Monday, December 26, 2011

Spur on...

Week 52:

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

One of the things we must do in the kingdom is to encourage one another in our walk with Jesus. This world is very tough on us as we try and be a disciple of Christ. I need my brothers and sisters in my life to encourage me to continue in the work of the Father. 

Nestled within a passage encouraging perseverance is the above verse. The whole section is addressed to many, a group of Christians. It is bathed in the idea of community. As we all know, it takes community to stand strong in our faith. Satan would love nothing more than to separate/single us out and make us think we are walking this walk all alone. The Hebrew author is encouraging community here. This single verse (10:24) gives those in community a simple instruction for each other.

I love the NIV translation of “spur one another”. Other versions use “provoke”, “watching”, and “stimulate”. I just love the edginess of “spur”. When thinking of a cowboy on a horse, spurring makes the horse react and go. Bronco-riders in a rodeo really get the horse going when they spur the animal. So, to “spur one another toward love and good deeds” has such a strong and somewhat urgent charge. To me it means to take an active role in holding my brothers and sisters accountable to love and take part in good deeds. It also challenges them to do the same for me. 

When thinking of the word love, I tend to fall into the trap that in order to encourage a person to love, I must be gentle in my approach. This verse tells me to challenge others to love and practice good deeds. Even the words “provoke” and “stimulate” are challenging words. Therefore, I believe that there comes a time to challenge others toward love and good deeds. This is especially needed during a time when perseverance is call for. When times seem tough and discouraging, I need to be “spurred” to keep moving with love and toward good deeds. 

As we come to the end of another year, think about your Christian community. Do you need to be the cowboy or the horse? As the cowboy, who do you need to spur on? As the horse, who do you need to hear from to be spurred on?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”


1. As the question said above, which are you the cowboy or the horse? 
2. What is your current circumstance that would prompt you to believe you are?
3. Who do you need to spur on?
4. Who do you need to hear from to be spurred on?
5. What is God telling you with this passage?

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Monday, December 19, 2011

How small...

Week 51:
Psalm 62:9 Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.
This is such a great reminder of how small we are and how big God is.  Think about it, the highborn seem to have it all together.  They have privilege, circumstance, and want for nothing.  Yet, God says that they are a lie and a breath.  The assumption here would be that lowborn men would be small in all eyes. 

What is interesting is that in the eyes of God and the balance of things, they are both only a breath.  Compared to the God of the universe, they are nothing.  However, God still cares for each.  It is amazing to me how God can be all-knowing, all-powerful, and have trillions of souls that have, are, or will live and yet can think alone of me. 
Another interesting point is how the writer depicts the highborn…a “lie”.  Is the writer saying that since both are a breath, the highborn is living a lie?  Is the highborn deceived by his existence and the material wealth he may have?  Is he living under some false sense of security?  Furthermore, am I highborn or lowborn?  I would much rather be considered just a breath as opposed to a lie. 
A story I tell myself is that the Psalmist wrote this with little or no knowledge of the coming grace promised through Jesus.  Therefore, we can read this and realize how small we really are compared to God and his vastness and in the same light, know the rest of the story of the grace that is given to those of us who follow Jesus.  I do believe that I need to be reminded that I am just a breath so that I can appreciate the reward that comes through the grace of the Cross. 
Thank you Lord for how ominous you are.  I also thank you for taking time to think of me as well.
1.        What was the first thought that came to mind for you when you read the above passage?
2.       Which do you think you are…lowborn or highborn?  Explain why.
3.       Does this passage also remind you of the grace you have received?
4.       Spend some time this week seeing where God’s vastness is revealed.  Take time to make mental notes of the evidence that you are but a breath. 
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Monday, December 12, 2011

With nothing I came...

