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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sharing with people in need


Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Again and again, the Bible calls us to share with people in need: in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, in Jesus’ teaching, and here in the letters of Paul.

The command to work hard, “doing something useful with [our] own hands,” earning enough that something might be left over, goes hand in hand with being compassionate.

What’s more, Paul presents working and sharing as a way to climb out of a dishonest way of life. There’s something clean and good about doing something useful—and then giving the surplus away. It reverses the old way of life in which a person would steal from unsuspecting, innocent passers-by, often by lurking in dark places and waiting to prey on them.

Paul calls us back from the abyss of a corrupt life to the truth that our first ancestors had God-given work to do. How good to plant seeds, water them, and see them send up shoots; how good to tend and prune and sweep, taking care of the garden of creation we were given (Genesis 2:15).

Paul shows us a way of life that is characterized by growth in Christ, in a loving community of believers who do something good and useful—not sitting around idly gossiping, sniping at each other, fueling conflict and bitterness. How wonderful is the fellowship of loving, kind, compassionate people redeemed by Christ!


Dear Lord, we long to grow into a loving community in Christ.  Help us to be useful and compassionate to people around us in need. We pray that You will Guide us, In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Inheritance


Proverbs 13:22 (ESV)
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
    but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.

Lawyers are often needed to ensure that a large inheritance is divided properly—as stated in a legal will. Without that framework, the people in some families would tear each other apart over the money or things they expect to get as their entitlement.

Inheritance issues can be controversial, but, in the Bible, inheritance is also a great example of a good gift: it’s given by grace— not earned—a windfall received from God, who loves us. Psalm 136 celebrates the way God gave the promised land to Israel “as an inheritance.” Again and again the refrain echoes, “His love endures forever.” As history shows, Israel had done nothing to earn that inheritance. God was creating a new nation that would bless all nations by providing a Savior.

The tribe of Levi, though, did not receive land as their inheritance. They served in the ceremonial worship of God as priests and teachers and temple workers. And because of this intimate relationship with God, it was said, “The Lord is their inheritance” (Deuteronomy 10:9).

In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). And 1 Peter 1:4 describes salvation as “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”

What a heavenly treasure we have in Christ! All by grace, through faith!

Dear Lord, thank You that You are our inheritance, and that to know You, and the Son whom You sent, is eternal life, greater than all earthly treasure. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Heaven a treasure hidden


Matthew 13:44 (ESV)
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is a story about pirate gold, stolen from Spanish sailors, who had stolen it from the Incas in South America, who had invaded the lands of other people and had built an empire in the Andes Mountains. The pirates had buried the gold on a Caribbean island. After the treasure map was lost and later found, people from England went in search of it. This is a tale of mutiny, bloodshed, and—in the end—untold riches. It is a parable about people’s ill-gotten gains and the trouble it brings.

In Jesus’ parable about hidden treasure, our Lord doesn’t focus on where the treasure came from, who might have known about it in the past, and so on. That isn’t why he told the parable. The important points here are that (1) the kingdom of heaven is a treasure worth more than anything else we could have, and (2) sometimes people stumble upon it unexpectedly.

How easy it is to be utterly wrapped up in the struggles of life: getting an education, landing a job, finding a spouse, raising kids, fending off health problems, growing old, and, eventually, facing death. How easy it would be to brush off eternal life as vague religious stuff, and to listen to the sneers of people who call it “pie in the sky.” But what a surprise to find that Jesus came to show God’s love for us sinners! Eternal life and the kingdom of heaven are as solid as treasure found in a field.

Dear Lord, thank You for the surprise of Your love for us, which makes all of life worthwhile. Amen.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Doing life together


Acts 2:42 (ESV)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

We learn a lot about what community looked like in the early church. It included things like sharing meals, caring for one another, worshiping together, and praying together. The early church took community seriously. It wasn’t just an occasional event or gathering. It was regular and ongoing. They valued spending quality time together, and they did it often.

