The Decision (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The testimony of the victories of others should move us to make a decision for Christ. We need to cast aside the weights that burden us down. In order to do that, you should ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in identifying those weights. He can also lead you to recognize the sin that besets you. Besetting sins are those that crowd around you or maybe better stated as it is the sin that is at every point around you and everywhere you turn. Not only is the sin present, it goes well for it or it has its way. It is the temptation that is at all points around you and it consistently causes you to fall.

Once you have cast off the weight and sin, you can run the race. Races are never easy and neither is this one. Opposition will face you, but you will need to face it with patience or as some may define it as cheerful endurance. How can you run such a race? Shouldn’t races be tiring and taxing to the body? They should, but God‘s plan is different. The response of many may be that they cannot run this race or they do not have the strength to succeed and they will be correct. The secret for victory in running the race will not be found in you. It can only be found in the Lord and in order to get it, we must look to him. Looking to Jesus is not just assenting to him, but instead it is attentively fixing your eyes upon him. Make the decision of looking and focusing on Jesus to gain his strength for your race.

Don’t Wait, Call (Luke 11:37)

We know why Jesus accepted invitations to visit with the Publicans, but did you ever wonder why the Lord accepted them from the Pharisees. From this account of Scripture, we can see that Jesus will go to wherever he is invited. What we must understand is that we may invite him for one reason, but his purpose may be different. In either case, it is great to know that whenever we invite the Lord to be with us, he will attend.

Regardless of our spiritual condition, he will attend. He may respond differently than we may think, but he will respond in a manner that is for our benefit. So, wherever you are and in whatever state you may find yourself, invite the Lord to come and be with you. He is waiting and has been for some time.

Faith Needs Prayer (Matthew 26:35-41)

Have you ever made a decision of faith, but then never follow through with the action of it? Maybe you sat in church, listened to a sermon and made a prayerful decision that never came to fulfillment. Possibly in devotions, the Lord impressed upon your heart as you read the scriptures and spent quiet time with him and you never moved beyond that. Why? Was your decision insincere? Was it simply an emotional decision and not a truly faith one? If it was real, why didn’t it happen?

After eating the Passover meal, the Lord revealed to his disciples that he would be smitten and they would be scattered. Peter responded that he would not be offended in him and that he would rather die than deny Christ. You probably know the outcome that he denied Christ three times and then wept bitterly. He had faith and failed terribly.

Why did it happen? We know the type of relationship that Peter had with the Lord and we also know the greatness of his faith by walking on water with Jesus and also bring the first to proclaim that he believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But with all that faith, why did he fail?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus being full of heaviness in heart and mind, petitioned Peter, James and John to pray with him. When he returned to them sometime later, he found them asleep. He questioned them as to why they could not pray with him and then admonished them by saying, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Peter, whether he knew it or not, was in a battle. Events were going to transpire that would keep him from standing strong in his faith. Jesus provided to him exactly what he needed in order to be victorious and that was prayer. Peter, great in faith, had a spirit which was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, but in order to carry out the actions of his faith, he would need his body and its faculties to cooperate with him at standing strong and speaking out loud his faith to Jesus’ captors and those he would meet over the next 18 hours and beyond. For that to occur, he would need to pray. It wouldn’t be some short mumbling of words, but instead a battling place where he would petition God for his grace, strength and courage. Had he done that, the outcome would have been different and Jesus would have never made the statement about his denial.

Our lives are no different than Peter’s. We have faith and in our hearts we make determinations and proclamations concerning that faith. However, decisions are not enough. As we face the constant battle with the world, the flesh and the Devil with his aids, we need to spend time in prayer with God. The flesh never wants what is spiritual. As we pray, we are strengthened in the inner man. Our spirit and soul are in harmony with the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. The stronger the inner man becomes, the weaker the flesh is. Prayer or spending time communicating with God and fasting, which is a denial of the body and flesh of what it wants, will strengthen the inner man and weaken the flesh. Remember, it is prayer that enables you to fulfill your decisions of faith.

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

When you make a decision of faith, don’t just stop there. Create check points throughout the day for you to stop, seek God’s face and ask him to provide his strength to you. The greater the faith decision, the more prayer will be needed. You may need to petition others to pray with you just as Jesus petitioned Peter, James and John. The battle you face is important and you can be victorious because the Lord would not have impressed upon you to make that faith decision if you could not do it.

It is not terrible people who make faith decisions and then fail to follow through with them. It is people, who lack strength, who fail to live up to their faith. Prayer is what you need so that you can actualize your faith. Have faith and remember, you must pray.

Grabbing Onto Bitterness

Yesterday my family experienced another medical emergency. Like in times past, we quickly packed things in a backpack to prepare for what could be an extended stay at the hospital. The only difference was that we were not taking the dogs to the kennel.

As we left the yard to get into the car, the beagle mix thought he was going on a trip. To try and hurriedly get him out of the car, my wife decided to grab him by the collar. It was then that he lashed back and bit her on the forearm. She did not let go and he continued to attack: not a pretty sight or experience.

