Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016: Walking Worthy of My Calling

 "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called..." (Ephesians 4:1)

There are certain days that seem to prompt us to reflect more than usual on our life and the direction we are going and/or would like to go. Birthdays are like that and, of course, New Year's Day. In the waning days of 2015, people around the world are coming up with any number of resolutions that they are determined to stick with in the next year - resolutions to do more, resolutions to do less, resolutions to get healthy or finally start on a dream or maybe just appreciate life more each day. Across the world, there are Christians determined to take a stronger stand for their Lord this year, to more fully reflect the beauty of His glory in their lives. Across the world, people are taking note of where they have been, where they are, and where they want to be, and they are making plans to get there in this next year.

I have never been good with New Year's resolutions. I always start well, with sincere intentions to "actually stick with it this year," and yet that determination always seems to dwindle away in a matter of months, if not weeks or even days. In a lot of cases, this hasn't been such a big deal. It doesn't matter in the long run, after all, if I never do finish that novel or lose those extra few pounds or learn that new language. But I am ashamed to say that my track record with spiritual resolutions has not fared much better than any of the others. While I can honestly say that I have seen a good amount of spiritual growth in myself over the last few years, I know that I would be so much further along the right path if I had not had so many stops and starts and the bouts of discouragement that will inevitably come when you live your spiritual life this way.

So this year I am trying something new. Instead of the individual specific resolutions, I am resolving myself to a way of life, the way of life that God has always prescribed for me actually - walking worthy of my calling. This is not some appeal to an inherent destiny, but a determination to live the life God has called me to.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus has called me (and called you) to a life of humble service, a life that offers contentment and rest through trust in His care, His work, and His way. He has called me to lay aside all the sins and cares and worries that I have allowed myself to be weighed down by and to take up His yoke instead. Responding to and walking worthy of the call of my Lord and Savior means:
  • Putting off my yoke of anxiety and putting on His yoke of trust in His desire and ability to provide (Matthew 6:25-34).
  • Putting off my yoke of flawed time management and putting on His yoke of redeeming the time I am given (Ephesians 5:15-16).
  • Putting off my yoke of lending my ear to the world's wisdom and putting on His yoke of letting the word of God guide my every thought, word, and action (Psalm 119:11, 105).
  • Putting off my yoke of selfishness and putting on His yoke of whole-hearted service to my family (Proverbs 31:10-31). 
  • Putting off my yoke of excuses and putting on His yoke of diligent action for the sake of His church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
  • Putting off my yoke of keeping to myself and putting on His yoke of sacrificing for the sake of others (Luke 10:25-37).
  • Putting off my yoke of fear and putting on His yoke of full use of the skills and opportunities He has given me (Matthew 25:14-30).
And even as I type out this list, I know that there is SO MUCH MORE than could and should go on it. Walking worthy of the Lord's call will touch and even transform every single area of your life:

 "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Colossians 3:17).

So this is my resolution for 2016 - to walk worthy of the calling to which I have been called. When I achieve this, then the Spirit says in both Colossians 1:10 and 1 Thessalonians 2:12 that I will be walking worthy of my God, who sent forth the call. How could I possibly hope to achieve anything higher than that in 2016? I pray you'll also dedicate yourself to walking worthy of God and the call He has issued forth for you in this coming year.

Thanks for stopping by!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Beyond What You Are Able..." (1 Cor. 10:13)

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
~1 Corinthians 10:13~

There is a great deal of comfort in that verse. To know that I will not have to face anything that I cannot handle has always given me a great amount of assurance for the future, as well it should. But I have to admit, I don't believe that I have always taken the proper perspective on this verse. You see, Paul does say here that we will not face temptation beyond what we can handle. But then you pair this statement with this passage...

"Concerning this thing [the thorn in Paul's flesh] I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~2 Corinthians 12:8-10~

Hmmm... Well, but see, Lord, I'm not like Paul. I just don't think I can handle all that...

