March 16

THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH

THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH

The joy of the Lord is my strength! Then tell me why do so many Christians become weary in well doing? Acquiring strength for each day is a prized commodity, for there seems to be a shortage of it available to many of us who need it.

When we meditate upon some of the commands God’s word puts before us we can become overwhelmed just thinking about them much less doing them. “Take up your cross and follow Me daily.” “Serve one another.” “Forgive one another as I have forgiven you.” “Love your enemies.” “Bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things.” “Become all things to all men.” I could go on, but I’m tired already.

So, I’ve concluded that this strength that is available to each of us must be outside of ourselves. It is beyond the physical which is extremely limited in and of itself. The strength that we are offered comes from the joy of the Lord.

Our physical strength comes from the proper diet, exercise and rest. Our spiritual strength also comes from the proper diet, exercise and rest. Joy is derived from an intimate and thriving relationship with Jesus Christ!

The joy of the Lord is my strength when I am spending time in God’s word every day (diet). When I refuse to be conformed to this world and allow the Holy Spirit to transform my life by sanctifying power of His word there is a joy that brings me strength. 1 Peter 2:1-2 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

There is a greater joy found in obedience (exercise) to the word which we have meditated upon. To sit in the pew on Sunday morning and listen to what the Lord has to say to us and then leave without pursuing what He has placed upon our hearts, will leave us physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted in a short period of time. 1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. Obedience expands our hearts to know His love for us and the joy that brings us the strength we need.

Rest! Is not inactivity, but the joyful hope within the circumstances of those things we cannot change or fix. A hope in the God who has promised to work all things together for our good. Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Resting in Him brings us the peace that passes all understanding which manifests His joy within our circumstances, bringing us strength in our time of need.

Here is my prayer for you! Eph. 1:18-20 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might. The joy of the Lord is my strength! Find your joy in Him today and you will discover the strength you need for your day.

November 20

IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS

thankful-heart

1 Thess. 5:16-18 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It’s the season of Thanksgiving and there is much talk between family members and friends of all that we are thankful for, but are we genuinely thankful? God’s word calls for us to rejoice always and in everything give thanks which indicates it’s more than a seasonal thing! The words “always” and “everything” are not temporary or isolated incidents. So, what circumstances create the environment in order for our hearts to be in a continual state of thankfulness?

According to God’s word it is when the peace of Christ is ruling our hearts. Col 3:15-17 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Peace is more than a feeling of security, it is an intimate and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. In everything give thanks for He is everything we need.

His peace is not a matter of gaining knowledge or becoming more religious, but is a result of His presence and love permeating our hearts and minds. Listen as Jesus promises His peace to those who believed in Him. John 14:26-27 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. Fear and a troubled heart are the roadblocks detouring us from being thankful people.

My peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you! What did He leave us? What did He give to us? He gave us His forgiveness, mercy and grace. He reconciled us back into a peaceful relationship with Himself and sealed us with His Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Anxiety fills our hearts when in the midst of our circumstances we do not acknowledge God who is our peace. When we come to Him in prayer with thanksgiving we are acknowledging that He is faithful no matter our circumstance. So, in everything give thanks for He is our peace.

Rom 1:20-21 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. A life of ingratitude reveals a darkening heart. A darkened heart is the result of us not acknowledging Him or giving thanks leaving us to our own futility.

Futility or in everything give thanks; choose which life you desire to live.

January 29

NOTHING TO LOSE

GAIN CHRIST

In the back of my mind I have always wondered about people who make the statement; I have nothing to lose. Are there really any set guarantees in life that enable us to make such a bold statement? By the very nature of making a choice suggest that there is some risk in the choice we are making.

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. Many people take the low road of procrastination thinking that making no choice at all ensures them that they prevent from having nothing to lose. Many ignore the need or a reason to follow after God and in the process they make choices that have no guarantees. You have everything to lose by ignoring the God who created you and sent His Son to die in your place that you might have everything to live for! To fall into the pit that lies between nothing and everything is our enemy’s darkest deception.

