The Money Trap (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Hebrews 13 5

During times of uncertainty people often look to different things to find their security. One of the biggest things people turn to is money. They feel like if they have enough money, they will be secure. So begins the relentless pursuit of money and all it can bring.

My family and I have recently been watching a show called Ultimate Cheapskates on TLC. The show is about people who are saving money by living and doing things in odd ways. One man participated in multiple medical research studies. One man turns the breakers off in his house at 9pm. One family all sleep in the same bed so they don’t have to heat and cool the other bedrooms. Many of them dumpster dive for their belongings, food, and even medication. It’s unreal what people will do in order to save a dollar.

When our focus in on money, whether it’s saving it, hoarding it, wanting it, or spending it, our focus comes off of the Lord. It is the Lord who says he will never leave us or forsake us. No one and no thing can ever say that with complete certainty. Our money will be gone at some point and in the end, what will it matter? You don’t see a U-Haul on a hearse – you can’t take it with you.

The next verse in this passage says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid’” (13:6a). When we put our confidence in the Lord, we recognize the inability of money to save us or provide security for us and we rest in him and his care. Don’t put your trust in money, put your trust in God.

Called to Courage (1 Corinthians 16:13)

1 Corinthians 16 13

Everywhere you look there is temptation. Turn on the radio. Turn on the tv. Walk down the street. Go to Facebook. Temptation is all around us. As followers of Christ, Paul reminds us to be on guard at all times, to stand firm, to be courageous, and to be strong.

To be on guard means to be awake. It carries with it the idea of not sleeping on the job. In order to live the type of lives Christ has called us to, we need to be aware of what is going on around us. We need to open our eyes and see the dangers ahead and then do what we can to avoid them. Another way to say this is don’t be a sleepwalker wandering aimlessly about with no real purpose or conviction.

To stand firm means to hold one’s ground. Specifically, Paul is saying to hold one’s ground when it comes to the faith, that is, the gospel message. Don’t be swayed by popular opinion or the latest fads – the gospel is truth and it is absolute. The message that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, rose again to conquer death, and now invites each of us into a relationship with him cannot be changed by anyone. Don’t let others distract or burden you with “gospel +” – that is, people adding to the gospel message or on the other side, people subtracting from it.

Be courageous means having the characteristics of an adult as opposed to a child. Be mature in your faith and don’t allow little things to distract you from the message of faith and hope. Don’t be lured into fear when you already know the truth.

Be strong means to become strong beyond the average. You are not average! You are a child of the King! In him you can find strength to conquer whatever battles you face, whether they be outside temptations or the inner temptations, including the temptation to worry.

As a child of God you are stronger than you know, you are more courageous than you can imagine, and you can stand firm in your faith – all by the power of the Holy Spirit living within you.

The Family of God (Romans 8:15)

Romans 8 15

I love the graphic for the verse today. It shows a new branch being added to the tree. That’s how it is when we are adopted into God’s family. He doesn’t start a new tree for each of us; he doesn’t just add a new leaf or two; he adds a new branch. When we believe in Jesus, God adds us into the family tree as full sons and daughters, not afterthoughts or slaves.

Slaves serve at the pleasure of their masters and don’t share in any inheritance. They don’t really have a voice and are subject to harshness and dominance by their owners. Sons and daughters, on the other hand, do share in the inheritance, do have a voice, and are loved and cared for by their father and mother. It is this second relationship that we have with God through Jesus.

When we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills us and God adopts us as his sons and daughters. In that adoption we are made co-heirs with Christ, given the full joys of being God’s children. Within that relationship, we can call out “Abba! Father!” an intimate word similar to “daddy,” but connoting more intimacy and closeness. It was an Aramaic term that only children were allowed to use with their fathers. It is special. We are honored to be able to call out “Abba!” to God.

As children of God, we are therefore protected by God in all things. Bad things will still happen to us, as we live in a world overrun with sin, but God has us in his arms. We are a member of God’s family and with that understanding we should not be fearful. God watches out for his family just as we watch out for our own families.

God cares for us and loves us more than we love our own children and parents. As a parent, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would love my children more than I do, but the reality is that God does! If God loves us so much, then why should we fear? Why waste energy focusing on fear when we can instead call out to our heavenly Father who fills us with his Spirit, a Spirit of courage and love?

Freedom (Memorial Day 2020)

2020-05-25 Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a special day in this country. It is a day we pause to honor those who have fallen in service to our nation, protecting our rights and defending our freedom. It is also a day to remember those in our own families who have passed on from this life.

