THE FIRST 40 DAYS
The Lord said to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain . . . So Moses went . . . up on the mountain . . . forty days and forty nights. Ex 24:12-18
Forty Days? What is so special about forty days? The Bible clearly sets forth that the period of forty days is significant to God. Forty days seem to be a special period of transformation in the lives of many Biblical characters. Noah in the flood, Moses on the mountain, David before Goliath, Elijah with one meal, Jesus in the wilderness and the disciples with the resurrected Lord, all were transformed over a forty day period.
In the text we find God calling Moses to a forty day retreat, a time to escape to the top of the mountain. Do you see the invitation God offers? Come up to me. He offers the same invitation to you. No you don’t have to drop out of school and head to the mountains. Your mountain can be your room, a bench on campus, a chair in the lobby, or anywhere that you can meet God alone.
You are in a transformational period of your life, a great new adventure with a lot of choices. The decisions that you make in the next forty days will set in motions how your first year of college will go. Who will you hang out with? What will you do with your time? These are all questions that you will have to address.
I think God knows that the significance of the forty days is that it sets patterns for your life. Once you do something for forty days it probably will be a habit that you will continue. Our hope is that through using this devotional, written specifically for you by upperclassmen at WT, you will establish a daily pattern of spending time with God and gain insight from your peers to help you live the Christian life on campus.
Look at what Moses did: so Moses went up on the mountain. Just like him it’s up to you. Can you do it? Will you do it? Stop now and ask God to help you set a specific time in your schedule each day for the next forty days to “go up to the mountain” and meet him. Put in your planner and do it. It will transform your life.
“In this you rejoice though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
As I read through this verse multiple times, I realized that it has been a consistent reminder of what God has done for me in my life. However, there have also been times I have felt as though my life was completely falling apart. We are often put through these “trials” in life which make us question our faith and overall views on life. Without these tribulations, we may never truly comprehend the full majesty and power of our Lord. Humans seem to learn most from their mistakes and rough patches in their lives, and it’s the same for all Christians. As it says in 1 Peter 1: 6-7, we will be grieved by many trials, but through withstanding the tests of fire, we will grow in our faith. Growing in our faith truly allows us to grow closer to our Savior, which in return makes us capable of doing all things through him. These two verses truly strike me in a personal sense. This summer, my parents have been dealing with settling a divorce. This has significantly taken its toll on the happiness of my family and the people associated with us. Nevertheless, I as well as both of my parents have since grown closer to Christ and in our endeavors towards the Lord. We will never truly know why God puts events into motion in our already chaotic lives, but we can find peace in knowing that he will strengthen us through these trials and always be by our side.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
“1Therefore since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
This scripture is such a great reminder to trust God over circumstances. Verse 1 mentions, “God’s mercy,” which is the reason why we don’t have to lose heart—or become discouraged—when we don’t understand God’s plan or the current situation we may be in.
In the first part of verse 2 it says, “…we have renounced secret and shameful ways…” The word renounced means “to say in an official or definite way that you will no longer have or accept something.” In other words, we have to openly confess and then make a complete 180⁰ degree turn from past and hidden sins.
The second part of verse 2 says that we should speak truth from the Word of God instead of deceiving others by our own words. We speak this truth boldly for others to hear that God may be glorified.
When I read this I was struggling not to lose heart with everything I saw around me, not knowing how I was going to make things happen. This verse reminded me to let go and trust in God’s plan for my life. So be encouraged in whatever you’re facing and don’t lose heart. Instead, take joy in God’s brand new mercies each day. Let that reminder motivate you to go forth and share God’s never ending mercies with others boldly and glorify your Heavenly Father.
I Remember You
“My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.”
Christianity has been altered by a modern idea that being a child of God entitles us to a life of ease and comfort. This idea of being #blessed robs us of the solid joy that can only come from Jesus Christ. This is a joy that will not be uprooted in the most difficult of times. In this psalm we see David, God’s anointed king, in complete turmoil. He has been mocked daily to the point of being in tears day and night. He is out in God’s great sea where waves and breakers continue to crash over him, his soul is downcast and at war within him.
Much like David, I run into these moments. Some unexpected event comes along and seems to knock everything out of balance. I’m confused, distraught, and the Lord seems distant. What do I do? Where do I find hope and joy? When faced with times of distress, King David could have turned to endless physical comforts or worldly remedies, but he knew that in this moment refuge could only come from God. He takes himself back to the lands, where he felt the tender mercies and sweet victories that came from the Lord. He meditated on the wondrous works of the Creator’s hands. Instead of being fed lies from the enemy, David clings to the truthful promises given to him from the Lord. These are promises that cannot be stolen. They are a rooted foundation that the Lord uses to put back together all of our broken pieces. These are the lives of constant joy that we are entitled to as children of God. So do not lose hope, for in the darkest nights we experience the sweetest mercies.
Father We Remember You.
Are you at rock bottom? Has life come along and hit you like a freight train knocking you flat on your back? Do you feel like there is no possible way to turn it around? Then welcome to the Israelites world. In Jeremiah, King Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Israelites from Jerusalem, but not only did he exile them, he brought them to their knees, To the point where many had given up all hope. He slaughtered them, destroyed their city, desecrated the temple and took away all they held dear with the end goal being to wipe out their entire identity completely. (And you thought your day was rough!)
The Israelites were struggling not only to survive but also to preserve their culture. Yet in the midst of all this, God was still at work. He had a prophet named Jeremiah, and sent him with a letter to all the surviving Israelites. The letter was a message of hope from God himself. He told the Israelites that he wanted them to survive and the way to do that was to prosper and trust him. (Jeremiah 29:4-11)But God doesn’t end it with that, he goes on to tell us how to find his plan, he tells us in Jeremiah 29:12-14, to pray and seek him with all our heart.
So what does this have to do with you? Well as of now we’re all in college and like the Israelites, we’re struggling to find our identity in college, before we “start” our lives. The way we find our identity is through seeking God with all our heart. So now it’s up to you, take a few minutes to write down why you feel like you’re at rock bottom and pray to God, giving him all of your attention, seeking his guidance.
As it states in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It may not always feel like there is a plan, but I promise God has one. God worked through Jeremiah to reach the Israelites, so try to look for who God is using to reach you or using you to reach in your life, because like he promised, he has a plan for your future. All you have to do is seek and trust him.
For the seeker…
Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart”.
There are many moments- especially in college- when time can seem fleeting. Suddenly, you have many tests to study for, friends to hang out with, football games to attend, and a future to think about. Anything and anyone is dying for your attention. It’s so incredibly easy to get distracted in life. This is the biggest goal of both our flesh and Satan: to keep you distracted so that our faith, focus, and obedience to the Lord may be only halfhearted. In Jeremiah 29:13, Jeremiah delivers a word from the Lord to the people of Jerusalem, who have been exiled by King Nebuchadnezzar, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart”.
