Life in the Son

Have you experienced a rebirth? Have you been born of both water and spirit? Do you know a rebirth is needed to be in the body of Christ? Have you believed in Jesus’ testimony? Do you believe He is the Son of God? Do you believe He was risen on the third day?

There are many people in this world who have either not heard the whole story of Jesus or they do not believe it. For those who have heard the whole story and still do not believe, there is not much we can do for them. It is now up to God to change their hearts.

However, for those who have not heard the whole story, whether just fragments or nothing at all, we can be the messenger of God to them. We can tell them how the Son of God came to earth, born as a newborn to Mary and Joseph. We can tell of Him going to the cross to save us from our own sin. We can tell them there is a perfect eternity calling out to them and the calling comes from Jesus. We can tell them our own story, how Jesus has changed our lives for the better.

We can relay the story as the Apostle John did in 1 John 5:6-8, “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” There is eyewitness testimony about Jesus. In fact, there are several eyewitnesses who have testified about Him.

As John goes on to say in verses 9 and 10, we are willing to accept human testimony, whether it be in a courtroom or workplace or daily conversation. If we are willing to do that, why do we not accept the eyewitness testimony about Jesus? Perhaps we should reconsider. Perhaps we should accept the eyewitness testimony about Jesus and accept Him.

I pray we all decide to accept the eyewitness testimony about Jesus. I pray we accept Jesus for who He is. I pray each one of us will review the testimony and tell others about Him. Review the testimony. Believe the testimony. Tell others about Jesus. Be a positive impact on someone else.

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Seek God’s Kingdom

What is your number one priority? What is it you are chasing after? What are you trying to achieve? Is it seeking a higher education? Is it seeking a new job? Is it seeking a companion? Is it seeking to help others? Is it seeking financial security? Is it seeking a solid retirement?

We seek many things in our lives. Our top priority changes depending on our current situation, where we are on the road of life. When we are younger, we seek education, a companion, and a job we believe we will like. As we get older, our priorities change, often focusing on retirement.

All of those are important to us and we should put them toward the top of our list. Yet, they should not override our desire to seek God’s kingdom. Making God our top priority will put all other priorities into perspective. By making him our top priority, he will provide all we need.

How do we make God our top priority? That is a question we may be wrestling with. We have many other things vying for our attention. The best way to make God our top priority is to set aside each day for him. It may be fifteen minutes while we drink our morning coffee. It may be a half-hour while we are working out. It may be fifteen minutes of quiet time before we go to bed. No matter when it is, we need it to be a time of prayer and reading God’s Word. It needs to be a dedicated time in which we can focus on him.

As we get in the habit of spending time with God, he further inhabits our thoughts. The more he is in our thoughts, the more we listen for his guidance. Eventually, we allow him to guide all our thoughts in all situations. It is not a quick process, but it is well worth it. The more our decisions are based on God’s guidance, the better our lives will be.

I pray we all make God our top priority. I pray we set aside time to spend with God each day. I pray each one of us will filter our decisions through God, allowing his guidance to take over our lives. Seek God. Make him your top priority. Allow God to guide you. Set aside time to spend with God. Live a better life.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Go as You are Called

Have you traveled to a different country? Have you been the one who stands out as the foreigner? Have you been the one who could not understand the language? Did you go because you wanted to go? Or did you go because you were told to go?

Going to a different country can be a little scary. If the country is a friendly country to your own, it may be a little less scary. But if you do not know the language, you can still experience some difficulties and embarrassing moments in your attempts to get where you planned to go.

On the other hand, there is a lot of international travel in our world today. Perhaps not quite as much as a few years ago, but it is fast approaching those numbers again. So, it may be a little more challenging for us to put ourselves in the shoes of Abraham (Abram) when he is told by God to pick up and leave his homeland.

We know of people who go live in another country for several years. I have lived in another country for a total of four years myself. But I can honestly say, I did not feel like Abraham. I was going with hundreds of my fellow countrymen and knew I would not be solely on my own. Abraham was going to be going it alone, with the exception of his wife and a handful of servants. He was the leader. He had to make the decisions. He had to find grasslands to feed his flock and food for his traveling party.

