Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sunday Prayer: Longing for God’s Presence


Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to You with a heart that's longing for something more. Just like a deer seeks water, my soul thirsts for Your presence. In the midst of life's busyness, I find myself wanting to be close to You.

You are the beginning and the end, the One who created the universe, yet You're also right here with me. It's overwhelming to think that You care about my worries and cares. The mountains, the oceans, all the beauty around me, they remind me of Your greatness, but what I truly desire is to walk through this life with You.

I admit that there are times when my worries and doubts get the best of me. Please forgive me for those moments. Help me refocus my heart and renew my devotion to You. Your presence is what my heart craves, and I want to seek You above all else.

When life gets tough, when darkness creeps in, I want to remember that I don't need to be afraid. You're my comfort, my guide, always providing for me. Your presence is the light that drives away my fears.

I want my life to be a reflection of Your love. May my words, my thoughts, and my actions all bring glory to Your name. I want to live in a way that shows the world I am a citizen of Your kingdom.

Lord, You are my Rock, my Refuge, my Savior, and my God. I ask that You let me experience the joy of experiencing Your presence every day. Let Your light shine on me, and may my heart find eternal joy in You.

In Jesus' name, I pray,


Friday, August 18, 2023

The Path of Surrender

"A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. Yes, it has something for more than difficulties: it is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us, praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it." 

Andrew Murray, Humility and Absolute Surrender; p. 72

Surrendering our lives to God is not easy, but it is the only way we can become the people God created us to be. Andrew Murray, a South African writer and pastor (1828-1917) taught about this theme of surrender quite often. He recognized that surrendering was not a natural thing to do, and therefore it would not be easy, but that it was an essential part of our discipleship.

In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." 

Here Jesus taught that surrendering to God requires denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following him.

Living a life of surrender means that we hand over the control of our lives, our plans, and our desires to God. To surrender our lives means acknowledging that God knows what is best for us, even when God’s will goes against our desires. Total surrender to God requires a level of humility that is hard to achieve in a world that values self-reliance, self-promotion, and personal achievements above almost everything else.

Surrendering to God will also require us to go against the cultural expectations of society, to make choices that are unpopular, and to have morals and values that seem odd the people around us. This can lead us to face criticism, rejection, and even persecution for our faith. 

When we surrender we will also need to give up some of the activities and pleasures that we once thought were essential to our happiness because they do not align with God’s will.

Despite the challenges, living a life surrendered to God is not impossible. As we walk this path of faith, we will need to trust that God will sustain us and guide us every step of the way. 

To do this we need to stay connected to God through prayer, reading the Bible, meditating on the truth of Scripture, reorienting our lives through worship, and spending time with other Christians. What this means is that surrendering to God is a daily decision, a constant giving up of ourselves to His will.

So today, let us make the decision to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus. It is crucial for us to remember to trust in His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit as we live a life of surrender to God.

Prayer: Dear God, help us to surrender ourselves completely to You. Give us the strength to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. Help us to trust in Your grace and the power of the Holy Spirit as we walk this path of surrender. Amen.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Community and Personal Faith

“From the beginning it was clear that Christianity is something people do together. Having said that, the earliest writers were also concerned that all members of the Body of Christ should be awake and active in personal faith; should know their own responsibilities and make real for themselves the privilege of worship. That way, when the whole assembly gathers together, each will have his or her own joy and sorrow, insight and question, to bring.” 
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, p. 157

Acts 2:42 shows us that from the beginning that Church understood the importance of being together. These first followers of Jesus devoted themselves to learning and living out their faith together. Christianity is, at its core, a communal faith. The Bible teaches the importance of gathering together, of being in fellowship with one another, and of working together for the Kingdom.

Yet, we cannot separate the importance of Christian community from the personal faith of individuals. The writers of the New Testament understood that while the Church is the “Body of Christ” and the “Family of God”, each individual member of the Body must also have their own personal faith. This means each person needs to know their own responsibilities and take an active role in the ministry of the church community.

In our modern Christian culture, it is easy to see our faith as something that is purely personal. Many Christians view faith as a private matter, something that they practice on their own. While there is certainly value in personal faith and the spiritual disciplines that we do on our own, this idea overlooks the importance of living out our faith in community. When we gather together as a church family, we are able to encourage each other, to learn from one another, and to grow together in our faith.

The early Church understood this well. They knew that the faith could not be lived out on privately. They committed themselves to  gather  regularly to worship, to study the scriptures, and to pray. In these gatherings, these followers of Jesus were able to share their joys and sorrows, to ask questions and seek answers, and to offer support one another in their spiritual formation.

Being committed to a church family was not just about gathering together. The New Testament writers and other early Christian writers also emphasized the importance of personal faith. There was an expectation that each disciple was to take an active role in their own spiritual growth. They were encouraged to meditate scriptures, to pray, to fast, to serve, to give generously, and to seek God's will for their lives.

