Keep It Together!

Starting with Moses and ending with Malachi — with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and many others along the way — God delegated many different prophets to speak to his people. There were many spokesmen, but with one voice they all made sure the world would hear of God’s plan to rescue them from sin and death.

Sometimes people think it’s still that way. They look for signs and revelations from God. They want to hear his voice directly, or they latch on to someone who claims that they have heard his voice directly. And there are certain people all too willing to exploit those who seek God this way.

The author of this letter to the Hebrews says that things have changed. Now God speaks to us through one person. That person is his Son, our Savior Jesus. If we want to know God, if we want to understand his plan for us and his message to us, then we are to listen to him. We do this today when we read what the evangelists and apostles recorded and reported in the New Testament.

By his Son, God created this beautiful world in the beginning. Jesus shows us exactly who God is. Jesus paints a portrait of God and all his characteristics so vibrant that it leaps off the canvas.

And just as Jesus created all this, created us and all our loved ones, this same Jesus continues to provide, protect and nurture us. He is the Creator and he is the Sustainer too. Just as he created all things from nothing by his powerful world, so he redeems us from our nothingness and purifies us from our sins by his powerful word — the gospel.

Jesus now sits in the seat of power, commanding and controlling all things for the benefit of his church — for your good, and my good. So when we listen to him, when he becomes our One Source (of information), and our One Sustainer (of life, peace, joy, and forgiveness), then his power becomes our power.

Keep it together, people tell us. With Jesus’ love and authority in our lives, we absolutely can and will keep it together, no matter how challenging the circumstances. Because he holds it all together for us by what he says to us — in his powerful word.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).

Lord Jesus, help me to daily draw on your word for my life. I know that your words and promises help me keep it together. Without you, and without your word, I also am sure that I cannot keep it together. I repent of trying to live independently. Help me to know you, Jesus, as true God, and my Creator and Sustainer.

Our Bible reading for Friday, October 30, is Lamentations 3:40 – 5:22, Hebrews 1:1-14 and Psalm 119:129-136.

Header image based on "Holding together" by Tom Good, CC By 2.0

Light for Your Path

It’s one thing to fear physical darkness and things that go bump in the night. Every year, at the end of October, we get our fill of movies and TV programs that feed off of those kinds of fears.

It’s another thing entirely to endure emotional darkness. Emotional darkness takes many forms, and none of them are the least bit pleasant. Confusion, depression, feelings of deep shame and guilt, fears of being exposed as a fraud, obsessions and compulsions that we feel powerless to overcome — all of these can lead to feelings of deep darkness.

But the worst kind of darkness is spiritual darkness. Because it’s a deceptive, stealthy kind of darkness — a deep shroud of darkness we may not initially recognize as darkness. In fact, many who walk in spiritual darkness are absolutely convinced that they’re walking in the brightest of light. But sadly, it’s the complete opposite. It’s the very deepest kind of darkness.

Paul, the apostle, talks about those trapped in spiritual darkness as he writes to Titus. He says, In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:15b-16).

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

By the grace of God, we have been given a light that can drive out the deepest spiritual darkness. It can flood our hearts with light. It can shine a spotlight on our footsteps, and show us the path to God.

God’s word is that light. And you can pick up that light as easily as picking up your Bible. It probably doesn’t even weigh as much as that flashlight you keep in your kitchen drawer. But spiritually, it has megawatt power and great luminous intensity!

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV).

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your word. And I thank you that your word points me to you, my Savior and my Lord. May the Bible always shed the light of your grace into my heart, guide my footsteps, and light my path until I am at your side eternally.

Our Bible reading for Monday, October 26, is Jeremiah 52:1-34, Titus 1:1-16 and Psalm 119:105-112.

Header image based on "Lighting the way" by Stephen Bowler, CC By 2.0

Diligence and Vigilance. Doctrine and Life.

God loves to see us progress in our faith. And that’s what Paul tells his young protege Timothy. As you grow, he says to Timothy, let everyone notice your progress.

Diligence and vigilance are the key ideals Paul employs when he urges Timothy to make progress in his faith. Once we become believers, it can be easy to coast. We can be lulled into being satisfied with the minimum. And we can drop our guard — forgetting that the devil is out there prowling around like a roaring lion.

For Timothy, as a leader in the church, diligence and vigilance were doubly important. Because he was setting an example for others. As he “gave himself wholly” to his ministry and to his own faith, his followers would take note. As he kept a close eye on his way of life and his doctrine, he would help not just himself, but also his hearers.

Notice here, that Paul mentions both doctrine and life. Not doctrine or life. Doctrine and life. Both are critical for Timothy to have a healthy life of faith that sets the tone for those whom he is teaching.

This is good for us to remember too. When we are diligent about our faith, when we watch to see that our teaching conforms to the Bible, when we live according to God’s commandments, we show our progress and we help others make progress as well. And when we persevere and keep on doing this, people notice our habits.

Lots of “ands” here. Diligence and vigilance. Doctrine and life. Perseverance in these helps us make progress in our faith. And it helps others make progress in their faith, too.

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:15-16, NIV).

Lord, help me to stay diligent and vigilant. I know that it is impossible for me to do this on my own. So strengthen me to keep close watch on both my doctrine and my life, so that I may progress in my faith, and help others progress in their faith as well.

Our Bible reading for Monday, October 19, is Jeremiah 40:7 – 42:22, 1 Timothy 4:1-16 and Proverbs 25:11-20.

Header image based on "KEEP ON THE WATCH" by whologwhy, CC By 2.0

Faith and Hustle

When my kids were younger they had a list of chores on the refrigerator. The list was something that Julie and I had put together for them so that they could learn to help out around the house, and develop a habit of taking responsibility for the overall good of the family.

