The Love of God (Ephesians 3)

The-book-of-Ephesians

Paul spends most of this chapter reaching out to the Gentiles. His mission that was given to him, by both God and the apostles in Jerusalem, was to minister to the Gentiles. Before Christ, the Gentiles were widely regarded as outsiders by the Jews. Their belief was set around their status as the “chosen people”. This led them to believing that the Gentiles would not be a part of whatever salvation the Messiah would bring. However, Jesus and Paul thought differently. The basis of salvation is not by who you were born to, but is rather based on faith. Paul writes, “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6, NASB). This is Paul telling the Gentile and Jewish Christians, that the Gentiles are just as much a part of God’s Kingdom as the Jews.

It would seem that the Ephesians church is having a problem that was very common during Paul’s ministry. This problem was that Jewish Christians would come in and tell the Gentile Christian that they were somehow  of less significance or would have to conform to a Jewish lifestyle before they could be saved. We know this is wrong today, but it was something that many people believed then. Paul’s answer to this is the knowledge of God’s love. He tells them that he is praying for them; specifically he is praying that they learn about God’s love, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (3:17-19, NASB). The love of Christ is so all-consuming, that there would be no way for the Church to focus on things like Jews over Gentiles. Instead their focus would be to love each other, and spread the love to everyone else.

This is a message that I believe still rings true for us today. We can get all caught up in living in a way that honors God that we forget why we do it. Yes, we should live a life that reflects Scripture. We should stand up for our faith, and oppose the things that God opposes. But I feel that there are people, especially some in the media and politics, that portray our faith as a list of rules that if we don’t make everyone follow they will all go to hell. Well I have news for those people; if they don’t believe in Christ, they’re going to hell anyway. No amount of forcing anything is going to help their salvation. As a matter of fact, it will more than likely push them away. Is that really the life that Christ showed us to live? Is that really living a Christian life?

Christ said to the people, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, NASB). People can become weary when they are being told they are wrong all the time, or that their life should actually look like “this”. Jesus wants those people, and so should we. We should not be the cause of their stress. We should take them in and show them the love of Christ. We should take in the teenage mother, and tell her that Jesus loves her. We should hug the homosexual and tell them that God’s loves them. We should spend time with the felon, and share the love that God has given us. The point, I guess, is that God has given us so much love, we cannot contain it; we have to spread it.

Love does not come from following rules, following rules comes from love. If we love God, we will follow the rules. But we cannot force people to follow the rules and say that it is love. Love comes from personal experience. We cannot lead people to that experience if we are constantly pushing them away. So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s give “Bible-thumping” a rest. It isn’t helping our cause any. God is love, and we should be wanting to share that with everyone. Only God can “fix” people, so let’s trust Him to do that. We can just share Him with every single person we come into contact with.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 139-142

Also in this Series:

“My Religion is Kindness”

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A few weeks ago I had come across a picture on my News Feed on Facebook. I wish I had saved it because now I can only vaguely remember it. What I do remember was that it held commentary about how the Church treats people. Specifically around the subject of homosexuality. Largely it had the notion attached that the Church is an organization that hates people and seeks to turn them all rich WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). All people have to look the same way, behave the same way, and have things that look a certain way. The post then followed up with this quote from the Dali Lama, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Which I must admit is a great sentiment, but it still got me upset!

So I went to the dictionary. Merriam-Websters dictionary defines kindness as “the quality or state of being kind: a kind act”. Thanks Websters, that helped a lot.  So I looked up “kind” which is defined as “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others : wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others”. The way that it would seem is that kindness (when it is the motivation) is a self motivation to do good for others for their sake and, whether intentional or not, to make us look good.

We are called to be kind to one another, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;” (Colossians 3:12, NASB). Clearly we should be kind to each other, and those that we come into contact with. But why, if there are so many commands about kindness, can the Church be seen as an unkind institution.

The answer my friends is love. This is the principle that the Church has been founded on. God loved us, so He sent His Son. Jesus loved us, so he died on a Cross. He commands us to love everyone, including our enemies. The Bible even tells us that God is love! (1 John 4:8). So why is the principle of love taken to be an unkind act?

Again, I went to Webster. Love, once you get away from romance and sex, is defined as “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another”. When you look out for the welfare of others, things can be taken poorly. Now lesson has taught me this greater than being a father. When your child wants to chew on electrical cords, or climb on something unstable, or even play in the street, you know that the situation is dangerous and something will happen to your child if you don’t fix it. So what happens when you take away the cord, pull them off the structure, or pull them out of the road? They cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. So no wonder the Church seems unkind. We tell people their wrong, so they cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. Why? Because we told them that what they are doing is unwise.