We see in the early church a focus on what matters—the Word of God, fellowship, worship, and prayer. We see who matters—the body of Christ doing life together. And we see that it isn’t just a once-a-week event. It also isn’t about being a church in one place or even in a building. The Bible says the Lord added to their number every day. There was room for others—more and more.

In our culture of focusing so much on individual desires, biblical community can seem a bit strange to us. But it’s all about relationships, and that is something we can grasp even in this “me first” world. Relationships always involve sharing—time, experiences, material goods, and more—and sharing requires an ongoing personal investment. It endures through joys and struggles over the long haul. Doing life together is one of the strengths of biblical community. The gift we share always has room for others, even when it is messy.

In what ways can you invest more in your relationships with God and others today?

Dear Lord, with You, we want to live fully together as Your people, wherever You have placed us. Thank you for this gift. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Noah and God's promise


Genesis 9:13 (ESV)
I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

The last two days have been rainy days. As I went out to check on the ladies of Egg Valley, I saw a rainbow in the sky.  It looked close and so dramatic that I almost felt I could touch it. How startling the rainbow must have been to Noah, and how amazing the promise of God it represented!

In the story of Noah and the flood we see the devastating consequences of human evil and God’s wrath against it. God hates sin and will punish it. But we also see God’s gracious deliverance of Noah’s family and the animals in the ark. We see God’s faithfulness to his promise to deliver his people.

After the flood, it didn’t take long for wickedness to spread again. How did Noah keep trusting God’s promise? And, indeed, how do we? God knows that our frail hearts need a sign, a reminder of his promise. God’s sign to all is the rainbow. And what is the fulfillment of the promise, God’s ultimate delivery? The sign for that is a star over a baby born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9).

When you next see a rainbow or a bright star, let them flood you with joy and gratitude, reminding you of God’s promise and fulfillment of delivery, God’s promise of life to the full.

Dear Lord, creator of the heavens and the earth, You give us the rainbow to remind and comfort us with Your love and promised presence. Help us to live fully in sharing your love with the world each and every day. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, October 7, 2019

When goodbyes come


John 14:28 (ESV)
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

Goodbyes can be difficult. When family members visit from far away, we are always disappointed to see them leave. “Why can’t they stay longer?” Or when family moves to a new location, it leaves a hole in our life. “Why did they have to move?”

Jesus’ disciples were similarly troubled by the prospect of his going away. Who would now teach them about God’s kingdom? Yet Jesus insists that his going away will be good for them.

Goodbyes come to us in various forms. We can experience the loss of a career. We can move away from friends or family. We can lose a loved one to death.

Jesus teaches that even in the face of such goodbyes, we can experience peace and hope. The “prince of this world,” the devil, wants us to be defined by our losses. But the Father is greater than all things. And when we love Jesus, our lives are directed toward the Father rather than our losses.

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the Spirit would remind the disciples of these words. And then Jesus’ words about “going back to the Father” made sense. Not death, but glory, is the future of those who obey the Father’s will.

Jesus’ words point us to his destination—and to ours: full life in the presence of God. We may still experience sorrow in the face of loss. But we can rejoice as we see even death as a doorway to our heavenly Father.

Dear Lord, remind us of Jesus’ words. Help us in the face of loss to see our destiny with the Father, and to rejoice in the ruling power of Jesus. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A good night's sleep


Psalm 127:2 (ESV)
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

One of life’s simplest and best pleasures is a good night’s sleep. We can go to bed tired and worn, and we can wake up in the morning re-energized. But is that all that happens in our sleep?

This ancient psalm was sung by God’s people as they traveled each year to a festival of worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Yet it deals with issues that still ring true in today’s world. Our lives are consumed with our jobs, families, and concerns about security. “I’m so busy” is a mantra in our world today. But this psalm reminds us that unless the Lord is an active participant in all we do, our efforts will be in vain.

