Monday, July 30, 2012

God alone...

Week 31:

Psalm 62:1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

God alone is my rest and my salvation. I can find those in no other place for a sustainable period. Several thoughts come to mind when I read this short but powerful verse.

First, it is my soul that finds rest and salvation. I have had periods of rest in my life that felt great and refreshing. However, even in those times, my soul would seem restless. It is in these times that I realize that my seeking rest in other places besides God; my soul gains no strength. The soul is God’s realm. It is where we connect with Him. It is through the soul that the language of His Holy Spirit speaks. Rest and direction for my soul is in God alone.

Second, fundamentally, I am truly here to please only one person…God. I catch myself living life as a pleaser. I allow my emotional state of being to be affected by the happiness of others. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to have concern for others and where they are in life. It is good to “be there” for a friend in times of need. But for me to live day in and day out worried about whether or not the people in my life are happy, I really drain my life and soul of their energy. When I am so concerned for their state of being, who am I really serving? Most of the time, it is me. I am really just easing my discomfort by helping them “be happy”. A person’s overall happiness does not depend on me, it depends on God. I am here to please God alone.

Third, I can find my true happiness in only one person…God. Like so many in our current culture, I have chased my happiness in so many worldly things. I have chased money, relationships, social acceptance, co-dependency, activities, work, recreation, etc., in the pursuit of happiness. This one area is particularly hard for me as well. I cannot see God. I do not hear his audible voice. At least not in the way I do in the flesh like people around me. I have experiences with God, but do not get to touch or talk with Him the way I would with others. Fortunately, when I slow down and quiet my life, I see in days to follow God working in my life. He gives me rest for my soul. My true happiness and peace and rest are in God alone.

To be reminded of God’s rest and salvation I must spend time resting in Him. I must set aside silent times of just being. I also must continue to read and apply His Word. Notice the addition to that last statement of the word “apply”. I believe that so many Christians gain a bad reputation simply by not living what they believe. When I combine silence in God with study, application and prayer and I find rest in God. Now, I did not say that I “earn” rest. And I don’t want my methods to become a formula for resting in God. I do recognize however, that when I do the above mentioned things, I find that my soul has peace. Hopefully yours will as well.


1. List some of the ways you have tried to find rest for your soul.
2. Explain at what point you realized that those methods were not filling the need for rest.
3. What are some ways you find rest in God?
4. Spend some time in silence this week and lay before God this verse. Meditate on it several times throughout the week. See what comes up for you.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How do I know...?

Week 30:

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

How do I know if what I am being taught about the Word is truth? Number one and foremost, I must be in the Word myself. In this current culture of instant access to information and constant busyness many take what they hear and read at face value.

For example: Notice how popular the internet search engines have become. I have noticed even within my own realm that if I want information about something, I use my phone to look it up on the internet. How do I know that the information I am getting is accurate? I hear a popular phrase these days and it goes something like this: “It must be true because I found it on the internet”. Now for a lot of us, that sounds silly. I know I have to approach the internet sources with a healthy amount of skepticism. But do I approach sermons and Bible studies with that same amount of skepticism? Or do I take the mindset of, “I heard it in church, so it must be true…”?


I am not advocating an approach of selective relativism. What I mean by that is simply the idea of choosing to believe only that which applies to me and what I want. Scripture should challenge us, convict us, and make us uncomfortable at times. We cannot choose only that which makes us comfortable and ignore that which might convict us of the sin we may be committing. We can, however, verify what we are hearing or reading by examining the Scriptures.

Take a look now at the passage. Paul was one of the most powerful Apostles to advance the Word of Christ into that region. Yet, the Bereans still followed up to verify if what Paul was saying was true. How did they do this? They did so by examining Scripture. Do you have a minster, teacher, pastor, or leader who you look up to and are fed by his or her teachings of Christ? It is not dishonoring or hurtful to him or her to follow up and examine the Scriptures to verify truth. I must make a conscience effort to not just take a person’s interpretation of Scripture without examining it myself as well.