It is the same with people who live in bitterness. Bad and hurtful things happen to everybody, but these people decide to grab and hold on to those issues. The result to is not a pretty experience. As long as they hold on to the issue they will be emotionally attacked by it. My wife’s forearms were bruised by the event, but these individual’s heart and soul is wounded. They are wounded by their own making. They hold onto events in life until the acid of bitterness destroys them from within. The longer they stay in this condition, the more they blamed those around them and that blame turns into more bitterness.

The greatest prison is the one of our own making. Surprisingly though is that we also have the key for escape.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Fearing God: What Does It Mean? Psalm 147:11

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him,

in those that hope in his mercy. Psalm 147:11

The question has arisen about the meaning of the term fearing God. Some propose that the word means that we need to actually be terrified of God. If that were true, how could the person who is terrified hope in the Lord? In fact, how could he actually exercise love towards God? The actions perceived as love would only be fear tactics intended to avoid the fear of God’s actions toward him.

Many define fear as reverence. For me, the term reverence was difficult to understand. I finally figured it out through life circumstances. I fear fire, but I am not afraid of it. I don’t cower in terror of fire when I am exposed to it. I understand what can occur if I am not careful and I adjust my actions to its presence.

When I was an electrician, I feared electricity. I worked with it everyday and at the same time had a fear of it. Get hit by a few thousand volts and you will have the same attitude towards it. I knew what electricity could do to me. I acted in fear or I governed my actions in light of what I knew electricity could do to me if I violated safety precautions.

Years ago while worked in the steal mill an alarm would sound when a furnace of molten steal was either going to be tapped for a pour or to be opened to add addition scrape metal for the heat. When the alarm sounded a blood curdling sound tore through the building. There wasn’t any place where the warning sound could not be heard. When I heard the alarm, I had fear, but I was not afraid. My fear was that I immediately stopped what I was doing, checked to see my location in reference to the furnace being tapped and made the necessary changes in order to remain safe.

I fear the Lord. As I go through life, there are times when his spirit speaks to me. It is at those moments that I exercise the fear of the Lord. I hear his voice, stop and assess my situation and make any necessary changes in my behavior so as to avoid the catastrophe that sin may bring into my life. I am not afraid of God, but I do have reverence for him, his word, his power, and potentially his correction.

This fear does not hinder me from loving or even hoping in him. I don’t act in love because I am afraid of what he may or may not do. I act in love because by his love he has warned me of dangers in my life. I can hope in him because of his goodness and guidance.

Terrifying fear is a snare. You can never know if you are right enough, close enough, serving enough or obeying enough. Oh, there may be moments when God’s blessing falls upon your life and your heart experiences love towards him, but the remainder of the time you are like a hamster in a cage running on a wheel ever so trying harder and harder to perform so as to avoid the fear of God’s hand coming down hard upon your life.

Terrifying fear robs you of experiencing love, joy, peace, hope, and happiness. True biblical fear cultivates these experiences. Under which view are you living?

Three Sources for Forgiveness

Each of us have experienced wounds in our lives, which were caused by other people. Sometimes these actions were accidental and other times they were purposeful acts driven by the wicked sin nature that resides in everyone.

Freedom from these wounds can only occur through forgiveness. Forgiveness is not based on the works that a person does so as to earn it. Otherwise it would not be forgiveness, but instead the payment of debt that was met. Forgiveness means to send, to leave or to put away. When a person forgives, they are breaking the tie between themselves and the person who sinned against them. In other words, they are leaving it or letting it go.

What gives a person the ability to forgive or release someone from a debt against them? There are three sources: the source of pain, the source of mercy and the source of one’s love for God.

Countless people have been hurt by someone and after carrying the burden of hurt for so long, finally decided to forgive the offender and let the issue go from their lives. This decision resulted from their pain. It was not caused by faith or any virtue, but merely from pain and the desire to be free from the source of it.

The two other sources for forgiveness are the spiritual virtues of mercy and love. It is by these virtues that the Psalmist petitions God for forgiveness. (Psalm 51:1) Forgiving out of mercy comes from recognizing the struggle of the offender and reaching out to them in forgiveness because of it. The forgiveness is not condoning the wrong, but recognizes the person’s fallen state and releases them from personal debt because of it. Those forgiving out of the source of mercy have insight into the needs of the offender and are moved to meet that need. This type of forgiveness occurs most often among friends, family and spouses, but will also be manifested towards others by individuals filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.

The final source of power for forgiving is love for God. The pain a person has may continue to hurt and never get to the point where it moves them to forgive, let go or move on and they may never develop the insight necessary to forgive in mercy. These occasions require another motive or source for forgiving and this source is love or specifically love for God.

