Sunday, February 8, 2015

"It was by Faith..."

     When I was a small child I would anxiously wait for Christmas day to come.  As Christmas would approach I would become even more excited while thinking about the gifts that I would receive on Christmas day.  There was much anticipation and it was hard to contain my excitement.  I was certain that I would receive gifts because this is what happened every year. Some of the gifts would be something that I had asked for while others were surprises and with each Christmas there was a combination of assurance and anticipation.  The assurance that Christmas would bring gifts and the anticipation of waiting on the day to come... it's the same with faith!

Hebrews 11:1 (New King James) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 (New Living Translation) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we can not see.

     When we read Hebrews chapter 11 we see tremendous examples of faithful people.  Such examples mentioned are the faith of Noah. A man who built a large boat to save his family from a flood.  A flood of which had never happened before.  God had warned him about this flood so Noah went to work and obeyed God in building the Ark. Because of his faith his family was saved and the rest of the world condemned.
     Look at Sarah.  She was much to old to have children yet even though she was old and barren, she believed in God's promise that she would have a child.  Eventually a whole nation came from this one child as promised by God.  Hebrews 11:18, "Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted."  Sarah believed in God's promises.  She may not have understood how she could have a child, but she believed she would because God said she would. God keeps his promises.
     Look at Abraham.  He showed tremendous faith when God told him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Even though God had told him that Isaac would be the man whom your descendants would be counted, Abraham knew that God keeps his promises so he raised his knife to sacrifice his son.  He may not have understood how God could keep his promise but he believed that if he obeyed God and sacrificed his son that God could bring him back from the dead and bring him back to life again to fulfil his promise.  So by faith he proceeded to sacrifice Isaac.  We know that God stopped Isaac from being sacrificed as an angel stopped Abraham at the last second.  God provided a Ram stuck in the thicket to offer as a sacrifice instead.  

     Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. Faith gives us assurance about things to come.  Just the three examples I mentioned show us how true this is.  I think it's important to know that to have faith you must believe that God is who he says he is and he does what he says he will.  Knowing God's character is the beginning of faith.  This is what gives us the confidence that what we hope for will happen.  The ending of faith is God doing what he says he will. It's God's promises being fulfilled.  This is what gives us the assurance about things to come.  To have faith is to believe that God is who he says he is and because of this we can trust with certainty that the things we hope for will come to pass.  God always keeps his promises.  Even though we may not understand or see how our faith can possibly work out.  We can trust in God's character and his promises, and that's all we need.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hiding in the bushes

Genesis 3:8-10
(8) And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
(9) Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
(10) So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and hid myself.

     So I have to ask... have you ever found yourself trying to hide from God?  I mean even though we know we can't, we do it anyway.  I know I have.  When I read these verses I'm reminded of my own sin and the shame that I experience as I'm hiding hoping that God will just simply walk by and let me be.  Please Lord God, don't acknowledge me right now!  But then what happens? Hey Steve, "Where are you?"

     I think it's important to note that any sin we commit can not be covered up or hidden from the Lord God.  In Adams case he was actually naked, unclothed, and it wasn't until he ate of the forbidden fruit that he saw his nakedness. We know this from Genesis 3:7 as they both tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves.  Adam wasn't hiding from God because he was embarrassed to be naked in front of God, Adam was hiding because he was ashamed of his sin against God and his nakedness was confirmation of that fact.  Adam is also very afraid of God.  Adam knows he's in trouble and he knows the wrong he's committed.  Have you ever been there?  I have.

First lesson here... We can't hide our sin from God!  Sin is like being stripped naked.  It's out there for God to see.  We are exposed.

     In Genesis 3:9 God asks of Adam, "Where are you?" Why do you think he asked this question?  It's certainly not because God doesn't know where Adam is hiding. God ask the question so that Adam will have to answer and admit to what he'd done.  God convicted Adam of his sin just like He does you and I when we sin.  Ultimately God through his questioning got Adam to tell him he was naked and afraid of God finding this out. In Genesis 3:10,11 we see that God asks Adam how he knows he's naked?  God asks, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"  Adam finally says to God that he ate of the fruit, but not until after blaming a couple of people first.  He blames the woman for giving him the fruit to eat, and honestly he blames God for giving him the woman.  Genesis 3:12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.  It's like, yes I did it, but if you hadn't given me that woman I wouldn't be in this situation right now.  It's hard to admit or acknowledge our sin to God isn't it? Especially if we're hiding.  In Genesis 3:13 we see that God also ask of Eve what happened and she explains that the serpent had deceived her and she ate.

