God Wants A Relationship With You

The Bible is God’s love story to us.

 

Psalms 16:8-11  I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken,
for He is right beside me.  9  No wonder my heart is glad, and I
rejoice. My body rests in safety.  10  For You will not leave my soul
among the dead or allow Your holy one to rot in the grave.  11  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the
pleasures of living with You forever.

Since the beginning of time God has been pursuing relationships, it started in the garden with Adam and Eve we see God enjoying the sacrifice of Abel and the righteous attempt to correct his brother Cain.

It seems that God spent time everyday in the garden with Adam and Eve up until the day that they rebelled against God. Adam and Eve attempted to cover-up their sin but the relationship was different now, they had forfeited eternal life in the garden, their decision changed everything but God didn’t regret making man instead he continued to pursue our heart.

When trouble comes our way we think that God’s opinion of us has changed, we can easily think that our circumstances are a reflection of how much God loves us. We need to look at some of the people that God loved in the Bible, God obviously loved Job, he even bragged about how good he was but he didn’t keep him from experiencing trouble.

Psalms 23:6 Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live
in the house of the LORD forever.

The twenty-third Psalm is a beautiful picture of God’s loving care and provision for man. The good shepherd provides what is best for us, guides us along the path and protects us from danger. We can be a guest in God’s house, he prepares a feast for us and he fills our cup to overflowing but the best part is that the guest at God’s house don’t have to leave.

God did everything to guarantee that I can have a relationship with him, I need to take him up on his offer found in John 3:16, Jesus tells us that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Who, or What, Can be Against Us


“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) How often do we forget that promise? Perhaps it’s not forget in the traditional sense. After all we remember what the words are, and we may even utter them quietly to ourselves, searching for some sort of comfort when things start to get tough, but, when we look around, we have a hard time really and truly grasping not necessarily what it means but how it applies to our current situations. After all, if God is for us, should it really be this hard? Can’t it just be that much easier? Why can’t it be that much simpler than it is?

That’s the struggle though, isn’t it? It doesn’t come from God’s promises but from seeing how it is actually working in our lives. The words, they aren’t all that hard to understand, but how they apply, how they can possibly be true, that’s the real difficulty that we face. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” At times it just seems like pretty much everyone or everything and the burden, it is too much to bear as we search for the purpose and meaning in it all, as we seek the answers to why it has to be the way it is when the we know God is there, but we can’t figure out how He is there.

We’re not the first to face that question. What were the words of the Elisha as the army’s surrounded the city and it seemed as if all had been lost? “‘Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” (2 Kings 6:16) In many senses we can all be like the servant who cried out, seeing the insurmountable odds, “Oh no! My Lord, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15) We don’t necessarily see the army of the living God, standing there in front of us, we don’t necessarily see the miracle of His power and glory between us and our real struggle, our real adversity, because we are so focused on all the ways everything has or can go bad, on all the ways that it has or can go wrong. Yet, what we need to be focused on is faith. After all, if it is truly what is hoped for and yet unseen (Hebrews 11:1) then our salvation and our defense is truly at hand even when it is the least clear to us.

We are reminded by the words of the Psalmist, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) More aptly we should be remember it is not just “What can mere mortals do to me?”, it is also a question of “What can this mere mortal world do to me?” No matter how many times it seems like it is there to knock us down, no matter how many times it may seem like it is there to break us, no matter how often the Devil may come to us, roaring like a lion that is seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8) God is there to heal us, to strengthen us in the love afforded to us by His goodness and mercy. (Psalm 147:3) After all, if He so loved each us, if He so loved the world that He would not even withhold His precious son from us, (John 3:16) letting his precious blood be spilled for us and for our sins then what really will He let touch us, what really will He let destroy us.

Each step of the way, in all that we are and all that we face, God really is there to stand for us. Sometimes it just takes letting go of the things that we think we know, remembering God’s wisdom and understanding surpasses even our own, and letting His invisible hand take hold of us, rising from the places we cannot see to stretch over us to protect us, to ensure that nothing that really and truly can rob us of His peace and comfort if we trust in Him will overtake us. Yes, that is a hard leap of faith to sometimes make when everything seems to be going against us, but then it is a question of how much hope do you truly put in the Lord and do you trust the promises He offers unto you as an undeniable truth for your life.

