Week 14: So, What Do You Believe?

FRIDAY

There are times in our lives when it is not always easy to place our faith in Jesus.  Life circumstances can test what we believe and sometimes we may wonder if placing our faith in Christ and not on our surroundings is worth it. If we were to have the ability to see into the future I am certain that we would see its more than worth it. As I look back on my life it is the moments that I did not place my faith in Christ that I wish I could change. Every moment I have placed my faith in Christ and continued to trust in Him has always been worth it. He has always been faithful.

Paul told Timothy, “If we die with him, we’ll live with him; If we stick it out with him, we’ll rule with him; If we turn our backs on him, he’ll turn his back on us; If we give up on him, he does not give up—for there’s no way he can be false to himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11b-13 The Message) God will continue to be faithful to who He is and continue to accomplish His purposes for us. As Paul also says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” If we continue to place our trust in God, continue to believe that in Him we have real life; we will continue to look back and have the confidence to know that following Him is always worth it. See you Sunday

THURSDAY

There is a very interesting balance between faith and what God accomplishes in the lives of those who follow Him.  As Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” This is not to say that God is limited by our faith. He can do whatever He wants to do in whatever way He wants to do it. Yet there are many times God chooses to work in greater ways as His people exercise their faith in Him. The Bible is full of stories that testify to this truth.

Consider the story of the Israelites as the left Egypt. Most of the people did not think God could remove the people from the Promised Land and so they never experienced the joy of entering. Joshua and Caleb did believe that God was able to help them defeat those who dwelt there. These two who placed their faith in God were able to enter and experience the joy of God doing amazing things as they placed their faith in Him.  God works through our faith and what we believe about Him to do many wonders in our life. We have been talking about what we believe about Jesus for a while now in hopes that our faith in Him would grow and we would see God do wonderful things in and around us. May that continue to be true in our lives each day.

WEDNESDAY

I shared this quote from George Mueller on Sunday, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith; and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” It is not always easy to follow Christ and sometimes there are difficult situations that test our faith in Him. The more we focus on the aspects of the situations that cause us to be anxious; the more we forget who Jesus is and His ability to overcome the situations that we face.

Paul communicated this truth to the Philippian church, “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) As we take the things that would cause us to be anxious and present them to God, believing that there is power in doing so, we experience a peace that guards our hearts and our minds. To believe that God is not greater than the obstacles we face or that there is no  benefit in bringing our requests to Him only opens the door for there to be no peace in our lives. That ultimately leads us into dangerous positions where we suffer due to unbelief. Do not be anxious. Trust and believe in God. He is more than able.

TUESDAY

The Gospel of John was written for a specific purpose, as we saw in reading John 20:31. Through reading this account we are supposed to have a greater understanding of who Jesus really is. Yet sometimes as we read scripture, like the Gospel of John or we attend church services, that does not always take place. We come seeking something for ourselves and miss out experiencing the result of knowing Jesus in a more personal way, that is we miss out on experiencing the fullness of life that we deeply long for.

Jesus taught the disciples, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”(John 15:4-5) Apart from staying connected to Jesus we cannot bear fruit that lasts. So, when we come to Scripture let us come with the realization that we are seeking to know Jesus more and to stay connected to Him. When we come to worship Him, let our hearts have the same attitude. Let us be intentional in the things we do as we follow Chris and as we seek to know Him more.

MONDAY

We have spent 14 weeks journeying through the Gospel of John. Consistently throughout we have been challenged to ask ourselves what we believe in regards to who Jesus is and what He desires to accomplish in our lives. The theme throughout is summarized by John 20:31, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Reading this Gospel should impact what we believe about Jesus and that belief should lead to us experiencing life. Sometimes we miss the truth that believing in Jesus does something in us and we experience something greater than we would have had we not chosen to believe.

How important is what you believe about Jesus to you? Does it only go as far as salvation? Are you only concerned about not spending eternity separated from God when you consider what you believe concerning Jesus? That is important to consider, but we cannot stop there or use Jesus as someone who gives us what we want and when we want it. That is a slap in His face. What we believe about Jesus impacts every single area of our life, or at least it should. So, what do you believe?



Week 13: Witness

FRIDAY

We have an opportunity before us to be witnesses for Jesus. In fact that is God’s desire for each of us. John says in his first epistle, “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.” (I John 4:14-15) Each of the people we looked at in the Gospel of John resurrection accounts went on to testify that Jesus was the Christ. They went to different places and had different roles, yet this truth remains, they bore witness that Jesus had risen from the dead and was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

As you continue to move on from the Easter celebration, how will you bear witness to Jesus as a risen savior? Too often we remember the amazing things that God has accomplished in Christ but then move on to something else. Whatever the reason may be we slowly forget the excitement of the resurrection and the promise of new life for us. As we go forward may that not be true of us. May we be found faithful in being witnesses to the wonders of God’s love and telling others of all that He has done for them!

THURSDAY

Peter, though passionate and committed to living out his faith, made many mistakes. Right before the crucifixion of Jesus he made one he said he would never make, he denied being a follower of Jesus. How often have we been like Peter? We have great intentions in following Jesus and even make bold statements about things that we will accomplish, and then it happens…we make a mistake in some way and fall short of the person we claim to be. We do something that we know we should not do. Where do we go from that point? Do we allow our past failures to keep us from being faithful in the present?

Paul told the Philippians, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14) Peter had this heart in him as well. He knew that he had made mistakes in the past. But he knew that he could never be the person God was calling Him to be unless He confessed those things and trusted that God’s grace was enough to cover them. From there Peter made the decision that he would look toward the present and continue to be faithful with God’s purpose for His life. Peter would go on and make mistakes as he followed Christ, but he would continue to ask forgiveness, continue to leave those things in the past, and seek to live differently in the present with His eyes fixed on following Jesus.