If you want to build you beliefs around kindness, go ahead. My God is love and He cares deeply for me. He came and took a terrible punishment so I don’t have to. I’ll take a god who loves me over a god who does kind acts for me any day. Yes, love can be kind. It’s important for love to perform acts of kindness. But kindness cannot be the center of our beliefs. Kindness alone is selfish, while love is selfless.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, endures all things.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB

Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

Also in this Series

Highway of Holiness (Isaiah 33-35)

Book of Isaiah

Today’s section starts with a message to Assyria. God tells them that even though they are mighty, and will destroy the Northern Kingdom, they will be destroyed. He goes on to describe that Jerusalem will end up being strong. “I will be like a tent whose ropes are taut and whose stakes are firmly fixed.” (33:20, NLT). “The people of Israel will no longer say, ‘We are sick and helpless,’ for the Lord will forgive their sins.” (33:24, NLT). The Lord then explains His wrath against all the nations of the world. He states that He has problems with every single one of them. Yet He singles out the nation of Edom (the descendants of Jacob’s twin brother, Esau). He promises that the Edomites’  land will be destroyed and become a wasteland. God then delivers a hope for salvation and restoration. He describes the land as becoming lush and abundant. “Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!” (35:2, NLT). Lastly there will be a road that cuts through the deserted area called the Highway of Holiness. This road can only be found and traveled on by those following God; all others would perish in the wilderness.

The “Highway of Holiness” really is another prophecy about God’s redemptive plan. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways.” (35:8, NLT). Before Christ, we were all stuck in our sin. There was no way out. I love the phrase that the pastor Louie Giglio has been throwing around, “Sin makes you dead”. Sin is exactly like the deserted land being described in these chapters. Nothing is alive in sin, everything is dead. Yet a pathway has been cut for us to travel through this deserted land and into a living place full of singing and joy. That path was created when Christ died on the Cross. Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life;” (John 14:6). Jesus is telling us that if we want to get through the deserted place and come into life with God, we must travel on the Highway of Holiness. The only way to reach that Highway is through belief in Jesus Christ.

 

Also in this Series

Salvation Comes From the Lord (Isaiah 24-27)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah delivers a prophecy describing the destruction of the whole Earth. This is fitting since it comes after God’s messages of destruction to many nations in the world. The main theme in this vision is that man’s pride will be destroyed. “In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on the earth.” (24:21, NLT). Isaiah then sees a vision of the coming salvation. People will return back to God, and recognize His ability to provide. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat.” (25:4, NLT). This salvation, however, will not be for the people of Israel alone. It is meant for “all the people of the world” (25:6, NLT). After the message of salvation, we find a psalm praising God. It encourages us to keep our trust in God. “Lord in our distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (26:16, NLT). It won’t always be easy, but we are reminded to keep our trust in God no matter what. God then offers a vision of the restored Israel. God will defeat all who stand against Him, and He will save those that remain faithful to him. After the defeat of evil, God will call His people back to Jerusalem and they will worship Him.

We’ve all done wrong. It’s that simple. Paul even wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). Since this is true, we must all realize a common thread for every man, woman and child on earth. We need salvation from our sins. God recognized this as soon as we first sinned, and began a plan to bring redemption to mankind. There are times all throughout Scripture, where the people of God sin and fall away from God. Why? Because we cannot be saved on our own. Our salvation depends on one act, and that is our trust and belief in God. Isaiah continued to preach this to the people of Judah, even though they were heading towards disaster. We can’t do it, that’s where pride gets in our way. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Let’s look at a couple verses again. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears.” (25:6-8, NLT). God promises to remove death from our world, and He did just that. These verses remind me of the Easter story. Christ instituted a meal (the Eucharist, aka Holy Communion), then handed his life over as an offering for the sins of humanity. By our belief, we have eternal life. This can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Through our pain and tribulations, we can find relief in knowing that God has promised salvation to those who not just believe in Him, but in the Son as well (John 3:16).

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that you seek one out. I am always available to help as I can. Just contact me, and I’ll do my best.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I challenge you to talk to someone about Him today. The only way people have an opportunity for salvation, is if His followers lead others to Him. How can we put our trust and faith in someone we don’t know about? Talk to someone, that’s the best we can do.

 

Also in this Series

You Can’t Earn It!

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I read an article on the Breathe Cast today. It was talking about a comment that was made in an interview done for the New York Times with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. The interview was all about the work Mr Bloomberg is doing to advance gun control regulation. However at the end of the interview a statement was made, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” I’m not sure he truly understood the problem with such a comment.

