Posted in James, Matthew, Philippians

Patience with People

“Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” James 5:7-9

Did you know that God is a patient Farmer? He sends His Word as seed and then patiently waits for it to do its work in and through us. We are the ones who are impatient and it gets us into all kinds of trouble. Oftentimes we value results over process, so we judge ourselves and others too quickly. What may be right on course in God’s eyes, isn’t far enough along for us, so we begin striving in a way that hinders our growth.

Do you ever take time to celebrate what God has already done in you? We may not be where we want to be, but we’re not where we once were either! This should be a cause for rejoicing and also a reason for patience. “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) When we see what’s happening in us as primarily God’s grace, not our works, we can enjoy the process more. And it’s only when we see ourselves as being in process, not as a final product, that we can extend the same grace to others.

Complaining about other people, especially other Christians, can easily become a habit, and it’s destructive. When we judge others, we don’t realize that the measure we’re using gets used on us by God. (Matthew 7:1-4) If you feel like you’re being forced to walk on eggshells in your walk with God, it’s probably because you’re making those around you walk on eggshells. Listen to the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) This does not just mean mercy in the life to come, but mercy right now.

Make mercy toward others your new habit. Life is hard enough already, let’s soften it for everyone around us, including ourselves, and enjoy more of God’s grace each and every day.

Posted in Matthew, Philippians, Psalms

Gentle Warriors

“He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.” Psalm 18:34-35

To become great in heaven’s eyes requires us to receive God’s gentleness before anything else. His mercy toward us in forgiveness, and His gentle dealings to draw us to Himself win our hearts so that we will do anything for Him. We live in a harsh world and frequently treat ourselves with great harshness. The devil’s work  is often easy as he only has to put the hammer in our hands, and we will beat ourselves up with shame and regret. On top of this our form of religion can also be harsh, demanding, and judgmental, but none of this is from Jesus.

“Come to Me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  Jesus invites us to come and find how tender His love is and how great His ability is to remove our heavy burdens. Have you experienced His gentleness? Paul says that our gentleness toward others should be a result of us living in God’s presence. He writes in Philippians: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)

God wants us to develop a gentle spirit toward people, but a warrior’s spirit toward the spiritual darkness around us. Jesus was tender toward the weak and broken, and tough toward the Pharisees and demons. David was a worshiper who danced before God but also a warrior who cut off Goliath’s head. The same God who gently deals with David also trains his hands for war; He wants to do the same in us.

The church is called to be a healthy family and an obedient army. Knowing the love of God makes us healthy, and knowing the fear of God produces in us a spirit of instant obedience. Those whom God uses in the days to come will be growing in both revelations and will be known by both the church and the world as His gentle warriors.

Posted in 1Corinthians, John, Matthew, Philippians

Assurance of Victory

“No temptation (test) has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able but with the temptation (test) will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1Corinthians 10:13

 You and I can win every day, but to do so, we must begin by agreeing with God’s definition of what victory as a Christian looks like.

 First what it doesn’t look like.  Winning does not mean having no troubles, struggles, or issues to deal with.  Jesus said the wind and the waves will crash against every life (Matthew 7:24-27) and promised His disciples that they would have troubles in this world. (John 16:33)  He even warned us ahead of time to not be offended by this. (John 16:1-2)

 So what is victory, and how can I walk every day with assurance?  Instead of delivering us from life’s troubles, God promises to walk with us through them.  The same Greek word, “peirasmos,” is translated as temptation and test.  Which is right?  The same set of circumstances can easily be described as both a temptation and a test – Satan tempts to bring us down; God allows tests to purify and strengthen us.  God won’t always prevent a temptation, but in His faithfulness He will limit them, so that we can walk through our troubles with Him.  Tests invite us to draw near, so we will know the way He has provided for our escape even though “escape” may mean strength to endure through instead of a deliverance from.

 In school we need to pass tests to advance to the next grade and I think it’s the same in the kingdom.  God’s beloved children don’t get an identity of failure when they give into temptation but will just keep retaking the same test until we pass it.  We decide how long the process lasts. (Three weeks could end up being 40 years!)  He ultimately wants to build in each of us an assurance of victory that is able to say: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Posted in 2Peter, Luke, Matthew, Philippians

Living Ready for His Return

“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealer and buy some for yourselves.’” Matthew 25:5-9

The great work of this life is to live ready for Christ’s return. He has delayed His return because He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2Peter 3:9) and is even now calling sinners to repent and turn to God. But what about the danger to those who have begun their journey but are now distracted by other things? How do we ensure we don’t end up like the foolish virgins Jesus describes in Matthew 25? There are three things we can do daily, so that we’re living ready for His return.

