Calling Upon God

Psalm 145:17-21 (NASB)
17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
20 The Lord keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

How often have you called upon the Lord in the last week? If you are like many other believers, you are probably calling on the Lord many times throughout the day. I always try to give thanks and praise to God before I begin giving Him my requests, but I often fail. While God certainly does want and desire our praise and thankfulness, He also wants us to call upon Him, so that He can show us His amazing love and His awesome power to change circumstances in our lives. The important thing to remember is that God is near! Most people imagine God to be so far removed from their daily lives, but the reality is that God is very close, and He is waiting for us to trust Him and call upon him, so that he can release His life altering power to us, through His Holy Spirit.

Often the circumstances of this world tend to drag us down. When that happens, we really have two choices. Do we follow the ways of the world and allow sin to take over our life and lead us farther away from God? Or do difficult times give us the resolve to focus our prayer life upon God and pray for His presence to guide us? Psalm 145 tells us that not only does God hear those who “call upon Him in truth,” but God will “also hear their cry and will save them.” God wants to lift you up out of the difficult circumstance that you are in if you will only trust Him and call upon His name in truth. Don’t let the world tell you that God can’t do what God promises to do. Trust God, go to Him in prayer, and ask Him to save you from whatever difficult circumstances, life sends your way. God is righteous, He will hear your cry, and He will save you! He will do all these things because He loves you!

What do you need God to save you or deliver you from? Are you battling an addiction problem that only God can completely heal? Are you struggling with a relationship problem that seems impossible to solve? Are you a new Christian struggling to let go of your old way of life? Do you have a health issue that has you worried and concerned? Do you have children or grandchildren that have you anxious and troubled? Is your job dragging you down and causing you to fear the future? Whatever you are struggling with, turn those worries over to God and allow Him to transform your life.  God can lead you away from the dark and worrisome aspects of your life and lead you into the light of His healing power.

If you are feeling broken and defeated, I have good news for you! Fall to your knees and go to God in prayer right now, and ask for God to come near to you and give you what you need to cope with whatever your struggle in life may be. God wants us to depend upon Him and to seek Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. And when we do, our loving and merciful God will hear our cry and He will save us. Praise be unto God for His mercy and His lovingkindness to those of us who call upon Him and love Him!

 

Do Not Be Afraid Any Longer

“Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” (Based on Mark 5:21-43)

Mark 5:36 (NASB): But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”

Jarius was a synagogue official who had heard about Jesus. It’s not surprising that he had heard about him because news about Jesus was spreading rapidly. Crowds were coming from Galilee, Jerusalem and Judea, just to get a glimpse of Jesus. People were coming in droves from beyond the Jordan and from regions that were a considerable distance away, hoping for a healing touch that would forever change their lives. Little did they know that Jesus could heal them in ways more than just a physical healing. To those who would only believe and accept Him as their Lord and Savior, Jesus offered the free gift of salvation and eternal life. Could the people even imagine the kind of life that Jesus could offer? A “new” life that would be free from the pain, suffering and fear that was present in their world.

Jarius had an overwhelming problem that propelled him straight to Jesus; his little twelve year old daughter was near the point of death. Jarius must have heard about the many miraculous healings that Jesus was performing and he knew that this encounter with Jesus represented his daughter’s only chance to live.

When Jarius came upon Jesus, there at Capernaum, he literally “fell at His feet” and he began to implore Jesus to come to his house and to “lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” Just seeing Jesus and the hope that He represented drove this man to his knees!  Luke writes about this man’s encounter with Jesus, and neither he nor Mark comment on what Jesus initially thought about this man’s faith.  It appears that Jarius had some amount of faith, because both gospel writers tell us that Jesus was willing to follow Jarius to his house, where the man’s daughter lay dying.

Jesus is delayed for a while because of the crowds and the throngs of people so desperately desiring a healing. And before he can arrive at the man’s house, they came from the house of the synagogue official saying, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?” To the people bringing this sad news, and probably to Jarius, it seemed that all hope was lost. The little girl had died and nothing was going to bring her back. And then Jesus silences everyone by speaking these words: “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”

And we know that Jesus brings this girl back to life, and Peter, James, John and the girl’s parents are witnesses to this amazing miracle.