The psalm writer underscores this point by making a reference to sleep. We read that God “grants sleep to those he loves.” This phrase can also be translated as “while they sleep, he provides for those he loves.” This picture may remind us of plants in nature and crops that keep growing while we are busy with other things—and even while we are asleep! Describing the kingdom of God in a way like seed sown by a farmer, Jesus says, “Night and day, whether the farmer sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mark 4:27).

Are we involved in activities in which the Lord is working and providing? Or are we feverishly engaged in things that have nothing to do with God’s kingdom? Let’s be mindful of serving God in all we do each day, and we can rest peacefully while the Lord keeps providing for us and building his kingdom.

Dear Lord, give us the rest and energy we need in order to serve You, and help us to see where You are at work in our lives and in this world. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The greatest storyteller


Luke 15:20 (ESV)
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

I remember growing up at night when my brothers and I would gather at the top of the stairs for my dad to read or tell us a story and then pray before we got into bed. Stories are something that help us all learn and imagine and wonder. Jesus told great stories, and many of them are parables about living as part of God’s family in this world.

One of the best-known parables of Jesus is this story in Luke 15 about the lost son, often called the “prodigal son.” But this story could also be called the parable of the loving Father.

A young man looking for adventure takes his dad’s money, his inheritance, and leaves home. He wastes the money foolishly and loses everything. He learns that the adventure he wanted didn’t really satisfy, and that people can be shallow and harsh. He also learns what it means to be hungry. The young man turns toward home, not really believing anyone will want him. But he is willing to work as a hired servant. What he discovers is the love and forgiveness of his father and a genuine, gracious welcome.

There are times in our lives when we crave adventure. We jump into something that we think will bring us pleasure, only to find ourselves alone and afraid. As he tells this parable, Jesus invites us all to come home to God’s forgiveness.

Dear Lord, thank You for forgiveness and for the reminder that You open Your arms wide and run to us. Help us to turn around from wherever we find our self and come home to You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The TACO prayer


Colossians 4:2 (ESV)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

I used to really struggle with praying, do you struggle with praying? When my mind draws a blank and I don’t know what to say or what to pray for, I think about TACOS: Let us take a look at how TACOS can help us when we pray.

Thanksgiving: What are you thankful for? Family, friends, your home, your church — the list goes on. Start by thanking God.

Adoration: God is awesome! Adoration means “worship” or “great and profound love.” Let Jesus know how much you love him.

Confession: Prayer is a lot easier when we get rid of the barriers between God and us. We all sin. In prayer, we can confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness.

Others: So many people we know (and even those we don’t) could use our prayers. Praying means taking the focus off of ourselves and lifting up the needs of others.

Supplication: Pray for yourself and your own needs. These prayers should come last. Otherwise, we are tempted to spend all of our prayer time talking about ourselves.

If you love tacos what a great way to help you when you pray. With TACOS, prayer will seem a whole lot easier — and delicious.

Dear Lord, we thank You that we can openly talk with You through prayer. We pray that we would practice our special time with You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The look of God's love


Luke 22:61 (ESV)
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers. A natural leader, Peter was a doer who often spoke up and motivated others when it was time to get things done. But sometimes Peter spoke when he should have kept quiet. Brave Peter promised loyalty and then didn’t follow through. Earlier he said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). But in the priest’s courtyard he denied even knowing Jesus. Still, I think Peter deserves some credit for coming around and being there that night.

While this account tells of Peter’s denial, it also shows the Savior’s love. In all that Jesus did here—allowing himself to be arrested and mocked, healing a soldier’s ear, and even looking Peter in the eye—we can see the heart of Jesus, who shows us his Father’s heart.

When we get to know Jesus, we learn—often slowly—that his way of doing things is different from ours. It is not with swords or in trying to get even with people who have hurt us. Instead, it’s the way of compassion and forgiveness.