WEDNESDAY

Thomas has often been remembered by the account that occurs after the resurrection where he doubts that Jesus has really risen from the dead. What had brought Thomas from the bold individual in John 11:16 to this account where He would not even believe the testimony of the fellow disciples? When Christ was crucified Thomas experienced a great amount of pain. The person he had put all of his hopes for the future was gone and seemingly defeated. Thomas had devoted three years of his life to following Him. Where would he go from here? He had been hurt deeply at the loss of Jesus and now doubted that things would get better.

We too have allowed the hurts we have experience to make us question if things will get better. We too choose not to believe unless we physically can feel and see the change right in front of our face. We all have been like Thomas. We all have allowed the things that have happened in our past to make us doubt what will happen in the future. We all like Thomas  need to reach out for Jesus and have him speak the words we need to hear. The words that will help us let go of the hurt and doubt and move forward in our relationship with God and what He is calling us to do. Thomas was changed in that moment with Christ and he went on to have a great impact for the Kingdom of God. May we too leave our doubt and hurt behind and go where God calls us to go and do what God call us to do and be the people that God is calling us to be. May the truth of I John 4:16 encourage you today, “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.”

TUESDAY

Mary Magdalene was skeptical when she heard that Jesus had risen from the dead. In fact she was so skeptical that even when she was standing next to Jesus she thought he was merely the gardener. Skepticism will blind us from the truth, even when it is right in front of our eyes. Skepticism runs rampant throughout our culture. We are not immune from its influence and it often will creep into our relationship with God. We begin to doubt that God will help us in a certain way or even that He does not really care about what we are going through.

The answer to skepticism is faith. We cannot approach God in prayer with a skeptical heart that questions if our coming to Him can really make a difference. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” The problem for us comes when we come to God believing He will do what we want and then leaving feeling confused when it does not happen. The verse does not say that God will do whatever we want, but that when we come to Him believing in who He is that He rewards those who seek Him. He might not answer as we expect Him to but as we continue to trust Him and seek Him, the answers we do get will be better than we can imagine. Do not let skepticism take hold today, continue to walk by faith!

MONDAY

What it must have been like to be there that today! To have all your hopes and dreams for the future shattered and then to show up at an empty tomb and find, “He is not here! He has risen!” Then to realize the best hopes and dreams you could have imagined did not compare with what actually was accomplished! To be able to see Jesus come back victoriously and know that somehow this Man had the power to change everything! Yes, it must have been something indeed to be there to witness that day. It is amazing for us today as well to know that our lives, our hopes, our dreams are all significantly impacted by that day. We might not have witnessed it first hand, but we certainly share in the joy!

Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3)Blessed be God indeed! We have a living hope through Jesus Christ! Do you have that living hope today? It is a hope that supersedes all situations. A hope that causes us to continue to persevere through life’s challenges; to celebrate all God has accomplished and all He has done in our lives; to rejoice in seeing Him transform other’s lives around us! The resurrection reminds us of God’s power to work amazing things beyond our imaginations or expectations. May you be filled with joy in the greatness of God today and filled with gratefulness for all that He has accomplished!



Week 12: Denied

FRIDAY

On a day like today we are reminded of the cost of our sin. We remember Good Friday today and the only reason we call it good is because of what Christ accomplished on our behalf. On this day we remember that Christ did not deny us. Think about it. He had so many chances to back out. There were so many opportunities when He could have said, “No, the pain is not worth it. They will just have to figure out something themselves.” We have hope because He did not deny His love for us nor the plan to save us. How grateful are you today that Jesus did not deny you?

John proclaims in his first epistle, “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 is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:9-10) God loved us and showed that by sending His Son. He did not deny us, even though he had every right to. Love made a way for us to be brought back to Him. Are you thankful that Christ did not deny you today? Remember how He demonstrated that love and consider how you can respond. See you Sunday when we celebrate the victory that Christ won on our behalf. Friday may indeed be here, but Sunday is not far away!

THURSDAY

Have you ever gone out in public somewhere and had someone come up to and tell you that you had forgotten something? Maybe you forget to zip up your zipper on your pants. For men, maybe the paper towel is still on your face from where you cut yourself shaving. For women, maybe you forgot to change shirts after a child spilled something on you. Whatever it might be, don’t we appreciate the person who in love comes up to us and lets us know there is something wrong that we are not realizing. The Holy Spirit plays a similar role. Sometimes we can become so focused on one thing that we may not even realize we are denying the Lord or doing something that displeases Him. It happens.

The Bible teaches us, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26) That is why it is important for us to be faithful in reading God’s Word and faithful in prayer. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in those times. There have been many times when I have been going through life and then God speaks to me through His Word and I realize that I am forgetting to do something I should have been doing. Maybe it is trusting God, maybe it is walking in love towards my neighbor. Whatever it may be the Holy Spirit comes along and says, “Hey, you might not realize but you forgot about this. You may not have realized it but you are denying the Lord in this way.” In that moment I have the opportunity to respond to what the Holy Spirit is saying. How many embarrassing or regretful situations could we avoid if we would listen to what the Helper is telling us?

WEDNESDAY

I often will talk about the pink elephant and the white rhino. If I tell you, “do not think about a pink elephant.” “Don’t picture its long pink trunk. Don’t consider how pink the elephant is compared to those flowers you saw the other day. Don’t even think about how funny that pink elephant would look in the zoo.” Were you able to not think about a pink elephant? My guess is probably not. But, if instead I told you to picture a white rhino, all of its characteristics, and what you imagine it to look like, are you still thinking about the pink elephant? Sometimes we are so focused on what we should not be doing that that is all we think about. I should not keep doing this sin or I should not keep denying God. Inevitably, the more we continue to think about it the more we end up doing it. What if instead of focusing on what we should not do we began to focus on what we should be doing.

Ephesians says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) Indeed we can make the best use of our time by focusing more on the things that God is calling us to do and less on the things he is not calling us to do. There is wisdom in identifying the sin in our lives and making a decision to not do those things. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Experience has shown me that the more I think about doing the things I do not want to do. The more the desire to do it grows and the harder it becomes to resist that temptation. If we make a conscious decision to think and focus on something else that temptation does not continue to grow. When you feel tempted to do what you do not want to do instead of fixing your eyes on that, fix your eyes on Jesus as Hebrews 12:2 teaches us to do. Lay aside the things that hinder and focus on doing what God is asking you to do.

