As we read Revelation 22:10-15 we see a similar tone to that of Habakkuk. Things will be off for awhile, but Jesus has a plan to make all things new. While Jesus gave a message of hope, there is still the trials we must face in the meantime. This gives us a choice. We can live for ourselves or we can live for him. This always is the choice we have. Adam and Eve had the same choice, and their environment was considerably better than hours. For sure we are without excuse.
The questions arises why God would allow history to go on. But think of it this way: If God didn't let history go one, he wouldn't have a relationship with you. The cost of letting man have freedom of choice is they can reject God and the evil that flows from that. The cost of allowing such insanity to happen is a price God is willing to pay to have a relationship with you. You mean so much to him that he allows crazy to happen. Let us not waist our choice by living for ourselves, but let us embrace the incredible love that Jesus gave us. Let us choose to be good. Let us choose to be holy. After all, in the end, we win!
As we read James 1:2-4, the word for endurance varies. ESV states steadfastness. This is a lost art and one that is not too popular to speak about. While the Christian life ends in victory, peace, and security, in the meantime the call is for enduring hardship. We too often run from life being hard and unfair instead of embracing it. Of accepting victimhood instead of overwhelming conquerors that Romans 8 speaks of. We must build up our endurance muscle.
When we fight against building up endurance, we actually fight against God. This is not exactly a winning proposition. 1) God wins. 2) God uses endurance building circumstances to refine and make you and better you. Ultimately it is a faith exercise of trusting God's plan and the outcomes He desires. It is embracing hardship as a challenge to glorify God. So seek to do good while all things are contrary. Or as Habakkuk writes, the just shall live by faith.
Nehemiah 1:3 changed things. Nehemiah heard of a problem and he acted. He heard the report of brownness. Prayed biblically according to what God revealed that he was doing and would do. He then acted. His reputation. His wellbeing. His life. All put on the line for the sake of the mission set before him. Nehemiah acted.
We can either act or react. We can emote or we can accomplish. Too often we stop at emotion and do not move on to the next phase of action. We must process our emotions as Nehemiah did. (Often having a counselor in this is helpful!) Then Nehemiah acted. He chose to do something. Then he planned. And he faced hardship, and success, and failure, and repentance. But we read Nehemiah for guidance because he chose to act.
Often our hard times are a call to action. Emote. Act. Achieve. Throughout all of this Nehemiah was a mind of Prayer. He was a man of God's Word. But he didn't hide behind God, he got out there and worked with God for the mission set before him. See you mission and accomplish it.
Daniel 6:27 is an incredible statement of who God is by one who had not relationship with God. A king who would then fulfill the promise prophesied by Isaiah decades prior. Daniel lived a life that was hard and not fair. A foreigner, taken by force from his home, devout follower of God when no one else was save three friends of his. Plotted against, praying towards home, his people a despised minority, and punished by God for their lack of faith. From a child to an old man, hardship and challenge was his life. Now, as a faithful servant to a godless empire he was once again plotted against. As an old man he was thrown into the lions den because he did not give up on God.
We often want great things said about our faith, but are we willing to take the heat to make that happen? What price are you willing to pay to see other people acknowledge and have a relationship with God? Daniel endured and a beautiful thing happened as a result. What is your choice?
As we read Psalm 139 we see we are not a mistake and that God has a plan for us. That is easy to accept unless of course God's plan seems to not coincide with ours. This is a real and often occurring circumstance. What is interesting with Psalm 139 is that as God has a plan, the Psalmist also asks God to see if there is any wicked way within him. Why ask God to search you when he already has a plan for you? This gets more complicated when he call to slay the wicked is given.
We have multiple things going on here: A Good God, the problem evil, God's sovereignty, and human choice. They all coexist simultaniously in this psalm. From our perspective the psalm means that we are no accident, but an intentional thought out by God, that God is in control and I have a choice whether to pursue him or not. I also have to deal with the fact that life is hard and not fair. We can truly hate sin and love sinners. And this plan of God is bigger than we can wrap our minds around. A big part of that plan is mercy. Because as we ask God to while out sinners, we also look to wipe out the sin in our own life.
