Christian Life

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Thessalonians 5

bibleRead 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

The end is coming.  The end will be sudden.  The end will usher in the justice of the Lord.  The end will be terrifying for many.  The end will usher in the creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth.  Regarding the end of all things, there is nothing else to be said of any importance now.  The present should be consumed with the following questions: Do you know Jesus?  Do you know him personally, intimately, and confidently?  Do you have unity and fellowship with him through your obedience to his word and his Gospel?  Do you proclaim the truth of Jesus in your daily life by the Fruit of his Spirit?

This is our life as Christians.  This life enables us to be focused on the task in front of us and not on the things that are unimportant and distract us from our calling.  The end will come suddenly; the life of the Christian should be so filled by the answers to the previous questions that there is no fear of the end and no doubt that eternal unity with God through the inheritance of Jesus Christ will be our portion.  Do everything you can NOW to make your election sure.  Ask these questions every day.  Know the answers and know that they place you assuredly on the side of Christ.  This is to be our life’s concern and work.  View everything else as a distraction and opposition to the life Christ has called you into.  Your daily bread should sustain you and overwhelm you each day that thoughts of things we cannot and should not claim to know fall by the wayside, leaving us ever focused on the true task at hand.  “Follow me.”  And follow him we shall.  Follow him, listen to him, love him and dedicate your daily life to these things.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Galatians 4

bibleRead Galatians 4

“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.” (Galatians 4:18)

 

Christian, what is your passion?  What drives the work of your hands?  What motivates you to work tirelessly, sacrificially, painfully and at times unceremoniously?  What are you zealous for?  Is it for your glory or His?  Is it for the name of Jesus, the beloved son, or yours?  Is your zeal for the Lord dependent on the circumstance or social setting?  Is your zeal for the Lord present when no one else is?  Does your zeal for the Lord need anything other than the Gospel for it to manifest in your life?  Christian, do you know where you were before Christ?  Do you know that you were lost but that by the stripes and wounds of Jesus Christ you have since been found? Do you know what you were saved from?  Without Jesus you were destined to never know love, to never know joy, to never know peace and rest.  You were slaves before Christ, choosing to obey and serve your sinful nature, but in the name of Jesus you are now free!  You are free in Christ never to experience slavery and bondage ever again.  Is that enough for you to be zealous?  Is that the Gospel to you?  Upon knowing this Gospel, why would you ever want to go back?  What does that former life have to offer you?  Have you forgotten the bondage?  Have you forgotten the hopelessness before Christ?  As a Christian, Jesus must become your everything because before him you had nothing.  There was nothing of any enduring worth or value before Jesus.  In Jesus, your Savior, you are now truly alive.  Don’t go back without an honest reflection of your life before Jesus.  Don’t move forward without an honest reflection of your motivation and purpose for serving in the name of Jesus.  The Gospel declares that you are alive because of Jesus and therefore everything you do is so that his name, the only name, can become greater while yours continually becomes less.  There is no other way.  This is the way.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 8

bibleRead 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A reborn spirit is a giving spirit.  The spirit of Jesus gave everything he had to the point of death.  Therefore, with the spirit of Jesus living in us as a new creation, we are aligned with and we manifest his sacrificial love in our own lives.  Christian giving can be reduced to doctrine and it is indeed a requirement for a Christian to give.  However, the giving heart and the Christian life need more than doctrine.

Just as the law was merely an instrument used to teach Paul that he was a sinner because he could never follow the commandments, so is the doctrine of the gospel to us.  Rebuke the religious spirit that reduces the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to simple dos and don’ts.  Jesus shows us the way but only by the power of the Holy Spirit in us can we ever manage to follow the way laid out for us.  Christian, you give because God gave everything to you.  He gave his son, for you.  Christian, you give because in Jesus you have an eye for need.  You seek out need and you desire to see a need fulfilled.  You have been abundantly blessed and you rejoice in the blessing of others.  Christian, you give because what you own or possess is not your own.  No matter how hard you have worked for it.  Ultimately, your possessions are investments.  They are anointed and Holy loans.  God has given you what you have so that you can reinvest in the kingdom of God.  Not the kingdom of you.  Christian, you give what you have with confidence that God knows your heart.  He knows how much and how little you have.  He knows how much is easy and how much hurts.  He knows how much you promised to give and how much you are recalculating and reassessing not to give.  Christian, remember that you are working with God.  Not against him.  You are working toward a beautiful investment and profit for you and the eternal kingdom of our living God and to the name of Jesus.  Remember that when you pray in confidence that the sovereignty of God over your unpredictable future is good, so is His sovereign goodness over your finite and often limited amount of money and things.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Romans 6