God, in his tender mercy, has forgiven us. It was his love that moved him to create, implement and submit to his plan for redemption. Although it would be extremely difficult and very rare for a person to forgive because they love their offender, it is possible to access this great motivation to forgive someone who has been wounded greatly. Since the greatest of qualities that a person can have is love, the same love can move a person to forgive. The difference is that the focus of love is on God and not the offender. Love for God will create a desire to be in his will, an obedience to his leading, a yielding for him to receive glory, and a submission of faith. A heart in this condition can forgive because the focus is not on the event or the offender, but on God. When they forgive, they are putting the care of the matter into the hands of a righteous and just God and are able to let go and finally leave the matter behind them. However, this love can only come about by abiding in God. When we abide in him, we as a branch tap into the vine of his strength and enable it to produce the love that can move someone who has struggled for years to finally forgive.

Forgiveness is never easy, but God has provided all that we need in order the be victorious and conquerors in life. (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37)

Waiting on the Lord (Psalm 40:1)

It is important to wait patiently before the Lord. When you do, you are performing three important acts.

When you wait on the Lord, you knowledge him as your sovereign Lord. By that, you recognize that he is in complete control of all events that take place and regardless of how they appear, you believe he will use them for good and his glory.

When you wait on the Lord, you are exercising your faith and when I say exercise, I mean exercise. Each time that you place your faith in the Lord, you are strengthening it and also developing the closeness of your relationship with him. Your relationship with God is what gives your faith strength. This comes from his word (Romans 10:17) and also his joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

When you wait on the Lord, you are relying on his love. God is love and everything that he does for you or allows to happen is motivated by that love. When we cannot understand or see the workings of his love in his actions, it is then that our faith must moves us to wait on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord will always bring his results. When we fail to wait on him, we act on our own independently of God. These actions are works of the flesh motivated by the emotions that we experienced in the trial.

So instead of allowing your emotions to drive you to disobedience, instead allow God’s working through your faith to lead you to rely on him who on countless times has guided, comforted, carried and loved you. He did not fail you then and he will not fail you now.

The Widow’s Giving (Luke 21:1-4)

The circumstances in your life are not the cause of your behavior. You act the way you do because you choose to. Such is the case for the widow who gave two mites. The context indicates that people had taken advantage of her which brought about her poverty. But what affect did it have on her? Didn’t even have an effect?

It did not affect her faith. Why would a poor person sacrifice and give? This poor widow woman was forced to depend on God. She probably had been depending on him for sometime. She most likely received answers to prayer, provisions of food, gifts of love from the concerned and protection. She lived from day to day depending on God. Giving her last two mites was nothing because her dependence on God led her to depend on God.

It did not affect her outlook. Imagine the larger gifts being tossed into the coffer and then her meager two mites. What a small drop in the big pool of gifts. What did two mites matter among so much? It may not mean much to the natural eye, but it meant much to her. She must have known that God values the gifts that are brought to him. You and I must recognize that when we give to a need, we are really giving to God.

Little did the widow know that her great sacrifice of a mere two mites would be affecting countless lives centuries later.

Remember, whatever you do for God, it is not compared to others. It is measured by your faith in the abilities that God has given you. You may not be the shining star you desired to be, but you can yield yourself to him in faith and obey his leading. Your life then will shine brighter than you ever imagined.

Can’t Meet the Criteria (Psalm 51:1)

Forgiveness from a human perspective, it is usually based on the person meeting some type of behavior or expectation. Forgiveness might be based on the person being sorry, expressing sorrow or performing some act of penance.

However with God, it is a different story. God‘s forgiveness hinges on two aspects of his character: lovingkindness and tender mercy.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)

Both of these traits stem from the love of God. The former relates to his actions toward men and the latter-meaning womb-reflects his emotional bond with us.

The remainder of Psalm 51 conveys attitudes and promises to declared by David, but without loving kindness and tender mercy, forgiveness would not even be considered.

Therefore, when you find yourself needing forgiveness don’t try to follow a pathway of penance or self restoration to a God of lovingkindness and tender mercy, but instead run to the throne of grace whereupon your loving and merciful God sits. From there, he will forgive and lead you to a place of restoration.

Upholding Others (Psalm 54:4)

Have you ever been so tired that you just couldn’t stand? If there wasn’t a chair available, you did the next best thing: you leaned against something to give you the support you needed. If by some chance you saw somebody in this type of a condition, you probably would have helped them along by holding them up.

Did you ever think of all the people who struggle so much with life that they just can’t stand any longer? All of life‘s hurts, struggles, disappointments—and for some trauma—continue to bear down upon a person‘s heart. Some choose to end their lives as a way of escape. Others successfully find the help and support they need.

Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul. (Psalm 54:4)

The support and help these people need are other people. They need the strength that others have to be shared with them and when this happens, their inner being or soul gains strength. Your actions of love—whether they are words spoken or written—bring strength to those who cannot stand alone. Any act of kindness can help those who are crumbling under their life‘s condition. You may not be able to do a thing about their circumstances, but you can be an encourager.

As you go to work, social events and church, look for the people that God brings to you for encouragement and share your strength with them.