How to Be Your Best for Jesus

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Like many of you, as a Cub Scout, I took the Scout Oath: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

Memorizing and reciting the Oath earned my first merit badge. Additionally, by memorizing the motto, it would be available for reflection, consideration and hopefully become the foundation for actions in my, and other Scout’s lives.

The Scout motto begins by one giving his word that he will do his best. Truthfully, we do not always give our best. But, in our heart of hearts, most people really want to do their best.

With this in mind, let me ask, as a Christian, are you doing your best for Jesus? Of all the areas we need to do our best, being our best for Jesus should be a top priority. Here are some thoughts from Romans 12 on how to be your best for Jesus.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans falls into two main divisions. The first 11 chapters deal with theological doctrine, while the final 5 chapters present practical applications. The final section begins in Romans 12, this way: “Therefore I urge you brethren…” (verse 1). It starts with Paul’s exhortations for them, and us, to apply doctrinal truth to real life. It is never enough just to know doctrinal truth. To be affective, learning must be translated into living.

In Romans 12:1-8, Paul answers the question: How can you be your best for Jesus—as a Person? He then shares four ways to be your best.

First: Surrender Yourself Unreservedly (verses 1-2)

In most cases when you surrender, you lose, but as a Christian when you surrender to God, you win! You surrender to God by giving Him your Body—“Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Before you were saved, you did what you wanted with your body, but after coming to Christ by faith, your body becomes a temple of God. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own…For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

As you surrender your body to God, you are a living sacrifice, not a dead one. This surrendering is only logical, because Christ gave Himself, including His body, for us on the cross.

You surrender to God by giving Him your Mind as well—“And do not be conformed to his world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

The battle Christians face in surrendering their bodies to God, is first waged in their minds. Your body will only do what your mind commands. Paul said the world system wants Christians to be conformed to its way of life, deeds & actions. But God wants Christians to be transformed, or changed, by the renewing of their minds.

Howard Hendricks paraphrased it, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Instead, our lives are to be transformed, changed, from within, by renewing our minds, as we hear, read, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word (2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 4:12).

Why not begin your day surrendering your body, mind and spirit to God? Spend some time in His Word, then pray for God’s leading through your day.

Second: Humble Yourself Individually (verse 3)

Don’t be haughty of your opinion or of your gifts—“I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3).

It is normal to think more of yourself than you ought. We often think we are better than others. But if you want to be your best for Jesus, you must think well of others and less often of yourself. True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. It is putting others first.

Avoid pride as you exalt Christ and others. Remember: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Third: Consider Yourself Corporately (verses 4-5)

As a Christian, you are one member among many—“For just as we have many members in one body, and all the members do not have the same function….” (Romans 12:4).

In your church family, find out where you fit, and how you can serve in the body, corporately. Prayerfully consider what God has gifted you to do in His service, and then fill that spot, ministry or service, using the gift or ability He has given you.

Though you are only one member, you are an important part of the body, and are necessary in making it function for God’s glory. Six strings on a guitar, tuned together and working, create a beautiful sound by the hand of a musician.

Fourth: Employ Your Gift Faithfully (verses 6-8)

God has given—“Gifts that differ” so “Each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (Romans 12:6).

If you do not exercise your gift, the church body will be lacking in some way. The perfect illustration is that if a body is missing a part, it cannot function as God intended. In fact, the whole body will be hindered. You need to faithfully use your gift, because “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1 Corinthians 12:18).

To be your Best for Jesus as a person, you need to surrender yourself, humble yourself, consider yourself as a part, and employ your gift for His glory! Be your best for Jesus!

We Need an Umpire

How-do-I-become-a-Little-League-Umpire.jpgYears ago I thought about volunteering to umpire Little League games. At least, until I saw Jimmy Crossett one night, in the middle of a huge dispute at home plate. Both opposing coaches were yelling at him as a rowdy crowd jeered and two teams of fourth graders looked on. I can still picture it today—Jimmy standing there in his black uniform, chest protector sagging, holding his face mask in one hand, trying to sort out and explain his call. Right then and there I decided God was not calling me to umpire Little League games.