Week 50:
I Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
How often I need to be reminded of this fact.  The old phrase, “You can’t take it with you” is so true and so Biblical.  We come with nothing and leave with nothing.
It is interesting what that implies.  The most notable implication to me is that we have an immortal soul.  There are many times as I wander through this life that I do not take time to think about my immortality.  You say, “Immortality, we will die!”  We will die to this earthly body, yes…to our soul, no.  Rick Warren tells us that we are made for eternity.  Part of his argument in The Purpose Driven Life is that we are being prepared for eternity.  We get a choice as to which eternity that will be.  We can choose one with the Father or one in hell.  The thought of the soul helps me remember that there is more to this life than just the material things.
Another implication is that of the love of materialism that our culture has bought.  I catch myself getting caught up in daydreams of things I might could have or collect if I just had more money.  The verses prior to verse 7 and verses 9 and 10 give strong warnings and consequences for our love of things…especially money.  This is not to say that money is evil, just the love of it.  When I get caught up in my selfish little fantasies of what I could have, I need a reminder of verse 6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain”, and again in verse 8, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 

A final implication can be that we are just stewards of what has been given us while here on this earth.  I brought nothing with me, so what I have has been given.  Yes, some would say that I earned what I have, but even then, God gave me the ability and the circumstance in which to earn the material wealth which I may be entrusted.  I have to ask myself, “What have I done with God has given me?  Have I glorified Him?”  If I put this into the context of, “…we can take nothing out of it.” (The world), it places me into a mindset of reflecting on what I have done with God’s blessings so far.   I am just a steward of His blessing, not an owner therefore, I own nothing material.  
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
1.       What material things are you caught up in right now?
2.      What did I Timothy 6:7 spark in your heart when you first read the passage?
3.      What is your take on our “immortality”?
4.      Spend some time this week listing the things that are blessings but you have thought of as yours.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Re-encounter God...

Week 49:
Genesis 46:1-3a 1So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob!  Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied.  3a“I am God, the God of your father,” he said.
As I was teaching my Sunday morning class from this chapter the other day, this passage stood out to me.  Why would Jacob stop at Beersheba and have an encounter with God?  So, I asked my class, “What do you think was so special about Beersheba?”  What happened there that Jacob/Israel would stop there to encounter God? 
This leads me to this question for all.  Where do you have memories of an encounter with God?  At what place was this encounter?  When you go back, what sights, sounds, smells do you encounter?  Does this bring you back to the place and time where you encountered him?  As I think about those questions and the places that come to mind for me, I realize that in those places and sensing those senses, I re-encounter Him all over again to some degree.  Many times it is actually heart-warming.  One of those major places for me was the site where I experienced The Crucible Project Weekend.  Now, every time I go back and staff at that location, I feel the presence of God in a different way.  

The responses in my class ranged from the mothers in the room connecting with the experience of child-birth, to the college students remembering their baptism, to the men in the room remembering a mountain top experience with God.  In each case, when we return to physical location of that experience, we re-encounter God is some way. 
Now, here is what is interesting to me…Beersheba was home.  Abraham had settled there for a time after his treaty with Abimilech.  Isaac did the same.  In fact, it was at Beersheba that Jacob deceived his father and brother.  It was from Beersheba that Jacob had fled.  In all cases, God spoke with all three men at Beersheba.  It was home, it was where God led them, spoke with them, and would guide them.  For a lot of us, home is where we first experience God.
I know God is with us all the time.  He is watching over us, guiding us, working all the time.  I do believe however, that there are special places where He has allowed a deeper encounter with Him.  And I believe that there is no accident that when we return to those places of encounter, His spirit lingers in the sights, smells, climate, etc.  I believe He reminds us of how wonderful that encounter was.
  1. Describe one of your encounters with God that shows up when you return to that place of encounter.
  2. What is it about that place that reminds you or your encounter with God?
  3. What do you think God is communicating to you in that place?
  4. Say a prayer of praise to God this week for those places of encounter.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Faith brings understanding…

Week 48:
Philemon vs. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Sometimes the idea of faith is easy for me to understand.  Other times, I have a difficult time defining faith.  In Hebrews 11:1, the writer gives a definition of faith, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  This seems simple enough.  However, faith has multiple functions…one of those functions, is understanding.
By having faith, what do we understand?  In this passage, we gain an understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  There are so many good things we received from Christ.  One would be enough, salvation.  But Christ brought so much more.  He brought such a radical way of thinking and dealing with people.  He brought what God had intended when He created the world.  What would be some of the good things in Christ that you can think of?
The Hebrews writer gives us another understanding that faith brings.  In 11:3 we see that, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.”  We gain some insight into what God made, he made from nothing.  How amazing! 
In 2 Peter 1:5-8 we have a list of add-ons to our faith.  Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  I believe without faith we would not have a deeper understanding of these character traits.  Without faith I may have some knowledge of these, I might even see them in action, but I would not understand them as the good things we have in Christ.  I would not understand how they fit in the kingdom of God.