bibleRead Romans 6:1-14

A new creation is not the same thing as a new chance.  A new life is not an enhanced or slightly modified version of your old life.  New is completely new.  To be a new creation is to carry within you the spirit of Jesus Christ.  His nature confronts and aggressively opposes the sinful nature of your old self.  A new creation does not seek justification for sin nor does it seek to provide refuge for it.  The new creation hates sin!  Do you hate sin? Are you ready and willing to fight the recurring temptations of the sinful nature of your old self?  Or, are you apathetic and quick to celebrate the benefits of Christ’s grace and forgiveness for you before lifting a finger to oppose what you naturally should, if indeed you are a new creation?  The new creation is not subtle.  The new creation is of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit and therefore is one of power.  Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit warring with your old self?  Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit lifting your weak and feeble spiritual arms in order for the battle to carry on, allowing victory to be proclaimed for you and for Christ?  Is there power in your faith?  A new creation cannot be without it.  The lack of power in your walk with Jesus Christ begs the question, “Do you know that your savior liveth?”  To know that Jesus has saved is to know that your sinful nature has been uncovered and pronounced guilty, but by the grace of God has fallen on the head of the savior, Jesus Christ.  To know that Jesus lives is to know that the nature of your old self has no more power over you.  You no longer serve the flesh but Jesus.  You are no longer mastered by sinful desires, for your Master has liberated you from the oppression of the old self, inaugurating the way of righteousness, truth and holiness in the name of Jesus Christ.  Cry out to God for newness!

Tuesday Devotional: Joel 1

bibleRead Joel 1

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

The Christian church has experienced a season of comfort.  The end of that season is drawing near.  The Church in the West is fading, being undone and overtaken.  The prosperity of the Church in the West has opened the door to idle hands, complacency, ignorance and corruption of the message of Jesus.  It is no longer commonplace to be a Christian in western society, let alone popular.  It is no longer an advantage to be a Christian in western society.

Seasons are changing.  Are you ready?  Have you sat down to imagine a life without your worldly comforts?  Have you envisioned a world where you are persecuted for your faith and are robbed of your rights?  If not, consider it.  Consider it thoughtfully.  In that scenario, how is your faith in Jesus?  How is your spirit of worship concerning our risen Lord?  Surrounded by suffering and pain, are you able to worship?

The Church in the West has become covetous in its relationship with Jesus Christ.  The message preached from many pulpits today use the name of Jesus as the gate keeper, but not “The Way.”  Many sermons today teach that you can have what you want, when you want, how you want it, as long as along the way you remember that you’re not perfect and do some bad things from time to time.

The message from the pulpit is no longer “a sword that came to bring division, not peace.”  The message today is a wagging finger of casual disapproval.  Judgment is too harsh.  Tithing too invasive.  Marriage too constrictive.  Bible study too intellectual.  But Jesus tells us to, “Come and see,” and “Follow me.”  The Church in the West these days says, “Thank you, friend Jesus, for understanding me and meeting me right where I’m comfortable.  You’re so nice.”  What if God told you to quit your high-paying job for one that gave you less pay and no benefits, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to fight for reconciliation in a marriage that is no longer fun, exciting, sexy or easy, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to decline remarriage and sexual intimacy in the future, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to share your faith in Jesus with your non-believing family or co-workers, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to wake up earlier or stay up later in order to read more of your Bible or join a Bible study, for Christ’s sake?

Do all of these propositions test the comforts of our flesh and our own comfort?  Yes.  Are all of these well within reason and under the jurisdiction of God as our Father and King to ask of us?  Absolutely.  Do all of these test our love of Jesus over anything else and our willingness to follow Him anywhere He commands us to?  Yes.  These are not extreme examples written for effect.  If we identify our lives with Jesus Christ, having only Jesus is not simply enough, it is our sole desire in this life.  He HAS to be enough.  Being a Christian is not Jesus and (….).  Being a Christian is Jesus.  Christ alone.  Is He enough for you? Or do you need something alongside Jesus in your life to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

 

Tuesday Devotional: Proverbs 19

bible

Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way! -Proverbs 19:2

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free. -Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will perish. -Proverbs 19:9

A corrupt witnessmocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil. -Proverbs 19:28

 

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. -Acts 1:6-9

Do you call yourself a Christian?  Why?