The umpire is in a tough position. He must, in an instant, recall all the rules of the game, apply them to the play he just saw, and make a call. Rarely can he take his time, reverse a call, or waffle on a call—his call is law—and it can make or break a game. And if you say, “It’s just a game—It doesn’t matter,” then you have not watched many Little League games!

The Old Testament character, Job, found himself wishing for an umpire. For some reason, unknown to him, the wheels had fallen off of his life. Though he was a God-fearing, diligently prayerful, righteous man—his life and family were shattered by painful loss, and his supposed friends were pointing fingers of guilt at him.

It began like any other day. Job was at home and his children were together in his oldest son’s house (Job 1:13). Then in an instant, everything changed. All Job’s livestock was stolen and his servants were slain (verses 14-15). A second messenger told Job that fire fell out of heaven and burned up all his sheep and shepherds (verse 16). Immediately, another reported that his large herd of camels was stolen and their keepers killed (verse 17). Then, the saddest news—a great windstorm blew down the house of his oldest son—killing all of his children, seven sons and three daughters (verses 18, 19).

Through all this heartbreak, Job kept his integrity, did not blame God, but in fact, fell to the ground and worshiped Him (Job 1:20). He realized, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (verse 21).

As if Job had not faced enough tragedy, he was then smitten with incurable sores over his entire body (Job 2:7, 8). He was so affected by this condition that when three friends came to comfort him, he was unrecognizable. They broke into tears, weeping, and said not a word for seven days (verses 11-13).

No doubt Job later wished his friends had stayed silent. For when they did speak, they heaped on him words of condemnation, guilt and judgment. Job’s friends were convinced that all the evil befell him because of sins he had committed. Then, from chapter 3 through chapter 37, Job records the dialogue between him and his friends, as they accused, while he excused, his behavior. Job was convinced he didn’t deserve the tragic circumstances he received—while his friends tried to prove that he did. What none of them knew was that God was at work behind the scenes, in all the calamities, showing Satan that Job was a righteous, godly man (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6).

All this makes me wonder: Does God care about what we are going through? Sometimes it seems God is absent when things hurt us. Other times we notice our prayers are not answered according to our desires. Job must have thought similarly, because he spoke of God’s aloofness when he said about God, “He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:32, 33). As Job felt helpless, with God seemingly out of touch, he cried out for an arbitrator, or umpire—someone who understood both God and man—and could bring them together in harmony.

The good news for Job, and for everyone of us, is that God has provided the perfect Umpire—the faultless Arbitrator, who understands both God and man and can bring us together—in the person of His Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

It was for this reason Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). It was Jesus who “was made for a little while lower than the angels … because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (verse 9). Jesus, the Son of God and Son of man shared “in flesh and blood” so that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (verses 14, 15).

When Job cried out for an umpire, one who could understand the sinless God and sinful men—one who could please God’s demands and forgive man’s sins—he was asking for Jesus. And God provided just such a mediator…just such a Savior! “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 1:5, 6). He alone can please God and save people!

 

 

 

 

Christ’s Resurrection—Our Hope of Life

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The benchmark for God’s prophets was demanding. They had to bat a thousand! That perfect standard was intended to discourage speculators and false prophets. God demanded that His spokesperson speak His word truthfully and accurately, without hesitation or alteration. Moses wrote: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Over 300 Old Testament prophecies predicting the coming of the Messiah were completely fulfilled in the life of Christ. What are the odds of that happening by accident, chance, or by someone else? What are the mathematical probabilities of 300 prophecies being fulfilled by Jesus? In one word, it would require a miracle.

Peter Stoner, a professor of science at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, worked the mathematical probabilities of someone fulfilling the biblical prophecies about the Messiah. His findings were recorded in Science Speaks, published by Moody Press, in 1963. Stoner found that the odds of one man completely fulfilling only 8 Old Testament prophecies were 1 out of 100 quadrillion (1 of 100,000,000,000,000,000). Numbers that high are unimaginable, so to demonstrate the vastness of those odds, Stoner explained it this way: Imagine covering the entire state of Texas, two feet deep in silver dollars. Mark one silver dollar, then drop it from an airplane flying somewhere over Texas. Next: thoroughly stir up all the silver dollars from Texarkana to El Paso; from Amarillo to Laredo. Blindfold someone and let him travel anywhere in the state, stopping only once at a spot of his choice, so he can reach down and pick up one silver dollar. The probability of that person picking up the marked silver dollar is just as likely as one man fulfilling only eight Messianic prophecies. Yet, Christ fulfilled over 300 prophecies to the letter!

