Browsing Tag

holy bible

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 12: Have Fear? Seek God.

As I sat down at my computer to craft this week’s blog post, I was torn about what to write about.

  • Do I talk about my recent gardening projects and use it as a metaphor for how God cultivates us to grow in Him?
  • Do I share about a moment that almost cost me my faith?
  • Do I pull back the curtain of my life and share about the events that led me to Christ?
  • Do I illustrate our inclination to manipulate and control our will and way using a funny story about my kids?

Those are certainly topics on my writing to-do list, I thought, but what struck me in that moment is the realization that we are always choosing which face to show each day.

Sometimes it is deeply personal. At others, we hold our heart close.

That’s, of course, with other people.

But are we that way with God? I would argue that we are. At least sometimes.

Yet, no matter what is going on in our lives, our attitudes and actions, whatever is on our hearts, should be readily offered on the alter of the Lord.

Through prayer, we can share our deepest hurts, our ugliest decisions, our self-serving motives, and our most unworthy human deficits.

Why? Because he truly cares for us.

I tell people often: God wants to hear from you.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10: 29-30 (ESV)

The pervasiveness of FEAR

One raw emotion that recurs throughout the Bible is Fear.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God promises us freedom from fear that arises in our daily lives.

The fear you experience — fear of losing a loved one, fear of losing income/job, fear of declining health, fear of unexpected news, fear of never meeting your potential — plagues even the faithful. And for some of you reading this, it surfaces almost daily. 

Whatever the fear, God promises to free us of it and what a great promise that is!

This freedom comes from trusting in God who protects and helps us.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV)

In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. Isaiah 54:14 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that perfect loves drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

Indeed, as Christians, we are no longer slaves of fear, for Christ has given us not a spirit of timidity or to shrink back from the challenges life brings us, but a spirit to fight — a spirt of power, of love and of self-control, according to 2 Timothy 1:7.

An invitation to ‘not be afraid’

The expression “fear not,” which is also translated “do not fear” or “do not be afraid,” is an invitation to confidence and trust that God repeatedly offers His people. It is used at least 15 times in the Bible as an expression of comfort, in fact.

Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. Psalm 49:16 (ESV)

And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. Ruth 3: 11 (ESV)

It is clear from God’s Word, that he welcomes us to a life that is marked by transparency and raw emotion.

I referenced alters earlier.

Our spiritual ancestors used alters to offer the Lord sacrifices, but it also represents a proper worship of God.

When we offer this proper sacrifice to God — when we’re transformed in our actions and mind, and obedient to Christ — it is pleasing to Him. If our sacrifice is acceptable to God it is known to manifest blessings and covenant renewal in Exodus 20:24.

In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

When we doubt and feel the tremors that are brought on by an earthquake of fear, we can also call on the Lord and remember Him, who is readily available and brings us comfort and peace during our times of trouble.

Dear friend, surrender that which is plaguing you today. Take off the mask. Let down your guard. And let the Lord come to you with all his holiness and might.

What is plaguing you in this time of your life? How is it interfering with your proper worship of God?

Reference: Butler, Trent C. (1991) Holman Bible Dictionary, 481-482.

Christian Lifestyle, Inspirational

Devotional 11: Does God expect exact obedience to the Bible?

My husband was almost out the door this morning, and on his way to work, before he turned back and called out to our daughter upstairs.

“Could you feed Mimi (our cat) before you leave for school?” he yelled.

“Sure!” she yelled back.

Apparently, she was unsure of his request; perhaps the shoving of things into her backpack drowned out his exact words.

But just as my husband’s foot crossed the threshold of the front door, she yelled: “WAIT! What did you say daddy?”

In seeking clarification, it was apparent in our daughter’s  voice that she desired to get this right, like an Olympic gymnast who wants — no, needs — to stick her landing.

When acting on a request from daddy, our little 9-year-old understands that precision and accuracy matters.

Old Testament Instructions for Obedience

There’s something about God’s character as demonstrated in the Old Testament that reminded me of what transpired this morning between my husband and daughter.

And I got to wondering: Does God require obedience and precision in following the Bible?

The dictionary defines obedience as “the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance.” And though the word precision doesn’t appear in the Bible, the word “sin” in Greek means “failure, being in error, missing the mark.”

To that end, God has a way of being very exact in his expectations for his people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament.

Just read Leviticus if you want to get a taste of what I’m talking about.

In Leviticus, God gives specific directions for the kind of worship that would be pleasing to him.

The Lord offers instructions for the offerings, instructions for the priests, instructions for the people, and instructions for the altar.

He sets a standard for his people, those who would call on him to be saved, those who are “set apart” and “holy,” and those, in a very real and tangible way, are to be different from everyone else.

And though we no longer live under the old covenant, thanks to Jesus Christ, it got me wondering whether he expects the same level of obedience among today’s , New Testament-focused believers?

Sure, the Lord has provided a way of salvation and sanctification that depends on our trusting in Jesus, and not necessarily in our own feeble efforts to “be good.”

And of course there’s grace.

But if the Bible says go left, then why would we even think about going right?