Abraham put his faith in God. He trusted God when he told him he would become a great nation. Yet, Abraham also had to know that would not happen overnight. And imagine what Sarah (Sarai) might have thought when her husband came to tell her that God told him to move to a different country. She might have thought the sun had gotten to him and he had lost his mind. Yet, today, we point to Abraham’s faith, and we should include Sarah’s faith, as an example of following God’s plan rather than their own. They are a good example for us to follow.

I pray we all put our faith in God and his plan. I pray we go where God calls us to go. I pray each one of us decide to seek God’s plan for our lives and follow it wherever it may lead and do what he calls us to do. Put your faith in God. Seek God’s plan for you. God where God calls you to go. Do what God calls you to do.

Genesis 12:1-2 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”

Tempted in Weakness

Have you been tempted? Have you been sorely tempted when you were at a weak point in your life? Was it after you had gone through a horrendous accident? Was it after you had a relationship fall apart? Was it while you were recovering from an extensive surgery?

It often seems as though the most severe temptations come while we are at our weakest. Of course, that is when we most need to rely on God. Through our weakness God is shown to be strong. He will work through us when we cannot work on our own.

Jesus, as a human, was at his weakest point after fasting for forty days and nights. Matthew understates it when he says Jesus was famished. In all likelihood, Jesus was near death after having not eaten for forty days. However, that was not His destiny nor was this the end of His mission. In fact, it was the beginning of His mission.

Satan comes swooping in to attempt to take advantage of Jesus in His decimated physical state. He hoped to trick Jesus into giving up on His mission. Satan made big promises for which Jesus had an answer, a quote from Scripture.

In the end, because Jesus stood strong in God, Satan left Him. Satan realized he was getting nowhere and his temptations would not work. We, too, can stand strong in God, and Satan will leave us, too. God will always stand with his servants. He will always give them strength to withstand Satan’s temptations. We simply need to remember that and rely upon God.

I pray we all stand strong in God. I pray we ask God for the strength we need to withstand Satan’s temptations. I pray each one of us will hold fast to our faith, using Jesus as our role model. Resist the devil. Stand in your faith. Trust God to strengthen you. Lean on God when you are at your weakest.

Matthew 4:1-2 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

Hear God Speak

Do you hear God speaking to you? Or has your heart been hardened so you cannot hear him? Could it be that you have rebelled against him? Have you given your heart over to this world? Do you blame God for the bad that happens in this world?

There are many in this world who blame God or ask how God can allow bad things to happen to good people. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has been broken for thousands of years. God allows us to make choices. He allows every person on this planet to make choices.

One choice we have is to hear God or continue with hardened hearts and refuse to hear him. We may not hear him in an audible voice. But we can hear him in many other ways. We can hear him through the voice of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We can hear him through his Holy Word. We can hear him through messengers he sends our way. So, how do we hear him?

First, our hearts must be softened. We must be open to hearing him speak. We must be willing to listen for his message. It is only when we are willing and open to hearing him with a softened heart that we will hear him. And you want to know what is amazing? Once we start hearing him, we discover that he speaks to us quite often—far more than we might believe.

The Israelites hardened their hearts and refused to hear him. It was only after they repented and turned back to him that they heard him once again. We can learn a lesson from their experience. We can learn from our own experiences. It is time we stop ignoring God and start listening—through his Word, his Holy Spirit, his messengers, and perhaps even an audible voice.

I pray we all decide to listen for God to speak. I pray we hear him by reading his Word. I pray each one of us will ask God to soften our hearts so we may hear him when he speaks to us. Read God’s Word. Listen for God to speak. Hear him when he does. Soften your heart.

Hebrews 3:7-9 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.”

Reward for Suffering

Are you being tested in your faith? Do you pass tests of your faith well? Or do you often fail those tests? Do you view those tests as being part of the body of Christ? Do you rejoice in being tested? Do you remind yourself that suffering through those tests will bring joy?

Most of us do not like tests. In fact, some of us do not perform well on written tests for school or work. Being tested in our mental or physical abilities can be difficult, and we do not like difficulties. Yet, difficulties can help us grow and mature throughout our life.