This personal faith was essential because it allowed each disciple of Jesus to develop their own personal relationship with Jesus, and the unique experience and perspective of each person would strengthen the community as a whole. 

While we have lost the importance of this ideal it is  still something we should encourage in our modern church context. When we gather together as a community of believers, we each bring something unique to the table. We each have our own experiences, our own questions, and our own insights to share. By coming together, we are able to learn from one another, to grow together, partner with one another for the work of ministry, and encourage each other in various ways.

Christianity is both a communal and a personal faith. From the beginning, it was clear that the faith could not be lived out in isolation. The early Christian communities gathered together regularly to worship, to study the scriptures, and to pray. At the same time, they also emphasized the importance of personal faith. Each individual member of the community was expected to take responsibility for their personal spiritual formation.

If we are going to model our modern expressions of faith after the New Testament example we need to recapture the truth the following Jesus is both a communal and an individual activity. We need to commit to doing those activities that will grow our personal faith and we do to commit to participating in the life of a local church family.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sunday Prayer: Courage and Boldness

Gracious God, I come before you in humility and with a heart full of faith. I thank you for your goodness and mercy, and for the gift of your Son, Jesus, whose sacrifice secured forgiveness and salvation for me.

Lord, I ask for your strength and courage as I navigate the challenges of this world. I pray for boldness to stand up for what is right and to speak truth in love. I ask for the courage to follow your will, even when it is difficult or unpopular.

Help me to be strong and courageous in the face of adversity, knowing that you are always with me. Give me the courage to step out in faith, trusting that you will guide me and provide for me every step of the way.

Lord, I pray that you would fill me with the Holy Spirit, that I may be empowered to live the life that brings honor and glory to your name. Give me the courage to share your love and grace with those around me, even when it may be uncomfortable or challenging.

Help me to remember that I am not alone, and that you are always with me. May my life be a shining light that points others to you, and may I never waver in my faith or my commitment to your kingdom.

I pray all of this in the mighty name of Jesus, who is my strength and shield. Amen.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

A New Birth Into A Living Hope

1 Peter 1:3-5 (CSB)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage and strengthen the persecuted believers in Asia Minor. In verses 1 and 2, Peter reminded them that they are God’s chosen people because of the Father’s plan, the Spirit’s transforming work, and the Son’s faithful obedience. 

In this passage, Peter celebrated the new birth that disciples of Jesus experience through faith in Christ, which provided them a living hope and an imperishable inheritance.

Peter wrote, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," which expressed his profound gratitude and worship for God's character and work. Peter recognized that God's gracious mercy is the source of all spiritual blessings and the foundation of salvation. God's mercy is not based on human merit or worthiness but flows from His infinite love and grace. Through His mercy, God has given us new birth that brings us from death to life and makes us children of God (John 1:12-13).

This new birth is not a result of our own efforts or achievements but is a gift of God's grace that is given to us through the faithfulness of Jesus and our trust in him. Peter emphasized that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the ultimate proof and guarantee that this new birth is a reality and that God’s people now have a living hope. 

Jesus' resurrection validated his claims to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Through his resurrection, Jesus conquered Satan, sin, and death which saved us from the consequences of sin and secured eternal life for his faithful followers. As Paul wrote, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). But because Christ has been raised, our faith is alive, vibrant, and victorious.

Peter also highlighted the nature and quality of the inheritance that all of God’s people receive through this new birth. The inheritance we have is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us. It is imperishable because it is not subject to decay, corruption, or death. It is eternal, incorruptible, and indestructible. It is undefiled because it is pure, holy, and perfect. It is untainted by sin, evil, or imperfection. It is unfading because it never loses its value, beauty, or glory. It is the perfect gift that God wants His people to have.

This inheritance is not something we earn or deserve but it is a gracious gift God gives to his people. It is not a temporary or earthly possession but an eternal and heavenly treasure. It is not a vague or abstract concept but a concrete and personal reality. It is something that is grander and more wonderful than we can imagine. It is not something we keep but something that keeps us. It is not something we can lose but something that is guarded by God's promise and power.

Peter also reassured the believers that their inheritance is secure and guarded by God's power through faith. The phrase "you are being guarded" implies ongoing and active protection by God's power. The verb tense suggests that this guarding is not a one-time event but a continuous process. God's power is not limited but it is eternal. His power is not arbitrary or random but is directed by His wisdom and love. God’s power is not passive or indifferent but is active and engaged.

This guarding is also through faith, which implies that Christians have a role to play in our spiritual security. Faith is not a passive or static belief but an active and dynamic trust in God's promises and character. Faith is not a blind or irrational leap but a reasonable and informed response to God's revelation. Faith is not a private or isolated experience but a communal and relational reality. Faith is not a temporary or fluctuating emotion but a persistent and persevering conviction.

