Guilty or Convicted?

Are you guilty? Are you convicted? Do you believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Son of God? Is He your Lord and Savior? Are you willing to stand convicted when others accuse you of this? Even if it costs you everything?

We see people’s beliefs change with the wind today. They follow whatever today’s fad is until tomorrow comes with a new one. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothing, entertainment, complaining about the boss, or any number of other things.

Jesus calls us to believe in Him, to follow Him, and to stop worrying about this world. He didn’t say we were to stop living in this world, but to understand that it will pass away and a permanent home for us is waiting. One that will not pass away.

I pray we all come to realize just how little this world really means and how much Jesus means. I pray we all are willing to stand convicted of being His followers in all we do. Be convicted in Christ.

Hebrews 3:14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Hope Through Character, Perseverance, and Suffering

Are you suffering? Are you persevering? Do you understand what real suffering is? Or do you consider having niceties taken away is suffering? Do you understand what it means to persevere? Do you have hope?

Notice how today’s Scripture builds on itself like a set of stairs. We may look at it and discard it as garbage. If we do so, it’s because we don’t want to believe it. Our culture not only wants hope right now, it also wants to have its wants satisfied right now. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to persevere. We don’t want to build character. We want to jump right to the end and have it all right now.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in the real world the way we want. The very nature of how our world operates on this staircase of logic. We can deny it all we want, but it won’t change the truth of the Scripture.

When we suffer through hard times, we learn to persevere. There is only one other choice and that is to give up. If we don’t quit, perseverance will be ours. We may get by with a little of our own intestinal fortitude, but it becomes a more pleasant experience if we lean on God.

Notice that perseverance builds character. Have you ever known someone who has a wonderful character? Someone who perseveres through whatever is thrown at them, even if the end result is not what they wanted. Do you admire that person? Do you want to be like them? To build that type of character we must suffer and persevere. We must learn to trust God in all circumstances, especially those that we have no control over.

Once our character is built, we become hopeful. Don’t mistake the word hope for wish. We often wish for something with no real hope of getting it. Hope is trusting that what we hope for will come to pass. Hope is having an assurance that God will provide. Hope is knowing we are following God’s will and He is in control. Hope is far more than simple wishes.

Finally, notice that all of this is provided by the outpouring of God’s love for us through the Holy Spirit. What does that mean to us? It means we must invite the Holy Spirit to occupy our lives and guide us. It means we must trust God. It means we have to get out of the way, release our personal preferences and wishes, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with God’s will.

I pray we all decide to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us. I pray we listen for His guidance in our lives. I pray each of us will decide to get out of God’s way and allow Him to take control of our lives. Trust God. Accept His love. Suffer, persevere, build character, and find true hope. It is given freely to you, if only you will accept it.

Romans 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Lean On God

Do you wonder why things don’t go your way? Do you sometimes think everything goes wrong? Do you feel as though you can’t get on the right track no matter what you do? Have you thought that perhaps you are trusting in the wrong person?

It is true that we sometimes go through rough stretches of happenings. Perhaps a relationship has failed, you’ve lost a job, you’ve had family or friends who have died, or you have experienced a severe illness. We have even heard some people say these types of significant negative events happen in threes.

Some of those things will happen no matter what we do. Yet much of what happens to us is a result of our choices. We tell ourselves we are doing the best we can, and it may be true from a human perspective. We receive information, process it, and make a choice. Often, we do so in split second reaction.

What if there was a way to train ourselves to change the how we react, how we process the information? There is. We can train our thought processes. In fact, our thought processes are learned. As we experience the results of making a choice, our brain files it away, and our next decision in the same type of situation is based on what we learned.

If we want to train ourselves to make better decisions, decisions that will lead to better results, we need to learn from God. Much like learning calculus, it’s not a simple nor short process. We must spend time reading God’s Word and in prayer. Over time, our decisions will be decisions based on God’s plan.

We can’t say we trust God and not learn from Him. If we do, we are not really trusting God. We are saying what we think is right, yet living our lives as we want, doing what we want. When we truly trust God, we want to learn more from Him and about Him.

Learning from God is very exciting. It is even more exciting to see how our lives change as we put into action what we have learned. We make positive decisions. We see things working out in our favor. We do the right thing more often than the wrong thing. We say the right things rather than the wrong things. All because we have decided to bring God into our hearts and our minds. It doesn’t mean we won’t experience rough patches in this life, but we handle them much better than we would without God.