Second lesson... We must acknowledge our sin.  When we admit we've sinned against God, we take responsibility for our actions. We admit our guilt.  Just try not to throw others under the bus when you do it... shame on you Adam.

     Well, we see that Adam and Eve had sinned and that they acknowledged and admitted their sin to God.  So what next?  Well there are consequences to sin.  We just need to know if we sin, we will suffer.  There were consequences for Satan, Adam, and Eve for what happened in the garden that day.  Now unfortunately, since we are all offspring of Adam and Eve, we're still suffering even today for their sin. God punishes Satan (the serpent) God punishes the woman and future generations of women, then God punishes Adam and future generations of men. Genesis 3:14-20 reveals how God dealt with this sin and the consequences of it.

Third lesson... There are always consequences to sin.  When we sin, we can expect suffering and consequences.  Keep in mind that sinning against God is a revolt against God.  It's a choice we make of disobedience. We will face consequences.

     Things don't look to good for us right now does it?  We see that if we sin, we can't hide, we might try to, but God knows.  Eventually we'll admit our sin to God, God convicts us of our sin so that we can acknowledge our guilt.  There's no chance for redemption if we don't admit our sin.  Have you heard God ask you... "Where are you?"  If so, it's time to admit your sin and confess.  Then we learned that there will be consequences.  People get hurt, our lives are not lived to their fullest, we aren't effective in our ministry anymore, on and on... there are consequences directly related to our sin.  But there is hope for us.  We serve a God that is abundant in grace.  He covers our sin and makes us right with Him.  God forgives our sin. Genesis 3:21 says... Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.  As you know Adam and Eve tried to sew fig leaves to cover their nakedness, but figs leaves are temporary and inadequate. God gave them skin coverings that would do the job. Covering their nakedness properly and providing for their needs.  
     I think it's amazing that right after they sinned against God, God still provides for them and cares for them.  God not only provided clothing to cover their nakedness, he provided a way to give mankind eternal life by protecting the way to the tree of life.  God didn't run Adam and Eve out of the garden to harm them, he ran them out of the garden and placed an angel to guard the way to the tree of life.  The way to the tree of life is now protected and the only way to it is through Jesus Christ.  No one will ever eat this fruit again unless, they go through Jesus Christ first.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Fourth lesson... Know this.  God loves us.  He will always provide for us even though we've sinned against him.  Forgiveness awaits us!  Restoration awaits us!  We will be reconciled.  Our sin will be covered!

     I hope these words encourage you as they have me.  I want to thank all of you for your prayers.  I went back to church yesterday evening and I had been away for quite some time.  Living in sin, hiding in the bushes, knowing I'm not where God wants me to be, but finally tired of God asking me, "Where are you?"  Finally admitting and acknowledging my guilt I went back and it's as if I never left.  I guess I realized that when you're where you're supposed to be, it just feels right.  I'm so glad that my Heavenly Father is a God of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  
     If you find yourself hiding in the bushes, naked from the exposure of sin, there's only one way to cover up.  Call on the name of Jesus. Allow God to cover your sin and shame and then you can move on with your life as God intends.  The hard part is coming out of the bushes.  Once you do, God takes care of the rest! 

God bless you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Different results demand different actions

     Last year I was tired of feeling overweight.  Now I wasn't in real bad shape but I was bothered by my clothes all of a sudden becoming tighter and more constricting.  When I weighed myself I was about twenty five pounds heavier than I'd ever been and I realized that I needed to do something to change my weight gain or who knows how big I could get? Either way I was headed in the wrong direction and I knew it. Things had to change.