Mark 8:36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? The man who would gain the whole world would appear by all worldly standards to have nothing to lose, but in truth he would lose his own soul. The deception enters into our hearts when we define the two accounting terms of gains and losses by the wrong standards.

Phil 3:7-8 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ. There is gain to us or there is a gain of knowing Christ, but you cannot have both. Adam and Eve thought that they had nothing to lose, but in eating of the tree in the middle of the garden they lost everything.

Matt 10:37-39 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. Our love for the temporary things of this world blinds us to the great chasm fixed between believing we have nothing to lose and losing everything.

The only sure way guaranteeing that we have nothing to lose is to lose everything for the sake of the gospel; of knowing Jesus Christ in all His glory. Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I have nothing to prove I have nothing to lose, and in the process gain everything!

January 12

UMPIRE

umpire

I’m a baseball fanatic and a true red St. Louis Cardinals fan. There have been many games that have stirred me to the point of total frustration, due to a close call made by an umpire. An umpire can control the game in such a way that it makes the game flow freely and at the same time creating great competition between the two teams. Or, he can allow total chaos to ensue, by making one bad call after another.

Scriptures tell us that our hearts are desperately sick and we should never trust them on face value. Just like an umpire that loses control of a baseball game, if we trust our hearts to make the right call our lives can become chaos. Again, Scriptures tell us that we have a reliable umpire that we can trust and will allow us to live our lives freely.

Col 3:12-15 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

We are to let the “peace” of Christ “rule” in our hearts. The word for “rule” can be translated here to mean; umpire our hearts. It’s the peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power and capability to rule our hearts when there are close calls to be made or when conflict throws us a curve. Verse thirteen above speaks concerning some of those conflicting circumstances. To respond with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience does not happen without the peace of Christ umpiring our hearts.

Rom 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have peace with God when we put out trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, having peace with God does not mean that we have the peace of God always umpiring in our hearts. Rom 8:6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. We are to set our minds on the Spirit of God who is the umpire of our hearts that we may live life peaceably with ourselves and others. He is our peace! Peace is not just an emotion, but a relationship with the One who is our peace. When peace is no longer umpiring our hearts, we can only come to one conclusion; the Holy Spirit is no longer umpiring our lives.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Stop umpiring your own life and let the God who loves you be the umpire.

August 5

CAN’T LET GO

OPEN HAND

Heb 12:1-2 …let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…! What are the worldly encumbrances and sins that so easily entangle us; those temporary fleeting things that we just can’t let go of? What robs us of the endurance needed in order that we may keep close enough to follow Him faithfully?

We become like those monkeys who get caught by the trapper because they refuse to let go of that treat in the bottom of the jar. All they have to do is release that desired treat which would allow them to open their hand and escape. We can’t let go for we have exchanged the glory of God for the fading and corrupting glory of man.

Eph 1:18-19 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Maybe, like Paul we need to pray that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened so that we could see the hope of His calling, the riches of His inheritance and the surpassing greatness of His power available to us who believe! How can we as professing Christians ignore such an awesome God by convincing ourselves that we can’t let go of the passing pleasures of this world? What are we truly missing?

Phil 3:7-8 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ. When our hearts are turned back to the glory of the Lord our clinched hands open to receive all that He has for us and to allow Him to take from us those things that crowd out His surpassing greatness. We will consider those things that we once held so tightly to as rubbish that we might gain the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.

You can’t know Him and hold onto the rubbish of the world. Matt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. James 1:7-8 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. The one who can’t let go will live in a continuous unstable love hate relationship. When you can’t let go life becomes all about you and the love that you desire to know is replaced with fear and disappointing expectations.

Faith is opening your hand as you open your heart and letting go of what you cannot keep to receive what you can never lose!

June 13

WHAT’S THE TRUTH?

