Archive for August 2, 2012
Tags: Abraham, Bible, Binding of Isaac, God, Holy Spirit, Isaac, Jesus, Yellowstone National Park
“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” Psalm 105:2-3
Each year over 3.5 million people visit Yellowstone National Park. The park is loaded with signs that read, “Don’t feed the bears,” but visitors are constantly doing just that. As a result, bears become too lazy to look for food. So, sadly, some of them starve to death in the woods—which are full of nourishment—when the tourists aren’t there to give them handouts.
Ever wish you could get a few spiritual handouts from God? A lot of us are like those bears when it comes to walking with Jesus. We’d like to have everything handed to us, straight from God—no questions asked. We keep looking for those divine snacks of His direct involvement in our lives.
It’s tempting to measure the quality of our relationship with God by the frequency and intensity of those times when we see Him reach into our lives and change things. This leaves us prone to the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” attitude. When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, we get bogged down in discouragement, doubt, and even a dysfunctional view of Him.
Admittedly, it’s easy to feel cheated by the absence of those spiritual freebies. If I hear Bob talk about how God provided an anonymous donor for his mortgage payment just in the nick of time, I begin to wonder why God never does anything like that for me. Sound familiar?
Then we read stories in the Bible about characters who experienced God’s miraculous work in their lives. When Abraham and Sarah were too old to have a baby, God intervened and did something really spectacular. Later, when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, God showed up in a miraculous way and spared Isaac’s life.
So, it’s easy to wonder why God is not as liberal with giveaways in our lives as He was with Abraham. But before you think Abraham had an edge, remember that the recorded interventions of God average about one every 15 years in Abe’s life! Just imagine being Abraham and going 15 years with no Bible, no indwelling of the Holy Spirit, no spiritual friends, and no word from God.
Abraham’s experience shows that God rarely invades lives with dramatic demonstrations of His power. God’s desire is to be loved and adored by us not for the handouts, but because He is worthy of our praise and unfailing allegiance regardless of what He does or doesn’t do for us. That’s why Psalm 105:2-3 encourages us to, “Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.”
And it’s not that He won’t help you when the time is right. He loves you and will indeed supply and protect. But it would be a major distortion of our view of Christianity to see God as our sugar daddy, ready to jump every time we thought we needed a handout from Him. I sometimes wonder if heaven has a sign that says, “Don’t feed the Christians!” with the fine print reading, “They’ll think it’s all about the goodies”!
- Have you ever tried to relate with someone who has the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” attitude? How did it affect your relationship? How does this attitude affect a person’s relationship with God?
- Are you hungry for a demonstration of God’s power? Read Job 38–41. How does this passage satisfy your desire?
- Identify some ways in which God has “shown up” in your life through answered prayer. Write a psalm of thanks to Him. Before you begin, read 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 for inspiration.
- Read the story of Abraham’s life in Genesis 12–25. Then read Hebrews 11:8-19. What was Abraham remembered for in the New Testament?
Tags: Be of Good Cheer, Bible, Christ, Christianity, God, Jesus, John, Religion and Spirituality
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world —John 16:33
If you are a child of God, you will certainly encounter adversities, but Jesus says you should not be surprised when they come. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He is saying, “There is nothing for you to fear.” The same people who refused to talk about their adversities before they were saved often complain and worry after being born again because they have the wrong idea of what it means to live the life of a saint.
God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength. Are you asking God to give you life, liberty, and joy? He cannot, unless you are willing to accept the strain. And once you face the strain, you will immediately get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the first step. Then God will give you nourishment— “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life . . .” (Revelation 2:7). If you completely give of yourself physically, you become exhausted. But when you give of yourself spiritually, you get more strength. God never gives us strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the moment. Our temptation is to face adversities from the standpoint of our own common sense. But a saint can “be of good cheer” even when seemingly defeated by adversities, because victory is absurdly impossible to everyone, except God.
Tags: Babylonia, Book of Daniel, Daniel, Daniel in the lions' den, Egypt, God, Israel, Israelites
“The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” — Daniel 6:23
Do you need a miracle?
As Daniel had predicted, the Babylonian empire fell into the hands of the Persians. The new king liked Daniel and he was planning to appoint him as ruler over the entire kingdom. This made all the other officials very jealous, and so they plotted Daniel’s downfall. The only problem was they couldn’t find any dirt on Daniel! It’s not easy to bring down such a righteous and faithful man. So they had to be sneaky.
The officers suggested that – as a tribute to the king’s newly established kingship – the entire kingdom be commanded to pray only to him. The penalty would be a cruel and painful death meted out in a lions’ den. The king gave his approval.
What does Daniel do? He continued to do what he had done every day of his life. He put his faith in God and prayed for His help. The men who were planning Daniel’s downfall expected nothing less. They were quick to catch him and bring him before the king in order to be punished. The king is distraught but his hands were tied. A king’s decree could not be revoked.
That’s how Daniel found himself in the lions’ den in need of a great miracle. And he got one. At the crack of dawn, the king ran to check the fate of his dearest adviser. Miraculously, Daniel was alive. When the king got to the lions’ den, he called out, “Daniel . . . has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” To which, Daniel replied, “My God sent his angel,and he shut the mouths of the lions.They have not hurt me” (6:20, 22).
Here’s the kicker: By what merit did Daniel receive such a great miracle? Scripture tells us, “because he had trustedin his God.”
Centuries earlier, when the children of Israel were taken out of Egypt, they were on an extremely low spiritual level. But God does incredible miracles for them anyway. Can you guess why? It’s because they had faith.