The Apostle Peter calls these tests fiery ordeals. Some of them may very well be extremely tough. They may make us want to give up, stop in our tracks, reverse our direction. That is exactly what Satan wants us to do. But if we lean on God to help us go through them, we come out of them stronger, having a deeper faith, and experiencing more joy.

Perhaps one way for us to view those tests is to see them as a challenge. Some of us like challenges. Whether it is the challenge of two-a-day football practices, learning a new language, or rehabilitating after an injury. We have a desire to continue working to get through those challenges. Why? We know there is a reward waiting on the other side of them.

There is also a reward when we suffer through the fiery ordeals Peter talks about. That reward is being overjoyed when Christ returns. That may seem to be a long way off for us, but it will happen in the blink of an eye. The older I get, the faster time flies by. It seems like just yesterday I was traveling back and forth to California for work. Yet, it has been more than three years.

Suffering through tests of our faith, trusting in God to get us through them, is for our benefit. It is also for the glory of God. Our faith is strengthened and deepened. The light of Jesus shines through us brighter. We become an example for others to follow. It is not easy, but it is well worth it.

I pray we all suffer through our tests by looking to the joy to come. I pray we lean on God to help us through those tests. I pray each one of us will view our tests as a challenge that will strengthen us. Suffer as Christ suffered. Lean on God. Trust God to get you through the tests. Look to the reward. Suffer for the glory of God. Be an example for others.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

The Root Cause

Why is there death in this world? Why is there corruption? Why is there oppression? Why is there injustice? Why are there hurting people everywhere we turn? Why is there pain, suffering, tears, hate, fear, and all the negatives we can think of?

The one-word answer to all those questions is—sin. We don’t talk much about sin. Instead, we talk about choices and decisions. We will say a person who is suffering made a choice. Or we say they are suffering due to a bad decision. We don’t speak of sin being the reason.

Sin is the impetus for the bad choices and decisions. It is the brokenness we all experience behind the suffering we experience in this world. None of us are immune to it. Each one of us is broken. We all sin. We all contribute to the suffering, sometimes unknowingly or without intending to. What can we do about it?

The first thing we need to do is accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our next step is to repent of our sins. As we seek to improve ourselves and the world, we need to ask Jesus to guide us with His Holy Spirit so as to eliminate or, minimally, reduce our sinful behavior.

Our sinfulness impacts others. Therefore, the sinfulness of others impacts us. Our world in interconnected, whether we want it to be or not. A decision made by one person today impacts someone else who then makes a decision that impacts yet another. If we think about it too much, it can cause our heads to ache.

What we simply need to be aware of is that our choices and decisions have an impact on others. What do we need to keep in mind? We need to decide we will have a positive impact or a negative impact. Often, it may simply be our tone of voice and body language that turns a comment from a negative to a positive or vice versa. So, we need to be aware of these as much as the words we speak. It’s all about attitude and awareness.

I pray we all decide to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I pray we repent of our sins. I pray each one of us will seek to have a positive impact through our behavior, tone, and body language. Accept Jesus as Lord. Accept Jesus as Savior. Repent of your sins. Decide to have a positive impact. Ask Jesus to guide you through His Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned

Fast In Secret

How do you go about fasting? Do you fast from certain foods? Do you fast from eating entirely for a day or two? Do you fast from specific activities? Do you fast at all? Do you know that fasting is expected of you by God? Will you meet God’s expectation?

Today is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. During Lent, many people will fast in one form or another. Some fast from meat on Friday. Others fast from chocolate for the entire forty days of Lent. Still others will fast from social media for these next forty days.

Over the years, we have devised many ways to fast and many things to fast from. During the first century, fasting generally meant fasting from eating. Every example we see in the Bible is that type of fasting. Jesus fasted (did not eat food) for forty days while in the wilderness. We are told He was famished afterward (Matthew 4:1).

Evidently, there were people during the first century who fasted and wanted everyone to know it. As we are told in Matthew 6:16, they would walk around looking miserable, downcast, or even disfigure themselves. They let it be known outwardly to everyone they encountered they were fasting. They wanted the attention and wanted people to believe they were being pious.