For the Christ-follower, Memorial Day should also be a day we consider the death of Jesus on the cross. It should be a day to honor his sacrifice for us so that we might be truly free – free from the grips of hell. In my tradition we honor this each week by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, a time to commemorate the death that Jesus suffered for each of us. In Jesus’ death he paid the price for our sins and offered a path to God through his blood. When we believe in Jesus’ life-saving death on the cross, we are given eternal life with him.

So today, take time. Take time to pause and reflect on Jesus and what his sacrifice means for you personally and for the lives of those family members who have gone before you. And take time to remember the soldiers, men and women, who have given their lives so that we can live in a country where we can freely talk about and worship Jesus. Without their sacrifice we would not be free to do so; but Jesus’ sacrifice is what truly makes us free.

Focus on What Matters (Matthew 10:28)

Matthew 10 28

This verse really causes us to put things into proper perspective, doesn’t it?

We are living life on earth and it’s important what we do, how we spend our time, and the relationships we make. But in the grand scheme of eternity, our life on earth is but a blip in time. The time we spend here is nothing compared to the eternity we will spend after we leave this life. Jesus is reminding us here that we should not fear those who threaten to harm or kill our bodies, because in reality, they can’t affect our eternal destiny.

God, on the other hand, does control our eternity destiny. If we are right with God, then we have no fear about where we will spend eternity because he’s promised us eternal life in heaven. Why worry, Jesus asks, about those who can only affect our bodies? Why worry about a virus that you may or may not get because in the end, your soul is secure in Christ.

Jesus goes on in the next couple of verses to talk about God’s care for the sparrow – “not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (10:29). He also says that the hairs on your head are numbered. God cares deeply about his creation, of whom you, as a human being made in his image, are the crown jewel. He knows how many hairs are on your head – he knows what your deepest needs and desires are – he knows your most intimate fears.

Jesus encourages us to not be afraid of those things which can only affect the body because the soul is the most important thing we have and no one and no thing can touch that apart from God. Instead of worrying about things outside of our control, let’s spend time focusing on things that bring God glory – helping the poor, telling people about Jesus, spending time in prayer, and sharing our resources (time, talent, and treasure). When we are focused on God and his work we have less time to focus on the fears we may have.

Shame is the Devil’s Game (Isaiah 54:4)

Isaiah 54 4

Do you have a past filled with questionable or downright bad decisions? I’m sure we all do to some degree or another. We’ve all made choices that turned out to be wrong. Sometimes those choices have caused hardship, to ourselves or those we care about, or they caused setbacks to us, financially, relationally, professionally, or spiritually. This verse addresses those mistakes.

Isaiah is reminding us that even if (though) we have made mistakes in the past, with God, we can put the shame behind us. We will never forget what we have done, and there may be long lasting consequences, but the shame we feel can be a thing of the past.

Once we confess our sins to God, he offers us forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Those sins are cast away and we are renewed in Christ. The problem is that the enemy tries to remind of us those sins and cause us to feel unworthy of God’s grace and forgiveness. “How could God forgive me for doing that?” you may ask yourself. You may fall for the lie that you’ve done too much or that your sin is too great to be truly forgiven. That. Is. A. LIE. Do not fall for it!

Paul, himself, was a persecutor of Christians before he was forgiven by Jesus. David was a murderer and adulterer, yet still called a man after God’s own heart. Our past needs to stay in the past – experience God’s forgiveness and love and grace in the present.

When you find yourself entangled in the web of lies and shame, it’s no wonder you can’t find comfort or peace in these times of trials. Part of finding comfort in God is recognizing the grace and forgiveness he has already blessed you with and trusting him even more. Don’t let Satan’s lie keep you bound in the burden of shame and guilt. Accept Jesus’ forgiveness and grace and trust in him and his Word.

Play Offense (Isaiah 41:13)

Isaiah 41 13

Today’s verse is just a few verses past yesterday’s verse in context. The Israelites are in exile, foreign lands, under foreign powers, and they are afraid of what is to come. They wonder if God can help them and if he wants to help them. Here, God reminds them – rather, promises them – that he will help them.

Up to this point in the passage God has been content with telling them how he will protect them and keep them safe. Shortly after our verse, however, the tone shifts to offense. God is not only going to protect his people, he is also going to fight for them.

