Is God for us or against us? Have you ever wrestled with that question? Have you ever walked through a season of your life when it felt to you like you weren't really on God's radar? Maybe you felt overlooked, or possibly even worked against.
As a whole, the message of Scripture clearly reveals that God is for us. We're reminded that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. We're shown that He continually pursues people and invites us to have restored fellowship with Him. Scripture explains to us that the debt of our sin was so deep and offensive it could only be paid for by God Himself, so Jesus came to this earth and bore our sin so our debt could ultimately be cancelled.
But we're also told multiple times in Scripture that God opposes the proud and that He gives grace to the humble. Pride is a form of self-worship and self-glory. Pride reflects the heart and the intent of Satan, not the heart of Christ. Pride leads to stumbling and ultimately destruction.
Jesus frequently encountered proud people who thought more of themselves than they thought of Him. How did He deal with them? What can we learn from His encounters with them? Is Jesus for us or is He against us?
Several months ago, a good friend sent me a message that was meant to be helpful. He offered me an unsolicited suggestion related to a hobby of mine that I wasn't really looking for outside input on. I politely thanked him, but also felt a little annoyed with his suggestion. A few hours later, after I had time to digest his message and research his suggestion, I realized he was right. I sent him a second message with a more genuine thank you than the first.
Why is it so difficult for us to receive outside help and recommendations? Could it be that once we make up our mind about something we find the task of remaining teachable too tiresome? Could it be that we sometimes idolize our own opinions and preferences? Could it be that we've developed a hardened heart?
What do we do when we receive instruction, opinion, or correction? Do we hear the messenger or do we "kill" the messenger? What does Scripture teach about this dilemma?
We all have people that are speaking into our lives and influencing us. We all have voices that we're willingly listening to and voices we're intentionally filtering out. Who are those voices for you? Who do you allow to play key roles in your decision making?
For the believer in Jesus Christ, His voice is supposed to be the dominant influence in our lives. The direction He points us in is to be the direction our lives take. But, because of our independent streak or because we might rather listen to our own voice, at times, His voice can be the one we start filtering out instead of being the one we allow to call the shots.
There are multiple places in Scripture where this is demonstrated, but one particular chapter is Luke 20. As we look at this chapter, it might be healthy to ask the question, "Who am I really calling Lord?"
Right when I reached age 13, I started to develop a concern that I carried with me for quite a while. I didn't want to live and think like a child anymore. I wanted to be considered mature, and I started to wrestle with what maturity really looked like for someone at my particular season of life.
Following college, I began pastoring a church, full-time, at the very old age of 21. I kept my age a secret from as many people as I could because I was concerned that if people knew how old I was, they may be less inclined to cooperate with my attempts to lead in the context of the local church.
During my early years of pastoral ministry, I started to notice something fascinating about human nature. As I continued to lead, I was forced to work with all kinds of people, from all different age brackets. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that "age" and "maturity" were not synonyms. I observed that, over time, some people grow old, but not every person becomes mature. I also observed that some people who were rather young displayed a maturity that most would say was beyond their years.
1 Timothy 4 speaks to issues like that. It reveals to us that our social, relational, and spiritual maturity aren't limited by our age. Jesus delights to foster true maturity in His followers regardless of the particular season of life they may currently be in. What are some of the marks of maturity that are demonstrated for us in this passage?
Depending on your personality, you may see your life in this world from a generally positive perspective or possibly a perspective that's somewhat negative or fatalistic. If you tend to buy into the narrative that many voices in our culture have been crafting, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some of us hold to a view that teaches that we're being intentionally held back, disadvantaged, and prevented from reaching our full potential. But from what I see in God's word, that is not the case when it comes to what matters most.
In our walk with Christ, we have been blessed with great advantages. There are blessings we have been granted that testify to God's desire to intervene in our lives. We have been intentionally created, placed where we're located, and granted the privilege of living during this specific era of history. There are people we have been blessed to know and learn from. There are ways in which God has made us strong. And we have been granted access to His throne through faith in Jesus Christ.
What else does His word tell us about the advantages we've been given and how we can make the most of them?
I'm grateful for the people that the Lord has placed in my life. There are many people who have influenced me that I'm grateful to have known. I'm even thankful for people the Lord has brought into my life that I would consider bad examples of life and faith. I have learned and continue to learn from each of them.
We're all imitating our influences to one degree or another. I would contend that in many respects, we may learn more through what we see in and copy from the lives of others than we learn by direct teaching, even though both are valuable.
Who have you been willing and eager to imitate? Who did you imitate 10 years ago? Who are you imitating now? Are the people you imitate helping to point your mind and heart to Christ? Are they giving you a greater glimpse of the mind and motivations of Jesus?
What does God's word tell us about the kind of examples of faith we should be imitating?
The concept of making a sacrifice isn't a foreign concept to most people. In fact, when you observe the ways in which mankind has lived and worshipped over the course of human history, it seems that there is some aspect of human nature that seems to understand that some sort of sacrifice needs to be made in life and worship.
But it also becomes clear that mankind has also been quite misguided about the nature of the sacrifice God has truly required.
What kind of sacrifices are we encouraged to practice and how can they be used to point others to Christ and give them a glimpse of His loving heart?
As a father, I think of the question, "What kind of man do you want to be, raise, or encourage my daughters to marry?," from several different perspectives. I ask myself if I'm the type of man God wants me to be. I ask the Lord for help for my wife and I to raise our sons to be godly men. I have already been praying about the men who will one day get brave and ask permission to marry my daughters.
Is there an answer to this question in the Scriptures? What does God's word tell us about the kind of men he's called us to be, raise, or encourage our daughters to marry?
When you look through the Scriptures, you'll find two different forms of fear mentioned. One kind of fear is healthy and good. The other is a detriment to our life and faith.
The healthy kind of fear that is spoken of in the Scriptures is the "fear of God." When the word fear is being used in that context, it's speaking about "reverence" or "awe." The fear of God is a healthy respect for God that acknowledges His great power and authority. We're encouraged to live in, or practice that kind of fear because it's healthy.
The other kind of fear that's spoken of in Scripture is an unhealthy terror or dread related to people or circumstances that we don't have the ability to control. That's not a healthy fear to live in, because it influences us to forget about God's sovereign ability to work out His will in all kinds of circumstances. That kind of fear produces anxiety in our lives because it makes us think we have to try to bring under control the kind of things that only God can control.
With that in mind, how can we give up the pattern of living with unhealthy fear? What do we need to know and what do we need to practice in order to live a life of faith, not fear?
When was the first time you heard about the concept of adoption? For me, it was during a friend's birthday party in elementary school. I was informed by someone there that one of our friends had been adopted. I didn't know much about what adoption was, but I was told that I wasn't supposed to repeat that information. It was almost as if adoption was something scandalous, when really it's something beautiful.
Adoption is a biblical concept that is spoken well of in the Scriptures. There are four examples of adoption in God's word that stand out to me right away...