If we turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans, you could easily find out what Paul’s response to this would have been. I think a good sub-title for this letter might be, The Epistle Against Earning Salvation. He consistently speaks out against our ability to save ourselves, and puts that power in Christ’s hands alone. Here are just a few of these verses found in Romans:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (3:23-24, NLT)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23)

“But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why Not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the Law instead of trusting him.” (9:31-32)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (10:9)

These are just a few of the verses in this letter. Our salvation is a “free” gift, that we cannot pay for. All we can do is trust that God is sufficient, and believe it with our whole hearts. There is no way that salvation can be earned. My pastor likes to say, “You can’t bake enough pies to get into heaven.”

I’m not saying that God doesn’t cause us to change or do radical thing for Him. My point is that we cannot go out with the mindset, “I’m going to do this so I can get into heaven.” Finding salvation is easy. There’s no need to earn it. You simply need faith. Paul again keeps this in perspective for us, “For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-8, NLT)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 94-96

God’s Ways or My Ways (Judges 19)

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In today’s chapter we really see how low the morality of Israel became without a Judge or a king. We know that Israel had gotten bad in the past, but we weren’t shown exactly how much. Here we meet another Levite that left his home to find a new place to live and landed in the hill country of Ephraim. This man had taken a woman to be his concubine. She was unfaithful to him and ran away to her father’s house in Judah. After four months had passed, the Levite traveled to get his concubine back. He stayed in his father-in-law’s house for three days, and decided to leave on the fourth. He was convinced to stay another day. So on the fifth day he finally left. When night was approaching, the Levite’s servant suggested staying in Jerusalem until morning. The Levite said no, because Jerusalem was not an Israelite city; so they continued on to Gibeah (which was an Israelite city). They took refuge with an elder man, who was also from the region of Ephraim. Then the story turns into one that reads like the story of Lot and his family during the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29). The  men of Gibeah came to the man’s house and demanded that he give them the Levite so they could have sexual relations with him. The man refused, but offered his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men refused them and insisted on the Levite. The Levite then forced his concubine out into the crowd, and they took her and abused her throughout the rest of the night. In the morning she was released, but when she reached the house, she died.

The last two chapters start with the same phrase, “Now in those days Israel had no king.” (18:1, 19:1, NLT). This phrase can be taken in two different ways. At first, you can take it at face value. When it says “Israel had no king” it could literally mean there was no king, no central governing body to rule over the people. The second way you can take it is that Israel did not follow any sort of king. If you remember from a few chapters ago, Gideon told the Israelites, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!” (Judges 8:22, NLT). This would mean that the Israelites were not even listening or obeying God.

As terrible and tragic as this chapter is, I think it paints a very good picture of what our lives can be like without God. When we remain in sin, we run our lives into the mud. We ruin them because we are looking out for ourselves, with little or no care for the cost. But Jesus changes this for us. He gives us the opportunity to be reconnected with God, and learn to live good, godly lives.

We read in John’s letters, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10, NASB). Since we know God, we know how to love, and Jesus calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:23, NASB). This love that we share will not let us step on or hurt others to keep us in a better place. Rather it forces us to humble ourselves beneath all others in order to serve them, and build them up into a better place.

So I ask you a simple question. Are we more likely to act like the men of Gibeah and serve our own wants and desires, or do we put ourselves aside in order to help others? We all know what the right answer is, but try to be honest about it. I know that there are times the mantra “Gotta look out for #1” pops into my thoughts. It’s also the way the world teaches us to be. But this is a time where we must question, do we do what the world teaches us, or Christ?

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 84-87

Just Believe!

believe-ticket

I’ve had a few different Scriptures hit me like a ton or bricks over the past few days. The one I’d like to talk about today, everyone seems to know the first part: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”. But did you know that there is much more to that whole statement?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, That the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hate the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. Bu the who practices the truth come to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” –John 3:16-21, NASB

The quoting of John 3:16 is a good practice, but I feel that it’s changing the point of the entire passage. When I read that one verse, I get the message “Yay! God loves me”. Now this is a great message and is completely true, but in light of the following verses I’m not convinced it’s the entire message Jesus is conveying. We see that, as humans, our natural tendencies are towards evil actions (thanks a lot sin nature). Because of this, God has no reason to love me. He should despise me because of what we have done to His Creation. Have you ever spent a ton of time and energy into making something, let’s say a cake? You’re really happy with what you have done, but then the dog sees it and runs towards it. Before you can stop him, he’s destroyed the cake. How upset would you be? I’m sure God’s feelings are similar, saying that the people He created to care for Creation were the one’s ultimately to blame for it’s humiliation.