Jesus tells us not to do that. He says to look clean, refreshed, ready to go. We are not to draw attention to ourselves when we fast. We are to appear to others just as we do every other day. We are not to tell others we are fasting; we are to simply do it. This is a private matter between us and God. Otherwise, there is no reward from God for we will have gotten public attention, acknowledgement, and praise for our supposed piety.

Notice that Jesus says, ‘when you fast.’ He did not say ‘if.’ Therefore, fasting is expected. As we consider fasting during Lent, may we decide also to keep our fast secret. May we make our fast a matter between us and God. May we seek to lean on God and be rewarded by him.

I pray we all decide to fast. I pray we keep our fasting a matter between God and ourselves. I pray each one of us not only fast during Lent but fast at other times throughout the year. Fast as a means of leaning on God. Fast to seek God’s will. Fast to improve your relationship with God. Fast in secret. Wait for God’s reward.

Matthew 6:17-18 “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Pray In Secret

How often do you pray? Where do you pray? Do you pray publicly? Is your praying always done in private? Does it make a difference how or when you pray? Have you wrestled with these questions? Do you know Jesus tells how we should pray?

I know many people who feel awkward praying, especially if they must do so in public. It doesn’t matter if it is praying over a meal, in a small group meeting, or before the entire congregation. They have a fear of not praying correctly and being made fun of.

First, there is no right way to pray. God simply wants us to come to him in prayer. It is communicating with God. It can include thanksgiving, requests, praise, seeking, and honoring. The words we use are less important than the condition of our heart. Our prayer is to be honest and heartfelt. We do not need to be eloquent.

In fact, Jesus tells us not to pray in public for the purpose of being seen and heard by others. This does not mean we should not pray corporately during our worship. It does mean not to do so in a public setting merely to draw attention to ourselves. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should not bow our heads in a short prayer to thank God when we eat in a restaurant.

When we need to pour our hearts out to God, Jesus says to do so in private. When we are wrestling with an issue or seeking his guidance, pray in a private place. When we are overwhelmed with thankfulness and praise for a blessing, pray in secret. When we are earnestly seeking forgiveness for a wrong we committed, we are to go into our room and pray.

Jesus tells us to communicate in secret with God. He says that by praying in secret rather than standing on the street corner, we will receive a reward from God. That reward is a blessing for our willingness to pour our heart out to God and trust him to care for us.

I pray we all spend time in prayer each day. I pray we communicate with God in private. I pray each one of us will take time to thank, praise, and seek God in private each day of our lives. Spend time in prayer. Give thanks to God. Praise God. Seek God. Ask for forgiveness. Do so in secret.

Matthew 6:6 “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Give In Secret

What does your giving look like? Do you donate your money to charities? Do you contribute to the ministries of the church? Have you put much thought into your giving? Do you know what God expects? Do you know what Jesus says about giving?

Some give regularly to church, whether it is monthly or weekly. Others give sporadically, perhaps only when they think they have a little extra or when they feel guilty for not giving. Some give to charities, but it may be a spur of the moment decision.

Why is giving so challenging for us? Perhaps it is our American culture—take care of yourself first. Now, there is nothing wrong with ensuring our families are fed, clothed, and housed. However, many of us have far more than the necessities. Yet, we are still unwilling to give.

For thousands of years, God has expected we give ten percent. Remember, Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Therefore, God’s expectation still stands. Jesus was likely thinking of this when He stated today’s passage. He doesn’t say ‘if’ you give but ‘when’ you give. His expectation was that we give to those in need. He expected we would purposely set aside a portion of our income to help others.

Jesus’ instruction was about bragging. We are not to brag about our giving. We are not to go around telling everyone how generous we are by giving to others. We are to donate to our churches and charitable causes without fanfare, without a pat on the back, without an attaboy or attagirl. Jesus says we are to give quietly and in secret. It is only then that we will be rewarded by God.

I pray we all purposely set up our budgets to give. I pray we give to our churches and to charities. I pray each one of us will perform our giving in secret, without gloating. Plan your finances. Set aside money to give. Give to your church. Give to charities. Give in secret. Be rewarded by God.

Matthew 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”