Monday, June 18, 2007

Psalm 34:19

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous; But Jehovah delivereth him out of them all." (ASV)

A lot of people have an unfortunate misconception about becoming a Christian. They think that once you're saved, your life should be trouble-free. Then they look at the Christians they know, see that this is not the case, and are put off by it. In truth, salvation does not ward off earthly troubles. In fact, sometimes it multiplies them. The good news though is that through every problem we may face in our Christian walk, we can hold the assurance that we are not alone. God will see us through.

Think about that thought for a moment: God will see us through. We all know what a blessing it can be to have a friend or family member by our side in times of trouble. We've seen the comfort to be gotten from a hug or a kind word. How much greater then is the comfort we can have from the Creator of us all? How much more will His loving kindness soothe us when we hurt or calm us when we are upset? And He is never more than a prayer away!

Rejoice then, fellow Christians, at the marvelous love of our God. Don't try to hide away your troubles or pretend that they don't exist. Rather reveal your deepest darkest fears to God and let him shine a light on them. Tell Him about your sorrows and allow Him to help ease the pain. Cry on His shoulder and know that He holds your life in the palm of His hand and nothing gets by Him. There is nothing our God can't do, and no trouble or worry is too great for His awesome power to help us through it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

James 1:12

"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him."

I've often heard people equate temptation with sin. As if just being tempted to do something wrong is a sin in and of itself. This couldn't be farther from the truth! The Bible tells us that we will all be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted, but we know that He never gave in to sin.

The truth of the matter is, we only recognize temptation for what it is when we are on the right path. An unrepentant habitual liar is never tempted to lie. They just do it. They don't need to be tempted to lie because lying is what comes naturally to them. Only when we are struggling against sin do we truly feel the weight of temptation. When that same habitual liar decides to turn themselves around and try to speak only truth, they begin to feel the temptation to lie, but with prayer and grace they can overcome it.

Temptation is also often a tool of the enemy. When he sees that we are doing something for God or we're trying to improve our walk, Satan delights in frustrating our efforts. He will throw temptation after temptation in our path to try to distract us. He simply wants us to turn our eyes away from Christ and pay attention to more worldly concerns. These are the times when it is most important that we continue to focus on God. If we reach out to Him in prayer, He will help us through anything the enemy may drop in our path.

Notice that in the above verse from James, we are not called to destroy, defeat, or remove the temptation, but rather to endure it. The longer we endure temptation without giving in, the less power it can hold over us. Unless we are capable of controlling every aspect of our lives (and none of us are), we can't effectively remove temptation altogether. We may be able to clean all the sweets out of the refrigerator at home, but eventually someone is going to bring donuts to work to share or invite us to dinner where they are serving lavish desserts. Of course, this doesn't mean we should seek out temptations. Instead, we should spend our efforts in prayer, asking God to strengthen us against such attacks. Only with the strength that He has to give us can we be prepared for future struggles.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hebrews 11:6

"And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him." (ASV)

It's easy for a Christian to believe in God. If we didn't believe that God exists, we wouldn't bother ascribing to ourselves the term "Christian" after all. More difficult for many though is to believe that God rewards all of those who seek Him. We struggle to believe that God has good things in store for us. Yet this is a basic tenet of the Christian faith.

Many people still think of God as a harsh taskmaster, a stern judge, a big bearded guy up in the sky whose main purpose is to keep us from having too much fun. Their view of God is distorted. They are trying to follow a God they don't even know. Others have trouble with the concept that an all-knowing, all-powerful God could possibly love them. For these people, it's their view of self that is out of line. They are allowing their own self image problems come between them and God.

Central to knowing God is knowing who He is. One of His most demonstrable characteristics is love. In fact, the Bible even states that God in fact IS love. (1 John 4:8) God is also the great provider. In fact, one of the names of God, Jehovah-jireh, means God provides. He is also a God who has a plan. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

The Bible also tells us who we are in relation to God. John 1:12 says "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (ASV) As believers, we have been adopted into the family of God. We are His children, co-heirs with Christ. And like a good father, God wants only the best for us.

