Thursday, February 26, 2015
at 5:47 AM
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
What is your usual response when you face times of trouble? Are you inclined to stand and fight? Perhaps you are convinced that you’re strong enough to handle any obstacle. Or maybe you do what so many others do: run as far and as fast as you can.
Trials are unavoidable in life. Instead of deciding how best to avoid them, we should instead focus on the way to respond to them. There are several things for the Christian to do when confronted with conflict.
First, we should trust God, based on His holy Word. Scripture assures us that the Lord knows our limits and will therefore never allow us to be pushed or tempted beyond our ability to persevere (1 Cor. 10:13).
Second, we must trust in His faithfulness. In times of trouble, take time to reflect on previous hardships. Did God help you then? What was the result of that trial? How has He shown Himself to be faithful at other times? (See Ps. 37:23-24.)
Third, we must make a conscious decision to persevere. Romans 5:3-5reveals that persistence is a vital part of a healthy growing Christian life. Our encouragement is that perseverance in the face of trials leads to the hope which “does not disappoint” (v. 5).
Finally, it is important to acknowledge the sovereignty of almighty God. Our heavenly Father is never surprised by the tragedies in our lives. Rather, He stands ready to work in us (Phil. 2:13), through us (1 John 4:4), and for us (Rom. 8:31) to bring us to the point of victory in His Son Jesus Christ.
at 4:38 PM
Monday, February 23, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
Obviously, we don’t enjoy times of trial or conflict. Despite the assurance we have that God will always be by our side through any and every circumstance (Heb. 13:5), it is still natural to fear and bemoan such occurrences.
In hardships, however, we often forget the very words Christ spoke in John 16:33. We hear and certainly relate to the first part of His instruction: “In the world you have tribulation.” We've all faced enough problems to know that it is not possible to avoid them altogether. In fact, Jesus takes it a step further by asserting that our faith in Him will actually lead to even more attacks and criticism (15:18-20). Truly it is impossible for a devoted Christian to live trouble-free in a world that is hostile toward God.
What we tend to miss in Jesus’ statement, however, is the second half of the verse. After delivering the “bad” news that we would have tribulation in our life, He offers a word of hope: “But take courage! I have overcome the world.” Notice that He didn't say, “I will overcome,” but rather, “I have overcome.” In Christ, the victory has already been won. He has victory over all things. Even the world’s greatest threat, death itself, has already been defeated by Jesus Christ.
Life certainly isn't easy. However, we have a loving God who not only understands our suffering but also chose to experience it Himself. Because He did, we can now claim participation in the ultimate victory over every trial of life.
at 6:47 PM
Sunday, February 22, 2015
In New Testament times, the city of Philadelphia was strategically located on travel routes between Rome and the east. This made it an important conduit for Greek culture and language. The church there received an exciting opportunity when God planned that the region would become known for a new export—the good news of Jesus Christ.
For the loyal church at Philadelphia, this was a tremendous blessing. In Revelation 3, Jesus Christ acknowledged the congregation’s deeds, which means they must have carried out their work with diligence and dependence on the Lord. That community of faith also followed God’s Word and didn't deny His name, despite opposition from “the synagogue of Satan”—the worldly people who also inhabited the city.
The Lord opens doors, not simply for mission organizations and churches, but also for individual believers. A chance to do His will in any area of life must be taken seriously, as His opportunities always lead to the path He has designed for us. Some seem too good to be true, others are cloaked in hardship, and still others defy human reasoning. We need to know how to listen for and discern God’s voice so that we can be certain when it is His hand opening a door.
We all desire that the Lord give us His best for our life—in our vocation, finances, service, and spiritual growth. So we must build a proven record of faithful obedience, as the Philadelphian church did. When we serve Him with loyalty, humility, and diligence, God will open doors for even greater blessing.
at 8:06 AM
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Paul was a confident man. During his earlier years, the apostle’s positive attitude came from trusting in his credentials—namely, his background, education, and position. However, his encounter with the Lord (Acts 9:1-6) caused him to realize those things were worth little. So what was the source of his new boldness?
Paul’s relationship with Jesus became the new foundation for his life. Viewing his former ways as a chapter that had ended, he embraced his new life in Christ. Not only did Paul recognize the inadequacy of everything he had previously relied upon—his knowledge, achievement, and authority—but he also relinquished any notion of living independently of God. The apostle became a man of action, who lived his life through total reliance upon the Lord (Gal. 2:20).
Paul’s unwavering trust in God’s faithfulness also played a key role. He believed God’s promise to strengthen and equip him; to guide him in every situation; to meet all his needs; and never to leave him. In facing trials, Paul experienced the power of the Holy Spirit flowing in and through him. Because he took God at His word, he could meet adversity with boldness. His confidence was not in himself but in the Lord’s presence, provision, and power; that’s why it remained strong.
Do you see why we can be confident followers of Christ? What matters isn't who we are, what we believe about ourselves, or what strengths and abilities we have. Developing a wholehearted trust and reliance on Jesus is what brings about confidence. How much do you trust Him?
at 4:10 PM
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Thursday, February 12, 2015
God repeatedly calls to His children, but the condition of each heart determines the result. Those with soft and tender hearts hear His voice and yield to Him in obedience, but those with hard hearts resist His warnings and instructions. Surprisingly, upon hearing the same voice, believers will have different reactions.
Since hardening is a slow process that is often accompanied by excuses and rationalizations, the danger signs may not be readily recognized. How do you respond when the Lord speaks to you through His Word, your conscience, or messages based on Scripture? Carefully consider the following characteristics of a hardening heart:
• Insensitivity or resistance to what the Lord says
• Refusal to put yourself under His authority
• Disobedience to what you know God is instructing you to do
• Justification of sinful conduct
• Resistance to the reproof of others
• Preoccupation with the things of this world (career, relationships, possessions)
• Little interest in spiritual matters
• Absence of private devotion (Bible reading and prayer)
• Avoidance of corporate worship (gathering with other believers)
A hard heart does not have to remain brittle. If you've discovered any of the above traits in your life, begin today to return to the Lord. Ask Him to give you a new heart and the desire to know Him (Jer. 24:7). Remember, He specializes in making all things new (2 Cor. 5:17).
at 3:08 PM
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Scripture says that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV). Effective—that is exactly what we want our prayers to be, especially in a crisis. When we meet God’s requirements, we can be confident that He’ll not only hear our concerns but will also act on them in accordance with His purposes.
Requirement #1—Fervent prayer. Motivated by a deeply burdened heart, fervent prayers are filled with passion and a strong sense of personal helplessness. They also have a narrow focus on some specific difficulty about which we care deeply. Scripture calls this type of prayer “laboring earnestly” (Col. 4:12).
Requirement #2—Righteousness. As soon as we place our trust in the Savior, we become rightly related to God as His children. At that moment, we are permanently sealed with the Holy Spirit and are declared righteous forever because of our position in Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:9). While salvation is by faith rather than by deeds (Eph. 2:8-9), genuine faith will result in an obedient lifestyle and good works (James 2:26). If we willingly and knowingly engage in sin, then we are not living righteously and our prayers will not be effective.
When the Lord hears an impassioned prayer, He knows who is praying. If it is a righteous person whose life reflects God’s ways, Scripture promises the Holy Spirit will begin His divine work.
God responds with great power to the prayers of even one righteous person. That person can be you!
at 4:18 PM