9 Ways to Guard Your Personal Relationship with God

Today I’m sharing from Crossway.org.

9 Ways to Guard
Your Personal Relationship
with God

by: David Murray

Time and Energy Required

Like all healthy and satisfying relationships, our relationship with God needs time and energy. But giving time and energy to our relationship with God actually increases free time and energy because it helps us get a better perspective on life and order our priorities better, it reduces the time we spend on image management, and it removes fear and anxiety.

Here are some things that have helped me to keep my personal relationship with God personal and avoid falling into the trap of relating to him only through my ministry to others:

1. Guarded Time

I try to guard personal Bible reading and prayer time as jealously as I guard my own children. I keep my 6:20 a.m. appointment with God each morning as zealously as if it were an appointment for kidney dialysis.

2. Undistracted Mind

In a survey of eight thousand of its readers, desiringGod.org found that 54 percent checked their smartphones within minutes of waking up. More than 70 percent admitted that they checked email and social media before their spiritual disciplines.1 I agree with Tony Reinke, who commented, “Whatever we focus our hearts on first in the morning will shape our entire day.” So I have resolved not to check email, social media, or the news before my devotional time, as I want to bring a mind that is as clear and focused as possible to God’s Word.

3. Vocal Prayers

As I always pray better when I pray out loud, I like to find a place where I can do so without embarrassment. Hearing my own prayers helps me improve the clarity and intensity of my prayer. Also, I cannot cover up a wandering heart or mind so easily when I pray out loud.

4. Varied Devotions

Sometimes I read a psalm, a chapter from the Old Testament, and a chapter from the New. Other times I read just one chapter or part of a chapter and spend longer meditating on it. Or I may read through a Bible book with a good commentary. Though the speed varies, I do try to make sure that I’m reading systematically through both testaments and not just jumping around here and there.

Read the rest here.

He fires the starting pistol, then runs alongside you

Today I’m sharing from Love Worth Finding.

He fires the starting pistol,
then runs alongside you

BIBLE MEDITATION:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…. Hebrews 12:2a

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:

Faith comes from beholding the Lord Jesus Christ, from looking at Him. If we will look to Jesus, He will be the author and finisher of our faith. The word “author” in the Greek literally means “example,” “leader,” or “originator.” Jesus is the example of faith, but He’s also the originator of our faith.

You see, all the other heroes of the faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 can cheer us on, but they’re not our chief example. Only Jesus is the One who never sinned, who never failed. The more you behold the Lord Jesus Christ, the more you’ll find out He is the author and finisher.

He’s the one who originates the grace. He’s the one who fires the starting gun. He’s the goal toward which we run. He is the coach who runs alongside us and gives us courage and strength to run the race.

ACTION POINT:

It is Jesus all the way. If you want faith, fix your eyes upon Jesus Christ. Keep “looking unto Jesus.” Your faith will grow. You’ll be greatly strengthened for your race.


You can also read this devotional here.

Our Weakness: God’s Strength

Our Weakness: God’s Strength

“All power is given UNTO ME in heaven and in earth.” —Matthew 28:18

“Be strong IN THE LORD, and in the power of his might.” —Ephesians 6:10

“My power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians12:9 (R.V.)

THERE is no truth more generally admitted among earnest Christians than that of their utter weakness. There is no truth more generally misunderstood and abused. Here, as elsewhere, God’s thoughts are heaven-high above man’s thoughts.

The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.” The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

All our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use. This power flows into us as we abide in close union with Him. When the union is feeble, little valued or cultivated, the inflow of strength will be feeble. When the union with Christ is rejoiced in as our highest good, and everything sacrificed for the sake of maintaining it, the power will work: “His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.”

The lessons these thoughts teach us for practical life are simple, but very precious. The first is, that all our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use. It is there as an almighty life, which is in Him for us, ready to flow in according to the measure in which it finds the channels open. But whether its flow is strong or feeble, whatever our experience of it be, there it is in Christ: All power in heaven and earth. Let us take time to study this. Let us get our minds filled with the thought: That Jesus might be to us a perfect Saviour, the Father gave Him all power. That is the qualification that fits Him for our needs: All the power of heaven over all the powers of earth, over every power of earth in our heart and life too.