The look and love of Jesus are a marvelous message! It was not a look of condemnation that melted Peter’s heart. It was the loving look of a Father caring for his wayward child. It was an inviting look of grace, a look that brought remorse and repentance. It was the look of the redeeming, restoring love of God.

He’s looking at us with that same redeeming love today!

Dear Lord, thank You for Your look of love, fill us today with the love you have shown. Help us to love those You put into our life with Your love. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Priorities


Luke 12:20 (ESV)
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

Many people fear cancer. It has been called the scourge of our times. If you received a diagnosis of cancer today, would it shake your world? Would the shadow of death be enough to make you reexamine your life’s priorities? Would it be a wake-up call?

God does not mince words with us. In Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, God speaks harshly to a busy farmer who has had a bumper crop. Savvy businessman that he was, the farmer made plans to build bigger barns, store his surplus grain, and take life easy from then on. His mind raced a hundred miles an hour, but he had no thought for God.

The Bible says, “The Lord ... is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This means we receive lots of opportunities to turn from our selfish ways and to follow God’s way—the way to real, full life. God often nudges us and speaks with a gentle, insistent voice—but sometimes he also thunders. He calls us to repent and reorder our lives, to make him first in our lives—above success, even above family.

And there will be a day of reckoning, as Jesus points out in his parable. So let’s listen to God, urging us to follow the way of real, full life.

In your life, what kinds of priorities might need changing? Which way is God nudging you?

Dear Lord, help us to number our days, so that through Jesus we may gain a heart of wisdom. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lesson from a cheetah and Golden Labrador puppies


John 15:15 (ESV)
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

I read a story about companionship at zoo in Columbus, Ohio.  I learned that cheetahs are naturally shy and anxious creatures. They are so shy, in fact, that when they get nervous, it is difficult for them even to breed— and they are becoming endangered because of it.

The zoo needed a solution to help the cheetahs, so they began pairing cheetahs with Golden Labrador puppies. Normally these animals would be enemies, but because they were introduced at a young age, the cheetahs and Labs became best friends. The dogs helped the cheetahs calm down and relax. It was fun watching them run together and put on a display.

I have been reminded over the years that if you want to go fast (like a cheetah), you go alone; but if you want to go far, you go together (as friends).

Jesus was telling his disciples something similar. If we want to go far and grow the family of God, we need to love one another just as Jesus loves us. When he calls us friends, he removes the barriers we have created and becomes our companion. We no longer need to be anxious or fearful of anyone around us. Instead, we can learn to love one another.

Dear Lord, thanks for helping us see that sometimes the people we have thought were our enemies can really be our friends. Thank You for showing us how to be a friend. Help us become that same kind of friend to others. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Bible has so much to teach us


Acts 17:11 (ESV)
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

The people in Berea, as our Bible verse explains, carefully examined the Scriptures to make sure Paul’s teaching was true.

When I was younger, I liked to think I knew a lot about Scripture. I had studied, and I knew many of the important teachings of the Bible. Today I am older and hopefully a little wiser. I know now how little I knew back then, and I realize how little I still know today, after years of studying and teaching. The Bible has so much to teach us that we keep learning as we grow in faith.

In Paul’s day, the people in Berea didn’t have the Bible as we know it. They had the Hebrew Scriptures that make up the Old Testament in our Bibles today. So, to examine Paul’s teaching about Jesus as Savior (Messiah), they had to do some heavy study of Isaiah and other prophecies. I picture them pondering and having discussions at tables with scrolls unrolled—and then exclaiming, “Paul’s right—listen to this!”

Many years later, in 1618-19, a gathering of church leaders searched God’s Word as the Bereans had done. They needed to know if some teachings by other leaders were true. And their findings, known as the Canons of Dort, still help us today in stating the bedrock truths about salvation from sin. So let’s keep studying God’s word and hiding it in our heart.


Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word of truth. Help us to seek the truth and to share your good news of salvation everywhere. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 23, 2019

In the name of the Lord


Colossians 3:17 (ESV)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The other day I heard someone ask another person, "What do you do?" The person answered by saying, "Oh, I'm just a housewife." Perhaps you too have heard someone say, "I'm just a farmer," or "I'm just a secretary," or "I'm just a factory worker," or "I'm just a country preacher." In any culture we have our rankings, and our sense of worth is often measured by the work we do. The more impressive your career, the more "important" you are. Celebrities especially get lots of attention when something happens in their lives.

Thankfully the Bible does not measure our worth by how high we have climbed the social ladder or how much education we have. In today's verse we read, "Whatever you do . . . do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus." When life on earth comes to an end, what matters is not how high we climbed, but whether we were faithful to the Lord in whatever calling we pursued. What counts is whether we clothed ourselves with compassion, humility, patience, and other fruitful signs of Christ's work in our lives.

My Dad was in the Navy and worked for Ford Motor Company. He was faithful in his calling, and he served the Lord as he raised our family. Whatever he did, he did it in the name of the Lord. And that's what counts!


Dear Lord, make each one of us faithful in our calling, and help us to do all things “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In the Name od Jesus I pray, Amen.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

We should bear fruit


Romans 2:13 (ESV)
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Trying to be righteous in what we do is not the same as trying to earn salvation by aiming to be righteous. We are saved only by God’s grace. But once we realize we are saved and declared righteous through Christ, we want to live in gratitude by trying to be righteous. Both the Old and New Testaments teach that the way I live says something about who I am and how I really understand the faith journey. Jesus taught that you can tell something about a tree by the fruit it bears.

Though I may do good things, that’s not really Paul’s point here. The question is whether or not the good things I do come from a heart that belongs to Jesus. Do all the things I do reflect that my heart belongs to him?

I also do bad things, because I am still a sinner. But God wants me to have integrity; God wants my faith connected with all I think, do, and say. And God’s Spirit helps me to live that way.

God wants to shape me from the inside out. When I belong to him, that’s what I want God to do too.

Dear Lord, for the ways in which my life shows you at work in me, thank you. For the ways in which I need reshaping to better reflect you, please guide me. In your name, Amen.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Taming your tongue


James 3:8 (ESV)
But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Nothing gets us into more trouble than our words. Taming the tongue is the most difficult task a person will ever take on. There is just an impulse in us to say things that we will regret later. James tells us that the tongue is like a rudder that steers a large ocean liner and spark that sets off a huge forest fire. Taming the tongue requires discipline, self-control, and help from the Holy Spirit.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of self-control when it comes to what people say, nowadays. In fact, the news is full of the rash and rude things the leaders of the world say or tweet. We’ve lost our ability to tame our tongues. The bible says “out of the mouth (read tongue) the heart speaks.” What people say is a reflection of what is truly being thought in their mind and felt in their heart.

It’s amazing how a small part of the body can cause so much havoc. James calls it a restless evil. That means it doesn’t like staying idle; it needs to be in motion. The problem is the more it is used, the more damage it becomes. Self-control is something we need to be praying for when it comes to our tongue. Left unbridled it will spew poison all over the place.

If you struggle with what comes out of your mouth, it is essential that you ask God for help in this area. It might even be necessary for you to have a more mature saint come alongside you to mentor you and keep you accountable. Pray for forgiveness for the things you have said, seek to reconcile those who you have wronged, and ask for self-control in this area. You will find that this brings with it a sense of freedom you haven’t felt in a while. Taming the tongue is a mark of maturity.