What do you need to not be afraid of any longer?
• Fear of failure
• Lack of money
• Job frustrations
• Health issues
• Concern for children or grandchildren
• Violence in the world today
• Growing old
• Telling others about Christ

If there is something in your life that you fear, Jesus is saying to you today, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” Jesus is there for you and He is more than willing to help you conquer any and all of your fears. If you will only focus your heart and mind upon Jesus, you won’t have to spend your time worrying about things that Jesus can handle for you. Jesus has already overcome the sin of this world and the fear and sense of hopelessness that so many people feel in their lives today. Go to God in prayer right now, and ask in the name of Jesus, for Him to take away your fears and give you the strength and faith to not be afraid any longer. And all you have to do is believe!

 

Encouragement For Daily Life

Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 Is there a particular area of your life that you are struggling with? It could be that you are overwhelmed with work or school, and you are so completely stressed that you feel like you are sinking down in the depths of despair. Maybe you have made a bad decision lately, and you are at a crossroads, and you need to make a lifestyle change for the better. Do you have a child or loved one that is going through difficult times and you feel helpless and all alone? Whatever difficult situation in life you are faced with, remember that God is “with you wherever you go.” God will never leave your side; He is always there to carry your burdens and to lift you up from the depths of despair.  

Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

So often we try to make plans and decisions without first consulting God. And when we go our own way, how well does that usually work out for us? If you’re like me, then the answer would be not too often or never. God wants us to seek His advice through prayer and through an ongoing dialogue with Him. When we lean on our very limited human understanding, we will usually fail. But when we turn to God, submit to Him and earnestly seek Him, He will make our paths straight.

John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Peace, true peace, is not found in this world that we live in. This world and our culture are all about self and the accumulation of material possessions. True peace can never be found in any of those things. Jesus promised His disciples, and He promises us, that true peace can only be found through faith and belief in Jesus Christ. In Christ, you will find a peace that surpasses any human understanding. The peace of Christ heals our hearts and enables us to face a dangerous and chaotic world without any fear.

 Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

 

A Christ Like Attitude

Philippians 2:1-5: Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

I heard someone say this week that they don’t attend church because of their disdain of “organized religion” and the hypocrisy that is present in many churches. It really hurts to hear that because I know that a church family can be a vitally important place to grow in your faith and to raise a family. I cannot begin to count the many times that our church family came through for us when our family was faced with difficult or challenging times. For me, it was my faith in God that I knew would get us through whatever difficulties we faced. But I also am thankful that our church family was there alongside us, encouraging us and helping us, as we went through those tough times. 

The church can be a powerful witness to those who need to hear about and experience the love, mercy and compassion of Christ, but it can also fail to live up to its high calling when it fails to conduct itself in a “manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul is writing to the church at Philippi and he is encouraging the church to conduct itself in a “manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul writes that we can do this by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, being united in spirit, and being intent on one purpose. We are to put aside our selfish nature and we are to humble ourselves in our relationships and interactions with everyone. We must continue to strive to be Christ like as we develop a humble attitude towards everyone.  

When we operate from a mindset of humility, we begin to look at others in a different way. We move from acting selfish and we begin to regard the other person and their concerns or struggles as more important than our own. We then begin to think and care more about others than we do our own self. We are on the way to doing what the Apostle Paul says: “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” If we claim to believe in Christ and to serve Christ, we are to have this same humble attitude towards everyone.

We simply cannot be an effective witness for Christ unless we empty ourselves of our own pride and selfish ambition and open our hearts to look after and serve the needs of others.  We should not seek or desire to glorify our own self. Our one clear mission is to preach and teach the Good News of Christ crucified and risen. Christ and Christ alone is to be exalted. Our mission as disciples is to lead others to the saving knowledge of Christ and to live a life worthy of our faith and calling in Christ. Only then can the church carry out our mission to spread the gospel message to a lost and hurting world.

God Thinks About You!

