Psalm 25 – God’s Steadfast Love

God is steadfast in his love for us and by his love we are saved, renewed, exalted, and used to build the Kingdom of God. Each of us has a part to play in reaching the lost. The more we give our life to God and follow Him the more we will become like him in everyway which will not only change our lives but the lives of those around us.

A Bigger Picture in Christ

In every job that I have ever  had I have always tried to learn as much about not only my job, but about the jobs around me as well.  I was never satisfied with just being able to do my job; I have always desired to know more and to understand how my job fit into the bigger picture.  I guess I have always understood that even if what I was doing was important that I was a part of a bigger plan, a bigger purpose.  The same applies to our walk with Jesus. 

As Christians we must seek to do our part well, but we must also see the bigger picture and realize that it is not all about us, we must realize that there are other things happening around us that we contribute to and just as a boss will assign different tasks to different people as he sees fit and will praise and reprimand when needed God does the same.  Let’s face it, not one of us is perfect, not even close.  If you think that you are and you call yourself a Christian then you probably need to do some deep soul searching because God is not looking for people who think they have it all together or who think that they are perfect, though He does desire for us to become Holy, God is looking for someone with a humble heart and one way or another He will get it.

Hannah was a woman in the Old Testament who had her womb closed by God and it grieved her immensely.  Every year when her husband, Elkanah, would take his family to worship and make sacrifices to the Lord he would give Hannah a double portion because of his love for her and because the Lord had closed her womb (1 Sam. 1:1-8).  Hannah prayed to the Lord that He would open her womb and bless her with a son and that if he did that she would give him to the Lord for all the days of his life (v. 11). 

Wouldn’t you know that Hannah became pregnant and bore a son, Samuel, and gave him to the Lord just as she had promised?  Upon doing so she prayed the following prayer, she prayed…

1 Samuel 2:1-10

My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.  My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.  There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.  Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. 

The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.  Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more.  She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.  The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.  The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. 

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; upon them he has set the world.  He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.  It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered.  He will thunder against them from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.  He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Hannah’s prayer revealed something that we often times forget and that is often times neglected to be taught.  God is not just good, He is also just, He is Lord, He is love, He is Judge.  He is many things, not just good.  He sees things that we do not see, even within ourselves and our lives.  Hannah warns not to speak in arrogance because God knows and our deeds are weighed by Him.  God sees the heart of what we do, not just what we do.  When we do things to be seen, rather than with a humble heart God knows and we are weighed for our actions. 

He breaks the strong and exalts the weak.  God gives poverty and wealth, humbles and exalts.  He raises up the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.  We tend to think of God as good and good He is.  We pray for good things to happen to us, we pray for comfort and health, riches, a good life, but our actions and our hearts do not deceive God.  He knows and gives accordingly.  The only prosperity that we can count on is in heaven and only if we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord and do our best to follow Him all of our days.  There is no promise that we will have a rich and plentiful life by worldly standards, instead we are promised the opposite.  We are told that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).”

In the movie “Do you Believe” the following question was presented.  It was asked, If you were taken to court today would there be enough evidence to prove that you are a Christian?  James asked, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such a faith save him (James 2:14)?”  He went on to say,

James 2:18-26

Someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?  As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

So if you were taken to court today could someone prove that you are a Christian?  Is your faith reflected by what you do?   Can God use you right where you are?  Can He use you to bless others?  How can your faith be seen in your actions?   It should be noted that deeds alone bring death just as faith without works does.  Paul said it like this, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).”

We have been saved by grace, through faith, not by works.  So wherever you find yourself today realize that God loves you and wants to save you.  As we enter into a relationship with Him we are given the Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us and as we follow Him we are slowly made more like God, we slowly become more holy.  Through Hannah’s prayer we can see that she understood that she was a part of a bigger plan.  She first prayed desperately for a son, but then she promised that her son would be God’s.  She prayed by faith and God responded, but then she responded through giving her son to the service of God.  She was not just a woman of faith, she was a woman of action who understood that God was more than just good, that He was capable of so much more and that He places each of us in our situations to help mold us into what He wants us to be.  When we are made weak, He is made strong.  When we become less, He becomes more.