But God doesn’t hold it against us. He loves you and me in spite of ourselves. We deserve His wrath, but rather we get His grace! We simply have to believe in His son, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was saying in this section from John that we are only judged by whether we believe in Him, or not. Seems pretty simple. It was also a radical idea at the time, and it seems that it’s still pretty counter-cultural today. There is no series of steps to get grace, there is not rituals or prayers you have to say. All you have to do is believe. Believe in the one Son of God. Believe that He has come to save us from ourselves, and to take the punishment of our sin. Believe that God has made all things right between us and Him. All we have to do is believe!

As we go into the new year, I encourage you to take a look at your beliefs. Do you believe in all those things that God has done for you? If not, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and reading Scripture. Did you know that there is a prayer in the Bible written for unbelief. In Mark 9, a man asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus’ replay is that all things are possible if you believe. The man then prayed, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT). Jesus then healed the man’s son. This shows me that even if we don’t believe, God hears our prayers. But we have to be earnestly seeking Him and wanting to overcome our unbelieving hearts, if we expect God to do anything. The lesson here? Prayer works friends, even if you have problems believing it does.

Praying For A Change of Heart

change-of-heart

Over the weekend, my wife and I were having a conversation with my sister. I caught myself saying something that is embarrassingly true, “I have the tendency to act like a Pharisee and not apply Scripture to life. Rather I use it to read and understand, but I have a hard time living it.”

I believe that this stands to be true for far too many people. We all have our moments where we say, “The Bible says…” but we are just as quick to do the opposite. My biggest concern is for those people we can affectionately call “Bible Thumpers”. These are the people who take the Bible and use it as Law, especially against those sinners. I try my hardest not to do this because I view the Bible to be our guide through life. It is what shows us how to live a Godly, holy life. The issue here is that you have to choose this life. No one can make you live this life, and if someone is, I’d say they have become a lot like the Pharisees.

This is a hard life, being a Christian. It’s not something we are born into. It’s not something we receive from our ancestors. It’s not based on our own abilities. It is solely based on God’s love for us, that we can even be forgiven of our sins.

I read a passage today that got me thinking about my life. Jesus says “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matthew 15:17-18, NASB).

Am I showing Jesus with my actions and speech? Jesus is telling the Pharisees, and us, that when we speak (or do anything really) we are showing what is within us. If we have the Spirit within us, we can’t help but show Christ to everyone. This will keep us from acting like that Pharisees and Bible Thumpers, and bring the love of God to our friends, family, and others.

I pray for myself and for you that we can all learn to have a heart like Jesus. If you have a hard time with this, like me, please join me in this prayer.

Heavenly Father. Help me to be more like Your Son. Soften my heart to Your Word, and allow it to fill me up so that I may show the love of Christ to others. This Christian lifestyle is difficult and requires me to do things I don’t really want to do. It’s when I go into it dragging my feet that I shut myself off from You, and whatever opportunities you have for me today. Help me to change my heart to what is good and holy. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” In Your Son’s holy name I pray. Amen.

Going Into Battle

For the past seven weeks, I have been doing a Bible study on worship with my church’s praise team. It has been a pretty great study so far, and I look forward to the last two weeks of it. The study, while going throughout the Bible, focuses on one story. It can be found in 2 Chronicles 20.

In this story, Judah is being threatened by 3 different invading armies. King Jehoshaphat orders a time of fasting and prayer. The prophet Jahaziel then delivers a message to the king and all Judah, “thus says that Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b-17, NASB).

After receiving this message, the people fast and pray. In the morning the army marched out to station itself for battle, but leading the charge were the priest and holy worshipers (a choir!!!!). These people lead the people of Judah is a praise song that went like this, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NASB). During the praise, God made the armies confused and they destroyed themselves!

Isn’t that a great story? But it has a point that I’d like to share with you.

Life gets hard. The people of Judah were experiencing this (3 armies at once!). But no matter how hard life can get, we should lead the charge with praise and worship. As we’ve been discussing this week, praise is important (especially when we are waiting on God’s promises). The people of Judah showed us what can happen when we place our trust in God. They didn’t have to lift a sword in order to defeat the three armies, all the did was sing. God did the rest of the work. The story goes on to show that they went on to plunder for three days! It must have been a massive gathering against them. But the listened and trusted in God. They went into battle praising Him, and He provided for them.

God wants to do the same for you. All you have to do is surrender your life completely to Him. Then, go into battle singing His praises. We can’t go into the “battle” of the day saying “Let me figure it out, then I’ll ask God.” Give it to God first! He can handle it.

I thought of a couple songs that would be appropriate for this post. So please take a listen, and give your battles over to God.