Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Do They Really See Him In Us?

 “Do They Really See Him In Us?”

1 John 4:11-12 NLT

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God.  But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

I have to really wonder how often unbelievers really see God in and through us.  As I consider all the ways we tend to live our lives each day as proclaimed followers of God, I just have to question whether or not we are striving for others to see Him in us?  It seems like we get so focused not only on how we want things, but also on how we want others to know how we feel about certain things. 

I just have to wonder with all the different opinions that we feel we need to share and get others to hear from us, how often are we really concerned how much God is showing through?  In all of my years of experience with secular work and working in ministry, it breaks my heart how so often His love is not expressed through how we treat one another. 

Think about this passage and read it over and over again, pondering what it is saying.  God loved us way more than we’ll ever understand.  He came to die for us and that is the greatest act of love anyone has ever expressed.  What does that mean to us?  Does it overwhelm us?  Does it move us to the point where we stop focusing so much on what we want and what we think and focus on loving others as He commanded us to?

I go to work each day and I just so often wonder if others are seeing God in me in some way.  I wonder if they notice something different in the ways that I treat others.  Sometimes, I don’t know if they see God at all in me as there are times that I don’t handle things well at all and say things I should keep to myself.  Working in the secular world for so many years has taught me so much and it has challenged me to think more about how I am around non-believers.

Loving each other is probably one of the biggest challenges we face in being the church God wants us to be.  Why is that so hard?  Sure, we have differences, but why can we not just love each other as He has called us to do?  That’s been a prayer and cry of my heart for years.  I’m sure it has been for many of you as well. 

I hope that you and I will deeply desire for others to see God’s love in and through us.  We need to work a lot hard on loving each other, especially when challenges arise.  We need to love others as best as we can, even if we don’t get along.  If we really want others to see God in us, we will obey His command with a passion in our hearts to sincerely love one another.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Investment in Godly Wisdom and Understanding

“Investment in Godly Wisdom and Understanding”

James 3:13 NIV

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

I think we would all be very quick to say that we desire to have understanding and wisdom.  We all want to know things and become wiser in all that we do.  We want to learn more so that we can further our understanding for different things we continue to do in life.  We spend so much of our lives continuing to learn different things so that we can fill our minds with more knowledge to be more successful.

With all the learning that we do, I often think the best wisdom we can obtain goes untouched in so many ways from God’s Word.  We say we want to grow in Him and that we want to learn humility, but the ways we live our lives really says something totally different all too often. 

What are we investing in these days?  Where are we putting our time and focus?  This is something I have been thinking a lot about, especially with so many changes that have happened over this year.  I’m trying to continuously challenge my priorities and where I am putting most of my focus.  It’s a daily challenge as it is for us all.

This week, I’d like to ask all of us to seriously consider where we are investing our time?  Do we really seek Godly wisdom and understanding?  Do we really want to learn what is means to be humble?  Are we serious about this learning?  We often say we are, but what we are doing daily to be challenged and to learn more about Godly wisdom that will bring more understanding and more humility? 

I’m not at all against the different investments we make in our lives for us and our families.  We definitely need to invest in different ways, but I have to wonder where we are focusing most of our investing?  Are we investing more in material things or in Godly wisdom?  I know I am not investing as I should each day. 

What do you think others are seeing in your life?  Are they seeing you invest in the wisdom from God or from the world?  Do they see you investing in understanding His Word more?  Are they seeing you become more humble?  I think we all need to take a serious look at how we are investing our daily lives and then ask God to give us His wisdom and glean as much as we can even more from His Word like we’ve never done before.

Our greatest investment is gaining Godly wisdom so that we can be more understanding and learn to be more humble. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Easy To Understand, Hard To Practice

 

“Easy To Understand, Hard To Practice”

1 Peter 5:7 NLT

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

There are a lot of things in life that we find very easy to understand, but then they are difficult to put into practice.  Often times we are given instructions to do something and, at first, the instructions seem simple.  However, once we get into the nitty-gritty of actually following through, we come to find out that it’s more than we bargained for!  It isn’t necessarily that we made a wrong choice per say, but we just definitely don’t understand how hard it is to actually follow through with certain things.

We all struggle with different situations, whatever they may be.  We may think something sounds cool, but then when we actually jump in and start, we find out that it’s so much harder than we first thought.  We honestly want things as easy as possible.  I know I do!  When we’re faced with instructions or obstacles that are hard, we tend to hesitate and try another way so that we can avoid any extra work or effort.  As I said before, there are so many different scenarios that seem easy to understand up-front, but once we get going and try to follow through, we find ourselves having a hard time keeping up and actually committing to finishing.