Dear Lord, give us the strength that we need to tame our tongue. Give us the people in our life that can help lead and guide us in this struggle. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Most Powerful Muscle in Your Body


James 3:6 (ESV)
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

We don’t often consider it, but when we watch an athlete’s performance, we are watching an amazing symphony of a dozen human systems seamlessly working together, including the circulatory, respiratory, skeletal and muscular systems. If we just consider the muscular system, we have approximately 650 muscles performing the actions we are consciously undertaking such as walking or lifting, but also many which are constantly working unconsciously to perform tasks such as maintaining our posture or circulating blood or other materials around our body. A common question is “what is the strongest muscle in the body”?  And there isn’t one answer to this question because it depends on how you are measuring it.  According to Everyday Mysteries, the following are muscles that have been deemed the strongest based on various definitions of strength.

Eye Muscles   In 1 hour of reading the eye muscles make 10,000 coordinated movements

Gluteus Maximus - largest muscle in body keeps trunk of body in erect position

Heart - hardest working muscle pumps about 2,500 gallons of blood each day

Tongue - the hardest worker it is constantly working but never tires

 I found the above list interesting and noted that one of those muscles gets specifically mentioned in the Bible as being extremely powerful; however, as athletes, it’s probably not one that we frequently consider.  James 3: 1-12 does a wonderful job of explaining the power of the tongue.  After reading this passage you can’t help but nod your head.  It likely allows you to consider things you have said to others, or what others have said to you. James sums it up in verses 9 and 10 by saying: “9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

How is it that our tongue can move so quickly from producing something fragrant to producing what James calls “poison” (vs. 8)?  When I consider times where I am not doing well in this area of my life, I can generally see that there is a deeper issue going on in my life.  Our words are typically just symptoms and not root causes.  Jesus explains: “The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).  While we are “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), as Christians we continue to walk the journey of sanctification, where we battle our old self (Romans 7: 15-20), and the “evil” inside us usually comes out through our words.  In James 3:8, we read:   but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  But God can tame our tongue, as long as we remain humble and invite him to continually sanctify us to become more like him.  When your tongue spews poison, be quick to repent and pray daily that your powerful tongue can instead be used to dispense medicine in a hurting world.

Dear Lord, help us to tame our tongue. Give us the strength we need so that we can bring honor to You in all that we do and say. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Training wheels


Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Do you remember the day you learned to ride a bike without the training wheels? The sensation of trying to balance on two wheels without toppling over. Those first tentative pedals as you gratefully felt your parent’s hand on the seat of your bike. The first fall as you tried to take off on your own. The second fall, the third… Then, finally, riding on your own.

The training wheels taught you how to balance and gave you support as you learned to pedal and steer. They helped you trust in your abilities as you learned to ride faster and faster. Yet, they were never intended to stay on forever. They were simply temporary supports as you developed the skills to ride on your own.

The Christian life is learned, much like learning to ride a bike.
As we begin growing in faith, God often gives us training wheels. We lean into community with other Christians, we study the Bible, and we learn to pray. In time, we learn to hear God’s voice and listen for his direction. As we learn to go to God for everything, we learn to rely on following where he leads. At some point, though, he wants us to take off the training wheels and learn to use what we’ve learned.

Training in faith sets us up to live more confidently as Christians
That’s the thing about training. You learn as an apprentice for a time, with the intent to learn to it on your own eventually. When our kids are little, we guide each and every step, but as they grow we push them ever closer to independence. As much as we love helping them, we know it’s our job to equip them to live on their own, making sound decisions based on the values we’ve instilled in their hearts. God does the same with us. He wants to train us and guide us, intending eventually for us to be able to make some decisions on our own.
  

The Christian life is learned, much like riding a bike. Sometimes, we need to remove our faith training wheels and practice what we've learned. Is it time to remove yours and put what you've learned from God into practice? God wants us to trust him and stay close, but like a good parent he also wants to train us to make good decisions
It’s not that God doesn’t want us to ask for guidance and help, but he does want us to develop the wisdom and good judgment to make some decisions on our own. He wants to set our hearts in the right direction and let us take off.

Dear Lord, thanks for the guidance that you give to each of us. Help us to take the training wheels off and use what we have learned. Keep us learning as we travel through this life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Power of Pizza


Luke 9:23 (ESV)
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Generally speaking, there are three steps to making a pizza — buy the ingredients, put them into the form of a pizza and then cook it.

