Be Still

Exodus 14:13-14(NIV): Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13-14 (NASB): But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

I constantly struggle with this text on being still or quiet and allowing God to work in my life. Being raised to believe that hard work and effort is important, it is often difficult to just do nothing.

We often pray for God to accomplish something specific in our lives and it’s only natural to feel that you have failed to “do something” when that prayer goes unanswered. We believe that we must help God in some way in order for our prayer to be answered. God’s timing is far different from our idea and concept of time, so we must be “still” or “silent” quite often and allow God to do his work through us and in us.  

It’s difficult to be “still” or “silent” in a world filled with so much noise and distractions. Even when I intentionally try to tune out the world, I often get distracted or off track. The evil one tries to take advantage of every opportunity to prevent us from hearing God. He wants us to believe that because we can’t hear God that He is either not there or just doesn’t care about us. So we must pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when he prayed, “deliver us from evil.” We must resist the whisperings and temptations of the enemy through the remarkable power of our risen Christ. God wants us to hear him through his word and through prayer.  

In reading God’s word we can most certainly “hear” God. When you open up and focus on God’s word, the Holy Spirit can and will speak to you through what you are reading. I am often led to a specific scripture that is meaningful for that very day, and that doesn’t happen time and time again by accident.

And when we pray, we must resist the temptation to use a lot of words, or even any words at all. Remember that God already knows what we are going to ask for, so we must trust God and listen for him to speak to us in prayer through the Holy Spirit. For me, this is difficult. I often want to help God and speed up the process. This is when God has to remind me that unless whatever I am praying for is from God, it will not succeed anyway. So I must be “still” and “silent” and allow God to lead me where he would have me to go.  Be “still” and be “silent” and trust completely in God!

 

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit Lives in You!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB): Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

We live amidst a culture that is all about “me”. We want others to know our most random thoughts and we often feel compelled to share the most insignificant and random details of our lives. We value “me” time and we don’t want to be bothered by anything that disrupts our day, especially when our carefully planned day is altered in any way. We don’t stop to notice others around us that are hurting or that carry heavy burdens that desperately need lifting. We don’t take the time to notice because we are so inwardly focused only on self.

If we could only focus on the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made on the cross on our behalf, I believe that we would think less of ourselves and more about others. Are you praying for God to make your day comfortable and easy, or do you pray for God to place someone in your life that needs to be encouraged or just simply listened to? We rush through each day without thinking about others around us because we are too focused on our own needs and concerns. What would happen if we used our “body” to allow the Holy Spirit to completely transform us and lead us to places that we would not otherwise choose to go? What better way to glorify God than to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us each day.  

Our time that we are given to live on this earth is not our own, it is a gift from God. We must therefore use the time wisely that God has given us in service to his kingdom. And what better way can we serve God but to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer. In a world full of uncertainty, why would anyone not want to secure their eternal future and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior? Live out your life as a believer in such a way that others begin to wonder and question why you believe in the risen Christ. Allow the indescribable power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you to lead others to Christ. Every moment of our time here on earth is simply a gift from God. Pray for the incredible power of the Holy Spirit, living in you, to empower you in glorifying God in all that you do.

 

 

 

 

Loving God not the world

1 John 2:15-17(NIV): Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

This world that we live in is increasingly tuning out and turning away from God. In the United States, there is less attention focused on God and more attention on self.  So many people today are attracted to the things of this world instead of God. It seems to me that many who profess and proclaim “good” and “moral” behavior are certainly not qualified to lecture us on that subject. I for one am sick and tired of “celebrities” lecturing us on how we should behave morally. If you are taking your cues from these types of people, you are on a path that leads away from God, deeper into this fallen world. I’m not sure what their definition of good is, but threatening to blow up buildings is not my definition of good, and it certainly does not fit with how Jesus commands us to love one another.

The Apostle John gives us three things to consider and to be on guard against in relation to this world. In our daily walk with God, we must always be alert for these three pitfalls:

·         Lust of the flesh

·         Lust of the eyes

·         Pride of life

As followers of Christ we must not allow this world to influence us in any way that is in opposition to God’s laws. If we would only take the time to read our Bible and listen for God to speak to us through His Holy Spirit, we could overcome the many pitfalls of this world and live a life that glorifies God and all that is good. We must live in this world but we must remember that as Christians, we are “not of this world.” We must not take moral lessons from the evil one and his followers, but only from the word of God.

Jesus prayed this prayer for his disciples in John 17:13-17: “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

If you are a follower of Christ – you are not of this world. You are called to live a life that glorifies and always points to God. As followers of Christ, we are to love everyone but we cannot allow ourselves to become cozy with the world and it’s false beliefs. We must continue to speak out in opposition to this world when we observe things that are inconsistent with God’s word. If you are hated by the world, you are in good company with other believers, who are on the right path in their daily walk with God.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

 

 

Living as Beloved Children of God

Jude 17-25 (NASB): But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 

How often have you read something from the Letter of Jude? I found some notes this morning that I had made on these verses over two years ago. And as I was reading the Letter of Jude this morning, God spoke to me and so this is my devotional for today. Hopefully it will also speak in some way to you this day through the Holy Spirit.

