Category Archives: Theology

Labor in Vain

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.
Psalms 127:1 NASB

Every effort, every plan is meaningless unless the Lord is behind it doing the work. If He has other plans, our efforts fail. But He is always working for those He loves, even when they are sleeping.

God takes care of us, builds our lives, gives us children, feeds us, protects us regardless of our efforts.

Our efforts, our plans need to be born of the will of the Lord. And regardless of our actions, plans, or lack thereof, we must remember and trust that God is taking care of us, our churches, our families.

When we forget this truth, we try to do things on our own that we shouldn’t – we become self-sufficient. We don’t trust God to take care of us – we lack faith. We become fatalistic, blind to the fact that the blessings in our lives are the work of God.

But the truth is, we can’t take care of ourselves. We need someone to take care of us. So trust that He will.

Pray this way:

God, please give me faith to trust You in all things, to rely on You to provide for my needs and the needs of my family and my ministry, to give me wisdom and the guidance of Your Holy Spirit (and the faith to trust that wisdom and guidance) in everything that I do. Lord, help me always to seek You and Your kingdom first, so that my work is never in vain, but comes from You.

By His grace, He has provided for our greatest need, and He provides the faith to trust and seek Him for all our endeavors.

Have faith and humility before God. Don’t labor in vain.

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The Good of the Church

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:9

David sought the good of Jerusalem because within it was the tabernacle, the place which the presence of God Himself inhabited.

We should seek the good of the Church because God Himself inhabits her. We should seek the good of our communities because the Church – God’s people and the very vessel of His presence – resides in them.

God cares about peace and unity within His church and within our cities. He expects from His children reverence for the Church because it is the body and bride of Christ. It is the instrument of His redemption and authority in the world.

The Church should be a source of gladness for us because it is the gathering of His people for His glory.

For the sake of God, we must seek the peace, unity, prosperity of the Church. For the sake of the church, we should seek the peace and prosperity of our community and the world.

Sometimes, we struggle to respect and love the Church. We forget, because of her many shortcomings – and because of our many shortcomings – that she is the instrument of God’s work, power, glory, authority, and redemption in this world. She is the vessel in which His presence resides.

She belongs to Christ and should be loved and respected as His body and bride.

We resent the church when we are hurt by her. We lose hope for her when she or a part of her (especially her human leadership) fails. We separate her completely from the world, though she exists in it for its good.
I should remember, too, that as a member and leader in the Church, I have a need for all her members to seek the peace, unity, and prosperity of the Church.

Let’s pray this way:

God renew my love for the universal Church and for my church, because Your presence resides in her. Give me a love for my community because Your church resides in her. Give me a love for the world because You love the world and placed Your Church in it for its good.

Imagine if there were no resentment, anger, hatred toward the Church in your heart or mine ever again. Because she is the body of Christ, we’d work tirelessly for her good and the good of the communities and the world in which our churches reside.

The Light of the Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

The word of God provides guidance and wisdom in a dark, fallen world.

God’s word is righteous – it teaches righteousness. His word promises revival, renewal when we suffer, and He is faithful to keep that promise. He will teach His law, His word, to those who genuinely seek its wisdom. His word is a source of joy, and it has the power to shape who we are.

The psalmist has committed himself forever to God’s word. He sees it as his heritage, his inheritance, the source of his identity. It is a source of joy for him. He clings to it even when his life is in danger, even when he suffers.

I love God’s word, but I’m not sure that my love for it has such depth. If it did, I’d be more obedient. My heart would be more inclined to the things of God. I would be more like Christ and less like the broken sinner I was without Him.

Perhaps you could say the same.

Cling to God’s word as the psalmist does. Let it – let God – define our identity, shape us. Find our joy in it. Cling to it even in suffering and trial.

We too often trust in our own wisdom. When times are difficult, we don’t even look to God’s word. We look to our own wisdom or we give in to fear. We have no direction morally or spiritually. But the truth is that we need God’s guidance because the world is dark and evil. We need His word to show us where the path of righteousness is. We can’t see it on our own.

We need to rely on God’s word, to cling to it in good times and trials, to find our joy and our identity in it. Teach it to our children. Commit ourselves to obey it. Praise Him, seek Him, and wait for Him to teach us His ways.

If we love God’s word as deeply as the psalmist, we will be more obedient. Our hearts will be more inclined to the things of God. We will be more like Christ and less like the broken sinners we were without Him.

By His grace, all of this is possible.

The Good Gift

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? – Luke 11:13

If an earthly father who is corrupted by sin is capable of giving his child good things, things the child needs, is not God – who is holy, righteous, perfect – infinitely more capable of giving us His Holy Spirit when we ask?

God gives us what we need, specifically the Holy Spirit. He wants us to ask, and He wants us to ask with right motivations from a place of humility and seeking His will first. He is provider. He loves us.

We must ask rightly, with right motives, in humility, not selfishly. We must ask for God’s will. When we ask rightly, God gives us what we request. When we ask rightly, we ask for the right things.