We see here that the Lord has opened up an invitation for us. He tells us that when we seek Him, It must be with everything. We must be ready to offer up our whole heart, mind, body, and soul. Christ is not a God of part-times of half ways. Multiple times in scripture He tells us to give or to do things to the best of our abilities. Mark 12:30 says “And you shall love the Lord with ALL you heart, and ALL your soul, and ALL your mind, and ALL your strength”. Or in Col. 3: 23, Paul writes “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men.” Or in Eccles. It states “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with ALL your might”. We see over and over again God calling us to give all that we have to Him. However, if you’re a sinner like I am, you’ve definitely experienced times of dryness, where you feel like you’re wandering the desert.
When I’m in this desert my life looks wonderful on the outside, yet I’m desperate on the inside. When I’m in this desert, I play the part of the Pharisee well- I go to church, I make sure I’m serving, I say “Amen” at the right time, but on the inside I can feel God becoming harder and harder to hear. When I’m in the desert, I choose to seek righteousness without ever really seeking Jesus; and that is why in the desert I’m always left dry and empty. Jesus is the only way to quench that thirst. When I’m lost out in the desert it’s because I’ve chosen my flesh over my Father. That is why we must seek Him with ALL of our hearts. With everything we could possibly muster up. In Psalm 63:1, David cries out to God and says, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”. David sees that Christ is the only way out of the desert.
In one of my favorite books called A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers, she describes her main character, Hadassah, beautifully. It says, “Rather than remain a sealed jar, she sought only to pour herself out to others. Everything she did mirrored her faith. It was as though every waking hour of the day she was devoted to pleasing her God by serving others. This God that she worshiped consumed her. It didn’t ask for a brief visit to a temple, or a small votive offering of food or coin, or a few prayers every now and then. This God wanted all of her”.
I pray that we would allow God to use us in our lives like this. And that we would seek Him with ALL that we are.
What do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?
Colossians 3: 1-17
College is an exciting time. Many see it as a way to start fresh – to be a new person. Indeed, some have become an entirely different person. They find new passions, beliefs, lifestyles, etc. Whatever our story is through our years at university, it all started with a question we asked ourselves when we were children, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” That’s the question that drives us to dream and achieve. When the time comes, we apply to schools in hopes that we can earn an education in a field that we will be passionate about and can use to make a difference in the world. For four to five years, sometimes longer, we spend countless hours with our heads in books studying and discovering so that we can be handed that magical piece of fancy paper called a diploma. But where does all of this fall in line with our faith? God has a purpose for all of us. How can we find the purpose that He has set for us? Who does God want us to be when we grow up?
In Colossians Paul and Timothy are writing to the church of Colossae. Chapter three specifically has a lot to say about how we should live as followers of Christ. Immediately we are told to, “set your hearts on things above,” and to also, “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” As those who are born again, we are dead to our old self and to the world, and now belong to a new world to which we should set our hearts and minds to. We must keep this in mind when asking ourselves how we can glorify God with our field of study, and how to realize God’s purpose for our interests. Paul and Timothy go on to list a series of earthly things that we are told to put away because, “…you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in KNOWLEDGE in the image of its Creator.” (verse 9-10) We live in a world filled with ungodly views and ideas – ideas that may even be taught to you in your classes. While we study what the world has to say about the things around us, we must never cease to also study what our Creator says about the things around us. Who better to learn from than the Creator of the universe and everything in it? Allow this knowledge, as mentioned in verse ten, to renew our heart, mind, and soul. When we are in tune with God, what we learn of this world manifests His absolute authority and humbles us before His glory.So, with whatever we learn during our years at university, we must always bring it before the Word of God in order that we may see His purpose for it in our own lives. When we bring our academics in tune with our spiritual relationship with Christ, that’s when we truly discover who He wants us to be when we grow up; to do whatever we do, word or deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks and bringing Him all glory.
“If you are seeking your calling, consider the intersection of your God-given passions and the needs of the world around you.” – Nabeel Qureshi
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” -2 Tim 1:7“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” –Ps 34:4
Sitting here racking my brain about what I’ve experienced and what God has taught me in this first year of college, and ultimately just feeling like maybe I haven’t learned anything that any other person could relate to or learn something from. That’s the first lie Satan sold me while sitting here at the computer. That lie filled me with fear and made me want to back out of this altogether. It has to be for a good reason too that he was working so hard to make me doubt myself but ultimately making me doubt what God was doing. Someone may really need to hear this. Even if its just one person.
Okay, so I have two pigs that are at my home in Arkansas. While I was there this summer my mom and I walked out together to go feed them when we realized our male pig was covered in gashes and scratches all over. A wild pig had gotten in the fence was our first thought, then out of the corner of both our eyes we saw something run by through the woods. It was a wild pig! We didn’t say a word, just ran, as fast as we could back towards the house. I was so afraid. Not even looking back to check on my mom. I didn’t know what would happen if that pig caught us all I knew was I was afraid and I was going to book it in the complete opposite direction.
I got to thinking how often I run when I’m afraid of something. Not just physical things like a big scary pig. But I run when I’m; Afraid of being rejected, afraid of being hurt, afraid of being vulnerable, afraid of being different, afraid of love, of being real, of being me, afraid of sharing my faith, afraid of giving God absolutely everything, afraid of so many things. Things that I have no idea what would happen if I chose not to run away from, but not willing to take the chance. What outstanding things could Christ do through us if we decided to turn and run head on towards the things Satan tells us to run or hide from? Satan does not love us nor does Satan have our best interest at heart, so why in the world do we choose to believe his lies when he tells us to run. We should do the exact opposite! Now I do not advise any of you to run straight towards a wild pig. Run the exact opposite direction! But do not run from love, from faith, from vulnerability, from people, from Christ.
Whatever you are afraid of, its not because God wants to keep you from getting hurt, its because Satan wants to keep you from your greater purpose. God did not instill that fear in you. He gave you power and love. If you’re going to run from something, run from the lies and the fear Satan tricks you into thinking is safer. Ill be honest, I am so afraid of loving someone more than they love me. That leaves me vulnerable, exposed, and subject to rejection. I run anytime I think I may love someone more than they love me. Today, for Gods glory, I am leaving that fear behind and am going to fight to love each and every one of you with all I have. Even if that means loving you more than you love me! Find what Satan is trying to prevent you from soaring in, take that fear, stomp on it, and run straight towards whatever it is. I don’t know what your thing is, but whatever it is, run straight towards it. Love more than people love you, include people even when they leave you out, be so real, be so vulnerable, be so different, share your struggles and imperfections, share your faith with the person standing next to you in the coffee line, give God whatever it is that you have been holding on to. Remember, God uses every silly situation to teach you something, even running from a pig. Just take a moment to stop and take it all in. Also, because God did not give it to us, fear is not to protect us it is to cripple us.