And if Jesus sets the standard of living for modern-day Christians then why should our lives look much different from his?

The culture and standard of living is different from ancient history, to be sure, but the key tenets of sacrificial living, obedience, and humility that Jesus embodied should underpin our lives, too. Right?

Is it possible to wholly align our lives with the Bible?

To answer this question, the Spirt led me to 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 (NIV), in which the Apostle Paul writes to his protege Timothy:

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote  yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you though a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Let’s disregard for the time being that Bible scholars believe Timothy was in his 20s at the time of this writing, and that the term “young” applies to anyone under the age of 40.

During this era in which Apostle Paul pens this letter to Timothy,  occurring some time after Timothy joined Apostle Paul in AD 50, society deemed young people as lacking self-control and less responsible, more violent, sexually promiscuous, reckless, etc. Could the same be said for people today in your part of the world?

The Apostle Paul here was admonishing Timothy to be and do the opposite of what society expected of someone his age.

Not only that, he called him to a higher standard as a follower of Christ, one that resisted the temptations of the world.

He told him to lead and to devote himself to Christ’s teaching.

Resist the temptation to cherry-pick scriptures to apply to your life, and know that this message to Timothy also applies to us today.

Hold Unswervingly to the Apostle’s Teachings

Getting back to my question, is it possible to live by the Bible, unswervingly, in today’s society?

Maybe a better question is: Can believers attempt to live by the Bible, unswervingly?

I say unequivocally yes!!

In Acts 2:42 (NIV), the Apostle Peter indicated that the new believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

That word “devoted.”

It means “to appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by a solemn or formal act; consecrate.”

What if we were that? DEVOTED. It’s such a great word.

It occurs in the English Standard Bible 66 times!

Look, we’re not going to be perfect. That’s a given.

We are, in fact, a fallible people.

But at the very least, we can try.

Try to be “devoted.”

Try to know the Bible. And to know it in context.

Try to live by God’s decrees.

Try to honor the Lord in everything we say, do and think.

Just try.

And then don’t give up on trying.

Yes, living for God is a heart matter, but it’s also a matter of obedience.

And if we fail to align our “doctrine” with our life, as Paul suggested to Timothy, then we will also fail to save ourselves and those who hear our testimony.

The Bible Can Change Your Life

Look at it this way: The Bible is not just a book; it can change your life.

As John 8:32 says, knowing Jesus’ teaching is knowing the “truth and the truth will set you free.” (Who doesn’t want to be free?)

If you do in fact want to live a “good life,” then the Bible is useful for that, too.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy3:16-17 (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the person who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1: 22-25 (NIV)

As for me, I want the heart of the ancient believers who wrote the following Psalms.

I’m not quite there yet, but I just love how they describe their affinity for God’s word:

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:16

…for I delight in your commands, which I love and I meditate on your decrees. Psalm 119:47

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97

All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. Psalm 18:22

What do you believe? Do you think it’s possible to live by the Bible in today’s world, and to follow it precisely? Do you allow God’s word to be the “authority” of your faith and life, to be the “deciding factor” in everything you say, do and think? Sound off in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Ministry

Devotional 9: God’s Grace to the Sinner & the Saint

The story of the prodigal son, which is found in Luke 15: 11-32, tells of a young man who squanders his inheritance through wild partying and reckless spending.

But after losing everything, he resorts to taking a job feeding pigs. He’s so poor when a famine hits that he steals chow from the pigs in order to quiet the rumblings in his own stomach.

Hitting rock bottom, the story indicates that this young man finally “came to his senses,” realizing that even the hired hands on his father’s farm were in a better position than he was in that moment.

He set out to go back to his father, and on his way plans what he will say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”

But before the young man could even get the words out, his father, seeing his son approaching in the distance, starts to sprint, embraces and welcomes his child home.

Imagine the look on his young son’s face when he felt his father’s arms wrap around his frail body.

The parable is such a beautiful metaphor for the redemption and reconciliation that awaits anyone who turns away from wrongdoing and seeks a relationship with God.

It serves as a great reminder that the almighty God always, always meets us where we are.

Anger after years of devotion

Meanwhile, in verses 25-32, the eldest son — the one who committed his life and made the choice to doing his father’s work — is fuming, becoming angrier as he witnessed his younger brother receiving the royal treatment.

I can just hear the disgruntlement begin to percolate.

Who does he think he is showing up after all this time?
He thinks he’s so special.
What about me? Look at everything I’ve done for Father!

The older son, like a petty child, refused to take part in the festivities to celebrate his little brother’s homecoming.

Seething, I’m sure, the Bible says he “refuses to go in.”

In another surprising act, the father leaves the party and goes outside to reason with the older son.

Bible scholars believe that ancient hearers might have expected the father to discipline the elder son; instead, the father listens to his son, and in a loving and understanding tone attempts to impart wisdom as the sounds of revelry reverberate in the background.

The elder son laments:

Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

Was the older son hurt? It sure sounds like it.

Was the older son bitter? You bet.

In his mind, he had devoted himself to doing what the father wanted, and wasn’t so much as thanked for his devotion. He believed he was entitled to the better treatment. He was superior, he thought. But, in fact, he was wrong.

