Seek Love, Find Life

Sunday_Proverb 21_21_Pursue and Find

Seek to be right with God and loving toward men, and you will find true life…

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Nothing Gained, Everything Lost

Numbers 14_40_45_Nothing Gained Everything Lost

Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. (Numbers 14:40)

It’s a classic case of “too little, too late.”  The “next morning” refers to the day AFTER the Israelites had disobeyed God by refusing to enter the Promised Land.  Waking up to the realization of their sin, they resigned themselves to going ahead with God’s original plan.

On one hand, it looks to be a commendable decision.  They had disobeyed, they mourned that sin, and now they were ready to be obedient – or so it seemed.  Yet entering Canaan was no longer God’s plan for them.  In v. 25 of the same chapter, God had ordered Moses to head back into the wilderness.  So their current action – which would have been an act of obedience the day before – was now an act of disobedience.  What a reminder that the time to obey God is always NOW!

Moses attempted to stop them.  He warned them that God wouldn’t be with them and they’d fail.  Yet here’s what happened next:

Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah. (Numbers 14:44-45)

So, without the approval of God, without the presence of God, and without the man of God, they engaged the enemies of God – and got creamed!  Interestingly, Hormah was a town slightly south and east of Beersheeba (the southernmost edge of Israel) – in other words, they didn’t capture and hold ANY territory.  So, instead of getting the whole land through their obedience, they obtained NONE of it through their disobedience.

Friends, we obtain everything God intends for us through our obedience to Him.  We gain nothing through our disobedience.

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Acceptable or Right?

Isaiah 5_20_Right vs Acceptable

Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.  (Franz Kafka)

Today, most “advanced societies” accept almost everything and anything.  So much so, that I wonder if we can find our way back from what has been accepted to what is actually right.

Through decades of open-minded acceptance, what is right (as defined by the Lord) has been largely lost.  As a result, we are experiencing the consequences of living by mere acceptable boundaries.  The insistence of “My truth” in favor of absolute truth has left us in a moral free fall.  Doubt me – just check today’s news headlines.

Let’s take one common day example.  In 2017, roughly 40% of American children were born out of wedlock; in some segments, it is as high as 71%.  If you’re curious, that has increased from ~7% in 1960.  Why is that?  What changed?  While there may be other reasons, in large part, those numbers exist because as a culture we’ve accepted sex outside of marriage.  We’ve accepted cohabitation over marriage.  We’ve accepted homes and families without fathers.

Perhaps what has changed is our collective insistence to place our ways above God’s, and redefining right and wrong to fit our preferred acts of darkness.  There’s really no denying that after decades of mocking God and His ways, we’re reaping what we’ve sown (Galatians 6:7).

You and I may not be able to reverse the tide of an entire culture, but we can reverse the tide within our own lives.  Have you allowed your standards to fall to what is now acceptable versus what God has called right?  Give it some thought.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness… (Isaiah 5:20)

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Realistic Faith

Romans 4_19_22_Realistic Faith

You’re likely familiar with it.  “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  Belief in the promise of God is the basis for righteousness in the presence of God.

But what I want us to consider today comes a little further down in Romans 4.  Let’s take a closer look at one aspect of Abraham’s belief which frequently gets overlooked.

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (vv.19-22)

I love this passage because it reminds us that ours is a realistic faith!  Before Abraham chose to believe God, he “faced the facts.”  He lived in the real world; he knew where babies came from.  Abraham looked at his wrinkled, 100 year-old body, knowing he’d never fathered a child before.  He faced the fact that his wife was nearly 90 and her womb was already “dead.”  He didn’t ignore those facts, he faced them.

Other translations say that he “considered the facts…”  “Consider” is a good rendering of the original Greek which means “to ponder before concluding.”  It’s to think things over from top to bottom before deciding.  Abraham considered the facts and concluded, “None of  it seems to add up, but you know what?  I choose to believe God anyway!”

Please hear this – faith is not the ABSENCE of doubt.  Faith is the ANSWER to doubt.  Abraham’s body gave him all kinds of reasons to doubt the promise of God.  But Abraham’s faith answered those doubts.

