God works in our lives to place us right where He wants us to accomplish His purposes. What is an event in your life that you didn’t understand at the time but later realized God used to bless your life?
God grieves over the sinfulness of humanity. In Genesis 6, God showed favor to Noah and his family as He judged the world, saving them and commissioning them to fulfill His plan to redeem His people. All mankind was wicked and sin created a faithless rebellion towards God. God reacted with a tremendous amount of sorrow and grief (Gen 6:6). God showed His love and mercy when He found favor with Noah, extended His grace, and declared him righteous (Gen 6:8). Noah received favor from the Lord before being declared righteous. Noah was obedient because of the grace that was given to him by God. The covenant God made with Noah also benefited the members of his family. They were saved on the basis of Noah’s righteousness, not their own. The same water that wiped out the sin of humanity lifted Noah up and saved him and his family (1 Peter 3:20). However, the flood did not solve the problem of sin. God knew that man would continue to be disobedient and fall into sin. God solved the sin problem once and for all through His Son. Just like Noah’s family was saved because of the righteousness of Noah, we are saved from our sin because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. At the cross, Jesus was willing to take our place and receive our judgment so that we might be saved. That is truly amazing grace. God also commissions us, just like He did Noah and his family, to spread the good news of His saving grace through Jesus with the entire world. The sweet sound of amazing grace is heard by our words and actions given to others in the name of Jesus. Does your entire life (work, family, hobbies, etc.) lift up the name of Jesus or are you more concerned with lifting up yourself?
In the Garden of Eden, God’s one prohibition was to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God demonstrated His desire for humans to trust His heart and obey His Word. Our rebellion against God begins when we lose trust in the power of His Word. Sin hurts our relationship with God and also with others. Only God can save us from our sin and its consequences and empower us to battle sin. In Genesis 3 the serpent introduced doubt and twisted God’s word by focusing on the one prohibition while ignoring all the freedoms and blessings. Because of the serpent’s lie, sin begins to cause us to doubt God’s goodness and we end up denying His Word. Sin is not just making a mistake. It is truly an act of rebellion and disobedience against God. Before sin, Adam and Eve felt no shame. After the fall, they felt shameful and their relationship with God and each other was damaged. The good news is that in the midst of God’s judgment for sin He provided a plan of redemption through Jesus (Gen 3:15). Although the curse of the fall leads to death, God still demonstrates His grace and mercy. Just like God provided animal skins to cover the shame of Adam and Eve, the blood of Jesus on the cross covers our sin and shame. Only Jesus provides true restoration that frees us from the bondage of sin (2 Corinthian 5:17). Surrender all to Jesus.
God created everything out of nothing (Gen 1). God is simply there and is not dependent on anything else. How do you know God is real? How does God reveal himself? God existed before there was a universe and will exist after the universe perishes. God is creator of heaven and earth. He is not dependent on the universe but the universe is totally dependent on Him. Why does God call each part of His creation good? It is morally good. It is beautiful and pleasant. It is usable and has a purpose. Creation’s purpose is to declare God’s glory and proclaim the work of His hands (Ps 19:1). Creation’s purpose is to reveal those things about God that are invisible to us (Rom 1:20). God reveals Himself through creation showing His glory and purpose. The problem is that humanity suppresses the knowledge of God and makes a choice to not believe in Him (Rom 1:18). The good news is that God created everything through His Son (1 Cor 8:5-6). All things exist through Jesus. God reveals His plan of redemption to save us at the cross. The Word of God (Jesus) is the light of the world and is revealed to us through His Word. We are also created with a clear purpose to be the light of the world and to do His work of spreading the gospel (Matt 5:14-16). Take a moment to thank God for His creation, for the goodness of His creation, and for the hope we have through Jesus. How can you share Jesus with someone this week?
This week our Bible study lesson is focusing on ministering to others in times of sickness and suffering. The text we are studying comes from 2 Corinthians 4 and 12. The first century Christians experienced physical and spiritual challenges. Paul described being pressured, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. (4:8-9) He stressed that our difficulties are brief when compared to promise of eternity with Christ. From this text one can realize that as followers of Jesus one needs to have Faithful Eyes. In other words our faith should be focused on the inner person. The inner person is being renewed day by day and growing closer to God. The inner person is eternal whereas the outer body is temporary. The momentary afflictions we may experience in life do not compare to the eternity of hope we have through Jesus Christ. In chapter 12, Paul asks God to remove the “thorn” from his flesh. God’s response was “My grace is sufficient for you”. From this text it seems that true believers need to have Trusting Ears. In other words our ears should be in tune with God's will not ours. Paul pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn. Paul humbly submitted to the Lord's will and listened with trusting ears knowing that the power of Christ became perfect in his weakness. We may not always understand why there is sickness, pain, and suffering but we are reminded that the light of Christ’s power shines brightest in the darkness of suffering.
