Categories
God's presence

The Magnitude of Our Father’s Power

Our heavenly Father is invincible…

Maybe you remember the feeling of safety that came from knowing your dad was there and nothing could hurt you. Maybe you didn’t have that experience in your family here on earth, but your heavenly Father is always there to protect you. He is all mighty and all powerful, and his power is always available to his children.

On some level, we all know our heavenly Father is powerful, though we may not fully comprehend the magnitude of His power. The better we know God as our father, the more we understand how powerful He really is.

In Ephesians 1:19, Paul prays for believers to grasp, “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” God’s power is unlike any power on earth. Think electricity is powerful? God invented it. The power of a hurricane? One word from God halts it in its tracks.

Here’s the shocker: Almighty God chooses to apply His immense power in the lives of ordinary humans. As unbelievable as it may sound, it’s true. Because of our faith, we are part of the family of God, and the immeasurable power of our Father constantly works in us and through us.

God’s power in us is a game changer. What problem could we possibly face that His power can’t handle? God’s great power raised Christ from the dead, and that same power works in us (Ephesians 1:20). At times, we may feel weak or inadequate, but God’s power remains strong and active in us—directing our steps, fighting our battles, vanquishing our enemies, and leading us to eternal life.

Heavenly Father, when I feel weak let me rest in the greatness of your power. There is nothing too difficult for you. You are omnipotent—the all-powerful Father God of the universe. I place my life and my family in your strong and loving hands, knowing there is no better place they could be. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

Categories
Christian living

Housekeeping Matters

The family keeps the house in order…

When I was a kid, my family had fun times. We went camping, roasted marshmallows in campfires, went on hayrides, and swam in almost-always-cold Lake Michigan.

But we also had a lot of work to do to keep our house in order. If everything we did was just for fun, we would end up in a mess. To make things orderly, we all had work to do. My brother cut the grass and took out the trash. I swept and did dishes. My parents worked, fixed the cars, and paid the bills.

If someone in the family was sick, we took care of them. If someone was sad, we hugged them while they cried. If someone was happy, we all celebrated.

Some people may have had maids or yard people or nannies, but not my family. If the work was going to get done, we had to do it.

The family of God is not all that different. Everyone in the family of God has a role to fill to keep the house in order. If the work is going to get done, we have to do it.

Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace...

1 Peter 4:10

Every believer has a gift to be used to serve the house. No one is exempted. God has something for each of us to do to keep the house functioning well, to help members of the house, and to reach the community with God’s grace.

Peter gives us some examples of these gifts and how to use them.

For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God were speaking his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you…

1 Peter 4:11

There are so many grace gifts given that to make a complete list would be nearly impossible. If you are a baker, use that gift to glorify God. An artist, a carpenter, a computer programmer, a teacher, a doctor—wherever your gifting lies, be assured it can be used to bring glory to God and edification to the house.

Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves…

Galatians 6:4

It’s a blessing and an honor to be part of God’s family. It’s a privilege to be part of carrying out the work of God’s house. When we are committed to working in the house with excellence—using our own unique gifts—we are filled with joy, and the house fulfills its purpose of discipling Christians and leading the unsaved to Jesus. Everything works better when we all work together.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me to be part of your family. Thank you for giving me a gift to use to serve the house. Help me work in the house with excellence. Fill me with your joy. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
. God's plan

Adopted into the Family

With all the benefits that go with it…

The Bible has several stories of adoption. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Esther was adopted by Mordecai. Jesus was treated as a son by Joseph, even though Joseph was not his biological father.

Adoption is amazing. It turns strangers into family and turns orphans into sons and daughters. But the deepest, strongest, and most amazing act of adoption is not when people adopt children, but when God adopts people.

For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One…and this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure!

Ephesians 1:5-6

We are more than just God’s creation. We are more than just his servants. And God is more than just our judge. He is our father. When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of God’s family, with all the benefits and rights that come with being his adopted child. Our God-planned destiny from the beginning was to be adopted into his family.