Jude was a very common name used by the Jews. The Greek name would have been “Judas.” Some believe the letter was written by Judas the apostle. This would have been the Judas identified in Luke 6:16 as “Judas son of James” and not Judas Iscariot. However, most scholars believe the author to be Judas the brother of James and of the Lord. We find this Judas mentioned in two verses of scripture in the New Testament: Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55). And also in Mark 6:3: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” 

The issue or error that Jude seems to be addressing in his letter is the heretical teaching of the second century Gnostics. Jude wants the readers of his letter to know about salvation and he also warns them of immoral and sinful men that were moving among them, trying to misrepresent the grace of God. Being saved by grace does not mean that you can continue a life of sin because of God’s grace. There is a price to be paid for continued sinfulness in our lives and we must be aware of anyone who would teach in opposition to this.

The Apostle Paul addresses this same subject in Romans 6:1-6: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 

This reading from Jude spoke to me for several reasons. First of all, we will all stumble at some point in our daily walk with God. What’s important for us to remember is that we must stand firm, with the help of our Lord, against all the ungodly and immoral things of this world that seek to pull us away from God. The letter of Jude reminds us today the best way to do this. As “beloved” children of God, we are to continue “building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”  

Secondly, we are to show “mercy” to those who doubt and we are to do our best to “save” those who do not believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to hate the sin but not the sinner. And while doing so, we are to realize that it is Christ and Christ alone who can keep us from stumbling and will enable us to “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.”  

I love to be around people who are full of the Holy Spirit and who are more spiritual and less worldly-minded. So many Christians, and even many churches today, do not emphasize enough – the incredible life changing power of the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful that my church does and it is a truly wonderful experience to feel the power of the Holy Spirit present during each service at our church. It is the Holy Spirit that guides me through each day of my life and the power of the Spirit is something I cling to at all times. And it is because of that I can agree with Jude in saying: “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

Faith, Trust, and Obedience

Exodus 19:1-8(NASB): In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. 

Three words have been on my mind this past week: faith, trust, and obedience. As I have been teaching in the book of Exodus, I have spent a lot of time studying and contemplating what these three words really mean for us as believers. For the Israelites, after the Exodus out of Egypt, it was their faith and trust in God to provide for their needs that God was trying to strengthen. God would continually provide and then the people would backslide and they would have to learn all over again that trusting in God to provide was the only way they could survive and move forward. Obedience was something the Israelites constantly struggled with and we are no different today.

God graciously provides for us and then we allow ourselves to give into temptation and we drift away from God for a while. Eventually, we realize that we need God, and often in desperation we turn back to Him. God doesn’t want us to stray, He wants us to stay close to Him so that He can bless us and guide our lives towards obedience and His will for us as believers. Our lives would be truly blessed and so amazing, if we could just maintain our focus on God in total obedience, and not allow ourselves to be derailed by sin and it’s devastating effects.

This world that we live in wants to drag us down into the depths of its sin and its widespread disobedience to God. We are told to be open and accepting of any and every popular worldly idea that is presented. Instead of listening to God and reading His Word daily, we are constantly bombarded with those in our society that demands we listen and adhere to their beliefs and ideas. Just like the Israelites, we are surrounded by a society that is increasingly moving away from God and from Christian principles.

Faith, trust, and obedience to God is the only way that we can live up to God’s high standards for our lives as we live out our days in this fallen world. God desires us to draw close to Him and to listen only to Him. As you tune out the noise and distractions of this world, you will begin to sense God’s presence and that of the Holy Spirit. You will become more aware of God’s love for you and you will have a greater desire to obey God instead of following after the things of this world.

The following are three scripture texts on faith, trust, and obedience, that I hope you will read and contemplate upon in the coming days.  

Faith: Hebrews 11:1-3(NIV): Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

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

Obedience: Psalm 128:1 (NIV): Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Firm Foundation

Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB): “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

As we enter a New Year, I hear many people expressing concern and anxiety over what 2017 will bring. At the same time, I am also encouraged by others who are looking forward to this New Year, connected with their belief in God’s absolute power and authority over the entire earth. God is in control of all creation, and He promises to always be with us, in both good moments and during difficult times. Are you willing to place your complete faith and trust in God instead of the things of this world? Don’t allow the news media or society to shape your beliefs and the way you approach each day. Begin each day by turning to God, through his Word and prayer, and trust that God will direct your steps.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to not only “hear” His words but to “act” upon them. As people of faith, we certainly must have Christ as the foundation of our lives. What foundation is your life built upon? Will it withstand the many difficulties and troubles of life that will come your way this year? If the way you live your life is built around your faith and trust in God, then you are on a solid foundation. Your life is built on the rock and not on the sand. When troubles come your way  – and they most assuredly will – you will be able to withstand those momentary difficulties, and your faith and trust in God will be greater. You will emerge from those trials with a stronger and more complete faith. God will not let you fall!

However, if the foundation of your life is shallow, and built upon the sand, you are destined for trouble. When the many storms of daily life come your way, you will not be able to withstand those difficulties and your fall will be great. People like this-  look to the “world” – to satisfy their longings, and their trust is placed in the things of this world instead of the creator of the universe. So when things begin to go wrong for them, they lack the foundation to effectively cope with their problems. They have failed to pay attention to the words of Christ and have instead followed society’s guidance and “wisdom.”

So I urge you to commit to begin, or to continue, building up the foundation of your very life upon the rock of God and Christ. The storms of life will most certainly come your way this year, and you must have a strong foundation, in order to withstand these difficult and trying moments of life. Will you be “wise” and build your foundation upon the rock, or will you be “foolish” and build the foundation of your very life upon the sand? The choice is yours and I urge you to choose the foundation that is built upon the rock.