So the next time you begin to have doubts about what God has in store for you, remember who He is, remember who you are, and rest assured that He has it all under control.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

1 Corinthians 6:20

"For ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body." (ASV)

Self esteem is a huge issue in our society today. Television and magazines tell women that we have to be six feet tall, thin as a rail, and perfectly dressed and styled. Men are supposed to be thin but muscular, powerful, strong, and always in charge of their emotions and the world around them. Eating disorders, steroid abuse, plastic surgery, botox and other forms of self-destructive behavior are on the rise. And all the while we take it in. We wish we could look more like the celebrities on the screen. We strive for the "ideal" body. We forget that we have already been "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14)

In an age when even the Pope wears designer labels, it is time for Christians to cast aside the molds and standards of the world and remember the God who made us and who loves us just the way we are. It is time for us to remember that we are not our own. We belong to God. He paid for us with Christ's death on the cross, a very dear cost indeed. All He asks in return is that we love Him and strive for His glory above our own.

Every imperfection we see in the mirror, every time we tell ourselves we're not good enough, we allow Satan a foothold in our lives. We make the ideals of beauty and perfection our idols. We spend more time thinking about that extra five pounds than we do thinking about the God who loves us or the calling He's given us. We search for the perfect diet instead of searching for purpose. We waste our efforts trying to get rid of gray hairs instead of working toward ridding ourselves of sin. And we bask in our vanity, assuring ourselves that it's normal because it's what the rest of the world is doing.

Christians are not called to be just like the rest of the world. We are called to be a holy people. The simple definition of the world holy is "set apart". We are to set ourselves apart from the corruption and pride of the world in which we live. How are we to show them the difference God has made in our lives if we really are no different? It would be an act of hypocrisy to even try.

Instead of trying to be just like the world, we should strive to be just like Jesus. That is the true nature of being a follower -- seeking to emulate our leader in all things. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that He was on the cutting edge of fashion. He was a humble man, a carpenter's son by outward appearance. It was not beauty or physical presence that attracted people to Him. The crowds flocked to His side because of the love He showed and the miracles He performed. People wanted to be near Him because they could see God in Him.

We can have the same effect on our world, if we only try. God wants to shine through us. He wants us to be the light of the world. He wants us to be the salt of the earth, giving flavor to an otherwise bland existence. But the way to do this is not found in a beauty magazine. We can't attain it through long hours at the gym. Rather, we simply have to seek after God, "and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Psalm 27:8

"When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; My heart said unto thee, Thy face, Jehovah, will I seek." (ASV)

How many of us are truly, completely obedient to God? It is a hard thing to achieve. David had the idea when he penned this verse. When God tells us to do something, we should not complain, whine, or put it off. We should simply do it. And we should put our hearts into it. The best example of this type of obedience can be seen in the end of Jesus' earthly life: "and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:8 ASV)

Obedience to God is something that even the great figures of the Bible have struggled with. It's difficult for us to put aside our own wishes and desires to do God's bidding when we don't know what the outcome may be. It requires a lot of trust to just let go of all of our uncertainties and remember that God knows the outcome, and has a good reason for asking us to do whatever it may be He wants from us.

Unlike human authority figures, God will not force us to obey in most cases. If we refuse, He will allow us to do so. But refusal to play our parts in His plan for us can have horrible effects. At the very least we miss out on all that God has in store for our lives, and that is a grave circumstance to be sure. At times, disobedience to God's will for us may mean we will have to deal with painful consequences of our actions.

One of the reasons that God doesn't make us do it His way, "or else..." is that He doesn't want us to follow him out of fear or obligation. He wants us to follow His ways out of love. When Jesus was asked which is the most important commandment, "And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37 ASV) When we love God the way Jesus describes it here, we strive to obey. We want nothing more than for Him to look upon us and be pleased with what He sees. We are His willing servants because we desire His glory above our own.

Still, even the most willing servant can have difficulty discerning what God's call for their life may be. That is why we need to study the word of God, so that we can know Him better. We can also become closer to God through other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting and meditation. In these ways we can grow closer to God, and eventually learn to hear His still, small voice.

So when you hear the call of God, when the Holy Spirit tugs on your heart, when God instructs you in what to do, what will your answer be? Will you miss it altogether? Will you ignore Him? Will you obey grudgingly? Or will you give yourself over to God's instruction, wholeheartedly and without regret?

Verse of the Day