The second lesson is: This power flows into us as we abide in close union with Him. When the union is feeble, little valued or cultivated, the inflow of strength will be feeble. When the union with Christ is rejoiced in as our highest good, and everything sacrificed for the sake of maintaining it, the power will work: “His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.” Our one care must therefore be to abide in Christ as our strength. Our one duty is to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Let our faith cultivate large and clear apprehensions of the exceeding greatness of God’s power in them that believe, even that power of the risen and exalted Christ by which He triumphed over every enemy (Eph. 1: 19-21). Let our faith consent to God’s wonderful and most blessed arrangement: nothing but feebleness in us as our own, all the power in Christ, and yet within our reach as surely as if it were in us. Let our faith daily go out of self and its life into the life of Christ, placing our whole being at His disposal for Him to work in us. Let our faith, above all, confidently rejoice in the assurance that He will in very deed, with His almighty power, perfect His work in us. As we thus abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of His power, will work mightily in us, and we too shall sing, “JEHOVAH is my strength and song: IN JEHOVAH I have righteousness and strength.” “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Andrew Murray

You can read this entire teaching here.


Taken from Abide in Christ, Day 28, “As Your Strength.”

Mercy from the Word

Today I’m sharing from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).

Mercy from the Word

By Henry M. Morris Iii, D.Min.

“Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:41)

The Hebrew word hesed, used here for “mercy,” has a breadth of meaning. Its basic connotation is “kindness” and is most often used in God’s patient dealing with the nation of Israel through their long, and often rebellious, history. The most frequent contextual use focuses on God’s withholding judgment during specific times or events, rather than executing the just sentence demanded by disobedience to His laws.

It is in that sense that “salvation” is often connected to mercy. God “rescues” a person or nation from the consequences of foolish or rebellious actions because He is merciful: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

This section of Psalm 119 clearly states that these mercies are according to the Word of God. No event dilutes the holiness of God. No judgment withheld violates the innate nature of the thrice-holy Creator. Mercy may delay judgment for the sinner, and justification through redemption will eliminate judgment for the sinner, but God’s holiness does not abrogate the law. The sentence is carried out—either on the sinner or on the Lord Jesus Christ in the place of the sinner (Proverbs 11:21).

The psalmist thus praised the basis for God’s mercies, told of his trust and hope in the Scriptures, and then gave a series of promises to the Lord that marked his own commitment for obedience (vv. 44-48). As the stanza closes, the psalmist promised he would lift up his hands in public praise of the Word and meditate in private as well.

Would God that all of God’s children emulate the heart of this dear brother from the past. —HMM III

Five Reminders for the Stressed, Weary, Busy, and Burdened Soul

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Five Reminders for the Stressed, Weary, Busy, and Burdened Soul

By

Do you ever feel like you just aren’t enough? Like there isn’t enough of you to go around and no matter how much effort you pour out, there is always something lacking? I do. Some days I wonder why I am feeling so overwhelmed and anxious, and then it hits me. It’s this nagging sense of guilt that I forgot to do something, I didn’t do something well enough, or I have so much on my plate that I’ll crack under the weight of it. Some days, it’s seeing all that’s before me with a body and circumstances that make it feel utterly impossible.

Many of us are living in the fast lane and even if we don’t want to, it seems there is no other option. There is this sense that if you aren’t completely maxed out, then you must be lazy, an underachiever, or not goal-oriented. But at some point, most of us will drop the ball and realize that we just can’t be enough to meet every demand, need, or expectation. And sometimes, although we may have been managing fine for a time, we suddenly find ourselves facing circumstances or illness that stop us in our tracks and throw everything into chaos.

Recently, I’ve found myself struggling to juggle all that’s on my plate, which has been intensified by multiple health and family issues. Sometimes the revolving door of meal planning, caring for my family, keeping up with ministry responsibilities, taking care of the house, laundry, shopping, being there for friends, serving, or simply making it to church on time, along with all the other pressures of life, is enough to make me curl up in a ball and cry.

Whether you are a mom at home with kids, a husband trying to provide for his family, or someone juggling the pressures of school, work, and countless other “to do’s,” life can leave you feeling depleted, weary, and stressed. We often try to be enough when Christ never asked us to be. We try to carry burdens he never asked us to carry.