Peter concluded this passage by reminding the believers that their salvation is not fully revealed yet, but it is ready to be revealed in the last time. This means that our inheritance is not fully realized yet, we have a glimpse of it, but it will be fully revealed when Jesus returns and makes everything right. Until then, believers must live in hope, faith, and obedience, knowing that their ultimate destiny is secure and glorious.

This passage is teaches that our hope and our salvation is all a work of God. It highlights the depth and breadth of God's mercy, the power and significance of Christ's resurrection, and the greatness and certainty of our inheritance. 

This passage also challenges us to live in a way that reflects the reality and hope of our new birth and inheritance. As Peter wrote later in his epistle, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). When we live out our hope we make Jesus real in the world.

As Christians, we have been born again into a living hope and an imperishable inheritance. We are guarded by God's power through faith as we wait for our salvation to be fully revealed. We need to live as children of God, shining the light of Christ in a dark world, and eagerly awaiting the day when we will see Him face to face and inherit all that He has promised.

Friday, April 28, 2023

God’s Power to Transform

Transformation is a popular thing to talk about in our culture. Everywhere we turn, from fitness to self-improvement, people seem to be obsessed with the idea of change. While change can certainly be positive, true transformation is something that cannot be achieved by human effort alone.

Transformation is a key theme in the New Testament, and it provides insight into what it means to experience true change. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" This verse highlights the transformation that is to happen in the life of a disciple of Jesus. It is only through God that we can become a new creation, leaving behind our old ways and embracing a new life Jesus secured for us through his death and resurrection.

Many people try to change themselves through sheer willpower or by following a self-help program. While these things can be helpful, they cannot bring about true transformation. Without the initiative and action of God, we will not be able to become the people God created us to be. We may make temporary changes, but we will not be able to overcome the flesh that controls our lives.

The Apostle Paul understood this truth. In Romans 7:18-19 he wrote, "For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." Paul recognized that he was powerless to change on his own. He needed the transformative power of God to break free from his flesh.

Part of the Gospel message is that God is able to transform us. He is in the business of changing the lives of people. In Philippians 1:6, Paul wrote, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God won’t abandon us halfway through the transformation process. We can be confident that He will see it through until the end.

The transformation that God brings about in our lives is not just external, but it is also internal. In fact, the transformation we need is a transformation of our hearts, our minds, and our souls. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He changes our desires and gives us a new purpose. He also helps us to see ourselves and other people in a new light. The transformation that God brings about is a transformation of the entire person.

There are many benefits to experiencing true transformation through God. For one, we become better equipped to handle the challenges that life throws our way. We are less likely to be shaken by difficult circumstances because we have a firm foundation in Christ. We are also able to experience a greater sense of peace and joy because we are no longer weighed down by the burdens of our past.

Another benefit of experiencing true transformation is that we become better equipped to serve others. As we become more like Jesus, we begin to see the world, and others, through His eyes. We become more compassionate, more understanding, and more willing to help those in need. Our relationships with people are strengthened, and we are better able to make a positive impact on those closest to us.

How can we experience transformation in our lives? 

The first step is to acknowledge our need for God. In the Beatitudes Jesus taught that we need to be “poor in spirit.” One of the things this implies is that we must recognize that we are powerless to change on our own and that we need God’s help to become a new creation. Once we have acknowledged our need for God, we can turn to Him and ask Him to work in our lives.

This starts with prayer. We are to confess our sins to God and declare our loyalty to Jesus. We pray and ask God to reveal areas in our lives that need to be transformed. We ask Him to give us the strength to overcome our weaknesses and to help us grow in our relationship with Him. We also pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and guidance.

All of us have those moments of clarity when we realize that our lives are not what they should be. We have attitudes, beliefs, and actions that need to be changed, but often we feel powerless to do anything about it. One of the promises of Christianity is that we can become new people. The only way that will happen is if we surrender our lives to God and allow Him to transform our lives.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Immediate Obedience Required


"The moment you know what God wants of you is the moment to do it. He doesn't expose sin in our lives so we can take care of it later. When God speaks, it requires immediate attention. We might be tempted to put things off until it's easier to deal with them. We might hesitate in an attempt to minimize the consequences. Yet courage does what's right regardless of situation or consequence." 
Erwin McManus, Uprising, pp. 100-01

Christians are people of faith. Biblical faith is more than simply believing, it is about trusting and obeying. In other words, we are to trust God more than we trust ourselves. This trust will come out in the way we live. If we trust God then we will do what He says. We will act immediately, regardless of the potential consequences.

