Which Path to Follow in 2016?

Fork-In-Forest-darkerOne of the biggest questions asked is, “What is God’s will for my life?”  This question is even more popular at this time of year when we have entered a new year full of possibilities.  No one wants to miss God’s will for their life.  If you love Jesus, there is no where you would rather be.  So how do you know which path to follow in 2016?  God’s Word is not silent on the subject… Continue reading

The Graceful Act of Being Called Out

Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness;

let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head;

let my head not refuse it. – Psalm 141:5a (ESV)

We don’t like it when someone points out our mistakes.  It hurts, we get defensive, we make excuses, we deny the reality of what we have done.  Sometimes an accusation is unmerited and untrue, but when we find ourselves connected to others in the community of faith, we’ve got to understand how graceful it is to be called out.

Our deepest and most loving relationships must be strong enough to be honest with one another.  When we’ve been hurt by someone else or when we see them acting in ways that are harmful to themselves or those around them, we have to love them enough to confront them.  Of course we must do this with grace.  We must do this because we love them.  We are not looking to harm them.  In fact, to simply ignore what they are doing or have done is unloving.  It would be like watching my child play in the street during 5 o’clock rush hour, and refusing to go get them.  I know their going to get hit, but because the conversation may be uncomfortable, I’ll just let them continue.  To avoid conflict and difficult conversations is not loving our brothers and sisters well.

Not only must we be willing to confront those we love, but we must also be willing to receive the rebuke.   We all have blind spots.  We are all in process when it comes to our spiritual journey with Jesus.  God gives us each other to help us grow.  I have come to a place in my own life where when confronted, my default is to assume they are correct, especially when it is someone whom I know loves me.  It doesn’t mean I don’t still wrestle with denial and excuse making.

Brothers and sisters, God has given us one another as a display of His love and grace.  May we help one another, encourage one another, and when needed rebuke one another for our good and God’s glory.

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

From East to West

I love the Psalms.  It’s God’s song book.  It’s loaded with powerful truth about our great God and His great love, protection and provision for us.  If you find that your prayer life is in a rut, just open to the Psalms and begin praying in light of what you read there.  This has become one of my favorite daily practices.

This morning I was in Psalm 103; one of my favorites!  This Psalm is loaded with praise for our great God in light of all that He has done for us.  The first portion is a reminder of “all his benefits.”  David, the writer of Psalm 103, lists them:

  1. …forgives all your iniquity
  2. …heals all your diseases,
  3. …redeems your life from the pit,
  4. …crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
  5. …satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
  6. …works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
  7. …merciful and gracious
  8. …slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Continue reading

Affection Builders

When it comes to having a heart for God, there are certain things that He has uniquely created us to enjoy that stir our affections for Him.  There are certain things we experience with our senses that cause us to whisper deep within our souls, “thank you God!”  Flowing from this gratitude is a heart more in touch with the love that comes naturally between a child and their Father.

We were made for this.  God has hard-wired us to love.  Unfortunately, sin has perverted this natural bent and uses it to lead to addictions and idolatry.  Sin leads us to seek satisfaction and fulfillment in things instead of our Creator.  However, when we are born again by repenting of sin and putting our faith in Jesus Christ, God in His grace, creates something inside us that helps us understand that He is the One worthy of all our affection.  He is our ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment.  God in His grace and mercy has surrounded us with reminders of His love for us.

For some, their love for God is built by an early morning before the sun comes up with an open Bible and hot coffee.  For some it’s walks on the beach.  For some it’s hiking in the woods.  All of us, who know Christ, have things in our lives that stir us to a deeper love and affection for God.  These things cause spontaneous worship.

For me, one of my BIG affection builders is my girls.  In fact, it is my girls that led me to sit down and start writing this.  When I see their faces, there is almost an instant “thank you Lord” that flows from my lips.  Don’t get me wrong, there are other times when their behavior or craziness causes me to lose my mind in a negative way. But, for example, tonight I walked past a little picture of the three of us from a recent “daddy/daughter date night” and my heart was full to overflowing, and I literally whispered, “thank you God.”  As I sit here and type this, I have a full heart, not only with love for my children, but deep loe for the gracious God who gave them to me.

So what is it in your life that builds your affection for God?  Obviously, there are the affection builders that are common to all followers of Christ. (i.e. Bible reading, prayer, worship). But what are the unique things that God has wired you to enjoy so that they point you to Him and cause your love for Him to grow.  Whether its sunrises/sunsets, beaches, mountains, or just sitting in the quiet with your Bible open, figure out what causes your heart to swell with love for Him, and do those things often.

Rest in Jesus,

Andy

Chronological Bible Reading – January 30 – “Risk is Right”

Today’s Reading: Genesis 45-46:12

The secret is out.  Joseph has revealed his true identity to his brothers as well as his desire to provide for them and their father.  he sends his brothers back to his father with the good news that the son he believed to be dead was, in fact, alive.  Joseph’s instructions are to bring everyone to Egypt where they can be cared for.  They pack up everything and begin their journey to Egypt.  However, when they make it to Beersheba, a town along the way to Egypt, they stop.  In a moment of what must have been apprehension, God appears to Jacob in a dream and says,

I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes. – Genesis 46:3-4 (ESV)

This promise relieves all fear and Jacob moves to Egypt.  The rest of the story will play out in the coming chapters, however the point to capture today is the source of Jacob’s comfort and confidence.  God promised to go with him.

