Starting the Year off Right

consistently-read-gods-word

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Consistently reading God’s word is not mere duty. It will change your life!

Scriptures of the Day:

John 8:31-32
31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you
continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you
free.”

Joshua 1:8

8 Don’t stop reading this book of the Law, but day and night
think of what it says, so you can be careful to do everything
written in it; then you will prosper and succeed.

Acts 20:32
32 “And now I entrust you to God and his care and to his
wonderful words that are able to build your faith and give you
all the inheritance of those who are set apart for himself.

Matthew 4:4

4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need
more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of
God.’ ”

John 6:63

63 It is not the flesh that gives a person life. It is the
spirit that gives life. The words I told you are spirit, and so
they give life.

Romans 15:4

4 And the Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by
giving us hope.

John 14:23-24
23 Jesus replied: ‘If anyone loves me he will cherish my word;
my Father will love him and we will come to him and make him
our abode.
24 He that does not love me neglects my words. Yet the word you
hear is not my own but that of the Father who sent me.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us
what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.

17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped
for every good thing God wants us to do.

Hebrews 4:12

12 For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper
than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost
thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.

 

New year’s resolutions are often broken before they are begun. But there is one resolution that we never want to break – the faithful, consistent reading of God’s word. Consistently reading God’s word is not mere duty. It will change your life!

Don’t believe the lie that it is too hard to read the Bible in a year. Take two or three years, if needed, but getting into God’s word is necessary for us to be able to live a godly Christian life.

I’ll keep it brief today, so we can all get into God’s word. mr-_smiley_face-svg

Here is a fantastic link for Bible Reading Plans. The 52-week plan is my favorite!

Truthful Tuesday: Temptation’s Opportunity

Photo Credits: vineoflife.wordpress.com

Photo Credits:
vineoflife.wordpress.com

Luke 4:13

“So when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.”

James 1:13-14

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
Luke 22:40
On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
Matthew 6:13
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Romans 6:14
“For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”

“The devil made me do it”.  “I couldn’t help myself”.  “I wanted to do it”.  Ever said similar things?  Mankind’s tendency is to rationalize why we do the things we do.  Paul understands.  He battled with the flesh, too, and left us excellent advice on the subject in the book of Romans.

The key is in the word, “battle”.  Many times we do not recognize that we are indeed in a battle, whether we want to be or not.  Doing nothing is doing something.  Resisting temptation is not enough when the forces of evil are seeking to plummet our walk with God.  Having a good offense and storing God’s Word as well as praising God in the midst are excellent tools to have in our arsenal, but we also must exercise our will by the grace of God in the midst of our moments of temptation.

I find it ironic that “Truthful Tuesday” was on my heart today, when my youngest child was writing the verse from Psalm 34:13 for me 100 times – “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies”.  Convincing my son that lying is not the solution to his problem with sin is a challenge.  Yet, just like his forefathers, he attempts to cover up his iniquity with excuses or falsehood.  We could never cover up all our transgressions nor face the temptations that come our way if it were not for the grace of God and the His covering of our sins by His own blood.

So who is to blame?  Certainly the enemy’s hand is ready to make us stumble.  Our own flesh,too, fully corrupt in its desires, is prone to influence us toward it’s will.  As humbling as it is to admit, we ourselves are deceived if we think we have triumphed over temptation.  It is not a once and done deal.  Hence the need for our dependence on God in relationship with Him.

When I was reading again of Christ’s victory over satan’s temptations, the words, “he departed from him until a  more opportune time” stood out to me.  Christ approached his temptation with fasting and prayer and overcame.  Yet his time of dealing with the evil one was not over.  He would undergo temptation to the point of sweating blood and deny self in every way, providing salvation for the entire world.  He was fully God and fully man and it was not easy.

In our culture, our goal can often be to take the easy route, to pursue comfort.  Such an endeavor is fertile ground for temptation to woo its victims.  Catering to the flesh fosters growth of that same flesh and will make it much more difficult to quiet its demands when tempation seizes its next opportunity.  We must never take the stance that we are done with temptation.  God’s salvation opened the door to our heart to discern sin, but we must be watchful and in prayer, so that we might continually be overcomers in Christ.

