Posted in Helpful Passages of Scripture

I pray God uses these stories to encourage you…

When I was a kid, one of my favorite verses was Hebrews 13:5…specifically this phrase in that verse:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I loved the truth that no matter what, God promised he would never leave me or forget about me. The biggest reason I loved that promise is that as a kid my family moved around, A LOT! By 8th grade, I had lived in 9 different states. Because of that, I don’t have any childhood friends…life long friends from before I was in Jr High…since I moved too much to make any strong lasting friendships. I’m not upset about it, it’s my life…and honestly the experiences of moving a lot have helped me in my life now, so I know God used it to prepare me for the life he was going to call me to live. But, when I was younger, it was really hard!

I distinctly remember when we moved from Colorado to Louisiana between my 7th and 8th grade years…I really struggled. Not because I had some issue with where we were moving, but because I didn’t want to leave the friends I had made. I remember laying in my bed crying and crying, because I was going to lose the friendships I had formed…again! My dad came in and talked to me for a while, which helped. But I was still really sad.

So this verse, and the promise from God that he would never leave or forget about me, became a powerful truth for me to cling to in my young years. No matter where I moved, and no matter how many friendships I lost or were forgotten along the way, God would always be with me, because he would never leave me or forget about me.

I will never leave you or forget about you

 

In college, Psalm 46:10 became one of my favorite verses.

I had gone through a particularly difficult season my sophomore year, and I was just overwhelmed and exhausted and discouraged and unsure of what to do about it. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to fix things the way I wanted to, or get out of the valley I was seemingly stuck in.

I’ll spare you the long version of this story, but one weekend we had a soccer tournament out of town. The morning we left I missed the bus, and the team didn’t realize I wasn’t with them until several hours into the trip. Yea… when it rains it pours! So I borrowed a car, got the address of the hotel, and drove the 8 hours by myself to meet the team. It was, needless to say, a llloooonnnnggggg drive. Especially because everything I had been struggling with, all my exhaustion and discouragement, was ready to explode…and this ignited that explosion!

On that drive, I had it out with God. And on that drive he spoke to me in a powerful way. As I was driving, and just unloading all of my frustration and pain to God, Psalm 46:10 kept repeating in my head. Over and over, louder and louder and louder, until I couldn’t think of anything else.

“Be Still”. Stop trying! Quit exhausting yourself trying to fix things on your own! Be still, and know that I am God.

He is God, I am not. He can handle any situation in this life, I wasn’t meant to try and handle them alone. I have weaknesses and limitations on my own. I need God’s strength. I needed to rely on him, and allow him and his strength to help and carry me. I was exhausting myself, when I simply needed to be still and trust in God.

Be still, and know that I am God 

 

Maybe you are in a season of life where you feel as though you’ve been abandoned or forgotten, or maybe you’ve lost something or someone very important to you, and it is overwhelming and exhausting. Or perhaps you aren’t in a season like that at this moment. No matter where you are, I want to encourage you with these truths that God used to encourage me, strengthen me, and carry me.

God will never leave or forget about you. NEVER. When you become a Follower of Christ, you become a child of God…you join his family. He is a father who is always there for you, no matter what. He will never leave or forget about you. If you ever think he has, remember that your thoughts and feelings can be fickle and deceive you, but God’s truths are rock solid…so cling to the truth!

Be still and know that he is God. Life can be overwhelming enough without adding to it by trying to control or fix things yourself. God is the one who can handle anything in this life, because he is God. So slow down, step back, be still, and rest in him and his strength. Whatever life throws your way, remember to rely on God…cling to him!

There are honestly so many more verses that God has used to speak to me at times in my life…verses that have so much meaning to me…that to share all of them would honestly require writing a book. But I wanted to share these particular two, because they have been on my mind lately. The truth contained in them, and how God used them in my past, continue to help me even in present.

My prayer is that what I have shared will be used by God in your life. I pray these truths and stories can be a source of encouragement and strength to you, or anyone you share this blog with.

I want to end this blog with the song “I Will” by Citizen Way.

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Posted in Bible Study, Helpful Passages of Scripture

Your go-to passage

I absolutely love God’s Word. It’s truly incredible! So many times I have found the challenges I needed when I needed to be challenged in his Word; the comfort I needed when I needed to be comforted; the guidance I needed when I needed some guidance.

Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

So true! So many times in my life I have found that to be true again and again. I can’t image not having God’s Word in my life, challenging me and comforting me and guiding me.

