Devotional: We are the Clay

“Yet, O Lord, you  are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Observations: God is our father–not only is He the source of all life, but He has a special relationship with His people as our provider, protector, teacher, etc. Comparing God’s people to clay and God to a potter suggests that God molds and shapes us into the people we become. In one way, God created us with our unique personalities, natural talents and inner desires. But He also molds us by the work of His spirit through our restored relationship with Jesus Christ (sanctification). We are God’s handiwork, created by Him for a purpose and we are dependent upon Him to fulfill our purposes in this life. However, we are not devoid of all responsibility for our behaviors and the shape we take. It is our responsibility to respond to God’s call in our lives and to the work of His spirit, at least as much as we are able to in our broken condition.

Application: I will rest in the arms of my heavenly Father, secured by the blood of Christ, remembering that I am the work of His hand that was created for a specific purpose. I will remember that my responsibility is to respond to God’s leading and continually seek out His will daily, though it is Him who actually accomplished His perfect will.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your tremendous love and grace. Thank you also for creating me the way that You did. God, help me to not lose sight of who I  really am in this ever-changing, crazy world. Help me to look to You alone for my worth and value, seeking after Your will above all else. Guide me and mold me into the image of Christ. Amen. 

Devotional: Cast your cares on Him

Scripture: “Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6&7

Observations: God cares for His people so fully and completely that we can confidently cast our anxiety on Him and trust Him to take care of all our needs. However, we must also humble ourselves before the Lord, making ourselves lower and being submissive to His authority and power.

Application: I need to continually remember my proper position before my holy God. I need to make myself lowly before Him, so that I can trust and obey His word and be lifted up in due time accoding to His purposes. Whenever I feel the crushing weight of my fears and anxiety, I will remember who God is and who I am to Him. I will remember that I am a deeply loved child of God. I will humble myself before the Lord and trust Him to take care of all my needs. If I fully trust Him and I am growing in that trust, believing that He is all-powerful and the ultimate sovereign authority, then there should be less and less room in my heart for unhealthy fear and anxiety.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being mighty and powerful and worthy of all my trust and hope. Especially in times of stress and anxiety, help me to remember who You are and that I can trust in You for ALL things. Take away my fears and anxious thoughts, and replace them hope, trust, and faith in You and in Your perfect love. Thank you Lord, for your gift of salvation in Jesus. Strengthen me and prepare me to share Your love and Truth with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be content

Scripture: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

Observation: We can trust God to meet all of our needs because He has promised to continually be with us and provide for us. Therefore, we should be content with what we have as we find rest in His promises. Money and possessions can never really fulfill our needs like God can.

Application: I should not love money or put my trust in it, but I should instead love and trust God, who is the source of all good things. I should have confidence in my Lord, remembering that He loves me dearly, knows all my needs and desires, and has promised to never leave or abandon me. Because of this covenant relationship, I am free to be content with my life–my income, my job, my family, my possessions–if everything is kept in the right perspective as gifts from God to be used to serve others and honor Him. I will continually strive to honor God with the money and possessions I’ve been given, handling them wisely and generously.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being my provider in whom I can always trust. Help me to remember who you are and what you have promised. Help me to keep money, possessions, and my entire life in proper perspective before You. Help me to be content with what I have and to honor You with all that I have and all that I am. Thank you Lord for your grace, your provision, and your incredible gift of eternal life through Jesus. Amen. 

God disciplines His children

Scripture: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10

Observations: Although our fathers discipline us for a short time as children, God disciplines us for life. Because we are disciplined by God, we can be assured that we are His sons and daughters whom He loves. Also, we must be disciplined if we want to share in God’s holiness.

Application: I need to view hardship and difficult life circumstances as discipline from God–looking for opportunities to learn from God even in the most difficult times. I should check my attitude when things don’t go my way and focus my mind on God, remembering that He disciplines those He loves. If I fix my eyes on Jesus (see 12:2) and remember His work on the Cross for me, it will help me to keep my life in proper perspective and see how God may be teaching me.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being good and holy. Thank you that you are a God of tremendous patience and grace. Lord, help me to remember who you are and that I am your child, whom you love. Help me to see you at work even in the worst of circumstances and let me see how you are disciplining me and helping me grow in holiness. Give me patience, Lord, and help me to discern your will in my daily life, honoring you in both good times and bad times. Help me to fix my eyes on my Savior each and every day. Amen. 