A Christian identifies with Jesus Christ and believes confidently in his claims.  While those who actually saw Jesus in person have long since passed away, to be a Christian is still to be a witness.  A Christian is convinced in head and heart that what they have seen in the Bible and in their own life is evidence that Jesus Christ is who He said He is, and that His Spirit remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.  To be a witness, a person has to have seen someone or something personally.  To be a witness of Jesus Christ, and therefore a Christian, a person has to be a witness of His presence in history and in their own life.  Before you answer “yes” to the question “Are you a Christian?”,  ask yourself a much more important question: “Am I a witness?”

Have I personally witnessed the presence of Jesus Christ in my own life?  Do I believe that the Holy Bible testifies to the evidence of Jesus Christ in history as a man and the incarnation of the living God? Are YOU a witness?  If the answer is still yes, we must then understand and count the cost of what it means to be a witness.  We must understand that we have been shown the living God in Jesus Christ, and that we are commanded to testify to our experience in His life, death and resurrection and what we hear Him say in the Gospels.  Just as a witness in a court proceeding puts their right hand on the Bible and promises “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  This oath poignantly and convictingly speaks from the place of Christian identity.  Jesus identifies Himself as, “the truth and the life.”  Therefore, as Christians we are not only proclaiming to the world that we have seen and believe in the presence of Jesus Christ, but we are also promising to share only what we’ve seen and heard, so help us God.  We not only share what we’ve witnessed in the Word, but we primarily show what we’ve witnessed in bearing the Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  Our faith in Jesus Christ MUST replicate His spirit in our own.  If we allow His spirit to become our own, we provide the world with the most honest and powerful testimony to what we’ve witnessed.  If our lives bear witness to the life of Jesus Christ, we are loved by God as a true witness.  But if our lives conflict or contradict the life of Jesus Christ, we stand condemned before a God who warned us not to bear false witness, so help us God.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Nehemiah 12

bibleRead Nehemiah 12

Worship and Purification. A life devoted to the living God and to following Jesus Christ must be marked by these two words on a daily basis. It is impossible to devote your life to God without worship and it is impossible to follow Jesus without daily purification. To know the living God is to be confronted by the almighty in all that is good. To know the living God is to be daily in the presence of something greater than yourself and more beautiful than we could possibly imagine. It is not enough to know about Him. Knowing about Him is like acting overwhelmed by a painting that you’ve never stood in front of. There is superficiality to this kind of knowing. If we haven’t seen it personally, how could we expect to understand it, share it, rejoice in it? Merely knowing about Him is professing confidence in a King you’ve never allowed to command your steps.

If we haven’t accepted His authority and followed His commands, how we can claim any faith whatsoever in His authority and discernment? Knowing God is to know that HE IS and the implications of that revelation are life-changing. If HE IS then I am who He says I am: a child in desperate need of a good father. Once we know Him as Father we see His beauty and there is little else to do in the presence of His beauty than worship.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS purification. You cannot separate the two. They are inseparable and indistinguishable. He is the purifier and we NEED purification. Need AND needed. Jesus came to purify the world of its sin by taking the sins of the world upon Himself, setting the captives free and restoring sight to the blind. To know Jesus and follow Him is to live and breathe purification. Our first breath in the morning should remind us of the life we have in Jesus Christ. The day that follows reveals the continual and ongoing fight with sin within us which requires the daily purification of our hearts by the Gospel of Jesus. The cross purified us by paying the debt we owed, and the resurrection initiated the final chapter of the world that requires ongoing purification as it awaits the final return of the King.

To walk with Christ is to be in the presence of perfection and thus aware of our imperfections. However, although our imperfections become great in His presence, His forgiveness becomes greater. The cycle repeats and we are once again prepared for glorious worship. Amen!

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Chronicles 7

bibleRead 2 Chronicles 7:11-22

14If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Can we lose the gift of Jesus Christ?

YES.

Jesus Christ is not a gift you receive, store for a later date and then use to your advantage.  To view him in this way is to receive without understanding, store the gift without valuing it and use it without respect.