Not only does possessing faith allow for this understanding, but notice the passage:  “sharing your faith.”  I believe firsthand and have heard many others attest to the fact that you learn more when you teach.  The same is true about sharing your faith.  There is something to hearing the words come out of my mouth that helps me to own my faith and increase my understanding.  So, not only do we need to have faith to understand, but we also must share that faith to gain deeper understanding.  I had always heard that faith was an action…here is a passage to back that up.  The challenge is:  Don’t just have faith, share it!
“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
1.        What stirred in your heart reading today’s passage and thoughts?
2.       Have you been one who has just “sat” on your faith without sharing?  What has held you back?
3.       Name some ways you could share your faith this week.
4.       Now, go out and share with two people this week what your faith is and how it has affected you.
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Monday, November 21, 2011


Week 47:
I Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and your doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
In our current church culture, I see grace and acceptance being taught more and more.  I believe that Jesus was more accepting of people than most of us give him credit for.  Therefore, I think the grace teachings are needed badly in our society.

However, in our shift to teach a doctrine of grace, I believe we have allowed quite a bit of relativism into our Christian world.  The above passage is a reminder that I, as a Christian must continue to watch my life and doctrine closely.  I can offer and extend grace to those around me, but I need to make sure that I do not sacrifice my life and doctrine in order to draw people closer to Jesus.  If I lose my base and beliefs, I have done the people around me a great disservice. 
I hear the somewhat cliché phrase of, “If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk” (or some variance of that) quite often.  I believe that this passage reinforces with that phrase.  Is my life lining up with what I teach?  If I am asking my children to live a life of godly character, am I doing the same?  Or am I saying, “Do as I say, not as I do”?  I need to make sure I am living what I teach.
The passage tells me that I need to be aware of my life and doctrine, remind myself of what that means, and watch myself and see if I am living it out.  Furthermore, I need to persevere in that way of living my life.  Sometimes watching my life and doctrine in this current culture becomes discouraging.  I have to persevere through that discouragement so that I may keep myself in check.  And notice what the passage says about others.  This may be the most burdensome or sobering part of living the talk.  I will not only save myself, but others by living a life of godliness.  Wow! 
Furthermore, in this recent Christian culture of grace, remember, that in order for someone to understand grace and realize that he/she needs it we have to give them something to compare their life.  If we live our life and doctrine in the right way, a person will see our lives and see the difference. 
“Watch your life and your doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
1.       What is Paul saying to Timothy about watching his life and doctrine closely?
2.       What is your life and doctrine?
3.       Spend time in prayer this week asking Jesus to point out to you where you may not have been watching your life and doctrine and/or not persevering in them.
4.       Spend some time over the next few days jotting down what you believe and what your life and doctrine is. 
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visit my store

I have listed for you some of my favorite books.  Some I have quoted either in my devotional thoughts or in the Random Ramblings Blog.  Click on the link below and see what interests you.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why the mask?...

Week 46:
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you should put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Another translation of this verse says, “…put off false personas”.  Other translations in some way say, “…stop lying”.  I want to spend some time looking at why we put on the “falsehood” with our brothers and sisters.
How many times have I been caught up in something at home that was really consuming and would knock me off my game so to speak?  It’s now time to go to church and my family and I walk in and put on the smiles.  When people ask, “How are you?”…the response is, “Fine”, or “Good”.  What a lie!  What a masking of what is going on in my life that is! 
Why do I wear the mask?  Why would I not be truthful?  What are the reasons behind this?  Is this something you do as well?  Or how about this…I pass someone with whom I have an issue in the church hall.  As I am passing, I know I do not really want to see this person, but it is unavoidable.  As we pass, we smile and say, “Hi”, without mentioning a thing about our issue.  Is the issue gone?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I might be even more uncomfortable about my issue with this person.  What is that all about? 