We often don’t ask rightly – with right motives, unselfishly, humbly. We often don’t ask persistently.

When we are asking wrongly, we start to believe that God doesn’t answer prayers, but in truth, the fault lies with us. We don’t trust Him. We don’t ask persistently. We become self-sufficient or we give up on being Christlike.

God help us to walk in Your Spirit, to show us Your glory, to transform us into the image of Christ.

The Burden of the Gospel

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  – Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus calls all those who are tired and burdened – perhaps by the law, the teaching of the religious establishment of His day –  to Himself to take on a different burden, one that He gives in gentleness and humility, one that is light and easy to carry, one that gives rest to the soul. Perhaps the burden of the gospel, salvation by grace and not works.

The way He teaches us to follow is not without cost. In fact it is costs everything, but it is a burden easy to carry. Under the Law, we carry the load, but under the gospel, we trust God to carry it.

Jesus brought the gospel, the New Covenant, to us gently and humbly, not arrogantly as the teachers of the law did. God did not reveal the truth to the “wise” or “intelligent,” those who thought they knew already. He revealed the truth to “infants” who knew they did not know and had no choice but to rely on Him (v. 25). He reveals Himself to whom He chooses.

Are we so arrogant as to think we already know? Have we become like the teachers of the Law? We must be like the infant, completely dependent on Him – that is His burden, the yoke He offers. It gives rest to the soul because the soul depends on Him entirely.

We must must receive it gently and humbly just as Jesus gives it. Let us never think of ourselves as wise or intelligent but be as the infant with no capacity to care for ourselves.

Have you had the arrogance of the teachers of the Law? Do you trust Him completely?

Trust Jesus. Put down the burden of works, which is heavy and exhausting, and take up the burden of the gospel that is easy and light and gives rest to the soul.

Our works cannot – will not – make us right with Him. When we depend on our works, we aren’t trusting in Him for salvation, but ourselves. Do you think that He doesn’t accept you unless you do all the right things? The truth is that He accepts you when you come to Him knowing that you can’t do all the right things.

We need to be humble. We need to admit that we can’t take care of ourselves and stop trying to. We need to trust Him, to put down the burden of caring for ourselves and take up the easy yoke of the gospel.

God please take away our arrogance, our self-sufficiency, our self-centeredness. Give us the humility, even the wisdom, to know that we can’t take care of ourselves. Only You can. Help us to trust You, to trust Your gospel.

Deeper Change

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 10:37-39

The one who loves even that which is most precious – father, mother, son, or daughter – more than one loves Christ, one who loves even one’s own life more than one loves Christ is not worthy of Christ. You will certainly lose your life, but if you lose it for Christ’s sake, you will find true life.

God expects everything from us. He expects us love Him with everything we are. Anything less than this is as though we do not love Him at all. No one and nothing is worthy of greater love than He is. He should be the most important thing in our lives – more significant to us than our very lives.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we love many people, many things more than we love Christ. We have not taken up our crosses.

We have to submit all of ourselves to Him – every relationship, every possession, every desire, every thought, every breath. Otherwise, we’re not worthy of Him.

He calls me to love Him with everything, and He is worthy of everything.

We think that we’re okay living a life of mediocre faith, but until we have taken up our crosses and followed Him – walked with Him regardless of the risk – we’re not worthy of Him. We must become like Him, and that should be enough for us (v. 25).

We are not capable of this. We need great grace: His grace.

Many of us, even those of us who have believed for most of our lives, have never been like this, never come close. We want to be, but, oh God, there must be deep change in us. Deeper change than we may even be aware of.

 

Freed from the Darkness

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
– Luke 1:68

Bless the Lord! Praise Him because He has come to us and redeemed us, saved us.

God saves. He is merciful. He forgives sins. He guides us into the way of peace. God is faithful to keep his promises. Salvation in Christ comes from God and is the fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham. He, and He only, accomplishes salvation.

We need salvation. We need His mercy and faithfulness and forgiveness. We need His guidance. Before salvation, we sat “in darkness and the shadow of death (v. 79).” Now, He is guiding us on the way of peace.

We should praise Him. Bless Him. He has accomplished salvation. He has kept His promise to Israel and the nations through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

We, His people, are no longer in darkness, under the oppression of death, because He has been faithful to save us by grace through faith in Christ.

We often do not trust in His faithfulness. We often still live like we’re in darkness. We do not give Him the praise and blessing due Him.

We live in darkness though we have been freed from it by God’s faithfulness, mercy, grace, forgiveness. We need Him to guide us away from the darkness, the oppression of sin and death.

It is by His grace we are forgiven – our sin, our old nature is crucified with Him – and it is by His grace that we are raised with Him new creatures, in His image, free from darkness and the shadow of death.

God, You have already faithfully, mercifully done the work required to free us from darkness and the shadow of death. We don’t want to sit in it anymore. Please change us so that we “might serve [You] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before [You] all [our] days (v. 74-75).”