New strength

As many of us age, we may find ourselves longing for the strength of our youth. Our bodies no longer recover like they used to. Definition and tone has been lost to obscurity and perhaps a spare tire around the midsection. Once, hefting an entire load of groceries from the trunk and into the house seemed to take minimal effort. Now three trips are needed to make the haul. We want our old strength back. But until someone finally finds the legendary Fountain of Youth, that’s just not going to happen.

But what if, instead of regaining our old strength, we could gain an entirely new strength?

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

I don’t think that Isaiah is talking about heading back to the gym with newfound energy, but when we wait on God, He will give us not only more strength, but new strength—one we never had before.

For I can do everything with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength I need.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

God doesn’t just give us the strength we want, He gives us the strength we need—the strength we need to accomplish His work and His will. He gives us the strength to put our focus on Him.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8b-9 (NLT)

This new strength that is found when we wait on the Lord gives us the ability to do the things that Paul talks about in these verses. Our new strength give us the ability to set our minds on the things of Christ and resist those things that are not of him.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 39-40, Philippians 4

Walking contradiction

The life of a Christian is full of contradictions. To the world, it would make no sense at all, but to the born again believer, it makes perfect sense. Die so you can live. Bind yourself so you can be free. Fear God so you fear nothing else.

The Lord said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind close doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy one. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else.

Isaiah 8:11-13 (NLT)

When we have a proper, holy fear of God, there is no room for any other fear. In fact, the fear of God rejects all other fear completely.

FEAR: holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun everything that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience

Paul, like God, spoke to the church in Galatia in strong terms.

Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things.

Galatians 4:12a (NLT)

What things? The things of the law. Paul pleaded with the church to let go of the law that holds us back from the freedom that can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ. But we must wholly bind ourselves to that relationship. And that’s what faith truly is.

FAITH: to persuade, to draw towards any thing; to conciliate (to draw or bring together, to unite, to call; the primary sense of the root is to strain, to stretch, drive or draw); to believe, to obey.

Our faith in Christ draws us to him and to the Father. True faith stretches and strains toward the Truth, leaving all else behind—shunning everything that can offend God. Our fear—respect and reverence—for God leads us away from all other fear and through faith, calls us toward and unites us with perfect love which, we know, casts out all fear.

To try to understand all this through our human nature is futile. It can only be learned as we grow in our relationship with God and through divine revelation as as result of that relationship. So don’t worry if it doesn’t all make sense right away. The important thing is to keep at it.

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 7-9, Galatians 4

The change

Years ago, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote and released a song called The Change. In it, he talks about all the things we do as Christians that would make us appear to be different—the bracelets and cross necklaces, the bumper stickers, fridge magnets, and key chains. But do those things really make us different? The chorus of the song goes on to say:

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change

We all undergo a change when we allow God to invade our heart and spirit. Saul underwent that change in 1 Samuel. But so many fail to understand that the initial change is only the beginning.

God’s Spirit was on Saul, but the king never really put himself aside to allow the Spirit to do what God needed him to do. Samuel addressed Saul and relayed a message from God. Destroy the Amalekites. Remove them from the face of the earth. So Saul went to war and defeated the Amalekites. What he failed to do was to utterly destroy them. Saul and his army demolished what was worthless and plundered all that had value. They planned on sacrificing all of the animals they had pilfered. In Saul’s mind, he had obeyed the word from the Lord.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.

1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)

Just because God’s Spirit is in us doesn’t mean the work is done. This is why we are to continue working out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). A life of salvation is not a one time event, but a life-long journey.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Don’t just go through the motions that make it look like you’ve changed. Listen to the voice of God. Obey Him. God isn’t interested in the things we do to appear different than the rest of the word as He is interested in whether or not we obey His voice. He doesn’t want the appearance of change. He wants the real change.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 14:25-35

The Walk

What’s in front of you? Right now, it’s a device of some sort that has a connection to the internet. What’s on that device? Truth? Lies? What do you put in front of yourself on a daily basis? What, if anything, do you put away from yourself?

David got pretty serious about what he allowed in his presence.

I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

No on who practices deceit shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.

Psalm 101:2-4, 7 (ESV)

Now we could have the argument that, if we are to fulfill the Great Commission, that we can’t put all of these people away from us. I don’t think that’s what David means here, though. I believe he is looking at the people he surrounds himself with on a daily basis. The people he allows to speak into his life and influence his decisions.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way of the blameless shall minister to me.

Psalm 101:6 (ESV)

Who or what do you allow to influence you on a daily basis? Are you intentional about what you allow before you and what you put away from you?

Think about these verses today. Pay attention to what you allow to direct your day. Do you favour the faithful? Do you turn from those who utter lies?

Why not try to walk in integrity today?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 99-102; Romans 13