Long before Jesus was born, the Bible prophets predicted resurrection. The promise of life after death is not just a New Testament doctrine. In the 6th century BC, Daniel wrote, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

Probably around 1500 BC, almost a thousand years before Daniel was born, Job also wrote about his Redeemer and future resurrection. He penned, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall see, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). Plainly, Job believed in a living God who would vindicate his life, even after his death. He expected his body, though decayed in the grave, to be raised to life and to stand before God again. His own eyes would behold God in the future.

But, the most intriguing prophecy of resurrection is found in Psalm 16. In these verses David confirms his faith in future resurrection, writing: “I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:8-10). In addition to David’s belief in his own resurrection, he also predicted Christ’s resurrection. One thousand years after David wrote this, Peter quoted these very words on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28). As Peter applied this prophecy to Christ’s resurrection, he shared the powerful impact of it in verses 31 and 32. He said that David, “looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again to which we are all witnesses.”

The apostle Peter explained, “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: The LORD said to my LORD, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (verses 33-35). The Messiah ascended and is now at the right hand of the Father, awaiting the subjugation of His enemies, at which time He will reign on the throne of David.

Then Peter shared the implication of Christ’s resurrection: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (verse 36). Christ’s resurrection means that, not only is He the Messiah (Christ), but He is also LORD, meaning God, or full deity.

One thousand years before His resurrection, God’s Word revealed that, not only would the Messiah die for our sins, but He would also come forth from the grave in power and great glory. In 1874, Robert Lowry put it like this:

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior!

He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!

He arose a victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

TRADITIONS: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Traditions make great servants, but terrible masters. Church traditions fall into two categories. Some are honorable, beneficial and timely. Others are outdated, unproductive and restrictive. Some traditions, like wings, allow you to soar. Other traditions, like anchors, drag you down.

By their nature, traditions are not Scriptural or doctrinal. For most of us, Scripture truth is orthodox, binding, and unchanging. Traditions, though, in the beginning, are convenient, helpful and designed to serve, never to rule. But when mere traditions are revered and elevated to the level of divine revelation, they become harsh masters indeed. Traditions then have the power to dictate actions and alter activities—even Bible-authorized events.

The enemies of Jesus continually attacked him over His disregard of human traditions. Their contentions with Him came to a boiling point as recorded in Mark chapter 7. The Pharisees accosted Jesus because His disciples failed to wash their hands before they ate. Hand washing before a meal is a healthy habit, but not a scriptural demand.

Over the years, hand washing, which had nothing to do with the spiritual man, had been elevated to religious significance. How did this occur? It came about because, over time, a tradition was raised to the level of Scripture authority, thus making it binding and necessary in order to please God, who, in His Word, had said nothing about it.

The Pharisees challenged Jesus, asking, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” (Mark 7:5). The Lord answered the question about tradition with Scripture: “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (verses 6-7). Jesus drove the point home when He said, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (verse 8). Think about what Jesus said. He rightly accused them of being more interested in keeping man’s traditions than in keeping God’s commandments.

In summing up His argument with the Pharisees, Jesus pointed out the greatest harm of which tradition-keepers were guilty: They were “invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down” (verse 13). Inflating the importance of traditions resulted in deflating the value of Holy Scriptures! As their allegiance to tradition rose, their commitment to the Word of God declined. And that is always the way it works.

The “traditions” Jesus condemned were rituals, sayings and teachings based on the Oral Law of men, not the written Law of God. According to Jewish historian, Josephus, the Oral Law illustrated and expanded God’s Written Law, and was given equal reverence and expected obedience, though it was the product of men, not of God. A whole system of law-keeping writings came during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. The Oral Law was a giant superstructure overshadowing God’s inspired Word. During those years, books like the Halachoth, Mishna, Gemara, Midrashim, Hagada and Kabbala, were produced, which supposedly explained and applied teachings of Scripture. But in fact it minimized and replaced Scripture.