It will take an intentional effort to spend time in the Word regularly to verify what I am hearing. This is hard in my busy world. I tend to want to take the teaching of another and run with it without first examining and verifying by Scripture the truth of the message. It takes time and effort to examine Scripture. I need to make an effort to be more like the Bereans to know and live in truth. The challenge is to create some margin in my life to spend time in the Word and not just rely on sermons and teachings to fill me up.


1. Are you one who verifies what you are hearing/reading or do you tend to take the messages at face value and trust the messenger?
2. Think of a time where you were uncomfortable with the message you heard or read. What did you do about that discomfort?
3. What steps will you take this week to be more intentional in examining teachings by comparing with Scripture? This week, ask God to reveal for you places in your life where you can create margins in order to make time to examine Scripture.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

How then could I...

Week 29:

Genesis 39:9c …How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?

The background to this passage is the familiar story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. As you may recall, Potiphar’s wife found Joseph attractive and was trying to seduce him into having sexual relations with her. However, Joseph never relented and ended up in prison for standing firm.

What I love about this excerpt of the passage is how Joseph stood up. He could have leaned on his morality and refused. He could have refused out of fear of losing his position in Potiphar’s house. He could have even refused because he felt no attraction to Potiphar’s wife. Joseph refused for a higher and deeper reason. He did not want to go against God and His will. Joseph lived his life in such a way, that violating God’s commands meant much more than just breaking morality or being punished. Joseph had a relationship with God and he respected God’s commands knowing that they were for his (Joseph’s) greater good.

How many times could I avoid any type of sin if I would just take the attitude of, “How then could I…”? Most people, including me, read this story and particularly this excerpt of the passage and think about avoiding sexual sin. What if I applied this same excerpt to gossip? How about applying it to lying, or evil thoughts, rage, or any temptation that comes my way? How much stronger would I be to resisting temptation if I remembered whom I serve?
Part of me at times views Joseph’s stand against sin as an unreachable goal. I have not faced the particular temptation Joseph did but I have faced many others and have failed miserably at standing firm. Shame creeps in and sends me a message that, “It’s too late for you, you didn’t stand firm in the beginning like Joseph. You’ll never be like that.” Maybe you feel this way as well. When I begin to feel this way, I think of David. David failed several times in the face of temptation, not only sexual temptation, but other forms of sin as well. Yet, God still called him a man after his own heart.

My aim of this thought is not to look at where we have failed. The goal is to inspire to have a change of heart and mind toward those things that tempt us. As Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Joseph had his mind on things above and not on himself. From that place, he was able to stand up to temptation by thinking about God and His commands. Joseph’s heart was in tune with God. That is how I want to be! I want to live my life in such a way that when those temptations arise, I can ask, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

When I am able to take the mindset that I need God’s help and it is God whom I serve, the power he has placed in me by the Holy Spirit will give me strength to stand up against temptation. Any other method; will power, self-control, discipline, avoidance, fleeing, etc. will eventually fail. Mind you, those are all good…we are told in scripture to have self-control and so on. However, those alone will not do it for me…otherwise, I would have never failed. Whenever I face temptation, I need this passage written on my heart. As a friend says quite often, “It gives me another tool in the shed.” When I am aware that it is God I am sinning against, it goes deeper than on the surface for me. I am able to stand stronger and keep temptation at bay.

“How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”


1. Upon initial reading of this excerpt, what is your reaction?
2. What are some ways you are able to overcome temptation?
3. When have you tried overcoming temptation on your own power?
4. Has it been fool-proof for you?
5. In what way can you apply this excerpt this week? What is a normal temptation for you where this can be of help?

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Informed and prepared...

Week 28:

I Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

As I grow older, I reflect back on so many situations in my life where I was walking in ignorance. Actions I took part in, what I listened to, what I watched, and even how I thought seemed harmless yet as I look back, I realize I was uninformed and unprepared. Wisdom comes at a price. Wisdom comes at the price of experience. While we hear Peter’s call to be obedient children, our eyes are opened to the evil desires and ignorance that we lived in before.

Here is a case in point for me. For the most part, I listen to Christian music these days and have for about 18 years. When I go back and listen to “oldies” like old rock or old pop music I hear lyrics that I never realized where there. So many popular rock songs were more blatant with a questionable message than I realized as a young man. Out of my ignorance, I never realized what was being said. I have actually linked some of my struggles with thought control back to some of the music I listened to when I was younger.