TUESDAY

What things are causing you to deny Christ today? Is there anything that continually causes you to stumble? The author to the Hebrews writes, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. (Hebrews 12:1b) What obstacles need to be removed in your life and set aside today? Rest assured that if you keep holding on to them they will keep causing you to stumble and disobey or deny God. Ask yourself; is that thing worth all of the pain that it causes?

Looking back many of us could have spared ourselves a great deal of pain, frustration, and difficulties had we made the decision to do what we were supposed to do and leave behind the things that cause us to stumble. We cannot change what has been. We can only lay those things at the foot of the cross and ask for forgiveness. But we can do something about the present. We will need God’s help to leave those things behind. Yet we need to make a choice whether we want to accept the help He offers and walk in obedience to what His Word teaches. We will not regret one moment of obedience to His Will but we can have a lifetime of regrets if we choose disobedience and denial.

MONDAY

Have you ever thought about what leads us to the position where  we deny Jesus and His Word? Most of us would never have imagined that we would end up getting caught up in some of the things we have done. “I will never get that bad” “I will never let this area of my life get too out of control” Then it does and you do something that you never thought you would do. How did you get to that point? I am reminded by the lyrics of a song by Casting Crowns called slow fade. “It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white turn to gray.” In our passage this week Peter could relate very well to those words. He thought he would never deny His Lord and then all of the sudden he did.

But there is hope for those who have denied Jesus in one way or another. We see it in the life of Peter. His life was not defined by this moment of denial. That was covered by Jesus sacrifice. His life would be defined by following Christ and his sins would be forgiven. The important part for us to remember though is that Peter did not continue in His denial. He stopped living in that sin and at the end of his life he did not deny who Jesus was. The only person he denied was himself, saying I am not worthy to die in the same way as my Lord. Turn my cross upside down. It might have been a slow fade to where you are now. But you do not have to stay there. Choose today to leave your sin at the cross and continue to follow Christ and be the person that God is calling you to be. Hear the words of Peter in the Book of Acts, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19-20a)



Week 11: Unity

FRIDAY

Peter wrote in His epistle, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. “ (I Peter 3:8-9) We were called to walk in unity with one another. It is hard to do that if our focus is on the things that we want or in the way that we want them. That type of selfish thinking will not build up the body and yet its presence frequents our churches most Sundays in some way. What could change in our churches if we had the focus of this verse in that we sought to first be a blessing to someone else before receiving a blessing ourselves?

That type of attitude is both life-giving and life-transforming. It builds up the body in a powerful way. So as you go to church this week, do not focus on the things that are not the way you wished them to be. Think of a way that you could bless someone else and build them up. Focus on how your presence in the church body could lead to strengthening the unity of the church. Remember unity does not equal passivity. If there is something that needs to be worked through, be committed to working through it at the proper time. But do so with an attitude that honors God and seeks to build unity in the church. Take advantage of the opportunities that you will have to bless someone else this weekend with an act of love no matter how small it may seem.

THURSDAY

There are many different things that attack the unity of a church. We talked Sunday night about a list of different ones: anger, unforgiveness, gossip, quarreling, selfish ambition, and pride. The list could be longer but what we need to realize is there are things that will be destructive to our unity and we need to identify them and stop being passive with their presence in our churches. D.L Moody once said, “I have never yet known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord’s people were divided.” That is a bold statement! But its truth should unsettle our passiveness with disunity in the church.

Paul told the church in Epehesus, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3) We are urged to walk with one another in a manner worthy of the calling that Jesus has given us. How are you walking with one another today? Is there something that is hindering the unity that you are experiencing with another brother or sister? Seek to be reconciled to that person and continue to respond to what Christ has done for and in you and continue to bear witness to the world what Christ has done for them by living in biblical unity with one another.

WEDNESDAY

Unity motivates a church to accomplish more than they ever could without it. Perry Noble has said, “When a team feels like a family, they will go all out to love and serve one another.” We can see this truth communicated time and time again in the New Testament and it was an effective witnessing tool the early church had that drew people to the message that they proclaimed. When the unity of a church is strong they are motivated to accomplish great things. It can be considered much like the fire produced from one stick as opposed to the blaze produced by thousands of sticks. Much more is accomplished when we work together to accomplish God’s will.

The writer to the Hebrew church again has something to say about our unity, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) A unified church will consider how to encourage and stir one another up to fulfill the mission that God is calling them to do. As we are committed to living out our faith with one another we will work through the obstacles we encounter and go out of our way to both encourage each other and be faithful to what God is calling us to do. May we not lose sight of the importance of unity in the church.

TUESDAY

Richard Baxter once poetically wrote, “Is it not enough that all the world is against us, but we must also be against one another? O happy days of persecution, which drove us together in love, whom the sunshine of liberty and prosperity crumbles into dust by our contentions!” Who in this world can the body of Christ turn to if not each other? At times we have abandoned fellow believers around us in their moment of need. We have left them to fend for themselves and for some it has been too much, they became hardened by the difficulties they experienced and some have turned their back on following the Lord. Unity with one another should drive us to encourage one another.

The writer to the Hebrews said, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Have you taken advantage of the opportunities that you have to exhort and lift up other believers around you? That is an essential aspect of being a part of the Church. Let us not just come alongside of one another during the worst seasons of life. Instead, let us continue to lift one another up to fulfill the call that God has given to each of us and the Church as a whole!

MONDAY

Corrie Ten Boom once wrote, “Be united with other Christians. A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together.” This week in our Gospel of John series I talked about the importance of church unity. I mentioned the fact that this topic was so important to Jesus that he spent one of his last nights before His crucifixion praying that those who called themselves His followers would be defined by their unity with one another. In fact, one of the results of the unity of those who followed Christ would be that the world would come to realize and believe that God had sent His Son into the world. (John 17:21)

So many times the quality of our unity with one another has the opposite effect though. The world sees the way we argue amongst ourselves, the way we treat each other, the authenticity of both our unity with each other and our unity with Jesus and come to the conclusion that they do not want to follow Christ. Disunity in every sphere of life is destructive and especially in the church. It leads a trail of wreckage behind it. The true authentic unity that Jesus desires for us on the other hand is magnetic and draws people to the saving work of Jesus. The Psalmist wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Indeed!  May it be true of our interaction with one another in greater ways this week!



