Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Animal Traps




Have you ever seen one of those animal traps with the interlocking teeth? Not the homemade kind that boys in the backyard use to catch squirrels, but the nasty, professional ones. These traps are spring-loaded and are so bad that some animals will gnaw their own leg off and leave it behind just to escape the trap.

Unlike Diego, I don’t have the ability to speak to animals. But if I could communicate with them, and I could tell them which paths to go down to avoid the traps, they would probably take my advice. They would be able to walk with confidence without having to look out for snares along the way.

As Christians, we always need to be vigilant because our adversary is out to trap us. But at the same time, when we are following the Lord’s path, we can still walk with confidence. Proverbs 3:26 says, “For the Lord will be your confidence, and keep your foot from being caught.”

There are really just two paths in life: the right way and the wrong way. The wrong way is filled with snares, and if that is the way we choose to live life, then we can expect to be trapped and hurt.

But if we choose the right path then we can expect something different. Again, I am not saying that bad things will not happen, or that Satan will not trip us up. But what I am saying is that we can walk with confidence knowing that we are going God’s way. A proverb is not 1000% true, but is a good rule of thumb. This rule of thumb says that if we are where we should not be, with people we should not be with, doing something we should not be doing, then we can expect a bad outcome.

But if we are where we should be, with people we should be with, doing what we should be doing, then we can expect a good outcome. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Throne of Grace




Most people know what it is like to feel timid around another person. The girl you had a crush on in elementary school made you stutter and forget your name. Being around “Mr. Popular” made you slightly unsure of yourself. Now the presence of your boss makes you speak a little quieter, and perhaps with more thought before each sentence.

For most of us there will always be that person who intimidates us. But God does not intend to be one of those people. He does not picture our relationship as being one based on fear and intimidation. In Hebrews 4:16 we are told that we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

We can boldly approach God’s throne with confidence in the fact that He wants to hear from us. I don’t think we need to go overboard with this and make Jesus our “homeboy,” as some have done; we need to maintain a healthy respect for who He is and what He has done for us.

But God wants to have a relationship with us. Just as a child has no problem telling his parents what he wants for Christmas, so we should have no problem making our requests known unto God. That is not to say that God is a divine Santa or Genie, existing only to grant our wishes; but in the context of this verse, God is there when we need to ask for grace and mercy.

And we can ask for them boldly. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peace



The word peace is frequently used in our culture: turn on the news and you hear about peace in the Middle East; tune into pop culture and the peace symbol is displayed on jackets and jeans; talk to a hippie and you will hear him say “peace out.” With all this talk about peace, why don’t we have peace?

Jesus even promised peace. He told His disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

If Jesus promised peace, then why do we still strive for it? What went wrong?

There are three answers to that question. For starters, most people don’t know Jesus, so they don’t know peace. Secondly, there is sin in this cursed world, and sin will always produce violence and victims.

But also we must realize that we do not define peace the same way that Jesus did. We think of peace in terms of a cease-fire, treaty, or some intervention. Try as we might, we cannot make someone peaceful. Try as our government might, we cannot make a people peaceful. Peace is personal. Peace, as Jesus promised, is strength for the difficult times.

Jesus promised that in this world we will continue to have tribulation, but through Him we can have peace. That does not mean that believing in Jesus will magically make all hardships go away, but it does mean that Jesus will walk us through the hardships, even strengthening us along the way.

Earlier in John 14 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be our comforter, and later Paul would write that a fruit that the Spirit would produce in the Christian life is peace. Are you going through a difficult time? Then pray to the God of peace, who bestows a “peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).” 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cheerful Givers




Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and this time of year it is common to use sermons, devotions, and blogs to ask the audience, “What are you thankful for?” While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, as I have done that myself many times, I want to take a different approach. Instead of asking what you are thankful for, I wonder how you are showing your gratitude.

When we focus being thankful (which is important!), we are focusing on what we have been blessed with, but we also need to focus on what we are giving away.

Paul told the Corinthian Christians that “each one of you should give, not begrudgingly, nor of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7).” Giving is not something we should be forced into to please someone else, like parents or pastors; it should be done to please the Lord, because He loves it, and to please others, because He loves them.

The word cheerful comes from the same word that we translate as hilarious. This doesn’t mean that giving is funny, but that our giving should come from a happy heart. It pleases God when it pleases us to give.

We should give of our tithe (and offerings) to the church, as well as to those outside the church who are in need. We should give of our time in the church by teaching, singing, serving, or driving, and we should invest time outside the church in the lives of others. We should give of our talents to disciple believers in the church and to make the world outside the church a better place.

We also need to give the gospel. Take the good news of Jesus’ salvation to the lost and dying world around you. If you are giving of your tithe, time, and talents, than the world will be quicker to receive your talking about Jesus.

Most importantly, if you have not yet been saved by God, then you can cheerfully give Him your heart. All who call out to Him as Lord can have their sins forgiven, and God will cheerfully give you salvation. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hope




We are less than a week from the presidential (and all the other) elections, and one word that we often hear associated with elections is hope.

“I hope he wins.”

“I hope he is re-elected.”

“I hope she is a good governor.”

“I hope he can get us out of this mess.”

“I hope she can balance the budget.”

We are filled with hope about the outcomes, as well as with the people involved. It is ok to have hope, but we need to remember that, ultimately, presidents, pastors, parents, politicians, and people in general will let us down at some point. Promises, no matter how well intentioned, get broken.

Others put their hope in themselves. I can do better. I’ll get it right next time. I’m getting the hang of this. I have a good work ethic. Still, though, hoping in ourselves will only end in disappointment when we eventually fail ourselves.

There is a small, often neglected book in the Old Testament called Lamentations. In the book’s third chapter, verse twenty-six, we read, “It is good that a person should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” This verse shows us a better place to invest our hope.

In a world where people will fail us and we will fail ourselves, there is One who will never let us down, and His name is Jesus. This goes beyond fixing our country or bettering our situation, for Jesus offers us “the salvation of the Lord.”

Who or what are you hoping in today? Is your hope in some other person—maybe the fact that your parents or grandparents were Christians? Is your hope in yourself—the fact that you are a pretty good person? When it comes to God’s salvation, no person is sufficient to save you.

Place your hope in Jesus, the sinless Son of God who did for you what you could never do for yourself. Depend on His sacrifice on the cross, not the sins you have sacrificed. Trust in His goodness, not your good deeds.

Have you experienced the salvation of the Lord? I hope so.