As followers of Christ we are called to minister to those around us that are experiencing difficulties. The term we have used to describe those in our circle of influence is OIKOS. This term reminds us that God puts people in our path where He is already working. This may be family, friends, neighbors, etc. In order to share Christ with others we need to show them His love. We need to be a light in this dark world. One way we can be a light and show the love of Christ is to give to those around us that are in need. The Bible says that if there are poor among you, you must not be hardhearted or tightfisted (Deut 15:7) This scripture really challenges me to think about how I can demonstrate God's heart for those that are in need. Generosity is both a hand and a heart issue. The heart contains our attitudes and beliefs. The hand is our behavior or action. Our heart should be filled with compassion and love. If our heart is filled with the love of Christ then our hand will be open to give generously. Have you experienced God's blessings because of a giving heart? I would challenge you to pray and ask God to show you where He is at work and how you can join in that work. Perhaps there is someone in your OIKOS that has a need. Open your eyes to see the world from God's perspective. Make a plan in your budget to give over and above your tithe to help the poor. Get involved in a ministry that supports those in need. Let me suggest three: 1) HOPE ministry for orphans through our church, 2) OurCalling homeless ministry in Dallas, 3) FBC Forney men's ministry collects food for the Forney food pantry. There are buckets scattered throughout our church building where you can donate food items.
About 12 years ago I was faced with being let go from the company where I was working. The company that took 10 years of my life no longer needed me. It was during that time in my life that I needed to remind myself that my faith was in God and not a company. The only thing that is certain in this world is our relationship with God. Everything else will fade away. This week our Bible study lesson comes from Psalm 91 and is a great reminder of God's protection. These verses show us the character of God. The Bible says that He is the Most High meaning that he is exalted. There is no one greater. He is Almighty meaning that He is all powerful. The Lord is the creator of everything and is in total control. Do you believe that? If you do then this Psalm promises that God will be our refuge and shield. He will deliver us from danger and provide protection. The deal is that we must choose to be totally devoted to Him and that means having a personal relationship with Him. His promises of protection are for those that know His name (v. 14). This does not mean that Christians will not experience challenges or that everything will always be easy. We can be assured that God is faithful and will protect us all the time, guaranteed. Sometimes things happen that we do not understand and God seems far away. If you put your faith and trust in Him then you can rest in the fact that God is in control. By the way, the lost job turned out to be a great blessing. God protected me and now I am in a better position to serve Him. Keep pressing on...
Close your eyes for a minute or two and think about the most peaceful place. What does it mean for you to have peace? As we start a new year I am reminded that we don't need better resolutions but a revolution. Peace is not trying really hard to do things better or working tirelessly to get rid of the challenges in your life. True peace is having confidence and assurance with God even in the midst of turmoil. Psalm 46 points out that God himself is peace. God is our refuge, strength, and help. Because of this promise we can live without fear. God is an ever flowing river that provides life, calmness, satisfaction, and contentment. God makes His holy dwelling place among us just as He did in the tabernacle when he lived among the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex. 25:8). God became flesh (John 1:14) and He promised that He would be with us to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). God is our stronghold that provides us security, strength, and protection (Eph. 6:10). God will be exalted. He will defeat the enemy and we do not need to do the fighting on our own. We need to be still and know that He is God (Ps 46:10). Do you have peace with God? True peace is only available to those that have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This year make that your revolution. Give your life to Christ, dwell in His Word and Serve Him. Read Psalm 46 - Stop fighting on your own, be still, and know that He is God.
As we enter into the Christmas season, I am reminded of God's presence in my life. The birth of Jesus fulfilled the long awaited prophecy of the coming Messiah. God continues to be faithful to the covenant He made with His children. King David remembered God's covenant and His faithfulness when he wrote Psalm 23. David was pursued by his enemies and was faced with many difficult challenges. He knew that God would take care of him and guide him. This Psalm is a great reminder that God's presence is with me. God blesses me as my shepherd. He guides me, provides for my needs and renews my strength. God also protects me as my good shepherd and He gives me comfort and courage. As I read this familiar passage, I am reminded of God's faithful love. God's goodness and love is active and eternal. We can rest in His love all the days of our lives here in this life and forever. In the coming weeks as you celebrate Christmas, be reminded of God's presence in your life. This is the greatest present we could receive.
God has a plan to see us through any crisis or challenge. That last several weeks we have been studying the life of Joseph. The stories in Genesis about this great man of God are incredible. Joseph was hated by his brothers, beaten, thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, made a servant of Potiphar, and falsely put in prison. Most people would have given up at this point. Joseph remained faithful and knew that God had a plan. There is so much we can take away from this story but there is one principal that really sticks out to me. God is faithful to accomplish His plans and we must remain faithful to Him, regardless of our circumstances. Sometimes in the tough moments we claim that we can't see God. The truth is that God is not hiding from us. It may be that we are not in a position to see Him. Joseph endured the hardships and maintained a position of closeness to God that was not conditional on his position in the world. His close relationship with God in the hard times prepared him to carry out God's plans in the good times. When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dreams, Joseph had the wisdom to say "it is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer" (Gen 41:16) Joseph understood that God had a plan and his job was to faithfully obey God and stay close to him regardless of his circumstances. The lesson for me in this story is to not wait until the bad times hit to get close to God. If we remain consistently faithful, regardless of our circumstances, then we will be a great position to discern God's plans. Keep pressing on...