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV): For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 

It becomes so easy to feel hopeless or helpless in times of difficulty. Many faithful and trusting Christians sometimes think God has forgotten about them, and they feel all alone. If we would only take the time to open up God’s Word, we could be reminded about how God is always there for us, in good times and in difficult times. Think about the times in your life when God has shown up at the last minute to make a way for you when all seemed impossible. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Many believers today live under the false impression that the Christian life is one that will be easy and problem free. Jesus certainly didn’t promise His disciples a stress free life when He told them to pick up their cross every day and to follow Him. Luke 9:23: And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” We can be assured that when we take up our cross daily, God is watching, and He is working to strengthen us and lead us down the pathway of faith that leads to eternal life.  All He asks is that we trust Him and remain faithful to Him. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Remember this: you are not alone in your struggles. Many other Christians around the world are undergoing the same struggles and trials that you are facing. As you face health problems, job insecurities, family issues, whatever you are facing, God is there to strengthen you. God is faithful to every believer in every part of the world. God promises to watch over you and to give you strength to face the challenges of each and every day. Ask God each day to strengthen you so that you will be able to stand firm in a world that is becoming increasingly opposed to God and His desire for everyone to lead holy lives. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 

Our hope is found, not in the things of this temporary world, but in the promise of eternal life with God, which all believers in Christ will inherit. In that day, God will wipe away all tears, suffering, and pain and we will live forever in the holy presence of our creator God. We will no longer remember the pain and suffering of this world. We will be at home with our Lord. Until then, remember and repeat this daily: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

 

 

A Prayer For God’s Guidance

Psalm 143:7-10 (NIV)

7 Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
 
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
 
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
 
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

So often, we try to make our own plans without slowing down and seeking God’s wisdom. We can be in such a hurry that we lack the patience needed to wait on God. We want a quick answer, and if we don’t receive one, we make our own decisions and go our own way. And what usually happens when we do that? Quite often, those hasty choices we make without conversing with God, leads us down a dead end path.

If you are seeking God’s will about a certain situation, begin your day by asking God for discernment and direction. When asking for God’s guidance, we must be careful to listen to God, instead of reciting a long list of needs and desires that we want God to grant us. “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” As you begin each day by trusting God and even entrusting your life to God, you can find peace and comfort in knowing that God’s love for you is unfailing. His mercies are new every morning and if you will only “listen” for God, He will lead you into your Promised Land.

Ask God to give you what you need to follow God’s will for your life. I go before God many times during the day asking Him for guidance and discernment. As I learn to listen to God, His Holy Spirit leads me to make the decisions I should make so as to follow God. The Holy Spirit “teaches” us to follow and to stay in God’s will for our lives. The Holy Spirit will never lead us astray; He always leads us on “level ground.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Amazing Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I know many people who are really struggling with so many difficult issues in their lives. And often when you are struggling, it can seem that God is so very far away. If you feel that way today, please know that God is not only near you, He is with you in every circumstance that you are facing in your life. God can and will give you the strength that you need to endure and to persevere during the most trying and uncertain moments in your life.  

God loves you so much that He sent His only Son, to die for my sins and for your sins, while we were still sinners! Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It is only by the grace of God that we can be saved. There is absolutely nothing that you or I can do to earn salvation. It is the gift of God’s amazing grace. And if God loved you so much that He sent His Son to die for you, God will lead you out of the dark and seemingly hopeless place where you are now.

God wants each of us to live a life that honors and glorifies Him. But in living out that life, we must go through difficult times, and it is during those times that we grow stronger in our faith and trust in God. The God that loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins, is the same God who watches over you and is present with you, in every moment of your life. Life can be hard and at times seem cruel, but no matter what life on this earth sends our way, we serve a God who loves us and is making a way for us out of our seemingly impossible situations.

Cling to God’s amazing grace and remember what God has done for you in all of the difficult situations in life that you have faced so far. God can and will overcome the many obstacles that you face. The Apostle Paul wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him, in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:5b-7).  

Thank you Lord for our Savior Jesus Christ and for your amazing grace!

 

The Problem With Sin

1:1 John 1:7-9(NIV): But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Be honest with yourself for a moment. How often do you stop to address the sin in your life and then go to God in prayer asking for forgiveness of those sins? Sin is not something most of us feel comfortable discussing with others and we often push our sin aside and make the choice not to deal with it. We allow the evil one to whisper in our ear and say that it’s just a little sin; it won’t make a difference in your relationship with God. But the truth is that sin damages your relationship with God. To be perfectly clear: sin disrupts the relationship between you and God.

I was explaining to my daughter the other day about how we first had to connect to the internet using a dial up connection. She is accustomed to being able to get on the internet instantly and couldn’t imagine a time when you had to wait several minutes to get a connection. And often after getting connected, you would lose your connection. I remember how frustrated I was when that would happen!

