A Call to Holy Living

Today’s Bible Journaling is from I Peter 1:13-14, “Therefore, with your minds be ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.” (CSB) I recently journaled on the 13th verse, but today’s “musings” is focusing on both verses. In the CSB version I picked up on something I didn’t see the last time I journaled this passage.

We have already talked about taking action when going about fulfilling the goals we have set for ourselves. But what stood out to me today was a list of things that we must accomplish to live a holy life. The first thing is to be ready to act. Planning comes before everything. What steps will we take to accomplish this thing? Part of planning also involves prayer, asking God to help us reach the goal we have set for ourselves.

The next step is to set our hope on grace. Peter says, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When we see Jesus revealed it brings us hope. We then realize that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB) He gives us the strength and the ability to accomplish our goal. Spiritually, when we are attempting to become like Jesus, changing attitudes or behavior, the strength He gives us to be successful in living a life that is holy and well pleasing, is what helps us as we realize it is through His grace that we are able to do what He is asking of us.

We then must be obedient to what it is He requires of us, and that can be combined with the next point. We are not to be conformed to the fleshly desires of our past life. Those are the things that have kept us away from God and hindered our relationship with Him. Obedience is a dying to the fleshly desires of the past. Look at the word “Obedience”, right in the middle of the word is another word, “die.” We are to die to our own selfish desires, turn direction, and live a life holy and pleasing to God. That is an act of our will. We must intentionally decide to die to the old habits and behaviors, and change our way of thinking, our attitude, our behavior, and our allegiance. Disobedience is to follow the enemy’s ways. This can lead us into areas of discontentment, dissatisfaction, loss of peace and joy, and misery. Obedience brings a whole new perspective on things, and brings us contentment, joy, peace, and a strengthened walk with the Lord.

If we read I Peter 1:15, Peter says that “as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct.” Our attitude, how we act and speak, reflects who is sitting on the throne of our heart. We are to daily evaluate ourselves to see if we are sitting on that throne or if we are allowing God to sit on there. When we allow Him to be the Lord, Master, and King of our lives, we find we can accomplish what He is asking us to do. It takes a mind and attitude that is totally surrendered to Jesus.

Advertisements

Faith Without Works is Dead

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (NASB) Sometimes I think this passage can cause a little conflict and confusion in the Believer. When we read what James says in this passage and then compare it to what the Apostle Paul states in Romans 3:27-28, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:21, and other verses, the Bible seems to contradict itself.

However, there is no contradiction. James is not saying that our salvation comes by works, but that our salvation is shown in the works we do. We do those works because of our love for Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, and not because we feel we must work our way to Heaven. Paul focused on the fact that salvation comes by faith alone, and James believed that also, but he was pointing out that we can talk about having faith in God all day long, but if that faith is not poured out in action, it’s basically all talk and nothing more.

James gives an example in verses15-16, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Faith is important, for without it we cannot be saved, our lives are made more difficult if we don’t have faith to believe God for the things we need, and we cannot grow in our Christian lives. But having faith and not showing that faith by our actions, does no good. James explains that we should show our faith by our works.

I remember having a conversation with a young man many years ago. He was in a denomination that was very works driven and he hammered away at this passage as his proof for why he believed as he did. I tried to explain that works could not buy his way into Heaven, it takes faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection that gets us a place with the Father in Heaven. He had a very hard time grasping it. It was obvious he had read his Bible, but the idea that faith alone would get him to Heaven, and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for his sins, was something he just couldn’t understand. I tried to explain that it takes a personal relationship with Jesus that is the basis of our faith, and that through that faith and love for Jesus that our works are displayed. I don’t know if that young man ever came to know Jesus as His Savior, but I pray that he ran into someone who could minister to him in a way that he could understand.

Faith requires obedience as well. The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 1:5 that it is through Jesus that we receive grace that brings about obedience of faith. Because we have faith in what Jesus has done for us, we are obedient to His will for us, and that obedience of our faith shows forth in our deeds.

I believe that as we act on our faith, it will show forth the love of Jesus to others as well. That is where we can become an example to unbelievers. As we pour out our love for them in the deeds we do, they begin to see that it is because of our faith in Jesus that we love them and show our concern for them and their spiritual condition, and that makes them want that same love and faith. So, let your faith take action!

Pray for Wisdom and Knowledge

Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture passage is Colossians 1:9-10, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (NASB) The Apostle Paul is commending the Colossians for their faith and their love of the brethren. He encourages them by telling them he is praying continually for them, and he is praying that they would gain wisdom, understanding and knowledge of God so that they can walk their spiritual lives in a manner that is pleasing and honorable to the Lord.

Gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God’s Word is essential in the life of a Believer. Without understanding His Word, we are not able to live a life that is in “a manner worthy of the Lord.” Given to our own devices, we will fail miserably, and it also makes us an easy target for the enemy of our souls to set traps for us without us recognizing them. Praying for wisdom and knowledge from God must be done daily. We need His guidance for daily living.

Asking for wisdom in other situations is also needed. James encourages the early Christians, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NASB) Wisdom is something God is more than happy to give to His children. When God told Solomon to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon chose wisdom. (I Kings 3:3-14) God was pleased with Solomon because he didn’t ask for riches or long life or that his enemies would be killed. Because Solomon asked for wisdom, God chose to also give him riches and honor among the people.

Daily prayer and Bible reading, studying God’s Word and then applying it to our lives is what brings honor to God. We must read our Bibles with understanding. When we understand what God is telling us, not only can we bring honor to God in the way we apply what we read to our lives, but we become a light for others to see. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s Word, also helps us in fighting our battles against the enemy. Without a sound understanding of God’s Word, we have no defense against Satan’s attacks. We must remember, the enemy also knows God’s Word, and we must be able to fight back with Scripture and the correct application of that Scripture to defeat him. Satan will take Scripture and twist it for his own devices, and if we are not familiar with the true meaning of God’s Word, the enemy can lead us astray easily.

Jesus defeated Satan as the enemy tried to tempt Him to relinquish His authority and to refrain from doing the task God had assigned Jesus. How did He defeat the enemy? When Satan quoted Scripture attempting to trip up Jesus, the Lord came back with Scripture properly applied to fight back against the enemy’s attempts at bringing Him down. That’s how we win at defeating the enemy as well. Spiritual warfare can be very difficult because we have an adversary who is bent on crushing us and make us defeated Christians with no joy, peace, or victory in our lives. As we apply that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, we receive Spiritual fruit that will grow and make us stronger in our daily walk with the Lord. So, asking God to reveal His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding through His Word, is the key to growth in living for Jesus, and being a light in a dark world.

Think Carefully

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Haggai 1:5, “Think carefully about your ways.” (CSB). This month we’ve been talking about having goals, making plans, and God’s plans and promises. To give a little background on this passage, the prophet, Haggai was directed by God to give a message to Zerubbabel, who was the governor of Judah. God was displeased with the children of Israel because they had tended to their own houses and left the temple in ruins. They were supposed to be rebuilding the temple, but they were more concerned with their own personal comfort and well-being, that they disregarded God’s house while reconstructing their own homes.

God gave them a directive, “Think carefully about your ways.” He mentions this twice, in verse 8 God once again tells them, “Think carefully about your ways.” He’s dead serious about this, hence the repeating of his instruction. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They did not desire to be obedient, and God showed His displeasure with their heart attitudes. Verse 6 talks about how they planted but their harvest amounted to little. They eat and drink, but they are not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they never have enough to stay warm. God held back blessings from them because of their disobedience and disregard for His house. Therefore, He charges them to think carefully about all they have done.

As we sit down and make our goals, and make plans to accomplish those goals, we must think carefully about how we are going to accomplish what we want. Whether it’s something as physical as losing weight, or as spiritual as becoming more like Christ in attitude and action, we must carefully think about how we are going to meet that goal.

As I recently recounted about a neighbor who failed to sit down and plan out the building of his house and failed miserably, we can fail in accomplishing our goals without careful planning, thinking about what steps we must take to be successful, setting ourselves up for meeting that goal.

In a spiritual sense, not only must we think carefully about how we will be more like Jesus, but we must also consult God. Spending time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom from godly counselors, all help us to accomplish our desire to be more like Him.

For me, the first step is taking account of where I am right now with Jesus. What attitudes and actions am I exhibiting? Are they reflecting a Christ-like attitude? If not, what do I need to do to change? Then I need to go to God in prayer, asking Him to help me be the person He wants me to be. As I look into His Word, I must ask Him to show me verses that will help me to succeed. Accomplishing my goal is done one step at a time. As I succeed with each trial that makes me choose the right attitude or action, I then need to thank Him for His help. When I have reached the goal then I must remember not to let pride take hold, for if I become prideful then I am like the children of Israel who disregarded God’s instruction.

Heart attitude is so important. We can cause all the good we do to be of no account because of a poor heart attitude. Then the goals we have accomplished become as nothing. “Think carefully about your ways.” Only then can we be truly successful in achieving our goals.

God’s Got This!