Take a moment in your day today, look at the struggles and the challenges that are weighing on you. Close your eyes, and search for God’s love for your life. It is there, and it is ready to make you more powerful than you ever thought possible if you just let it. No matter what hardship or difficulty life may offer, they fall if you stand firm in the Lord. It just takes the strength and the power He has already given to you and that you perhaps aren’t yet aware that you have. Then will you rest easy in the blessings of His promises for you.

Want and Need

What we want isn’t always what we need and what we need isn’t always what we want. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons that God teaches us in our lives as we struggle with purpose and meaning, searching for a reason, wondering to ourselves if He is even listening. Sometimes we just, well we have this image in our head of the way things should be or ought to be and it becomes such a prevalent thought that we can’t picture it any other way. Other times it’s that we look around and we can’t seem to understand why it is the way it is when we know it should be different, even if we don’t necessarily know how or why that should be the case.

It’s the question of divine purpose that so often gets to us, that so often weighs us down as we know what we want or how we want it, and yet, as we do, we have a hard time reconciling it to what God knows that we need in our lives. The thing about it is that we’re not even trying to be that terribly difficult, we aren’t trying to make it that much harder, we just want to know why it is the way that it is, we want to know what the plan and the design of it is, and we don’t necessarily get why it has to be the way that it is.

The deepest questions of who we are, and who we need to be, of where we need to be, they aren’t ever questions that come simply or easily. We don’t just become people, we grow into them. Perhaps, along the way or path is changed or altered, it might be that it we are affected, even shaped by the interactions we have with others, sometimes our road is hard, sometimes it is easy, but any way that you look at it, it doesn’t just happen overnight where, one day, we are suddenly who we are at this very moment in our lives. So why would it be any different with a God who knows how we grow, how we evolve as a person, how we learn and we change with time? Why would He make the answers clear to us in a way that He knows would be unclear because it was given without any thought or consideration to who we are and how we became that person?

What God promises us isn’t an easy path, nor a simple one in any way but to our salvation through Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:8) What He does promise is that, through the fires and the floods, through the dangers and the perils, He will be there for us and with us, (Isaiah 43:2) never leaving us or abandoning us. (Joshua 1:5) What He tells us is that what we need, in those times when we question the purpose and the plan of it is all, is trust and patience, because those who trust in the Lord will find His goodness (2 Samuel 7:8) and those who are patient with Him will find their strength and purpose, uplifted in His love. (Isaiah 40:31) This is the wondrous miracle of His hand in our lives even as we find ourselves questioning where He is when we want the most.

Remember, it is not our wanting that exalts us, it is God, our Heavenly Father, and God alone who does that. (Psalm 46:10) It could be, at that moment, we don’t quite get how He is exalting us, but it’s only when we put those feelings behind us, when we let go of them, in the blessings of His hope that He lets us be of one mind with Him, (Romans 15:5) to see as He sees, making more and more apparent the glorious nature of the lessons He is teaching us to become as we need to be as He makes all things possible to us through the power of His grace made perfect in Christ through us. (Philippians 4:13)

Take a moment today, and look at your life, look at what you are struggling with, what is challenging you. Take the time to look at what you have laid at God’s feet, the burdens you still feel weighing on you, and instead of mistaking want for need and putting what you want out there, say to God, “Lord, show me as You will, teach me as You must so I can be as You intend for me to be.” Let go not just of the struggles but of the wants and the desires you have in them, and make it about what the Lord, your blessed Father, intends for you and let Him, in trust, patience and hope, guide you to where you must be.

It is only then that you will find the true path to the peace you are seeking, the only way you will find the true reconciliation of your will with God’s to the glorious ends of the love He has for you as He makes it about you rather than you making it about yourself.

Romans: Sharing with Christ

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We, the adopted children of God, are now officially sons and daughters of the King of Kings.  And what does this mean beyond the fact that we are forgiven of our sins and brought into fellowship with God as part of His family?  It means we get everything.

Everything?  Yes, if we are children of God then we are heirs, just as Jesus Christ is the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).  What’s His is ours.  That’s…the glory and the suffering.

We’re called to more than just living a good life here and now on this earth when we enter into God’s family.  We are given incredible gifts from the Father, but there is more to this life than what we receive.  We have the privilege now of sharing with Christ in His sufferings.

Because we’re children of God, those who aren’t may take offense to our disposition and seek to harm us, whether physically or just emotionally and spiritually.  We may not always be happy all the time because in this world there is evil and injustice that will not be eradicated until Christ returns.  Oh, but when He does, we get to share in His glory.  When that time comes, everything in this life will have been worth it.