Lord, give us a holy fear to stay ever close to you.  Help us to recognize when we are being tempted and to flee all temptation, running to Your perfect arms.

Thoughtful Thursday: Hidden Treasure – Our Prized Possession

Proverbs 7:1-2

“My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping.  2 Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession.”

Proverbs 2:4-5

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Luke 12:34

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Colossians 2:2-3

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We can go our entire lives searching for treasure – what our hearts long for.  Yet all the while it is right in front of us, sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Imagine finding a treasure and looking at it and taking just one piece of the treasure out, then leaving it there.  The treasure would not benefit us and would not be shared with anyone else, either.  In this fast-paced world, we can step over the greatest treasure and miss it, if we are not careful.

What are the various gems in this treasure chest?  Understanding.  Why is it that our eyes were opened to be able to comprehend what God has done?  Knowledge.  Adding to our understanding, more and more knowledge of Him and the ability to see our sins and His grace.  Wisdom. Knowledge applied and used for God’s glory.  Peace. Souls at rest no matter what is transpiring around us.  Salvation.  The penalty for our sins removed – our guilt stains washed away! Communion with God. being able to fellowship with Jesus and go to Him anytime.  Forgiveness.  All of our guilt washed away.  Grace.  Strength to live for Jesus.  Healing.  Changed hearts and minds yielded to Him, delivered from the burdens of this world.  Assurance.  The sweetest jewel – assurance that we will be with Him for all eternity lasts longer than any temporary treasure on this earth.

On and on the precious gems to be found.  To some the Bible is a book of rules, void of life.  To those who have recognized it’s worth, it is the greatest gift God has given to us.  Boundaries set to free us, counsel to comfort us, His word a lamp to guide us.

To be able to know the God of this universe and fellowship with Him is the greatest treasure given to mankind, but often we accept what is more tangible as a substitute and miss out on the gold He has for us.  No where else will we be able to find such a treasure, that supplies all our needs to each individual.

Lord, we delight in You!  Thank You for the treasure of Your most precious Son!  Help us to seek You without ceasing and to daily,moment by moment bask in your Word.

Weapons of Warfare

Photo Credits: covenantpromises.org

Photo Credits:
covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

The Higher Goal of God’s Deliverance

1 Samuel 1:10

“She was very upset as she prayed to the LORD, and she was weeping uncontrollably.”

1 Samuel 2:1-3, 9

1 Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in the Lordmy horn is exalted high because of the Lord.  I loudly denounce my enemiesfor I am happy that you delivered me. 2 No one is holy like the Lord!  There is no one other than you!  There is no rock like our God!  3 Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly, letting proud talk come out of your mouth!  For the Lord is a God who knows; he evaluates what people do. 9 He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darknessfor it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

Each day, I am amazed how God speaks to just what I need to hear.  This blog is written directly out of my devotion time, which is from a bible-in-a-year plan.  Yet in God’s sovereignty, He uses right where I am at in His Word to speak to me. What an awesome God.

Hannah’s story has always been special to me.  God sees our longings, but fulfills them in accordance with His will and timing.  Her response is so humble and surrendered to God.  In the face of a rival mocking her for her perceived inferiority because she could not bear children, she cried out to her God.

Don’t we all not measure up somehow, in someone else’s eyes?  Hannah suffered from the onslaught of minimizing, but it was not so much her concern for Penninah’s opinion.  She did not get involved with the small-minded desire to be esteemed by others or to have what others had for vanity’s sake.  No, she longed to be a mom.  The pain and shame of not being able to bear children stemmed from her innate, God-given role as a woman.  God honored this desire.