I have a long ways to go before I understand all that is going on around me, but I am becoming more aware of the things that God has people doing around me and how He is using all things and is working all things together for good.  I have only a small part to play in His bigger plan, but I have an important part and so do you.  We each have an important role to play and as we do our part He will guide us along the way and give us different tasks to help things run more smoothly and efficiently, we just have to be faithful and follow through with what He has given us to do and when we do people will be able to prove that we are Christians.  Will people be able to prove that you are a Christian?    If not then something needs to change in your life right now and it starts with your heart.

Love and Obedience

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exo. 34:6). “…God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deu. 7:9). “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psal. 36:7). God’s love is powerful, more powerful than anything that we could possibly imagine. It is life changing and is available to all which gives the Gospel so much power. Isn’t it amazing to know that the God that made the Universe, the God that created mankind loves us unconditionally!

It is absolutely true that “God is love,” but the message does not end there. The Bible tells of God’s glorious love for mankind, but it doesn’t just tell of His love. God’s love is available, but we can only access it through obedience and acceptance of His Son, Jesus Christ. Love is a powerful message, but it is not the whole message, because without obedience to and acceptance of Jesus Christ we do not have access to that love. Therefore, the message solely of God’s love is a false message. You do not get His love poured into your hearts unless the Holy Spirit has been given to you (Rom. 5:5). The Holy Spirit is given freely to those who love Jesus and keep His commandments (Joh. 14:15-16). Notice that Jesus didn’t just say that it is given freely to those who love Him; it was contingent on those who keep His commandments.

This image was originally posted to Flickr by jam343 http://flickr.com/photos/24841050@N00/2461973
This image was originally posted to Flickr by jam343 http://flickr.com/photos/24841050@N00/2461973
Love and obedience is the Gospel message and it is the only message that has any power, because without those two in combination there is no access to God. I know this might be contrary to what you have heard, because so many teach of God’s love and how much love He has for His people, but fail to mention that to be called His people we must be obedient to Him. This gives us a false sense of ownership as well as a false sense of inheritance. God is great and amazing and He is love. He has more to offer us than any of our praise could ever begin to relate to Him how thankful we are, but if we don’t truly understand our relationship in Him we are missing out and have been fed a message that is contrary to the Gospel and is not life giving. Sure it makes us feel good to know that God loves us and forgives us, but it requires our obedience and when we have failed to be obedient it requires our repentance.

Repentance is a sorrowful acknowledgment of our sins and it requires us to turn back to God and away from Satan. Psalm 7:11-16 says the following about God and repentance…

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.

In this instance to repent literally means to turn back and to turn away from wickedness. Luke 13:2-5 says it differently it says, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” In this manner Jesus is telling the people that they must morally reconsider what they have done and to think differently than what they had before they sinned. This is a life changing decision; this is a decision to move from the wide gate to the narrow gate of Christ. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mat. 7:13-14).

Jesus said the following, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (Joh. 15:10). He also spoke of His obedience to the Father in John 14:31, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Even Jesus was obedient to the Father and because of that obedience the world knows that He loved the Father. Jesus was perfect and thus His love is perfect which is why He bids us to follow Him. We on the other hand are not perfect and we never will be. Our lives our sin stained and without the blood sacrifice that Jesus provided for us we are not worthy of approaching the throne of God and He will never know us. God’s love requires our obedience, at least our honest and best attempt at obedience. He knows that we will fail which is why He sent us Jesus so that all who call on Him and abide in Him can be saved.

God’s love is a powerful message, but without obedience it is a message that leads to death for without obedience we are not able to receive God’s love. But don’t worry because Jesus said “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mat. 11:27-30). Will you accept the yoke of Jesus and see that His burden is light?

Father I thank you for your love and for your Son Jesus whom you sent to die as payment for my sins. I am a sinner and I need you God. I love you and chose to turn from my evil ways and follow you. I know that I will mess up though and when I do I will acknowledge that I did not follow your ways and my heart will be grieved. I will turn back to you God and follow you all of my days. I choose to be obedient to you God because your love is worth everything that I have. Accept me Lord and may my life be a testimony about who you are and the love that you have for the world. I ask this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.

If this was helpful or encouraging to you please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to make a comment. We all have a purpose and can be used to help others draw closer to God. God bless you in your journey to knowing Him deeper than before and accepting yourself with all of the qualities that God desires for you to have.