I pray we all decide to trust God with our whole heart. I pray each of us decide to lean on God for answers. I pray we experience God working in our lives to make positive changes. Trust God. Lean on Him. Learn from and about God. He will straighten your paths in life.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Sing A New Song

Do you sing along with songs on the radio? What genre do you prefer? Do you have favorite artists? Do you go through the day with a favorite song in your head? Or maybe the last song you heard on the radio? Do you have a new song to sing to God?

Music is a big part of our lives for many of us. We know songs that touched us deeply, perhaps they are related to specific events. Music can sooth the soul when we are troubled or angry. Music can pick us up out of the dumps. Music can make us want to dance. Music can be a great healer during times of sorrow.

Some of us love to go to concerts to see our favorite bands. Some of us like to go no matter who the band is, we simply love live music. We may pay an exorbitant price to go to those concerts, but we love music enough to do so. We usually leave the concert on an emotional high. We talk about the concert for days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years.

Since we have heard so many songs, we have quite a lot of lyrics running around in our heads. Can we create new lyrics for God? I’m sure we can. Think about all the things God has done for us. He has granted us another day. He has provided us a place to live. He has provided us with jobs, education, clothing, family, friends, beautiful flowers and trees, amazing wildlife, and painted pictures in the sky.

Not only do we have numerous lyrics running around in our head, we have tons of tunes in there as well. Think how creative we can be by combining bits and pieces of tunes and lyrics combined with the wonderful blessings God has given us. We can create a new song to sing to God, even if it is only between God and us.

God would be so happy to hear that song. He would be like the proud parent of the kindergartner who comes home with a newly colored picture to show off. He would love to hear our new song, knowing that it came from our hearts. Just think about how happy we can make God!

I pray each of us will find the creativity and joy in our hearts to sing a new song to God. I pray we recognize what He has done for us and we are thankful. I pray we all bring a new song from our hearts to God. Sing praise to God. Sing a new song to God. Lift up your thankfulness in song. Make God happy.

Psalm 98:1

Sing to the Lord a new song,

for he has done marvelous things;

his right hand and his holy arm

have worked salvation for him.

Love Like Jesus

How well do you love? Do you love deeply in your heart or is it superficial? Do you show your love or speak empty words? Do you recognize real love or are you only looking for love on the surface? Are you willing to love as Jesus has commanded?

We see a lot of hate in our society. It’s all over the news. We see television shows specifically designed to incite and show discord among those within it. We are inundated with examples of anger, selfishness, anxiety, upheaval, fear, unfaithfulness, and lack of self-control.

In other words, we see the opposite of what we are told is the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What does this mean for us?

We are not to be like the world (Romans 12:2). We are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). This is not easy. Especially when everything around us seems to be in chaos and confusion. It’s near impossible when we are not studying God’s Word, learning His ways.

As I was listening to the radio yesterday, the radio show host was interviewing Dave Stewart. If you don’t know who he is, he was a dominate relief pitcher and has worked in multiple management capacities within major league baseball. When asked his thoughts about how we can eliminate racial discrimination, his answer was perfect (in my humble opinion). He said we have to start with our kids by teaching them to accept all people and he said the Bible is the best place to learn how to do that. Awesome!

You see, when we love as Jesus taught, when we see each person as a child of God, when we see others as Jesus sees them, our attitudes change. Loving as Jesus did and teaching our children to do the same, we generate a positive change beyond our imagination.

Will this happen overnight? Unfortunately, no. Yet, it will never happen if we never start. We must start our effort of seeing others through Jesus’ eyes. We must start teaching our children that all people are children of God. We must start loving others, even if we don’t like their actions, even if we disagree with their opinions.

I pray we all decide to start loving all people. I pray we all study God’s Word to learn how to be positive, productive human beings. I pray we start the change today. I pray each on us will learn to love as Jesus loves. Love all people. Study God’s Word. Be a disciple of Jesus. Be the positive change.

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Spirit vs Flesh

Are you foolish? Do you follow foolish advice? Do you try to handle everything on your own? Or, do you lean on the Holy Spirit? Do you know how to rely on the Holy Spirit? Or, do you think it is some mystical mumbo jumbo?

Our culture has become very educated and very scientific. We have discovered that much of what was once considered miracles can now be explained by science. In doing so, we now dismiss spiritual experiences as some flight of fancy, an imagination gone wild.