The sting of a longing unfulfilled can paralyze us if we let it.  But in this beautiful moment of Hannah’s submission to God’s will, she wipes away her tears and trusts in God.  When God granted her request, she praised Him and then gave back this cherished gift to her God.  Our tendency as humans is to want to hold onto God’s provision, but Hannah knew that Samuel, her precious son, was God’s and not hers.  Ultimately, her desire to honor God brought about more blessing for her and five more children.

More than victory over those who would demean her, Hannah had a joy in her relationship with her LORD and had gained something even more precious – character.  Humility gained from other people’s judgment is a reward, too.  It teaches us perspective and guards us from living to please man and reminds us that none of us are without fault.

Overly being concerned with man’s affronts is not righteous.  Jesus modeled this heart of humility when false accusations were hurled at Him and He is the only One in whom there was not a hint of truth in his enemy’s rants.  He was spat upon and murdered and responded by praying on behalf of those who wished Him harm.

Letting go of the idol of currying man’s favor is a beautiful place of peace and freedom.  Hannah was not trying to be glorified by man or be the best at anything.  She was not concerned with other people’s perception of her, and when Penninah’s judgment hurt, she ran to her Father – and He heard.

Man’s opinion is insignificant in the scope of eternity, but our response reveals pride and insecurities or trust and surrender to God.  Hannah chose the latter and glorified God, not herself.  We can, too.  Her “ladder” was leaned against God, not the culture.  Her greatest goal was not being right or triumphing over her enemies, but in glorifying God and being found in Him.

Lord, help us to be in the world and not of it.  May we care more about pleasing you than anything or anyone else.

The Goal of Selflessness

Photo Credits: followpics.co

Photo Credits:
followpics.co

Genesis 44:33-34

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father’s pain.”

Philippians 2:4

“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

What a beautiful picture this is of selflessness.  Although Judah had spared his brother’s life before by suggesting they sell Joseph into slavery rather than killing him, Judah had finally seen that his former jealousy hurt others.  He had robbed his father of a son and was now willing to take the place of another brother, rather than see his father suffer anymore.

Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Striving for favor instead of being content with what God has provided is prideful.  Condemning others as if we hold the one correct view is sinful, yet we do this even in the body of Christ.  Why?  Self preservation. Defending self when we have been unfairly judged is understandable, but is it really the highest goal?  I know, I know. More death to self.  Ugh.  I feel it, too.

Don’t worry – dying to self does not mean we do not matter.  Biblically, we are to be concerned about our own lives, as well, but not myopically focused on self alone.  Deference hurts, especially when you have been wronged, but ultimately not one of us is always in the right.  Seeking God’s glory in the matter is paramount and helps to clear up our vision.

As we all want to have people believe the best in us, so must we extend this grace.  The church is a place where people should not be condemned for being imperfect, for we would all be condemned then.  As Christians, we cannot think that we are better than our fellow brother or sister.  No, we are all in the trenches side by side, working out character and sharing the Gospel.  Instead, humility and grace lived out and generously bestowed is demonstrated by loving one another in the face of rejection and hurt.  God help us to do so.

This weary world always has some new drama to unfold; someone who is not happy with you, or someone wanting “our” position.  But when we see everything we have as not ours in the first place, we have no need to defend self or hang onto anything.  Since we are hidden in Christ, He is our Defender and ultimately the harm others do to us is not to us at all.

Lord, help us to seek the best for others and favor them above ourselves.  May we be sensitive about Your Name being glorified by how we live and not as sensitive about ours.  Everything You have given us to do is about You. 

Unequal “Yokedom” and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts

Photo Credits: My son Sam

Photo Credits:
My son Sam

Genesis 28:1-7

28:1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman2 Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!  Then you will become a large nation4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.  6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” 7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.”

Ok, so we are not cattle and it might seem a bit archaic to still use the terminology “yoked”.  Perhaps another analogy would serve today’s generation better, nonetheless our souls confirm this truth.  It was not a racial slur when Jacob’s parents were opposed to Jacob marrying a Caananite woman.  They knew that Jacob’s heart could be turned away from following the living God by marrying an unbelieving spouse.  This is not just a principle for the Old Testament.  I fear in our day of tolerance and relevance that we have lost touch with the truth that God’s word never changes and His principles still stand, no matter how sophisticated or independent we think we’ve become.