In our American culture, it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and ignore the Holy Spirit nudging us to take action. It also becomes easy to put off doing what we know is right because we don't want to deal with the difficulty, discomfort, or even the opposition that may come with it. But as McManus wrote, we cannot afford to procrastinate when it comes to fulfilling God's plan for our lives.

The Bible  has many examples of people who were called to do difficult things for God but initially hesitated or procrastinated. Moses, for instance, was reluctant at first to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he didn't feel equipped for the task. Yet, once he finally submitted to God's will, he became the prototypical leader for Israel.

Similarly, Jonah resisted God's call at first to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, but a few days in the stomach of a fish, Jonah listened to God’s call, and great city of Nineveh experienced a revival. 

Both of these stories remind us that obedience to God's will often requires us to step outside of our comfort zones and do things that we simply don’t want to do.

Along those same lines, when God reveals our sin to us, it's not so that we can feel guilty or ashamed. Rather, it's an opportunity for us to repent and turn away from our wrongdoing. But this process of repentance requires courage and humility. We need to acknowledge our faults, confess our sins, and seek forgiveness. This is crucial to do, even if it means admitting our mistakes to others.

It is essential to recognize that sin has serious consequences. It damages our relationships with others, harms ourselves, and ultimately it separates us from God. This is why it's vital to deal with sin as soon as possible rather than putting it off until a later time.

I also want to note that following God's will doesn't necessarily mean that life will be easy or without challenges. In fact it is often quite the opposite. We may face resistance, persecution, or even danger when we step out in faith to do what God has called us to do. Yet, as Erwin McManus emphasized, courage does what's right regardless of the situation or consequence.

Courageous obedience to God's will requires that we trust Him more than we trust ourselves and that we believe He has our best interests at heart, even when we can't see the bigger picture. This boldness requires us to believe that God will provide us with the strength, wisdom, and resources we need to accomplish His plan for our lives.

Whaat Erwin McManus wrote in Uprising is a good reminder that following God's will requires immediate action. We must step out in faith, even when it's uncomfortable or inconvenient. We must confront our sin and seek forgiveness, knowing that this is the first step towards restoration with God.

As we strive to live a life that honors God and demonstrates His character, we need to remember that we are not alone in this journey. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us, the Bible to instruct us, and the Church to support us. Let us commit to living a life of courageous obedience to God's will, trusting that He will lead us on a path of purpose and fulfillment.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Beyond Feelings and Intentions

In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard wrote:

One of the greatest deceptions in the practice of the Christian religion is the idea that all that really matters is our internal feelings, ideas, beliefs, and intentions. It is this mistake about the psychology of the human being that more than anything else divorces salvation from life, leaving us a headful of vital truths about God and a body unable to fend off sin. (p. 152)
This quote highlights a common mistake among Christians: the belief that our internal feelings, ideas, beliefs, and intentions are all that matter in our relationship with God. This idea leads to a twisted view of salvation, one that emphasizes knowledge and feeling over action and change, which leaves us stunted in our spiritual formation.

To truly live as disciples of Jesus, we need a discipleship that integrates our thoughts, emotions, and actions. The spiritual formation that is to happen in our minds and hearts must be reflected in the way we live and interact with the world around us.

I think it is crucial to remember that ongoing spiritual formation requires both a change of mind and a change of behavior. Repentance leads to a change of mind which motivates a change of behavior which leads to a renewed repentance that flows into a changed mind which results in a change of behavior. And this cycle keeps us moving forward in our spiritual formation.

One crucial part in this process is the practice of spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are intentional habits and practices that help us align our minds and hearts with God's will. Disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, fasting, and solitude, allow us to train our minds to focus on God's truth and our hearts to respond in obedience.

However, spiritual disciplines alone are not enough. We also need to cultivate a lifestyle of service and selflessness. As Jesus himself said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; NLT)

To deny ourselves means that we put aside our own desires and preferences so we can love God and love our neighbor. We know that we maturing in our discipleship as it becomes second nature for us to love.

Ultimately, our salvation is not just a matter of intellectual understanding or emotional experience; it is a transformation of our whole being. As Willard writes, "Salvation is not just a matter of being saved from our sins; it is a matter of being saved to be the kind of person who naturally does the good and right thing" (p. 153).

We need to reject the belief that our feelings and intentions are all that matter in our spiritual formation. Instead, let us embrace a discipleship that integrates our thoughts, emotions, and actions in pursuit of God's will. This is how we become the people God created us to be.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Prayer and What We Believe about God


Prayer is an integral part of the Christian life. Through prayer we communicate with God, seek His guidance, offer thanks and praise, and ask for His intervention in the world.

I believe the way we approach prayer reveals what we truly believe about God.

If we believe that God is distant and uninterested in our lives, we will not see the point in praying. If, on the other hand, we believe that God cares deeply for us and is actively working on our behalf, then we will be motivated to pray at every opportunity about the things that weigh on our hearts.