I am no stranger to the wilderness – to dry, lonely, and weary seasons. I have experienced many highs and lows in my walk with the Lord. And I’ve found that that is pretty normal. But the lows are always so much more difficult to walk in and through, aren’t they? It is easier to have faith and live for the Lord when things are going good. It becomes much more of a battle when things are hard – or dry, or you’re tired and weary, frustrated or angry, sad or depressed, hungry and thirsty. And it is so easy to feel defeated when you are in the wilderness – or have been in it for days, weeks, and even months. It is easier to believe those lies and doubts that the enemy is hitting you with – because you feel weak and defenseless. You wonder where God is and why He isn’t helping you. You cry out and ask for His help. And you cry out, and cry out, and cry out and don’t understand why you can’t hear Him, why you’re still struggling in the dark and dry desert, and you may even start to think you will never get out. Some days you think you may not even want to get out. You might just want to stay – it is easier to just give in and get comfortable here in the wilderness. It is too hard to fight and you feel like you are fighting alone. Where is God anyways?
My dear brothers and sisters, He is right there. He never left. He may not be showing Himself as a pillar of cloud and fire and so obviously guiding you through the desert, but He is there and He is guiding you (Isaiah 58:11). We are never outside of His reach or too far gone – He is always aware of where we are and He always hears us. In the highs and the lows, He knows. He is there. And when we stray, He beckons us back. He knows we are prone to wander. He knows that we need Him – for everything and in everything. He promises that He will be there for us and He will help us (Heb. 4:15-16). Countless times, throughout the Bible and in our own lives, He has shown His faithfulness to provide for us, care for us, love us, discipline us, rescue us, and forgive us. And He will continue to do those things – He promises that He will. We are His and we will never be snatched from His hand. He promises. And He who promises is faithful.
And all of that sounds great (because it absolutely is!) – but sometimes that is hard to believe. Sometimes, when you are crawling in the wilderness, those promises are hard to have faith in. We don’t see our circumstances changing, we don’t feel like things are getting better, we don’t understand what God is doing and why He is ignoring us (except He’s totally not). We are tired, weary, hungry, and thirsty.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7). We may not see what He is doing – or how things are changing. We may not see the end. We may not feel like things will ever get better. But our faith is not contingent on what we see and what we feel. Our faith is contingent on who Christ is, what He did for us on the cross, and all that that encompasses. And that encompasses His promises and His faithfulness. We always have to take our feelings, emotions, and thoughts and compare them to Jesus and His Word. Our feelings, emotions, and thoughts are tainted by sin – why and how could we trust them? They ebb and flow and change multiple times a day. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is perfect and sinless. Whatever He says, you can take it, believe it, mark your life by it, and live every day comforted by the fact that His Word is always true, no matter what.
We will have highs and we will have lows. We will sometimes be in the wilderness. And sometimes, being in the wilderness is the most loving thing He can do for us. Sometimes He has to take us through the wilderness and through dry and rough seasons for us to really be able to hear Him, see Him, learn what He wants us to learn, and recognize our absolute need for Him (Hosea 2:14; Psalm 107). Because sometimes, we focus so much on our problems and struggles, our funks, and the wilderness, that they start to look much bigger than they really are. We keep our eyes fixed on those things rather than on Christ. When we pit those things up against Christ, they diminish and fade – they cannot compare to Him. We sometimes allow ourselves, circumstances, feelings, struggles, and sins to take the place that only Christ deserves.
Wading through the wilderness is for a reason. And grace is always found there (Jer. 31:2). The wilderness and the dry, empty, helpless despair we feel there says “You can’t do this. You cannot sustain yourself. You weren’t made to do this on your own.”
The wilderness cries and offers grace – it cries Jesus help me, save me, lead me. The wilderness softly speaks the gospel to our weary, thirsty souls. (Jer. 31:2; Matt. 11:28-30).
Jesus says to come. He says to come to Him. Let Him quench your thirst, satisfy your every need and hunger, lead you, give you rest, wrap you in His arms and never-ending grace. Because He will.
And if you start to doubt that it will happen – if you’ve been waiting for a long time – if you’ve been crying out and crying out – keep waiting and keep crying out. Keep seeking Him and depending on His promises. Keep fighting to believe those promises. Cling to His faithfulness and His promises. Take your thoughts captive and set your mind on things of above, on Him. Fight the good fight – keep the faith – fight for your faith. “In ALL circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one,” (Eph. 6:16). Keep running the race and fixing your eyes on Jesus.
He will answer.
He promises He will.
(Isaiah 41:17-20; 42:6-9, 16; 43: 1-2, 19-21; 55: 1-2, 8-11; Jer. 31:1-3, 9-14, 25; Psalm 107) – Read and dig into these passages – the wilderness is not a new thing, nor are you alone in it.
Psalms 1:3 ” We were made to thrive”
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields it’s fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers.”
Very rarely you will see growth from a tree who is lacking its source of life and nutrition. The same goes for us. For the believer who is constantly surrounding himself with good company and other believers—(streams of water) it is easier and much more refreshing to the believer (tree)to bear fruit. Once the believer begins to stray away from this good company or (streams of water) then the fruit will no longer continue its growth. Because of the growth that is being interrupted, now all the creatures(unbelievers) who benefitted from this tree will cease their growing as well, their prosperity is not there.
In John 15:5 Jesus spoke of the vine and the branch… “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” When Jesus said nothing, baring fruit was also included. It is important, as believers to surround yourself around people who abide in Him so that we are able to be refreshed daily of the sacrifice that Christ did for us on the cross. It’s important to constantly speak the gospel to one another so that when that time comes to share the gospel with an unbeliever you will be refreshed. Our main priority should be to help one another thrive in the word. Help our brothers and sisters by refreshing them with streams of water. Our prosperity is in Christ alone, without him we can do nothing. Abide in Him and you can do anything and everything! Be that tree with deep strong roots. When adversity strikes, your enemies will wonder how you are still able to stand. But because you are deeply rooted in the word, you are able to advance through Christ. Remain rooted by that stream of water and you will prosper.
Faults of Flesh
Depression is something that can seem impossible to escape from, but it is a lie that our flesh can accept as defeat. Is it not only as big and terrible as long as we empower it? Cannot our God mend and heal even the smallest fractures in our hearts? (Psalms 147:3) That’s what breaks depression’s grip, the power of prayer and faith in our God the Father. So we ask in prayer to understand, to receive happiness, or to just feel better. (Matt 21:22) But we need not just ask because we are told that he hears us. We ask by faith because we know He hears us. (James 1:6) We know because of His Son that no matter how sinful or broken we are, that He saves gracefully by faith. (Romans 4:13-25)
I like to imagine myself surrounded by nothingness. And not even the nothingness that we would find in the dessert for example, but just absolutely nothing. And in that nothing there is Christ. I survive. I am fed. I am breathing. I am simply working. But why is it that I don’t talk of my need for air, food, compassion, love, or rest? When does breathing, walking, seeing or even living here on this earth come close to the need of God? Why would I dare to compare when I know God’s promises to be true? Because Christ is all I will EVER need, He is the one and only NEED above all else, the need that will provide for all. (Philippians 4:4-7, Philippians 4:19)
Of the dark things of this earth we will find depression, anxiety, disease, etc., but knowing by faith that all I need is Christ is what will save me. I choose to live by faith even though I cannot always see. (2 Cor. 5:7) He will save me because I am in His hand. (John 10:28) I don’t need the promises of this earth, because I have the promises of our God. So those earthly ideas, thoughts, or creatures that fuel the earthly lies of depression and many other faults among us become weakened. But, if we find ourselves feeling sunk and lost after 1 day of peace and then a coming 3 days of sadness, we are clearly falling short aren’t we? Is it because I need to change my job, to go see my amazing girlfriend, or just sleep because I’m exhausted? I suppose that could help when feeling overtaken by depression. But actions, just like “good deeds,” are meaningless without faith in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So through the darkness I am cautious of this temporary earth, and I know what is to come. (2 Cor. 4:18) James 1:2-4 – Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete.
