What Happens to Us As We Do God’s Will?

gods-will

Colossians 1:9-14 (NIV)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,  10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Too often our lives are filled with merely trying to survive each day.  If we can just get to the end of our days without committing a major mistake of making someone upset, we call it a successful day.  But God desires so much more for us as His children.  His will is that our lives be filled with purpose and meaning each and every day.

The Book of Colossians speaks to us about God’s will.  Paul specifically prays that God would fill believers with the knowledge of His will in verse 9 from the above reading.  Not only do we want to know God’s will, but apparently God wants us to know it also!  He wants us to know it because He know that His will is the best for us as His children.

Then in verse 10, we read what happens when we live out His will.  First, we start walking in a way that is worthy of Him.  Our walk refers to our day-to-day interactions and decisions, and these should represent His name and reflect His love.  Paul says that if we do this it will “please Him in every way.”  Our lives are to bring God pleasure and delight, in the same way a son brings joy to his father.

Later in verse 10, we read that as we walk in God’s will, we will be “bearing fruit in every good work.”  The fruit of the Spirit is certainly a part of this (as we see in Galatians 5:22-23), but fruit can also refer to our work for the kingdom and the good effect that we have on others.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 

Lastly, in verse 10, we read that we will be “growing in the knowledge of God.”  As we do God’s will, we will come to experience His character and presence in richer and fuller ways.

As pastor Rick Warren once said, “Focusing on ourselves will never reveal life’s purpose.”  I think that those people who are struggling to find their purpose in life might be focusing on the wrong thing.  Instead of focusing on themselves and coming up with their own answer, maybe they should put their focus on God and ask Him to help give them the answer they are seeking.

To know and do God’s will is to find that deeper purpose for our lives.  A purpose that takes us out of ourselves and mere survival and calls us up into His larger, redemptive story.

When do you feel the greatest amount of meaning and purpose in your life?  Is God a part of those times?  If He isn’t, you might find that connecting with God and His will for your life can open up a whole new level of purpose and meaning in your life.  Maybe your days of “just surviving the day” could be a thing of the past.  We only get one life to life so we really should seek to live the best possible life that we can.  We will never be able to do that on our own.

A life with God is immensely better than one without Him.

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What is Your Life Message?

life-messages

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

What statement is your life making?  Every person testifies to personal beliefs and priorities by the way he or she lives their lives.  Jesus said that to the watching world, believers should be like salt and light, which simply can’t be ignored.  If we add salt to soup, the improved taste is obvious, and when we bring light into a room, darkness goes away.  Our character, conduct, and conversation should make a loud and clear statement about the importance of God, the necessity of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

To live a life of significance that brings glory to the Lord, believers must begin by reading and studying the Scriptures.  As we meditate on His Word, God reveals Himself, and we gradually absorb His principles into our daily living.  This is how God slowly changes and transforms us from the inside out.  This enables us to make a greater impact on the world.  It enables us to make God’s light shine into the world.

One good way to learn Scripture’s lessons is by researching the lives of great saints like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, Esther, Mary, and Paul.  A person could spend many weeks studying each one’s life message, as revealed in the Bible.  Their stories have much to teach us about the way they coped, what they discovered from mistakes, and how they interacted with God.

We can also find some godly people that we know and talk to them.  Learn what they do to intentionally live godly lives.  Let them be your mentor and let them help you in your own efforts to move in a more godly life message.

From these biblical accounts as well as other passages, we learn that our heavenly Father has a goal for our lives.  He desires to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.  Recognizing this, we can set an example of successful godly living for others to follow.

Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)

11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

In this passage, Paul is asking us to follow his example.  My challenge for this week is to take the time to learn a little more about the example Paul is talking about and put into motion some rhythms in our lives that will bring us a little closer to living an example similar to his.

This will not be an easy task, but it will be so worth it.

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Forgiveness Starts With Yourself

forgive

Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

Often our inability to master a certain skill or our response to a shameful situation causes us to feel anger and self-condemnation.  When we allow the seed of self-condemnation to grow, it sprouts bitterness and cynicism, the opposite of love.

Jesus was once asked about His view on the most important commandment in the law.  He said there were actually two:

  1. to love God
  2. to love your neighbor as yourself

Often, it is summarized as “love God; love people.”

Unfortunately, when we summarize it in this way, we miss such an important element of what Jesus actually said, which was loving our neighbors as ourselves.

So we must ask the question: Have we allowed ourselves to be loved and forgiven by both God and others?  Not just knowing that Jesus paid for our sins, but experiencing His forgiveness and feeling loved by Him?  Or, are we choosing to believe the lie that we are stuck just the way we are?