What will Jesus’ feet taste like?

Have you ever thought about what Jesus feet will taste like when you get to Heaven? I know, that’s a really weird thing to ask and I’m sure most people have not spent much time pondering this question. However, the other day while I was driving, this odd question popped into my mind. For some reason, thinking about this question brought up strong emotions in me and brought tears to my eyes. Here’s why.

I imagine passing from this life into the next and suddenly being in the presence of Jesus. Standing face-to-face with my Savior, I can feel my knees weaken as I am overwhelmed by His glory, bowing down to worship Him. I can see my hands grasping His ankles as my head lowers to kiss my Lord’s feet. I’m sure I will taste mostly my tears as they stream down my face. They will be tears of overwhelming joy.

You see, I can’t imagine myself coming into the presence of my God and Savior and simply giving Jesus a high-five, fist-bump, or even a “bro-hug” (whatever that means anyway). I consider Jesus my friend, but He is so much more. When I see him I cannot think of a more humble and appropriate response than bowing down before Him in worship and kissing His feet. I know this is all very spiritual talk, but I really do wonder what His feet will taste like. I believe I will actually taste, smell, see, and hear Jesus, along with so many other heavenly, yet tangible things.

When you think about Heaven, do you think mostly about highly spiritual, intangible ideas? Do you think of yourself as weightless in the clouds, playing a harp and singing praise songs constantly? Or maybe you use words and phrases like worship, praise, the presence of the Lord, the throne room of God, a place of no more tears or suffering, pearly gates, etc. to describe the heavenly realm. Personally, I have often imagined myself bowing before Jesus on His throne in a great white room, with a white floor, and walls and a ceiling that seem to have no end. The details are rather vague and I can only recall a few people in the periphery standing by to make sure my name is on the list. But in reality, I think that picture is much closer to a low-budget TV commercial set than it is to Heaven. How is this possible? I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was a child, I grew up going to church and to Bible school and to Bible study and youth group and I even studied religion and the Bible at a college level. So how could I possibly have a narrow and inaccurate view of Heaven? The answer is painfully simple: I have allowed the popular culture around me to influence my ideas of Heaven more than the Bible itself. Maybe you have too. Here’s a quick test:

Think of 3 movies, tv shows, or songs that have something to say about Heaven or the afterlife…

Now think of 3 verses or passages from the Bible that have something to say about Heaven…

If you thought of something for each question, which one was easier?

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my vague, unclear vision of Heaven that makes it out to be a mysterious, dull, and even unattractive place we only talk about when someone we love is dying. Inaccurate and unsettling conclusions about Heaven plague modern Christians, including pastors and other church leaders. Throughout my life, I’ve spent so much time thinking, talking, and worrying about this temporary life that I’ve been missing out on something far greater. It’s so much easier to think about my job, my house, my family, my stuff, my money than it is to focus my mind on heavenly things. After all, I live in this world, not in Heaven. I’ve been in this world my whole life, but I’ve never been to Heaven. It’s also very easy to make excuses as to why I have not had a more complete and accurate understanding of Heaven. The Bible actually has a lot to say about Heaven; we just have to intentionally look for it. It tells us that Heaven is a real place with real tangible, physical attributes. There are multitudes of people there now who have a conscious awareness of what is going on in this world; there will be a great city with streets, buildings, people, and culture. We will eat and drink and work and love as we do now without being subject to the curse of sin and death. The barrier between sinful people and a Holy God will be forever shattered and we will live in the glory of His presence.

Over the next several weeks, I would like to share some thoughts and ideas on Heaven you may not have heard before. I will be drawing from credible sources and will make sure to share them with you. My goal is to get others thinking more deeply about Heaven as I have been lately, as this subtle shift in focus can actually change your life. When Heaven is on my mind, it keeps daily problems in the right perspective; I think more about people and relationships than getting ahead or keeping more for myself. You see, thinking about the afterlife informs our present lives in the here and now. Thinking about what happens when we die does not have to be a dreadful, uncomfortable topic that needs to be avoided. As a matter of fact, many people live their lives more fully after getting a terminal diagnosis because they actually believe they are going to die, so they better get ready. I hope that sharing my thoughts and the ideas of others smarter than me from a Biblically-sound framework will challenge, educate, and encourage you with the hope of Heaven.

