Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25 ESV
When it comes to church practice it is often easier to look behind than to look “directly forward”. The victories of the past are held like trophies, displayed proudly for all to see. It can be tough to make changes when such prestige is attached to things that once were.
The Bible speaks quite a bit about this and ultimately the plan of God is that we are always moving forward. The apostle Paul felt it keenly that we should be constantly maturing together as a church (Eph 4:12-13).
What issues of the past are plaguing your assembly and keeping you chained from growing and moving forward to reach new heights of spiritual maturity?
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15
In Colossians we’re reminded that the Lord Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. God is Spirit and is too awesome for a mortal person to view with their own eyes. But God found a way to reveal what He is like to mankind through the incarnation of the Son. When God became flesh He veiled His glory and enabled mere men and women to look upon Him with their eyes and touch Him with their hands.
So when we’re sharing the gospel of God we can tell people that if they really want to know what God is like, they should read about Jesus in the gospels. If they’re willing to read the 4 gospels, they’ll get a good taste of what God is like by seeing how Jesus acted and His indescribable power. The life and death of the Lord Jesus revealed God’s character and plan. So let’s make sure we point people to the Lord Jesus since salvation is found in a real relationship with Him!
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62:7-8
As I read these verses, they remind me of the security I have in the Lord. When I think of a mighty rock and a refuge, I think of strength, shelter, safety. It’s such a great reminder that He is completely trustworthy. But what struck me this time is that verse 8 is not just referring to His hand of Providence or my physical safety or protection through tough times. The psalmist says “Pour out your heart before Him!”
Suddenly, this Rock seems so personal. And caring. I now picture this Rock of refuge as less of a rocky cave or cleft to hide under and more about God’s hands gently closing around me, cradling me, lifting me up and bending His ear so I can pour out my heart to Him. I smile a bit as I think of this mighty Rock as a “softie”. Someone who loves and cares and will listen to my most private thoughts.
Psalm 61:2 sums it up best for me. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” What a contrast our God is compared to any other false god that others worship. A personal, loving God! Praise His Name!
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Colossians 1:3
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 ESV
There are times when we feel down, unworthy, just not good enough. We may have habits that are hard to break, character traits that need a lot of work, and sin that we keep repeating.
Take heart, dear friend, that Jesus Christ created you as his workmanship. I love how the New Living Translation puts it. We are his masterpiece. A work of His creation that He planned out to the very last detail. And He created us each with a purpose and plan. He planned out very carefully good works for each one of us. And we should walk down that path and fulfill those good works. And we can do it! Because we were created by Jesus Christ Himself and He will equip us for what He has planned for us
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
This is a lesson it has taken a long time to learn. I think sometimes we go too far in the other direction when we respond to the hollow philosophy of “you gotta just believe in yourself”. Basically saying in effect, you don’t need to trust in Anyone but YOU!
In response to that, we pile many more burdens on ourselves than God ever intended. He said Himself, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The freeing joy and clarity that results when that internal struggle is dealt with allows us to proceed with purpose, and leave the results for God to bless. I am reminded of the part of the movie “Chariots of Fire” when Harold Abrahams runs against Eric Liddle. Two fine runners, but one loses his vision and looks back while the other finishes strong and breaks the tape.
I want it to be true of me what Paul wrote to the Philippians to press on! I recall my Mom sharing with me when I was younger, “thinking too highly of yourself or too lowly of yourself is still focused on you”. Again it is so simple. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look FULL in His wonderful face. And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”
In Psalm 68 twenty times we are presented the idea of the presence of habitation of the LORD. It also seems there is a tie in, that His inheritance is His dwelling, verses 9 & 10. In verse 24 and 25 we read of the view of worshippers going into the sanctuary of God, already worshipping.
“24 They have seen Your procession, O God,
The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.
25 The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after;
Among them were the maidens playing timbrels.”
I read those verses and I am forced to ask myself two questions: 1) Do I see the presence of God in His sanctuary? Not a specific building but His habitation. Do I seek His presence, personally, privately, passionately? 2) Do I go in worshipping? Either individually or corporately with the saints of God, do I go in with a song in my heart, joy in my soul, a proclamation of His greatness on my lips?
“32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth;
Oh, sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33 To Him who rides on the heaven of heavens, which were of old!
Indeed, He sends out His voice, a mighty voice.
34 Ascribe strength to God;
His excellence is over Israel,
And His strength is in the clouds.
35 O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places.
The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people.
Blessed be God!”
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2
The only way we can really understand our brothers and sisters is by actually listening to them. It’s very important to our relationships that we are not just thinking about our reply when someone else is talking. Maybe it’s a simple topic, maybe it’s something more important. Maybe we are more interested in judging motives or in a good debate rather than really trying to understand the other person’s point of view.