I have three daughters and two sons that God has blessed me with.  Later in life, He also brought a step-daughter into my life.  When God enabled me to be a parent, my greatest heart’s desire was that I would be faithful to raise them in the LORD.  God was seeking godly offspring when He chose Abraham and when He chose us.  These children He has given are truly His.  Being charged with guarding their hearts and guiding them in Christ has been a challenging task, indeed, but it is worth it.

Suitors are now coming to call and the foundation that was laid all of these years is holding, by the grace of God.  It is not easy, and I, too, can easily falter if it were not for the compass I hold in my hand each day – the Bible.  You see, the philosophy of this day and age is to minimize the authority that parents have in their children’s lives.  It is viewed as old-fashioned.  So be it.  The role God gave parents is one He holds them accountable for, and that truth, coupled with the fear of the LORD, keeps me seeking God for His choice, not mine, in my children’s lives.

Worldliness is easy.  It is so woven into all of society, even in Christian places, that we can become dumbed down and not detect it anymore.  It is so hard to keep our hearts, let alone our children’s.  If I put my oxygen mask (the Bible) on each day, I am able to see clearly enough to place it on my children, but this also requires discipline and consistency in my life.

It starts when they are young.  Even when my children were first able to understand, I shared with them God’s word and how it differed from the world around us.  At that time I told them we were not going to follow the customs of the culture around us, including dating at a young age.  The follow up to that standard never relents and must not just be a legalistic mantra.  Godly standards flowing from genuine conviction breathe life, not rebellion.

This morning, my 10-year-old son knew I was not to be interrupted during my devotion time.  It is still so hard for him to not do so. Instead, he got his Bible out and read beside me and drew a picture from his devotion time, which I used for today’s blog. These moments are precious, but we cannot rest in them.  We have to keep building on this foundation and remind our kids that the faith they were taught has to become their own.

Back to my daughters.  Young men are now coming, asking to date or court my two oldest – pesky thing it is, them growing up.  Trying to walk the line of counseling my daughters and letting them make decisions is difficult, to say the least.  True character is shown soon enough, though, whether a young man will respect the parent’s place in the young woman’s life whom he admires, or whether he will secretly attempt to subvert the authority God has placed in my daughter’s lives.

We did not permit dating or courtship until they were 18 and have certainly been judged for doing so.  No regrets here. This past week I had the joy of having a godly young man inquire after one of my daughters.  They have been friends for a year and a half and walked through this process beautifully.  Moments like this make it all worth it.  Suitors can lie, manipulate and couch their professions of love in “Christianese”, but the Holy Spirit is able to guide important life decisions.  We just have to be seeking and listening.  True character is shown in time – we just must be vigilant!

My older son is a couple of years away from adulthood now.  Completely different and also much the same.  The principles of purity and guarding our hearts have been laid as groundwork since before he could first understand those words.  May he and his younger brother continue to walk in God’s ways and seek a righteous wife someday, for even the wisest man, Solomon, had wives turn his heart away from God toward worthless things.

Although Jacob might have easily disregarded his parent’s counsel, he did not.  He chose to obey and was rewarded for it. He had his own past of deceit and maybe learned from it.  My prayer is that my children will continue to choose the path of following God, but that will be their decision.  I am blessed to say that they are walking with God, but the spiritual battle for all of our children’s hearts is waged daily.  We have experienced firsthand how the disobedience of one person caused incredible pain and horrific consequences in our lives.  We do not want to walk that path again.

We never arrive as parents and never are done inspiring our children to love God.  The costs are just too high, and future generations are counting on the faithfulness of us right now.  We cannot become trapped in cultural pressure or fads.  Even terminology can become an idol – dating or courtship.  Choices lie before us all each day.  What we choose impacts those who follow behind us.  I choose by the grace of God blessing and not a curse – walking in obedience over rebellion, life over death.  What say you?