How do we lose the gift of Jesus Christ?

We lose the gift of Jesus Christ if we stop practicing the following disciplines in regards to our sinful nature. Daily we must:

  • Openly identify with name of Jesus Christ
  • Humble ourselves to His authority and commands
  • Pray
  • Seek the face and presence of God in our life
  • TURN FROM SIN

We cannot be ashamed to be called Christians.  We cannot be embarrassed by our association with and nature in Jesus Christ.  This central reality of the Christian life should be our strength.  Being an ambassador of Christ is not just a burden we are meant to carry.  Representing Christ is to be His light in the world.  It is an honor and a privilege to be called a Christian and to hide our identity is to reject the gift.

When we receive the gift of Jesus Christ we no longer possess any authority in our lives.  Naturally there are times when our sin fights viciously to draw us away from the presence of the Lord.  This command is not a command of perfection.  However, it is a daily decision we must all make.  We must all decide if we will use this day to serve our own interests, or His.  We must decide if today we will follow His commands or our own.  To receive the gift of Jesus we cannot claim authority in our lives or wisdom in the steps we ought to take.  Jesus is the final authority, and the Gospel to which we dedicate our lives is His.

Faith in Jesus is a relationship, and like all good relationships, conversation plays a central role.  The fruitfulness of a relationship corresponds with level of communication between the parties involved.  How can we claim to love Jesus or to receive His forgiveness and mercy and at the same time be totally disinterested and apathetic about our intimate dialogue with Him? We cannot. Prayer is not asking for things or saying sorry for things we’ve done.  Prayer is a practice in faith.  In praying we believe that we are talking with the God of Creation and that He takes interest in what we have to say.  Prayer is a powerful gesture to God that we believe Him, we miss Him, and that above all else we need Him.

The gift of Jesus IS Jesus.  The gift of Jesus is not merely rescue from our problems, peace from our strife or joy amidst the misery.  The gift of Jesus is the fact that we no longer have to search for happiness or contentment in anything else.  We no longer have to try and fail to satisfy our own hearts.  The gift of Jesus is the fact that in Jesus we have the answer that our hearts have sought to find from the moment we were born.  Therefore, if we understand the gift of Jesus and resist or even resent the presence of Jesus in our lives as our King and Savior, we are continuing to rely on the gifts that Jesus replaces, and we continue to search for satisfaction that, apart from Jesus, is nowhere to be found.

If you are carrying a box that requires you to carry it with two hands and a person asks you to carry another box, both the same size, both requiring you to carry it with two hands, you’ll have to make one of two choices.  You can either drop the first box and pick up the new box, or you can refuse to carry the new box and continue carrying the box you were carrying at first.  In the same way we have to face our sinful desires and temptations in relation to the gift of Jesus Christ.  The gift of Jesus Christ is the second box.  To receive it we HAVE to put the other box down.  Where do we get the idea that we can carry both? In order to be a recipient of the grace and promises of Jesus Christ we have to lay our lives down, pick the up the cross and follow our Lord.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Kings 6

bibleRead 2 Kings 6.1-7

Grace is a concept easy to accept upon becoming a Christian but more difficult to believe as we begin our walk with Christ.  We know how much Jesus has done for us.  We know how our prior condition was not only harmful to ourselves but to others around us.  We know that the promise of eternal peace and joy in Heaven is real.  We know that the struggle with our sinful nature is ever-present and ongoing.  However, after “knowing” all of this, many Christians fail to move.  They feel like to move is to open the door to making the wrong decision or going in the wrong way or hearing the wrong thing from God.  We are paralyzed by fear, suffocated by hypotheticals and worst-case scenarios.  We don’t want to mess up.  We don’t want to make a mistake.  We don’t want to lose what God has offered us.

But while all of these feelings are natural and justifiable, where is the heart of the Gospel?  Where is the cross?  Where is the resurrection?  Where is Jesus?

When you met Jesus, did you meet a savior who sought opportunities to punish wrongdoers, or who brought healing and forgiveness?  Did you meet a savior who set traps for people to fall into or who was the first to reach out and touch the unclean and unworthy?