James goes on to tell us that if we do not know what to do, ASK GOD and wisdom will be given, But ASK IN FAITH. (Matt. 22:37) What or who saves and will save is Christ by true faith and prayer. (Acts 4:12, Matt 21:22)\And I find myself here on my knees again. Caught up in grace like an avalanche. Nothing compares to this love. Burning in my heart. Savior and Friend. Breathing Your life into my heart. Your word is the lamp unto my path. Forever I’m humbled by Your love. Take my life. Take all that I am. With all that I am I will love You. Take my heart. Take all that I have. Jesus how I adore You. – Like An Avalanche by Hillsong United
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” –Philippians 4:4
Sometimes in life it is difficult for us to find joy. During my first two years of college I have had many instances like that. Moments where it feels like everything is falling apart, moments where I couldn’t find the strength to go to class, moments where I was so overwhelmed by stress that all I could do is just lie in bed all day, and much, much more. During those times I found it quite difficult to find happiness or joy in life.
One time last semester (Spring 2016), I was having a pretty bad time. I was having one of those moments that I talked about above. I felt miserable and just sorry for myself. I was reading my Bible one night preparing for the Bible study that I co-led in Jones Hall and as I was flipping through Philippians, this verse caught my eye.
It was one of those things that when I read it, I felt like God was speaking directly to me. Here I was all miserable and stuff and all of a sudden this verse says “Rejoice in the Lord always.” I thought to myself, “Why am I not rejoicing in the Lord right now? Why am I setting around feeling sorry for myself when I have Christ with me?”
After I read that verse, I realized that I have plenty of reasons to rejoice. I have a loving family, a great campus ministry, a great group of friends, and that I have the privilege to attend the college of my dreams. God has blessed me so much and I need to be thankful for that every day. Sure life can stink sometimes, but something I tell myself is “it could be worse.” And yes, it really could be worse.
So when life gets hard, quit focusing on all the negative things and start focusing on all the great things the Lord has blessed you with and REJOICE!
Are you trusting in yourself or God? Matthew 5: 1-5 NKJV
I think over this summer God really wanted me to hear something out of Matthew 5. I have read it in my devotionals, and between Sunday school, church, and missionaries visiting, I think I have heard a Matthew 5 message five or six times. Each time I get something new out of it and I hope that you do as well. First, you should realize that in this period of history Judea was filled with many problems. With a tyrannical military government, outrageous taxes and terrorists convinced that anything spiritual is useless, the things Jesus was doing were radical. Jesus had been healing many people and preaching more and more. He is well known and multitudes follow him. Jesus sees another multitude and goes up a mountain to preach to them, the beatitudes are the first thing taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Some people may say that Jesus only taught these things to his disciples, but I think that His teaching was to the entire multitude R. (Matt 7:28-29).
As I read this passage for the first time I was thinking, “How in the world does any of this make sense because it is all contradicting itself.” In verse three it says “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, so you are Blessed, which basically means extremely happy, when you are poor in spirit?
How does that work? Well, Jesus is not talking about physical things, he is not saying you are poor in money, you are not a weak little person who can’t stand up for anything. He is saying you are empty of yourself. Because, you cannot be filled with the Spirit of God without first empting yourself. This is an important thing to understand as a follower of Christ. When God is in your heart, He is the one who gives you strength and makes you happy, not yourself.
Then He goes on to say in verse four, “Blessed”, or Happy Happy, “are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” What? How is mourning going to make me happy? When Jesus is telling you to mourn here, it is not mourning over something like a loss, it is mourning in yourself. Once you let God into your life, you realize how filthy and terrible of a person you really are. I know this is hard to hear, but the Bible says there is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10). Personally, I realize this all the time. Every time I slip into temptation or catch myself in a bad thought, or when a word slips I realize that I need God, and without Him I would be nothing. But, God Loves you anyway. He knows all your sins and still loves you so much and wants to have a relationship with you. He is there to comfort you in this mourning as the verse said. I encourage you to see yourself as God sees you, then empty yourself and allow God to be your strength. These last two verses really opened my eyes to who I need to be, but not nearly as much as verse five, “Blessed are the Meek for they shall inherit the earth”. When I first heard this I really did not know what meek meant, some Bibles say ‘gentle’ but this is kind of a weak comparison to me. I’m not bashing your version of the Bible if yours says this, but here is what meek means: Meek – (having or showing a quiet and gentle nature: not wanting to fight or argue with other people – enduring injury with patience and without resentment. It is having the power to retaliate but choosing not to.) This may feel like you are a weak person, which is what I thought at first to, but you are actually stronger. Meekness realizes that God is your strength and that he will strengthen you. Meekness also considers every insult or chastisement and does not immediately retaliate with another harsh word. Really think about it. If someone tells you that you are doing something wrong really ask yourself, Is this wrong? Is this thing I am doing part of Gods will? Now, I am not saying everything that is told to you is wright or that every person that insult you has the right to do it but what I am saying is to consider what they are saying before you react. I could go on and on giving different examples and better explaining what meekness is but what you kneed to know is that meekness is a choice, it is not something that is going to just happen overnight. Being poor in spirit, morning, and meekness all seem to show weakness but really you are stronger when you allow God to work threw you. You never know who you will be able to help, or heart with your actions. I encourage you to look into the bible deeper after reading this and discover more on what the scriptures say. Remember that God is for you if you are seeking him, and that he has a plan for your life R. (Romans 8:28) Stay strong and trust the lord.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28- 30
I believe that the true heart of Jesus can be clearly seen through this verse. It wasn’t until last year at beach reach that my friend kindly pointed out the truth in these sentences. For me, in my struggle against sin, I often find myself in a very wrong mindset; one in which I try to earn God’s favor and love, but unsure if I will receive them. This way of thinking only brings anxiety, uncertainty, distrust, fear, bondage, and an ever questioning mind. This is not the way that Christians should live. In fact, Christ died so that we could live in freedom from this.
In these verses, Jesus makes a clear promise to us: “come and I will give you rest”. The beautiful truth about this is that it is so simple. In just a few words, Jesus explains the gospel in clear and compelling way. In fact, all that is required of us is to run to Jesus! There is not a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” to enter into his grace, nor does he expect that we clean ourselves before returning to him. He gives us his grace because he desires to do so, not because of anything we have done. This free gift that is not dependent on us, but on him, should free us from the bondage of our self-reliant mindset. In verse 29, the character of Jesus is reassuring to someone, who, like myself doubts. Here, plainly written for us is a beautiful mystery. Jesus, the God of the universe is kind and gentle to undeserving sinners! He is not looking for fault, but wants us to learn how to receive rest and his easy yoke. What a message of peace and joy!