Of course, the chores were not always beloved by our children. But they did develop good habits and were good about getting the chores done. Most times, they hustled and got them done pretty quickly, in fact.

But there were a few times when they just weren’t into the chores. So, they would drag their feet and not get started on completing the list. We would remind them, of course, but sometimes reminders weren’t enough to get the children moving.

Accountability breeds responsibility, so on our kids’ “less than energetic” days, Julie and I might have had to finally resort to threats of privileges being taken away. That was never the way we wanted it to be. Our goal was for them to be motivated from the inside (their own willingness and desire), not from the outside (us and our threats).

In Psalm 119, the poet talks, in a way, about God’s “chore list.” He calls them statutes or commands, God’s law. The author says that he has looked at himself, compared his actions with God’s law, and has turned things around so that his actions are aligned with God’s statutes and commands.

Something that stands out here is that he commits himself to a personal “zero-tolerance policy” for foot-dragging. He will obey God right away. He will find out what God wants and then hustle to get it done. And his motivation to do this clearly comes from within. This is what his heart is moving him to desire, and desire immediately.

Is there an area in your life right now that you find yourself dragging your feet when it comes to obeying God’s commands? Is it the right time for you to take a moment to consider your ways, and begin to more closely align to God’s will? Are you ready to commit to going about this in an expeditious manner, hastening to obey, and make the change immediately?

In other words, is now the time for some “hustle” in your relationship to God? When the love of Jesus truly touches our hearts, this is what our hearts will be motivated to desire — just as the Psalmist’s heart was.

“I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:59-60, NIV).

Lord, help me to consider my ways and turn my steps to your statutes. Give me the inner desire to hustle and do this quickly, so that I may align my heart to yours right away.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, October 18, is Jeremiah 38:1 – 40:6, 1 Timothy 3:1-16 and Psalm 119:57-64.

Header image based on "Chores" by Roxanne Ready, CC By-SA 2.0

Grow Deep Roots

Never be satisfied. There’s always more to do. There’s constantly another another step to take… to understand and deepen the peace you are experiencing, and to take hold of and grasp ever more firmly the grace God extends to you.

Realize, to know Jesus as your Lord — you have been given a huge gift! Now, Paul says, don’t stop there. Keep on going. And keep on growing.

You believe. Now, actually live in him. Send deep roots down into Jesus — study his life, his heart and his words — as if you were a tree and he is the most fertile soil you could imagine. And as you do that, Jesus will flow through you, building you up spiritually and extending your influence like branches stretching out into the sky.

It’s the word of God that makes this life in Christ possible. As you are taught from the Bible, the word will strengthen you. The gospel will fill your heart with deep gratitude.

And with increasing intensity the peace of God will fill your heart and mind. God’s grace will more and more become your life’s driving force.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7, NIV).

Lord, keep me going, and keep me growing, so that my faith in you and your promises gets stronger each day. Help me to make time to read and study my Bible, because your word is the power for me to grow deeper roots into you, Jesus.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, October 6, is Jeremiah 11:18 – 13:27, Colossians 2:6-23 and Psalm 118:1-16.

Header image based on "Oak Tree - Bon Tempe Lake" by France Folini, CC By-SA 2.0

Stand Firm!

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

Paul, the apostle, once said, “When you take your stand in the Lord, you are standing in the right place. Stand firm in him.”

And then he clearly described the way to take a firm stand in Jesus. Don’t do it in your own strength. Instead, put on God’s armor. God’s armor is your best defense. And God’s armor is your best offense, too.

There are six pieces to that armor. Put them all on. And keep them on.

  • Truth
  • Righteousness
  • The Gospel
  • Faith
  • Salvation
  • God’s Word

Once you have your armor on, talk to God. Because God’s armor comes with a comms unit. And that comms unit — it’s called prayer — allows you to speak directly to God himself.

The right armor, and talking to the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier — the One who controls everything, will help you plant your feet firmly and be steadfast and unmovable.

Like a rock. Even when Satan himself, and all his evil angels with him, are trying to bring you down.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV).

Lord, help me to take my stand in you. I know that Satan wants to bring me down and take me out. But you have given me the right protective armor to wear, and you have declared yourself available at all times to assure me of your love and grant me your wisdom. Help me to wear the armor, and keep my communications with you an open line.

Our Bible reading for Monday, September 28, is Nahum 1:1 – 3:19, Ephesians 6:1-24 and Psalm 114:1-8.

Header image based on "Iron Man" by tangi bertin, CC By 2.0

5 Reasons to Ask for Help

Many of us struggle to ask for help. We want to carry our own burdens. We want to take care of business on our own.

But Isaiah reminds us that when we are the Lord’s, the best thing we can do is ask him for help. Because the benefits of asking God for help are huge!

  1. We will tap into God’s grace — his free and faithful love will be ours
  2. We will receive a timely answer to our requests
  3. We will find strength, courage and perseverance for times of adversity
  4. We will be given mentors, coaches and teachers to guide us
  5. We will be given guidance and assurance that we are on the right track

With benefits like that, we need to seriously reconsider any reluctance we might have when it comes to asking for help.

Especially when it comes to asking God for help!

“People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isaiah 30:19-21, NIV).

Lord Jesus, forgive me for trying to be too independent and always try to carry my own load. I know that you want to bear my burdens, because on the cross you bore the biggest burden of all — the sins of the entire world. I want all the benefits of asking for your help. Help me to remember to ask for your help daily.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, September 13, is Isaiah 30:19 – 32:20, 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 and Proverbs 22:17-27.

Header image based on "five" by woodleywonderworks, CC By 2.0