The tragedy of the Christian is the fear of making mistakes.  While the Gospel of Jesus Christ MUST establish a new heart and a new way of life, must seek to honor God and His commands and must never tolerate sinful behavior, there is still grace.  There MUST be grace! There is still understanding.  There is still the authority of the living God to cover a multitude of sins by the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The mark of a Christian is how often and willing we are to allow God’s authority and glory to be revealed in us.  This often comes by the action of faith.  The faith of a Christian is believing that the living God is real and is with us.  The God of Creation commands us to move, to work, to live, all for His glory.  If we love God and choose to serve Him with all that we are and all that we have, mistakes no longer become a paralyzing fear.  Fear of making mistakes is predicated on an expectation of perfection.  Punishment is associated with fear, and if we believe in Jesus, we know the punishment was His and is not ours.  We will of course make mistakes. We will fall.  However, the God of Creation has never demanded perfection from us, but has desired for us to choose Him first.  Our salvation does not hinge upon our perfection.  Our salvation rests on if we believe in Jesus, who embodies perfection.  Faith in Jesus allows us to try and fail, to move and to fall and to reveal a Father who loves that we believe.

Previews of Heaven: The Best Moments

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

 

Open Door

source

The relationship between the moviegoer and the movie preview is a complicated one. On one side, we appreciate the previews because by them we stay hooked into the world of movies and entertainment. By watching previews we are updated on the latest and greatest in cinematic brilliance.  Our interest in movies remains consistently high. On the other hand, the movie preview can be something we’d rather do without. The sole motivation that brings us to the movie theater is the feature film, not just a preview. It is for the feature that we blocked out 3 hours in our schedule and paid for our tickets.  We know that in order to stay excited and in tune with the latest movies, we must see the previews.  Therefore, we accept the preview more as something to be endured than enjoyed. Previews are made to achieve three primary goals. They should:

  • Display the best moments
  • Make radically confident claims
  • Leave us wanting more

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to use this analogy of a movie preview to compare with the way Christians are instructed to think about Heaven while we are living for Christ on the Earth.

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It’s always amazing how a two minute trailer can make almost any movie, regardless of the true level of cinematic quality, seem worth watching. This idea reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite television shows, Seinfeld. In one particular episode, the flawed “people’s person” George Constanza finds himself dating a girl who has no knowledge of his long list of faults, flaws, and setbacks. He proceeds to act like everything he’s accomplished in his life (a job with a steady and competitive salary, knowledge of New York City and a stable standard of living) had all miraculously come together within days. By doing this, he hoped to impress his new girlfriend with his sudden success and accomplishments. While telling his friend Jerry about this plan, he said, “You know, if you take everything I’ve done in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!”

This is exactly what a movie preview attempts to do. The preview has two minutes to condense the best moments, the most action-packed fight scenes and the funniest one-liners into a compact one-two punch experience that will leave everyone anxious for its release. This is why so many movies wind up failing at the box office. In many cases, the preview outdoes the feature film.

Speaking in terms of our earthly life and its relation to heaven, what we experience in this life is what the Bible calls a “foretaste.” Embodied in the life of Jesus Christ, then regenerated in the lives of disciples, are experiences and foretastes of things unknown, yet promised. At the heart of each of our lives are experiences of purity and perfection that are only attained and experienced intermittently.

Paul writes about these experiences by comparing them to “fruit” when he writes in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

During our lives, God willing, we all will experience each of these at their purest form at least once. These moments tend to last only for a little while, but we remember the experience forever. The moment we were truly loved by someone, we never forget. The moment someone was truly faithful to us, we never forget. The same can be said about all nine “fruits.” These fruits are born out of the Spirit and the Spirit is born out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his being and identity, Jesus embodied all of these fruits. They are, in turn, recreated and reflected in the lives of those reborn of the Spirit.

The difference between the way that we experience this “foretaste” and the way that a movie preview attempts to impress a moviegoer, is that there is no secret that the movie preview is attempting to sell something that cannot entirely satisfy. If the movie is not as good as the preview, the audience is unsatisfied. But even if the movie is as good as the preview promises, it’s still simply a movie. In this case the audience, while completely entertained, leaves exchanging comments like, “Well, life’s not like the movies.” But the essence of the fruit of the Spirit as a foretaste to something unknown, something wonderful, and something promised, is the truth that the foretaste is for something that exists.  That offers satisfaction, and ultimately delivers. This “thing” is heaven, and it is there that we not only can experience these fruits individually, but also where we experience all fruits simultaneously in an ongoing coexistence with the “gardener” himself, God.