This passage really hit me the other day as I pondered how hard it is for me to give all my worries and cares to God.  I mean, it’s so simple to understand that we should give all of our worries and cares over to God.  He wants us to leave those things at the Cross and to trust in Him.  We know that.  We’ve been taught this for so many years, yet we find ourselves struggling to do this each and every day.  It’s so simple to say it and tell others we need to do it.  But then actually following through and letting God take these things from us is a different story all together! 

I have struggled for so much of life giving Him all my worries and cares and just letting Him be in control.  I want to worry and fret and be anxious and stress about everything it seems!  Well…..I really don’t want to, but by the way I live, it sure seems that way often!  God doesn’t want us to hold on to these things and live with all these things burdening us.  He wants us to give it all over to Him and trust that He will guide us through.  He doesn’t want us carrying these things on our own.  He wants us to give it all to Him. 

This is so easy to understand, but very hard to put into practice.  However, it is a daily challenge and learning experience as we grow in our faith and allow Him to take our worries and cares.  Are we willing to give those up and actually follow through in letting Him be in control? 

The ball is in our court.  Are we going to give these things to God and let Him be in control? 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

He Is Our Shield, Glory And Only Hope

“He Is Our Shield, Glory And Only Hope”

Psalm 3:3-4 NLT

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.  I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.

 

In a sermon many years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll say that he has been asked many times how people who don’t know the Lord get through their problems and trials.  He then said not to come up and ask him that question because he didn’t know the answer to it.  I’ve never forgotten that statement and have shared it many times with others.  I also do not know how people, who don’t know God, make it through different challenging times in life. 

As hard as life is often times, I cannot imagine dealing with all the challenging times without God to guide me and comfort me.  Life is hard enough and just to even imagine dealing with hard times without Him just seems impossible.  I can’t even imagine going through life without knowing He is with me and guiding me, even though there are many things I continue to not understand.  He is my Shield and my Glory and only Hope in life.  The world around me does not and will never give me what He does.

In the past months, I have been focusing many of my devotionals on dealing with challenging circumstances because I feel that is what God has been laying on my heart to share because we are all dealing with situations, circumstances and emotions that we have never before dealt with.  I know that I need daily reminders that God is helping me through this uncharted waters and I believe you all do as well.  Even though we all may be dealing with new experiences this year, God continues to be Who He is and that will never change. 

Never forget that He is our eternal Shield, eternal Glory and eternal Hope!  We all have good days and we all have bad days.  It is definitely easier to have hope when days are good and we are feeling good about the future.  However, when times seem gloom, it’s much harder and much more challenging. 

I would like to leave us with this prayer as we continue to go about our days through this consistently challenging year.

Father, we thank You for being our constant Shield, Glory and Hope.  We just cannot imagine dealing with life and not having hope in You.  Where would we go and how would we even deal with all these things if we could not come to You with our burdens and concerns?  Father, please help us to put our trust and hope solely in You always!  Let us never forget that You are guiding us, even when we cannot feel it.  Give us daily strength to do what only You can do through us.  We know You are leading and we just need to trust, even when things seem very confusing.  We trust and hope in You!  Amen.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

His Unfailing Love Never Ceases

 “His Unfailing Love Never Ceases”

Psalm 86:5-7 NLT

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.  Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry.  I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.

Over half of the year has flown by and is full of events that we would like to soon forget!  We have all been exposed to new emotions and circumstances that we never though would occur.  We are all continuing to deal with the inconsistency of different events that keep popping up all over the world.  It can get very overwhelming at times.

No matter what we continue to experience, we can be assured that our Almighty Father never ceases to pour out His unfailing love.  No matter what is troubling us, we can bring these burdens to Him and He will shower us with His unfailing love.  He is good and is so ready to forgive, no matter what is in our recent past or years past.  He will always listen closely to our prayers.  Take some time to read through the Psalms of prayers from David.  You will see the heart of a man of God pouring his deepest pain out to God. 

No matter what is going on in our lives, we must always remember that God’s unfailing love will never cease.  That is a promise you can always count on!  Don’t listen to the lies the enemy is trying to feed you.  God always hears our urgent cries for help and we must keep an open mind and remember that He works in His ways and not ours.  Isaiah says that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not ours.  We often get into trouble when we expect God to work in our timing.  He has never worked that way and never will.