I believe there are several reasons I do this.  First, in our western church thought over the last few generations, I have been taught that church people are supposed to be “nice”.  From that teaching, I have learned to “fake it” with people.  I know Jesus wants us to be kind and the Apostle Paul even mentioned the thought of if it is up to us, we are to get along with each other.  If I read the above passage correctly, I do not think putting on a mask is what they had in mind.
Secondly, in Christian settings, I have left myself vulnerable and have gotten hurt.  I have been hurt by well meaning people who had “advice” for me.  I have been hurt by people relating my story to others through gossip and/or just having loose lips.  After a few of those situations, I lose trust and tell myself, “That won’t happen again…it hurt too much…I’ll keep my mouth shut and protect my heart.” 
Thirdly, I fear what others will think about me if I was transparent.  I have judgments about those who wear their feelings on their sleeve and take part in “drama”.  Now, there are times where “drama” is overkill but, what I have done is to take those situations and applied to my life the thought that if I share what is going on I will appear “dramatic”.  I also have a fear of what someone might think of me if I am transparent.  Will they accept me?  Will they shun me?  Also, if I share where I am, will I end up hurting them? 
So, what do I do now?  How do I put of the falsehood?  First, I believe first in starting small.  I need to start with those close to me and be open and transparent.  I meet with a group of men weekly who do this.  Now this is not a gripe group, or a feel good group…just a group of men who are authentic with each other through speaking the truth, confession, sharing and owning emotions, and genuine prayer for one another.  I have heard men talk about this group being what church is supposed to be like.  I’m not saying we replace the church with this kind of group work, but that we incorporate what we are doing into our lives so deeply that the church is affected.  So, find a group where you can be authentic and receive grace for that…where truth is welcomed and not shunned.  Secondly, incorporate this into your life.  Own how you feel, own your truth, and speak truthfully about your state of mind.  Recognize those times where you are “faking it”.  Allow others close to you to call you on your false persona.
Why is this important?  Look at the last of the verse.  “…for we are all members of one body.”  A body does not work when it fights against itself.  One part of the body affects the whole body.  When I put on my false self, I affect those around me.  It is time to drop the walls and the masks and be real.
“Therefore each of you should put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
1.      If you were to name or describe your mask or false persona, what would the name or description be?
2.      When does this mask or persona show up most?
3.      Why do you think you hide behind it?
4.      In what ways do you believe our current church system has fostered this type of behavior?
5.      Ask Jesus this week to point out to you where you put on the false self.  Ask him to help you to take that mask off.


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Monday, November 7, 2011

Avoiding extremes...

Week 45:
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 16Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?  17Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time?  18It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.  The man who fears God will avoid all extremes (or will follow them both).
At first glance, this verse confuses me.  “Do not be overwicked”?  Is this saying I should have some wickedness in my life?  Is this saying I will have wickedness, just don’t overdo it?  The rest makes sense, do not be “overrighteous, overwise, a fool…”  But, “overwicked”? 
Verse 18 actually gives some clarity to this term.  “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.”  To me, to be overwicked would be to have a wickedness or sin that I struggle with and hide.  This would be the sin that I dive into and refuse to give up to God for grace.  To not be overwicked, or to grasp the one, would be for me to admit that is my wickedness, my struggle.  I need to keep that sin out in front of me and give it to Jesus for grace.  To not let go of the other would be the righteousness and wisdom that I have.  I obviously want to avoid self-righteousness and a haughty spirit.  But I do not want to go to the other extreme and not recognize the goodness I possess.  It is God’s gift to me. 

