Seeking God: Reaching out

Seeking God: Reaching out

Reading: Psalm 9:9-20, Isaiah 53:5-6

Christ: You are valuable to Me in My kingdom. I was pierced through for the transgressions of all so that there may be no road block for you to come to me in faith and live with Me in Heaven forever.

 

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Think: It’s important for us to meditate not only on the comforting and Godly power of Jesus, but also on his crucified human form as well. Realize that from the cross He has already forgiven every transgression anyone has ever and will ever make. Nothing that I have done may ever prevent me from saying Yes to Him.

Pray: Dear Lord, help me to stay aware of my sin and conscientiously seek to take control of my urges and habits. Jesus reaches out His pierced hand to us, offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Now let me also reach out and take hold of it to be led each day by Him.

Seeking God: He will not fail

Seeking God: He will not fail

Reading: Psalm 13:1-6, Jeremiah 31:15

Christ: Grief and sorrow are consequences of sin on Earth and they touch each person uniquely. Do not think Me ignorant of your pains; I weep with you. In such times, you must cling even tighter to My lovingkindness to you. I have helped you before, will I not help you again?

I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue.I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers..jpg

Think: Even in his most desperate times, David praised God’s faithfulness. He says: “But I have trusted in You in the past, and my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (my paraphrase of Ps 13:4-5). The real test of faith comes when we cannot see the rest of the road due to darkness and fog. It is in these times when we use the truth of who God is to fill in the blanks – I will sing to the LORD because He has dealt bountifully with me. How has God dealt bountifully with me in the past?

Pray: Dear Lord, You are always good and never changing. You care for us in your own way and timing. Blessed be Your name because you are good and mighty to save. Let us not confuse grief (which is caused by sin) with despair (which is the loss and absence of hope in You). You never forsake us. Amen.

Seeking God: Keep a soft heart

Seeking God: Keep a soft heart

Reading: Psalm 95:1-7, Isaiah 40:11

Christ: Remember that I am your place of rest and your shelter of comfort. The cares of the world are stressful and not at all aligned with the original purpose for which you were made. The symptom of a hardened heart appears when you try to make a shelter of safety for yourself. I cannot do my work or you if your heart is hardened against me.

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Think: “The seed sown on the rock never brought any fruit to perfection” – Matthew Henry. When I lie, cheat, steal, I am hardening my heart against God’s heart for me. I may justify my choice, or ignore it altogether but it is still sin.

Pray: Dear Lord, let us keep the ground of our hearts as fertile soil which grows the seed of faith to perfection in the dew of your grace. Help me to notice the moment my heart refuses to receive your wisdom. Holy Spirit, make clear to me the state of my heart so that I may never miss out on the gentle leading of Jesus.


 

Is it a sin not to go to church?

Is it a sin not to go to church?

The convenience of a streaming church service is a double-edged sword. Indispensable to those who cannot leave their bed, but a tool of temptation for the devil.

I heard that whisper this morning: Why get up so early? It’s cold and you deserve a break, and who will notice you anyway? Whether you go or stay won’t make a difference. You’re still going to watch the sermon online, it’s not a sin to miss one week…

It got me thinking about why it’s important to go to church. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that it’s an outright sin not to go, nor does the Bible specifically say which day we are to worship.

So why should I go?

Tradition?

To see my friends?

Because Starbucks is on the way and I can get a treat?

Well, what does the Bible say about going to church? There are several reasons from scripture:

To encourage one another:

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

To meet with God together:

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20

Friendship with other believers:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

To mature in faith:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

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As for whether it’s a sin or not, “sin” is a deliberate rebellion against God. That’s between Creature and Creator. Far be it for me to say yes or no on behalf of someone else, I’ll humbly say that in my case, I believe it would have been considered a sin. The reason being that I understand and agree with the importance of church attendance. As mere laziness, I’d be a hearer only and not a doer of the word. (James 1:22).

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I went anyway. And instead of losing comfort, energy, and time, I unexpectedly gained something even better: peace that my obedience meant something to God. I think he is proud of my response. And I can’t wait to obey again next week.

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How would you answer that question?  Bring the question of church attendance before the throne in prayer and ask God for his wisdom in the matter.

Don’t (necessarily) follow your heart: Making faithful decisions that agree with the will of God

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Commonplace stock phrases like “follow your heart” are so prevalent in our culture that e don’t think twice when we see them plastered on greeting cards, posters, and children’s clothing. They sure sound positive, upright and true, but Jesus says something different. The sins that defile us, actually start with your heart.

“Out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22).

The heart loves comfort & convenience above all

In school I had a friend whose parents were divorced, but had agreed to live together until the kids graduated. From where I was standing, they loathed each other and the air inside the house was fraught with tension. Their reasoning was that it was easier than having to deal with custody and cheaper than living apart. It may have seemed to work on the surface, but the arrangement still left deep wounds on the whole family. The heart does not want to be challenged or disturbed, and that shuts out any possibility for redemptive, albeit painful, work to be done. 