If you struggle with doubting grace, or any sin, remember that our God is in the business of making broken, miserable people whole and perfect. This amazing grace is completely sufficient for you and was accomplished through the finished work of Jesus’ sacrifice! Take heart because the Lord loves and cares for you. Stand on these promises! Indeed, he desires that we learn to receive mercy and grace in him alone.
In all this, Isaiah 55: 6-7 holds true: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Trusting God with all your heart
There was once a time in my life where I felt like I had to take care of everything myself. Like any obstacle that was placed in front of me was one that I had to take on alone. During this time, I struggled with issues such as self-worth and anxiety. I thought I was alone in this feeling; however, as I have learned in the past couple of years is that everyone goes through a period in their life where they feel lost and alone. This isn’t because we don’t turn to others or God when we have problems, but rather because it’s within our nature to feel as if we need to do things on our own. We grow up with the sense that if we have to ask for help then we are a burden to other people. This natural instinct also contributes to the fact that most people fear the future. If a person feels as if they are alone and can’t complete the tasks that are laid out in front of them, then they most likely feel as if their future will ultimately be a failure.
You may now be asking yourself “ok, so my human nature is to not rely on or trust in others. What do I do about it?” This is where we look to scripture. There are multiple verses in the bible that God states he has a plan for everyone and that the things that happen in our life are intended to strengthen us rather than break us down. However, no verse describes how much we are supposed to trust in God quite like Proverbs 3:5, which states “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight (NIV)” God is telling us that we must not rely on our knowledge of the world and what we think we know of the future. Instead we must fully trust that he is working in our life and that ultimately his plan for you will only lead you closer to him. The verse tells us to not only trust in him, but also to acknowledge him in every part of our life. This doesn’t mean that we should only come to God when we are experiencing hardship, but also when we are at the peak of our happiness.
So what should we do with the knowledge that we should have full faith in God? Firstly, we should pray about everything in our lives. The good and the bad. Secondly, as we go through the day actively seek God and see where he is working in our lives.
Before you finish this devotional I want you to look into your life and examine it thoroughly. What parts of your life do you have full faith in God? What parts do you not have faith? How do you plan to change the areas of your life where you aren’t trusting God? Are there any parts of your day where you aren’t acknowledging God? Is there any part of your life that you see God working? Are you actively seeking God?
If we ask ourselves these questions and change our lives in order to rely on God, there won’t be a challenge or an obstacle that comes our way that we won’t be able to overcome. Whether that be something mental like self-worth issues or something physical like someone leaving your life.
Help My Unbelief Mark 9:19-24
19 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has la spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
As followers of Christ, we regularly find ourselves falling into is the trap of doubting the power of Christ to be there for us. We forget how our intimate relationship with Him can help us and how much He has been there for us in the past. When we find that our lives are filled with trouble and we come upon disappointment and failure, it can be hard to believe that God cares about our well-being or happiness.
It is perfectly natural to feel this way and even some of the most influential and famous Christian leaders throughout history have suffered doubts about God’s providence and existence. Martin Luther, the great reformer, once said “for more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.” C.S Lewis, the 20th century’s foremost Christian apologist, was a self-proclaimed atheist for most of his young life and actively ran from God. Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher of the 19th century, assured Christians that “I think, when a man says, ‘I never doubt’, it is quite time for us to doubt him, it is quite time for us to begin to say, ‘ah, poor soul, I am afraid you are not on the road at all, for if you were, you would see so many things in yourself, and so much glory in Christ more than you deserve, that you would be so much ashamed of yourself, as even to say, ‘it is too good to be true’.”
As we mature in our faith, we NEED to ask ourselves tough questions. Challenges to our faith ought to be accepted with joy because those challenges offer us a glorious opportunity to grow in our understanding of Christ. When we doubt, we should turn to scripture, pastors, Godly friends, apologetic arguments, and Christian reading that deal with the questions that we have. These things will help us grow. However, if when we doubt we turn to the world for answers to our doubts, we will only become more confused and doubtful. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those in your church or ministry when you are questioning your faith, the people you will find there will be the most capable of relating to your problems.
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor a precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, Gospel of the Grace of God.
When you value something you hold it tight and protect it. You don’t want anything to happen to it. Likewise our lives are much the same way we get caught up in a routine or a lifestyle. We get comfortable in our lives and we don’t want anything to change. Then when something needs to change we worry about it, fearful of how the change will affect our lives. Our lives in Christ should be lived running after the Lord trusting where he leads us. Knowing that wherever he calls us it is to labor for him. We walk in peace knowing that the Lord is in control, and that His name is to be glorified wherever we go. Because of Him we have purpose and meaning in our life. We were saved by the Lord, to serve the Lord. When you realize what you were saved from, eternal without God, everything is put into perspective. Your outlook changes because you know how undeserving you are. In Hebrews 11 you read about servants who served the Lord, all of them served by faith. In obedience they trusted Him that when He said go, they went when, and when he said stay, they stayed. That’s how we need to live waiting on the Lord to call us and when he does we go not fearing what is ahead or what could happen. We trust in the Lord and rest in His promises knowing that whether; we quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, be made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, pay for college, make a lot of money, or suffer mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment or be poor college students. We walk in faith not knowing of what is ahead but trusting the one that led us there.
Listening to the Lord Calling
Two and a half years ago I was at another university. Four years ago I heard that I wasn’t supposed to be there. It took me a year and a half to finally listen.
I got too caught up with everything around me. Everyone in my life was telling me I should be an engineer. My family all expected me to go to Oklahoma State and be an honor student. So I listened but after a year God was telling me to leave. The family pressure was still there, and I started trying to justify staying by telling myself that my family wouldn’t be wrong. I heard the Lord but refused to listen.
Life started crumbling apart and I would cry out to the Lord and wonder if he was listening. It was always me that wasn’t listening. I was completely broken down and after a year and a half I finally realized that listening to Christ was the only thing I needed to do to fix my life.
Jesus Christ can be the place to find every bit of joy and comfort we ever need but in order for him to be that we must give up all our lives for him. He must be the absolute foundation we base our lives on. With Christ as a foundation anything in the world can be handled with prayer. We can’t just hear what Christ has to to say, we have to listen and obey. He will allow us to stand taj in every hardship we come along.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2-3
When I think of the word faith, I always go back to this verse because it shows where my faith stems from. Jesus Christ is the founder of my faith. The reason that I can believe the word of God and apply it to my life is because Jesus has enabled me to walk by faith. When we hear the word faith, sometimes it can seem like we are walking blind but in fact we are walking in assurance and hope because our faith is not based on ourselves and how much faith we can muster up but is dependent on Jesus who has given us faith. Jesus did not die against his will but as the verse says he had joy in enduring the cross. Jesus joyfully endured being beaten, nails driven into his body and dying on the cross. If we as followers of Jesus doubt walking by faith then we are disregarding what Jesus did on the cross. As followers of Jesus he calls us to walk by faith in the Son of God who loved us and died for us (Gal. 2:20). So, our faith again is not based on us and how much we can trust ourselves and our abilities but our faith is based on Jesus who died and was raised for us and has given us the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8).