I can’t promise you that God will take your pain away right now in whatever you are dealing with, but I can tell you that pain will never be in vain.  Whatever pain you are experiencing with waiting for answers, please keep trusting in Him and know He is working, even when you can’t feel or see that. 

We need to remember in the times of hardship that God wants to connect with us and commune like we’ve never done before.  It’s in these times that He can transform us and mold us like He’s never been able to do before.  We so often want Him to change our circumstances and the things around us, but what He wants to do more than anything is change our hearts so that we grow more in our faith. 

Never forget that His unfailing love never ceases, no matter what we feel or what we think.  His love and faithfulness endures forever!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Poison Of Dwelling On The Past

“The Poison Of Dwelling On The Past”

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

There are a lot of things in life that I forget about.  There are things that I remember very easily and then other things I tend to forget.  I’m often baffled at what I can easily remember and then the things that I often forget.  We all feel this way with the things we wish we could remember and then wonder why there are some things that we have no problem remembering. 

One thing that I am very good at remembering, and comes back to haunt me so often, is the memory of mistakes that I have made.  I know that we can learn from our mistakes and focus on not repeating them, which is a good thing about remembering the mistakes.  However, the bad part about that memory of mistakes is how Satan likes to remind us so often that they somehow define us.  He is absolutely WRONG!  I have a very bad habit of remembering my mistakes and beating myself up over and over and over again about them.  My wife and kids will attest to that! 

The enemy has a sly way of popping his ugly head up every time a memory surfaces and a situation presents itself again and I repeat the cycle again getting down on myself.  We learn here that God is always doing a new thing.  We should never dwell on the past.  It’s so easy for us to constantly dwell on things that we did wrong in the past and be reminded of them every day by the enemy.  God wants us to instead focus on the new things He is doing with us and through us. 

It’s almost as if we are feeding ourselves poison every time we dwell on the past and relive the emotions of the painful mistakes we have made.  All the while God is trying to take this poison away from us and get us to focus on the new things He is doing.  I know there are many people who will read this and are reliving the same painful memories from the past that keep haunting you.  As the Apostle Paul shared to the church in Philippi, he pressed on, forgetting the past and focused on what was ahead.  We definitely need to do the same!

Friends, whatever painful past memories you are struggling to stop dwelling on, ask God to give you the strength to overcome and move forward.  I’m preaching to myself on this as well!  I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m working on it.  We are new creatures in Christ!  The old has gone, the new has come!  Let us focus on who we are in Christ! 

Stop feeding on the poison of dwelling on the past.   


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Many Parts, One Body of Christ

“Many Parts, One Body of Christ”

Romans 12:4-5 NLT

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In all the years I have been involved with ministry, both paid and voluntary, I continue to long to see God’s church become a body that loves and supports one another.  As I was reading this passage one morning this weekend, I cringed at the thought that so many believers struggle with animosity toward one another in the church.  The Apostle Paul was very adamant about believers working together to love one another, despite differences.

Friends, we have all been part of hurtful situations in the church at some point or another.  It is unfortunate and we all have experienced scars from these instances.  I wonder so often if we will take seriously the call to show love to others and work hard together to be a healthy, functioning body of Christ? 

Think of all the different scenarios and situations in which different parts work together to make something operate properly.  We could think of so many different possibilities.  Consider different machines that are put together to operate to make something or make many things.  If one part doesn’t work, it affects the whole machine and the outcome.  We see the same thing happen with a vehicle that has many parts.  If the vehicle has a part that is acting up, you will notice and sooner or later, the car won’t run properly anymore until you fix that bad part.

Friends, we need to put this illustration to work in the body of Christ and seriously think about what we need to do to contribute toward a positive, healthy and encouraging body of believers.  There is unfortunately so much division and animosity within the body of Christ and too many of us focused on what we want and not focused on what God desires.  We have become so selfish and focused on things that we want to happen.  This leads to great hurt, confusion, and emotional scars as it damages relationships.   

To see love and healing start and spread in the body of Christ, we need to set the example of love ourselves for others to see.  We can’t fix others, but instead need to pray and ask God to help us show others love.  Why don’t we focus on praying for God to use us to show others love, despite our differences?  The church today desperately needs to show love to one another and work through differences and past hurt.  It is very hard to do, but healing needs to take place. 

My prayer is that we all strive to do our part to love, forgive and work hard to make the body function as God intended.