The heart can be blind to its own sin

Jeremiah 17:9 calls the human heart the most deceitful of all. Jesus talks about this too, in Luke 18:9-14 when he tells the parable about 2 men who prayed at the Temple. One, a Pharisee, proudly stood in a place of importance and prayed like this: “God, thank you that I am not a sinner like everyone else. I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I fast twice a week, and I tithe 10%.” The other man was a despised tax collector. He prayed with eyes glued to the ground and beating his chest in sorrow like this: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus explains that it was the tax collector, and not the Pharisee who stood justified and innocent before God.

The Pharisee’s blindness to his own sin came from within in the form of pride and foolishness. I believe that the Pharisee honestly believed himself justified, but that’s not enough. By fully trusting his own heart’s judgement of himself (we always tend to minimize our sins to ourselves, don’t we?) he lost an opportunity to be made right before God.

To be successful, our hearts need solid truth for direction

The basis of the gospel is that we (and our hearts) are not good or innocent by default (Romans 3:10). Thus, we cannot be trusted to follow our hearts unless what we desire matches up with God’s will for us. How does one do that, exactly?

  1. Believe First, take heart! (ha) Remember that God has said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”(Ez 36:26). He can do amazing work with our old broken hearts.
  2. Commit There is a decision facing you today. It may be large or small, but to the Lord, size doesn’t matter when it comes to obedience. Make a commitment to seek the right path to take. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
  3. Seek The first place I go when I’m seeking wisdom from the Bible is usually the concordance in the back of my Bible (many popular bibles have them). Biblegateway.com and openBible.info are also excellent for quickly finding what you need.
  4. Ask This one sort of goes together with #3. Often it’s not the finding of the information that’s difficult, it’s the application of it. Even if you are pretty sure you know what you’re doing to do, it’s important to check yourself with the wisdom of another older believer. Stay in fellowship with one another through a church, a small group, and/or with a spiritual mentoring relationship with an older and trusted believer. I’m personally so thankful to have several such wise men and women in my life to whom I can go for direction.

Do you have a person or church family you trust for support? If not, I challenge you to reach out this week to someone like this. Remember that we all get off the path and need the support of our church family. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

God’s Word never changes and “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 timothy 3:16).

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Prayer: God, we praise you for your mercy on poor sinners like us. We pray that your Holy Spirit would help us to discern the difference between your direction and our own sinful direction for our lives. Show us how to recognize our need for your mercy. Let our hearts consistently move forward toward that perfection that we will have in Heaven with You.

Application Question: What decision is facing you today, and how are you going to search for the right way to go?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

My Weakness, His Strength †

 

I failed again, for the umpteenth time. I set out to meditate on good, but my mind barely goes as far as judgement or hate –whichever makes me feel the best about myself at the time. I no sooner finish dedicating my day to Love, than I turn around and say something passive-aggressive to my husband. I hate it when people stand too close to me in the supermarket (is it just me??) so I allow my annoyance to affect others and I sulk out of the store like I have a stormy rain cloud overhead.

I mean, come on, what is wrong with me?!  Don’t I know what I am to do? Can’t even one word of God’s penetrate my thick skull enough to change one action of mine? To paraphrase Paul’s famous (and more eloquent) speech from Romans chapter 7 :  I do what I hate, and I don’t do what I want to do.

Here’s what I learned: Just by indulging myself in a pity-party, I have allowed the enemy to win. He can’t stand it when we walk closer with God. He HATES when we are victorious over temptation through Jesus’ help. It infuriates him when we return to God after stumbling into sin. Satan prefers that we remain face down in the muck of our failings, believing the lie that we are too far gone to have hope for salvation.

But the Lord has said:

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Let us give glory to God when the Spirit helps us return to our Father, along the way of righteousness! There’s nothing we can do that pleases God more than running back to apologize and try again with an earnest heart. The peace that this thought brings makes all temporary pleasures pass away in comparison.

Judge yourself by what Christ is rather than by what you are.

Satan will try to mar your peace by reminding you of your sinfulness and imperfections:

you can only meet his accusations by faithfully adhering to the gospel and refusing to wear the yoke of bondage.

-Charles Spurgeon, Mornings and Evenings

New life

New life

“and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

Colossians 1:20

True, Jesus came to save us from the consequences of our sin, but did you realize that was only part of his mission?

Jesus did not end his mission by dying on the cross. On the 3rd day he rose again into a new kind of life. When we decide to live according to Jesus’ will we die to our old ways and come into a new kind of life too.

Some people stop their Christian journey at the point of accepting forgiveness. They simply coast through life, expecting to be saved without making any effort to turn from their sin. I confess that my actions and attitude frequently fall into this category.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor 5:17)

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Application:

  • In which ways are you still living out your old life ways?
  • How do you struggle in changing?
  • Take a moment and talk to God about those struggles. He is overjoyed when you speak with him truly with an open heart, and he wants to give you courage and strength, all you have to do is ask!

“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”

Romans 6:4