We have educated ourselves to the point of dismissing any possibility of God working in our lives. We no longer believe God will speak to us. We believe it is foolishness to think that God is living inside of us. We ignore His nudgings.

We have become afraid of talking about spiritual experiences, thinking our friends or family will look at us like we are crazy. Our society dismisses it as superstition. In other words, we have dismissed the idea that God is at work in our lives today, meaning we have lost faith in Him.

God is still at work on our lives, even if we don’t want to believe it or talk about it. He doesn’t necessarily speak to us in an audible voice, but He does nudge us in the direction He wants us to go. Sometimes we call that “mother’s intuition.” We may call it a “gut instinct.”

Unfortunately, because we dismiss God working in our lives, we fail to listen. We try to do it ourselves. We work in the flesh and dismiss the spirit. We rely on our education, our experiences, or both. Our approach to a problem is to logically think through it to come to a solution.

As I have learned to lean more on the Holy Spirit over the years, I have found by reaching out to God, I often get the answer I need. I have learned that God answers our prayers and our pleading for help. I also have found that when I follow the nudge He provides; my task goes from impossible to very doable.

Our belief and faith must be of the Spirit. If we dismiss the Spirit, our belief is false. We cannot work our way into God’s favor. We must accept His gift in our spirit and accept His Spirit within us. It is by collaborating with the Holy Spirit that we can follow God’s plan for our lives.

I pray we all decide to listen to the Holy Spirit. I pray we all accept Him into our lives. I pray each one of us will lean on the Holy Spirit as we go through our daily lives. Trust the Holy Spirit. Listen for God’s guidance. Follow the nudge God provides. Accept His free gift.

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

Restoration

What do you think of when you hear restoration? Do you think of restoring an old car? Do you think about restoring a relationship? Are you thinking about restoring family ties? Are you thinking about restoring our country, bringing about normal functions and peace?

When we hear the word restoration, it can bring many things to mind. For many of us, we might be thinking of bringing things back to normal in our country. There are likely also many of us who are thinking of restoring peace and calm. Many of us may be thinking of restoring relationships.

Restoring relationships may take on many forms. It could be restoring relationships across racial lines. It could mean restoring family relationships. It could mean restoring a love interest relationship. We might think of restoring a relationship with an old schoolmate.

I think of restoring our relationship with God. Some of us may have turned our back against God. Some of us may have walked away from God. Some of us may have strayed away from God through a series of unfortunate decisions. Can we restore that relationship?

The good news is God has never walked away from us. He is waiting with open arms for us to return. We simply need to make the decision to recommit ourselves to Him. If we are willing to restore our relationship with God, we will be amazed at how all those relationship restoration projects we thought of will be restored as well.

We are called to restoration. As our passage today states, we are to restore through encouragement, keeping our minds on Jesus, and living in peace. Remember? Jesus stated the peacemakers are blessed.

Restoring is not always simple when it comes to human relations. It can be difficult. Many times, the difficulty comes in admitting we were wrong and swallowing our pride. When we overcome those two hurdles, restoration becomes easier. We can do the right thing.

I pray we all decide on restoration. I pray we pursue peace. I pray each of us becomes of one mind. I pray we encourage one another. I pray we rejoice in each other’s accomplishments. Seek restoration. Be an encourager. Live in peace. Be of one mind with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Seek Understanding

Are you learning each day? Are you seeking to understand why? Are you doing your own research? What are you looking to understand? Are you seeking to know how to improve your life? Are you seeking to know God?

We see it every day. We see people blindly following someone who is charismatic. We people following a leader. We see people going with the crowd. We see people who don’t really understand why they are where they are. We see people who are not aware of what is going on around them.

We are told not to be out of touch with reality. Often people are following someone who doesn’t really know themselves. Jesus warns against this in Matthew 5:14 as the blind leading the blind and says they will fall into a pit. Though figuratively speaking, the pit alludes to a place of damnation.

It is heartbreaking to see people being led around by their noses and not seeing the reality of the situation. It is especially heartbreaking when those people are family, friends, and coworkers—people we know well.

We want to lead them to knowledge and understanding. Sometimes we don’t know how to do that. Sometimes they simply don’t want to know and understand. Sometimes people don’t want to see the truth but stay in their own ignorance.