Gipsy Smith, a British evangelist, once said, “There’s no sight like seeing the light from Calvary kiss a human face as it fills the heart with the assurance of Divine forgiveness.”  Have you felt that Divine kiss in your life?

So many of the laws God gave to His people concerned relational matters, and one of them speaks about loving your neighbor as yourself.

Leviticus 19:18 (NIV)

18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

See, Jesus wasn’t the first to say this.  Jesus was quoting the law in His answer; it was nothing new.  The people who worshiped God had known about this commandment for thousands of years.  We are still commanded to love ourselves first so that we can love our neighbor, for we can only give what we have received.

So what is holding us back?  If Jesus’ work is enough to rescue us for eternity, why wouldn’t it be enough for our forgiveness in the present?

Where do you struggle to feel forgiven and loved by the Lord?

Let’s all take a moment, wherever you are as you are reading this, and take a deep breath and allow ourselves to feel forgiven and loved.  Once we do that, then and only then, will we be able to truly pass it on to others.

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Do We Really Understand Jesus’ Sacrifice?

sacrifice

Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

 

Jesus journeyed into the deepest pit of despair hours before His crucifixion.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He repeatedly prayed for “the cup” to pass from Him.  Christ was staring into a chalice of wrath and judgement that must have made His soul recoil.

Isaiah 51:17(NIV)

17 Awake, awake!
    Rise up, Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord
    the cup of his wrath,
you who have drained to its dregs
    the goblet that makes people stagger.

Mankind had filled that cup with the most depraved deeds and thoughts that they could conceive.  According to Scripture, Jesus Christ did not just die for our sin; He became our sin.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The holy, perfect Lamb of God took upon Himself all that was vile and dark within each of us.

Jesus knew the consequences of taking on Mankind’s evil.  God’s holiness prevented Him from being in the presence of sin.  Therefore, the heavenly Father would have to separate Himself from the Son.  Jesus had always enjoyed perfect oneness with God.  To contemplate a wrenching rejection must have been terrifying and heartbreaking.

There was no question that Jesus would obey the will of God.  He would become sin and be separated from the Father, if that’s what was required to save mankind.  So, yes, in the garden, He pleaded for another route to our redemption.  However, when it was clear that the Father’s answer was, No, this is the only way, Jesus obediently sacrificed Himself for us.

Jesus Christ sacrificed more than His life.  He exchanged perfection for wickedness and holy union for separation.  The Savior did this so we could be transformed into righteous men and women with an eternal future.

No wonder all of heaven exalts Him.

Revelation 5:11-14 (NIV)

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

 

We should do the same.

When you stop and think about the enormity of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, it really should bring a tear to our eyes.  It is a level of love that we will never find anywhere else.

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Are There Too Many Opera Singers in Our Lives?

opera

Psalm 107:23-32 (NIV)

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
    and praise him in the council of the elders.

Storms often rage all around us.  Psalm 107 prophetically points to the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  It reminds us that God is in control of everything.  It also reminds us that our job is simple: alleviate distractions, slow down, and listen.

Imagine going to hear your favorite singer.  When you arrive at the concert hall, you discover that he is going to be accompanied by a 200-voice choir of dreadfully tone-deaf opera singers as annoying as an out-of-tune symphony of kazoos.  You leave the concert hall demanding a refund because you didn’t get to hear what you wanted.  This is how the Christ-follower should feel when other voices drown out the voice of Jesus, but these dissonant voices are the static that comes from our own busyness and distraction.

At some point we must stop.  Time, silence, and God’s Word create an atmosphere to be able to listen to God.  We often fail to hear from God because we tend to equate faith with activity.  Jesus came to bring us rest if we will only stop to listen, for He is always ready to listen to us.

This is the kind of life Jesus lived out: He connected with the Father intimately.  He’s now waiting for us to stop, listen, and connect to Him intimately.  As we learn to do so, the dissonant voices will fade, the storms will wane, and we will find the rest we have always wanted.

Abraham Lincoln had a good grasp on this concept.  He was once quoted as saying, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.  My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”  This may be why we consider Abraham Lincoln as one of the best Presidents we have ever had.  He was smart enough to know that he needed help.

As we consider all the distractions in this world, let’s stop and ask ourselves these 3 important questions:

  1. What distractions are keeping you from being with God and listening to Him?
  2. How are you trying to be still and silent before God?
  3. What are you learning from God during your quiet times with Him?

In today’s world, it is very easy to get swept up by our own busy schedules and this can often lead to us feel like we are spinning our wheels, but not really getting anywhere.  We can find that we feel very distant from God at these times.