In the midst of the Oral Law, somewhere down there, God had spoken! But between the mystical interpretations of the reasonings on the Scriptures, and the sacred legends with decisions about technical questions of rituals—God’s Word got lost! So, when Jesus came on the scene and spoke God’s Words to God’s people in simple, understandable and applicable terms, they were viewed as strange.

So, what does this have to do with us? Simply this: We too, are prone to allow long-held traditions to become too demanding and authoritative, almost to the level of biblical directives. If we honestly evaluate our church practices, it may be that we too are guilty of exchanging our duty to obey God in order to keep man-made traditions.

It is unsettling when the new convert asks, “Why are we doing this?” and we hear ourselves answer, “Because we have always done this.” Paul warned the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). He urged them, and us, to make sure we are sold out to Christ and not side-tracked by lesser things, and not major on minor things.

Now, some traditions are good and serve a useful purpose. If a tradition in church is a good servant, let it serve. But if that mere tradition seeks mastery, becomes unalterable or unremoveable, beware! Traditions are good only as long as they help meet needs and serve a clear purpose in a church’s duty to Christ and obedience to the Word. Traditions should be changed or removed when they cease to help the true objective of the church.

We don’t want the message of Christ to be derailed by the method of delivery. We do not want to be so in love with traditions of the past that we miss reaching people of the present—More enamored by the way we do church than by the people who need Christ.

I think Ed Stetzer said it best: “Churches are to be biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-cultural communities that reflect God’s kingdom for His glory among the people around us at all times.”

 

 

 

Ask Me About My Grandchildren

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Bumper stickers bearing these words were popular several years ago. It may surprise you to know that, “Ask me about my grandchildren,” could pass for a loose paraphrase of Proverbs 17:6, which reads, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men.” This is both a biblical and natural truth.

If this bumper sticker had been around in the days of the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, I think he would have one stuck on the tail of his mule.

Why would I say that? Let me explain.

Samuel was God’s man of the hour at a dark time in Israel’s history. His ministry began at the end of the period of the Judges. The tragic theme for that era, and for the book of Judges itself, is found in Judges 17:6, which is repeated in the last verse of the book—“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

The nation of Israel was decayed to the core. In the area of government—there was pure anarchy; In the realm of religion—there was empty formalism or downright heathenism; As to the condition of morality—there was total laxity. It was a sex-saturated society.

However, in the midst of this moral poverty, a barren wife vowed to give her child completely to the service of God, if He would act on her behalf. God said “Yes” and Samuel was born.

Samuel was the first Prophet-Priest, and his ministry was empowered by God. He was a leader of kings, anointing both King Saul and King David. He led Israel after the judges and before the kings. For decades, Samuel was God’s man.

When Samuel began to grow old, he made his two sons judges over Israel, hoping they would follow his steps. But Samuel’s sons lacked the integrity and godliness of their father—“His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). It seems the great prophet was not a great father. The people, not wanting dishonest men, demanded a king, and Samuel gave them what they desired. From this time forward, not much is revealed about Samuel’s sons.

As we look at this story, our hearts ache for Samuel. Seemingly, family godliness ended with him. We may picture his death, as a broken old man, with disobedient children, and no hope.

However, that would not be an accurate picture. Hidden away, in the obscurity of a long list of unpronounceable names in 1 Chronicles, you will find the genealogy of a godly man named, Heman, whose name means “faithful.” Heman was a Levite personally appointed by King David, to preside over the singing of praise to God. Who is this worship minister? “Heman, a singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, the son of Elkanah” (1 Chronicles 6:33-34). This spiritual leader of praise to God is none other than Samuel’s grandson!

God, who had employed Samuel in such a mighty way, now used his grandson, to sing, lead, and play music as the Ark of the Covenant of God was brought into Jerusalem (1 Chron. 15:13-24). Heman was appointed by name to serve, continually give thanks to God for His mercy, and to play “with trumpets and cymbals for those who should sound aloud, and with instruments for the songs of God” (1 Chronicles 16:41-42).

Heman and his sons proved to be faithful servants of God for years, as they, under King Solomon, led worship during the dedication of the Temple (2 Chron. 5:11-14). On that special day, as Heman’s choir and orchestra sang and played with cymbals, psalteries and harps, the very Glory of the Lord came down and filled God’s house to such an extent that they had to stop!

