I will be joyful

It’s easy to be joyful when things are going your way—when you meet that special someone, when you get a big promotion, when you receive an unexpected gift. But what about the other times, when things aren’t going the way you’d hoped? Can you still say that you’re full of joy?

We often look at the dry or dark times in our lives as seasons where God just isn’t there. We struggle on hoping to pass through the difficult season and into the one of abundant harvest so that we can find our joy again. Maybe we’re missing the point.

I don’t believe that God brings the dark times, but I do believe He will walk with us through them. Psalm 23 says that, even though we walk through the dark valley of death, He walks beside us. And not only does He walk with us, He prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t make it all go away, but He endures it all right beside us.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT)

The world may be able to take a lot of things from you, but it cannot take your confidence in your salvation. It cannot take your joy. It cannot take God away from you.

What could be worse than the thought of losing everything? The thought of an eternity without God.

If you are in a dry season, take comfort in this: God is still God, He is right beside you, and He will never, ever leave you alone. If you are in a season of abundance, keep the joy that you have now no matter what comes next. If Habakkuk could look around and see nothing but doom yet still find joy in the God of his salvation, who are we to do anything but likewise?

Daily Bible reading: Habakkuk 1-3, Revelation 14

That was easy

Our world gets more complicated by the hour. Whether it’s in science or computing, arts or politics, few things are truly simple anymore. And, the more complicated something is, the more reward and respect a person can get for accomplishing it. We seek out the complicated. We make easy things more complicated—even to our own detriment.

When we, as Christians, present the Gospel as anything but simple, we do not help our cause. If we argue that the way to Christ is wrought with long, arduous tasks and much emotional distress, we do not help the Kingdom. There is nothing more simple in this world than salvation through Christ and the victory that it brings.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and really, that isn’t difficult. For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:3-5 (NLT)

Salvation is easy. Repentance is easy. Victory is easy. Obedience is easy. All of these things are simple not because of what we are or can do, but because of who God is and what He’s already done. And if we trust Jesus with one thing, we can trust him with everything.

John tells us that the battle is not won because we Christians fight hard and strong. It is won because we simply believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

When we let go of all our methods to obtain victory, we can settle on the truth that it is not a difficult or complicated process. God didn’t make it that way on purpose. He wants salvation and victory to be available and accessible to everything. We have to trust Christ for the victory. We have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s it.

It’s not difficult. It’s easy.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 7-8, 1 John 5

What is faith?

As Christians, we talk about faith. A lot. It is our belief system. It is the basis on which we live our lives. It is our calling. It is many things. We know that just a small amount—the measure of a mustard seed—can move a mountain. It can heal the sick and open blind eyes. Faith can raise the dead. But how many of us can accurately define faith?

Let’s go the the old standby in Hebrews:

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

I once heard a pastor say that grace is God’s grip on us and faith is our grip on God. According to Noah Webster, her statement was more than just something to be typed on a meme and posted to social media.

The sense of the verb is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast.

Our faith, combined with God’s grace, brings us or draws us toward God and binds us to Him. Without faith, we have no grip whatsoever. Grace alone is not enough. It is not the binding agent, faith is.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

FAITH: That firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

When we are called upon to use our faith, our belief should not be in the desired outcome, but in the One who can bring it to pass. We must remember that faith goes beyond a little prayer and a hope. Faith is what binds us to God. It draws us closer to Him. It brings us to obedience to His Word and puts in line with His will. It is our judgement that what God has stated is the truth. And, if He promised it, He will perform it.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 10-12, Hebrews 11:1-19

He learned

Jesus, while he walked the earth, being completely God, was also completely man. And, being a human, he was susceptible to all the things we humans are, too. He had to learn the same things we have to learn. Even obedience.

Look at a toddler. No one has to tell you that a small human being needs to learn to be obedient. Left to our own devices, we will make poor choices doing whatever we want whenever we want to do it. But, learning to be obedient to our parents and those in authority over us also teaches us how to make better decisions and makes us far more useful than a selfish toddler prone to tantrums.

So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

Hebrews 5:8 (NLT)

In an earlier verse in this same chapter of Hebrews, the writer talks about the high priest in the temple and how, because he suffered the same things that everyone else did, he could deal with the people and their sins with more grace. He endured the very same things. In order for Jesus to be able to extend grace to us, he had to experience what we experience. And he did. He was bombarded with the same temptations we face every day. The only difference is that he did not succumb to them.