There is a story I want to end with which I heard while I was in Central Asia. I and some other students were helping a local pastor clean some stuff up in his basement because he was robbed and when the police came they said they could not investigate because the basement was cluttered and they were afraid there might be a bomb hidden amongst everything. That is just part of the story of what this brother in Christ is enduring. He then tells us a story of a man who acted like he wanted to be apart of his church but was really spying on him and was watching every move he made. He told us that this man was part of a ring of men who were planning on murdering him and his wife. He told us that the police caught him before he could go through with it but is about to be out of prison in the next couple of years. He told us he lost 15 ibs. during this time because he was so anxious. However, through all this he was reminded of Jesus and what he endured on the cross for him. This pastor has and is enduring with joy for the sake of the gospel because he knows that one day he will be with Jesus forever in heaven and his faith will become sight. The American missionaries call this man a “navy seal of sharing the gospel.” This is not because this pastor is not afraid or anxious but because his faith is in Jesus, the founder and perfecter of his faith. We have the same faith this pastor does and can have the same confidence he does because our confidence is in Jesus Christ who loves us and has forgiven us of all our sin and we are now enabled to walk by faith in Jesus.
Hebrews 10:24-25, Joshua 1:9, 2 Chronicles 7:14
When I picked to go to WT I had no intentions of staying. I didn’t know what my purpose was or why the Lord had placed me where He had. I knew that since I am a social person the Greek system would be a great place for me to be, but I also needed a place where I could figure out if I truly was a Christian and what having a heart like Christ truly meant. I first starting coming to the BSM because what can I say, the boys are good looking, Buddy is awesome, and it was an uplifting environment but why was I really there? The first few weeks of school were super busy for me, I had just gotten into Chi Omega, I was campaigning for freshman leadership president of the BSM, and I was trying to recreate myself into someone everyone would like. The greatest blessing I could have received last year was being voted freshman president because that meant I was to meet with Buddy one-on-one once a week to have him pour into me spiritually and to make me think. I finally decided to start fully pursuing my faith and my mentor Brittney taught me how to go about that and how to dig into His word. After spending time journaling and growing in His word I began feel a change in how I was living. No longer was I going to the BSM to find a husband or to be someone I wasn’t. I was going to focus on my faith and my relationship with Christ. My whole life I had the idea that I couldn’t mess up or the Lord wouldn’t love me anymore. That wasn’t what my parents or my church had taught me, but it was something I had engraved in my heart on my own and it was causing me to not fully accept Christ and it put a halt towards understanding His Grace. On October 14th at 2:00 in the afternoon during my meeting with Buddy I officially accepted Christ into my heart after learning that I was loved unconditionally and forgiven no matter what. Ever since that day I have been on fire to serve others and share His word. I have learned that you can never get involved in too much when it comes to growing,sharing, and bonding over your faith and also that saying yes to everything can be a good thing. The Lord will never throw more at you than you can handle and He will always have your back and place people in your life to help you accomplish what He has called you to do. My second semester I became Chi Omega Chaplin, was BSM freshman leadership president, volunteered at Amarillo Young Life, lead Greeks for Christ, started along with my Big, Ashley, a Panhellenic Bible study, got my first job, made a 3.8 in all sophomore classes as a freshman, and still ate dinner with my family on Sunday’ nights. The only reason I tell you all of that is to show you how the Lord follows through when He leads you to do many different things. There was no way I could have done all of those things throughout the week without guidance from the Lord and my willingness to be ready, set, and go. A few of the things that might help you this year like they did me are to listen to what the Lord is telling you to do because you can never say yes too many times when it comes to serving the Lord, and to be ready for Him to tell you to go; meaning read His word and build a relationship with Him so that you can serve Him in everything you do. Meet with mentors, friends, and peers daily to challenge each other and grow because everyone needs a little encouragement every now and then.
Life can be a tricky thing. College life especially can be a tricky thing. Don’t get me wrong it won’t be the hardest part of life, but there is something about this season of life being on your own for the first time facing stresses that you have never encountered before that makes college life unique. College has this way of making you feel like you are out in the middle of the ocean with no life raft and your kicking and flailing just trying to figure out a way back to steady ground. Would it surprise you for me to say we need to be thankful need time? No I’m not going into the “God brings you through hard times to make you stronger.” (Even though that is important.) what I’m saying is what better way to show glory to God in the worship him and even the scary times. You are going to experience so many different things in your 3/4/5 years of WT. it’s easy to feel weighed down by that 88 when you just have to get an A in Chemistry or to feel scared when you don’t know how you’re going to pay for your next tank of gas. It’s easy to feel heartbroken over that high school relationship that didn’t make it to college or to feel alone because you lost the person that meant the most to you shortly before you came to college. Life is scary, but there’s nothing more secure than our salvation in Jesus Christ. When we except Jesus Christ North high and have that relationship with him we learn where true joy comes from. It doesn’t mean that all those fears and anxieties are erased, it means that we have a proper perspective on them. We know that they mean nothing in comparison to the joy of our salvation, and we can come before our heavenly father singing his praises despite what is trying to knock us down in life. Just like David in Psalm 100 we know that we have failed, we know that life is hard, but we know who God is and we can glorify him in that. We aren’t called to live on sturdy ground, we are called to glorify God. Sometimes that looks like someone being able to say “Yes I do miss my dad that passed away” or “Yes I am struggling in maintaining my grades, but that’s okay because I have my Heavenly Father in my life and that’s more than enough.” We are called to praise him with everything you have, despite the circumstances you are facing in life. Psalm 100 continues on to say that “He(God) made us, and we are his.” No matter what we face in this life we still belong to God. That means something. The next time you picture yourself in the middle of the ocean flailing around with no end in sight, bring to mind the words of Psalm 100 and grab onto that life preserver God has had right next to you. And when you take hold of his security sing his praises and glorify him with all you have because his love and faithfulness are never ending. Because no matter what happens in this life you are his.
Wayfaring and Lonely
In this specific passage, Jesus is calling us to Him. Calling us to give him our weight of living and its burdens, for He is ready and willing to take it. He is waiting for us with open arms ready. And in this, Jesus is also promising rest. Rest for our bodies and for our souls. What is amazing about this is that the promises of the Lord are never just empty words or hollow sayings of comfort. They are sure and true and unfailing as His love.
To some, I’m sure this is a common passage. But the weight and implication of these words speaks volumes. There are many emotions that you will feel coming to college and being away from your home. Maybe sadness, happiness, anger. Perhaps even depression. But in this time of your life, you are not alone, literally and metaphorically. Those of us who have made it through our freshman year and even college understand what it’s like. And like the Lord, we want to love you and do life with you.