If it doesn’t actually bring you pleasure to understand the other person, there is something wrong. If you are only concerned about expressing yourself and what you want the other person to understand about you, you are a fool. Strong vocabulary, but important to note. Clearly the Lord does not think relationships are supposed to be one way. Thankfully He has shown us so much grace in our own relationships with Him. May we extend that grace to others and strive to be people who take pleasure in understanding our fellow believers.
And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Gen 12:8
It’s pretty frightening turning on the news these days. Bad news floods our minds on a regular basis. There is, however, a place of safety. It’s found in the name of the Lord. When I think of his name it brings to mind many wonderful truths about him.
There’s power in that name. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Rom 10:13.
There’s family in that name. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
There’s hope in that name. “and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:21
There’s forgiveness in that name. “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43
Whatever your situation is the name of the Lord can be your strong tower. Call upon his name today!
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Cor 2:14 ESV
Notice that this verse doesn’t say “.. the fragrance of him everywhere.” I am pretty sure that would be impossible. What this verse does tell us is that through our lives the Lord leads us in all the world spreading the knowledge of him everywhere. In other words by our actions, words and attitudes others will learn who the Lord Jesus is.
That’s a tall order to fill. The only way this will be possible is if we are following the leader. It’s Christ who leads us in triumph – always! Wherever he goes he leads us to victory. He never leads us to defeat. We don’t need to figure out how to spread this fragrance, the Lord does that work. We can leave that up to him.
So let’s follow on and allow him to use us as part of his great work of revealing himself to a world that so desperately needs him.
Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17
What a blessing to know the great Creator personally. The one who designed both the heavens and the earth. If He can do that, He can do anything! Nothing is out of reach of His outstretched arm. Including you.
Whether you’re facing the daily grind or a seemingly insurmountable trial, find peace in the fact that nothing is too hard for Him. Whether or not He chooses to remove the problem for you or sustain you through it, take hold of the fact that His arm is outstretched to you, His child. Will you take His hand?
“Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.” – Proverbs 27:11
This verse has been a challenge to me as a son to obey my father and to seek his advice and counsel. However, it is also challenges me as a son of my heavenly Father. Because of the salvation God has provided for us, we are called his sons, and he has provided us with Scripture that instructs us on how to live to honor and glorify him. We must strive to obey his Word, and live lives that bring glory to his name. He has blessed us with new life, and we must not waste the salvation we have been given. It brings joy to our heavenly Father when he sees those who he gave everything for living lives that honor him.
John 12:26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” 12:37 “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him” 12:43 “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Following Christ is so often looked at exclusively in terms of practical – how to live the Christian life – teaching. Not to take away from that at all, but to where was He asking us to follow?
THE CROSS! Follow Him to the cross! There we put to death the flesh. There sin is dealt with. There at the cross, self becomes nothing and Christ becomes everything having exchanged my sin for His righteousness, my well deserved wrath for reconciliation to the Father! At the cross we put to death self will by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified for sinners. Christ was then from the cross buried and gloriously raised from the dead for sinners. Praise to God! Follow Him, rejoice in Him.
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. Job 23:10
Sometimes we can go through a spiritual winter – a “chilly” spiritual time where we just aren’t feeling that warm glow of closeness with Christ. We know the truth that He is with us and that we can’t base our relationship solely on emotions, but it still can be disconcerting when we just aren’t sensing the Spirit leading us. Then comes along a trial and it’s like a dizzying blizzard – one of those whiteouts with snow flying at you and you can’t even get a sense of the direction you are going.
Perhaps Job wouldn’t have related his many heart-breaking trials to a blizzard – maybe more of a sandstorm – but he certainly rested in the fact that “He knows the way that I take”. If life is seeming blizzard-like to you right now, rest in the knowledge that the Lord knows the way that you take and that when the sun peeks through the clouds, you will have gone through the divine refinement process and be so much more like the Lord Jesus.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3 ESV
We all know how damaging our words can be to hurt people and destroy relationships. King David understood the potential of the tongue so he prays for help. He asks the Lord to step in and guard what he says.
How often do we go to the Lord for help relating to our words? Not a bad idea. Let’s follow David’s example.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
Our God is a creative Artist! It’s amazing to think upon things such as how every sunrise and sunset appear different than the previous day, each leaf on the same tree display various shades of color, not one cloud in the sky has the exact same shape as another, not one person’s fingerprint matches anyone else. Creation alone shows that our God is one who is detail oriented and that He cares for ALL of His creatures since He is sure to even feed the birds of the air (Matt. 6:26) May we continually be in awe of our Great God who is not only our Creator, but Redeemer, & Friend!
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
Where would we be without the Word of God? It’s powerful. It transforms lives. It cleanses our walk. It has everything we need to understand life and godliness.
Above all, it allows the Lord to speak to us. Are in his Word every day? Are you listening?
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3
Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12
In the end, the only life Saul was credited with taking was his own (1 Sam. 31:4). Saul had many enemies but ultimately, he was his own worst enemy. When once spiritual leaders reject God’s appointment, He will raise up spiritual men to glorify Him.