QUESTION:

What ideas have you heard or believed about Heaven that came from pop culture (movies, tv shows, music, etc.)? 

Please share your response on Facebook or in the Comments.

The servant grew up before God–a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried–our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him– our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And GOD has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. (Isaiah 53:2-6 MSG)

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." --Jesus (John 14:6 ESV)

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”     –Jesus (John 14:6 ESV)

The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is pretty clearly Jesus Christ. Isn’t it incredible to think that God–the God of the universe, Creator of all things, completely holy,glorious and majestic–came to earth as a man, humble in appearance, status, and circumstances? Not only did he take on the status of a lowly man, but he humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. He willingly gave himself over to suffering and death, though innocent and undeserving, so that we could be cleansed of our sins and inherit eternal life. He died so we could live. He suffered so that we could be saved. By his wounds we are healed. Jesus took the punishment that our sins earned and made a relationship between sinful humans and a Holy God possible. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus–in his death and resurrection. We confess that we are sinners, repent (turn away) from our sins, relying on the gift of the Holy Spirit to do so. Today, whether you have put your hope in Jesus or not, I challenge you to consider the love of God and think deeply about this Jesus who took our punishment, and made us whole. Think about who Jesus really is and what that means for your life. If you aren’t convinced that He is the son of God or just aren’t sure, seek out the truth and don’t stop until you find it. You can either accept Him or reject Him, but you must decide. He is eagerly awaiting your response.

 

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.                      (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NIV) 

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)

Although He was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (Hebrews 5:8-9 ESV)

The Suffering Servant

“Safety is our Top Priority”

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We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

(The Pursuit of God,Tozer, pg 28)

The above words of A.W. Tozer, thought written several decades ago, still ring true today. So often, we try really hard to protect everything we have. With home security systems, car alarms, safes, security guards, and security cameras, we try to protect our stuff, ourselves, and our families. If you have ever worked in construction, manufacturing, or the oil & gas industry, you have been told a thousand times things like “safety is our top priority,” “safety is our number #1 value,” “nothing is too important that it can’t be done safely,” etc, etc. You’ve probably sat through endless training sessions that try to make you “think safety” and you may even have a dozen different ID cards to prove how “safe” and well-trained you are. Even with all this safety talk, there are still accidents and injuries every day of the week. Hopefully not all at one job site, but somewhere every day there are incidents, accidents, injuries and workers comp claims being filed. Car accidents happen constantly, understaffed hospitals are filled with patients, and health and life insurance claims are piling up. The reality or our lives is that that are brief and they are fragile. We will all die–some of us today, some tomorrow–but at some point in our lives we all end up dead. We try not to think about it because it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. We try our best to avoid injury and death at great expense. But no amount of training, security equipment, or crash-testing can change this reality.

What then should we do? “Live life to the fullest,” is what people say. “Chase your dreams,” “love like there’s no tomorrow,” “carpe diem!” Although I agree with some of these cliche sayings, I believe the best possible way to live life is in total surrender to God. I know, that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of fun–go skydiving, rocky-mountain-climbing, bull-riding (Tim McGraw song reference, anyone?). However, I think most would agree that a meaningful life trumps a fun life every time. What Tozer is getting at in the above quotation (and in his entire book) is that we can and should trust God with our lives, including all of our stuff and our relationships. Abraham trusted that God would keep His promises through his son Isaac, and even if Isaac was killed, he trusted that God could raise him from the dead. Abraham believed God, trusted in His character, and let God rule in his heart. He was tested with giving up his son because his love for Isaac had become a sort of idol in his heart. But when tested, he obeyed God and was willing to give up his beloved son for God’s sake. We should follow Abraham’s example. I’m not suggesting cutting firewood and taking our favorite kids up on a mountain. But I am suggesting that we surrender all of our possessions, all of our relationships and loved ones–even our kids–to the Lord.

What does this look like in our daily lives? Spending time alone with God when we could be playing with our kids; giving generously to our church and people in need when we could be saving more or buying more; it may mean adjusting our dreams for our family to include serving God as our top priority; it could mean that we fasten our seatbelts and buy insurance, but we know in our hearts that we could be standing before the Lord at any moment. We should commit everything that is ours and everything that we are to God without fear, because we can trust Him and He is faithful.

What things do you do to keep yourself trusting God with your stuff? With your family?