15 Days of Faith – Day 5

I don’t know many people who like being tested. I used to think that if I ever got out of school, I’d never have to take another test in my life. Boy, was I wrong. I have an oral report I give every Sunday (called a sermon), turn in an annual report of my finances to the IRS, submit reports and updates to ministry leaders in my church, and I have to go to the doctor for physicals and the dentist for checkups. Tests are a part of life.

The Bible says that God tests our faith. In today’s video, I speak briefly about why our faith is tested, but I want to write for a moment about how it’s tested. Usually, when something is tested, pressure is asserted. It may be mental pressure, like a student in school, or physical pressure, like an athlete on the football field. You’ll find that in spiritual testing, pressure is also applied to our lives.

I don’t want to say that God initiates all of the pressure on us for the testing of our faith, but I know that God uses it. Sometimes, our faith is tested because someone else acts out their brokenness and we get injured as collateral damage. Everyone is broken by sin. People act like broken people because of sin, and those actions can cause a lot of pain and struggle in other people’s lives. Although God is not the cause of those actions, He always harnesses an opportunity to grow us into the likeness of His Son. Do you remember David in the Old Testament? One of the great tests of his life came from his own son’s rebellion.

We may be tested by physical struggle. This struggle could come in the form of sickness or financial struggle. Again, God doesn’t always cause these issues, but He uses them to grow us and shape us. Job fell into this category. The Apostle Paul also had a physical struggle. We don’t know what it was, but we do know that he asked God to remove it from him on three different occasions. Here’s how God responded to Paul’s request, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Paul learned that being weakened or even broken was not necessarily a bad thing. God’s power grows in our brokenness.

The Bible says that God has a purpose for our testing, and the bottom line is that it’s always for our good. Testing matures us and strengthens us. It helps us to know ourselves and teaches us how to depend upon God.

Are you being tested now? Cry out to God. Learn from God during this time and let Him work in your life. One day you’ll see that you will come through the fire and survive the struggle. You’ll find that you are stronger in the Lord than before and more equipped mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually to serve the Lord.

In the meantime, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,       knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Watch today’s video by clicking this link.

15 Days of Faith – Day 4

What does it mean to fix your mind on something? Have you ever had a problem you needed to solve, and you thought about it continuously throughout the day? I remember a serious problem I had a few years ago, and there seemed to be no solution. I pondered the issue for days. I awakened one night with the solution. For starters, I believe God gave me the solution, but it all came about because my mind was fixed upon it (and I prayed fervently about it).

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” For starters, I like the idea of perfect peace. God’s Word is 100% true, and it says perfect peace is a possibility. The Hebrew literally says, “peace, peace” — a double load of peace. It was a Hebrew idiom or way of saying something is complete.

Do you see the word “keep” in that scripture? It means to “secure or guard as with a garrison.” God says He is going to stand guard over those who fix their minds on Him and fully trust Him. It reminds me of another passage found in the New Testament:

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you want “peace, peace,” perfect peace? Keep your mind fixed on God. How do you do that? I suggest first to fill your mind with Scripture. Meditate on the Word of God throughout the day. Sing songs of worship that magnify God and praise His name. Pray without ceasing. Talk to God all day long about what’s going on in your life and in the world. Christianity is a relationship to be experienced not a program to attend.

If you fix your mind on God, he will set up a guard over your heart and your mind. You will find a peace that is mind-blowing and soul healing.

I invite you to watch my video for additional thoughts as you choose daily to keep your mind fixed upon God.

Healing for America as we Seek God’s Face

prayer22 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Today is the day. So much will be determined about our future by the casting of ballots, and a lot hangs in the balance. At the same time, God is not limited by what happens today. Regardless of who becomes our next president or representative or senator, God is still on His throne. His plan will not be thwarted and His purpose will not go unfulfilled. We can find great comfort today in knowing that God’s will is not dependent upon our opinions and actions.

Regardless of today’s outcome, America is in dire need of renewal. Our renewal, however, does not need only to come in the form of new initiatives, new laws, and new Supreme Court justices. We have a much deeper need than that. We need spiritual renewal and revival. God says that He will heal our land if His people will humble themselves and pray. He also calls us to seek His face and turn from our wicked ways.

Seeking God’s face is a call to authenticity and transparency before a holy God Who already knows all things. Looking into the eyes of our Heavenly Father is an invitation for Him to look deep into our souls and see everything. Such divine scrutiny always leads to repentance in the lives of God’s children. We cannot maintain our heavenly gaze unless we’re willing to repent. We either seek God’s face and enjoy the refreshing grace of a merciful God, or we turn away and continue in our destructive patterns and rebellion.

Seeking God’s face also calls for a relationship. God never intended us to just obey Him. He also wants us to love Him. We can be rule followers and still be far from God. It’s like the strong-willed little boy who finally sat down after being told to do so by his mother one hundred times. He replied, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing up on the inside.” God doesn’t just want outward conformity. He wants an inner relationship. God has many things He wants to do in your life, but He can only do them in the context of love.

Seeking God’s face also means gaining God’s approval. Imagine the nod of God’s eternal head as He watches the lives of His children. God says that he will bring healing to our land when His people live in such a way as to please the heart of our Heavenly Father. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the world and begin comparing ourselves to the wrong standard. My mother used to remind me that it didn’t matter what my friends did because they weren’t the standard. Our only standard is Jesus Christ and His Word. If you want God’s healing in our land, in your family, or in your life, seek God’s face by living in obedience to His will.