It’s hard to believe, but it gives God great joy and pleasure to adopt us. We weren’t cute, cuddly, and captivating. On the contrary, we were a mess. We were all born with evil, selfish natures. Our lives expressed the depravity inside us, as we pursued any wicked thought springing from our selfish nature. We deserved God’s anger. Yet, when we were unlovable, he still loved us. God loved us so much that he adopted us. He made us his very own children.

What does that mean? When someone adopts a child, they make that child part of their family forever. They give that child their family name, invest their time in that child, bear the necessary costs to support that child, and make that child an heir of their estate. Adopting a child is a huge, weighty, life-altering decision.

God made that decision for us from the beginning. He knew how much trouble we would be and the price it would cost, but he never wavered. He adopted us and gave us the right to call him, “Daddy.” He didn’t do it out of obligation or pity. Our heavenly Father adopted us out of love. We are part of the family of God, dearly loved, forever.

If you are a Christian, you are a child of the living God, adopted into his family. Because you are his child, God loves you, protects you, and provides for you. He will never leave you. He will hear and answer your prayers. He will make a way for you. Always. That’s what a good father does…and God is a very good father.

Father, I am thankful to be adopted into your family. I’m overwhelmed that you loved me enough to adopt me and make me your child. I want to grow into your image. Thank you for your grace, your presence, and your overwhelming love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Christian living

Where Do I Belong?

We all want to feel we belong…

There’s an old sitcom about aliens who come to earth in human bodies to study people. They never quite feel like they fit in (duh!), until they attend the Pendleton Badger football game. They wear Badger shirts and join in the Badger cheers. Suddenly, the high commander understands what it’s like to fit in with humans, and why humans love their football teams.

Sometimes we feel like aliens, like we don’t fit in, like we aren’t understood or accepted. All our longing to belong will ultimately be met through our relationship with God.

Where do we belong?

  • We belong in God’s family. “Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another” (Romans 12:10). When God saves us, we become part of his family. We become his sons and daughters. We are no longer orphans, but dearly loved children of the most-high God. We respect, honor, and love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they do the same for us.
  • We belong in our heavenly home. “But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). We live on earth. While we’re here, we have a spiritual family. But we are destined for better. We have a home in heaven prepared and waiting for us.

Hebrews, chapter 11, talks of great men and women of faith. These faithful people, “acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth.” They were journeying through earth on their way to their heavenly homeland. (See Hebrews 11:13-15.) We’re on the same journey as these people of faith. We are aliens here on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven.

Yes, we all have a desire to belong, to fit in. And we do belong in God’s family and in the church. We find love and acceptance here on earth through our relationship with God and others who serve him. But our desire for belonging will not be fully met until we reach our homeland—our eternal home in heaven. In that place, we will experience perfect love, complete acceptance, and ultimate belonging.

Right now, we’re on the journey home. It has ups and downs, good and bad. But, y’all, the destination—heaven—is going to absolutely blow our minds. We’re going to finally and eternally be in our perfect home, right where we belong.

Dear God, help me remember that this world is not my home. I’m traveling through on my way to my eternal home in heaven. Place me in the family of God and the body of Christ as you see fit. Help me look for belonging from you rather than this world. Give me love and acceptance for others on the journey. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
The Heart

Out with the Old, in with the New

Maybe it’s time for some changes…

Have you ever had a sofa such a long time that the legs were getting wobbly, the fabric was wearing thin, and the grape juice, ketchup, and gravy stains were painful to see? When we make the decision to buy a new sofa, we shop around and find just the right one. We’re super excited when the delivery truck pulls into our driveway.

Can you imagine anyone having the delivery people put the beautiful new couch on top of the old couch? Just stack it on top of that dirty, worn, broken down couch…said no one, ever! No, we get rid of the old couch and replace it with the new.

But sometimes we’re not as careful with our hearts. We try to put our beautiful God stuff on top of our old, messed-up junk. And that’s a mistake. Our hearts need to be maintained carefully, and that includes getting rid of untruths, bad attitudes, and incorrect thinking.

Jesus didn’t come to tidy us up a little. He came to make us brand new.

“Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This includes our old identity, our old thought patterns, and our old sinful behavior. We aren’t just tweaked a little—we’re made completely new.

There’s danger in allowing the old things back into our hearts. We must be on guard to keep the junk and mess out. Proverbs 4:23 says, “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” If we’re not on guard, if we’re not paying attention, our heart can become cluttered with things that don’t belong there.

To check our hearts, we can ask these questions:

  • How do I spend my time?
  • How do I spend my money?
  • What do I think about?
  • What words are coming out of my mouth?

Our time, money, thoughts, and words are pretty good indicators of the status of our hearts.

Let’s offer it all up to Jesus and ask him to help us get rid of attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that are cluttering up our hearts and our lives. Growth happens when change happens. Maybe it’s time to declutter our hearts. Maybe it’s time to cast aside thoughts and behaviors that are old and need to be replaced. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the old and replace it with the new.

Dear God, I never want to fall back into the person I was before I met you. Help me guard my heart. Reveal to me any junk in my heart that needs to be replaced. I offer all that I am to you. Help me continue to grow in you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
identity

AM I REALLY WORTH IT?

Short answer: Totally!

In 2002, someone paid $115,000 for a lock of Elvis Presley’s hair. In 1999, someone paid $1.3 million for a dress owned by Marilyn Monroe. In 2009, someone paid $12.2 million for a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa.

Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

We could put our house up for sale for $27 million. We could put a picture on the internet and say our house is worth $27 million. But unless someone is willing to pay $27 million for it, it’s not worth $27 million.

God paid the ultimate price for us. “You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood…” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Our value is proven by the high price God paid for us. God’s not stupid or wasteful. He paid the price for us because we are worth it.

We never have to wonder if we matter. We matter to God. We’re valuable and treasured by God. We’re not pathetic, useless, or worthless. We are purposefully crafted by God and given abilities, talents, and gifts that make the world better and bring glory to God. Our worth to God isn’t a monetary amount—it’s much more valuable than just money. We were worth Jesus dying to save us. That’s the ultimate price—and that price was paid for you and me. We are absolutely, unquestionably valuable.

Let these words from Romans 8:14 sink deeply into our hearts and minds:

And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. You have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God.

Our actions don’t make us good enough. Our value doesn’t come from what we do; it comes from who we are. And who we are is a child of the King. That’s enough. Our relationship with God means we are always worth it. We have intrinsic value because of our identity in God.

If there’s a voice or script in our minds that causes us to feel worthless or without value, that voice isn’t coming from God. It must be replaced with affirmation of our worth to God. He made us worthy when he sent Jesus to the cross, when he put our sins and punishment on him, and when he placed the righteousness of Jesus on us.

We’re worth it. Because of Jesus, we’re so worth it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. Thank you for your love for me. I know I am valuable to you because of the price you paid for me. Give me confidence in my value to you. Guard my thoughts and my mind. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
forgiveness

God Must Be So Mad at Me

I’ve made so many mistakes…

Tax collectors may not be too popular these days, but in Bible times they were hated,  loathed, and greatly feared.

Jesus lived in an area governed by Rome, and Rome wanted lots of income from taxes. To maximize the amount collected, the Romans contracted Jews to collect taxes from the Jewish people. These tax collectors were given power to collect any amount of taxes and they kept much of it for themselves. If people wouldn’t or couldn’t pay, they could be forced to sell their children as slaves or even be killed.

Not surprisingly, tax collectors in that time and place were despised as traitors, thieves, and murderers.

In Matthew 9:9, Jesus encountered a tax collector: “As Jesus left Capernaum he came upon a tax-collecting station, where a traitorous Jew was busy at his work, collecting taxes for the Romans. His name was Matthew…”

Jesus knew the evil propagated by the Jewish men who collected taxes for Rome. He had every reason to be angry with Matthew, to call him out for his betrayal, his greed, and his abuse of his kinsmen in order to line his own pockets.

Was Jesus furious? Did he angrily call Matthew a traitor? A thief? No, Jesus wasn’t mad. He called Matthew to come and follow him. Matthew immediately left his tax collection station and followed Jesus. This vile tax collector went on to write the book of Matthew.