  1. We must stay awake. Jesus said that before Noah’s flood and the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, people were “eating, they were drinking, they were marrying…they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building.” (Luke 17:27-28) The problem was that these legitimate things were all they were doing – they had lost track of a living faith in God. The busyness of this world easily lulls us to sleep and pretty soon we are relying on past experience instead of present relationship.
  2. We must trim our wicks. Yesterday’s sins, regrets, and successes have to be trimmed away to walk with God today. Listen to Paul’s encouragement: “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14) 
  3. We must have fresh oil. The foolish virgins think they can get oil from other people – it’s not possible. You can’t get your relationship with God from your grandma, parents, or pastor, however godly they may be. Go to the dealer Himself. He has fresh oil for every single day. The cost is only the time and effort it takes to seek Him for it. Jesus has already paid the price, so we can always be filled with the Holy Spirit. Your Father loves you, Jesus died for you, so all you need to do is ask each day.
Posted in Colossians, Isaiah, John, Philippians

Are You Willing?  

“If you are willing and obedient you will eat the best from the land.” Isaiah 1:19

A minister in the 1950’s was complaining to God saying, “God, you said if I was willing and obedient, I would eat the best of the land and I’ve been obedient.”

He had been a pastor when God told him to start traveling because he wasn’t really a pastor, he was a prophet and a teacher. Even though it was difficult to leave the security of a pastorate, he obeyed God. The problem was that he wasn’t making it. His shoes were worn out, his wife and kids were barely surviving, and there was constant financial pressure on his home. All this when he had only obeyed God and stepped out in faith.

The Lord answered this man with a whisper: “You’ve been obedient, but you haven’t been willing.” When he told this story, he said that he instantly became willing in response to God’s prompting, and it started to change everything in his life.

Did you know you can be obedient and not be willing? You can do the will of God and carry out your responsibilities as “have tos,” but that’s not good enough for God. He only releases His full blessing over us when we “want to.” It’s not enough for Him that we serve Him; He wants us to be happy about it.

The sweet Spirit of God was given so we would have both power to God’s will as well as the “want to.” Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in you to will (the want to) and to act (the power to do) according to His good purpose.”

The way we change all of the “have tos,” in our lives into “want tos,” is by embracing the cross and doing them for God instead of for man. Jesus said that no one took His life from Him; “I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18). You and I have the choice of resenting our “have tos,” or of making them “want tos,” by doing them for God.

How we do what we do changes everything and puts us in the place of God’s full blessing. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Posted in Philippians, Psalms

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

Sometimes it’s a sacrifice to give thanks. Maybe it’s because things aren’t going well right now, or because God hasn’t done the big thing you’re asking Him to do. Yet the word of God encourages us to give thanks even when we’re not in the mood, and it still honors Him. My number one defense against discouragement is thanksgiving. When I find myself down I will recount God’s blessings starting with salvation, then family, health, job, and every blessing I can think of. It’s difficult to be both depressed and thankful at the same time.

Thanksgiving brings us quickly into God’s Presence. “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart…” (Psalm 100:4) No wonder our sacrifice of thanksgiving prepares the way for God’s salvation. Think about human relationships. Isn’t it easy to give to a thankful person and hard to give to someone who takes you and your gifts for granted? I think it’s the same way for God. He encourages us to pray when we are anxious about anything and “with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Before we have even received what we are praying for, we are to give thanks. For what? How about for the last time God answered your prayer, or for who God is and that He even cares about our needs, or for the promises He has given that we can believe and pray back to Him as we ask.

The word says that after we turn our anxiety into prayer with thanksgiving, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) I wonder if thanksgiving is the key to breaking through to peace. Prayer without thanksgiving can actually just be worrying in front of God. Thanksgiving brings in an element of faith and victory even if we haven’t seen the answer yet.

Posted in Acts, Ecclesiastes, Philippians

Emotionally Content

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 NIV

I want to learn how to enjoy the season that I am currently experiencing instead of fighting it. Why is it so easy to pine over what once was, or to long for a future that is different than my life right now? God has made right now beautiful if I’m willing to see it. He has you and me where we are right now.  Can we agree with Him in our emotions and even learn to enjoy this season? Or do we fight with God, advise God, disagree with God, and basically go against the grain of the season we’re in with the slivers to prove it? Jesus said to Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)

We can’t fathom the whole of what God is doing in our lives and because of that we aren’t capable of judging how the present season fits. Why not trust God and get into the flow of what He is doing? Maybe you’re like me, frustrated by your seeming lack of control over what happens in your circumstances. If we surrender our need for control we are free to trust the One who really is in control. Easier said than done, but it’s only when we truly let go that we experience His peace. Here’s His promise to us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Whether you are old or young, married or single, employed or unemployed, in school or out of school, happy or sad, on the top or on the bottom… whatever your life is like right now, I challenge you to find God’s beauty in it and to be at peace.