We want God to heal our land; therefore, it means that we must fall on our face in prayer and seek His face. We must humble ourselves and continue to pray as we repent of our sins and intercede for our land. If God’s people will do that, God will respond and heal our land. May we join our hearts together and plea for the soul of America.

Family Devotion by Amy Autry

Getting Started: Take a piece of paper. Have a member of the family rip the paper into smaller pieces. As a family work to put the paper back together. Like this piece of paper, it started out perfect. Our actions tore into tiny pieces. We can try to put it back together, but we cannot make it look like it did before. It is the same with sin. We cannot do it by ourselves. Only God can restore us after we have sinned.

Bible Time:

Read 1 John 1:5-10

When God created the world, he created us in His image and there was no sin. In verse 5, John tells his readers that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness.” We were created to have a perfect relationship with God where there was no sin. Sin is anything we think, say, or do that disobeys God. Soon after God created people, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.

Because of sin our relationship with God was broken. Verse 6 tells us that we cannot have fellowship with God if we continue to sin. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Sin separates us from God, but God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to take our punishment for disobeying God. God tells us that if we repent of our sin, our relationship with Him will be restored. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

When we ask God to be our Lord, it doesn’t mean that we will never mess up. God wants us to constantly confess, or repent of our sins and turn back to Him. Repent means that we are turning away from our sin and turning back to following God. God promises that when we repent, he will forgive our sins as if they never happened and our relationship with Him is restored.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is sin? (Anything we think, say or do that disobeys God)
  • Who has sinned? (Everyone)
  • What does God do when we confess our sin? (He forgives us and restores our relationship with Him.)

 

Spend some time praying and asking God to forgive any sin in your life. If your child is asking questions about salvation, spend time discussing what it means to follow Christ.

God’s Mercy

chainsofsinElevation Church Worship Band recorded a wonderful song about God’s mercy entitled Mercy Reigns. Here are a few of the lyrics:

My God is strong enough to raise me from the grave Your love is great enough to take away my shame Your mercy reigns My God is making new the wreckage of my heart Your hand is reaching down to pull me from the dark Your mercy reigns; Your mercy covers me Your grace sustains; Your grace is all I need

Mercy is an important theme in the Bible, and the word is used a number of times throughout Scripture. It’s difficult to get an accurate count of a particular English word in the Bible because the Bible was not written in English. You may find several different words in the original text that could be translated mercy or another word that is similar. For example, Lamentations 3:22-23 are some of my favorite verses about mercy: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Henry Morris mentioned in one of his articles that there are four Hebrew words and three Greek words associated with the word “mercy” and these words are used a total of 454 times in the Bible. Wow!

Often times, grace is used synonymously with mercy, but they’re two different concepts. Grace is often thought of as undeserved favor. I once heard someone say that grace is getting something we do not deserve. Mercy, however, is more connected to withholding judgment. If grace is getting what we do not deserve – forgiveness, mercy is not getting what we do deserve – condemnation. Here’s an interesting thought. God mentions mercy more than grace in the Bible. I don’t really think that means one concept is more important than another, but it does make us pause to think about the significance of God holding back the judgment we deserve. We deserve death and hell. It is only because He is a God who is willing to withhold condemnation that we have hope for eternity. God’s mercies indeed never come to an end.

Second Chances

Second chances. I’m a big fan of the mulligan in golf, the “do over” in front yard football, and the “undo” button on my word processor. I’ve mulliganalways liked having a second chance. There are some things in life where second chances are not an option. For example, once a first impression is made, there are no do overs. Once you hit send on an e-mail, you do not have a second chance at expressing your heart about a matter in that e-mail. God, however, is the God of the second chance. Grace by definition allows do overs and mulligans in life. God’s grace does not excuse sin or make rebellion insignificant, and it doesn’t remove the consequences of our sin. It does offer us a chance to start fresh through forgiveness giving us the opportunity for a different outcome.

While God offers second chances, it does require repentance in our lives. The word “repent” means “to turn around.” When we repent of our sin, we are not only sorry for doing something wrong, but we also turn and go in a different direction. King David expressed repentance in his prayer he penned in Psalm 51. I encourage you to read the whole Psalm, but consider the first three verses: “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” While this passage does not mention his specific sin, he obviously had something on his mind and knew that God was fully aware of his transgression. He prayed the prayer indicating that grace was an option and compassion was offered. He knew that cleansing was a possibility even though his sin was hideous and shameful. Even though David knew that he had blown it, he also knew that God was compassionate and gracious. He knew God offered second chances, and David was imploring God for such an opportunity.

I think it’s best David doesn’t mention his specific sin, even though scholars believe it was his sin with Bathsheba. The reason it’s best is because we can fill in the blank with our own transgressions. All of our sin is shameful leading to the sacrifice of our Savior on the cross.

As we move toward our 4th of July celebration, I am mindful of the condition in our country and believe strongly that we are weaker nationally today because the Church is weaker spiritually. It is time for believers to pull out Psalm 51 and cry out to the Lord for forgiveness. God is merciful and compassionate. I have experienced God’s grace so many times in my life that I cannot count it. Second chances are God’s specialty.