Category Archives: Jesus

We Need God’s Discipline

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Psalm 119:75

I know, God, that if you cause me suffering, it is because you judge righteously, it is because You are faithful.

God created us. We know He is just, righteous, and faithful. We know He is merciful. We know He is kind to us because He loves us. We know He is compassionate. We know His word is worth delighting in and meditating on. We know He takes away our shame. Understanding of His word comes from Him. We know He comforts us in our suffering. When our suffering is the result of discipline, do we turn to Him or away?

We need to remember what we already know.

You and I, we are His to do with as He pleases because He created us. But He is faithful. Therefore I don’t need to be afraid unless I stray from His word.

Remember what you already know. Even if you suffer because God is disciplining you, He still loves, comforts, shows mercy and compassion, removes shame, and provides community and acceptance among His people when we return to obedience to His word.

When He disciplines us, do we turn back or do we blame Him for our suffering as though He doesn’t have the right? That’s just further rebellion against Him.

Don’t resent God’s discipline. Somehow, we have to get past anger against Him for our suffering and learn to accept it joyfully.

The book of Hebrews tells us “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11 NASB)

Whether the suffering is because of His discipline or because we are His followers in a fallen world, He will use it to make us more like Christ.

We need to delight in, meditate on, be obedient to His word. We need His mercy, love, and compassion, as well as the community and acceptance of His church.

Obedience, understanding, and faith are the direct results of His grace. Discipline is also a result of His grace. Anything that God uses to transform me into the image of Christ is a direct result of the grace of Christ.

We need God’s discipline.

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Cling to His Word

Your statutes are my songs In the house of my pilgrimage.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:54‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God’s Law is a great source of delight and deep joy in this transitory life.

God Himself is the source of hope. His word renews us, gives us life and strength. His word is worth holding on to through trials. His word brings comfort. His word brings delight. In this life, trust in God – obedience to His word – is the one thing we possess that has true value.

Hope, comfort, joy, delight are available to us in the word of God, in obedience to Him, because His word is His revelation of Himself. We must cling to it in suffering and happiness. We must remember Him and His word no matter our circumstance. He will sustain us.

Remember Him. Cling to His word in through good and bad. He will sustain us.

This life is transitory, temporary, and we too often cling to transitory, temporary things rather than the eternal God and His eternal word. We find delight in things that are not worth finding delight in. We look for delight, comfort, hope, renewal, strength in things that just can’t offer it. Instead, we should cling to God, obey and delight in His word.

We need the hope, comfort, renewal, strength, delight, sustenance, stability that only come from God. We need His grace to change our hearts so that we trust in Him, obey His word, find our delight in Him.

If we allow this truth to bloom and live in us, we won’t be so attached to things. We will have more faith, true faith. We will lead our families and ministries, live our lives from a foundation of true, eternal wisdom rather than the transitory wisdom of the world.

What Makes Prayer Powerful

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
James 5:17

We must pray because the prayers of righteous people, by the grace of God, have power to accomplish things. Elijah is our example: he was a man like us, and when he prayed that it would not rain, it didn’t rain for 3 and a half years! Then he prayed again, and it rained.

God is the power behind our prayers. Therefore, rightness with Him is a requirement. He wants us to pray. (It is commanded, expected here.) He wants to do things for us – to grant our requests, to heal us, to forgive us, to restore us – in the context of a right relationship with Him.

If we truly seek to follow Christ, our prayers will have power. Righteousness – rightness with God – ensures that when we pray, we are asking for what God wills. Elijah asked for something outrageous and got it because his will – his request – was aligned with God’s will. This is what makes prayer powerful.

God will answer the prayers of those who are right with Him. He will answer prayers in dramatic ways when those prayers – when those praying – are aligned with His will.

He heals. He forgives. He restores.

Have you lacked faith in God’s answering of prayers? Maybe you haven’t always asked in line with His will. Maybe you have not been righteous. Maybe you have not prayed faithfully as we are commanded and expected by God to do.

He does not answer prayers that are prayed from a place of unrighteousness – when we are not right with Him, when our prayers are not aligned with His will.

We need to pray faithfully and expectantly from a place of rightness with Him.

Ask God to make you righteous, to make you one whose prayers hold power like Elijah’s.

It’s by His grace that He answers prayer at all, for none of us is righteous on his or her own, but only by His grace. Therefore, the power of a righteous man’s prayer ultimately comes from God by His grace.

To be a righteous man, to be a man whose prayers hold power, I need Christ’s grace.

The Least of These

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:40‬ ‭NASB
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When we believers care for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner – all those in need – it is as though we are doing these things for Jesus. We show that we are believers, that our faith is real. Those who live this way are true Christ followers. Those who don’t are not.He cares for the needy. He cares about our physical needs. He cares for the physical needs of His creatures because He loves them. He expects us to reflect His character by loving and caring for the physical needs of others as well. These are the works of true faith.

Do you reflect God’s love like this? Do you have time for the needy? Do you want to?

When we serve others, sacrifice for others, love others, we serve and sacrifice for and love Jesus.

We become comfortable and content with our self-centeredness. We so often live lives of isolation that are focused entirely on “me and mine,” but our lives should not be this way. We desperately need to care for the material and physical needs of others as outward evidence of a real faith.