A World of Tribulation

By Nicolas Raymond
By Nicolas Raymond
“…in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). There is so much trouble in the world today and it makes my heart grieve. It used to make me angry, and it still does a little, but it grieves me in my soul and it makes me wonder why. Why are there troubles in this world? Why do terrorism, and racism, and classism, and sexism, and all of the other isms’ exist? The only answer that I have is HATE! Even writing this right now I am grieved at the amount of hate and destruction that there is in the world. Where is all of the love at in the world?

1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this love, not that we have loved God but the he loves us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

So again I ask…where is all of the love at in the world? If there are supposedly more Christians now than there ever were than where is the love? I have experience hate and anger. I have experienced the desire to kill after being attacked by the enemy in war. I know the power that hate can have and it eats away at us inside. I remember longing to “get back” at the enemy for what he had done. I remember feeling like nothing else mattered other than staying in Iraq and being in battle so that I could play my part in winning the war against terror.

That was then, when I did not know God. That was when I was so filled with anger and hate that I was blind to God’s love. That was when I felt justified to feel the way I did. That was then…

But this is now. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). In the beginning was a quote from Jesus that stated “…in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). If God is love and Jesus is God, and Jesus has overcome the world, then where is all of the love? Jesus died so that we could be reconciled in Him and be made a new creation. It is through Him that we are no longer slaves of the world but are ambassadors for His sake (2 Cor. 5:17-20). Does this mean that anger does not creep in from time to time, or fear, or hate even? Of course not! Satan wants us to turn from God and to help him advance his own kingdom and he is sneaky. He attacks us in ways that make us feel justified in our actions or in the way we feel. When things hit close to home they take on a different meaning, but “God is love, and whoever abide in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn. 4:16)”.

So where are you at today? Are you choosing to follow God or to follow Satan? Is it time to consecrate yourself so that God can do a work in you? Have you thought about praying and fasting in response to the troubles that you see and endure? What will it take for you to find the love beneath the hate, or anger, or fear? “Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:17-18).

The good news is that we all have a choice because through Jesus Christ we have been given a way to be made new and to be made one with God. We have a choice to turn to a God that loves us and cares enough for us to walk with us daily and guide us through life, if only we listen. The good news is that through the power of Jesus Christ the world and its ways have been overcome, but it requires calling on His name and His name only.

Father my heart grieves for the world. There is so much hate and violence that at times it seems insurmountable, but I have confidence in you God that you know what you are doing. I have confidence in knowing that though I may struggle and will be persecuted that it is all for your glory. I praise you in all of your might and your wisdom. You have overcome the world, but instead of condemning all of us that did not yet know you you have given us time to come to know you and to share you with others. God, fill my heart with overflowing love so that all fear and all hatred is completely removed from me. Give me the courage to take a stand against Satan and the evil that surrounds him and share your love with the world. I want more of you God! Guide me in my path to righteousness so that I may be humbled and made weak as to exalt you in all of your glory. Humble me so that people see only you in me and nothing of myself. Thank you Daddy for being there and gently guiding me along the path leading home to you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

If this was helpful or encouraging to you please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to make a comment. We all have a purpose and can be used to help others draw closer to God. God bless you in your journey to knowing Him deeper than before and accepting yourself with all of the qualities that God desires for you to have.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichthys

Fish cannot be cleaned until they are caught

Why is it that we think that evangelism is so hard? Isn’t it really just telling our story? How hard could that really be? It’s our story and it actually happened to us. The reason evangelism is so hard is because we get too wrapped up in people’s stuff that they bring with them. Evangelism is not easy, it’s not a dry cut thing, it’s messy, and it’s difficult because we don’t want to get involved in their lives. Maybe it’s because we just don’t remember what it feels like to be lost.

So how do we reach these people that live such messy lives that we feel are not fit to be Christians because they don’t have things together? Well first off need to quit judging and we need to just talk to them right where they are and STOP trying to make them change there ways before they even accept Jesus. We just talk to them and really listen to them. We learn to see them as God does and realize that the cleaning part is not ours to do.

I was listening to a Joyce Meyer broadcast the other day and she was talking about having gone into a store with a friend and how they had struck up a conversation with the cashier about God. The cashier was talking about how she cusses once in a while but that it was okay because she knew God understood because He cussed once in a while too. Immediately Joyce started to tell the cashier that God does not cuss; she was trying to clean a fish that hadn’t even been caught yet. It was at that time that her friend came in and said but He really loves people people who do.