There are several passages in God’s Word that I love to read over and over again. I refer to them as my “go-to” passages. And no matter how many times I read these “go-to” passages, they continue to speak to me each time I read it. Passages such as Psalm 138, Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 2:1-10 and 5:1-21, Philippians 4:4-13, and 1 Peter 5:6-11. There are definitely other passages of scripture that are powerful and have spoken to me in amazing ways before (really, all of scripture is powerful), but these ones are at the top of my list.

At the very top of my list, my ultimate “go-to” passage, is Colossians 3:1-17. I love reading that passage of scripture…in fact, I try to read it on a daily basis. So much is packed in that passage that speaks to me; challenging me, comforting me, and guiding me.

It provides me guidance by sharing what my focus needs to be on, what I need to avoid, and what should be included in my life. It provides me comfort by reminding me that my life is hidden with Christ in God, that the Lord has forgiven me, and that Christ gives me peace. And it challenges me by calling me away from what will only distract me from living for God and shows me how I can live and act righteously in this life.

There’s a lot that can distract me or steal my focus from God in this life, there’s a lot of things in this life that can bring me down and make me feel despair, and there’s plenty of chances to not live or act righteously in this life. This passage continues to provide me the challenge, comfort, and guidance I need when faced with the circumstances of life that make me want to act or react in ways I shouldn’t.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17)

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What about you? What are some of your “go-to” passages? Why are they your “go-to” passages? How do they comfort, challenge, and/or guide you in this life to live for God? Feel free to comment and share…I’d love to hear what your “go-to” passages are and why.

Posted in Bible Study, Helpful Passages of Scripture

Jeremiah 29:11: a popular verse and how it can be misused

There are certain “go to verses” that generally most Followers of Christ know well. Philippians 4:13 is one of those verses. We see that verse posted around in various places; t-shirts, posters, social media, even on eye-black of some sports players. John 3;16 is another one of those verses. This is generally the first verse many Followers of Christ memorize, and it’s probably the most used “evangelistic” verse.

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably not quite as well-known as John 3:16, but it is a very well-known and popular verse. It’s a verse many people can quote, and it’s a verse that is often shared from one person to another as a source of comfort.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

This verse tells me that the Lord has a plan for me. A plan that is good, a plan that gives me hope for the future. I like a good plan that offers me hope for tomorrow.

We all like the idea that God has a plan for us that is good and gives us hope for the future. No one in their right mind wishes for bad plans, or for their future to seem hopeless. Even when we are feeling that way because of difficult circumstances, we search for anything to give us hope for a better tomorrow. That is exactly what this verse does for us…which is why this verse is a very popular verse.

However, what we must always remember when reading the Bible is that it’s not full of random quotes. The books within the Bible are written messages…messages that were shared in various ways (letters, prophecy, sermons, poetry, etc). So it is important to understand the message contained within the context where we find a single verse that we like to quote. It’s important because if we remove a single line or phrase from a message, it can be very easy to misunderstand that line or phrase.

So let’s look at Jeremiah 29:11 within its immediate context to get the message of the verse we often like to quote.

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

In just these few verses we see there is a lot more going on than just what is contained in verse 11.

There are 2 main things we can gather from this short passage to gain understanding when it comes to the message being shared here:

First – verse 11 is one sentence in the midst of a message being shared by God through Jeremiah to the people of Judah, specifically those who were “the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (verse 1 of chapter 29).

Jeremiah had warned Judah that they were being unfaithful to God, and if they did not repent and return to him, they would be punished. Unfortunately they didn’t listen, and they were taken into captivity. That was their punishment; it was God’s discipline for their sinful actions.

This message contained in chapter 29 is a message to those who had been taken captive and exiled from their homes. The Lord was reminding them that even though they had been unfaithful to him and he had to punish them because of it, he still loved them and would still be faithful to them by one day restoring them back to their homes.

It wasn’t so much a simplistic message of “God has a plan for good, so don’t worry”, which we can easily simplify it to if we take it out of context. Rather it is a deep message that “God still has a plan for your life despite the mess you created and the fact that you are currently being disciplined for your actions, so trust in God and be patient for the future he has for you.”

Second – verses 12-13 say “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Right after verse 11 when God reminds those in captivity that he still has a plan and he hasn’t forgotten them, he reminds them that they have the responsibility of repenting and returning to him.

Call on me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you“. Repentance, complete and true repentance, begins by calling upon the Lord and praying to him; it is a crying out to him because we are broken over our sin, asking him to forgive our sin. That is the beginning of repentance.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart.” After being broken and crying out to God, the next step in repentance is to run back to God. To seek after him with everything, to chase after him with all the energy it takes, to offer him the heart that we had given to something else when we walked away. We will find him WHEN we seek him with all our heart.