     At first I didn't do much of anything about my weight other than kind of wishing I wasn't so heavy.  After a few weeks of wishful thinking and hoping that somehow I would lose weight just by being more conscious of it, I quickly decided this wasn't doing anything to help my situation. Yep, I was going to have to do something different.  
     So the first step for me was educating myself about weight loss.  Google search here I come!  I found out all kinds of stuff about weight loss as you can imagine and after much reading and becoming more educated about the subject, I finally came up with a plan. Eat less, exercise more. Sounds easy, but it requires something I didn't have up to this point and that was commitment and discipline. 
     My second step was to make a commitment to lose weight.  Until I became committed to the task, it was just a dream. With commitment came all kinds of ideas on how to make it happen.  I set a goal of how much weight I wanted to lose. I developed a tracker to measure my results weekly.  I calculated how many calories I needed to eat each day to begin losing weight.  I decided to stop drinking sodas.  I decided to eat three good meals a day instead of skipping breakfast as to jumpstart your metabolism in the morning and start burning fat as early in the day as possible.  I realized that if I walked every day then I would burn even more calories helping me to achieve my weight loss goal even faster. I decided to snack less in the evenings as I watch television. And finally, I determined that I could eat whatever food I wanted, just smaller portions at each meal. You see, my commitment set me on a path to make a plan... now comes the discipline part. The part where it takes discipline to execute the plan. Yes, the hard part.  
     This was the third step of doing something different to get a different result.  I stated earlier that it was the hard part of doing something different and it was, but only in the beginning.  The reason this was the hard part was because this is when I had to simply get going.  Up till now it was all just a plan.  Yes a plan of action but without action it's just a great plan.  Results are not improved because of great plans, results are improved because of acting upon great plans.  Without action, it's just a dream.
     Final step for me was to maintain.  After weeks of eating less, measuring results, walking more and snacking less, I saw the pounds coming off.  I ended up losing 28 pounds over a 3 month period.  All I did was stick to my plan and measure the results.  I did notice that as I began to get into better shape I was beginning to lose less weight each week. Eventually I was at an ideal weight, I felt good, I think I looked good. I actually had to buy some new clothes because the old ones just didn't fit anymore. But the weight loss slowed tremendously and my goal now was to maintain my weight goal through my new established routines.
     I tell you all this to parallel similarities with our Christian life.  In my case, I felt I've lost my focus in my Spiritual walk with the Lord.  I've come to a place where I know that I'm weak and for a lack of better terms... fat and lazy and in need of different results.  I would say that the last few weeks I've repeated the exact same process that I did in the beginning of my weightloss journey. Wishful thinking for change.  Sure I'm convicted and know I need to change, but as of yet, I've not made the commitment to do so.  Seems I keep making excuses as to why I can't make it to church.  Often my prayers are shallow and more and more infrequent. My bible study happens less often and about the only time I spend time with God anymore is in my car listening to bible studies or sermons on the way to work (I have an hour drive to work.) I'm feeling disconnected.  I'm not lost, but I'm way off course. Just as I said earlier when describing my weight gain... I'm simply headed in the wrong direction. 

Different results demand different actions!

Pray for me as I seek the Lord's guidance and ask for strength to re-commit myself to living my life for him.  May He give me a heart of commitment and a desire to set goals to grow into the Christian he desires me to be.
May this commitment refocus my attention on His plan for me through our daily walk together and a renewed attention to his word, the bible.
May I have the strength and stamina to be diligent and disciplined in my actions and behavior as he shapes and molds me.
And through this may I see different results.  May I be a different man. 

It's time to lose the weight of the world and become fit for Christ!  

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
                                                                                                                                                           Philippians 4:13

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Our First Priority as Christians

     Through the years I have written many notes on the pages of my bible.  Today I noticed the same note over and over again.  These were little reminders to me to never forget our first priority as a Christian.  The note simply said, "Matthew 6:33 Our first priority as Christians!"  Then in another book of the bible I came across it again, written very small in the margin of the page, "Matt. 6:33 First priority of Christians."

Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

     What's this mean to you and I.  It's simple really.  It means to turn to God first for help.  We should fill our thoughts with his desires.  We should focus on his character and use this as our guide for our way of living.  We should serve and obey him in everything.  So if our first priority is to seek (first) the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then what's the promised outcome?  All these things will be added to you... What things?  The answer... basically everything that you and I worry about.
     I know that I've spent countless hours of my life worrying about things that concern me.  Worry about my kids, worry about my job, worry about my family and friends, worry about paying the bills, worry about the economy, worry about this and that... worry!  You know, Jesus teaches us about worry in the preceding verses to Matthew 6:33.  vs 25 Don't worry about your life.  Don't worry about what you'll eat. Don't worry about what you'll drink.  Don't worry about your body. Don't worry about what you'll wear. vs 32 says that God knows that we need all these things and Matthew 6:33 is his answer to us on how to stop worrying about our life and to simply let God take care of our needs.  He already knows what we need and he knows that in our weakness we are worry warts!  We need help! So God made it very simple for us... simply seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  The key here is the word first!