I also need to look at this passage in its whole context.  Verse 15 Solomon recognizes that some wickedness goes unpunished and some righteousness goes unrecognized.  How many times have we seen this in our own lives?  So, a warning would be, when I see wickedness going unpunished, do not think that I can be overwicked and it go unpunished as well. 
Finally, verse 18b gives great advice.  “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes (or will follow them both).”  There are things in this world that many “religious” people would judge me for taking part.  However, I am reminded that the Apostle Paul said that everything is permissible, but not beneficial (I Corinthians 6:12).  I have to be careful that I do not become a Pharisee in my thought toward those who do not go to extremes but take part in what I think may be questionable.  If a man fears God, he will avoid the extremes and thus avoid the sin that follows the extremes.  When I think of extremes, I think of the obvious:  Drinking, sexual immorality, gossip, lying, etc.  Other extremes can take us from God as well…overeating, television, any hobby we find more important than our family, etc. 
This takes me back to the summary of the passage, verse 18.  “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.  The man who fears God will avoid all extremes (or will follow them both).”  Moderation is the key…not a state of lukewarm mind you, but moderation.  The man who fears God will keep his sin in front of him where grace can be given and will also recognize the good in him where God can be praised.  What an encouraging thought.
1.       In what area of your life would you consider yourself “overwicked”?
2.       In what area of your life would you consider yourself “overrighteous or overwise”?
3.       Explain in your words what avoiding all extremes looks like to you?
4.       Spend some time this week in silence and prayer asking Jesus to reveal an area of your life where you are in the “extreme”.  Ask him to come into that part of your life and give you some advice.  Then…listen and pay attention to what happens next.


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Monday, October 31, 2011

Deceptive ways...

Week 44:
Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, “
How many of us know this passage well, but do not notice the comma at the end of it?  I wandered through life quoting this passage alone without really paying attention to the rest of the sentence.  I truly believe that Satan does this on a regular basis. He deceives us with scripture.

In his attempt to discourage, and deceive us, Satan will use scripture to try and knock us off our game.  In the week 40 devotional thought titled, “Overcoming temptation…,” I made note of how Jesus used scripture to fight off the temptation Satan was using to try and trip up Jesus.  Within his temptation attempts, Satan misquoted scripture.  I believe this still happens today.  He may not be there speaking directly to us like when he was working on Jesus, but it still happens.  Just look at this passage as a case in point.
How many of us know what comes after the comma in vs. 24?  “…24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  My tendency in the past would be to take vs. 23 and apply it one of several ways totally ignoring vs. 24. 
First, I might say as a cop out for my sin, “Oh well, all I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  The feeling here is, I’m like everyone else and the Bible says I am going to sin anyway. I have free license to sin.  Second, I might take a fatalistic stance and quote the same thing in the same way.  The difference here is that I feel there is not hope, so why try?  The third misuse would be for me to either brow-beat people with the passage or give them license to sin.  I am sure there are other ways I would misuse the passage but these are the main ways.
What just looking at this passage in this way does is prompt me to ask myself, “How many other passages have stuck with me in this way?”  How many times have I bought into a deception of scripture?  How many times have I listened to someone else take a passage out of context and use it improperly?  This is something I have to be careful of when I am reading and using the Word. 
Now, let us go back to this passage.  Notice what is said both before and after vs. 23. “21But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference…”  And, “24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  I can get so beat down or comfortable with verse 23.  But, I need to remember that vs. 23 has a comma and the rest of the sentence is vs. 24.  Vs. 24 is such a comforting and powerful verse.  We are “justified freely by his grace!”
The challenge for me is to read the whole context of the verse.  I really need to do this with all the “favorite” passages that I quote.  I do need to remember that all scripture is useful (II Timothy 3:16-17).  I just have to remember proper usage of scripture. 
Just remember, in this passage, there is a rest of the sentence, “23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  And, what a great rest of the sentence it is!
1.        What other passages have you sensed that Satan may have misused?
2.       What was one of them and how was it used?
3.       What is the proper usage or context for that passage?
4.       Spend some time this week in prayer and silence and ask Jesus to reveal to you where you may have fallen into this trap.
5.       Share your thoughts around this prayer with someone this week.


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Sunday, October 23, 2011

When God?...

