Staying Fixed on Christ

Colossians 3: 1-4: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

This life is never free from suffering. We go through trials and times of testing only to find that further difficulties or worries come our way. As believers, we must cling to God and be absolutely assured of the promise that God is with us in these moments of despair and uncertainty. Life can at times be overwhelming if we try to do it on our own. If we choose to seek God in these uncertain times, we have the promise that God will be with us in the midst of our many struggles.

This passage from Colossians reminds us that our “life” is not found in our possessions or in the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we must set our minds and our hearts on “things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” We must focus not on what we can see and acquire from this world. Our heart and mind must be focused on that which is unseen, which is hidden with Christ in God. We can attempt to define or measure ourselves by the standards of this world and we will never be fully satisfied. Only Christ can bring fullness and completeness to our lives if we will only choose to worship and follow Jesus above all else.

It’s often difficult to keep our minds fixed on Jesus and on heavenly things. We live in this fallen world and we are faced with trials and temptations that appear almost unbearable. It seems that the more we try to live like Jesus, many more obstacles and burdens come our way. It we are to overcome this world we must focus our entire being upon Jesus and upon the things of heaven. We must learn to turn our attention away from the things of this world and look to Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of God in heaven. We must remind ourselves of the promise that one day, after the struggles of this life is over, we will “appear with him in glory.”

There is an old gospel hymn called, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” that so beautifully sums up my devotion for today. Read the words of this wonderful old hymn and be reminded of the difference that Jesus can make in your life if you will only look to Him and not to the things of this world.

 O soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting

He passed, and we follow Him there;

O’er us sin no more hath dominion—

For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;

Believe Him, and all will be well:

Then go to a world that is dying,

His perfect salvation to tell![1]


[1] Source:

The Cyber Hymnal (http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/t/u/turnyour.htm)

 

 

God Is With You!

Psalm 139: 1-4: O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

When I am feeling distance from God, I often go to Psalm 139 in order to draw nearer to God. Here in Psalm 139, we are given the promise and the assurance that God is always with us. He is there when we wake up each morning and He is still there when we fall asleep at night. Knowing that I have that intimate, personal connection with God helps me to pull in closer to Him. It helps me to realize that God is there, He continues to know who I am and He watches over every detail of my life.

This psalm of David is an appeal for God to examine the heart and even the soul. David is declaring his loyalty to God and the awareness that God knows his every thought. God even knows the words that David (and you and I) will speak before they are formed on his tongue.

Knowing that God perceives our every thought and has knowledge of what lies deep in our hearts can be troubling to many of us. We hold grudges, we judge others, we harbor hate, and we want God to bless us but not necessarily someone that we don’t like.  This psalm tells us that we can’t hide these thoughts from God because God’s presence is everywhere. God is present in the heavens, the depths of the sea, and all across this world that we live in. God knows what we are thinking at this very moment, as He “searches” our hearts.

 Psalm 139: 13-17: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

This passage helps me to remember that God continues to “think” about me and about you. The same God that created us continues to watch over us and wants to be intimately involved in each of our lives through His Holy Spirit. Even in those times when we try to run away from God, He is still there. God greatly desires to draw us close to Him again. I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope and encouragement to continue on my path of following and seeking God.

David then concludes this psalm with these last two verses. Psalm 139: 23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

David is asking God to examine his heart and to make him aware of anything that he needs to correct. The psalmist is declaring his love and devotion to God, while also acknowledging that he continues to have impure thoughts and motives. He is asking God to search his heart for those thoughts and to forgive him.  He then asks God to guide him to the path that leads to eternal life. We should all pray that God will lead us down that path instead of the path that lead to worldliness and destruction.

When you are feeling that God is distant or if you think that God has forgotten about you, I encourage you to read Psalm 139. Remember that God created each of us and he made each of us in different ways. That same creator God wants to be involved in every detail of our lives. God is asking you to seek Him for relief from life’s daily struggles, worry and anxiety. God is with you and He alone can bring some peace and assurance to your life today.