Instead of trying to put off our to-do lists or try to push through in our own strength, let’s remind ourselves today of these five truths:

1. Christ is the source of our rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Why are we so heavy laden? It’s not just because we have a lot to do, but because our hearts are bent towards trying to save ourselves. We ultimately want to be able to juggle everything on our own. But what Christ reminds us is that we aren’t able to save ourselves, and we will never find rest trying to carry the burdens of life on our own shoulders. Christ died to take the weight of our sin on himself, so that we could find rest for our souls in him. However, when we walk in our own self-sufficiency, we walk outside of the rest he bought for us with his very own blood.

We find this rest by spending time with him. Literal, physical time with him. As busy as life is, if we don’t carve out time to spend in his Word, there will always be something else to fill that time. If we don’t fill up our tanks each day, we will run out of gas at some point. We can pray, “Lord forgive the pride in me that says, ‘I can save myself’, and help me learn from you and find rest for my soul.”

2. Christ will be faithful to provide what we need; yet we must discern how and where we are spending our time and energy.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:8-9)

This is hard to do with so many things that truly need to get done. But we need to always be praying for wisdom and discernment to be aware of ways we are seeking to satisfy our fleshly desires over what Christ desires or exhausting ourselves in areas that he hasn’t called us to invest our time and energy during our current season. We will not find true rest while seeking things apart from Christ or trying to do and be everything.

Read the rest here.

Fragile Bubbles

Fragile Bubbles

By Pat Knight

Bubbles fizz and burst in a bath. Iridescent bubbles sparkle from a waterfall. Opalescent bubbles blown from a child’s bubble blowing solution shimmer in sunlight. Pure enchantment, the kind that transports us to younger years, allures us to the most simplistic, unadorned entertainer of all—the lowly bubble. 

Most toddlers are fascinated with the fine art of bubble blowing. Mastering blowing bubbles from an open-ended wand submerged in a colorful bottle of bubble solution may seem like only child’s play. It is not as easy as it initially appears.

Fanatic enthusiasm caused our grandsons to puff more air than necessary to create a perfectly formed bubble. Rather than blowing hard with the strength to inflate a balloon, only a delicate, measured whisper of exhaled breath will suffice to release the perfect bubble, teaching the children the value of gentleness, patience, and self-control. It is surprising how little practice and how much patience is required to learn the technique.

The major lesson to be learned from bubble blowing is that some things in life cannot be forced. Easy goes the bubble blowing. Puffing with vigor only causes the soapy, slippery film to drip off the wand. Too much pressure defeats the purpose and destroys that which we were trying to preserve. To advance peacefully, deliberately, and gently throughout life is an admirable goal. We can always add more pressure. However, if we begin with force, there is no room for adjustment, and irreparable damage may be done in the process. The bubble may be lost. Is it possible we were imposing too much force, producing an unwanted, imperfect outcome? As a result, our impatience ruined the bubble. Gentleness and patience is required to sustain the beautiful and the fragile in life.

Whenever one of us gently breathed on the soapy solution, a bubble slowly stretched out until it separated from the wand, propelled into mid-air. Then, chasing and bursting the iridescent bubbles extended the game. Bubbles are elusive. When coerced or captured, delicate touch pops the orb. Chasing and popping floating bubbles is as challenging as blowing them into shape. Beware of someone who wants to burst your bubble!

Once the art of bubble-blowing is mastered, the game continues as long as the toddler’s attention span endures. Sometimes after a gentle infusion of air, the squirming sphere stretches out from the wand until it looks as if it will spontaneously pop. But, if smooth, steady breath is maintained, the bubble eventually slides off in an elongated shape and perches on a surface nearby.

Playing bubble games is not so far from a real life enactment of problem-solving. If we were in a position of authority, as Jesus was on earth, would we exhibit His gentleness? Or, would we, inadvertently or purposefully burst bubbles with an inappropriate show of arrogance, aggression, or authority?

Jesus was preaching in a home in Capernaum. Crowds of people gathered and swelled the house with more listeners lining up outside. Today we would describe the situation as standing room only. To many, the possibility of placing a stretcher carrying a paralytic close enough for Jesus to interact with the man would have looked bleak. When one is paralyzed, it is imperative to have innovative friends who will anticipate needs and assist with daily care.