But most of all, God is the one who truly understands you like no one else can. God understands when you feel such immense joy. For He too feels joy. In Genesis 1, The Lord looked down upon His creation and declared that it was good. The Lord delights in His creation. And most assuredly, He delights in YOU. God also understands when you feel the opposite of joyful, when you are feeling so low or maybe living with pain that seems so unbearable. God knows those feelings as well. He felt pain when His son was being crucified on the cross and because of that, God had to look away because He could not look upon the sin that Jesus bore for us on that day (John 19:17-30).
But what is the yoke? Jesus promised rest, but a yoke is a symbol of work. Jon Bloom describes the yoke of Jesus wonderfully: “In the cross, Jesus takes our inconceivably and unbearably heavy yoke of sin’s condemnation and penalty, and offers us in exchange the easy yoke and light burden of simply trusting him. He does all the work and gives us all the rest. And his work not only fully addresses our sin problem, but also provides the supply of every other need we will ever have(Philippians 4:19)). All we are required to do is trust him!”
Acts 4 (Or just go ahead and read the whole bookJ)
Most of us have a picture in our minds of what a Christian should look like. You may have come from a youth group that gave you guidelines on things to do and not do (ie.. don’t party, don’t have sex, and make sure you listen to your parents). You may have never met someone who is actually a follower of Christ. You may have people in your life who are intimately following Jesus, and passionately live for him. So, which one is right? And what does being a Christian actually mean? Well, I’m glad you asked J The only place we should go to for solid answers on this topic is the Word of God. The Bible is “…breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The book of Acts is the story of Christians and the Church after Jesus was resurrected from the dead. He commanded Christians (aka, the Church), to go and witness about Jesus redeeming a lost world with his own life (Acts 1:8). And they did. They were bold, they were unshakable, they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), they were obedient, and they gave their very lives for Jesus. Yet, they were ORDINARY (Acts 4:13), and still had sin struggles (Acts 15:39). Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many ordinary, common people who have been stoned, beaten, killed, or imprisoned because they would not stop sharing the Gospel of Jesus. Yet, the normal Christian life in Acts is full of joy in Christ, beatings, death, imprisonment, and sharing the Gospel. So, let the book of Acts mess up your idea of normal Christianity. Read through it for yourself, and ask God to completely change your idea of what being a follower of Christ really means. This Christian guy named Paul said “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself… ” (Acts 20:24). Be sure you catch this though…..Jesus made the difference in them “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”(Acts 4:13). Be with Jesus, and watch the transformation He will do.
Is God using your college years to reshape the way you live? The way you see what is normal of Christians?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.-Proverbs 3:5
This verse could be considered a staple verse for the Christian lifestyle. You see it plastered on posters, book marks, and t-shirts throughout Christian book stores. It’s a verse that sounds pretty and makes us feel good. But have you ever asked yourself what is really means to trust the Lord with all your heart?
College is a time unlike any other in your life. It brings many transitions and changes (which I’m sure you know). So many changes happen and you do not know exactly what future looks like. To some, this is exciting and adventurous. For others like me, it is slightly terrifying. During this time, trusting in the Lord becomes more than nice words.
What does it mean to trust in the Lord? According to dictionary definition, to trust means to believe in the reliability, truth, or strength of something or someone or to have faith or confidence in someone. Trust is necessary to following the way of the Lord. There is no way to walk with the Lord without trusting him. You wouldn’t let someone lead you around campus without trusting them, so of course you need to trust the one who you depend on leading you through life. It is vital to have confidence in the words from Romans “if God is for us, who can be against us” when following Christ. You cannot follow Christ and place full confidence in yourself alone. So if our full confidence and faith in the Lord is a vital need, the question “how do we trust in the Lord?” arises. We do not trust in the Lord by simply saying “I trust in the Lord.” Until you stand back and marvel at God for who he is and what he can do, those words are empty. We need to dive into the word and study and see the beauty, majesty, power, sovereignty, and almighty control of the Lord. In the words of John Piper, “we trust God because he is God!”
The next part of these verses calls you to trust like this with all of your heart. It does not say trust with part of your heart, or with your mind, or through the words you say. It says to trust the Lord with every aspect of your heart and your life. This means letting go everything your heart has a hold of and giving them to the Lord. This might mean surrendering your desire to control everything about a relationship you are in, or putting whether or not you are in a relationship into God’s hands. This might mean giving up anxiousness over grades and finances (believe me I know how hard this can be). This especially applies to college students who struggle with knowing what their future looks like. We just have to look at who our almighty creator God is and know that when he says trust in me with all of your heart, He’s got this.
The last part of verse five hits home for me. It says do not lean on your own understanding. At first, this seems to come across as nice advice, but at second glance, this comes across as more of a command. A command that would do everyone a lot of good to follow. If you think about it, not leaning on your own understanding goes hand-in-hand with trusting the Lord. When we trust in the almighty God of the infinite universe, we cannot trust in or lean on our own finite understanding. In fact, when it comes to relying on my knowledge and control or relying on the knowledge and control of the all-knowing and all-powerful God, I’m going to choose God.
I know that all of this is easier said than done. Trusting the Lord sounds sweet and restful (and it is), but it is not easy to release our desire for control of what happens to us or our plans for the future. Life is messy, relationships do not work the way you want, sometimes family is hard to get along with, it seems like finances are never going to stretch far enough to cover classes, work is hard and draining, sometimes classes are harder than expected, and sometimes within seconds your entire plan for the future can change. In those moments, it is easy to simply recite those easy words “trust in the Lord,” but instead let’s stand in awe of who God is and trust him for that, let’s give our whole hearts over to him holding onto nothing, and let’s rely on his understanding and control of our lives.
1 Peter 3:15
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
The true spiritual test of a believer can usually be revealed in the presence of an unbeliever. While living in a busy, hectic, scattered, rushed, and cruel world, we as Christians can even fall into doubting the existence of a good God, because goodness just seems to be hidden in places we are not comfortable looking. Sometimes it seems hard to stand up for what we believe in, especially if we have our own doubts. I find it true that standing for nothing can lead to falling for everything. So what is it that you stand for, and are you steadfast and firm in it?
The importance of standing firm in your faith cannot be stressed enough to followers of Christ (Eph. 6:11). Faith is something that can easily be tested, and those who are not prepared to endure persecution, will struggle to hold the hope that God has so lovingly promised. This leads to lack of trust and a decline in the faith, that promises to save and bring us peace and joy. As you go about your daily walk on this earth, you will experience persecution from those who are trapped in sin and refusing to accept the key that Christ offers for freedom. We are called to handle these tough encounters in two parts.
The first part is in preparation and the second is in love. The word “preparation” carries it’s own weight in hard work and time. And “love” carries it’s own weight in emotional training and seeing in new perspectives. Therefore, in order to be prepared the Christ way, you should seek wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and the heart that Christ himself has for those who do not understand the glory and power of God, and His grace in our salvation. We must desire to be transformed, and to be made holy, just as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16) knowing that God has equipped us with all that we need (2 Pet. 1:3-11).