Likewise, faith in Christ doesn’t require us to ignore the realities of this life.  Nor does it eliminate every doubt we’ll ever have.  But our faith gives us the ability to face the facts and conclude, “I choose to believe God anyway!”

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New Every Morning

Lamentations 3_22_23_New Every Morning

As we’ve studied the last few days, our hope is to be anchored in our faith in God and the finished work of Christ.  But as I sat in my chair I wondered aloud, “Lord that all sounds well and good for the hereafter, but how does all of this apply to everyday life now?”

At that precise moment the sun peaked above the neighbor’s trees and flooded through the windows of my sunroom.  I could literally feel it’s warmth on my face as God reminded me of this truth:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

While life may seem to come at us fast, it still only comes one day at a time.  And for each new day which we face, God has promised us His great love which protects us, and His mercies which never fail.  Every morning as we rise to face a new day of challenges, we do so with the faithful love and compassion of God.

Like Christ’s finished work on the cross, the love and mercy of God are constants.  They will never fade.  In fact, the Lord brings new measures of both to us each day.  Because that is true, we can face whatever the day brings with hope.

Take heart, Christian – your God’s faithfulness is great; you have His renewed love and compassion with each new day!

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The Root of Hope

Romans 15_12_The Root of Hope

Last time, we reminded ourselves that God was the source of our hope.  As the God of hope, He is the only one who can fill us with hope, and He is the only one who can cause that hope to overflow – overflow to cover our hopeless circumstances, and overflow into the lives of others.  Our role, we said, was to simply trust God.  Our hope is directly tied to our trust in the Lord (Romans 15:13).

Thankfully, God understands our world.  He also knows exactly how He made us (Psalm 103:14).  Therefore, He knows that we often get tossed about by the storms and circumstances of life.  As the storms threaten to topple us, He continues to remain unmoved.  He is the anchor that holds firm – therefore, we need to hold firmly to Him.

It’s no coincidence that Paul placed the verse about God being the source of hope after these words:

The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in Him the Gentiles will hope. (Romans 15:12)

Here again, context matters.  Since our role in finding and maintaining hope is to trust the Lord, God reminds us where to focus that trust – in Christ.  You see, Jesus (the Root of Jesse) has already come and accomplished everything the Father required for the forgiveness of sins.  As a result, we can walk with God in confidence today, and stand before Him with joy in eternity.

It’s all DONE.  Once our faith has been placed in Christ we can always come back to it as an anchor of hope.  Circumstances can (and will) change frequently.  Dark days will come.  But Christ still rules over nations and over hearts that are His, therefore we will always have hope that will overflow. –Dave

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The God of Hope

Romans 15_13_The God of Hope

For 1524 miles last month I looked at it in the rearview mirror of our van.  The window decal read, “Hope for the Daily Journey – The Teachable Heart.”  At times it felt so hypocritical; at best it was false advertising. You see, there are many times I lack hope myself – so, how in the world can I extend what I don’t have to others?

It was during that same trip that I came to Romans 15 during my quiet time.  There I read this message about hope:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (15:13)

I’d love to overflow with hope – I bet you  would too.  Yet most days, I’d settle for having just a small trickle of it in my own life, let alone have enough to spill out for others!  But, let’s see if we can change that!

There are a few things to note within this verse.  First, the source of hope is God – not us!  Phew – what a relief, because try as I may, I just can’t muster it up very often!  This verse clearly says that it is God who fills us with hope – that’s HIS job.  God fills us with hope, and God (through the Holy Spirit) causes that hope to overflow to others!

Sandwiched in between the filling and the overflowing which God provides is our job – to TRUST Him.  That’s it.  We don’t add wishful thinking.  We don’t conjure up a positive attitude.  We don’t devise clever schemes and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  All those things are attempts to find hope in ourselves.  God, however, says our hope is found in trusting Him.

There is more to say about this topic, but today’s take home reminder is this:  God is the source of hope; our role is to trust Him!

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