I am reminded this morning of the reality of God’s presence in my own life.  As a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, I have the promise of God’s Word that helps me see that God is always with me.  When I walk in His ways, I know there is nothing to fear.  His plans are better than anything I can create for myself.  Wherever I go, whatever I face, I can know without doubt or wavering that the God of all creation is with me and loves me.  May this create a confidence and trust in me that leads to God’s greater work in and through me, my family, and my ministry.

I remember hearing the phrase, “risk is right” used in connection to a philosophy for life.  The point is to drive you to live a life of risk understanding that great risk can possibly equal great reward.  In relationship, in business, and life in general, many adopt this philosophy.  However, based upon the overarching promise of God’s presence and sovereign work in the life of a person who trusts in Him, it appears that risk no longer exists.  There is no risk in following the directives given by our sovereign and loving God, for He is with us. So, in the eyes of the world, following God is a huge risk, but in light of truth, indeed, “risk is right.”

Rest in Jesus

Andy

Chronological Bible Reading – January 5 – Job’s Unwavering Commitment

Today’s Reading: Job 1-3

There is debate about where the story of Job falls in the chronology of Scripture.  However, the plan that I use places Job early in Genesis. Therefore, today begins several days in the book of Job.

Today’s reading is painful. Job 1:1 tells of the man named Job, describing him as blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Based on the continued description of Job, he is an extremely wealthy man.

Job 1 tells us that Satan appeared before God after roaming around on the earth.  God points out Job’s faithfulness and Satan declares the only reason Job is faithful is because of the rich blessing and circumstances in his life.  Satan challenges God and predicts the moment these things are removed, Job’s faithfulness will leave with them. Continue reading

Advent Devotion 10 – A Season for Reconciliation

Today’s Reading – Mark 9-12

Mark 11:25 – And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (ESV)

Do you have a cousin Eddie in your extended family? Christmas is one time during the year when extended families gather together, and inevitably there is a possibility for high drama.  Strained relationships from past hurts, differing views of what should be central to our celebration at Christmas, or how long the turkey should be cooked are all examples of ways in which this season can become highly stressful.  As followers of Christ, how do we serve as “ministers of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18) during this time of year? Continue reading

Greater Love for Jesus

Luke 7:47 – Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

Read Luke 7:36-50.  In this passage, we read the story of the sinful woman with the alabaster flask of ointment.  In light of this account, I was reminded this morning what it is that creates in us a greater love for Jesus.

I believe the reason we often struggle to love Jesus well is because we easily forget how much we have been forgiven.  I have discovered that the only motivation for the Christian life that will last is love for God.  If this is true, then how can I stir my affections for God?  According to this account in Luke 7 my love for God will increase the more I reflect upon how much I have been forgiven.  The greatest affections arise not just when I acknowledge how much I’ve been forgiven, but when I reflect and meditate upon what God was willing to do to bring about the forgiveness I so desperately needed, and still need today.

Here we see one reason why God has been removed in most part from the culture in which we live.  People refuse to believe they need forgiveness.  The standard of “good” has been boiled down to comparing themselves to other people instead of to a holy God.  In light of this, there is a general feeling of, “I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok.”  Unless their eyes are opened to the holy standard that God has for His creation, and how far short they fall from that standard, they will keep their distance from God, and the gospel makes no sense to them.  Love for God will only arise when a person sees their sin in light of God’s holiness, and understands what God was willing to do in order to forgive and restore them through the gospel.

O Lord, stir our affections for you today by reminding us of our sin and all that you have done to bring forgiveness.

What Creates Child-like Faith?

Matthew 19:14 – but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (ESV)

This passage makes me think of my daughters.  The innocent faith of a child is beautiful.  Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.  How often we as adults complicate faith in Christ with our religious ritual and practice.  Over the centuries man has complicated the simple beauty of the gospel.

So, what is child-like faith?  I believe the foundation of child-like faith is trust.  It begins with an understanding of the love a child knows their father has for them.  My girls know I love them, and by knowing this, they trust me entirely.  By loving them, they in turn love me as their father.  Because I love them, they trust me.  As a human father, the reality is that I will let my daughters down because my love for them is not a perfect love.  God’s love, however, will never fail them, and therefore, their trust of Him is maintained by seeing the love He has for them. Continue reading

What is Expected?

Luke 17:9-10 – Does he (the master) thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (ESV)

In the midst of a tremendous section of teaching from Jesus, we are reminded of our indebtedness to our Savior.  Paul described himself as a bond-servant of Christ. (Rom. 1:1)  This means that he had been freed but had made the choice to dedicate his life to serving his master.  Some will read this and say, “I’m not a servant, but I am a son.” This is true, but the reality is that we are both.  My daughters are certainly not my servants, but when they are given instruction they are expected to display obedience. Continue reading