Mercy and repentance balance the equation. BECAUSE God intentionally and purposefully made us, he does not merely wipe out all sinners. He gives a chance. Every day that life is hard and not fair is another chance God grants people to turn to him. People like your neighbors, coworkers, etc.
Take the time to prepare yourself for worship. Reflection and journaling is a key part to having a devotional life.
Read Psalm 24
How did you give God glory this week?
Where do you need God’s strength?
How did you do in following your bottom line for the week?
We often have an excuse for why we cannot do something. (Let's be honest, it's not that we can't do something, we just don't want to.) A big reason people give for not living on mission is the feeling that they're not equipped to tell others about Jesus. This is kind of funny as we ask what would Jesus do. Telling others how to be saved was THE message from Jesus.
Often God planned circumstances will come our way and we think that God is done, the Gospel is over. Luke 24 describes such pity party. Jesus shows up and they have a long conversation. Jesus breaks bread and moves on. Jesus then again appears to his disciples explaining all that had to happen. As we read Luke 24:48-49 we see two things. Jesus says they are to be witnesses. Jesus says they will receive a helper. We learn in Acts the helper is the Holy Spirit. After acts one, when people accept that Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day, they're not only saved, but receive the Holy Spirit.
Successful evangelism is simply taking the initiate to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. If you know Jesus rose from the dead after dying for your sin, you have all you need to be a witness. You have the Gospel. You have the Spirit. What we don't have are excuses.
As we read the great commission at the end of Matthew 28 we see the word GO. Here is how the word GO is used. Back in the 1900's, as kids, we were told by parents that when a parent tells us to jump, we ask how high on our way up. We don't ask and then jump. The great commission is like that. As we are commanded to make disciples, we don't ask where. We GO and let God lead the way. The assumption is that we are already ACTIVE in making disciples. That isn't always the case sadly.
Evangelism is not a for those gifted for evangelism, it is for all. It is a huge reason why the church is here. When Jesus returns and makes all things new, the task of evangelism will be complete. Until then we have much work to do. Our mindset has to be GO. Often we don't realize that our mission field is around us. Our community. The question is not if you're a witness, disciples, missionary. The question is how good and effective are you.
We all have different capacities. Some are snipers that win one on one over time. Others are like nuclear who walk into a city, like Billy Graham, and make a huge impact. The issue isn't to be like Billy, but to be the most effect YOU you can be. So GO! Make disciples.
Acts 1:8 is a failure verse for many of us. When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they were to go out into all the world as witnesses. A witness is one who shares a story about an even they were able to observe or participate in. The success of The Twelve launched a world chaining movement we call church. Church is a group pf people gathered together for the purpose of loving one another, our neighbors, our enemies, while worshiping God and sharing his story.
What is your story? Throughout church history the sentiment is that we also, who believe Jesus died once for all sin and rose again, are witnesses of that story. Not just the story of Jesus rising form the dead, but YOUR story of coming to believe that truth. What Jesus did for us is incredible and should effect every part of our lives. Be willing and desirous to share your story! How?
First, pray that God would give you opportunity to share. I like to call them divine appointments.
Second, write your story down. What was life like before meeting Jesus, how did you meet him, and what are you doing for him since? Share it with someone and rehearse with them. Third, share it!
Ephesians 2:8-9 are failure verses to us. We often use them when we share the Gospel to people. If you've grown up in church you've likely heard verse 10 spoken about. Jesus' gift of dying on the cross for us and in our place, and then rising again on the third day is an amazing gift given to us. This gift is described by the words of grace and faith. Both in verses 8 and 9 are gifts from God. None of us can earn or attain that gift of salvation on our own. Does that mean Christianity is void of works? No!
While we are saved by grace through faith, these gifts from God have an intended purpose. We are not saved BY works, we are saved FOR good works. A mentor of mine said we are "blessed to be be a blessing." God, in his plan for our lives, wishes that we serve and bless others. This is modeled after Jesus who gave himself. The question is, are you walking in the good works that God prepared for you? Life may be hard and not fair, but that does not mean we can't be a blessing to those around us. It is a big reason God saved us. Be a blessing. Work hard at doing good.