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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Get Your Bucket!

Isaiah does something interesting as he writes. At certain points in his prophetic narrative he breaks into songs of praise. Isaiah 12 is one of those places where he switches from prophecy to worship.

Writing in 700 B.C., Isaiah knew that God had a right to be angry. The Jews have been rebellious against God. They have chased idols. They have measured their life’s success not by their closeness to God, but rather by their own personal power, prestige, possessions, positions and playthings.

But one day that will all end, and their lives will once again center on the Lord. One day they will turn back and experience God’s grace and forgiveness. They will understand that salvation is theirs, as a gift from the Son of God, the Messiah long-promised.

What a day that will be! Because that day will bring the demise of fear, and the rise of faith. It will replace all weakness with true strength. It will replace hurt and sadness with joy and peace.

Isaiah taught that all this would be the result of “drawing water from the wells of salvation.”

Today, 2,700 years later, it’s still critical to draw water from the wells of salvation. But in 2015, we call it being regular at worship, joining a growth group or Bible study, making regular use of the sacraments, finding a time and a place in our daily schedules for personal devotions and prayer, and making Christian music and hymns part of our regular listening repertoire.

That’s how we come to live by faith rather than fear. It’s how we replace puny, weak spiritual muscles with big, strong spiritual muscles. It’s how we find our joy again, maybe even when it seemed to us to be lost forever.

Get your bucket. That’s the well we definitely want to be drinking from!

“In that day you will say: ‘I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:1-3, NIV).

Lord, you are amazing. Thank you that you not angry with me for my many sins. Help me by your Spirit’s power to constantly draw from the wells of salvation. You are my Savior. You are my strength and my defense against the devil, the world and my own sinful flesh. I will trust in you and not be afraid.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, September 6, is Isaiah 10:20 – 13:22, 2 Corinthians 8:16 – 9:5 and Psalm 105:37-45.

Header image based on "Thor's Well" by Bill Young, CC By 2.0

Wisdom or Foolishness?

Enrollment in degree-granting post-secondary school institutions increased by 15 percent between 1992 and 2002. And in the ten years following that, enrollment increased an additional 24 percent, from 16.6 million to 20.6 million.

We are quickly becoming the most highly educated society in history. Just think about it. That’s not to mention all the resources available to us to gain knowledge on our own — resources like modern libraries, seminars, conferences, and especially the internet.

Sadly, much of this modern education exalts various forms of humanism. It holds that human thought and wisdom is all there is, and really all that is needed. It’s a full-on embrace of human reason and the things that human reason can produce — so much so that humanists typically have little need for God.

Paul dealt with the same struggle 2000 years ago — long, long before modern universities and the internet. Greeks exalted knowledge, wisdom and human inquiry. We still refer to the “Socratic Method” as great instructional methodology.

Certainly, Paul had no great beef with learning. He was a very learned man himself, perhaps one of the most learned of his day.

But he did put human reason in perspective. To Paul, human reason makes a great servant, and a lousy master. We can use our reason all we want in the service of God. Reason is a great tool to bring glory to God.

But once our human reason — the wisdom of this world — exalts itself over God’s reason that’s when the problems begin. When our human logic demands precedence and control over the revealed knowledge of God, then we soon find ourselves moving away from God. We are already on the way to being separated completely from our trust in God.

Why go that direction, Paul inquires. The important things are already ours, he emphasizes. Jesus is ours. And we are his. And that makes us God’s.

To put a slight twist on words Jesus once spoke, it’s really just foolishness to gain the knowledge of the whole university (or the whole internet, even), and forfeit your soul.

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Corinthians 3:18-23, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, August 7, is 1 Chronicles 24:1 – 26:19, 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 and Psalm 92:1-15.

Lord, grant me your divine wisdom and knowledge. Help me to set aside my own human wisdom and logic and humbly realize that these make great servants, but lousy masters, for my heart and mind. I want to have the mind of Christ, because I want to be of Christ. Help me, Lord!

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Where to Look When You’re Hurting

There’s a little voice inside all of our heads that likes to speak up when we’re in the midst of trouble and hard times.

And this voice likes to say something along these lines: “If God really loved me, and if God really had his eye on me, and if God is all-powerful as he claims to be, then why wouldn’t he prevent all these troubles and hardships? What’s the point? Why would a loving, powerful God want to see me suffer like this?”

That voice can be a powerful voice at times. And listening to it can really derail our faith.

“God has forgotten me,” it tells us.

Or, “God does not want me,” or “God hates me,” or worst of all, “There is no such thing as God.” After all, we think, if there really were a loving God, why would he continue to let me twist in the wind in such agony and misery?

This is why it’s so important to constantly go back to the promises of the Bible and have our hearts and minds informed from the word of God rather than from our own human reasoning based on current events in our lives. If we try to figure things out without the word of God, our judgment will be clouded and we’ll end up reaching the wrong conclusions.

Paul directed the Romans’ attention to God’s promises and God’s heart, reminding them that God’s true intentions with all of us are motivated by love. When we’re determined to go our own way, he may allow us the freedom to go that way. But his goal is never our destruction or death. He takes no pleasure in rejecting us or removing us from his presence.

