Danger Ahead! Too Much Sand, Not Enough Rock

prayer, worship, bible studyDo you ever find it difficult to sit still, put your body at rest and lift your heart and mind up to God in earnest prayer?  I know I do!  It seems our natural inclination these days is to go, go, go and to fill our days with activities and tasks that need to be completed.  We have digital calendars and address books, Facebook reminders, friend requests, email that needs to be read and a million other things that vie for our attention.

Our jobs, our families, our hobbies and even our churches; these are good things and gifts from the Lord.  We have a responsibility to love and care for those around us, especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is absolutely a God-given duty, and not to be taken lightly.

But what about God?  Where does He fit?  He who is high and lifted up, the creator and the one who sustains it all.  He has such great love for us that He gave His only son to go and die a cruel and horrible death on a Roman cross just so we could be redeemed and have the opportunity for salvation and eternal life.  If He is our savior then He must be first.  And for Him to be first we must abide with Him through prayer and through time spent in Bible study and meditation on Him and His word.

This is a lesson that I am still learning but when I am successful in putting it into practice I am always blessed and always amazed at what the Lord can do in my life.  One of the most wonderful truths of God’s love for us is that He desires to work in us, through us and along side of us, if we will allow it.  The all powerful God who needs nothing chooses imperfect vessels such as you and I to carry out His work and to show His love.  If we allow that to happen then there is such great joy and great blessing that is poured out on us and through us!

But before we can be used, we must be connected.  And to be connected we have to train ourselves to slow down and to listen.  We must listen for His still small voice as we lift our hearts and minds in prayer and we must learn to be still and to know that He is God.  We need His Word, the Bible, foremost in our thoughts and His truths written on our hearts so that we might not sin against Him and so that we might be well equipped to serve as His hands and His feet.

This is a process.  It does not happen overnight.  It requires care and attention, focus and effort.  But the rewards are eternal and marvelous, both for us and for those touched by God working through us.

Whatever else might be happening in your life right now, however big or small it might seem, it doesn’t matter as much as the call to pray, to worship and to be still before God.  Be right with Him and He will take care of all else.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them,  may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB)

What Fuels Faith?

prayer, bible study, holy spiritI am of the opinion that you can never talk about or study faith too much.  As followers of Christ, our faith and belief in Him and His saving work is the foundation on which we base our lives.  We have quite literally staked our eternal existence on the fact that Jesus Christ was and is the son of God and that if we believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths this truth that we shall be saved.  This is the first step in our faith journey but it can not and must not be our last.

Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. Psalm 66:20 (KJV)

It was God’s mercy that authored His salvation plan and the same mercy that is still available to us today.  Just as the Psalmist said, because God is merciful He listens to our prayers and does not turn His face away from us when we call on Him.  And that is the key component in the fueling of our faith.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NASB)

John 15:5 is one of my favorite verses because it so plainly states how we can be successful and fruitful followers of Christ.  Out of our faith comes our good works and our faith is sustained by abiding (staying) in Jesus.  And we abide in Jesus through our prayers and time spent one on one with the Holy Spirit in meditation and adoration.

Our day should start in prayer and prayer should be our first response to trouble, to joy, to sorrow, to worry, to doubt, to danger and to most anything that comes our way.  Proper prayer focuses our eyes and hearts on God who is able and who is strong to save.  It is God who delivers us and God who provides the strength that we need to overcome.  And most importantly, it is communion with the Spirit that provides the critical component in stoking the fires of our faith as we stay grounded and rooted in Him.

Prayer as a response must be practiced.  It is not a natural human response.  Unless we are taught and encouraged to pray without ceasing, we will wither on the vine and our faith will be weak and small.  Even after salvation we will more likely resemble the lost and unsaved than the saints of God if we neglect time spent in prayer and study of God’s Word.

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

Do you have a desire to grow your faith in God?  Do you want to know Him better and be a larger and stronger force for good in your home?  The place to start and the place to stay is in prayer and fellowship with the God who can provide all that we lack and so much more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

Getting to Know the Good Book

The Bible, Bible Study, God's WordI don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that getting to know and love God’s Word is one of the best things that we can do in this life.  The importance of the Bible to a believer can’t be overstated; it is literally our guidebook on how to live, how to act, how to think and most importantly, how to get to know God.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Romans 10:17) NKJV

The fact that we believe and have faith in God at all is only possible because of His Word.  Our salvation is dependent on it and by it we are given hope, peace, wisdom, truth, instruction and inspiration.  All of this and more God has done for us through His Word and the more we study it and apply it to our lives, the better and more like Him we will be.