Sin— Jeremiah 17:9-10, Isaiah 64:6-7, Galatians 5:19-21, Romans 3:23
Redemption— John 11:25, Ephesians 1:3-10, Hebrews 4:15-16, Rom 8:31-39
I have a Favorite Sin.
I want so badly to hate it, and sometimes I do. When I see its effects on the people I love, when I’m granted an objective view of its effects on my own heart, when I remember how utterly contrary to the gospel it is—those are the times it brings me to my knees. But on most days, any average, busy day, I ignore it. Not only that, I tend to keep it under the radar, taking care to subtly stoke its flame. It’s the sin of self-absorption.
There are flashier sins out there, and I’ve plenty of those to repent of too. But my bent to only seeing the world as relative to me—what I think, what I need, what I hope, what I believe—has single-handedly caused more collateral damage than most of those others put together. It is the sin I’ve used to put off my friends, glossing over their hurts and hard spots in favor of redirecting their eyes to my own. It is the sin I’ve used to not love my neighbors, ignoring instead of listening, choosing indifference over engagement. It is the sin I’ve used to quench the Holy Spirit, looking past conviction and clutching harder to my idols.
These aren’t just phrases written down. These are real choices made in real relationships with real people—people I’ve hurt in large and small ways when I cling to the shards of my shattered self instead of embracing the life Christ calls me to. There are wounds I can’t mend, moments I can’t get back, words I can’t rewind. My sin is deep. My heart aches to think of the vastness of things done and left undone.
Scripture says the Lord examines our hearts. Every ounce of our sins are known fully to Him. And our holy God, knowing every single bit of our sin, must give “to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). And He did. But Christ intervened, taking the Father’s holy wrath on Himself.
When Christ went to the cross, He wore the dirty rags of my attempts at righteousness, the stench of my selfishness, the weight of my blatant refusal to worship my Creator with all that I am. He suffered, not because God the Father is cruel, but because my sin was heinous and merited punishment. He bled, not because He was weak but because I am. He died, not because they executed Him, but because a sacrifice was required. When Christ went to the cross, He left nothing undone.
I hate my sin. And I hate that I don’t always hate my sin. I am broken, not in a sweet, sentimental, sing-songy way, but in a real, painful, and pain-inducing way. I am broken in a way that often breaks the people around me. I am broken in a way that should, logically speaking, separate me from a holy God.
But Christ’s death is not a legend, not a story we tell to sober us into false humility or ankle-deep love. No, Christ’s death is true. His death was full, complete. Our debt has been paid by Jesus’ death, and our hope has been eternally sealed by His resurrection. I weep with sorrow for my sin. I weep with joy for my redemption. And nothing, not even myself and my sin, will ever separate me from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35).
The night before I moved into the dorm my freshman year, I made a color-coordinated checklist of all the things I needed to get done in the next few years of my life. My plan for college was to get in, get a degree, and get out so I could find a good job and have my life together. However, a plan written the night before freshman move-in is rarely solid. The plan I’d laid for myself, even though it was doable and reasonable, was based on what I expected my life to look like, not what it would look like for me to be chasing Jesus.
Because the foundation of my life strategy was centered on the wrong thing, my checklist and careful planning began to look a little questionable around midterms that first semester. I began to wonder if I could get a degree at all, much less in a reasonable amount of time. I questioned the major I’d chosen. For someone who struggles with picking a cereal for the next week, deciding on a major and a career path was intense. I would become so fixated on everything that had the potential to be mishandled that I’d forget what had already been managed perfectly.
Psalm 103:1-5 is just a few bullets of God’s checklist of what He’s done for His children. I recommend that you go read the whole chapter because Spurgeon said it’s basically a condensed Bible inside the Bible, and it could almost replace the church’s hymnals. Spurgeon didn’t joke around, so go read the whole chapter. Verses 4 and 5 are particularly important to my point here because not only has God forgiven your sins and pulled you from the pit, He’s crowning you with love and satisfying you with good things and loving you perfectly because you are His.
When you keep reading the chapter, it goes on to describe God’s love for His children (it reaches from infinity to infinity), and then when you come back around to think about maybe changing your major or dropping a class or failing an exam, of course it matters to Him because he loves you to little bits and pieces, but when your focus is not your to-do list but His what’s-done list, it’s much easier to not only chase Jesus, but to trust Him to lead you in big decisions like your declared major and the little disasters like failed tests.
One of my prayers in the last few years has been that God would teach my soul to praise Him, that the me—who temporarily lives in my clumsy, over-caffeinated, sinful body—would be able to chime in with the angels and hosts and the rest of creation in verses 20-21, and bring glory to Him. When the only box on my checklist is to praise God for what He’s done in me and through me, the rest of my life plan will be shown to me as needed, and it won’t be me making the list anymore, it will be me glorifying Him through His list.
John 7 – woman caught in adultery
There is something to be said about the grace of God. In John 7, Jesus is faced with a situation involving a woman caught in adultery. She was about to be stoned and knew that her fate was sealed. But, Jesus did something unexpected. He offered forgiveness and grace where the law only offered condemnation. We expect to receive the worst of the rewards for our actions. We expect to receive only condemnation, because that is the love that we can offer. But, God doesn’t offer only condemnation. In fact, there’s no condemnation in Christ once we have been adopted into His family (Rom 8:1). This is essentially how God has revealed His grace to me with scriptures added in to give foundation for each point.
You think you understand the result
You think you know what’s going to happen
But until you experience the death of your child as David, (2Sam11)
Until you experience the sorrow in another’s eyes,
Until you know that what you’ve done has completely changed the walk of another, You don’t.
There’s no consolation There’s no “moving on”
The pain doesn’t subside It doesn’t just get easier to bear
You may forget
And, for a time, you’re happy,
But something reminds you of who you are and what you’ve done.
You’ve hurt someone.
You abandoned God.
There’s no way He’ll love you.
He won’t hug you back.
There’s no way you’ll ever get back into His graces.
We’ve all been there.
We’ve been enthralled by the lies told by Satan himself. (1Pet5:8) [maybe some more here]
They’re so alluring.
They sound like truth. (Rev12:9)
It makes sense…
Honestly, if you asked anyone on the street they would probably agree… (Ps1:1; Prov12:26; Jn14:26; Ps109:2-4)
But God, He’s not just anyone.
He’s not just some guy who makes statements based off of a twisted moral code we call “Law.”
He doesn’t make judgements based on whether or not you love Him enough
Or whether or not you decide to follow Him today (Gal2:16&21; Rom8:3; Heb4:15;
He just…. (1Tim1:15-16) …Loves (Rom8:1)
Yes, He corrects, and holy crap, yeah it hurts, (Is61:12; Heb12:5-6) But broken bones heal, and they’re stronger than before. (James2:14)
You’ve learned. You’ve grown.
You’ve begun to, really, love. (Job5:17)
Now, you’re running after what makes a difference
Correction: WHO makes a difference (1Jn1:9; Is55:6).