Consider three ingredients: onions, pepperoni and mushrooms. They all taste pretty good on their own. They are like the nuggets of wisdom that God provides us during the day, if we’re open to them.

The second step of making a pizza is putting the ingredients onto the pizza. If we take the “ingredients” of prayer and put them onto the “pizza” — ourselves — we might get a bite or two that tastes even better than the ingredients did on their own.

But it takes the third step for a pizza to become worthy of the name — it must be cooked in the oven, in a fashion that is both structured (turn to 400 degrees, for 25 minutes) and organic (how many of us calculate exactly how each pepperoni or pepper will settle into the cheese?).

Likewise, we can only grow closer to God the more time we spend with Him, in prayer styles that combine structure and our own individual path — the “oven” of prayer, if you will.

Dear Lord, we pray that we would make it a priority in our life to draw closer to You through prayer. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 16, 2019

3 ways your faith is like your car


Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Today I had the fun of helping my son with replacing the breaks on his car. It got me to thinking about faith and my car.

Just like you drive your car often – possibly daily, even – and just like you take care of your car well…shouldn’t you treat your faith and your relationship with God in the same way? And shouldn’t your view through the lens of a Biblical worldview be the vehicle by which you travel this earth?

I want to point out three ways in which faith and cars are actually quite similar.

1. Just like a car has many parts, God has many facets to know.
In order to successfully drive a car, you have to know where key features are, like the gas pedal, the brake pedal, the gas gauge, and more. It’s the same with your relationship with God; in order to know Him well, you need to know His characteristics and attributes, and also what He has to sa.  In turn, we need to allow God to search us and know our hearts in the same way. For example, say you’re driving in the rain. You need to know where your windshield wiper switch is located so you can drive safely over wet roads. In your relationship with God, you need to know how He has handled situations with His people, so that you can trust Him fully when the going gets rough, knowing that He has outlined your path and made it straight.

2. Just like we need to prepare our car by filling it with gas to go places, we need to be spiritually equipped to handle the world around us.

We do this by engaging deeply in the study of God’s Word. We need to do this because we don’t want to be left high and dry without a defense of our faith if someone were to question it, or if they were to ask us why we believe a certain way about certain topics, like homosexuality, transsexuality, racism, and even more. We should take on David’s attitude when we store scripture in our hearts: “Your word I have hidden in my heart,that I might not sin against You”. 

This way, we’ll be more equipped to share those scriptures when the time comes.

What happens when you’re pulled over on the side of the road, panicking because you had barely enough gas to get off the highway? You call for help, of course, whether that means finding a gas station or calling a loved one. In the same way, we can call upon God whenever we’re in distress and feel that we can’t navigate a particular situation.

3. Just like we need to be aware of others around us when we drive, we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world, and what God has to say about it.

Sometimes, there are drivers on the road who disregard others around them by speeding, cutting them off on busy intersections, or generally making them feel uneasy. Should that keep us from the road, though? No; we just need to be aware of them so that if a situation should arise that they mistreat us or anyone else by being inconsiderate, we can move on our way and continue to our respective destinations safely. It’s the same way in real life; when people mistreat us, we should still continue to be nice to them, or keep ourselves safe and move on.

In the same way, we need to be aware of our own actions when it comes to others around us. We don’t need to be in such a hurry as to completely disregard the needs and safety of others. We need to reach out to help if and when we can, just as the Good Samaritan helped a complete stranger and his polar opposite. So, when others show mercy to and are considerate towards us, we should do as Jesus tells His followers: “Go and do likewise”.

At the end of the day, if we treat our faith in God like we treat our cars – checking up on it to make sure it’s well cared for and equipped for the road ahead – we will be able to travel the pathway God has given us, not only with confidence that He is guiding us, but with Him as the focus and forefront of our minds and hearts.