Photo by @Chruch4U2
Photo by @Chruch4U2
We are called to be fishers of men but more often than not we would much rather do God’s job and try to clean the fish rather than catch them. It’s not our job to clean the fish it is simply our job to share our story, to love them, to care for them, and not to judge them because we wouldn’t want to be judged. Knowing that we do not have to worry about cleaning the fish really makes telling our story so much easier because there is no pressure. In our own power we will not get people to accept Jesus, no matter how hard we try. It is the Holy Spirit working within them and through us that brings people to Christ; we just have an awesome God who wants to involve us in the process.

We can look to Jesus for examples of how to bring people to a understanding of God’s love for them. Take for instance the woman at the well. Jesus knew exactly who she was and what she had done, but instead of sending her away or trying to get her to change her ways He loved her. He showed her that He cared. It wasn’t until after she had asked Him what she needed to do in order to get the living water that Jesus told her to go and sin no more. So what did she do? She ran off into the town and told her story and the Bible says that many came to believe because of her story. It was because of the story from a woman who was looked down upon in society, who had done many things that were not acceptable that others came to Christ. Her story had power and so does yours.

So what does it really look like to evangelize and to share God’s Word? Well how about we just start with our story. God has given each of us a story to tell. Often times we tend to call this our testimony but when we think of our testimony we tend to think of one concrete thing that led us to Christ. In reality there are way more things that Christ has given us to share of His grace, and love, and power. God doesn’t just bring us in to leave us to fend for ourselves. God has cared for us and has shown us over and over again how He does and all of these things are tools to help us show God’s love to others.

When we are with others we need to remember that God was working in our lives before we accepted Him and we need to start listening on different levels. We need to learn to start paying full attention to what the other person is saying by truly listening to how they feel and to what it is that they’re actually saying. At the same time we need to be seeking out God while we’re listening to them and learn to hear what He’s saying and feeling about them, because God knows more about this person than they even know about themselves and He wants them to know something, He wants them to know that He is really there for them and sometimes He will even give us special messages or words for the person we are talking to that will help them know that He is who He is.

Lastly we need to realize that bringing people to accept Jesus is not about us, it is an act of worship that God allows us to partake in. Because it is an act of worship we must also realize that no matter what the outcome with the individual is that we can and should praise God for using us to help bring that person closer to Him. Worship is about the Father, not us, so when we approach evangelism as worship it completely takes the focus off of us and what we are doing and places it directly where it needs to be, on God. The thing that I am beginning to realize though is that worship is not easy; it’s not just something that we can do half-heartedly. It requires opening up completely to God and showing Him how much of an honor it is to be His child, how much He deserves our praise, and this takes time and practice.

Everything we do must come out of the overflow from what the Father has done for us. It must come from a realization that we are utterly lost without Him and destined for death. For me this is difficult; I am a doer. I see something that needs to be done and I do, but God doesn’t want me to do things, He wants me to be a conduit through which He can show His love. He cannot do this when my heart is in the wrong place. I need to learn to worship Him in all that I do. I need to learn to give worship a higher place in my life because it is what gives God the most power and glory. For Joshua worship became first and foremost in all that He did. When Joshua was to lead Israel across the Jordan river he told them they must make themselves holy because God was going to do something amazing tomorrow (Josh. 3:5). While marching Joshua across the Jordan River that God had stopped immediately as their feet touched the water (Josh. 3:15-16) Joshua instructed the priests to gather up twelve boulders from the middle of the river to build a memorial on shore to commemorate the place where God had cut off the waters for them to pass through (Josh. 4:4-9).

Joshua knew how important worshiping God was that he went through great lengths to let God know how much He honored him. Worship is our direct connection to God and it is through which that God reveals more of who He is to us. Our story is a part of our worship and as such it is to be used to worship God, it is to be used to bring glory and honor to His name to a hurting people who do not know who God is. Our story is our tool to help others see what Jesus has done for us. There is no greater tool for us because we know that our story is real and we should be passionate about it. We don’t have to share it perfectly, we just need to share the part of it that God is leading us to share in any given moment and when people come to know Him through it we must praise Him, and when we only bring people a little closer we must praise Him, and even if we don’t see any change at all we must praise Him. To God be all glory and honor and praise forever and ever.

Have a blessed day!

If this was helpful or encouraging to you please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to make a comment. We all have a purpose and can be used to help others draw closer to God. God bless you in your journey to knowing Him deeper than before and accepting yourself with all of the qualities that God desires for you to have.