It’s incredibly encouraging to know that the God of the universe protects us and is with us at all times. Just as it is comforting for a child to know his parent is going to do whatever possible to protect him in times of distress. But in addition to protection, God is also going to fight on behalf of his people.

There is an enemy out there who is hellbent on destruction. He wants to destroy the world, and he particularly wants to destroy the faith of the followers of Christ. The enemy wants to plant seeds of doubt in your mind about who God is and what God can do for you. And when those seeds are planted, watered, and allowed to grow, loss of faith is the result.

What God is telling you today is that he will protect you from the enemy, yes, but he will also fight the enemy on your behalf. In fact, God enlists you to his army to fight the enemy with him! Paul talks about putting on the armor of God so that you can fight the battles that life throws at you. Jesus talks about the gates of hell no prevailing over you. In His Spirit you are powerful!

You have within you, by the grace and love of Jesus, the power to defeat the enemy and fight for truth. I encourage you today to claim this powerful truth and suit up! The battle is raging all around us and with God YOU have the promise of victory! Don’t just sit around waiting for the enemy to attack – read Scripture, spend time in study and prayer, and be ready to take the fight wherever God may lead.

In Your Corner (Isaiah 41:10)

Isaiah 41 10

In this section of Isaiah, God is speaking to the Israelites as they are in captivity. They are not free people at this point, and they have been exiled to other countries instead of the Promised Land God had for them. Here, as elsewhere in the context, God is reminding the people that he is with them and he will protect them.

There may have been a sentiment among the Israelites about whether or not God had the power to save his people anymore. They may have forgotten the power and majesty of the God of their ancestors – the God who marched his people through the Red Sea.

There may also have been a sentiment that God could help his people, but he simply doesn’t want to. Here God reminds them that they need not fear because he in fact does have the power AND the will to save them. He WILL strengthen, he WILL help, and he WILL uphold. When we face tough times, it’s easy to forget both who God is and what he desires to do. God is all powerful and he does want what is best for his people – all who choose to follow him.

Don’t forget who you have in your corner while you’re fighting fear and uncertainty, and don’t ever doubt that he will give you the strength you need to make it through!

Power in the Word (Psalm 56:3-4)

Psalm 56 3-4

These two verses form a chiasm in the Hebrew. A chiasm is simply a structure that the Psalmist used to highlight something important. In a chiasm the central idea is always found in the middle. In our verse, the chiasm is this:

(a1) What I am afraid

(b1) I put my trust in you

(c) In God, whose word I praise (or I praise God for what He has promised)

(a2) I trust in God

(b2) So why should I be afraid

What can mere mortals do to me?

You can see how David moves from a point of fear to the point of trusting God, not being afraid, and then exclaiming how mere mortals cannot do anything to him. In the center of it all is the reason for his trust and confidence: God’s word. God’s word is trustworthy and when God says something that is the way it is.

God created the world simply by speaking it into being – it is in that powerful word that we put our trust. When David was feeling afraid and was being pursued by his enemies (as he was in this passage), he took comfort and found courage in the Word. John tells us that the Word is Jesus (John 1).

When our fears start to take hold of us, we simply need to remember that Jesus had the power to simply speak the world into existence, so certainly he has the power to be there in our time of need! When you’re feeling afraid, go to the Word of God and find comfort in the words given to us all – the very words of God.

Remember the Lord is with You (1 Chronicles 28:20)

1 Chronicles 28 20

In Scripture, we are told that David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Because of this, David wanted to build a permanent Temple for the Lord. God, however, gave David the plans, but told him that his son, Solomon, would be the one to build it. In this verse, David is commissioning Solomon to do just that and reminding him that God will be with him during the project.

Solomon was the wisest person in the world. People would come from around the world to consult him – to hear him speak wisdom. Yet, when it came time to commission Solomon for the building of the Temple, David found in important to remind him that God would be with him and not forsake him during that time.

It’s remarkable to me that a man filled with such wisdom still had some doubts about himself and his standing before the Lord. So much so that his father felt the need to remind him of those facts. When we are having our own doubts about God being with us, we can take comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our concern. Even Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, had his own concerns.

While we may find ourselves in good company with King Solomon, we must heed the advice of his father David when he reminds him (and us) that God will be with us always. Don’t believe for a minute that you are going through this time alone – God is with you! If you need help remembering that, go back and read the previous devotions or reach out to your pastor. As a pastor myself, I know that I’d be happy to talk with you and walk through this time with you. You are not alone!