Remember, the Bible tells us that God is a loving and caring Father who is deeply concerned for His children. Jesus taught us to pray to "Our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). Addressing God as our Father is a powerful reminder of the love and care God has for us. This truth can motivate us to approach God with confidence, knowing that He loves us and desires the best for our lives.

Yet, it can be hard to remember the love and care God has for us. The circumstances of life can cause us to doubt God. When we face trials and difficulties, we can wonder if God really does care about us. We may question why He has allowed us to experience pain and suffering. 

Yet, it is during times like these that prayer becomes even more important.

How do we pray when we don’t feel like praying? When we doubt the goodness of God?

I don’t know if I have a good answer for that, except, that we fall back on the discipline of prayer. This is why it is crucial to develop a habit of prayer, so we will follow through the with the actions of faith, even when the feeling of faith is not there.

I am confident that as we come to God in prayer, we are reminded of His faithfulness and love for us. We are reminded that He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Prayer is also the way we align our hearts and minds with God's will. When we pray, we seek God's guidance and direction for our lives. We acknowledge that we need His wisdom and understanding to navigate the challenges that we face. As we pray, we remember of God's sovereignty and power. We remind ourselves that He is in control, even when things seem to be spiraling out of our control.

Prayer is a spiritual discipline that reveals what we truly believe about God. If we believe that God is distant and uninterested in our lives, we may not see the point in praying. But if we believe that God cares deeply for us and is actively working on our behalf, then we will be motivated to fall on our knees and cry out to Him.

As we pray, we are reminded of God's love and care for us. We are also reminded of His sovereignty and power. May we be encouraged to pray with faith and confidence, knowing that God hears our prayers and is actively working on our behalf.

Friday, April 7, 2023

The Foolishness of the Cross


Good Friday is the day when we remember the crucifixion of Christ Jesus. It is important that we take time to ponder how Jesus, in obedience to the Father, laid down his life to be the sacrifice of sin.

One of my concerns, especially for us who have been around church for most of our lives, is that we lose the foolishness of the cross. The cross, an instrument of execution, as a means to victory makes no sense.

It is foolishness to believe that life can emerge from death, or that winning can come from losing. The apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 highlight this reality:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. For it is written,
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and I will set aside the intelligence of the intelligent.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.(CSB)
Notice that Paul never said the cross is anything but folly or foolishness. We find power and transformation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but we will not fully understand its significance.

The cross is a crucial part of God's plan to rescue creation from sin, decay, and death which means the crucifixion of Jesus is a product of God’s wisdom. Since God’s ways are far above our ways means that we will never be able to fully understand all that happened because of the cross. Systematic theologies have explained the cross in doctrines like justification, atonement, and sanctification, but we miss something vital if we do not find the cross a little bit odd.

While we may never grasp the full wisdom of God displayed in the cross, we can still find healing in its purpose. We may wonder how the death of one man saves all those who believe in him, but we can still put our faith in Jesus.

We do not need to understand the crucifixion in all of its complexities in order to take advantage of the gift of life, forgiveness, and mercy that is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our salvation is not based on our understanding, but on our faith in the Jesus.

The power of the cross does not lie in our understanding but in God's love and grace. We may not understand the purpose of the cross, but we can trust the One who worked through. The point of Good Friday is not that we understand God's ways, but that we trust God's love.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Follow Jesus’ Example of a Faithful Life


As Christians, we are called to live a faithful life.

What does that entail, and how can we ensure that we are living in accordance with God's will?

The answer lies in following the example of Jesus. In John 6:38 (CSB), Jesus said:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me."
Thus, living a faithful life involves doing God's will, just as Jesus did.

The foundation of a faithful life is following Jesus' teachings such as loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), forgiving those who wrong us (Matthew 6:14-15), and serving others (Mark 10:45).

However, staying on the path of righteousness can be challenging. We may encounter trials and temptations that make it difficult to remain faithful to Jesus’ way of life.

I think we can find encouragement in knowing that even Jesus faced challenges during his time on earth. In Matthew 26:39 (CSB), Jesus prayed :

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
In this moment, Jesus was faced with an incredibly difficult task, the task of dying on the cross and taking on our sin. In that moment Jesus chose to submit to God's will above his own desires.

This example shows us that we too must choose to submit to God’s will, even in the face of hardship.

When we face trials and temptations, we can turn to God for strength and guidance, just as Jesus did. Through a deepening faith in God that comes from the practice of spiritual disciplines, we can find the strength to stay on the path of righteousness and honor God in all that we do.

This requires that we know what God’s will is.