But the story doesn’t end there. These sons of Heman, great-grandsons of Samuel, were instrumental in one of the greatest revivals of the Old Testament. The Bible reveals that the sons of Heman, under King Hezekiah, were the principle leaders in the rededication of the Levites following a period of gross sin. They dedicated themselves to cleanse the House of God, the first step in a revival that shook the whole kingdom of Judah (2 Chron. 29:14-19). Following this revival, Scripture reads, “So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel” (2 Chronicles 30:26).

So, here is the point: Samuel’s sons proved to be unfaithful to the Lord. They were not pleasing to God, but Samuel may have had a godly influence on his grandson, Heman, and hence, on the whole future of the nation of Israel. Decades after Samuel’s death, his descendants were still active worshiping the true God.

If your children do not grow up and continue to serve the Lord, don’t give up! If God gives you grandchildren, challenge them with all your heart to live for God. Be, as a grandparent, a living example of Christ before them. We know that the son of an unfaithful son may one day be named “faithful!” That little one may be a future Heman in the eternal work of God.

If Samuel were alive today, without a doubt he would say, “Ask me about my grandchildren!” May it please God to give us generations of humble leaders and great servants to His glory!

The God of All Comfort

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Just three weeks after I turned 21 years old, my dad, who was 44, died following a simple elective surgery and a month of hospitalization. Pat and I had only been married 9 months. My mom was just 42, and my sisters were 19 and 14. His sickness and sudden death was a numbing, emotional roller-coaster experience. During that month, his doctor kept saying he was young and strong. But he died. His unexpected death was the first in our immediate family. Though we all seemed strong and resolute outwardly, we went through months of sadness and difficult adjustments. For several years afterward, just the antiseptic smell inside a hospital would launch an incredible wave of sorrow flowing over me. Later, as a pastor making sick-visits and hospital calls, I fought the nauseating, depressing feeling of loss, every time I entered a church member’s room.

You who have experienced this kind of loss know there are many sounds, songs, smells and people that trigger emotional switches inside us. My dad, mom, and family, were believers in Christ. We faithfully attended church, even the Sunday after my dad passed away on Thursday, before his funeral on Tuesday. We knew he was with Jesus in Heaven, but sometimes it takes more than knowledge to comfort hurting hearts.

Today, I want you to think with me about what God is like. Though God is ultimately unlike any picture, statue, or object we may see, He is ultimately a God of comfort. In “Knowing God,” J. I. Packer wrote that anything you picture as God, whatever it is, is very unlike the true God. It is for this reason God commanded His people not to make “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). You could make no likeness that would do God justice, while at the same time, anything you crafted or imagined, that you likened to God, would dishonor Him and could mislead you.

So, if God is not like anything we could imagine on our own, invent or construct, what is He like? How can we know Him and worship Him? Fortunately, God did not leave us at a loss as to His true character, qualities, purpose and attributes. The Bible, His written Word, reveals what He is like to us, and what He expects from us. His divine revelation enables us creatures—to know Him—the Creator. When we ask what God is like, we want to know about His person, personality, values and demands.

In answer to the question of what God is like, the Bible teaches that He is a God of comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

In these verses, God reveals three details about His Comfort.

FIRST, God is the Source of our Comfort. He is called the, “Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” He is merciful to His creation in general and to His people in particular. When hurting, you can call on Him and He will grant mercy. We are encouraged to, “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). When we face our greatest need, God is our greatest help. During times of grief and loss, God calls us to prayer. You don’t have to be shy or hesitant, but you can “come boldly” to God’s throne from whence He administers grace. He is the source of comfort. Go to Him first and often.

Notice that God comforts us “in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3). The word for “affliction” means crushing pressure, distress, trouble and hardship. Anytime you are afflicted and distressed, you can go to God and appeal for his mercy, grace and comfort.

SECOND, God’s Comfort is to be Shared. God comforts us when we are afflicted, so that “we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” (verse 4). When you are hurting and God comforts you, He expects you then to reach out and comfort others who are struggling and distressed. Receiving God’s amazing comfort during affliction equips you to share that experience. John Henry Jowett said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.”