In the verses before and after this passage, Peter gives some instruction on how the avoid the evil desires from our ignorance. He talks about self-control, Hope in grace, Christ’s revelation, and holiness. I find it interesting that as I grow older and realize my ignorant past I grow more conservative, yet also have more grace at the same time. It’s like a two-edged sword. One the one hand, I do not have patience with the evil desires of ignorance. On the other hand, I have patience and grace with those who are in their ignorance and do not realize how their heart is being led.


How do we become informed and prepared? First, we need to strive to have a regular Bible study time. As I write this I think, “Oh great, more guilt for not reading my Bible more.” However, the reality of it is, if I want to be informed of what I am ignorant of, I must go to the source of knowledge and that is God’s word. Second, we must put ourselves in the company of those who are striving to better their walk with Christ…thus, holding us accountable to our integrity. Third, we must seek the counsel of the older generation. I find myself at times viewing them as those who have arrived and forget that they experienced the same types of evil desires of ignorance that I have. Finally, we must pay attention the where God is speaking. Notice that He is not only speaking through His word, but through prayer, sermons, discussion with friends, daily blessings, and circumstances.

Reflect and be aware this week of how far you have come from your youthful ignorance of the past. Thank God for revelation and ask for more.

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”


1. Upon reading this chapter, what are some markers of past ignorance that came up for you?
2. When or how (or both) did you realize you had acted out of ignorance? Explain the revelation.
3. Ask God this week to reveal to you some of the ways that you have become more holy in leaving some of your ignorant past. Write those down in the form of a blessing.
4. Write down and commit to one measurable way that you will become more informed and prepared. Take this one step further and have a discussion around this topic with someone in your life in order to have them hold you accountable to this commitment.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Flesh and blood...

Week 27:

Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I have to be reminded from time to time that Jesus not only was the son of God but also fully human. The verses prior to this passage speak about Jesus becoming flesh and blood like his brothers in every way in order to become the perfect high priest on our behalf.

It is so hard to grasp that Jesus was fully human. But he had to be. Adam did not fulfill the job. Jesus is the model that Adam was to be. God not only sent Jesus to redeem us from the sin set in motion from the beginning, but also to show us the true man Adam was meant to be.

To understand Jesus suffering when tempted we have to understand he was flesh and blood. Jesus had emotion. He felt compassion, happiness, joy, disappointment, anger, sadness, grief, peace, love, etc. He wept with those in pain. He righted wrongs with anger and authority. He had a sense of humor. He was obedient to his parents. He ate, he drank, he worked, he sang, he tired, he slept, and he taught. He was fully human.

Because he was fully human, he felt the suffering of temptation. Not only did the devil tempt him in the wilderness…he tempted him while he was physically weak from fasting. Jesus endured the devil’s temptation and past the test while at his weakest.

Jesus also faced the same type of tempting Adam had faced. Scholars break the temptation of both Adam and Jesus into three types; lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. It really does not matter whether or not one buys into the scholars attempt to categorize the temptations. When one reads the temptation in the garden and compares it to the temptation of Jesus in the gospel accounts; one can see the similarities between the two. Satan uses the same type of deception. Be reminded that he is the father of lies and has been lying since the beginning.

If you look at any temptation we face today, we can relate to both the garden and the wilderness temptations. Adam and Eve failed, Jesus did not. Jesus faced what we face as temptation. As the verse tells us, he can help us with temptation because he’s been there! I really believe that I as well as many around me down play the power of using Jesus’ name to fight off temptation. Calling on his name always has helped me fight off temptation, without fail. Why do I not do it more? I need to draw on the fact that Jesus lived and walked this earth and faced what I faced. That will remind me that I am not alone and that I have a Son of God who knows what I face. HE WILL HELP ME!


1. Which of the three types of temptations are you weakest at facing?
2. Have you ever called on the name of Jesus in the midst of temptation? How did it work for you?
3. List some ways you know that Jesus was fully human.
4. What does the knowledge of knowing Jesus was flesh and blood do for you?
5. This week, be aware temptations as they arise. Call on the name of Jesus to combat those temptations. Work this into your daily life.

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