Christianity 201

March 26, 2018

Earthly Desires vs. Abiding Forever

Today we’re introducing a new source which I’m hoping we’ll be using more frequently than some. First 15 is designed for the first 15 minutes of your day, and can be delivered direct to your phone or tablet. The devotional’s main partners are: All Shores Wesleyan Church, First Baptist Church Universal City and Mississippi College.

Each day’s devotional is divided into six parts including a worship music video. The one that follows is also part of a renewal series of articles. Today we’re featuring just the text content, so you’re strongly encouraged to click the title below for the full experience.

Renewal of Perspective

by Craig Denison

One of the best aspects of spending time alone with God is being renewed daily by his word and presence. When we make space for God in our lives, especially at the beginning of the day, he is faithful to renew and prepare us for all we will face out in the world. Scripture says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Where do you need renewal? How greatly do you need God’s mercies in your life? He has a plan this week to both teach and guide you into an encounter with him that will renew you with his overwhelming goodness and love. Make space for God. Make time to encounter him. And experience the refreshing spring rain he longs to bring to heal the dry and weary places of your heart.

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17

This life is like a gust of wind, strong and tangible, but as fleeting as it is real. Tragically, most of us spend the majority of our lives just trying to find out why we’re here. We ask, “What’s our purpose? What’s the point of all this? What’s the meaning of life?” While Scripture is clear that this life is fleeting, God also makes it abundantly clear that what we do with our lives here is of eternal significance. We have incredibly important things to do and little time to do them. So, to truly live life to the fullest as God desires for us, to make the impact we alone can make in this life, we need a clear understanding of how fleeting and important our lives are. We need a renewal of perspective.

1 John 2:17 says, The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. God has a plan for you and a will for your life. Your abilities, mind, heart, and hands are of incredible importance to him. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Your heavenly Father has works prepared for you that only you can accomplish. He has plans for you that he does not have for anybody else. But he has also given you the ability to lead your own life. Every day you have the choice to surrender your life to the lordship of Jesus and follow the guidance of his Spirit. Or, you can choose to go through life being your own boss, making decisions and plans on your own without his guidance. Only one choice will lead you to a life spent co-laboring with God and making an eternal impact. Only one choice will lead you to the joy and purpose you were created for. Only one choice will assure you at the end of your days that you made a deep and lasting impact with your life.

You see, there isn’t enough time to waste any part of your life pursuing the things of the world. There aren’t enough days to spend even a single one building your kingdom instead of God’s. And your life will be measured by the way in which you loved God and others, not by the weight of your possessions, accolades, or status. Jesus commands us in Matthew 6:19-21, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus illustrates an often missed point here: the value of your life is your heart. God is the Creator of all treasure, of everything beautiful, but his prized possession is your heart. His deepest longing is for your affections. He knows that when you give your heart to the world, to pursuing earthly objectives, you will miss out on the peace and purpose of living your life with a constant eternal perspective. Scripture tells us that though we are here on earth, this is not our home. We are called to live here with urgency, maintaining a renewed perspective of our time. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-17, Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Will you live your life in light of God’s will for you or your own? Will you surrender your heart to the Lord every day or keep one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom of God?

The choice is entirely up to you. You have both the Holy Spirit and the world vying for your heart. But only God will reward your affections with his own. Only God gave up his life entirely out of his unending devotion and love for you. All you have to do to live fully for God is encounter the love of your heavenly Father each day and live in response to that love by loving him and others. When you are faithful to listen, God is faithful to guide you day to day and season to season. His kingship demands our obedience, and his love stirs our hearts until obedience to him is natural. Experience both the majesty and love of your King today. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a life of radical, loving obedience. Allow the Spirit and the word to renew your perspective on the purpose of your life. And choose today to live with eternal perspective by loving your heavenly Father and others.

Prayer:

1. Meditate on both the fleeting nature and importance of this life.

Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man! What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Psalm 89:47-48

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

2. Reflect on your own life. In what areas have you been pursuing the world instead of God? Where have you chosen to rule your own life? What decisions have you made apart from the leadership of God? Confess those sins to the Lord, and receive his forgiveness. He longs to restore you totally to himself. He will daily forgive your sins and lead you fully to the life he has in store for you.

3. Commit yourself to live for the kingdom of God instead of your own. Pray to the Lord, and tell him your desire to live for his kingdom. Submit your will and live for him instead of yourself. Ask for the help of the Spirit as you go through your day. Listen for his voice and follow his leading as you pray.

This life requires a daily process of confession, forgiveness, and commitment. Daily we need to gain fresh perspective on what really matters. Constantly throughout our day we need to remind ourselves of why we were created. Engage in this process, encounter the grace of God as you make mistakes, and live your life pursuing all that God has in store for you. You can never experience the same peace, purpose, and grace-filled love anywhere else as you will living fully surrendered to God. God will never forsake you or reject you. He has only love for you. Choose him over the world today and experience the life you’ve been longing for.

Extended Reading: Matthew 6

June 24, 2013

Treasure and Trust

Today’s post is a double-header from a new devotional blog at Faith Bloggers, Scripture4You. The author writes under the name Faith Twins.  The title of the two posts below is also a link to read at source, which is strongly encouraged, as is looking up the complete scripture references.