The religious people of the time were appalled and outraged, asking why Jesus would associate with low-life tax collectors. Jesus answered, “…Healthy people don’t need to see a doctor, but the sick will go for treatment” (Mark 9:12).

People don’t make God angry. Sin makes God angry.

God looks at sin like we look at a cancer that attacks the body of someone we love. We aren’t angry at that person. We don’t hate that person. We love the person, but we hate the cancer. We want to get rid of the cancer so the person we love will be healthy.

Just as we want our loved ones to be healthy, God wants us to be healthy. He is grieved at the sin in our lives because he knows it makes us spiritually unhealthy. He provided forgiveness, cleansing, and salvation at great cost to himself in order to free us from sin.

God isn’t mad at you. He doesn’t hold grudges. God loves you deeply and completely. “The way a loving father feels toward his children—that’s but a sample of your tender feelings toward us, your beloved children, who live in awe of you” (Psalm 103:13). Reject the idea that God is angry at you and eager to judge and punish you. That’s a lie from the enemy. Instead, believe the truth—God loves you tenderly, completely, and always.

Dear God, I accept your great love for me. In the past, I have believed you were angry at me, waiting to judge and punish me. Remove this lie from my heart and my mind. Replace it with faith in the greatness of your love for me. Help me love you with all my heart, soul, and mind. Help me love others the way you love me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
God's plan

Am I Too Far Gone?

But I’m so messed up…

I have a shirt that’s comfy, and cute, and it says, “Dillon Panthers Football,” on it. When it was new, I wore it all the time. Then I got some stains on it that wouldn’t come out. I wore it anyway, but the stains bothered me. Later, I noticed it was getting little holes in the fabric. It’s still hanging in my closet, but every time I put it on, I wonder if it’s too far gone to keep wearing.

Sometimes our lives get so wrecked and so jacked up we wonder if we’re too far gone for God to use us. We look at the stains and the holes and wonder how God could ever make anything good out of the mess we’ve made.

Let me introduce you to the poster boy for being too far gone. I wish we knew his real name, but the only name we know for him was Mob, a name given by the thousands of demons living in him. He was a madman who lived in the cemetery, sleeping in the graves. He roamed around naked, shrieking loudly and mangling his body by cutting it with rocks.

The locals tried to subdue him, but he broke free every time, even when they bound him with chains. (See Mark 5:1-5.)

Too far gone, right? His neighbors would have said he so. Maybe even his own family would have said he was too far gone.

But Jesus knew better. Mob wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t help him. He wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t use him.

Jesus crossed a lake and calmed a storm to reach this madman who appeared to be unreachable. Jesus rebuked the demons and brought peace and clarity to the man’s mind. (See Mark 5:6-13.)

The next time we see Mob, he is wearing clothes and in his right mind. Jesus healed him. Jesus clothed him. And Jesus called him: “…Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

The Bible tells us that this naked, raving, body-mangling, cemetery-inhabiting demon-possessed madman became a missionary, spreading the good news of salvation to Jordan and Syria, winning many people to Jesus.

You see, God doesn’t ever look at us like I look at my old shirt. He never wonders if we are too far gone. He never, ever looks at one of his children and sees a hopeless case. He refuses to give up on us. He pursues us. He extends his love and grace to us. He invites us to fellowship with him. He whispers to us, “Your life can be better. Follow me.”

Friend, if you feel your life is so messed up that you can’t see any way to ever make it OK again, that’s awesome, because God’s power finds its fullest expression in our weakness.

God doesn’t just forgive us, he makes us new. He moves us step by step into the life he planned for us. He heals our wounds, even self-inflicted injuries. He clothes us in righteousness. God graciously moves us out of the stench and stagnation of the cemetery into the glory of an abundant life and purposeful calling.

He did it for Mob. And he’ll do it for us, too.

Dear God, I’ve spent enough time focusing on the mistakes in my past and the challenges of my future. I surrender my past, my present, and my future to you. Shape it according to your will. Bring healing, direction, and hope into my life. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
truth

Challenge Accepted!