WHAT'S TRUTH

With all the advancement in technology and the abundance of information floating around on the internet it is becoming increasingly difficult for most people to answer the question what’s the truth?  I just typed in the phrase, “what’s the truth” into Google and in 4.2 seconds it revealed about 288 million results.  Hope you brought your lunch for the next fifty years!

Should we wonder why there is an increasing amount of anxiety medications being prescribed within our culture?  Trying to determine who’s truth is the right truth is like walking through a maze of mirrors without an exit.  Without absolute truth for a foundation we will build our lives on the quicksand of assumption and speculation.  So what’s the truth?

Truth is not a what, but a who!  Matt 16:13-15 …He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Many people today have a distorted view of who Jesus really is.  If we are still asking the question “what’s the truth” we have revealed that our truth is not as absolute as we would like others to believe.

We have many professing Christians who have memorized verses of Scripture with little to no lasting change in their lives or evidence of genuine freedom from the bondage of their sin.  They speak words of truth, but their hearts are still asking the question what’s the truth?  The mind has memorized, yet the heart is slowly being sterilized by a deceptive truth that has taken up residence within our hearts.  Rom 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.  The heart becomes sterilized to the Person of truth when we have exchanged the truth of God for the truth we want to believe.  Truth is about worship.  When we worship someone other than God we must create a truth that fits our object of worship.  What’s the truth?  It is whatever we choose to worship.

Ps 51:6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.  What’s the truth?  It is the personal relationship with the One who has become the reality of truth in our inner man.  Eph 1:13-14 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation —  having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  If you have listened to the truth and believed that truth for salvation He has sealed you for His own possession.  And the result?  Worship!  To the praise of His glory!

May 21

GOD BREATHED THE BREATH OF LIFE

GOD BREATHED

As I reflect on the power and majesty of God and those six days of creation; heaven must have stood still with eyes wide open and mouth’s hushed with reverence and awe!  God always seems to save the best for last and when he made man He not only said it was good, but it was very good.  He did not speak man into existence, but reached down and took the dust of the earth in His hands and fashioned man in His likeness.  And with a final touch of His glory, God breathed into His creation the breath of life.

If life is not God breathed it is not worth living!  When we attempt to live outside of the God breathed life we breathe in the pollution of the world which brings forth death.  Rom 8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  The pollution of lust, pride, arrogance, unforgiveness, ungratefulness and self-righteousness permeates the God breathed life like a cancer until there are no signs of life what so ever.  Sin pollutes the God breathed life!

What are you breathing in?  The answer is obvious if you examine what you are exhaling out.  God breathed into you the breath of life and His life exhales out love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This life does not come by our efforts or accomplishments, but is God breathed.

If you have ever had the wind knocked out of you, you know the only thing you want at that moment is air.  When you come to the place where your sin has you gasping for air and all you want is the life that comes through Jesus Christ He will breathe out His forgiveness and grace and give you the God breathed life!

Rom 5:20-21… but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  When the sin in our lives has increased leaving us hopeless and helpless God breathes out His life giving grace all the more.  Where our sin ruled our lives bringing nothing but death God breathes His righteousness giving us eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ezek 37:1-5 He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 And He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, Thou knowest.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ 5 “Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.  Can these bones live?  Can you live again?  I will cause breath to enter you (God breathed) that you may live!