Romans: God’s kids

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God

What a precious gift salvation is from the Lord!  Yet even in this wonderful news there is more.  Not only has God saved us and freed us from sin, but He’s adopted us!  He didn’t have to do that for His enemies, and yet He did.

But we all run the risk of falling into doubt, don’t we?  We doubt His love for us, we doubt the forgiveness we’ve received, we doubt that we’re truly His.  And it’s there that we see that the gifts just keep pouring in.  He’s done all these things for us and still there’s more.

In those times of doubt we find that we have a Comforter.  It’s the Holy Spirit who bears witness to our spirits that we are indeed children of God, adopted by the Father of Lights.  Yes, He is our loving Daddy who would spare nothing for our sake.  He never wants us to forget that or to lose sight of it.  He keeps giving by reminding us through the Holy Spirit that we are His and He is ours.  Great news.

Thank God!

We can’t thank God enough for his kindness.

Luke 17:11-19 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Modern medicine has an effective treatment for leprosy but back in ancient civilizations it was greatly feared and those that were affected had to isolate themselves from society.

Jesus used many different methods to heal people, sometimes he would just speak and it was gone but in this situation he told the guys to go see the priest and while they were on the way they were actually healed.

Jesus told them to go see the priest before the healing took place, the Old Testament law said that they were to go to the priest after they were healed. It was the priest job to verify the healing and offer an animal sacrifice but since there wasn’t a known cure the priest didn’t have very many people coming to the temple for that reason. (Leviticus 14:1-32)

Out of ten that needed to be healed, there was only one that returned to Jesus and this one happened to be a Samaritan, the people that the Jews despised. The crowd must have groaned when Jesus pointed that fact out to them.

Ninety percent of the men healed that day did not acknowledge that God had blessed them and changed their lives. That statistic probably stands true for us as well, we do not acknowledge God’s love and compassion for all of the blessings that we have been given.

Psalm 95:6-9 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.

How often do we remember to stop and run to Jesus feet? God has healed me and provided for every need that I have ever had, he has blessed me a lot more than I have ever said “thank you.” I need to remember that I was made to worship him and I have more than enough reasons to do so.

Thank you Lord for all of your blessing. From salvation from my sins to the awesome planet that you chose to create for my pleasure to the daily provisions that you have provided, there isn’t any way to adequately say thank you.

Meditation on the Word

Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

It’s not enough to just hear the Word.  Showing up to listen to a sermon each Sunday is only the beginning of Bible study because you can never get everything you need from a one hour (or less) message.

 

So while you listen, take notes.  Write down the things that strike you, the passages that grab your attention.  Throughout the week, take another look at what was taught.  Take the time to actually think about the Scripture and the application you can make into your own life.  How can you live out this message?

 

This is so important because merely hearing something does not mean it’s going to stick.  Understanding begins with hearing, but it’s got to be meaningful beyond the moment you hear it.  God’s Word is so powerful it’s for all times.  In any and every circumstance you face, it’s good to think about what God has to say.  Move beyond hearing and begin thinking, pondering.  Take the time to meditate on all God has revealed of himself.

 

 

 Look for this and other devotions like it in Matt’s newest Devotions for Disciples book, available soon!

Hearing the Word

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

 

It all starts with hearing.  No matter where you’re at in your faith journey, you likely began by hearing the Word of God.  Maybe it was a friend sharing a Bible verse.  Maybe it was a biblical truth that you weren’t even aware came from the Bible.  You could have even just overheard something that spoke to you.

 

God’s Word does something powerful in our lives when we hear it being spoken.  Sermons, podcasts, even songs are so effective at moving us when we experience the Word of God.  Faith begins here as the Holy Spirit stirs our souls up and we move toward responding to His calling.

 

God’s Word is so powerful that He says it will never return empty; it will always accomplish His purpose.  That’s something when you think about how misused and misquoted Scripture is.  Even when we mess it up, God uses His Word to bring about His purpose.  It should help us feel a little less intimidated to share the gospel because whether or not we get it right, God works out what He wants worked out.

How Good Is Your Fruit?

It is difficult to hide rotten fruit.

Luke 3:7-14  He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!
9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What then should we do?” the crowds were asking him. 11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.”