It’s a balancing act…

Have you ever been forced to choose between two options when you really wanted both? Eggs or bacon? Peanut butter or jelly? Soap or water? Sometimes we want both. Sometimes we need both.

When it comes to truth and love, we really need a balance of both.

Truth is a big deal. Truth builds a strong, lasting foundation, holding up everything we do. Love is just as important as truth. As Christians, we are called to speak the life-changing truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we are obligated to speak it with love:

“Then, we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

What does a mature Christian look like?

A mature Christian knows the truth. We don’t believe everything we hear. We aren’t easily tricked by lies. We know the truth because we know God’s word. We may lose our debit card, we may lose our keys, but we must never lose our commitment to God’s word.

A mature Christian speaks truth in love. Yes, we know the truth. Yes, we speak the truth. But we aren’t careless about how we speak the truth. We don’t speak the truth harshly or in anger.  We speak the truth in one way only—in love.

A mature Christian is in the process of becoming more like Jesus. Jesus told the truth, even when it was difficult, but he always spoke truth with kindness and compassion. When Jesus met the rich ruler (Mark 10:21), he spoke the truth—the ruler was too attached to his possessions. But the Bible also tells us that Jesus genuinely loved him. Truth and love work together.

One of our great challenges is to balance truth and love. The Bible instructs us to, “always stand for truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8), but also emphasizes that, “whoever does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8). We must be concerned about lost souls, but when we speak the truth of Jesus we must also be concerned about being compassionate and kind. The truth of God’s word must be balanced by the goodness of God’s love.

Truth spoken with love builds up and heals. Every day, we encounter people who need truth and who long for love. Let’s be committed to sharing God’s truth and love with a world that desperately needs both.

Dear God, help me know the truth by knowing your word. Immerse me in your love so I am kind and gentle with the hearts and feelings of others. And, Lord, please give me wisdom to balance truth and love—telling the truth of salvation and doing it with tenderness and love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
truth

When Truth Stumbles in the Public Square

It’s time to stand up for truth…

Most of us were probably taught as children to tell the truth, but we quickly learned the truth could be dangerous. Did you hit your brother? All of a sudden, the truth doesn’t sound like the best option. We try to frame the truth to make us look better. He started it. Or we flat out lie. Ummm…no?

Without truth, there is no justice. Without truth, there is no sure ground upon which to stand. Without truth, there is no freedom.

Isaiah, chapter 59, describes what happens to a nation when truth is no longer valued. When truth doesn’t matter, lives are filled with hatred, destruction, and desolation. There is no peace. Evil acts against God are rampant. Peoples’ words stir up rebellion and revolt.

“Justice is driven away and righteousness stands on the sidelines, for truth has stumbled in the public square and morality cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14).

When truth no longer matters, justice, righteousness, and morality disappear.

It’s time for God’s people to stand up for the truth.

Our culture no longer values truth. We hear statements such as, “truth is relative.” (That’s a lie.) Or, “that’s my truth.” (Lie.) Or, “truth depends on your perspective.” (Again, lie!) There is no such thing as relative truth. There is no such thing as your truth or my truth. Truth is found in God’s word. Truth is found in the person of Jesus.

As our society moves farther away from the unchanging truth, the world becomes more and more unjust, rebellious, and chaotic. In the midst of the turmoil, God’s people must stand up for the truth. Our world desperately needs an anchor, and godly truth is the only anchor that will hold in these stormy waters.

When truth stumbles in the public square, we do not cower in fear. We do not question what we know to be true. On the contrary, we stand strong in the truth of God’s word and the person of Jesus. We live out the truth in our every-day lives and speak it into the messiness of our lives and our world.

Everyone wants something true, something to believe in, something that is sure. Though they may not know it, that something they’re looking for is only found in Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He’s the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and the wise navigator for every life.

Dear God, in the whirlwind of today’s society, plant my feet firmly in your word. Help me know the truth, live the truth, and stand up for the truth. Keep my eyes on Jesus. Fill me with love for others and the courage to share the truth. In Jesus’s name, amen.