Week 10: Respond

FRIDAY

I hope that by this last devotional we are gaining a deeper appreciation for responsive obedience. Often times the way we view the things that we are facing impacts the results that occur. Sometimes we quit before we even try, thinking things like, “that is too difficult” or “what’s the point” or “I would much rather do this other thing”. It is times like that where our purpose (living lives to please God in response to who He is and what He has done) must override whatever we may be feeling in the moment. If we lose sight of the purpose of obedience it won’t be long before we can talk ourselves out of it altogether.

I think it is fitting to close with these words from the Apostle Paul. Remember, do not give up being obedient to what God is calling you to do!

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

Galatians 6:7-10 The Message

THURSDAY

We have to address the way that we sometimes view obedience. It can be easy, for many different reasons, to view obedience in a negative light. When obedience is mentioned some view it as too legalistic. Others view obedience as a prison that keeps them from doing the things that they want. The obedience that Jesus desires is one that recognizes who He is and appreciates what He has done and responds by doing the things He is asking us to do. Not only that but it is in that obedience where we find the life that God desires for us.

King David had a great desire to honor God by keeping His Word. He knew that by doing so he would communicate to God his love for them. But he also knew that there was a significant impact on his own life for the better as he obeyed. He said in Psalm 119:129-132, “Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.” May the same passion and desire to obey Jesus’ words be in your heart today as you respond to God’s Word.

WEDNESDAY

In the John 14 passage Phillip asked Jesus to show him the Father. He had heard the words Jesus was saying, but was asking for more proof so that he could have greater confidence in what was said. Again, as in so many other ways, we are not too different from the disciples. But how you might ask? We have been given the Bible and its words reveal to us important truths. Paul told Timothy, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (II Timothy 3:16-17, Message)

But the question that confronts us is do we act like Phillip did in this passage? In essence do we say, “I hear your Word Lord, but just show me something more. Give me a sign and then I will believe and obey what you have said.” We need to stop living as if God needs to prove Himself to us at every single turn, during every decision we face. We are called to believe in both the power of His Word and who He is. He has already proven more than faithful in the seasons that we have faced. Learn a lesson from Phillip’s interaction with Jesus in this passage and don’t seek more proof before you will obey what God is calling you to do.

TUESDAY

We do not always show our love for Jesus in the way that we should. In fact, there are times when are actions demonstrate a lack of love for Him. Jesus knew our limitations and knew that we would help. In John 14:16-17a, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…” The Spirit would lead us into all truth and as Jesus said the Spirit would, “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26b) The disciples would need to be reminded of Jesus words because they would face obstacles that could cause them to forget what they had been taught.

We are very similar. Whether it is the busyness of the day; the obstacles that can discourage us; or the things we have a hard time understanding; we sometimes forget the truth of God’s Word. We forget that we are called to respond to God’s love by being obedient to what he is calling us to. We forget that faithfulness matters and every single demonstration of it effects our lives. That’s why we need a Helper and that is one of the reasons the Holy Spirit was sent. So when you are reminded by the truth of God’s Word and how He is calling you to live or what He is calling you to do respond with obedience. Obedience that is motivated by grateful love for all that God has done on your behalf.

MONDAY

Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) Jesus is not telling his disciples that in order to earn his love they would have to keep His commandments. What he is saying is that the disciples would demonstrate their love for Him by their obedience to things He had taught them. Jesus love was given freely to us, there is nothing we can do to earn it. But that love should do something in us that causes us to respond to Him.

What we must realize is that following Jesus commandments is the best possible thing we can do. Henry Blackaby said, “God’s commands are designed to guide you to life’s very best. You will not obey Him, if you do not believe Him and trust Him. You cannot believe Him if you do not love Him. You cannot love Him unless you know Him.” The disciples were at a point where they had spent so much time with the Lord that they did know Him. In that knowing they were drawn to love Him. Jesus is telling them now that as they love him they should respond to His love and do the things He is calling them to do. The same rings true for us today. Respond to the love that God has shown you by doing the things He is calling you to do and being the person He is calling you to be.



Week 9: The Light

FRIDAY

Jesus declared in the John 12 passage, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” As we believe in Christ the light drives the darkness out of our lives. Does that mean that we will never sin or never doubt, once Christ’s light shines into our lives? Sadly, no. We daily face the opportunity to either continue to believe in Christ or decide not to. In order for the light to continue to drive the darkness away in our lives we have to continue to believe in Him and the truth of His Word. This is not done by accident. It is something we must intentionally choose to do every day.

Unless we are intentional about placing our faith in Christ we are in danger of slowly, often without realizing, getting to the place where we stop believing in Jesus in some way. A.W Tozer wrote,

“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our presently low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”

Be intentional about continuing to place your faith in Christ. Continue to go to His Word to shape what You believe about Him. Continue in prayer as He makes known His will to You. Jesus is waiting to shine light into your life today, do not make Him wait in vain.

THURSDAY

John 12:37-39 says, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe.” Not only is it true that we have a limited time to respond to the light of God’s Word it is also true that if we continue to reject we will get to the point where we cannot believe it. That is a sobering thought! How many times have we said to ourselves “I know God’s Word tells me this, but I still have time, maybe tomorrow I will respond to it?”

Continuous rejection has an impact on our hearts and if we leave areas untouched thinking that we can separate the effects of disobedience from the rest of our lives we are misled. The people in Israel probably never imagined that they would end up getting to the place where they rejected God and their hearts would become so hard that they could not believe. It probably did not happen all in one day either. But the continual choice to be disobedient had its effect on their lives. That is why just before verses 37-39 Jesus says, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” While you have the light respond to it. The consequences of continual disobedience are simply too great and too costly.