The father, gracious and all-knowing, saw otherwise. Because the younger son was “dead and is alive again” and “lost and is found” this warranted a celebration.

The parable teaches us what is important to our Father in heaven — and that is, when a lost soul comes home. Commitment and devotion are pleasing in the Lord’s sight, too. But when our motives are self-centered, as is shown by the elder son,  this bothers God. And it should also bother us.

Which ‘son’ are you?

At times we are that lost child as is the prodigal son, the one who strays. The one who squanders everything. The one who then grovels back to God for forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the other hand, especially for those who’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for some time, it’s easy to follow the pattern of the elder son, who grew bitter, jealous and prideful after years of dedication.

Which one are you?

I believe the older son could have prevented his unrighteous response.

At least, I’d like to think he could.

And here’s how I believe those in ministry and in other leadership roles can avoid resentment while in service to others:

  • Be open about your shortcomings and confess your sins. No one is perfect. Not even the most devoted Christian. Routinely humble yourself before God, and a trusted spiritual mentor, as you examine your heart and actions. Romans 3:23 NIV says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moreover, no one “should claim to be without sin,” according to 1 John 1:8 NIV.
  • Show compassion. God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, according to 2 Chronicles 30:9 and Psalm 86:15. Throughout the Bible, God rescues and forgives his people when they turn back to Him. In the same way, Jesus showed compassion “when he saw the crowds… because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV) What this world absolutely needs from those who are faithful to God, is more compassion, more love and more grace. After all, that is what God showed us because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)
  • Share your testimony and minister to others. If you’re a believer, then the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 applies to you. We are called to baptize and to teach others. Holding a pastoral role, in whatever capacity in your local church, puts you in a position to regularly share how God has changed you and is currently shaping you. Don’t miss out on that opportunity by using your leadership role to talk only about how “great” your life is or what blessings God is bestowing on your life or barking orders about what other church members “need” to do. Rather, use it is a platform to elevate the love and mercy God extends to anyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus. Share your story. As a result, I pray, as the Apostle Paul writes in Philemon 6, that your partnership in the faith “may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”
  • Stop thinking you’re better than someone else. The Apostle Paul urges believers in Romans 12:3 (NIV): “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” He is referring in this passage to roles in the church, but the advice is appropriate for any situation. The statement could’ve certainly helped knock some sense into the elder brother in an ancient parable that continues to teach modern-day believers the value of right-sized thinking in times when all seems ….”unfair.”

Share your thoughts! How do you guard against disgruntlement, discontent and bitterness while serving in ministry or other leadership roles in and outside the church?

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 4: Waiting on the Lord

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

When you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers, do you doubt or have faith?

Three years ago, I sat on a friend’s living room sofa on the verge of tears.

I felt stuck. I wanted out.

More specifically, I was growing weary of living in a two-bedroom, one bath house in a rough part of the city.

I wanted something better for our young family. But “better” was taking too long to get here.

My dear friend listened as I lamented. She offered some encouragement.

While it didn’t make things better right away, the talk did help me gain some perspective. And it gave me a chance to off-load some things that were weighing on my heart.

The epiphany: My lack of faith

It was around that time that I realized I was failing to trust in the Lord.

It had been 7 years since we moved into that house, when we thought we’d only be there for two.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith.

I started wondering if God didn’t want our family to move.

Is there something in my character that God wants to prune?, I thought.

Perhaps there’s someone here that he wants me to reach on His behalf, my mind wandered.

Or could it be that we’re just not ‘ready’ for that kind of blessing and responsibility? I asked quietly.

Over the next several months, I prayed. Studied the scriptures. And asked the Lord to show me where I was falling short.

He did, in fact, reveal some things that was darkening my heart and chipping away at my faith.

Once corrected, I saw the darkness lift.

My faith was restored.

Suddenly, I started to dream again.

Taking steps to receive the blessing.

With the Lord’s help, our family took steps that put us in a position to buy a new home.

But of all the things we did in preparation for the next stage, the most critical step was the clarifying moment when I repented of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that:

“[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In reading the gospels, it was evident that people lacking faith displeased Jesus, and dare I say, even disgusted him?

See Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31 and Luke 12:28.

Therefore, dear friends, I pray that wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you currently face, that you have faith in the midst of the difficulty.

James 1:6 NIV puts it plainly:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I don’t share this story to claim that simply repenting can lead to material blessings. That would be misguided and unspiritual. I share this story to show that there is often a direct relation between our circumstance and our faith and obedience to God.

So, what happened in the end?

How does my story end, you ask?

Well, I’m sitting here in a new home that is more spacious and, for the most part, considerably safer. And I praise God for revealing my shortcoming and allowing a chance to change courses.

It only took about two years from the day I sat on my friend’s couch for God to deliver an outcome I had once thought was so far out of reach.

Lessons learned?

Wait “expectantly” for the Lord, as Psalm 5:3 suggests. Trust that He hears your prayers and wants to refine you, and not necessarily to withhold from you. Don’t doubt.

I wonder what God will do in your life two years from now? Where in your life do you need to replace doubt with faith?