Trusting God

Genesis 32.7 observes Jacob was very afraid and upset.

God spoke to Jacob telling him to return to the land promised as a possession to him, his forefathers and his progeny.

While on his way Jacob encountered a number of angels who undoubtedly confirmed for him his good standing with and before God.

Yet Jacob fears the vengeance of the brother he betrayed who was now coming to him with 400 men.

This story illustrates a constant theme in the Scriptures that obedience to God and being in the perfect will of God is no guarantee of ease, comfort or control.

Jacob had the blessing of God and was obedient to the will of God but he still had to learn to depend upon God.

Trials and difficulties are like weights that make us stronger when we lift them by prayer and trust in God.

Jacob returned to his old self-sufficient ways when he tried to appease his brother by offering him lavish gifts to soften his wrath.

To keep Jacob from thinking his own ability would protect him God showed up to wrestle him ending with permanent injury to Jacob’s hip so that he would no longer depend upon his own strength but the strength of God.

Like Jacob we are quick to use our own resources whatever they may be to eliminate our difficult circumstances rather than trust God Who controls all things and all men.

Our responsibility is to obey God and then trust God to watch over us. Faith is not measuring God’s love for us by our trials but by His character and deeds done for us in Christ Jesus or Lord.

We are to learn dependence upon God and reject the independence from God we have lived with most of our lives.images

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Friends with Sinners

Mark 2.16 observes He was eating with sinners and tax collectors.

When God lived among us as a man in Jesus the Christ He befriended those whom the religious leaders considered unworthy of God.

Those religions leaders taught and lived that because God is holy so only holy people could be a friend of God. When God came He turned this teaching on its head and set the record straight!

God in Jesus routinely condemned the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the religious and instead welcomed and encouraged the sinner.Regrettably the religious today continue the evil of their forefathers.

Many sinners still believe God cannot accept them because they have done too many bad things in their life.

They go further in their ignorance of God by believing they must get better before they can approach God for a relationship.

Meanwhile the religious remain cloistered in their holy huddle never breaking-out to welcome, love or encourage the broken and the sinner toward God.

God demonstrated in Jesus that He is a pursuer of the sinner and that all the sinner must do to reconcile with God is to earnestly and humbly seek reconciliation.

God will forgive all sin no matter its length or depth – no sin is bigger than the forgiveness of God.

Those who love God are now the means for making God known in the world.

Therefore, like Jesus, the Christian must befriend the sinner in order to reconcile them to God.

We know we are religious when we have no friends who are sinners.

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Faith is not Belief

Romans 1.5 commands we bring about the obedience of faith. Faith in God when properly applied is obedience to God.

Faith in God is the acknowledgement of God that He is and that He created all things and will one day judge all things according to His character and will.

Faith is the acknowledgement that God as Creator is Lord of man and must be obeyed if He is to be properly recognized as God.

Faith is understanding the love of God and the character of God in His workings toward humanity then responding with adoration, praise and obedience.

Faith is receiving the good news that God offers a pardon for all humanity’s disobedience through Jesus the Christ and committing ourselves to following Jesus by obeying Him through the power He provides in the Holy Spirit given to all those who acknowledge Him as Lord over their life.

Faith is acknowledging God’s rule on the inside and obeying that rule on the outside.

Faith and obedience are inseparable in the mind of God.

Belief is not faith though belief is the acknowledgement of God that He exists and is Lord over all. Demons believe but have no faith because their belief does not cause them to obey God.

We have moved dangerously close in the Church to equating belief and faith which is why so many claim to be Christian but live lives in disobedience to the clear commands of God.

True faith is demonstrated in daily obedience to God just as Jesus did everything His Father commanded Him to do.

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Fulfilling our Purpose

Matthew 28.19 commands us to go and make disciples.

Jesus’ last words to His men are their mission for living: make disciples.

He certainly could have made His last words be anything: encouragement, a promise, a reminder of His commands but instead it was His assignment for their lives.

As we follow Jesus and proclaim Him in the world it is imperative that we include the mission the Christian is purposed to engage.

It is this failure to adequately explain then call Christians to obey the mission of Jesus Christ that has resulted in our increasingly godless culture and shallow Church.