WEDNESDAY

Some people choose to not be obedient due to the opinions of other’s around them. There was some in Jesus day who chose not to publicly profess him in John 12 because they were afraid they would be thrown out of the synagogue. Some of them may eventually have come to be followers of Christ but I think it is safe to say that there were some who never did. They valued the opinions of men more than they did of God. This is not only a 1st century problem. It still plagues us in today’s culture.

Jesus taught in Luke 12:4-5, “I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” (The Message) We should not fear those who can at best only have a short-term negative impact on our lives. We should not allow their opinions to keep us from being obedient to God’s Word. There will be times when it will take great courage to walk in the light of God’s Word. Be prepared for that time. The result of being disobedient and choosing to walk in the darkness is much more dangerous than the temporary discomfort we face from being faithful to God.

TUESDAY

II Timothy 3:16 says, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.” (The Message) Scripture is the light that shines into the darkness around us and the darkness in us. But Scripture is most beneficial and effective in our lives as we choose to obey it. It makes no difference to know, for instance, that as we confess and repent of our sins Jesus forgives and cleanses us from them, (I John 1:9) unless we are actually confessing and repenting of our sins. Knowledge divorced from action is of no benefit.

As we respond to God’s Word by obeying it light shines into the darkness of our lives. Darkness does not stay where the light continues to shine. But do we believe that the simple, albeit difficult act of obedience can really impact the situations we face. Yes it can. That does not mean that obedience to God’s Word will always be easy or that we will never stumble along the way. In those instances it is especially important that we rely on the grace of God. Jesus told Paul in II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Trust that God’s grace is sufficient for you today and continue to respond to His Word with obedience.

MONDAY

Jesus said in John 12:36, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” We all must face the realization that we have a limited opportunity to live the lives that God is calling us to live. He does give us 2nd and 3rd and 574th chances, but one day those opportunities to do what God is calling you to do and be what God is calling you to be will run out. How often do we think to ourselves, “that’s okay I can do that tomorrow.” Sometimes, and in so many different ways, tomorrow never comes. In this verse Jesus is exhorting us, while you have the opportunity to respond, respond. The effects of faithfully responding to the light will literally change your life.

You have an opportunity setting before you today. What is God saying to you as you read His Word? What is He saying to you as you spend time in prayer? As we spend time with God He shines light into our lives. How are we responding to that light? If we want to become the people God is calling us to become we have to be obedient to the things that He is calling us to do, faithful decision by faithful decision. Each step of obedience draws us closer to becoming the people God wants us to become. There will be times when we misstep and fall down. God’s grace is there to help us in our time of need. Rely on God’s grace and love, but also respond to that grace and love by being obedient to His Word today.

 



Week 8:The Shepherd

FRIDAY

Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” As we follow the Shepherd there is a sense that we can always trust where we are going and where He is leading us. It is an amazing feeling to have the confidence to face any of life’s circumstances knowing that no matter what happens everything will eventually be alright. That is a privilege that no one except those who choose to trust and follow Christ have. It is this kind of hope that many people around us need. The person going through a divorce. The family that has been torn apart by a tragedy. The parent trying to provide for their children. They and many more like them are in need of the hope and life that Jesus promises to give to those who follow Him.

Do you have the confidence that everything will be okay because you are trusting the Good Shepherd and where He is leading? If you are responding to the voice of the Shepherd that confidence can be yours. Do you know someone else who is in need of the confidence, someone who thinks “things will never get any better?” Maybe they need to know that there is a Good Shepherd that wants to lead them, to provide for them, and protect them. A.W. Tozer once said, “I could quote hundreds of passages from the Holy Scriptures to show that God keeps His people and that there is nothing in earth or in hell that can harm a trusting soul. The past is forgiven, the present is in God’s keeping and a thousand bright promises give assurance for the future.” As we follow the Good Shepherd let us rest in those truths and tell others about them. What has happened in the past is forgiven, God is in control of the present and will lead us every step of the way as we follow Him, and where He is leading us to will be worth every step of obedience we take!

THURSDAY

We have talked a lot about trusting Jesus to lead us during difficult seasons. That is important, since so many get sidetracked due to the difficulties of life. But, there is another aspect that we cannot ignore as we follow Jesus. There are many blessings to be found by those who trust Him. There is much life to be experienced. The prosperity gospel has taken this and ran with it. But their abuse of the blessings of God does not nullify the reality that God blesses His people in amazing ways. Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Jesus also said in this John passage, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:9-10) There is life and blessings that we will experience as we follow Christ, both in this today and in the life to come!

The blessings come as we follow the Shepherd and trust that he will provide for us. That does not mean that our motivation for following the Shepherd is to get whatever we want. That would be following Jesus for all the wrong reasons. But as we follow Him, no matter how difficult the paths may be at times, he leads us to places of pasture that restore us and blesses us in amazing ways. How can we avoid focusing incorrectly on the blessings of God? We can take all the blessing God gives us and use them to also help bless other people. As Warren Wiersbe said, “God doesn’t bless us just to make us happy; He blesses us to make us a blessing.” Trust that as you continue to follow Jesus He will lead you into places of blessings and then in turn go be a blessing to someone else and tell them about what the Good Shepherd has done for you.

WEDNESDAY

As we follow the shepherd there will be times when He will lead us through a dark valley. Many people begin to question the goodness of God. They say things like, “If God is good, why are all of these bad things happening?”  They are tempted to leave the care of the Shepherd and either find their own way or follow someone/something else that promises greater comfort than what they are currently experiencing. But those who place their trust in Jesus as their Shepherd discover that the safest place that they can be is where He is. Corrie Ten Boom once said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” We too must sit still, just like the Psalmist says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Our trust is placed in the ability of the Shepherd to lead us out of those difficult times. As David said in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” As you face difficult situations are you still following the Shepherd? Do you find comfort that surpasses the dangers/difficulties you face simply because you know that your Shepherd will both protect you and lead you through that time? The decision to trust Jesus during those times may be difficult, but as you do he will lead you through, and if there are any injuries that you experience while being in the valley, the Shepherd knows how to heal them. Place you trust in Jesus as your Shepherd today and continue to follow where He leads.