God’s end game is always to move us toward reconciliation and eternal salvation. Think of the story of the Prodigal Son. Everything he does is designed to lead us back into his loving, forgiving and merciful arms.

“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, July 28, is 1 Chronicles 4:9 – 5:26, Romans 11:11-32 and Psalm 89:19-29.

Lord, help me to always look to your words and promises in tough times. In my troubled heart, I am tempted to believe that you are so angry with me that you want to cut me off from your love. Assure me always that nothing pleases you more than when I turn away from my sins and return to you. Help me to know that you will welcome me with open and loving arms.

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Faith: Personal, But Not Private

Interestingly, there are two definitions of the word “personal” and they often intertwine. But in the case of faith, the two definitions really need to be separated.

Definition one is “of, affecting, or belonging to a particular person rather than to anyone else.” This definition fits well with our Christian faith. Your faith in Jesus is personally planted in your heart by the Holy Spirit, who does his work on your heart via the Bible and Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Many people may share your faith. But your faith and your relationship to God is yours. No one can force this faith on you, as John the apostle points out in his gospel: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13, NIV).

Definition two is “of or concerning one’s private life, relationships, and emotions rather than matters connected with one’s public or professional career.”

Look at anyone in the Bible who was a disciple of Jesus and you’ll soon realize that with faith in Jesus, what’s there privately in our hearts will always make it’s way publicly out of our mouth. It’s called professing our faith. And all the disciples written about in the Bible did it.

Paul says that publicly professing our faith is actually a necessary response to having faith in our hearts — necessary, that is, in the sense that it will always occur. Paul himself is a great example of this. We read about Paul in the days following his conversion to faith in Jesus that, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20, NIV).

It’s such an important distinction for every Christ-follower to understand. Is your Christian faith personal? Of course! It’s deeply personal! Your relationship with Jesus is your relationship with him, and it belongs to no one else but you. You filter your life, your thoughts, your emotions, and your experiences through the “eyes” of faith that the Holy Spirit has given you.

Is your Christian faith private? Only if you are living in fear rather than faith. Because the most natural act of the person who believes in Jesus is “at once” to profess to others that Jesus is the Son of God.

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame'” (Romans 10:8-11, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, July 27, is 1 Chronicles 2:18 – 4:8, Romans 10:8 – 11:10 and Proverbs 18:7-16.

Lord, help me to profess with my mouth what I believe in my heart about Jesus.

Header image based on "I profess" by Leon Fishman, CC By 2.0

Unlimited… Even with the Limits On.

Sometimes we feel like our situation or circumstances limit us. And that can be hard to take. We like to live our lives without limits.

But often the limits are not nearly as limiting as we think they are.

Paul demonstrated this when he came to Rome and was placed under house arrest, with a Roman soldier guarding him. It would have been easy for Paul to cave and think that this would hinder him from accomplishing his goal of sharing Christ with the Romans.

But instead, Paul maintained his focus on his purpose — glorifying God and sharing Christ. He wore Jesus’ heart on his shirtsleeve, and was warm and welcoming to any who came to visit him. And he used the exceptionally powerful weapon that he had at his disposal — the gospel.

He simply went about his business, and didn’t let the imposed limitations disturb him or distract him from his appointed mission.

When we remember that our real purpose in life is to glorify God in all that we do, limitations don’t seem so limiting any longer. Paul could glorify God from his rented house in Rome.

When we recall that our job description is always, “Love!” the limitations fall away because we can show the love of Jesus wherever we are.

When we wield the powerful word of God as Paul did — it’s the sword of the Spirit! — we realize that all we ever need to accomplish our mission is to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever we might be, we can do that with boldness and without hindrance.

We become unlimited, just like Paul did, even when serious limits might seem — to the casual observer — to be present.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:30-31, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, July 11, is 2 Kings 22:1 – 22:20, Acts 28:17-31 and Proverbs 16:28 – 17:4.

Jesus, help me to move beyond all limitations — whether self-imposed, or imposed by others — and continue to share you and your salvation boldly with others.

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Why the Bible?

People have many theories about why the Bible was written.

Some think of it as merely a collection of spiritual fables. Some think it is an instruction book for improving morality. Some think it’s just good classic literature, helpful for understanding Western culture’s religious thinking and Judeo-Christian ethic.

But the authors, the ones who actually did the writing, tell us that they wrote for an entirely different reason. They had a clear purpose in mind.

They believed firmly that they had met and followed the Son of God, the Savior of the world. They believed they had encountered the one who holds the power over life and death, and the authority to open the gates of eternity to mankind.

They believed Jesus when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So they did not want to keep this information to themselves. They wanted to share it with the world.

So they wrote. And the Bible was the end result. As John the apostle tells us, their purpose was to share life — eternal life.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, June 1, is 2 Samuel 1:1 – 2:7, John 20:10-31 and Proverbs 13:20 – 14:4.

Lord, thank you for giving us the Bible. Thank you for John and the other authors who followed you, and recorded your acts. Send me your Spirit that I may believe that you are the Son of God, my Savior, and my Lord, and have eternal life.

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