     What do I normally do?  I allow people, objects, goals, and other desires take priority over me.  They are usually first on my mind and my first thought is how am I going to achieve my goals, my objectives, or tackle my people issues.  When I do this I quickly bump God out of first place.  

     I have to always be mindful to choose to give God first place in every area of my life if I am to expect for those things that I normally worry about to be added to me.  Why should I seek God first?  Because God is the only one that can truly take care of my every need.  When I worry, my focus is not on God and what he can do, but rather on my concerns and questions about what I'm going to do.  I can not let my worries about tomorrow take my focus off of God today.  The only way to stop worrying, is to realize that God is in control, not me.  Isn't this great news!  I don't have to worry anymore.
     So if you find yourself worrying... stop immediately and seek God.  Seek first God!  Seek God's kingdom, his character, his righteousness first.  You notice there is not a second thing to do?  When you seek God first, you have nothing else to worry about.

     The title of this post is... Our first priority as Christians.  You know I would have thought maybe it would have been to witness, or maybe to pray, read my bible, spread the good news.  But no.  It's to seek God first.  I understand that for me to be an effective witness for Christ I must seek God first.  Before prayer, before reading my bible, before ever spreading the good news.  Before I can do any work that belongs to the Lord, I must seek God first.  Yes... this is our FIRST priority.  It's sad really that I struggle so much in this area.  At least I have these little reminders throughout my bible to get me back on track.  Wouldn't it be better if I just made this my routine?  I think today, I will do that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

With age comes responsibility

Titus 2 (2) Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (6) Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (7) Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, (8) and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

     The older I get the more responsibility I'm given as a man of God.  In my early fifties (a grandpa) I realize the example that I need to be. Not only for my boys that now have families of their own, but for my granddaughter as well. (the next generation)
     It's scary to me to think that the bible that my immediate family may read could be the example they see in me.  A man in his fifties, getting older and expected to be the example of what a Christian would look and live like after many years of spiritual growth.  For me, these verses deeply convict me.  The Holy Spirit went right to work on me as I read them this morning and I've been thinking about this passage of scripture all day.

     I love role models.  People that live by their convictions.  People that strive to be the best they can at life and love.  People that put their faith in the Lord and as a result endure and press on through life's challenges with confidence, joy, and peace.  What an example they are for me.  What hope they give me.
     Now can I say that I am that example for others, especially younger men? Am I the example of a man that has been steadfast in his faith and love?  Have I been a good example of self-control?  Have I been that role model that younger men can watch and observe and see the reflection of God in and through my actions, speech, and behavior?

     Let's just say this... I know where I stand, and I know the work that God still needs to do in and through me.  His spirit has spoken and I have heard. Now as the Spirit leads I pray for my obedience to follow and allow God to make me the man He wants me to be. After all, I'm being watched by people I love, people that I know look to me to be their role model.  I also know that because of my age, my role, and my position, that I am already a role model for others.  The question is; am I the right role model?  A Godly role model? Am I an example of a man lead by God so that if anyone copied me or acted like me, they might be one step closer to God?  

     If you are asking yourself the same questions then pray along with me and  let's pray for God to intervene in our lives, to conform us into His likeness as we seek to be used by Him.

Prayer:  Dear heavenly Father.  You know my heart, you know where I stand.  You know I need help and I know I need you.  Please guide me and direct my every step and help me to listen and obediently follow you.  As a result, may I be the example you want me to be for others to see.  It's in Jesus name I pray.  Amen

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The fog

The day is foggy. I can't see very far in the distance ahead of me. I'm not talking about a literal fog that the weather creates, I'm talking about a fog that life creates. It's a fog in our mind that clouds our judgement and our ability to think clearly. It's a strange and risky place to be, this fog. But today I'm in it. I have been for the last few days really. I've never had the fog so thick and last so long as it has these last few days. The fog, as heavy as it is, has caused me to rethink my life. To re look at areas of my life that have changed.