TUESDAY

As we follow the Good Shepherd we can trust that He will lead us in the way that we should go. Psalm 23:3b says, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” It’s important that we do not miss the reason He leads us in this verse: for the sake of His name. Jesus proves He is the Good Shepherd by leading us (with the assumption that we follow where he is leading) so that He will be glorified and be seen as the Good Shepherd. As we follow His voice we can trust that the paths He leads us on will lead to life.

Does that mean they will always be easy paths? No, it does not. We will talk more about this tomorrow but today we can mention that the paths he leads us on will sometimes be difficult. But, encouragement can be found in knowing that no matter how difficult the path is, if we are following Him, He will be right there in the midst, both providing for and protecting us. Isaac Watts said,Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks. There will be times when we may find it difficult to trust the paths God is leading us. As we continue to make the decision to follow Him the less we will doubt the path that He chooses. Place your trust in the Good Shepherd today, wherever He is leading you. As you continue to follow His voice you will discover He knows what He is doing and where He is going every step of the way.

MONDAY

John 10 is an amazing passage of Scripture that reminds us that we have a Good Shepherd who longs to lead His people. How many times in our lives do we find ourselves in situations where we doubt that truth? My guess is too many. There are times in our lives when, for various reasons, we stop listening to the voice of our Shepherd. We stop following where He leads us and we place ourselves at the risk of unnecessary danger. Elisabeth Elliot pointedly comments, “Experience has taught me that the Shepherd is far more willing to show His sheep the path than the sheep are to follow. He is endlessly merciful, patient, tender, and loving. If we, His stupid and wayward sheep, really want to be led, we will without fail be led. Of that I am sure.” Are you willing to follow the Shepherd today?

Psalm 23:1-3a says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” The more we begin to believe the truth that our Shepherd longs to take care of His sheep the more we will continue to experience the life that He desires to give. Getting to places of  peace and restoration may not always be easy. Sometimes we will have to continue to place our trust in following the Shepherd when situations in our life do not seem to make sense. God’s Word reminds us though that as we follow the Shepherd we will experience real life. That is something we can place our full trust in. The Good Shepherd has indeed proven faithful time and time again.



Week 7: Condemned?

FRIDAY

Do you feel God’s love for you in a way that overcomes your past mistakes? Knowing how much God loves us should free us to become the people He is calling us to be. When faced with all our failures it will be tempting to doubt the love of God, but we must never do such a thing. He longs to communicate love to us and provide a way for our lives to be transformed and our sin left behind. Max Lucado writes, “Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, ‘I can clean that if you want.’ And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes our sin.” To know and remember God’s love and His willingness to heal us of our past can change your life.

Paul prayed for the Ephesian church and asked, “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 the Message) When you realize and continue to remember the dimensions of God’s love for you it frees you up to live in the fullness of what God has in mind for you. Continue to believe in the greatness of God’s love for you as seen through Jesus Christ. Continue to behold that love and remember what God did to provide forgiveness for ALL your sins. Continue to leave your sin and shame behind and experience the joy of living in God’s love.  See you Sunday!

THURSDAY

There will be times when you will be confronted with past shame. You may doubt God’s ability to provide forgiveness or feel as if He is still punishing you for past mistakes. What do you do when you are confronted with those feelings, or better how can you prevent those thoughts from taking root in your mind? You continue to abide in Jesus. John wrote in his first epistle, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”(I John 2:28) Shame is removed as we continue to abide in Christ. As we abide we are continually reminded of Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and ability to redeem our past failures. It is when we choose not to abide that doubts begin to creep into our thoughts.

Some come to Christ to receive forgiveness for some mistake, but then cease to abide in Him. Andrew Murray once said, “You did well to come; you do better to abide. Who would, after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited in to dwell in the King’s presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life?” There is transformational power for our lives in abiding in the presence of our King. It is hard to doubt God’s love and forgiveness while we stay connected to Jesus. We get into trouble though when we decide that it is not necessary for us to have to dwell in His presence on a daily basis. When we are not connected to God’s love it is easy to believe the lie that our past is not forgiven.

WEDNESDAY

How good of a person do you have to be in order to believe that God is not counting your past sins against you? If you did not have that certain sin in your life, whatever that might be, do you think that God would love you more? I shared a quote on Sunday by Philip Yancey, “Grace means there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us more. Grace means there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us less” But the question that we are confronted with is, do you believe it?  If you do believe, how should you respond to that grace? You should respond the same way this woman was called to in John 8 by no longer accepting sin as okay and choosing to live differently.

With one decision will you be able to live the life that God is calling you to live? No, it will take many daily decisions; in both being faithful to the way God is calling you to live and getting back up and asking forgiveness when you sin and fail to live a godly life. It will be a continuing process. The more you depend on God’s grace and choose to be obedient the more you will continue to become the person God has created you to be. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14) Forget the shame that lies behind you and strain forward to what lies before you, the life God is calling you to live.

TUESDAY

On Sunday I talked about having a showdown with the Pharisees of our own lives. The Pharisees can be different people, they can even be ourselves, but we must not allow the traps and words of condemnation to shame us and keep us from accepting the forgiveness that Jesus offers us. It might easy to believe that things can never change, that we should not expect things to be different. It is true that often times we make poor decisions that lead us to destructive situations. Should we just accept the consequences and surrender to the result of our decisions? Or should we place our faith in Christ’s ability to forgive us and transform both us and the place that we find ourselves in?

The result of this woman’s decision should have been death. That was the justifiable consequence of her sin under the Old Testament law.  Yet she was placed at the feet of Jesus and He offered her hope and a second chance. What if she left Jesus’ feet that day and had not believe the words he told he that things could be different. Surely, she would have fallen back into her old way of life and would never have experienced the freedom of being set free from her sin. Paul told the Galatians, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom.” (Galatians 5:13 The Message) Through Christ God has called you live a life of freedom from sin. Take your stand against those who would tell you otherwise, whoever they may be, and continue to live by the grace that God has given you in Christ.