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Hebrews 5:9 (NLT)

If Jesus, as a human being, was able to learn to be obedient—even unto death—so we too, can learn obedience. We have the Master to learn from. Jesus, who learned perfect obedience, is waiting as our High Priest both to forgive our sins and to teach us to avoid them altogether. The requirement on our part is to get close to Jesus. Spend time with him. Mature in our relationship with him. Be more like him.

If he learned, we can learn to.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 49-50, Hebrews 5

What’s in a name?

There are a lot of people in this world who will tell you they’re a Christian. Maybe they were baptized as a kid or they go to church on Christmas and Easter. But is that what makes you a Christian—just calling yourself one? Noah Webster didn’t think so.

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

There are many who believe that a simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is what makes you a Christian. I believe that profession is what makes you a believer. It’s everything that you do afterward that makes you a Christian.

By definition, being a Christian means that you should be ever striving to act like Christ. It’s right there in the name. Paul wrote an entire letter to Titus discussing how Christians should conduct themselves.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT)

Christians, true Christians, should turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should talk different. We should act different. And people should notice. If you claim the name of Christ, truly claim it. Live it. Act like him.

Imagine what this world would look like if every single person who claimed the name of Jesus Christ really acted like him. If, instead of churches full of nominal Christians, we went out on the street and actually lived the life we claim to have chosen when we first called on Jesus.

Salvation is free. It’s a gift for all people. But the name of Christ should be reserved for those who follow his example, those who are totally committed to doing what is right.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 31-32, Titus 2

Living knowledge

[God] saves men because He loves them individually, and desires to make them blessed; but He also saves them because He desires that through them other shall be brought into the living knowledge of His love. It is most especially true about great religious teachers and guides.

MacLaren’s Expositions

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he tells his son in the faith to stop letting people waste time in endless speculation. Many in the church had begun to spend more time in discussion over fruitless facts rather than actually bearing fruit. They lost sight of the purpose of their salvation.

Our salvation is not only for our own personal good, but for the good of everyone. As stated in the quote above, God saves us because He loves us, but He also saves us so that we can share His love and be brought into the living knowledge of it.

Facts are great. I love facts. I love statistics. I like knowing things. But those things bear no fruit. Facts have no life to them. This is why Paul directed Timothy to keep the church from spending all their time arguing over these things. While genealogies may be important to an extent, when compared to eternity, it’s a bit of a waste of time. Because God wants to save everyone—not just a specific few.

This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I was the worst of them all. But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)

The greater the fall, the greater the story of salvation. (Please don’t take this as an invitation to go on a sinning spree just so you can say you’ve been saved from all of that.) If Paul, a man who spent his life pursuing and killing Christians, could be saved, we can all be saved. And, if that same man can spread the Gospel, we can all spread the Gospel. This is the point he was making.

In the Kingdom of God, your earthy pedigree means nothing. The very same grace saves us all. Let’s not lose sight of that fact and let us not lose sight of the fact that we are saved so that others might be saved.

The purpose of my instruction is that all Christians there would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

Love is what we should be filled with, not fruitless arguments. Look for that living knowledge of God, that which edifies the soul and strengthens the spirit. Those are the thoughts that should be consuming us.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 5-6, 1 Timothy 1

 

Children of the Light

There are many definitions for the word light. It’s meaning goes far beyond that of simple illumination:

  • life
  • day
  • means of knowing
  • a window
  • God
  • Christ
  • joy
  • comfort
  • deliverance
  • the Gospel
  • a true Christian
  • favour

All of these things exemplify light.

For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT)

When we claim the title child of God, it means so much more than belonging to God. And that is a wondrous thing! When Paul says that, as Christians, we are children of the light, we have life, we have a way of knowing, we have joy, comfort, deliverance, favour. And, if we have anything other than these things in our lives, we have allowed ourselves to be pulled back into the darkness that Jesus died to save us from.

DARKNESS: absence of light; obscurity; want of clarity; that quality or state which renders any thing difficult to understand; a state of being intellectually clouded; great trouble and distress

These characteristics are unbecoming of a Christian. They have no place in our lives. Do we live in a dark world that would see us all brought back into that darkness? Yes. But that is why we are called to let our light shine. Let our joy, our clarity, our comfort, our deliverance, and our favour overflow and overcome the darkness that surrounds us.

But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NLT)

The close we get to God and the longer we remain in His presence, the more clarity we will find and the more confident we will be in our salvation. Darkness will become a distant memory that no longer has a hold on us because we are protected by these gifts from our Father.

So let us live as we are meant to, as children of the light. Let us cast all darkness from our lives and walk in the close comfort that comes with our salvation.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 62-64, 1 Thessalonians 5