Work... huge changes there. Much more demands and expectations than ever before. Doing more with less is still the Motto. Wonder if I can hang in there? Do I have the capability to stay the course. I want to... but can I? I done this for years so I know I can, yet I'm struggling. It's my work, it's what I love to do, yet I'm struggling.

Home... Not so much relationship issues as it is that I'm concerned about the future of my kids and their families. Seems that everyone I know is barely surviving, making it pay check to pay check and struggling to survive. Family and friends have it so rough lately and this weighs heavily on my heart when I realize that my family depends so much on me for financial help and strength. Dad's the Rock in this family and right now Dad's concerned about his career and his state of mind.

Spiritual Walk... I'm weak right now. Still seeking a church to call home since I've moved. Prayer time is less and less. Devotion and bible study has fallen away to other things. I'm so blessed in so many ways but this fog blinds me from seeing that sometimes. Like I said... not a good place to be, this fog.

The good news... This fog is what it is... a temporary thing. Fog doesn't last forever and when the sun finally shines the fog burns away. This afternoon I can finally see the fog burning away. Thanks to the help and council of my Pastor this weekend to help me get back to where I need to be in my relationship with Christ. Thanks to the help and support of my Boss as I shared with him what I was going through while at work. And thanks to my Doctor as we went through many tests and such to see what might be going on in my body. Can I say the fog has lifted? Not yet. But I see glimpses of the sun ahead.

It's a scary place to be trapped in the fog of our life and not be able to see what to do next. But this I've learned, When you run away from the SUN, or should I say Son (Jesus), I can tell you this, you're headed for the fog in your life. I'm a firm believer that if your Spiritual life is not right, then the rest of your life isn't either. I think that sometimes we get confused and think that if our Spiritual life is right then our life is always right too. That's not always true either. But this I know. If your Spiritual life is right, then when you face trials, through Christ you will be able to work through it and come out of it stronger in your faith and relationship than you were when you went into the trial. If your Spiritual life is not right, then as you go through the trials and set backs, you begin to blame God for your circumstances and wonder where He is now? These feelings push you farther and farther away from God, because now I'm focused on me and my circumstances, instead of loving and living my life for Jesus. Now here comes the fog.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. My work, my family and friends, all depend on my relationship with my Lord. I'm just so thankful that I see this so clearly today, I'm thankful that I can see the fog lifting even as the day passes. I'm thankful for a restored relationship with Christ this weekend. How much better I feel today. Thank you Lord Jesus.

Are you in a fog today. Is it sunny outdoors yet in your head things are foggy and unclear. Then seek Jesus. Do nothing else until you first seek to mend this part of your life. God's waiting for your return with open arms. Don't let your guilt, your shame, or your self pride, stop you from returning back home to your Heavenly Father. May God bless you in your journey out of the fog.

Read the Parable of the Lost Son, Luke, 15:11-24 Know that when we finally come to our senses, God is waiting and watching for our return. When we come back He runs to meet us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Persist in Prayer

Have you ever pestered someone long enough that they finally gave you what you wanted just to shut you up? My grand daughter does it to me all the time. She'll have her mind made up about something and she won't let up until I finally give in and give her what she wants. It drives me nuts... but hey, it's works. Sometimes the battle's just not worth the fight and unless it's worth standing my ground on... I'll usually give in (Yes, I'm a Grandpa!)

In Luke 18:1-8, There's an example of a woman that constantly went to an unjust judge asking for protection from her opponent. She bothered this judge so much with repeated pressure that he finally said to himself, "I better give her what she wants or she'll wear me out!" Again, reminds me of my grand daughter.

This passage of scripture gives all of us great hope. If an unjust judge gave into this woman's pressure because of her constant efforts, well how much more would a just God react to the requests and prayers from those he loves? Much more of course! So it's not that we should pester God with our prayer requests over and over thinking we'll wear him out and he'll finally give in to us. But instead know that God loves you and will answer you when it's right for you. Maybe He's teaching you about faith or patience or hope. But know this... God hears you and loves you and will answer you in His time for His purpose and for your benefit.

Stay the course... pray continually while trusting in God to answer. We should always pray and never lose heart.