MONDAY

Can you imagine the shame the woman who was caught in the act of adultery must have felt as she was placed on display for the whole town to see. How terrible it must have been to know that, 1) everyone knew her sin and 2) she was just moments from being condemned to die. Many of us have carried shame and it has too caused or maybe even still causes damage in our lives. We walk around worried that our secret sins will be found out or we do not deserve to receive God’s grace and forgiveness. It paralyzes us; it cripples us; it gets in the way of us growing in our faith. It is a place where Jesus does not want us to stay. He did not want this woman to stay in that place either. So he made it clear to her that she was not condemned but he also made it clear that she was to respond by living differently.

In order to move on and become the people God is calling us to become we have to deal with the shame we carry.  The way we are called to deal with it is trust that Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf was enough to pay the penalty we deserved. We must stop living as if our past sins are still counted against us. Then we must make a choice to trust that Jesus is able to free us from our past way of life. Jesus taught this, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.” (John 8:34-36 The Message) In Christ you have been set free from your past sins and the shame that they created. Believe that and live the life that God is calling you to live today.



Week 6: Are You Thirsty

FRIDAY

The final response we will look at from this account is the one that God desires all of us to have. Some people heard his words and believed in Him. I have said it many times throughout this series but faith and what we believe about Jesus is a huge theme throughout this Gospel. Without believing…truly believing, not just claiming to believe, we will never become the people God is calling us to become. In our culture sometimes we end up settling for something less than faith, while still thinking we are placing our faith in Jesus. John Ortberg wrote, “For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.”

When it comes to believing in what Jesus can accomplish or what He is calling you to do, have you settled for something mediocre at best? Mediocre faith will not be able to overcome the obstacles that we face. Whether they are trials, persecutions, confusion, not understanding what is happening or any of the other many difficulties we are bound to face in this life. What we inevitably believe about Jesus can either help us overcome those obstacles or be overcome by them. John wrote these encouraging words in his first epistle, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (I John 5:4) Believe in who Jesus is and what He is able to accomplish, be faithful in being obedient to what He is calling you to do and continue to overcome the obstacles that you face to the glory of His Name!

THURSDAY

There are always times when God is doing something and we do not fully understand, yet we do not reject or allow ourselves to be paralyzed by confusion. We are interested in knowing more. In our Scripture passage Nicodemus was like this. We know that later he would eventually become a disciple but at this point he has made no profession of faith. Yet, he was interested in knowing more. Even at the expense of facing hostility from the other Pharisees for trying to do what’s right. We all need to have hearts like Nicodemus. When he did not fully understand who Jesus was he chose to continue to seek after Him. This eventually led Nicodemus to the point where he placed His faith in Him.

The key for those who are interested in what Jesus has to say is not giving up the pursuit. CS Lewis once wrote, “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” The truth of seeking Christ leads to the joy, love , and hope that we long for. Eventually Nicodemus came to realize that. Yet, he would have missed it all had he thrown his hat in with the others and ceased to pursue after God. Paul charges Timothy in his letter to him. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Continue to pursue that which leads to life even in the midst of not understanding what He may be doing right now.

WEDNESDAY

Some people do not outright reject Jesus because they don’t believe him. Sometimes they are too confused to know what they believe. The guards in this account portray this type of people. The things that Jesus said went against what they had been taught but there was something about Jesus that drew them towards Him and they did not know how to respond to that. Confusion can be dangerous in our lives, especially if coming to Jesus and trusting in Him is not our greatest priority. Jesus will ask us to do things sometimes that we do not understand or will allow us to go through a situation that does not make sense. If our ultimate trust is not in Him we may not know how to respond in that situation. The confusion that results may end up preventing us from coming to Him at all.

Henry & Richard Blackaby write, “God’s commands are designed to guide you to the best He has to offer. You will struggle to obey Him, however, if you do not trust Him.” In the midst of a confusing situation what you ultimately trust in will be revealed. Your faith and trust in who God is during these moments of confusion will either help you to continue to follow Him or lead you to pursue something else. Paul wrote to the Romans, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) In those moments where you do not understand and are confused by what’s going on choose to look towards Jesus and believe in who He is and what He is able to accomplish.

TUESDAY

Jesus’ teaching requires a response. In the passage we looked at this week we looked at four different responses people made when he told them to come to Him. Today we will look at those who chose to reject Jesus’ words. They doubted who He was or what He said He could do and it placed an obstacle in the way of their finding ultimate satisfaction. Doubt and unbelief are deadly to living the Christian life. Hebrews 11:6 teaches us, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Did you catch that? It is impossible to please God without faith. So the question that stares us all in the face today is: Who do you believe Jesus to be and what is He able to accomplish in and through your life?  If you question God’s ability to transform a situation do not be surprised when nothing changes!

A.B. Simpson once wrote, “When we dare to depend entirely upon God and do not doubt, the humblest and feeblest agencies will become mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.” There is great power in our Christian living the more we choose to respond to the things God says in faith. We set aside our necessity to see the whole picture or our dependency on the ability we have to make it happen. If it is God’s will he will bring it to past. Let us not put obstacles in our lives that prevent God from accomplishing the things he wants to accomplish. Nor let us jump ship when things are not happening according to our timeline. May we continue to place our trust in God, who is able to, “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20)To Him be the glory for all that He continues to accomplish in our lives as we continue to place our trust in Him.

MONDAY

Where do you go to find ultimate satisfaction? Is it in your work? Maybe it is in a recreational activity? Perhaps satisfaction comes from the amount of material objects you possess? If your ultimate source of satisfaction comes from any of these things you are setting yourself up for disappointment. None of these things were intended to satisfy the part of us that only God can satisfy. Before we rush pass this thought let me challenge you with a question. When things become difficult in your life and you are aching for something more which of the things listed above do you turn to for peace. Do you go out and buy the latest thing that you have wanted? Do you pour yourself more into work, ignoring those around you? Do you spend resources (whether time or money) pursuing your favorite activity? Or do you turn to God and seek comfort from your relationship with Him and His ability to provide and help you overcome what you are facing?