THIRD, God’s Comfort is Significant. Our pain and His comfort produce something within us that would not happen otherwise. Paul shared that their affliction had been so great that they, “despaired even of life…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (verses 8-9). The affliction they experienced, allowed God to teach them that they should trust Him, not themselves. When things are out of your control, you learn to trust the only One who can truly control.

We learn through trials and tribulations, that God can be trusted to comfort us. We would never know His power to bring contentment after a great loss, unless we suffered great loss. After his wife of many years passed away, the old Southern Baptist evangelist, Vance Havner said, “I didn’t understand that Jesus was all I needed, until Jesus was all I had.”

God’s comfort ministers to us, so that we can strengthen other sufferers, and ultimately understand that, through this unwanted and maybe unwarranted experience, we learn to trust God more than ourselves. When your loss is so massive it can’t be measured, seek the God who mends with His comfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is God Like?

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What is God like? Your answer to this question may be the most important one you will ever give.

The reason your answer is important is that you become like what you worship. The object of your worship shapes your conscience, establishes your values and kindles your affections. This is the reason idolatry and false worship on any level is so morally destructive. If God can be invented or created, carved or fashioned, imagined or even understood, it would be no greater than its worshipper—and man would become superior to this kind of god. It would be a god of man’s wishes, whims and desires—by any measure it would be a paltry god of his own creation.

In Psalm 115 there is a short treatise on the true person of God and the false impersonations of God. The psalmist wrote that God deserves glory, “because of Your lovingkindess, because of Your truth” (verse 1). Then he asked, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where now, is their God?’ But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (verses 2-3).

Then the psalmist catalogues the shortcomings of man-made gods: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat” (Psalm 115:5-7).

Besides perverting the glory due to the true God, idols affect the heart and impact the life of those who worship them. Verse 8 says, “Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.” People resemble what they worship. All their actions and activities revolve around whatever, or whomever, sits on the throne of their lives. You will become like what you highly value, pursue and worship.

It is for this reason the object of your affection—the aim of your worship—is so significant. If you become like the god you worship—what is your god like? Thankfully, the true God is who He is, without human invention. The true God is not created, but revealed–not fashioned, but disclosed. Without the Bible’s description of God’s character, we would know very little about Him.

Some attributes of God can readily be known. We can understand His greatness by looking upward, as the psalmist David wrote, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). But we could not understand His love for us by stargazing. Perhaps we could grasp His justice by looking at cause and effect relationships in the earthly system, but we could not comprehend His grace. We might recognize His power by watching a strong storm or mighty waves of the sea. But we could not know His gentleness and concern for the weak and downtrodden.

The Bible reveals the person, character, attributes, desires and purposes of God, in clearly understandable terms. Though God is perfect, almighty, holy and just; He is also gracious, loving, merciful, forgiving, long-suffering and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. If we become like what we worship…and we do…that’s the kind of person we need to become!

For most of us, God, in His perfections and holiness, seems untouchable and far removed from anything we experience in life. Because of our sin, human failings, and inadequacies, God sent His only Son, to become a man, be born of a woman, to live sinlessly among us and to sacrifice His life for ours on the cross. Jesus can sympathize with our weakness, because He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Since Christ gave Himself for us, we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (verse 16).

The lyrics of “Creed,” a song written by Rich Mullins and recorded by Third Day, sum it up well:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth

And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary

He suffered under Pontius Pilate; He was crucified, dead and buried.

He descended into hell and on the third day, He rose again

He ascended into Heaven where He sits at God’s mighty right hand

I believe He’s returning to judge the quick and the dead and the sons of men

And I believe what I believe, yeah, it makes me what I am

Oh, I did not make it, no it is making me; the very truth of God and not the

Invention of any man.

It is what we believe that make us who we are. It is what we worship that molds our lives. And as the lyrics say, we did not make it—but it is making us—and it is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man. Seek to learn more about the God of the Bible and worship Him, “in spirit and in truth” because “the Father seeks such to worship Him” (John 4:23).

Imagine this: The God of the universe—the maker of heaven and earth—longs for you to worship Him in the right spirit, according to truth. And when you do, it will re-make you in His image!