We are able to discern God's will for our lives, by turning to the Bible, which contains God's truth for how we should live. Not only should we turn to the Bible, but we also need to pray and ask God for guidance. James 1:5 (CSB) states:
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him.
Wisdom, the knowledge of living well in God’s world, is a gift from God. This is why wisdom is the product of both our faithful study of the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

Living a faithful life requires daily devotion and commitment. It means surrendering our own desires and ambitions to follow Jesus. We do this because of the conviction that following Jesus is the absolute best way to live.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Finding Freedom in Jesus

 Christ has come to set us free! 

Galatians 5:1 (CSB)
For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Freedom is what we all desire, and it is, at least for Americans, a right for all people. We want to see people live in freedom rather than in oppression. 

God, too, desires that we be free! God’s desire for our freedom is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The news that Jesus brings freedom to our lives is Good News.

We desire freedom, and God desires that we be free. So what is the problem?

The problem is our definition of freedom and God’s definition of freedom aren’t the same. 

Too often, we see freedom as the ability to decide how we want to live. 

To be free from the expectations of authorities, families, and other social restraints. 

To have the financial freedom to go and do what we want to do. 

For us freedom is defined by having complete control of our lives.

According to the Bible, God’s definition is different. In fact, the writers of the New Testament, who experienced the freedom Jesus gives, described themselves in an interesting way. 

In Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…" (Romans 1:1, CSB).

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." (James 1:1, CSB). 

And the Apostle Peter wrote, "Simeon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:1; CSB).

In each of these cases, we would understand the type of servant Paul, James, and Peter called  themselves to be a slave.

It is obvious that these men did not equate autonomous control of their lives to the freedom found in Jesus. They believed they were free, but that freedom led them to surrender to the authority of  King Jesus. 

In our thinking, being under the authority of someone else is not freedom. But these men, who said they were slaves of King Jesus, lived with a greater freedom than what we can understand.

Now I have this question to ask you: Is your life better or more complicated since you have been in control of making the choices on how to live? 

In this country and in this period of time, we have had great freedom to choose the direction of our lives. 

We have the freedom to choose our careers, the freedom to choose our spouses, the freedom to choose friends and other relationships, the freedom to do what we want with the money we make, and the freedom to believe what seems true to us.

Even with all this freedom, many of us feel trapped and enslaved. 

We feel trapped in a job that we hate. We feel trapped in a marriage that we no longer want. We feel enslaved by the expectations and whims of our friends. We feel enslaved to the massive amount of debt that we have accumulated. We feel trapped and enslaved by the empty promises of humanistic philosophies. 

When we are free to decide how we want to live, we often end up being trapped and enslaved by the choices we made.

Thankfully Jesus brings freedom to us trapped in prisons made up of our own decisions. He offers a life free from the curse and condemnation of the Law. He offers a life free from the addictions of sin. He offers a life free to live in the spontaneity of love for God and people. 

Jesus’s freedom allows us to be free to use our money to help people in need, to be free to use our blessings to be a blessing to our neighbors, to be free to hope in the midst of hopelessness, and to be free to give our lives away to God and His Kingdom.

Are you living a free life  or are you enslaved to your addictions? 

Are you living free life or are you enslaved to the expectations of other people? 

The only way to truly experience freedom is to give your life to Jesus. He guides us out of the chains of bad choices and the enslavement to addictions and into his Kingdom of freedom.

The path towards freedom that Jesus offers is the path of surrendering your life to him. Freedom is found in stepping off the throne of your life and making Jesus King in your place.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Following Jesus to New Life


Following Jesus is a journey of faith that leads to the transformation of our lives. This journey is available to anyone, no matter what kind of life they have lived or how many wrong choices they have made, as long as they trust Jesus to be their guide.

In his book, Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus wrote, "No matter what kind of life you've lived, no matter how many wrong choices you've made, the next moment is waiting to give birth to new life."

This quote is a powerful reminder that following Jesus is about looking forward, not backward and trusting that He can transform our lives, no matter what our past looks like.

One passage that teaches this truth is John 8:1-11, where a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The religious leaders demand that she be stoned, as required by the law of Moses. However, Jesus responds in a surprising way. He says, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).

The crowd disperses, and Jesus speaks to the woman, telling her that He does not condemn her, but He also commands her to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). This encounter shows us that no matter how far we have strayed from the path of righteousness, Jesus is always ready to forgive us and give us a new start.

Following Jesus requires leaving our past behind and embracing the new life He offers us. It means recognizing our mistakes, confessing our sins, repenting, and turning to God for forgiveness. When we do this, we experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit  in our lives, which enables us to move forward with confidence and hope.

Another benefit of following Jesus is that we discover a sense of purpose and direction. When we commit to following Jesus, we commit to living a life that is guided by His teachings and His example, as we trust His death and resurrection for hope and new life.

Living a life guided by Jesus's teaching is to live with love, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity. It means working to conform to the image of Jesus by doing the disciplines He did (prayer, fasting, solitude, service). This is the way we align our lives with God's will.