If God is the source of our ultimate satisfaction it will be Him we turn to, not just in moments of desperate need but on a daily basis. If he is our ultimate source of satisfaction it will be His will that we pursue. It will be living out our faith in obedience to Him that becomes our greatest desire. God spoke to the prophet Isaiah as recorded in 55:1-2, 6-7:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come; buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good and delight yourselves in rich food…“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

God desires to be your source of ultimate satisfaction as we repent of our own attempts to seek satisfaction in other sources and come to Him. Do not waste another moment believing that you can find greater satisfaction in anything/anyone else. Go to Him to day and find the satisfaction that He longs to give you.



Week 5: Who Do You Trust?

FRIDAY

I finished the sermon last week with a quote by Chuck Swindoll, “The Jewish crowd wanted to see and then believe; the disciples believed and eventually began to see” This is one of the key thoughts for this week and a point that is worth emphasizing one more time. Choose to believe in who Jesus is and continue to place your trust in Him when things happen that you don’t understand. There will be situations that you face where you do not understand what is happening or how God could use it for good. What will you do when you are in the midst of that situation? Will you allow things that you cannot understand to prevent you from trusting in Jesus?

The Apostle John wrote in his epistle, “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.” In the midst of what you may not understand decide to place your faith in the truth that God loves you and that as you continue to place your faith in Him and abide in Him, He will lead you through those difficult circumstances you face. Do not let your limited ability to see what the future will hold keep you from being faithful to the plans and purposes that God has for you. Trust in who God is and continue to follow as He leads you. See you Sunday!

THURSDAY

The stories from the Old Testament that really stick with us and leave us in awe are not the stories of man’s best achievements through his own wisdom and power. They are of people who decided that they were going to believe in who God was and trust that He would help them accomplish what He was calling them to do. We remember the stories of faith and they serve as an encouragement for us today. God does not need the most capable or gifted people. He needs people who are going to trust in His greatness before considering what they are able to accomplish. Do you trust God today? Do you believe that He is more than able to accomplish whatever He desires to accomplish? To do that you have to be able to trust him when things come across your path that you do not understand.

Joni Eareckson Tada wrote, “It is a glorious thing to know that your Father God makes no mistakes in directing or permitting that which crosses the path of your life. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. It is our glory to trust Him, no matter what.” We do not have to understand or have an explanation for what crosses our path. We need to continue to be reminded of our limited vision in seeing what lies ahead and trust in God as he leads us. We will continue to see great things happen as our trust is continually placed in who He is. Psalm 23 is a wonderful reminder of the impact trusting in God can have in our lives:

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,  they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me  all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Continue to place your trust in God today.

Wednesday

What happens when you find yourself in a situation that you cannot understand? You don’t understand what God is allowing to happen or what good can come out of it. Many people’s faith gets shipwrecked when they are faced with such situations. If God is good, how could this be happening to me? It is a common objection. There is a truth about life in that bad things happen as a result of living in a sinful world or things that we do not understand. But, in that moment when we are faced with those situations we have to ask ourselves the same question the disciples had to ask in this passage: Who do you trust?

The disciples came to the point where they acknowledged they could go nowhere else. Jesus alone had the words of life. He alone was worthy of their trust. Especially in this instance where they did not necessarily understand what was going on. Do you trust in Him in the same way? Or is your trust limited to how much you can understand about the events that surround you? Later on in this Gospel the disciples would again face a situation that they did not understand. Jesus told them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1) The same words echo to us today. May your heart not be troubled with what surrounds you as you continue to place your trust in Jesus. Beth Moore wrote, “God can do what He says He can do precisely because He is who He says He is.” May that fact alone give you rest today as you continue to place your trust in Him, no matter what you may be facing.

Tuesday

On three different occasions and in increasingly difficult figurative language Jesus emphasized the people’s need to be dependent upon Him as the bread of life. He challenged their dependence and pursuit of what is temporary at the sake of what is eternal. It would seem clear from this passage that Jesus leaves no room for a half-hearted commitment or dependence on Him. He often challenges those who have a false assumption of pleasing God and comforts and encourages those who are more humble in heart. Religious pride can get in the way of us maintaining of our relationship with Christ. If religious pride is not put in check it can lead to us thinking God owes us something or by our own merits we can stand in His presence.

It might leave a sour taste in the mouth of some people to think that they must be continuously dependent on someone other than themselves. But to ignore the truth of that fact is to cut ourselves off from the source that pours life into us. Jesus emphasized the disciple’s need to stay connected to Him (and a verse we may mention again as we continue our study of John) when he said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5) C.S. Lewis once said, “Relying on God has to start all over every day, as if nothing has yet been done.” Every day we are to continue to place our trust and dependence on Jesus. As we do so we continue to act on our belief that He will continue to lead, strengthen us and guide us throughout our day. To fail to depend on Him, however, puts us in a position where we are left to our own imperfections and inabilities to see what lies ahead.

Monday

The crowds in the passage that we looked at this week were seeking Jesus for the ways he could meet their temporary needs. Many people today fall into the same trap. It is true that there are temporary things that we need and that God does provide those things to those who trust Him. However, we should not neglect the more important things. Often the saying is true of us that we miss the forest for the tree. Jesus taught people the importance of seeking what’s more important in the Gospel of Matthew, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) By seeking what’s most important the other things will be provided, but if we focus on the temporary things we are at risk of missing the eternal, more important things.

God calls us to trust him for the temporary things and be faithful in the eternal things. Trust is a necessary ingredient if you are going to choose to seek after the things you may not be able to see or understand, instead of the temporary things that glare you in the face. Elisabeth Elliot once wrote something that we must firmly believe if we are to be able to daily focus on what is most important. She said, “God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” Continue to place your trust in God and seek Him for the things that last and trust that he will in the process take care of the temporary needs you face.