Week 43:
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Do you ever catch yourself just wanting to give up on this “doing good” thing that the Christian walk asks of us?  I catch myself at times wondering when the harvest will be.  I know I should be taking part in doing the good because that is the right thing to do.  However, there are times that I get discouraged that I am not seeing the fruit of this effort. 

Of course at this point my mind wanders to phrases from various passages like in James, “…the testing of your faith develops perseverance”; or Isaiah, “…those who wait upon the Lord”.  Many others come to mind as well.  However, it just gets discouraging. 
Piggybacking off of last week’s devotional, I am reminded that God creates good works in advance for us to do.  Not only does God do that but He promises in today’s passage that, “…at the proper time” we will see the fruit of our efforts.
One thing I have to reflect upon is…why am I doing the good?  Am I doing this so that I may reap the harvest?  Am I doing good so that I may be recognized as a good man?  Am I fulfilling some affirmation I need in my life?  Is this about me and what I want or need?  What is my motivation?
Therein lays one of the key components to this passage.  What is my motivation?  If I am motivated to do good in order to take care of myself, I will become weary much faster.  I do not want to give off the impression that if we do the good purely for unselfish reasons that we will not grow weary in waiting to see the fruit of the labor.  However, I really believe that when I am doing the good for the right motive, God’s purposes, I have a peace that there will be a harvest.  And, the passage promises there will be a harvest.
What a comfort to know that God is faithful and that the good we do will not go without some sort of fruit and/or harvest.  Persevere and do not give up!  “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

1.       Describe a time when you have grown tired in the past of doing the good to seemingly no avail?
2.      What is it about the good you do without seeing the lack of harvest that discourages you?
3.      What were some of the first passages that came to mind when you read the Galatians passage?
4.      What are some things you can do to re-charge your energy toward doing the good?
5.      Was there anything else that you feel God was speaking to you about through this passage?  Explain.


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Monday, October 17, 2011

Good works in advance....

Week 42:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship (handiwork), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
For years in my Christian walk I have known and felt that I am made by God.  Even in later years, I realize that Jesus was with God in the beginning and that I am crafted through Jesus the son.  I have read this passage several times only really focusing on the first part of the verse.  It is the last part that has really begun to stick with me in recent times.

Over the past few years, I have really been looking deeper into the nature of God and His character.  Call it maturity or whatever you like, but the good old churchy view of God was not getting the job done for me.  As I began to study God deeper, things really started to unfold.  I have started to see God’s work going on around me more and more. 
This is where the last part of this verse comes in for me.  There are things that I do in the kingdom of God that have been set out for me to do well in advance.  So many times in my life I felt as if I was wandering through just finding random good works that I was to take part in or that God was doing around me.  As I read, “…good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” I realize that what I deem as random is all part of a carefully laid out plan for me.  All I need to do is choose to pay attention and follow what God has laid out.
Now, I do not want to be discouraging, but I also do not want to paint a picture that every good work we do for God is a bed of roses either.  However, when you look at the great men of the Old Testament, you see that their good works for God started with some character building, life-changing events.  Jacob, Joseph, and Moses are prime examples.  There are others as well.  We know the end story.  We have the Bible to tell us.  These men did not.  But, God had good works prepared in advance for these men to do. 
Here are some other thoughts relating to this passage.  One, what a comfort and exciting thing it is that God has a plan for me even though I may not see the end of my story!  Two, I still get to choose whether or not to follow the plan laid out by God.  Three, if I choose the plan, there will be character building moments in order to prepare me for the good works he has laid out for me.  Finally, whether or not I choose to follow the plan, God’s work and purpose will still be carried out.  I enter God’s plan with both excitement of what he has in store for me and fear relating to the further character building I am to face.  With both in mind, I look forward to the journey.
1.      How has this passage set with your heart today?
2.       Reflecting back, what are some character building moments where you now see it was God preparing you?
3.      In your current situation, are you in a character building moment now?  What do you see, feel, or sense God may be doing?
4.      Are you willing to surrender to His character building?  How?


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New compassion...