John had a very practical message for the new converts, he told them that they would need to live a different lifestyle, there would need to be a change of behavior that would prove that their conversion experience was authentic. At the same time John didn’t want to get them dragged down with a bunch of legalism. John gave them a short practical list of  “how-to” tips:

  • be generous (Luke 3:10-11)
  • be fair (Luke 3:12-13)
  • don’t steal (Luke 3:14)

Take note that the correct process is new convert first and then new lifestyle second. Jesus doesn’t expect us to become experts at living to please him overnight.

You should understand that all of us are producing fruit, it is just a matter of whether the fruit is good or not, Jesus says we can’t produce both. (Luke 6:41-45) We can try and cover up the truth about ourselves but when the produce is rotten then the whole world will figure it out.

I need to protect my heart so that the things that I say and do will be a testimony to the change that Jesus has made in my life. I need to live out Matthew 5:16 so that the world will see good fruit and be drawn closer to Jesus.

Thank you Lord for giving me a new life, I want to produce good fruit as a testimony of your goodness.

What if God Doesn’t Care

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder if God actually even cares.

I mean we know He does, or, at the very least, we think He does. It tells us in Scripture He does, and what are the words to that children’s song? “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.” After all, if He cared enough to create us, if He made the promises that He made, assuring us that they are the same, that His love, bound to us through Christ, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) there has to be something to the idea that He actually cares. Yet, sometimes it feels more complicated than that, does it? Sure it’s the faith of a child that saves, making way the path to Heaven, (Luke 18:17) but we don’t stay children forever, eventually we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and adult problems follow us.

During those times God can seem so far distant, He can seem so far removed as we pray for a sign, for any sign that He still sees us, that He still contends with our cause, that He still cares. There are those times when, for as much as we know that He is there, we just don’t seem to feel it, at least not like we did, at least not like we should, and it’s hard. More than anything else it hurts as we just want so badly for Him to make His presence to be known, to let us know He’s still there, that He still sees us. If there is a Hell, if it is being removed from the presence of God, then those moments sure seem like they are as close as you can get to it on earth, aren’t they?

The thing about it is that, whether we feel His presence or not, whether we see His hand or not, God is there, and there isn’t a moment, a second, an instant where He doesn’t care. (Matthew 6:25-34) We know this not just because the Bible tells us that He loves us, that He is always there for us, that He cares for each of us individually with hope and grace, mercy and faith, but because He is the God who gave His only Son as the great sacrifice to wash away our sin and our guilt, to chase away all those problems big and small that would keep us separated from Him. (John 3:16)

You see, this temporal existence is the last great battlefield, and the Devil, our old adversary, he does everything he can to prove to us that Hell does exist, not just as a spiritual plane but as physical one too, and that this, right here is it. After all, if he can convince us that God doesn’t see us here, if He doesn’t see our pain and our anguish here, then is there really a God, is there really a Heaven or a Hell beyond any of this or is it just a moral argument devised millennia ago? After all, for as much as it can be made to feel as much like Hell as it can, our existence this side of Paradise can’t really be made to feel as splendid as Heaven itself, for however close we may wish or want it to be.

It’s not that God doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t understand. It’s that it’s easier for us to believe that He doesn’t see it than it is for us to accept the truth: amidst this life there are going to be struggles and hardships that seem like they are more than we can handle, there are going to be things in it that are going to cause us so much pain we don’t necessarily know what to do, and yes, God doesn’t necessarily stop them from happening. Why? Because even through them He has a plan for them, He has a lesson He teaches us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He knows nothing the Devil can throw at us is more powerful than we are when we put our hope, our faith and our trust in Him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just because we know something is painful now doesn’t mean it can’t lead to something amazing in our future now if we let God show us what it means, just like we can’t know if God takes something painful from us now it can’t lead to a greater pain or a deeper anguish in the future. The nature of faith has to be in the trust, as we put everything we don’t know in the hands of a God who does.

Never for a moment believe that God doesn’t care. He does, and, even in your hardship He is sparing you from some greater challenge, some greater hardship, waging a perpetual battle against sin, death and the Devil for you. He is doing it in ways we can’t understand and can’t conceive, and all He asks of you is a little bit of faith as He guides you through it all. It’s here then that we realize that when we can’t see God or hear Him we need to rely on our other senses, on a greater spiritual sense to find Him. When we do, we know then not only does He care for us, but that He also carries us. It’s then that though that purpose may be lost on us for the moment, we are drawn to the greater moments nearer to eternity when all purpose is revealed to us.