Dear Lord, we thank You for faith we have. We pray that we would work on allowing it to grow stronger and stronger each day. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Don't just bring it - read it


2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

It’s easy to bring a Bible to school or work. But we should also use this event to challenge ourselves personally about whether we are making a daily habit of studying God’s Word. Many students and families have very busy schedules. But are we making time for the Bible between all our activities?  Here is an email that’s been making the rounds and cuts to the core of the issue:

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to friends as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being
disconnected, because Jesus already paid the bill. Makes you stop and think, “Where are my priorities?”.

Have there been times when you’ve panicked over your missing cell phone? By comparison, do we have the same reaction when we lose our Bible? What do you think is meant by the statement, “we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected, because Jesus already paid the bill”?

Dear Lord, we pray that we would make our Bible important in our life. Help us always take the time to study it and apply it to our life. In the Name Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Every moment matters


1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.


What does it even matter? It’s just Algebra. Like you’re ever going to use Algebra in your life! Then again, what’s the point of any of your classes? Dependent and independent clauses? Give me a break!

The same goes for your job. You get paid so little to ask, “Would you like fries with that?” And this certainly isn’t your future career. Who cares if you slack off a bit to eat up the time clock? What does it matter?

Well, actually it does matter. A lot. Every moment does.

Satan wants nothing more than for us to think that every moment of our lives is meaningless. If he can convince us of this, soon he’ll convince us to indulge in a selfish laziness in those moments—an attitude of, “What does this matter if I don’t like it or it doesn’t benefit me?” But as soon as he has you trapped in thoughts of meaningless monotony, he will then push for the death blow of you doubting God and his purpose for your life. “If these moments don’t matter, what do I matter? If I don’t matter, what kind of God is he anyways?”

The apostle Paul reminds us in this verse that the opposite is true. Actually, every single moment of your life matters. Why? Because you mattered to God. God came for you. God lived for you. God died for you. God rose for you. Jesus gave everything of his life for yours as he washed you and bought you with his blood. He did so in order to make you a prized possession of our God—his own dear child.

Knowing this value your life has to our God means that every moment of your life also has value, because every moment is an opportunity—an opportunity to live to the praise and glory of a God who has loved you so much.

So do your quadratic equations and do them well. Flip burgers with all you’ve got. Take notes with all the intellect you’ve been given. Compete and perform with every ounce of strength and ability. In fact, live every moment now and into the future with your best and to the fullest. And know that when you do, it matters. It matters because you are glorifying your Savior God.

Dear Lord, fill us with the joy of Your love found in Christ so that our heart spills over with thankful living for You and Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

All we need to do is trust Him

Luke 8:22 (ESV)
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out.

Many of the disciples were ex­peri­enced fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. They had often weathered sudden squalls and treacherous waves. They knew that storms could come out of nowhere. So when Jesus suggested rowing to the other side of the lake, they knew they had to be ready for anything.

In the seas of life, we grow to learn that storms can sneak up on us. A bill out of nowhere can take a bite out of your pay­check. A parent suddenly be­comes ill, and you become a caregiver. A child’s bad decision can lead to a day in court and a prison sentence. Such storms cause our anxiety to rise to dangerous levels. We look for help from someone to calm us down, fix the problem, and restore life to the way it was.

The disciples never stopped to think what it meant to have Jesus in the boat with them. And, to them, he wasn’t doing anything! But, of course, he was sleeping—not worrying or getting frantic about the storm. The disciples spent so much energy trying to save themselves from the storm on their own power that they forgot to be still and recognize that Jesus is God, who had their lives in his hands. Jesus was in their boat. All they needed to do was trust in him.

You and I cannot control the sudden storms of life. That’s the way life is. But Jesus is with us. And that’s the best thing.

Dear Lord, thank You for being in our boat. Your resting does not mean inaction; it reminds us to place all our anxieties on you because you care for us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.