Every person who receives Jesus as Savior and Lord does so not just to go to heaven when they die but also commits to the obedience of Jesus Christ for He has been granted all authority and rules over all humanity.

Therefore God’s people are to make the living and proclaiming of God’s message the purpose for their lives.

God has given His church the responsibility of making disciples of all nations for His salvation is for all people and He desires every person to know Him and to love Him.

Discipleship is the daily process of knowing and obeying Jesus – this is our individual and corporate purpose.

We are to encourage one another in the dying to self and in the giving away of our lives for the good of others in order to bring others into the kingdom of God.

Christians are no longer to live for the things pagans live for: titles, treasure or trophies rather we live to please God by reconciling men to Him.

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Working our way to heaven

Matthew 25.40 reminds us that as you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it for Me.

The parable of the sheep and the goats is the major judgment scene painted by Jesus where what a person does determines where a person spends eternity.

We talk so much about being saved by grace apart from our effort that we minimize the importance of doing good works to please God.

This judgment story is a story of grace, not grace from God toward the undeserving sinner but grace from the sinner saved to another sinner. Every act of charity, every accomplishment of kindness, and every action done in love is in many ways an act of grace.

Grace is giving good to those who don’t deserve good.

The hungry and the naked should have worked harder; the prisoner should not have broken the law and on goes the list of reasons why people don’t deserve grace.

But God is gracious toward everyone despite everyone being undeserving of His goodness and love.

God therefore expects those who love Him to demonstrate that love for Him by being gracious to people.

Christians are to give generously of all they have to help people see and experience Jesus because they know nothing they have will last through eternity but what they give will be rewarded in eternity.

The Lord Jesus makes many statements demanding His people who love Him to forgive as He has forgiven, to serve as He served and to sacrifice as He sacrificed.

If we are truly the Lord’s sheep then we will follow the Shepherd’s example by being as gracious toward others as He has been toward us.

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Loving Others

Matthew 24.12 observes because lawlessness will increase so much the love of many will grow cold.

It seems the gap between the Christian and the non-Christian worldview is widening. The polarization and intolerance on critical issues is creating greater hostility among fellow Americans.

Political opinion and moral conviction is increasingly more divergent between those who love God and hold the Bible to be absolutely true and those who ignore God and or find the Bible to be archaic and irrelevant.

It is natural to seek distance between ourselves and our opponents.

When God came to earth and lived with us in many ways everyone was His opponent. Jesus was perfect and holy and pure and all humanity was broken, selfish and sinful.

Yet God loved humanity so much so that He sacrificed His own life in order that all might live.

So the Christian desperately needs to focus not upon the differences they have with their neighbor but upon God’s love and work done for their neighbor.

To be an asset to God and His work of winning all people to Himself the Christian must stay engaged with those who currently do not obey God in order to love and serve them until they can no longer resist God.

Christians must not allow bad feelings or harsh words or immoral behavior to deter them from God’s mission of bringing His kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

The Lord Jesus was not deterred by man’s sin in demonstrating His love and neither must those who truly love Him be deterred from demonstrating that love to others.

To keep our love for man warm we must stoke that fire by staying near the heart of God Whose love for all humanity burns exceedingly hot.

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Purpose for Life

Acts 22.10 promises you will be told about everything that you have been designated to do.

‘Why am I here’ and ‘for what purpose was I born’ are the two questions burning deepest in our hearts.

Depression, murder and suicide have all increased greatly these past 100 years since we started answering that question in the public sector with, ‘for no reason.’

When there is no God and humanity was birthed by random, cosmic chance then there is no meaning to life. This meaninglessness that so many believe for our schools, media and government have so long promoted it, has resulted in a despairing yet immensely selfish people.

The truth is that there is a God, a Creator of everything that lives and moves and breathes and He has a purpose and plan for every person.

This is why the Christian finds life so significant because God places so much value on each person – both the born and the unborn, both the healthy and the deformed, both the strong and the weak, both the rich and the poor, both the wise and the foolish.

God made humanity in His image with both a purpose and a destiny to which He will hold each person accountable.

Discovering then doing God’s will for our lives is the Christian’s life-long pursuit.