Faith is crucial to following Jesus. To have faith means we trust Jesus more than we trust ourselves. We trust that He will forgive our sins, help us overcome the sin and the doubt that plague our lives, heal our wounded hearts, and make us new creations. Living with faith in Jesus moves us to believe that no matter what kind of life we have lived, He has the power to forgive us and make us into brand new people.

Following Jesus is a journey of transformation, maturity, and renewal. This journey is open to anyone, no matter who they are or what they have done. So let's seize the divine moment and commit to following Jesus, trusting that He will transform our lives and give us a new future full of faith, joy, hope, and love.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Continue the Struggle

 It is no secret that life is hard. Even when we are following Jesus and doing God’s will, life doesn’t get any easier. We may sometimes expect things to be easier if we are doing what is right, even though this has never been promised. We want to be validated and reassured that we are doing the right thing.

It is logical to assume that if we are doing God’s will, then things would be difficult. 

Why should we assume that? 

Because the enemy is opposed to God. 

If we are making progress in overcoming sin in our lives, if we are in a relationship that God wants us to be a part of, if we are part of a ministry that is making a difference in the community, or if we are standing up for what is right, we shouldn't be surprised if things are difficult.

However, we can't solely evaluate things based on whether things are going well or not. 

Sometimes things will go well even though it is God’s will, and sometimes things will be a struggle even though it goes against God’s law.

All I want to do is to remind you that struggling isn’t a bad thing. When following God’s will becomes a struggle, it gives us an opportunity to grow and appreciate what God has in store for us on the other side of the struggle.

In the midst of our struggles, we need to remember what Jesus said to the church in Smyrna:

“Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: Thus says the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 

“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11; CSB)

Jesus told this group of His followers not to give up in the face of persecution. “Hang in there,” He says, “this won’t last forever.”

Our struggle may not be persecution. 

Our struggle, most likely, are circumstances haven't turned out the way we expected. That realization that our dreams haven’t gone according to our plans, which causes us to wonder if we are really in the right place. We ask ourselves, “Should I continue to live by faith, or should I just give up?”

I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for such situations, but let me offer you a few thoughts.

First, is to ask yourself the question, “Is my struggle related to living righteously and faithfully?” If the answer is yes, then you are doing what God wants you to do. When your desire is to honor God, to encourage and love people, and to grow in your knowledge and faith, then there are many places you can go and things you can do and remain in God’s will. Living a life that honors God by following Jesus is a life that Satan opposes.

Second, consider letting go of your dreams. I think God allows people to go through struggle because their dreams need to be changed. We miss out on the life God wants us to live when we cling too tightly to the dreams we have for our lives. Remember, we may even have to lay down our best dreams for our lives in order to experience God’s best for us. Letting go of a dream is an act of faith because we have to trust that God’s will for our lives is greater than our dreams.

Third, get the opinions of different Christians. These could be people you have a close relationship with or not. The two criteria are that you respect their opinion and they faithfully follow Jesus. We still need to evaluate what they have to tell us, but they will help us see things from a different perspective. Too often, we are so closely involved in the situation that we fail to see all the different angles it has. The perspective of other Christians helps us see things more clearly.

Life is tough. Just because life is tough doesn’t mean that we are not doing God’s will. Often, the struggle is an indication that we are doing what God wants us to do, and the Enemy is opposing us. We need to stay faithful, and in the end, we will experience the life God created us to live.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Asking for a Friend: Do I Need to Choose Between Faith and Science?


Everyone has questions. Some questions we can find the answer with a quick search on Google. Other questions are more intimidating. Questions that surround our faith can be scary because we worry about what the answer might be and whether or not those answer will affect our faith. What ends up happening is that we ignore the question, but that question still lingers in the back of our mind.

In Asking for a Friend we want to look at a few of these questions and see if there is a way to provide an answer to them that will not only strengthen our faith, but also help us see the world through a more Christian perspective.

Too often our culture makes us believe that science and faith are at odds with one another, and therefore we need to choose between them as we pursue what is true. The reality is that science and faith are not in conflict, rather, they should be viewed as tools we use to arrive at an accurate and true view of our world. 

Text: Psalm 19

Big Idea: Science and religion are tools that we use to gain a better understanding of God and the world we live in. 

Challenge: Read through Psalm 19 each day this week and ask God to reveal Himself to you through nature and the Bible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Philippians: Knowing Christ


STOP — Philippians 3:7-11


For Paul everything that he put his confidence and value in prior to Jesus has lost its worth. What matters to him now is knowing Jesus and having his life conformed to the way of Jesus through faith. Through this Paul hopes to experience the power of the resurrection in his life and witness the resurrection when Jesus returns.


Knowing Jesus is the most important part of our lives.