Our relationship with God operates in the same way. We sin, and we confess our sin to God, and sometimes it takes a while for God to restore us back into full fellowship with him. While we are waiting for that connection with God to go through, he is correcting, teaching, and helping us to learn from our mistakes, and our sin. After a while, we are connected with God again, but when we stumble and revert back to our sinful ways, we once again lose that connection with God and we are forced to start all over. We must learn to overcome our sin problem so that we can avoid having our relationship with God disrupted.

In our house, we now have a high speed internet connection and we have become accustomed to accessing the internet very quickly. This is exactly what God has in mind for us in our own personal relationship with him. God wants us to be able to gain access to him instantly and he wants to keep a continuous, personal connection to each one of us. Sin disrupts that connection and that is not God’s desire or intention for our life and our daily walk with God.

God wants us to deal with our sin and to approach God and confess our sin and then to ask for forgiveness of our sin. Our scripture from 1 John 1:8 reminds us: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We must recognize and name our sin, ask God for forgiveness, and then pray for our relationship with God to be restored. Anything less and we are simply deceiving ourselves.

God wants to maintain an uninterrupted connection with us so that he can use us for his purpose and lead us into a more fulfilling life that is lived out for His glory. If we deal with the problem of sin, we can live a life that glorifies God in our daily walk with Him and we can live out the purpose for our life that God created us for.

The Apostle John gives us good news about what occurs when we deal with our sin in the right way: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

 

 

Comfort in Difficult Times

2 Corinthians 1:2-5( NIV):  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {3} Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, {4} who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. {5} For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

 As you read this today, you may be feeling all kinds of hurt and pain. Maybe you received some difficult news this week and you are hurting and struggling to make sense of it all. I know of those who have received positive answers to their prayers and there are those whose prayers have not been answered in the way they would have preferred. The good news is that we believe in a God that is compassionate and provides comfort to His people, especially in the midst of difficult times.

            Psalm 46:1: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in (times of) trouble.

How do I draw near to God you may ask? If you want to “hear” from God you must do two things.

First, we must pray to God and then “listen” for what God has to say. We must be quiet and allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to speak to our heart and our mind. Our senior pastor gave an excellent example of this on Wednesday night when talking about praying and then listening for God. He said we tend to pray to God and give God a list of what we want and need and we never give God a chance to respond. So as you pray to God, tell Him your worries and your troubles, and then be quiet. Allow God to speak to you through His Holy Spirit.

Second, we need to open up our Bible and stay in the Word. For me, this is the primary way that God “speaks” to me. We can’t truly complain that God is distant from us if we don’t even open up His Word and seek to draw closer to Him. I am still amazed how God can lead me to a specific scripture that I need when I open up my Bible and seek to draw near to Him. Psalm 64:8: Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

 

Keeping Your Mind and Heart Focused on Christ

Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB): Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 

Are you growing weary of watching or reading the “news” and just becoming so completely discouraged at what is happening in our country and our world? There is so much hatred and a lack of unity that it reminds me of the words of Jesus from the 24th chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “most people’s love will grow cold.” You could certainly argue that there is a growing lack of love in the world we live in today. A very wise lady in the Sunday School class I teach said, “People just don’t love each other anymore.” As Christians, as we continue “seeking the things above,” our response to this world must be to love one another.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

As Christians, we need to wake up every morning, open up our Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our heart and mind. (We also need to do this throughout the day and before going to sleep at night). By staying in the Word, we draw closer in our relationship to God and we have what we need to face a sinful and hurting world. As we set our mind “on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth,” we think less about the sinful desires of the world we live in and more about how to overcome the things of this world. We are given power from above to actually show the world what it needs most – the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So many people measure their life by what they accumulate and accomplish while on this earth. They desire to make a name for themselves and to leave behind a legacy that will keep their memory alive. Our text from Colossians today reminds us as followers of Christ, we have died to this world and our “life is hidden with Christ in God.” Although we continue to live in this world we are not of this world. Our eternal future and our life in Christ is not measured by what we have done or accomplished but rather by what Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary.  Continue to “set your mind” on the things above.

“When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

 

My Daily Journey With God in Athens Ga.