Hear these words of promise and hope from James 4:8: Come near to God and he will come near to you.

 

Revival in America

Proverbs 14:34 (NIV): Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.

Proverbs 14:34 (NLT): Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

The more I pray and read the Bible; I am absolutely convinced that the United States is in need of a revival. However in many congregations today, the mere mention of a revival makes those who belong to the body of Christ uneasy. Churches, like our society today, are afraid that they will offend someone whose beliefs or opinions don’t correspond with their own. We are sometimes very cautious to present our beliefs in a manner that won’t upset or insult anyone.

The Apostle Peter writes about how to be an effective witness to others in 1 Peter 3:15: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. In other words we are to be respectful of others and should be careful not to degrade or humiliate them. We must not be afraid to speak the truth but we must do it in a way that brings ultimate glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we are to model our ministry after the ministry of Jesus. Jesus showed compassion and mercy to everyone he encountered but He was not afraid to speak the truth of God’s word, even if that truth could make someone uncomfortable.

We are a nation that is turning away from God in many different areas of our lives. God is being pushed aside or away from many public places. As our country becomes more secular, we become less dependent upon God and more dependent upon ourselves and our systems of government. We deny that God is active in our world today and we fail to recognize that God could ultimately punish us because of our disobedience.

 Many Christians today don’t like to talk about God and punishment. We all want God’s blessings instead of God’s discipline. While I prefer to focus on God’s love and mercy as well, we can’t expect God to continue to bless us if we continue to deny who He is to the fallen world that we live in. God loved the nation of Israel, who was His chosen people, but He had to get their attention when they turned away from Him and began to conform to the society that they lived in. They had to endure the loss of their homeland and many hardships until they were ready to confess once again, their belief and trust in God, who would then restore them.

The great British Particular Baptist preacher C.H Spurgeon said this about revival: “The word “revive” wears its meaning upon its forehead; it is from the Latin, and may be interpreted thus—to live again, to receive again a life which has almost expired; to rekindle into a flame the vital spark which was nearly extinguished.”[1]

Spurgeon in his December 1866 writing, Sword and Trowel says: “If an ungodly man steps into a congregation where all the saints are revived he does not go to sleep under the sermon. The minister will not let him do that, for the hearer perceives that the preacher feels what he is preaching, and has a right to be heard. This is a clear gain, for now the man listens with deep emotion; and above all, the Holy Spirit’s power, which the preacher has received in answer to prayer comes upon the hearer’s mind; he is convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, and Christians who are on the watch around him hasten to tell him of the Savior, and point him to the redeeming blood, so that though the revival, strictly speaking, is with the people of God, yet the result of it no man can limit. Brethren, let us seek a revival during the present month, that the year may close with showers of blessing and that the New Year may open with abundant benediction. Let us pledge ourselves to form a prayer-union, a sacred band of suppliants, and may God do unto us according to our faith.”[2]

The body of Christ must be rekindled today so that we can carry the word of God to a lost and faithless nation and to the world. As the Apostle John reminds us in 1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

 


[1] http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/wir1866.htm

 

Jesus – The Only Way to God

John 14: 1-6: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In the early church, the followers of Christ were referred to as “the Way.” Acts 9:1-2 gives us this description of the early believers: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

There are many Christians today who believe there are multiple paths to God – that belief in Christ as “the way” is not the only way. They think that in the end, God will save everyone because they can’t imagine a merciful and loving God sending anyone away to eternal punishment or separation from God. They want to make God into the God that they desire Him to be. The Bible, which I believe to be God’s inerrant and infallible Word, clearly tells us that Jesus is the only way to God the Father.

The Apostle Peter preaches about Jesus being the only way to heaven in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Paul’s missionary partner Timothy also writes: For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

In John 3:16 Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus goes on to tell us that God sent his Son into the world not to condemn it but to save the world through belief in Jesus Christ. Like Christ, we must not be afraid to speak the truth of scripture and proclaim that Jesus is the only way to God. And also like Christ, we must speak this truth not to condemn but rather to save those who do not believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Only God alone can draw people to him and open their eyes from spiritual blindness in order that they will believe in Christ. Our role is to speak the truth in love for those who fail to believe in Christ as the only way to heaven.