As I have read the Bible over the years and spent time listening to other believers, to sermons, to teaching and to hymns, certain verses have become very special and very real to me.  Not a Sunday morning goes by that I don’t get up with a smile on my face and this verse in my head:

(I will) Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  (Psalm 100:4) NASB

Sunday morning for me means that it is time to go to my church.  It is time to gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ and to hear His Word proclaimed and to be taught and encouraged together.  Sundays are special times, but what about the other days of the week?  Do I have a verse for those?  I do, actually, and I really like it:

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) NKJV

Every day is a gift from God!  The Lord has fashioned it, He has made this day for us and we are instructed to rejoice and be glad.  For sure, some days it is easier than others.  But even on the tough days God is still with us, He is still on His throne and still deserves our praise and thanksgiving.  Because I have read and believe His Word to be true, I can then exercise my privilege to praise (and don’t ever forget that it is a privilege to call upon His name and offer Him praise!) despite my circumstances.

 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man or woman of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) NASB

Unless I commit to study and to memorize this amazing document that God has created just for me, I will never be adequate or equipped for His good work.  The same is true for you.  Have you committed His Word to memory?  Have you spent time reading and studying the Bible and do you continue to do so on a daily basis?  If you do, then it will make a powerful difference in your life and in the lives of those around you.  I can think of no better way to start a new year than to spend quality time in God’s amazing Word.

Defense Against Bad Ideas

salvation, prayer, bible study, church attendanceNow that we have established where bad ideas come from we need to carefully consider how we can defend against them.  Despite the best efforts of the powers of darkness and despite our own fallen nature we can have victory over evil in this life.  We live in a corrupted world and we inhabit corrupted bodies of flesh with an inborn sinful nature but God has not left us without the power to overcome.

What is this power to overcome and what are the tools that God has given us to do good and not evil?  Here is how I see it:

Our first line of defense is and will always be our salvation and regeneration made possible by Christ’s sacrifice.  Because he died in my place my spirit has been born anew and in my body of death I now hold the spirit of life (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).  This is a powerful truth and it is the foundation for our eternal hope and our assured victory.

Even so, just because we are born again does not mean that God will not allow us to make bad choices or fall to temptation if we are bound and determined to do so.  Even as a saved child of God our ability to choose is sacrosanct.  And without proper training and maturity in God’s word we will continue to make bad choices even while we are on the path to life eternal.

After salvation, we must commit ourselves to growth and maturity.  Just like a baby animal is no match for a predator, we are no match for the schemes of the evil one while we are still babes in Christ.  We need knowledge of God’s word (The Bible), we need to develop an active and vital prayer life and we need to surround ourselves with mature believers who can hold us up and keep us accountable while we grow.

Study of God’s word accompanied by prayer will allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to our hearts and grow us in grace and truth.  God’s word is alive and is able to speak to us right where we are as it teaches us and improves our weak areas. (Hebrews 4:12)  In this way we develop a strong foundation that is able to withstand times of trouble and temptation.

We must also surround ourselves with those who can teach us and guide us in this life of faith.  Believers who have been through what we are going through and can provide Godly wisdom will keep us in good stead as we grow.  We are commanded by God’s word to help each other and support each other (Galatians 6:2) in love and an active, vibrant life of faith is made possible by the support of other believers.

These are the foundation on which we build our defense against bad ideas and temptation to sin.  Still, as we grow in faith and maturity we must also learn where we are weak and what we need to avoid.  There are more distractions than ever for Christians in the world today and nothing will choke our desire for God faster than the cares of this life.  We must guard our hearts and keep our desire for God and His law above all else.  If our main goal is always to love the Lord with all we have then we will not find ourselves often going wrong. (Mark 12:30)

We can have victory because Christ has already won the war.  Our part is simply to continue in faith and make good choices based on God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s instruction to us.  Our defense is sure when we stand on the rock of truth.