God doesn’t want us to be deceived. He wants us to be aware what is from Him and what is generated from evil. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world and much of what we see comes from evil. We see people being led astray day after day.

The psalmist calls this being led like a horse by its bridle. Those of us that know horses, know that they follow wherever the person leading them takes them. If you put a pair of blinders on the horse as well, they won’t see what is going on around them. A horse in this position can run off the edge of a cliff and fall to its death. Though symbolic, we can find ourselves in the same position and fall to our death, if not literally then figuratively.

I pray we all open our eyes to what is going on around us. I pray we all open our minds to understanding. I pray we take time to research and gain knowledge. I pray each of us will choose to follow God rather than following the evil of this world. Be knowledgeable. Seek understanding. Follow God.

Psalm 32:9

Do not be like the horse or the mule,

which have no understanding

but must be controlled by bit and bridle

or they will not come to you.

All The Same

How do you look at people? Do you look at those who are different than you and judge them? Do you snicker at how they look? Are you willing to get to know someone who is different than you? Can you look at them as a child of God?

We live in a culture that views anyone who is different than us as an outsider. We judge their looks, their clothes, their language, and so much more. We like to say we don’t, yet we do. We don’t want to get to know them and certainly don’t want our friends to know if we did. We are afraid we will become an outsider.

Yet Jesus was counter-cultural and He calls us to be counter-cultural as well. Jesus sought out those who were considered to be outsiders. He sought out those who were less fortunate. He sought out those who were sinners. He came to be their Savior, just as He came to be our Savior.

We are called to love God’s children. It is true that Scripture points out we are to give more immediate attention to those who are followers of Christ. Yet we are also to love all of God’s children, whether they follow Christ or not. Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to agree with their behavior, their actions, or their current state.

Jesus sent the Apostles out to spread the gospel and bring more into the fold. He also sends us out to do the same. We are to see opportunities to help others come to Jesus. We are called to simply state the good news of Jesus Christ. It is not our job to choose for the other person whether to believe or not.

We are to be non-discriminating of who we spread the gospel to. We are to be non-discriminating of who we love. We are to be non-discriminating of who we will serve in the name of Jesus. We are to welcome all into the body of Christ.

Many of us will scoff at the notion of serving those we don’t like, those who are different. We will decide not to spread the gospel to them. We will decide to judge them. We will decide to turn our backs on them. Yet that is disobedience to God.

I pray we all decide to love all of God’s children. I pray we decide to tell others about the saving grace provided through Jesus’ sacrifice. I pray each of us will learn to see the outsider and welcome them in. Trust God. Know we are all God’s children. See others as God sees them. Trust God to lead you.

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

As The Deer

How strongly do you seek God? Do you have a thirst for God that is difficult to quench? Do you feel parched when you miss a single day of reading Scripture? Are you constantly in communication with God?

All of us have a deep desire for something or someone. Our desire is on full display through our actions. Typically, anyone who is around us for very long can tell us what we are pursuing and can see when we are pulled in multiple directions, especially when they are negative ones. We often pursue multiple things simultaneously, which may make it confusing to determine our desire for a period of time. But when it comes right down to it, there is one desire above all others.

At issue in our modern environment is the sheer volume of options and distractions available to us. We can choose from hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of professions. We can be distracted by numerous hobbies and technologies. We are able to travel to a multitude of places to see man-made attractions or natural wonders.

We want to do many things, see many things, and pursue many things. We allow our wants to pull us in multiple directions at once, creating anxiety and frustration. Our desire is pushed down by popular wants our family and friends push toward us. We may even become fanatical about a few of those wants.

Yet what does our soul truly desire? Are we in touch with that deep-down desire? Do we recognize it? Far too often we do not. We squash the desire that our soul is harboring, smothering it with wants and distractions to the point that our soul’s desire is lying at the bottom of a hundred foot deep well.

Our soul desires to have a relationship with our Creator. It can only be satisfied by drinking from the endless well of life provided by Jesus Christ. Being in a close relationship with Him is our path to calm, peace, comfort, strength, courage, and all-around well-being.

I pray we all recognize the desire our soul has for God. I pray we seek Him each and every day. I pray each one of us will pursue a strong relationship with Jesus. I pray we communicate with Him in prayer all day, every day. Recognize your soul’s desire. Seek God every day. Continually communicate with God. Quench your thirst forever.

Psalm 42:1-2

As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?