 

I’m going to take a little break from our study on God’s Plans and Promises for today. My heart is heavy today because our pastor relayed a health issue he has to the congregation and in human terms, it isn’t good. I’ve been in prayer for him and his wife since last night when they told us, and this morning as I did my morning devotions the Scripture was on James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (NASB) I decided to read before that passage a little, and starting in verse 12, James is asking questions, are any suffering, is anyone cheerful, are any sick? And then he gives solutions or answers to those questions.

Are you suffering? Pray. Are you cheerful? Sing praises. Are you sick? Go before the elders and have them lay hands on you and pray for your healing. Verse 15 says, “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” Prayer is the key, and not just praying, but praying in faith, believing! Our faith and belief that God will do as He promises, is the key to getting prayers answered.

Giving praise to God for whatever circumstance we find ourselves also is a pathway to getting prayers answered. My husband is a big proponent of this. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after we were married, he began to praise God for the cancer. Now, I know that sounds weird, and to the world, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But, praising God in your situation changes the atmosphere, it changes your whole outlook on what you are going through, and it strengthens your faith in God’s ability to bring about a good outcome. Now, that isn’t to say that the situation itself is a good thing, but Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things together for good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB) In other words, GOD’S GOT THIS! I firmly believe that my husband’s praise and prayer in faith is what set the stage for God to heal him of cancer.

I’ve gone through this cancer scare with my family; four grandparents, my Mom and my Dad, and then my husband, all had cancer of one form or another. My grandparents all were claimed by the disease. My parents survived and passed away from something else, and my husband is cancer free today. I’ve come to learn that the best thing I can do is not panic, but turn to God immediately, and go into prayer warrior mode. When I intercede on behalf of someone, Heaven is listening, ministering angels are put on alert, and the gates of Hell are being bombarded against this attack.

Our church is on the verge of something big, it’s been building for months, and as I’ve heard many times before, Satan turns up the heat even more when a great blessing is about to come forth. So, of course, the enemy attacks the head, in an effort to kill the body, or to make it ineffective. Our pastor and associate pastor are both under attack in their health, and I agree with my pastor, the enemy is really trying to thwart whatever blessing God has in store for us. But I keep coming back to GOD’S GOT THIS! These attacks haven’t slipped up on Him, it isn’t by any surprise to Him. He’s not shocked to find out our pastors are dealing with health issues. He knows what is in store for our church, He has a plan for our church, and He has called us according to His purpose. Are we shaken? In human terms, maybe a little. But we serve a God Who is our Healer, and He’s Got This!

God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

Receive Instruction

As we continue to look at seeking counsel this week, our Bible Journaling comes from Ecclesiastes 4:13, “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” (NASB) The Christian Standard Bible says it like this, “Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings.”

Part of seeking counsel involves something on our part. Once someone gives us the counsel we are seeking, it is up to us to decide whether or not to receive their counsel. This involves discernment on our part. Is the person giving the information to us someone we can trust? If so, then it is up to us whether we will take what they tell us and use it.

My mother was an elementary teacher for 35 years. For most of those years she taught the gifted kids, but for a while she had a mixture of children who were extremely intelligent and ones who weren’t as bright. Grades ran the gamut, the straight A kids and the ones who were barely hanging on. In some instances, she had kids who were really smart, but for whatever reason, just didn’t apply or accept what she was trying to teach them. The ones who could have done better did not use discernment in receiving what she was teaching them. They didn’t want to be in school, they didn’t want to learn, and they decided they were not going to apply themselves in learning.

We can be just like those kids. If the information is from someone we aren’t sure whether or not to trust, then discernment and wisdom is needed. However, if the advice and counsel is from someone we respect and their ideas make a lot of sense, and we don’t take their advice, then we are like that foolish king in our verse today who won’t take instruction, and like those kids in my Mom’s class who refused to learn.

We can also be like those people when it comes to God’s guidance, instruction, and teaching. When we refuse to take God’s Word to heart and learn from it, we are in rebellion. Just like those kids in my Mom’s class, they rebelled against her in refusing to do the work, we can be stubborn and say “NO” to God in defiance or just decide to do it our own way. Most times that just gets us into trouble. Do we forget that God’s ways are the best for our lives, or are we actively defying God’s instruction? How foolish we are to ignore God’s leading and instruction!

I know in my own life there have been times when I verbally said, “No God, I don’t care what you say, this is what I want!” I found myself in a long time of digging myself out of a situation in which I should never have been. I had to learn the hard way, that my defiance and outright rebellion was going to take me in a path I didn’t want to go down. But, when I heed His voice, when I listen to instruction and follow obediently, then life goes a lot smoother. I begin to learn from Him when I follow His leading! Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Good words of advice!