To help remedy that situation, it is vital that we take the time to stop our lives, be quiet, and spend that time with God.  God is trying to talk to us, but if we are not listening, we will never hear Him.  We need to be intentional about making the time to be with Him.  Put God into your schedule.  Schedule out time, in your day, to spend with Him.  Even if it is only 5 minutes, it will make a huge difference.

You might be wondering what to do during that time.  There are many things we can do during our quiet time with God.  Here are some ideas:

Read the Bible

Read a devotional

Read a Christian Book

Watch a sermon online

Listen to a sermon on cd

Meditate on what you have just read or heard

Pray

This is not an exhaustive list.  Find what works best for you and do that.  The important thing is that we are spending that regular time with God.  It will make it a lot harder to hear those opera singers.

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Don’t Forget the Blood

blood

1 Peter 1:17-21 (NIV)

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

 

Many churches today have erased all mention of the blood of Jesus Christ from their worship services.  But the shedding of blood is essential to our Christian faith.  Without a sacrifice, none of us could have a relationship with the heavenly Father.  For that reason, God wove the story of death, renewal, and reconciliation like a red thread through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

What do you have if you remove the blood from the body?  You are left with a lifeless corpse, right?  The same is true of the Bible.  Scripture would be no more than historical literature if we edited out all the “unpleasant” parts regarding animal sacrifices, Jesus dying on the cross, or the power of His blood.

God designed the redemption system in such a way that anyone could understand the connection between shed blood and freedom from sin.  The Lord gave detailed instructions for offering a perfect animal sacrifice so that His holiness would be satisfied.  God also wanted His followers to understand that sin brought terrible consequences and resulted in death.

 

The first fatality in Scripture was the animal whose skin was used to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.

Genesis 3:21 (NIV)

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

 

Every time an Israelite brought a lamb or a pair of doves to the priest, he recognized that “the wages of sin is death.”

Romans 6:23 (NIV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

God chose a graphic solution to the world’s sin problem.  Therefore, believers cannot be squeamish about explaining what truly happened at Golgotha.  The words that we choose influence listeners.  “Jesus shed His blood for you” is a powerful statement, which is also the message God repeats throughout His Word.

The next time we find ourselves explaining the gospel message to someone, we need to be sure we don’t leave out any of the gory details.  If we do, we are not giving them the chance to see how amazing of a sacrifice Jesus really made for us.  We would not be giving them the full picture of what really happened and that would really be a shame.  We are called to be “spreaders” of the gospel, not “editors” of it.

 

 

 

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What in the World Are We Telling Ourselves?

kindness-3

Romans 8:31-39 (NIV)

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns?  No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 

As we see here in Proverbs 18, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”  Let’s face it, words are powerful!  When someone pays us a compliment, it can make a world of difference, transforming our day and possibly even our lives.  But the speaker may not even be aware of the impact that their compliment had on us.

Not only are the words we speak to each other important, but also the words we say to ourselves.  Every day each of us engages in an internal conversation.  In the world of psychology, this practice is called self-talk.  During this internal talk, we give ourselves positive or negative feedback.  When we do well, we often congratulate ourselves: “I did a great job!”  It builds our self-esteem and boosts our confidence.  But when we don’t do so well, we can become very critical of ourselves: “Ugh!  I’m such an idiot!”  The danger comes when we engage in constant negative self-talk.  It becomes a self-inflicted wound, resulting in ongoing doubt and fear that we have created within ourselves.

Lisa M. Hayes, a relationship coach, once said, “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.”  I think that is much more important of a statement than we may initially realize.

We need to learn to speak the language of life!  We need to get rid of all of our stinking thinking and put God’s Word to work in our lives.  Romans 8:31-39 is filled with uplifting truths that we should be telling ourselves:

God is for us (v.31)

                Graciously gives us all things (v. 32)

                It is God who justifies (v. 33)

                Jesus is interceding for us (v. 34)

                Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (v. 35)

                In all things we are more than conquerors (v. 37)

                Nothing can separate us from God’s love (vv. 38-39)

I challenge each of us to take the next week of our lives and read this passage each morning before we start our day.  See the impact that filling our mind with positivity to begin our days really can have a huge impact on how our day goes.  Just give it a try and see!

In addition, I would add two more verses to add to that list to read each day:

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

 

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

 

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Why is it important to know what God thinks and feels about you?
  2. Make a list of the negative self-talk you commonly use. How could reading these passages each day help us eliminate that kind of talk?

So our assignment is to read these 3 passages each morning this coming week:

Romans 8:31-39

2 Timothy 1:7

Philippians 4:13

If we feed ourselves with words of life, it will starve off the negative self-talk.  The result is that we will see our lives change right before our eyes.  We will see our relationships with others improve.  We will see that we are more like the person God designed us to be.

I think that 3 minutes of our life each morning is worth that, don’t you?

               

 

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