Not to be deterred, the paralytic’s friends confidently carried his pallet up the outside stairs of the house. Once on the roof, all four men began digging until they successfully removed a large section of roof, opening an area sufficient to lower their friend on the mat down into the room directly in front of Jesus. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’”(Mark 2:5). Jesus healed his spiritual paralysis first, then addressed his physical needs. “‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God” (vv. 11-12).

The house was filled with curious people that day. Through tenacity of the paralytic’s friends, the man on his stretcher was placed in front of Jesus. Christ admired the men’s perseverance, daring, and sense of urgency. Another bubble was preserved to announce God’s love and forgiveness to the gathering of people when He presented a new life of physical freedom to the paralytic man. Though the man had never before experienced mobility, when Jesus gave the command for him to walk, the man did not hesitate, nor did he whimper that he didn’t know how. He trusted His Lord and took one step at a time. A bubble was suspended over the house that day, riding air currents to deliver the message of the Gospel to the lost.

Most children love to blow bubbles. Sometimes the bubbles are created with ease and at other times, we must corral the child’s aggression. An iridescent sphere is produced using the slightest puff of breath. Its beauty is simple, its message complex. When a strong blast of breath is propelled toward the open wand, the sloppy, soapy solution quickly drips down an arm, the bubble lost. Bubble-making requires practice to produce perfectly formed orbs every time. Such is life.

Jesus said, “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Though Christians are anxious for non-believers to know the personal love and saving grace of Jesus as we do, we cannot force the relationship. If we do, the bubble merely disintegrates into a sticky, gooey mess. We tried too hard. The higher the stakes, the harder we blow. For best results, we must relax, take a deep breath and exhale with deliberate intent. As the bubble begins to bulge outward, we persist with short, easy puffs. The outcome is too important to lose to impatience. It is always worth relaxing and waiting for valuable results. We cannot force love or respect. Jesus will only be seen in our lives through humility, kindness, and compassion. Like unpretentious bubbles, our goodness and gentleness will exalt Christ.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). To project the attributes of Christ, we must develop a delicate, tender approach, just as He acted on earth, honoring and loving all people. The one character from the pages of the Bible known for gentle forbearance was Jesus. He reacted to everyone with the manner in which He would like to be treated. “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

During the process of attempting to perfect their bubble blowing skills, children learn the importance of breathing lightly for success or blowing frantically, leading to disappointment. It appears that gentleness and the bubbles that stay afloat prevail, carrying with them the message of patient endurance and perseverance. What splendid lessons from inconsequential bubbles, elevated to tutors of life lessons!

What Does It Mean to Be Ready to Meet the Lord?

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready to Meet the Lord?

By Randy Alcorn

A reader asked me, “I often hear the saying ‘I want to be ready to meet my Lord.’ Can you explain what exactly you mean by this, please?”  

First of all, and most importantly, being ready to meet the Lord means you’ve made sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ, and are trusting only Him to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done. R. A. Torrey put it this way: “I am ready to meet God face to face tonight…for all my sins are covered by the atoning blood.”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And in John 5:24 Jesus tells us, “Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Once you’ve accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, being ready to meet the Lord means living in a way that pleases Him so that whenever He calls you home—and knowing that could be any time—you can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  

Scripture teaches with unmistakable clarity that all believers in Christ will give an account of their lives to their Lord (Romans 14:10-12). Even if Christ does not return for two hundred years, we will meet Him in our deaths, whether in twenty years, twenty months, or twenty minutes. God encourages us not to be surprised about the soon coming of our appointment to stand before Him. If we are ready to meet Christ, we will long for His return. If we are not ready, we will dread it. If we do not feel ready to meet Him, now is the time to get ready.

Readers of my books are probably familiar with my emphasis on how five minutes after we die, we’ll know exactly how we should have lived. But we can’t do life here over again. There’s no retaking the course once we’ve failed it. There’s no improving a D to an A. No rescheduling the final exams. Death is the deadline. There’s no extension.

The good news is we don’t have to wait until we die to know how we should live! God has given us His Word to tell us how to live and His indwelling Spirit to empower us to live as we should. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).  Every day God gives us is an opportunity to live for Christ: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Read the rest here.