Pray something like this:

God, I know that I need to change. I know that I need to release this self-centeredness and live outside myself. I have told You honestly that I want to be more like Christ. But in this way, honestly, I don’t, and I don’t know how to be different. God, I need You just to give me the desire to care for the needy, for anyone outside my immediate, close circle.

 

Without His grace, this cannot happen in us, but He wants to transform us.

My Favorite Christmas Albums – 2016

Back in 2010, I wrote about my favorite Christmas songs and albums. (You can check it out here.)

Six years is long enough! So, today, I’m updating you on some of my favorite Christmas albums. I’d love to hear what your favorites are, so leave some comments! And even better, I put together a Spotify playlist so you can enjoy them too.

  1. Christmas… From the Realms of Glory by Bebo Norman – Bebo Norman may be retired, but he remains one of the absolute best songwriters in CCM (just give a listen to the cut “Deeper Still” from his album Ten Thousand Days). If you listened to Bebo back in his indie days, you may understand this: Christmas… From the Realms of Glory sounds like it came from his heart more than anything else I’ve heard from him.  With simple instrumentation – acoustic guitar, piano, melodica, hammer dulcimer – the record is a masterpiece of warm, introspective, Americana pop. Highlights: “Born to Die,” “Come and Worship,” “The Rebel Jesus”
  2. Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson – Being in ministry can get tough sometimes. The stress can be overwhelming, especially at Christmas time. A few years ago, I hit one of those walls, and this album got me through it. Peterson and his collaborators – among them Jill Phillips, Andrew Osenga, and Ben Shive – weave a folk-pop tapestry that brings the story of Scripture to life – from creation to Christmas. From the beautiful “Labor of Love” to the silly “Matthew’s Begats,” this is a special album. Highlights: “Labor of Love,” “Deliver Us,” “Matthew’s Begats”
  3. Advent Christmas EP, Vol. 2 by Future of Forestry – So you’re probably noticing a theme among my favorite Christmas albums – serenity. I love the mellow, organic, ambient sounds and Eric Owyoung’s honest voice. Those are the things that make this EP one of the best. Highlight: “The Earth Stood Still”
  4. Silver City by Falling Up – If you remember Falling Up from their early days, you might think, “That doesn’t really sound like Jud’s kind of band.” And you’d be right. But over the years their sound evolved into something more experimental and ambient. That led to their 2013 album Silver City, a collection of inventively arranged Christmas songs and a few originals. There’s energy, contemplation, cool melodies, Jesus, and little bit of sci-fi. Highlights: “Emanuel,” “Sugar Plum Fairy,” “The Little Robot”
  5. Christmas by Michael W. Smith – High-church, classical Christmas album with classic Smitty touches, and it’s pretty flippin’ amazing. Still one of my favorites. Highlights: “First Snowfall,” “All Is Well,” “Gloria”

Christmas album honorable mention: Christmastime by Michael W. Smith, Music of Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman, Home for Christmas by Amy Grant

The absolute worst Christmas song ever: still “Grown Up Christmas List.”

Christ’s True Greatness

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

If we seek greatness in the body of Christ, we must be servants just as He was. Though He was and is the Lord of all and could rightfully expect to be served, He came into this world instead to serve His Father and humanity by giving His life to redeem us. Greatness in God’s kingdom is the exact opposite of greatness in this world. He proves His own greatness by making the ultimate sacrifice for our deepest need.

Jesus is humble. He loves us, which He showed by putting our greatest need before His own comfort, before even His own rights. He expects the same, love, humility, service from His children.

Like the sons of Zebedee (v. 20-23), our natural inclination is to put self first. I may not seek a position of power or authority quite like they did, but I still put myself first in many other ways. My mindset must be changed to that of Christ: my purpose – the purpose of all followers of Christ – is to serve, to submit, to love God and others.

We are called to follow the ultimate example: Christ Himself. He committed the ultimate act of service on the cross, thus proving His greatness.

He commands us to serve just as He did, and we to often don’t, putting ourselves first.

When we forget what true greatness is – the greatness Jesus showed us – the result is pride, self-centeredness, clinging to our “rights.”

But we needed to be saved, and Christ committed the ultimate act of service for us to save us. We need to follow His example. We need to count Him and others as more important than ourselves. We need to serve, to submit to, to love God and our brothers and sisters.

Join me in praying that God will take away our pride, that He give us His humility, a heart to serve others and not just please ourselves.

We’re not capable of being completely selfless, of always submitting, of always serving and loving others – or even God Himself. Our nature must be changed. We must be transformed into the image of Christ, and only He can do this in us.

Your life and mine would then be lives of greatness as God defines it, not as man does.

Really Christ’s

For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother. – Matthew 12:50

Whoever is a true follower of Christ, whoever is obedient to the will of God, that person is closer to Jesus than biological or earthly family.

Relationship with Christ is defined by obedience to the will of God the Father, and obedience is the result of heart condition. Obedience is more important to God than heritage. God desires our obedience.

Closeness to Christ requires obedience. Without obedience, we will not be claimed as His. True relationship with Christ, true salvation, is evidenced by obedience to the will of God the Father. If we aren’t obedient to the will of the Father, we’re not really Christ’s.

God wants closeness with us. He wants our obedience, and our obedience is the result of His saving work, of His changing our hearts to want to obey, to want intimacy with Him.

We are not saved by works, but works are evidence of our salvation. When we forget this truth, we treat Jesus like fire insurance. We forget that what He really desires is all of us. If we have given all of ourselves to Him, then we will obey Him.