Faith in God is the key that opens the door to miracles. Even if you may not have been the most perfect person, God’s intervention is available to you anyway. The power of faith is so great that it can overpower our previous shortcomings. So never despair. If God can turn a fierce lion into a gentle kitten for Daniel, imagine what’s possible for you.
Tags: Abraham, Christ, Christianity, God, Good Shepherd, Jesu, Jews, Sheep
As Jesus spoke these words many believed in him. Then he said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you faithfully do what I say, you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham‘s descendants and have never been slaves to any man. What do you mean by saying, ‘You shall be set free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, I tell you, every one who sins is a slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the Son remains forever. If therefore the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.
“I am the Door; if any man enters by me he shall be saved and shall go in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
“I am the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. But a hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees the wolf coming, and the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care for the sheep.
“I am the Good Shepherd and know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep which do not belong to this fold; I must lead them also, and they will hear my voice, and they will be one flock and one shepherd.”
Tags: Christ, Christianity, God, Gospel of Matthew, holyspirit, Jesus, Lord, McLaren
“Nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20).
It is possible, for those who really are willing to reckon on the power of the Lord for keeping and victory, to lead a life in which His promises are taken as they stand and are found to be true.
It is possible to cast all our care upon Him daily and to enjoy deep peace in doing it.
It is possible to have the thoughts and imaginations of our hearts purified, in the deepest meaning of the word.
It is possible to see the will of God in everything, and to receive it, not with sighing, but with singing.
It is possible by taking complete refuge in Divine power to become strong through and through; and, where previously our greatest weakness lay, to find that things which formerly upset all our resolves to be patient, or pure, or humble, furnish today an opportunity–through Him who loved us, and works in us an agreement with His will and a blessed sense of His presence and His power–to make sin powerless over us.
These things are DIVINE POSSIBILITIES, and because they are His work, the true experience of them will always cause us to bow lower at His feet and to learn to thirst and long for more.
We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank, and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor? Whose fault is it that Christian people generally have such scanty portions of the free riches of God? –McLaren.
Tags: Bethlehem, Boaz, Book of Ruth, Elton John, God, Lord, Naomi, Ruth
While standing in a checkout line, I was estimating my bill and trying to keep my son from wandering away. I barely noticed when the woman ahead of me shuffled toward the exit, leaving all of her items behind. The clerk confided that the woman didn’t have enough money to pay her bill. I felt terrible; if only I had been aware of her situation earlier, I would have helped her.
In the book of Ruth, Boaz became aware of Ruth’s plight when he saw her gleaning in his fields (2:5). He learned that she was recently widowed and was the breadwinner for herself and her mother-in-law. Boaz saw her need for protection, and warned his harvesters to leave her alone (v.9). He supplied her with extra food by instructing his workers to let grain fall purposely (v.16). Boaz even addressed Ruth’s emotional needs by comforting her (vv.11-12). When Naomi heard about this, she said, “Blessed be the one who took notice of you” (v.19).
Are you aware of the needs of the people around you—in your church, neighborhood, or under your own roof? Today, consider how you might help bear someone’s burden. Then you will be fulfilling God’s plan for you (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 2:10).
Tags: Bible, Christ, Christianity, God, holyspirit, New Testament, Paul, Religion & Spirituality
Love Expressed in Obedience
Our Lord told His disciples that love and obedience were organically united, that the keeping of His sayings would prove that we loved Him and the failure or refusal to keep them would prove that we did not. This is the true test of love, and we will be wise to face up to it. The commandments of Christ occupy in the New Testament a place of importance that they do not have in current evangelical thought. The idea that our relation to Christ is revealed by our attitude to His commandments is now considered legalistic by many influential Bible teachers, and the plain words of our Lord are rejected outright or interpreted in a manner to make them conform to theories ostensibly based upon the epistles of Paul. Thus the Word of God is denied as boldly by evangelicals as by admitted modernists.
Tags: Christ, Christian, God, Good News, Jesu, Jesus Christ, Lord, Missional living
And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
We hear a lot about the “missional church” these days. New missional churches are springing up while established churches are now proclaiming a renewed missional consciousness. Is this just some trendy new label, the latest thing for churches? Or is there something substantial in the missional designation? What does it mean to be a missional church? How might we live our lives as “missional” people?
Tomorrow I’ll comment on how you and I can be missional people in our individual lives. Today I want to say a word about the missional church. The word “missional” comes from a Latin root that means “to be sent.” A missional church acknowledges that it has been sent by God in a certain time and to a certain place to represent him and do his work. Central to this work, as Romans 10:15 reminds us, is proclaiming the good news of what God has done through Jesus Christ. Yet proclamation alone is hollow. A truly missional church both proclaims and lives this good news: loving neighbors, healing the sick, binding up the brokenhearted, feeding the poor, and doing justice for the oppressed.
Scripture teaches us that every church should be a missional church. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for Christian communities to get wrapped up in their own needs and desires, forgetting that they have been sent by God to reach their neighbors. Yet when a church lives out its missional calling, we can echo the scripture in saying, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Does your church see itself as sent by God to do his kingdom work in your community? Do you think of your church in this way? How might churches become less self-absorbed and more committed to reach their neighbors with the gospel?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I want to pray for your church, and for each individual church, and, indeed, for my church, that we would be truly missional. To be sure the label doesn’t really matter. We can call ourselves missional without really reaching out to our neighbors. And we can genuinely live and speak the gospel without using the word “missional.” But the truth is that you have sent us, Lord, to do your work right where we are. We have been sent on a mission by you. In a very real sense, we are to be “missionaries” in our communities.
Help your church, dear Lord, to be less concerned about ourselves and more committed to reaching out to our neighbors. May we boldly and kindly bear witness to you, and may our lives reflect the truth of the gospel. Amen.