April 6

RESURRECTION POWER

RESURRECTIONOf all the power that God has put on display for the world to see, the resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead has brought about the greatest expression of His love that we will ever know.  This same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that gives us new life and the power to live that life to the fullest!  Rom 8:10-11 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. God has placed within us the resurrection power of His Holy Spirit, giving us life; raising us up out of the deadness of our sin into a new life and loving relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! So, where is this resurrection power that our gracious God has given us?  Where is the evidence of this new life of freedom and victory?  If the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us, where is the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  If the Spirit is the One who raised Jesus from the dead and the Spirit is the One who dwells within us; where is the power; where is the fruit? The answer to these questions can be found in Philippians chapter three.  Phil 3:10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;  We must be conformed to His death.  We must die to the flesh that the power of His resurrection may work within us and through us.  The more we know Him and His love for us the greater the resurrection power we will experience in our daily lives. Phil 3:8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.  This is not about us giving up in order to get; that would be about us, but it is about desiring to gain Christ more than anything else in this world and receiving as a result of this intimate relationship, the indwelling power of His presence.  We should never seek the power, but the relationship. Eph 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. To know Him is to be rooted and grounded in His love.  To be rooted and grounded in His love is to be filled up to the fullness of God.  To be filled up with the fullness of God is to live in resurrection power.

January 3

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Another year and another list of New Year’s Resolutions.  We desire to begin the New Year afresh and new.  We want to see our lives changed for the better and for those changed lives to make a difference to others.

Many times we reflect on our last New Year’s Resolutions and wonder what happened to all of our good intentions.  How did we get so quickly side-tracked from our well meaning and life changing agendas?  Were the changes not thoroughly thought out?  Did we discover along the way that the changes were never really necessary?  Did greater priorities push our New Year’s Resolutions to the side of the road and stranded until another year?

Our New Year’s Resolutions in most cases have the wrong foundational approach to changing our unwanted discrepancies.  We focus upon the outward physical things that need to be changed without dealing with the heart issues that brought them about in the first place.  2 Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  We spend too much time trying to change things that are decaying on a daily basis.

Many times the needed changes in our life come to the intersection where our needs dead end at our desire for comfort and ease.  Status quo wins out again.  Real change means real effort.  Real change means having real meaningful relationships that challenge us to stay on the path of our New Year’s Resolutions.  Real change comes from the Change Maker.  It is our God and Savior Jesus Christ working in the inner man who accomplishes His New Year’s Resolutions for us.  Rom 11:36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  He has a plan for your life this coming year.  Jer 29:11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord,’ plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Out of our love relationship with the God who loves us comes real change.  2 Cor 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.  The obedience that brings about real change is grounded in our love for Him.  John 14:15-16 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.  Change doesn’t come about without obedience to God’s New Year’s Resolutions.  Love never fails!  If love never fails then the changes needed in our lives will never fail if we entrust those changes to the One who loves us.

Here is my New Year’s Resolutions!  Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Amen!

December 23

SUPER GLUE

Did you know that super glue was discovered by accident?  Dr. Harry Coover was attempting to create plastic gun sights for soldiers during WWII.  The material was too sticky for his intended purpose, but years later he discovered it’s most beneficial use as a bonding agent.  Today we even use this super glue as a replacement or in conjunction with sutures in the operating room.

If you want something to hold together you must find a bonding agent reliable enough to hold together under stressful conditions.  Just because certain glues may adhere in the initial bonding process doesn’t necessarily mean they are reliable.

I want you to think about your world view, your faith or belief and ask yourself the question, what holds them together?  What is the super glue that bonds the information, thoughts, opinions and beliefs that holds your world view together?  Are they reliable?  Do you see them falling apart under the pressure of our changing times?  Do world events or the constant change of life threaten your world view?  Does a failed marriage or life threatening illness weaken your bonding agent?

Col 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —  all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  The One who holds the stars and universe in place is the One who is able to hold our lives within His care.  Rom 11:36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

In Romans chapter eight we see the guarantee of God’s super glue; Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Rom 8:37-39 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The Apostle Paul is convinced that nothing can separate him from the One who holds his life together.  Even under the most stressful and challenging circumstances the bonding agent of Jesus Christ’s love for him has proven to be the super glue that holds his world view together without fail.

Heb 6:18-19 in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.  God cannot and will not lie!  His promises to us are our anchor in the storm.  They are the super glue for every need, circumstance or application you can think of.  The Holy Spirit is the bonding agent as the seal of God’s promise!