 Jesus in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” As followers of Christ we must not be afraid to speak the truth as revealed to us through Holy Scripture. However, we must do this in a respectful and loving way, not in a judgmental or condescending manner.

As followers of the risen Christ, we must follow the instructions that he gave his disciples of over two thousand years ago and also his disciples today. Matthew 28:19-26: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

After this, our work is complete; we must leave the rest up to God and be confident in the assurance that God will draw those who are lost, to belief in Christ as the only way to the Father.

 

My Daughter’s Mission Trip to Haiti

Beth Anne Mathis has recently returned from her missions trip and wanted to share her experience with you. Here’s is a letter she wrote to her home church about her time in Haiti and what it meant to her.

My Trip Back to Haiti:     
       I’m so thankful that you as my church family gave me an opportunity to go back and see Haitian friends that I had made in the month I spent there last summer.  That was such a challenging time for me and I was so blessed to get to know and love some of the Haitians I worked with everyday.  It brought so much joy to my heart to get to go back and be instantly greeted with hugs from the security guys that picked us up from the airport, and hugs and shouts of joy as I saw my wonderful kitchen ladies that I spent time with last summer.  Most of these people don’t speak any English, so to make that kind of connection without much language is more of a blessing then you will ever know unless you have experienced it yourself.
 
 
        On March 16th-22nd six college students traveled together down to Haiti for our spring break.  During the time we were there we assisted in several medical clinics where over 1,000 Haitians were treated for various medical conditions as well as dental needs, and were given the opportunity to sit down with a pastor or missionary and have some much needed spiritual counseling for both Christians, and non-Christians.  We also went to an orphanage one evening, went on a soccer evangelism trip one day, and spent time each night on the roof watching the sunset in worship.     After we got back I received a Facebook message from Steven that I believe truly captures what our purpose is on a mission trip, which is to love the lost (those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus), and to share the Gospel with them.  Here is what he said:
 
Hey Beth Anne! I just wanted to take the time to thank you for such a wonderful week. I know that without your leadership and planning, I would not have had the privilege to experience Haiti. Thank you for your obedience to God and flexibility through the week. It was definitely encouraging to see you lead the team as we were serving. I had an amazing experience to say the least. God worked mightily in me. I know I was pretty ditzy the whole trip with our plans but I did have great expectations for this week and God completely exceeded every single one. My love for the lost has grown substantially over the week and I have learned practical ways to love on the lost. I hope that you know you made an amazing SPRING BREAK 2013 for at least one person. I hope that we do take heed of Paul’s advice to the Hebrews in Hebrews 10:24-25, not neglecting to meet together as a team and to sustain the bonds God has forged over the week. I hope that God blesses your socks off for the work you have done this week and you get the much deserved rest for your kingdom work. Again… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! SPRING BREAK 2013 PCB!!
 
Work that affects the kingdom is time well spent.  We got to see the Lord bring seventeen people to him just while we were there through spiritual counseling at clinics!  I would not have spent my spring break any other way with any other people, and I know that they all share that same sentiment.  We became a family during this trip as we went through life together and growing those bonds is something that will help keep alive in our hearts what God taught us on this trip for a long time.
 

Beth Anne Mathis

Praying and Waiting in Expectation

Psalm 5:1-3: Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

This psalm of David is one that I turn to often, especially during my morning quiet time with God. The words of this psalm always gives me comfort that God is in charge of all His creation – He is my “King and my God”.  This sacred text also offers me hope and trust in God – a belief that God knows what is best for my life and that He will lead me into a place of joy and contentment.

How often do you cry out to God for help as David did in this psalm? We desperately seek God when things around us seem to be falling apart. We seek out answers from God over the worries of a rebellious child, a job loss, financial difficulty, or distressing medical news about ourselves or a loved one.  We are way past the asking stage – we are literally crying out to God, pleading for some comfort or guidance. The realization has set in that we can’t do life on our own and events seem to be spiraling out of control. We recognize that only God can once again set things right.