Lord, thank you for saving me and showing me the need for discipleship of the children You have given.  When I fall short, LORD, protect their hearts and enable us to follow hard after You, for You are our life!

Preparations for the New Year Begin with the Mind

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Proverbs 4:23

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”

“Just Do It”, the famous Nike slogan is a manifesto to exert our will and make the necessary change to better health.  The problem is, our flesh is strong and often our wills are weak, and we fall short of our goals.  Recognizing that the source of our struggle and of our motivation is in our minds can be the key to victorious planning and living.

It is on my heart to take the days leading up to 2015 and lay a foundation for the inevitable resolutions and plans that are being formed.  How will we use our time in the coming year?  What goals will we set?  What changes do we need to make spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in our relationships?  Since we cannot control circumstances or those around us, let us begin with ourselves.

God is so merciful to give us new days, new seasons and new years.  Another year approaching is an opportunity to take inventory from the past year and take an honest assessment of what went well and what needs to change.  Of course changes are not easy to make and habits not easily undone or formed.  The insanity of it all is that year after year we can try to make some of the same changes and fall short each time.  Does that mean we should cease attempting to change?  No.  The battle lies in the mind.

Beginning with the One who was perfect in how He lived and fulfilled His plan is a great place to start.  The only truly sane mind is that of Christ’s.  Basking our minds in His word is the first step toward a godly perspective in our lives.  Our minds infused with God’s word helps us to see clearly and to rid ourselves of obstacles which impede our progress.  Christ quoted Scripture when He was tempted, demonstrating how the Word of God is our source of strength in time of need.  Perhaps we need to put God’s Word in front of us when being oppressed and lay down the mental baggage that has been plaguing us.

If only it were as simple as knowing and understanding God’s Word to be able to accomplish our plans.  Our minds become cluttered with many things.  Being aware of the distractions is a first step, but overcoming them is another.  Others around us can either help us achieve our goals or impede them.  Mental turmoil via manipulation, guilt, expectations or controlling can wield a devastating blow to being inspired to live the abundant life that God has called us to, but it does not have to.  The choice is ours.  Do we believe that?  We do not have to be held hostage by another person’s perception of us – just God’s view of us matters.

It will take a significant amount of effort to form plans and fulfill them, but as we submit them to God we find that He gives our plans back to us altered.  It is not about us, after all.  Those things I wish I could change about myself I leave in the Master’s hands and surrender to Him to make the changes.  In dependence and trust I yield to His ways and take each day, each breath, each moment as another opportunity to invest for God’s glory.  My plans might lay in ruins if they were of the flesh, but if they are for and by Him, they will last forever.

LORD, help us to seek You and the plans You have for our lives in the coming year and to walk in obedience and discipline to Your Word.  May we not grow discouraged but focus on your truth and know that ultimately, it is Your work in our lives, not us, and You will complete the work You have begun in us.  Amen.

The Necessary Filter

1 Timothy 1:3-7, 18-19; 4:6-7, 

3 “As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, 4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogiesSuch things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith. 5 But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.  18 I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight19 To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.”  4:6 By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  4:7 But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. 16 Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach.  Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4

the “time will come when [believers] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 

Not one of us has perfect understanding.  Our faith and doctrine are daily being made clearer as we look into the mirror of the perfect word of God.  Sometimes the latest spiritual insight can be couched or clothed in an appealing exterior. Or sometimes heresy slips in unnoticed – creeps into our pews and our minds.  There is inherently some truth within each errant doctrine, which creates confusion.  This calls for discernment – we perish without it.

It can appear very judgmental and intolerant to discern that something is not true.  Having absolute truth is viewed as inflexible, yet the solution of relativity leaves us without a constant compass and ultimately down a path toward destruction.  We must reject the doctrine which is not based in God’s wholly revealed word and cling to the simplistic Gospel message which is still more able to save than the latest Christian trend or technique.  Movements come and go and sometimes we acquiesce to them without knowing it.