  1. Paul was at the top of his world before Jesus. He had every reason to be confident and boastful about who he was and what he had achieved. After Jesus the things he thought were the most important: his obedience to the Law, his ancestry, his identity as a Pharisee and Jew...all of it was worth nothing compared to Jesus.
  2. Paul’s attitude towards knowing Jesus causes me to reflect on my relationship with Jesus and I am reminded how easy it is for me to value other things. I want that faith that Paul had to believe that knowing Jesus is the most important part of life.
  3. Our righteousness is not based on our actions but on Jesus. Often we can feel like failures because we realize how we have fallen short of God’s will for our lives. That is why we need to be reminded that through faith we receive Jesus’s righteousness. We don’t have to be discouraged, rather we keep submitting to discipleship in the belief that God will transform our lives in the process.
  4. Paul’s goal was to experience the power of the resurrection. First, he wanted to experience in his life, that it would transform his life as he did the will of God and suffered in that work. Second, he hoped to experience the resurrection when Jesus returned to restore the world, make everything right, and bring his people back to life. The resurrection was central to Paul’s hope.


Lord God, help me to experience knowing Jesus as the most important part of my life. May I not be satisfied with lesser things, but have a growing hunger for the resurrection life that Jesus has for people.

Tomorrow: Philippians 3:12-4:1

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Philippians: The Right Confidence


STOP — Philippians 3:1–6


Paul wanted the Philippians to have joy and to worship in addition to honoring Epaphroditus, because God had been merciful.

Now that Paul has updated the Philippians he moved to provide some teaching. He wanted to warn them of false teachers. These teachers taught that it was important to be circumcised and follow other aspects of old covenant law in order to follow Jesus. Paul taught that it was not, that these things were merely external things that they should not place their confidence in. If they mattered Paul would have more reason than anyone to boast with confidence because his credentials were the best. 


Our confidence is in the saving work of Jesus and the transforming work of the Spirit.


  1. Paul wanted to provide an update on himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus to show the Philippians how God had been at work and provide them with a reason to rejoice, to thank God for what He was doing.
  2. The subject of false teaching was something Paul had addressed before, but he knew that it was something that needed to be revisited. False teaching is able to lead people astray and if we don’t stay vigilance it is easy to believe that they are teaching the truth.
  3. The line Paul draws between true faith and the false teaching is what we put our confidence in. Is our confidence in what we have done and who we are or is it in what Jesus has done and who the Spirit says we are.
  4. Verse 3 is key. Circumcision was the sign that people were part of God’s people in the old covenant. God’s people, the circumcision, in the new covenant are identified by their Spirit-guided worship and are confident in Jesus’s death and resurrection for salvation. Their confidence is in the actions of God and not in what they have accomplished.
  5. Paul wrote that if our confidence was in the things of the flesh, our ancestry and our actions, then he would have more confidence than anyone else. Very few other people could match Paul’s credentials.


Heavenly Father, thank You for providing the way of new life through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. May I continue to rely on You for what I need.

Tomorrow: Philippians 3:7-11

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Philippians: Living is Christ

STOP — Philippians 1:21-30


Paul mentioned that his hope (verse 20) that whether by his life or death he would have the courage to bring honor to Jesus. He saw that he had two paths before him. If he continued to live he would be able to continue the work Jesus gave to him to do. If he died he would go to be with Jesus. Paul did not know which to desire. To live meant that he could continue to teach and encourage people to follow Jesus, but to die meant he could experience the delight of being in heaven with Jesus. 

As Paul waited to see what would happen he urged the Philippians to live as citizens of heaven (not just as citizens of Rome) so they could live lives that were worthy of the Gospel. To live this type of life required that they live united as they lived and proclaimed the Gospel. They would need unity and courage because they too would face suffering because of Jesus.


We need the commitment and courage to live by faith because of the hardships that will come our way.


  1. The dilemma for Paul was real. He loved people and wanted to see them become part of the Kingdom. He also was tired of the suffering he had experienced and was ready to be with Jesus. 
  2.  As long as we are alive in this world we need to remember that we have a job to do: make disciples. No matter what we need to continue to do what we can, that includes giving, praying, and living a faithful life.
  3. Paul urged the Philippians to live as citizens of heaven. As residents of Philippi they were also citizens of Rome. That was an honor, but Paul wanted them to understand their greater citizenship was to Heaven. They were to live the way God wants His people to live: with love, joy, peace, gentleness...and the rest.
  4. The Philippians were granted the privilege of suffering for Jesus. Why is this a privilege? It means that they were living in such a way that the powers of the world wanted to oppose them. When we live as citizens of Heaven, the powers of this world will oppose us. They do not want the light of our lives to shine in the darkness they have created.


Lord, grant me the courage and the faith to live a life that is worthy of Jesus.

Tomorrow: Philippians 2:1-4

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...