Thursday, January 5, 2017

An Elevated Perspective

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 
-II Corinthians 3:18

The state tree of Michigan, my home state, is the white pine.  Though not the tallest tree in the world, it is a tall tree.  If I were hiking through the forest and needed an elevated perspective, certainly the top of a tall white pine would provide that, if I could get there.  Likewise, when we walk through life’s trials, sometimes we need an elevated perspective.  We need to be able to rise above the difficulties we see around us, and get a higher view.  We need to see what God sees.

We may pray for problems to go away or for circumstances to change, but God may have a greater purpose than simply fixing the problem.  When circumstances test our faith, we may question God’s faithfulness.  We may get frustrated or angry with the process.  We may get bogged down with discouragement.  Often we see things from our limited perspective.  But God has an elevated perspective to offer us, if we will humble ourselves and seek Him.  In Him we can obtain “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  What is God’s purpose?  Certainly God’s purpose is to save people.  Jesus said, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  But once we have come to Christ, God’s purpose is to make us like Jesus.  He wants to transform our lives, from glory to glory, healing us, restoring us, and perfecting us into His likeness.

Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”  God often uses life’s trials to form within us the nature and character of Christ.  When Christ emerges from our pain, God is glorified.  In our trials, what we need to do is draw near to Christ in faith.  Rather than becoming bitter, we need to allow Him to change us from the inside.  The temptation is often to allow bitterness and disappointment to settle in our hearts.  But when we begin to allow Christ be formed in us, the work of transformation has begun and victory is near.  

God changes us from glory to glory.  It’s a process, a continual, ongoing process.  We are ever in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.  I think God is less concerned with how far we’ve come, and more concerned that we are making progress.  We are growing, little by little every day.  Sometimes we are ourselves unaware of our own growth.  You may in fact be growing much more than you realize.  But right now, because you're in the midst of the difficulty, you just can't see it.  You may feel like a failure, but God is watching you, and He is saying, "I'm so proud of you."

If you know you're not where you should be, that's okay.  Maybe right now is a good time to stop and take inventory.  Are you becoming more loving or more bitter?  Are you becoming more cynical or more hopeful?  Take a look at your heart.  Once you have taken stock of where you're at, give yourself some grace.  We “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).  If necessary, re-commit yourself today to seeking the Lord and getting in His Word.  Allow Him to provide you with the perspective you need.  He will lead us into greater dimensions of His Spirit, greater depths of healing, greater levels of intimacy with Him, and to greater heights of victory.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Before

Before the world was created, God loved you.  Before you were born, you existed in the mind of God.  And before you ever sinned, God had already made provision for your redemption. 

In the beginning, before we were created, God provided a wonderful place for us.  It was a perfect paradise, free from sin, evil, disease, pain, heartache, and death.  But God, before we sinned, knowing that we would sin, provided a way for our redemption.

Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  We have been redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ… a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:19).  Jesus, the Lamb, was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (I Peter 1:20).  Indeed, it is a mystery, but a glorious mystery.  All we have to do is believe!

Broadly speaking, there are three things that we struggle with in life:  1) sin - our own and the sins of others; 2) the attack of the enemy; and 3) the cares of this life.  All of these affect us in any number of negative ways.  Yet, before we encountered any of these, God provided a way of redemption.  He is able to redeem every sin, every attack and every burden. 

You may be experiencing pain in life because of your own sins.  The good news is that Jesus wants to redeem every mistake that you have made.  You may be experiencing struggles because of the way others have treated you.  The good news is that before you were ever mistreated, God provided for your healing.  Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”  Through His Word, God has provided a pathway for your healing.  With persistent faith, you can overcome!

You may be under attack from the enemy.  The good news, God has already provided victory for you.  Before the enemy attacked you, God provided a way for you to walk victorious.  By taking up the weapons of His Word, prayer, worship, faith and the authority God has given you, you can and will claim victory.   

You may be struggling right now with the cares of life.  Those cares want to suck you in and overwhelm you with worry and fear.  Yet, before the stress of life ever happened, God provided a way for you to walk in peace.  Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  All you have to do is believe!       

Often our problem is simply that we don't take the time to turn to God in our struggles.  We try to tackle life on our own.  But if we will each stop and spend some time with God, in His presence, and engage in the battle by faith, we can have all that God has provided for us.  

God loves you.  His love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).  No matter how much you have sinned and no matter how overwhelmed or embattled you feel, God has already provided a way for you to be free, at peace, and victorious.  Believe!         

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How Faith Works

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

I hope this short devotion will help you live your faith in a practical way.  I think that faith is perhaps the most important thing we can understand in our walk with the Lord.  Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  To come to God, we know that we need faith.  But how does faith work?  I’d like to offer you a simple approach to faith that I think is workable in your everyday life.

To illustrate, let’s look at the first few verses of the Bible: 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:1-3)

When God looked at the earth, it was formless, void and dark.  But God had a plan for earth.  He saw what earth would be.  He saw a beautiful place, full of plants, trees, flowers, animals, good food, and wonderful people.  “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3) 

Likewise, when God looks at us, He sees our purpose.  He sees our potential.  Even when we were lost and broken and in sin, God saw what we could be in Christ. 

Faith sees.  How does faith see?  Faith sees by spending time with God.  When we spend time in His presence, we receive His Word, and His word brings forth fruit in our lives.  When God spoke, “Let there be light, there was light.”  In order to walk in faith, we have to spend time in His presence and then speak what He has spoken.  To see God’s purpose fulfilled we have to speak it.  Romans 10:8-10 says,

“‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”   

The next step of faith is obedience.  When we spend time with God and in His Word, we have to walk out in obedience what He is speaking to us.  Finally, faith requires persistence.  Hebrews 6:11-12 says,

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (emphasis mine).    

In creation, the Father willed, the Son (the Word) spoke, and the Spirit acted.  Likewise, in our lives, as we spend time with the Father, declare His word, and put it into action, we can see great changes.  Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)  The changes we may be seeking in our lives probably won’t happen overnight.  We need to abide in His Word and persist in it.      

If you are struggling with a problem in your life, or long to see a promise God has given you fulfilled, I encourage you to put these steps into practice.  Get back in God’s presence.  Then, begin to meditate and speak His Word over your life.  Persist in consistently speaking His Word.  If He gives you a specific instruction, obey Him.  It’s easy to spend our time worrying, complaining, venting frustration over the difficulties of life.  But rather than looking at the mountains in our lives, let’s get our eyes on the mountain-mover.  That's how faith works!

“Have faith in God.  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

Mark 11:22-23