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
~Philippians 4:13~


Yes, there's the truth of it right there. When God talks about what we can handle, it's not really about what we - on our own - have the strength to face,or what we might believe we have the strength to face. It's rather about what HE has the strength to face. And that's where it can get a bit scary because I know my God, and I know that He has the strength to face anything. So when He says that I won't be tempted beyond what I can handle, what He's taking into account is that if I give Him full reign in my life (Galatians 2:20), I too can face anything. And that right there is the scary part. Yes, there is great comfort in knowing that God can and will equip me to face anything this life throws up against me, but the fear starts to rise up in me when I think about all the awful things that could be included in the category of, well, 'anything.' 

 And that's exactly when I need to stop myself and revisit the words of Psalm 47...

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..."

Throughout this Psalm, we see the immense power of our great and glorious God. And we see that this all-powerful God is always there to stand with us in the midst of our storms and to see us through to bright skies once again, whether in this life or in the next. Yes, our Lord is a "very present help" to all who heed His exhortation - "Be still, and know that I am God."

Do I truly know that He is God? Is His divinity more than just a wishful hope to me? I ask myself these questions because I'm afraid that my life too often reflects the wrong answer. Too often, I see myself responding to threats, or even potential threats, with such fear and anxiety that I can't help but conclude that I must be harboring some doubts in my heart. Is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit compares the doubting heart to a wind-tossed sea and points out the instability of such a life (James 1:6-8)? 

I pray that God will forgive me for these doubts and strengthen me as I seek out and eradicate them. And I pray that all of us who have let fear, anxiety, and worry take root in our hearts will do the work necessary to uproot them so that the seed of God's word can thrive and produce its wonderful fruit (Mt. 13:18-23; Gal. 5:22-23). May our minds be consumed not with worry but with the heavenly home that Jesus has prepared for us (Jn. 14:1-6; Phil. 3:12-16). For if we follow faithfully the path He has left for us, what really is there to fear?

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, not things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
~Romans 8:31-39~

Thanks for stopping by! 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Suffering for Good or Evil?

"For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil."
- 1 Peter 3:17 -

Peter would certainly know, wouldn't he? He did, in fact, experience suffering both for doing good and for doing evil. A quick comparison at what he suffered and why, and especially his response in each case, clearly shows him living the truth of this statement out in his daily walk.

Let's look first at his suffering due to his sin. Perhaps the most well-known recorded instance of sin in Peter's life is the account of his denial of Jesus as he waited to see the outcome of the trial. Even with Christ's warning shortly before, Peter fell headlong into Satan's trap and denied his relationship with Jesus three times. But what did he suffer then? The people did not take him up and hang him next to the Lord he denied. In fact, it doesn't seem like there were any physical consequences for Peter's sin. Rather, he felt such shame and guilt over what he had done that he went out and wept bitterly. He knew his words had separated him from His Lord, even at His Lord's most difficult hour. Oh, Peter certainly suffered for doing evil in this case.

Now consider what we see of Peter in the book of Acts. He endures prison, beatings, and the threat of death for his stand for the truth. He would eventually be killed, just as Jesus had told him he would be.The physical suffering he faced was real and very serious. Yet, what do we find him doing all throughout the book of Acts? Rejoicing and carrying on in the work that Jesus gave him to do! He may have been suffering physically at the hands of those who stood against the gospel, but his conscience was clear. He knew he was in right standing with his Lord, so he could endure whatever the world threw at him.

I believe if Peter were here today he would tell us that the physical consequences suffered for living righteously are minute in comparison to the spiritual consequences - both temporal and eternal - suffered for living in wickedness. In fact, that is exactly what he said in 1 Peter 3:17. And doesn't this match exactly what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1? Paul describes the suffering he faced as "light affliction" when viewed with eyes set on eternity. (And lest we forget what Paul is calling "light affliction" here, read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for an account of things he had suffered.)

Yes, when we have eyes set on eternity (Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:1-4), we will be able to view our suffering for righteousness' sake a cause for joy and catalyst to further work (Acts 5:40-42). And with eyes set on eternity we will see sin for what it truly is and what it does to our soul and to the Lord that we love (Hebrews 10:260-31). And this realization will makes us weep tears of sorrow every bit as much as Peter did.

Let us not suffer so needlessly but rather heed Peter's words. If we are to suffer, let it be for righteousness' sake. Let us gladly endure these light afflictions, turning from wickedness and setting our eyes on heaven and the rest promised there.