Where is Your Treasure?

~~~ 2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30 ~~~ Psalm 34 ~~~ Matthew 6:19-23 ~~~
 
‘…store up treasures in heaven…
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.’
 
What do you truly treasure?
Is it your friends and family? Is it your faith in God?
Is it your material possessions? Is it your social status? Is it your acquired wealth?
Is it your reputation? Is it your health?
Perhaps your answer is a combination of all of the above.
Our heart leads us to live with passion.
You cannot treasure something without having space for it in your heart.
 
A treasure holds specific value.
Something treasured is protected from damage.
 
After a natural disaster we often see people carefully
 combing through the remains of their life.
They are compelled to salvage whatever they can…
What they find now becomes their treasure.
Many come to treasure life itself a little more…just having survived.
 
Jesus wants us to look beyond our earthly treasures.
They will all pass away.
The treasures that matter most are not visible with the naked eye.
The treasures that matter most have one thing in common;
love is always part of the equation.
Only those treasures inspired by love can be stored in heaven.
We can only withdraw from our treasure chest of love.
Whatever else we think we have stored up will not survive…
only love will remain.
Love is more precious than gold, silver, or jewels.  
 
  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.
 
 I find this verse to be particularly disturbing.
If the only ‘light’ in your heart is darkness then you have no light.
If you have no light how then are you to see anything?
Physically our eyes need a light source to function properly.
 
Jesus is the light of the world without him we are truly ‘in the dark’.
We are children of the light.
Treasure this light.
Let this light of Christ shine forth from your heart.
 
If you treasure his light it will be reflected out toward others.
If you have light in your heart it will seep out.
You cannot keep it contained. 
 
Blessings are in what you treasure within your heart.
Can you see them?

Worry Versus Trust

~~~ 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 ~~~ Psalm 34 ~~~ Matthew 6:24-34 ~~~
 
…do not worry about your life…
 
…Are not you more important…
 
….will he not much more provide for you…
 
…So do not worry…
 
…Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself…
 
No matter how many times in the same passage
we hear about having faith and trust,
we still worry.
 
Worry robs you of the present moment in time.
When we worry we are in effect saying we do not believe
God will take care of us or our loved ones.
 
We do see how all of nature is provided for by God,
but we see our state as different.
We pretend to take all the credit for our well being.
The truth is we only work in concert with God.

Ask God to remove the plague of worry from your life.
Instead entrust your would be worries to God.
He is always there listening. 
 
I recently received this in an email.
It has a beautiful message about embracing the present…
living in the present.
 
I AM
 
I was regretting the past
and fearing the future
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
My name is I AM.
When you live in the past,
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Was.
When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Will Be.
When you live in this moment,
it is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM.
(Helen Mallicoat)
 
Does your worrying remove any of your fears?
I admit I am guilty at times of worrying about things that never come to pass.
Being prepared for the unforeseen event is not the same
as worrying about what could happen.
The time we spend worrying will never make a difference in the future.
The real blessings lie in trusting in the present.

 

August 30, 2012

Taking Up The Offering: It’s OK to Ask

Since some of you are in leadership, here’s a great piece by Blake Coffee at Church Whisperer on asking people to give when that goes against your basic personality or instincts.  You’re encouraged to read it at his blog — click the title link — where it appeared as…

A Spirituality of Fundraising


Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

This year has been and will continue to be a huge transitional year for our ministry, Christian Unity Ministries. This is the year we will transition from a small, church consultation ministry operated by Blake and a few of his friends in their spare time to a full-fledged, global non-profit organization with a paid staff and active arms operating in churches and denominational entities all over the world. Last year’s budget: approximately $75,000. The 2013 budget: approximately $350,000. That, my friends, is a God-sized transition!

One of the most painful transitions, it seems, is the one going on in me…the transition toward becoming the visionary leader this new organization will require. And, just to get very specific here for purposes of this post, I am thinking primarily about the transition into becoming a leader in matters of money and fundraising. Anyone who knows me very well at all, knows that I have simply never been very passionate about fundraising. I have long recognized the eternal truth that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. And so, it has always been easier for me to just avoid talking (or thinking) about money rather than having to delve into any theology concerning it.

But scripture really does not permit that, does it? A truly Biblical worldview really will not coexist with a fear of this conversation…in fact, a truly Godly perspective demands that we (as Christ followers) have a well-developed theology concerning money and wealth. So it is with fear and trepidation that I read Paul’s admonishment to me and to you and to young pastor Timothy and to every other leader of Christ-followers about our role in teaching and mentoring others: Command them …to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

My friend, Barry Nelson, is Director of Development at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College. Earlier this year, he gave me a copy of Revolution in Generosity, a compilation of profound writings from Christian leaders on the spirituality of fundraising (find that resource here or Google it…I believe it is crucial reference material for every leader of every Christian organization). That work’s project leader and editor, Wesley K. Willmer, makes this point this way:

If we view giving as an instrument of transformation, we will support our givers through a consistent program of prayer and personal interaction, accepting the fact that it is the Holy Spirit, not our personality, that influences how they give. The change will take time, both for those asking for and those giving funds. But as we embrace the transformational model, the focus shifts from the gift and getting money to seeing God’s power work in individual lives. Revolution in Generosity, p. 40.

And so, the transformation in me (and in my leadership) takes root in the deepest passion of my spiritual life: my desire to see lives being changed. When my heart says to God, “I don’t want to raise funds…to talk about money…” God’s voice says back to me, “Then you don’t want to be about real life change…about real discipleship.”  So, I am not raising funds…I’m raising Christ-followers.  I can get comfortable with that!

Blake Coffee

Here’s another good article at Church Whisperer, Good-sized Vision v. God-sized Vision.  Preview:

For both churches and individuals, there is a difference between a good-sized vision and a God-sized vision….

I am thinking this had to be a disturbing and frightening scenario for the disciples who, for almost three years, had awakened each morning and simply allowed Jesus to set the agenda for the day.  The only thing he asked of them was that they follow him.  It was an easy arrangement, one that led them through amazing and miraculous moments and obviously changed them forever.  Now, Jesus was leaving them and telling them “you guys take it from here…go and do this ministry!”   …continue