God reveals Himself and His plan gradually calling His people to steps of faith daily.

God does not tell us everything all at once neither does He supply all we need before we need it rather a daily fellowship is His desire for us so we are to daily serve Him and daily do His will.

God wants us to know Him and His purpose for our lives and we discover this by following Him every day.

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Answered Prayer

Matthew 21.22 promises whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive. This is one of those difficult passages of Scripture for Christians to understand and apply.

The promise from Jesus seems clear enough. The context supports the straight forward understanding of the promise.

Indeed, the context teaches an almost frivolous application of the promise – Jesus curses and thus withers a tree for not having fruit available to eat.

The lesson to the disciples and thus those who similarly follow Jesus is to have faith in God and believe His power is willing to be released through His people.

This challenge to ask and believe is a constant theme of Jesus and one never fully grasped by the disciples nor the Church. Certainly miracles are recorded by the disciples but not everything prayed for went according to the request.

We believe that unanswered prayer is the indication of God having a different plan but then why are we ignorant of His plan?

The challenge in prayer is the knowing of God and His will.

The Son spent hours daily with His Father in prayer, amazingly none of us do the same yet we expect or at least desire similar results to Jesus. This would be tantamount to desiring the body of a weight-lifter but never entering the gym.

Still many do pray and many do seek God only to have their prayers go unanswered or denied. In these circumstances we are challenged to press-on in our faith.

God is good, always; the Scriptures display His goodness on every page.

We are broken, unlike Jesus, and the enemy of God dwells among us using all of his resources to thwart the will and ways of God.

Prayer is hard work we mustn’t cease to engage but its goal is not so much answers but God Himself and His presence with us.

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God is holy

Matthew 18.8 commands if your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. God takes sin quite seriously but we have come to believe that He does not.

We have marketed God’s love so much that we have forgotten that God is holy.

We have so distorted the truth of what love is that we have come to believe it means overlooking all the evil a person has ever done and never holding them accountable for their behavior.This is not true nor has God ever acted in such a manner.

God is love but He removed Adam from his perfect dwelling place because of his rebellion.

God is love but He destroyed the entire world by flood except one family because all humanity was engaged in evil.

God is love but He removed His people from their Promised Land because they failed to honor God as Lord.

God is love but He crucified His perfect Son so He could exchange His righteousness for humanity’s evil.

Indeed God is love as He continues to do us good despite our propensity to ignore and disobey Him.

God is love as He has provided heaven and eventually a new earth so no one has to die forever. God is love and so He offers everyone a pardon for their evil but we must receive His pardon or face His holiness.

God is holy so He will punish all evil.

God is holy so He will hold accountable every person from all time for every word spoken and every deed done.

God is holy so He will reward people for that which glorified Him and punish people for that which dishonored Him.

The cross should be evidence enough that God is holy and takes sin quite seriously.

The resurrection should be evidence enough that God is love and takes hope for humanity quite seriously.

Whether we face God’s love or God’s holiness is dependent upon our choice to continue to ignore Him or to surrender ourselves before Him and follow Jesus.

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Its not about the religion

Matthew 15.11 observes it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.

Which is easier, not to smoke or drink alcohol or not to think or speak evil of others?

Regrettably religion has had the propensity to focus on the former rather than the latter.

When God lived with us in Jesus He made clear that what we eat or drink means little but what we say means a great deal for our words reveal our hearts and whether they are pure or corrupt.

While the Bible has always condemned drunkenness it has never condemned alcohol. The first covenant God made with people condemned murder but the second covenant condemns speaking evil of others.

All of us have thought and spoken words against other people, thus all of us are guilty of violating God’s commands and so all of us are in need of forgiveness. Jesus is willing to forgive all of us if we will humbly ask Him to do so.

The important focus for those of us wishing to please God is not to be concerned with external rules and regulations that have nothing to do with the condition of our hearts.

God is focusing on our thoughts, feelings and motivations – it is these things He will judge and these things He wishes to heal for all of us have broken hearts. Jesus observed that when we get the inside right the outside will take care of itself.

Religion is an external reflection of an internal relationship.

The Christian, like God, should focus on the relationship and not the religion both in judging self and others.

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