of God against the attacks of Satan. When we do these things, like Jesus when He was tempted by the Devil, we will be victorious.
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:10-11). We have the “blood of the Lamb” and all its benefits that have already won the war. Now we must utilize the “word of our testimony” in order to win the battles. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
6. Membership in the Body of Christ.
Notice here that I did not say membership in a local church, though this is important. I said you have membership in the body of Christ. In other words, the moment you received Christ, you become part of the body of Christ, the church of the Living God. This is an invisible truth, even though it should manifest itself in visible ways.
God established His church. He has always had a people, going all the way back to Adam and Eve and the nation of Israel. Now the people of God are His body, all the redeemed in Christ. “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5). Some are a hand while others are a foot, but we are all a significant part of God’s body. We are His hands and feet on earth. We are the means by which He accomplishes much of His will on earth. “And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
One of the biggest blessings of being a part of the body of Christ is the love and support God wants this to give us in our journey with Him. God did not make us to make it alone. We need the help of others, and the sooner we realize this the better off we will be. Therefore, God wants us to be closely connected with other Christians in order to grow in our relationship with Him. In this manner, our membership in God’s invisible church should manifest itself by our being closely connected with a local, visible church.
I realize that many reading this blog have been hurt by Christians or by a local church. I know this can be painful and can cause you to become very gun-shy of close relationships with other Christians. However, God calls you to forgive those who have hurt you (Ephesians 4:32) and to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). You need the rest of the body, and the rest of the body needs you (1 Corinthians 12).
Rejoice that you are part of the body of Christ. You are an important part. God’s body is not complete without you. This is true, no matter how you feel. Picture God’s wonderful body, composed of persons of every tribe, nation, tongue and people (Revelation 5:9). Now picture yourself as the foot or leg or arm or whatever part you want to imagine being in His body. You are special.
7. The Bible as God’s Word.
What a privilege to have the Bible, the very Word of God. God loves and cares for us enough to have taken the time to inspire people to write His Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
God has not left us in the dark. In the Bible He reveals to us who He is, what He has done, how we can know Him, and how we are to live. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105). When we carefully follow God’s Word, we will be blessed (Psalms 1).
What a privilege to have God’s Word. This is indeed a huge blessing of our salvation. Yes, even non-Christians can have a Bible. However, one cannot really understand the Bible without having a relationship with the Author. One of the first changes I experienced in my life upon receiving Christ was the ability to read and understand the Bible. God began to personally speak to me through His Word in a manner I had not experienced before. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
If you have a Bible close by, take it in your hands, hold it up, and thank God sincerely for it. Meditate on how it has endured throughout many years. Think about the many people who have given their lives to translate it, defend it, preach it, and protect it. Most of us have several Bibles in our homes. However, there are many in parts of the world like China, that only have a few pages of the Holy Word of God. I just read the biography of a Chinese Christian who fasted for thirty days until God gave him a Bible.
8. The Promise of God’s Continual Presence.
When you became a child of God, God came to indwell you with His Holy Spirit. With His presence comes His promise that He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), that He “will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), that “no one shall snatch you from Jesus’ hand” (John 10:28), and that “no one shall you snatch you from the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). These are some powerful promises!
No matter what you go through, you can be assured that God will never leave you. You have His constant and abiding presence. When you are in pain, God is there. When you are going through great trials, God is there. When your marriage seems all but over, God is still with you. When you are sick, God is present. When you feel like giving up on God, God does not give up on you. When you are faithless, God remains faithful. He will never leave you. He is always with you. He is with you when it is dark. He is with you when it is bright. He is with you during victory. He is with you during defeat. He is there when you obey. He is also there when you disobey.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalms 139:7-10).
Rejoice right now that the God who spoke the universe into existence is with you no matter where you are or what you are going through.
9. The Unconditional Love of God.
As His child, forever sealed with the Holy Spirit, you are unconditionally loved by God. Most of the love we experience from humans is an “I love you because you…” (you finish the sentence). It might be an “I love you because you are nice to me,” or “I love you because you are successful.” Another typical kind of human love is an “I love you if….” (you finish the sentence). This might be “I love you if you get good grades,” or “I love you if you love me back.” God’s love for us is not like this at all. His loves is neither a “because of” love nor a “if you” love. Instead, God’s love is unconditionally. He loves us with no strings attached. He loves us because He is a God of love (1 John 4:16). He loves us because of who He is and not because of who we are or what we do.
God’s unconditional love is something we should not abuse, but rather rejoice in. Thank God right now for His unconditional love. Rest in His love. Stop striving to get God to love you. He already loves you as much as He ever will. You cannot do anything good to make Him love you more, nor can you do anything bad to cause Him to love you less. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Does God’s unconditional love mean that He is always pleased with us? Not at all. God is not pleased with us when we disobey, but He still loves us. Parents can relate to this. We love our children no matter what. However, when they misbehave, we are not pleased with them, but we still love them. God is this way with us.
Rejoice and relax in God’s unconditional and abiding love for you!
10. Eternal Life.
Perhaps the greatest blessing of all is eternal life. Being a child of God and having a relationship with God means that you have eternal life. When you die or Jesus returns (whichever comes first), you will go to be with the Lord in heaven forever. “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is perhaps the best-known and wonderful verse in all of God’s Word.
Eternity is a long time. Eternity is forever. Therefore, what in all of life could possibly be better than the assurance that we will live forever with God in heaven? "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
We can look forward to this Perfect Place. In heaven there will be no more tears. There will be no pain. There will be no sickness or disease. There will be no relational struggles. All of our questions will be answered. There will be perfect love and peace. Best of all, there will be God. And in Him we will have all of our longings fully met, forever!!!! Rejoice and never forget this wonderful blessing of salvation.
Christian, I don’t know what you are going through right now, but if you are like most, there is probably some heaviness in your heart right now over something. I sincerely hope and pray that this blog has helped to lift some of that heaviness. We need to take time, often, to reflect and rejoice in what we have in Christ. Be not discouraged. God is on your side. You have these blessings and they are secure in Christ, forever.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (Psalms 103:2)!