Week 41:
Lamentations 3:22-24 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Nestled amongst the verses of Lament is this jewel of a passage about God and His nature.  The Israelites are going through the exile yet, even during the tough times, the author takes time to note that God still loves enough not to consume his people. 
God has every right to wipe the Israelites completely off of the face of the planet.  He has chosen them to be his people yet they continue to stray away from him.  He allows them to be oppressed in order for them to call on him once again.  Yet, amidst all of this, he still has compassion on them.

What a comfort this is to me.  I stray from God and his love and direction…even if it is just a period of distraction.  God has every right to abandon me and say, “This is the last time you stray from me!”  Yet His compassions for me are new, everyday.  Notice the Lamenter saying, “…great is your faithfulness.”  Even when we are not faithful to God, he is still faithful to us.  What a comfort! 
Now the Lamenter renews his vow to stay close to God by waiting on Him.  During this tribulation time, the Lamenter sees God’s compassion and is inspired to wait until God calms the storm.  That is very much what I need to recognize during my times of storm and trial (some of my times of storm and trail may very well be God touching me to call on Him again).  God’s compassion is new every morning and I need to wait on His deliverance.  Great is His faithfulness…I will wait.
1.        Describe a time when you have strayed and felt God’s hand of oppression to bring you back to Him.
2.       When did you know it was time to call on Him again?
3.       How did His compassion show for you?
4.       Spend some time in silence reflecting on God’s faithfulness to you and His compassion on you.  Share that with someone this week.


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Overcoming temptation...

Week 40:

Luke 11:4c …and lead us not into temptation.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

The other night in our men’s group a friend expressed how much the above verses impacted him.  “Lead us not into temptation.”  As I pondered on what my friend said, I was taken back to a very familiar interpretation around overcoming temptation that God placed on my heart years ago.

As I was teaching about Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and the temptation that Satan attempted I realized a powerful weapon for overcoming temptation…scripture.
Every time Satan tempted Jesus (we only read of three, but the passage says, [Matt. 4:1] “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” [Lk. 4:2] …”where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil.” So we know it was probably more than three times, likely continuous) he answered with scripture.  Matthew 4:4 “It is written…”  Matthew 4:7 “…it is also written…” Luke 4:4 “It is written…”  Luke 4:8 “It is written…” Luke 4:12 “It says…” Every time except once (and that time he tells Satan “away from me”) Jesus answers with scripture. 

So it was revealed to me, the way to overcome temptation is to have scripture written on my heart.  For years, preachers and teachers urged me to read to Word daily.  And for years I would do okay for a while, with guilt.  There are many purposes for getting into the Word of God; knowledge of Him, life lessons, living in His kingdom, knowing what to obey, etc.  One of the purposes that I had not thought about was to know scripture well enough to stand against temptation. 

Jesus knew the scripture by heart and was able to quote it to Satan and stop his temptation in its tracks.  Now, I know that Jesus was the Son of God, so he should know the Word, since he was the Word.  So, this gives him some kind of advantage, right?  Well, we have to remember that he was fully human as well as God.  Jesus had to do what all Jewish boys had done.  By the time he was 8 years old, he would have had the first five books of the Old Testament memorized.  And since he was called “Rabbi”, I am certain that he had much more memorized by this time. 

What is cool about this is that many times as I look back on past success vs. temptation, I can tie it to the scriptures that are written on my heart.  Now, I do not have passages memorized near like Jesus did, but I do have something written on my heart from past studying.  I have failed many times vs. temptation as well.  Hope fully as God continues to remind me, like he did with my friend the other night, I will dive in to scripture more and be able to stand my ground against temptation.  Hopefully this will inspire you to do this as well.  God will be there right beside you as you write scripture on your heart.  “…and lead us not into temptation.”


  1. Explain a situation in life where you were able to overcome a temptation due to your knowledge of scripture.

  1. What is a favorite passage that helps you stand firm against temptation?

  1. What were the differences between Satan tempting Adam and Eve and Satan Tempting Jesus?

  1. What are you willing to do to re-commit to reading scripture on a regular basis?

  1. Spend some time in silence and prayer and imagine Jesus is sitting right there beside you.  What would he tell you about temptation and the Word?
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