 So, “in the morning”, when the dark of night has faded and new hope rises with the sun, we “lay our requests” before God and we “wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3). We are reminded that God does indeed hear our prayers but this does not mean that our requests will be answered immediately. In fact, God may answer our prayers in a completely different way. Either way, we are told throughout scripture to endure in persistent prayer.

And then comes the hard part – we must wait. It’s not easy for people living in today’s society to wait. Everything around us moves at a rapid pace and we do not like to wait. Whether it’s waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting for the traffic light to turn green, we despise waiting. Many of us are even impatient with waiting in church – even there we want the service to move at a faster pace. We are told in this psalm to not only wait but to “wait in expectation”.  

As believers, we are instructed to wait and place our faith and trust in our King and our God. We must have confidence that God hears our requests and that He will give us the hope and patience to wait so that He can make known to us the transforming work that is already taking place in the background of our lives. Don’t despair and don’t give up – God hears your prayers and God will remain faithful to never leave you or forsake you.  May the peace of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ reign in your life and fill you with hope, joy, patience and peace.

 

When God Is Silent – An Update

I am continually amazed at how God works in this world and in our individual lives in order to carry out His will. Just when I think that God is through surprising me, He comes up with something even more amazing. I genuinely believe that God can affect our lives in a supernatural way in order to accomplish his purposes. Sadly, there are many Christians today who really don’t believe that God continues to play an active role in this fallen world.  In their mind, they can’t logically figure out just how this is possible. The Bible teaches us however, that there are some things that can only come through faith.

About two years ago I wrote a post entitled, “When God Is Silent”. People throughout the world put this search term into Google and they find their way to my website. I continue to receive more emails from this one post than all of the others combined. I find it encouraging that people are searching for God in the midst of silence – they are longing to hear from a loving and merciful God. The following account is about one person struggling with silence from God who suddenly “hears” from God and is restored in his relationship with him.

This brother in Christ wrote me about a year ago and told me about his frustration concerning his inability to hear from God. It was an honest and familiar story that in many ways paralleled my own personal struggles with silence from God.  I wrote him a reply but didn’t hear back from him. I promised him that he would be in my prayers as he struggled with this silence from God. He wrote me just a few days ago about my reply to him. It seems that he didn’t see my reply until much later because it went to an email account that was not his primary account.

In the year that passed he started to sense God’s presence and he said that God had begun communicating with him once again. He said that at first he believed that it could just be his own thoughts and he said that he didn’t realize it was “God’s still small voice telling me what He was going to do until tonight.” He said that he received a random prompt to check out his old email account which was full of spam email from the last eight years. He wrote, “Although I doubted it was from God, I still went through my email, page by page and suddenly realized that there was a message labeled “When God is Silent Article” from one Darryl Mathis whom I didn’t recognise at all. I clicked on the email, and read your reply and then /knew/ it was God speaking to me to address this problem.”

He went on to thank me for writing the article and also for praying and responding to him. He wrote that he felt led to tell me two things. The first was to run with whatever challenge that God places in my path and the second was more of a personal family nature. And he then told me to disregard the second message if it was not applicable.

My interest was stirred because through my prayer and quiet time with God, I had been given the “impression” that I was going through some difficult and disappointing times in ministry to prepare me for a greater challenge. The second message didn’t have any meaning for me at the time so I basically let that one go. The next day I received a call from a family member about some health issues that the doctor had just discussed with the family member. As our conversation ended my mind thought back to that email message which told me to not worry about this exact, specific family member. It reminded me that God wanted me to know that everything was going to be all right. I was absolutely stunned! At that moment I knew – without a doubt – that God was involved in our communications.

 There are those who will dismiss this as a coincidence or just a very educated guess. They will fail to believe and have faith that God is powerful enough or cares enough to get involved in the meticulous details of our lives. And my response to that would be this obscure verse from the Old Testament: 2 Chronicles 16:9: For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. Amen!