Whether it is the prosperity movement, which overly emphasizes God’s blessing for believers, or the grace movement which can be imbalanced in its application of grace by minimizing the very real judgment and accountability we still have, the believer today still needs to avoid all extremes.  Paul modeled the reality of a believer living in plenty and scarcity.  Either way, He glorified God and learned the secret of contentment in the midst.  He did not name or claim anything, other than the fact that he was chief of sinners and grateful for the grace of God.  James well understood our need for grace, but also spoke of lives which reflect that grace by works done in humility.

We cannot avoid the reality of the life of Job while embracing the supposed modern prescription today for a blessed life.  No more than we can ignore the very real suffering godly men and women have encountered but still glorified God in.  The greatest stories we have ever heard are stories of those with faith who have overcome.  Joseph suffered unfairly, but was also blessed immeasurably.  Countless others stand as witnesses of what the truly blessed life in Christ is – salvation from an eternal damnation we deserved.

Perhaps it is our definition of what a blessed life is.  Not a perfectly comfortable life without pain or hardship, but a place of refuge and unmerited acceptance.  When faced with a new teaching, we must fun to the filter God has given us – His Word – as our Guide.  We must be like the Bereans, who did not just swallow the word shared to them, but searched God’s word intently to gain understanding.  Each one stands alone before the judgment throne – we cannot allow anyone to define for us what we believe.

Lord, help us to discern the truth and remain faithful to You.  May we never stray from the beautiful simple truth of Your salvation and live lives that help others to know You, too.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

2 Thessalonians 2:8-12

… and then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the manifestation of his arrival. 9 The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders, 10 and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved. 11 Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false12 And so all of them who have not believed the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned

Romans 1:18-25

18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to thembecause God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.  24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

The enemy of our souls will one day meet his demise – simply by the LORD’s presence – but not before he launches a vicious campaign, trying to deceive the whole world.  God is so good to warn us of the enemy’s attacks, but mankind can be deaf and blind to them.  We do not have to be surprised; though we will not know the very hour, we can know the season. How is it, then, that people would choose death and destruction?  Why would we ever choose to accept lies instead of God’s truth?  Can we blame the enemy who deceived us?  Eve tried that one, too.  No, we must realize that we are given free will and the opportunity to choose life or death, which are before us.

Some may question our culpability when reading the rest of this passage from Thessalonians.  God influenced them to believe the lies – but not before they first chose to.  They cannot say they did not know, because the passage above in Romans clearly shows how mankind knew the truth and suppressed it.  These verses humble me to walk in the fear of the LORD.  There is nothing in me that would make me right with God, save His grace alone.  I am forever grateful that He chose to open my eyes to understand His Word and to know Him.

The scripture above says that the cause for the people’s perishing is because they “found no place in their hearts for the truth”.  Why was there no place for God in their hearts and what did they make room for in their hearts?  Things that did not matter for eternity; lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life filled their hearts and minds.  Our hearts, too, can be crowded and burdened with all that beckons to distract us from the One thing needful – a relationship with God.  We must rule our hearts and prepare Him room.  But our very hearts are deceitful – what then (Jeremiah 17:9)?  Where is hope when we are surrounded and occupied by an enemy (our flesh) inside?  It is this very knowledge that can free us.

Knowing the truth about our hearts can set us free.  Placing confidence in God and His word, not our flesh, not our hearts, is making Him room.  Choosing to believe the One Who is truth personified, versus believing the One Who is known as the Master Deceiver, is the path to eternal life.  Seems like a simple choice, right?  But our heart of flesh can be strong and we will often have to go against very persuasive feelings which betray God’s Word.  Although satan’s deceit is powerful to twist the truth, God’s truth is all-powerful to change hearts, and illumine the truth to our eyes.  Today we have a choice set before us . . . make way for the Messiah!

Lord, help us to daily, moment by moment, to seek You first.  May our lives not become too crowded, lest we forget our real life’s purpose – to know You and glorify You.  Our hearts are all laid before You, Master.  Help us to turn others from the path of deception toward an eternal life with You!  Amen.