Posted in Malachi, Matthew, Philippians

The Mystery of Giving

“You (Philippians) sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more, I am amply supplied…Your gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:16-19

We use giving boxes at our church instead of receiving offerings and rarely even talk about the importance of giving as part of our worship. It’s our response to a culture where many believe the church just wants their money. God loves people and He doesn’t want a system where anyone thinks you have to “pay” to stay in His grace.

Yet the self-sufficient God is mysteriously interested in our giving. He has placed, in giving, a number of incentives so His people will want to give freely to that which He values. Paul gives us three in the passage above:

  1. We increase our heavenly account. “I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” In Matthew 6:20 Jesus invites us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” in the context of giving, not to be seen by men, but by the Father in heaven. You can’t take money with you, but mysteriously, it seems we can send it ahead by investing in God’s interests.
  2. We please God by our sacrifice. “Your gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Money is real to us, and God knows it. For most of us, giving more to God’s work means choosing for the present to have less stuff, or go on fewer vacations, or at least, having less in our retirement account. It is meaningful to God, a fragrant offering, when we choose to worship Him in this very tangible way.
  3. We secure future provision. “God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ.” Although we make a present sacrifice, God is committed to being the only true Benefactor in His kingdom. Those who give do not need to fear, He Himself has resources to draw on and will see to it that all our needs are provided for. He encourages all of us to test Him in the area of tithing, for instance, and promises to “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10)
Posted in John, Philippians

Equipped with Peace

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

The peace, or shalom (Hebrew) of Jesus, is vital equipment for the Christian life. It is to act as a guard for us, and as a thermostat for others.

  1. A guard for us. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) The world only gives you peace when all your troubles are solved. The peace Jesus gives is in the midst of troubles. His peace guards us from leading anxious lives that end up burning us out. This is not merely a positive attitude that things will get better, but a tangible presence that acts as a guard against fear and anxiety. We must grow in His peace; we must break the habit of living anxious, fearful lives and learn to practice His presence in the midst of the storm. We put clothes on every morning; let’s not forget to put on the peace He has given us for a guard.
  2. A thermostat for others. When Jesus said, “My peace…”, I think the disciples remembered the power of His peace. When the storm was threatening their lives, Jesus stood and said, “Peace be still.” Then the peace that allowed Jesus to sleep in the storm acted like a thermostat until the entire environment was as at peace as He was. The disciples were living as thermometers (a thermometer only reflects what is in the environment), like the world does, a storm outside had led to a storm of anxiety and fear inside their hearts to the point that they thought they would perish. When they reached the other side they met a demoniac who was so restless, not even chains could hold him. Once again, the peace of Jesus acted like a thermostat until the man came into his right mind and came to share the very peace of God. Think of it: “My peace I give to you.”

To give peace, we must have peace.  I don’t know your circumstances today, but I do know that God wants to give you peace in the midst of them. He then wants us to be a portal of His peace to those around us so that the very atmosphere is filled with the presence of redemption.

Posted in 1John, John, Philippians, Psalms, Romans

The Will of God

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and accomplish His work.” John 4:34

Consider with me three things about the will of God: the delight, the cost, and the result.

The delight. David said that when Messiah came He would proclaim, “I delight to do Your will O My God, Your law is within My heart.” (Psalm 40:8) In the text above we have Jesus saying that the will of God is His hidden food, sustenance, and supply. Jesus’ yoke was easy and His burden was light because He never measured Himself by anything or anyone else – it was enough to do the will of God. Life can be very complicated, but when your passion is the will of God the questions change. It is no longer “what will I choose to do,” but only, “what is the will of God so I can obey.” Deciding to do God’s will, whatever it is, answers a thousand other questions for you. For instance, you don’t have to decide whether to forgive someone or not. You always forgive because He’s forgiven you.

The cost. Jesus prayed, “not My will, but Yours be done.” He didn’t finish the work God gave Him to do until He said, “It is finished,” on the cross. He did work for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves which is why the beginning of us doing the will of God must be putting our faith in Christ. But there’s a cross for us as well if we really want to accomplish God’s plan. Romans 12:1-2 says, “In view of God’s mercy, present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” We must offer ourselves before God as a sacrifice willing to do anything, before we will be able to walk out the specific plan He has for us.

The result. Because Jesus obeyed He was given the highest Name and the greatest place in all the universe. (Philippians 2:11) When we do the will of God we end up sharing in His glory forever and ever. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1John 2:17)