Choosing to Do Good

This month we’ve talked about living. I believe that God put each of us on this earth with our very own purpose, none of us are purpose-less. Some of us will work together more than others to make that purpose come to fruition, while others of us will operate more independently. The purpose God has for each of us is to share His message of love with our world using our gifts and talents. Some of us will share God’s message of love in really spiritual ways like being a pastor or spiritual writer. Others of us will spend time loving the world as gardeners and ecologists. And still others of us will be teachers to share love with the next generation. Just because we’re not all pastors and have clearly spiritual jobs doesn’t mean that we aren’t living our purpose or sharing God’s message of love.

The only way that we can go against God’s purpose for our lives is if we don’t live the message of love and if we encourage people in living cheating, lying, stealing, damaging lives. If we spend our time thinking up ways to mess people up or intentionally put hoops to jump through and obstacles in their path to make them work harder or try to make them fail we’re definitively not living lives that honor God.

Instead we should be looking for ways to encourage each other and help each other fulfill our purposes. We should be helping make a difference for God in the world and making the world a better place for the next generation if God sees fit to let us all live that long. Choose to do good for God this week.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

Only with God’s Grace

Grace is a topic that always fascinates me.  It’s one I’ve written many devotionals and blog posts on as well as taught many youth group lessons.  It’s one of those topics that never fully reveals itself, and there’s always something new to learn.  What is grace anyway?  A really simple definition is “God’s mercy and goodness to us.”  It doesn’t really describe the whole package, but it’s a start.

Hebrews 4:16 says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”

Grace is that unknown factor, that last second touchdown, that surprisingly answerable question on a math test, that free drink from the person in front of you in line, that delay on a deadline, that forgiveness when none is deserved.  It can’t be predicted or expected, but without it hope would have much less impact or relevance.  Not to mention that each of us need mercy and blessings in our lives almost on a daily basis.

The awesome thing is that God is there ready for us when we need help.  Maybe we won’t get the exact answer we were looking for or be freed of consequences, but whenever we need that peace that passes all understanding it’s waiting for us just a prayer away.  We all have those dark-night-of-the-soul days too where the only thing that can pull us out is a touch from God.  The next time you’ve screwed up, or just don’t know what to do, don’t worry, you can get through this challenge too, just lean on God’s grace.

Conquering Challenges

Some days it seems that around every corner there’s a challenge or obstacle waiting for you.  As people of faith, we’re blessed to have encouragement and support when we face these challenges, but we’re not immune to them.

Even Jesus who was fully divine (and fully human) while on earth experienced challenges, like the temptation in the wilderness, and even death on a cross.  He was yelled at, laughed at and treated as someone a few cards short of a full deck.  It’s not easy, but Hebrews 12:3 encourages us to “Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.”

When we face challenges in our day to day lives, it’s OK to feel frustrated and challenged.  Jesus did too.  But, He didn’t let those things get in His way for too long.  As Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Whatever challenges, trials, obstacles or even opportunities that you’re facing this week, know that you’re not facing them alone.  Jesus is right there, ready to support you in whatever way you need.

Faith Beyond Life

Today we’re taking a look at one of the most mysterious figures in the Bible, yet maybe one of the most well known: Enoch.  His story can be found in Genesis 5, but our verses today come from Hebrews 11:

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”

What Genesis tells us is that Enoch lived for 365 years and in those years his walk was so close with God, he had so much faith in God, that God didn’t let him die but took him to heaven before he died. WOW!  That’s faith!

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us too much about him; we know he had kids and we know he was very close with God, but that’s about it.  Yet I believe we can learn a couple of things from this man.

1-his faith made him special.  You are no different. If you have faith in others and in God, you’re special too.

2-faith is an experience.  Enoch’s walk of faith was short (comparatively speaking), yet it was such an experience that he had a different ending to his story than others of his time.

3-faith is best when in relationship.  Faith isn’t something you do all by yourself, there has to be another something or someone in the equation.  Even when we’re talking about having faith in yourself, if you have faith in yourself you’re working to build yourself up and support yourself.

4-faith is full of surprises.  I’ll bet that Enoch never guessed he would leave Earth as soon as he did.  You’ll never be able to guess the blessings that your faith can help you experience. There’s nothing like being part of someone’s healing or encouraging them in their faith journey.  But it’s something you wouldn’t expect until you’ve become a person of faith.

I don’t know if Enoch was perfect, or if the big factor in his life was his strength of faith.  But he shows that it’s possible for any ordinary man (or woman) to have faith that pleases God.  What does Enoch’s story reveal to you about faith?  Share your thoughts below.

God-Pleasing Faith

“And it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6a

God loves that you do good things for others, He loves that you join groups and work together in the community to make good things happen. But nothing makes Him happier than when you’re doing it because you’re doing it for Him.

So, why does God want you to have faith?

Faith is the basis of the relationship you do or don’t have with God.  Without the faith, you can’t have a relationship with God.  You can do all the good things in the world and be as nice as humanly possible to people, but without faith something will be missing.

What God wants more than anything is a relationship with you.

You know that warm fuzzy feeling your special someone gives you, or how excited your kids get when you spend time with them or let them do something special?  That’s what God feels when you connect with Him-and it makes Him happy.

So, why please God in the first place?

I try to please God because I’ve seen the evidence of Him in the world, and in my life.  And just like in any other, human, relationship, I want to do my part.  Just like I want my partner, friends, family, coworkers and anyone else I’m in a relationship to enjoy being in a relationship with me, I want God to be glad He’s in a relationship with me too.

What can you do to better improve the relationships in your life?

Celebrating Christmas: Love

Happy Holidays!  I’m so excited to have entered the Christmas season!  It’s so much fun to pick out presents for friends and family and celebrate life and hope at parties. This month, going along with the season, we’ll be taking a look at the word “love”.

Hebrews 10:24 says:
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

I think the best thing about love is that it keeps on giving.  True love is abundant and overflows into the lives of those around you.  The holidays season is all about giving gifts (no matter what you’re celebrating), and within the very meaning of giving gifts is spreading joy and sharing with each other.

It’s not about how much or what you can get but giving what you can give.

Love works that way too.  God gave us His son not because we would give ourselves to Him, but because he loves us.  Love creates countless opportunities to encourage each other and share some hope with others.  If you’re acting in love, you’ll do things and say things without expecting something similar in return, but usually your love will be reciprocated.

Whenever I think of how love works I’m reminded of the TV commercial about how one act of kindness is seen by another person and then they go and do an act of kindness, which in turn is seen by someone else who does their own act of kindness.  And the cycle continues.

No matter how much money you have, the best gift you can give this Christmas is the gift of love. Who can you share love with this season?

Change and God

This month we’re talking about change.  In a bit of a reversal, I want to talk about what, or rather who, doesn’t change: God.

Genesis 31:5 says “But the God of my father hasn’t changed; he’s still with me.”

Numbers 23:19 says “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

Psalm 55:19 says “God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.”

Hebrews 6:17-18a says “God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind.  So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.”

James 1:17 “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

You’re going to face a lot of changes, and your relationship and how you interact with God may change, but God himself does not change.  To me, this means that when I’m going through a new chapter in my life, I can rely on God being God, being that strong tower, that patient Father, giving friend, and wise and trustworthy soul.  I’ll never run out of His guidance or advice, He’ll always be there for me to lean on or learn from.  And He’ll always send me joyful reminders that He’s with me.

What does it mean to you that God doesn’t change?  Share your thoughts and reflections below.