After verses 13 and 14, the encouraging message that began in verses 10 and 11 picks up again in verse 14…”I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

This short passage reminds us of a couple very powerful truths. It reminds us that even when we make a huge mess of our life by walking away from God, God still wants to be faithful to us because he loves us. It also reminds us that when we fully repent and return to God, we will find him and he will restore us.

Does God have a plan for our lives? Yes. Is God faithful even when we are not faithful? Yes. Will God discipline us for our sinful actions? Yes. Does God expect us to repent and return to him when we have wandered from him. Yes.

Encouraging and comforting for sure, but also convicting with a strong reminder of our responsibility.

Be careful when quoting Jeremiah 29:11. It would probably be best to quote the surrounding verses as well…at the very least, quote 11-13 if you don’t quote the whole passage.

May we seek to understand God’s Word, so we will be able to properly use and share its message.

Posted in Helpful Passages of Scripture

Colossians 3:1-17

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Several passages have come to be very helpful and meaningful to me lately. One such passage of scripture is Colossians 3:1-17.

This has become the passage I go back and read again and again whenever I’m struggling or in need of a reminder. This passage is packed full of great truths and reminders of how to live and act in a Christ-like way. If I’m having a rough time, this passage keeps me grounded in God’s truth and gets me to focus on godly things. When I’m not sure how to act or react, this passage is the perfect reminder to me of how God wants me to act and react.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This passage (Colossians 3:1-17) is definitely that two-edged sword in my heart and mind.

My prayer is that this passage would encourage, challenge, remind, and push you to keep your focus on God and seek to act and react the way he would have you.

Colossians 3:1-17 (phrases in bold for emphasis)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earthFor you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Posted in Bible Study, Discipleship, Helpful Passages of Scripture

Extremely challenging reminder of what it really means to love God

This morning as I was spending time in prayer and reading God’s Word, I was reminded of a truth. A truth that I knew… honestly it’s a truth that most of us who claim to be Followers of Christ know. However, it’s a truth that is easily overlooked in our daily life.

I’m not saying we forget it, or that we blatantly say to our self “I am choosing to not care about this truth” (if we are saying that to our self, our heart is very hard). Rather, I believe it’s a truth that we know of and have in our minds, but we overlook how to live it out in our daily lives. We have the knowledge of this truth, but unfortunately it is easy to skip or overlook the application of this truth.

That truth is simply this…

To love God means to obey what God says

That’s it. Nothing overly fancy or full of theological words that many of us don’t understand (or are even able to pronounce). It’s a simple truth really. To love God means to obey what he says to us.

It’s a simple statement. Simple formula. Simple truth to know and be aware of. Simple.

Loving God = Obeying God

Question is, do we act upon that truth? Are we applying that truth? Or, have we allowed ourselves to place that truth in our mind where we have knowledge of it, but we overlook the importance of living according to that truth with our actions?

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Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words…” (John 14:23-24)

…everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments… (1 John 5:1-3)

To love God means to obey what God says. It’s a simple truth. Unfortunately, it’s also simple to overlook in our daily actions and choices and decisions. Simple to remember and know, simple to skip and overlook.

What is really scary to me about this simple truth is that there is an opposite truth that is just as simple…

If loving God means obeying God, then not obeying God means not loving God.

If loving God = obeying God, then not obeying God = not loving God.

I know, that seems like a bold statement when you first read it. But the more you consider it, the more it makes sense. It is simply the opposite of the first truth.

Now, I’m not saying that every single time we make a mistake and don’t obey God that we have stopped loving God. Not at all. We are sinners, so we will disobey God in this life. That is the struggle we will be dealing with until Christ returns are we are done with this sinful world.

But, when we read what God’s Word says, it comes right out and tells us that if we love God then we will obey him. We can’t explain that away simple because we are sinners and still struggle at times in this life.

What we need to understand is that when we choose to sin, in that moment we are choosing to do the opposite of what God tells us to do. In those sinful moments, we are loving our self and what we want to do more than loving God and what he tells us to do. It may only be a moment, and then we are sorry and we repent of that sin because we love God…but it still shows that we have moments where we don’t love God like we should.

The other thing we need to understand is that we can choose to live in sin for a period of time in our life. That choice is a drawn out version of that momentary sin like I just talked about. It’s a time period in our life where we are choosing to love our self and what we want more than loving God and what he tells us. We might never get to the point where we hate God…but hate is different from the act of not loving.

I know that these truths can be difficult to grasp, and we might struggle to fully comprehend them as well as all the implications that come from them. I do myself. But that does not change the fact that these are still true. It’s what God’s Word says, so as Followers of Christ we must accept it as truth…even if we can’t grasp it or struggle with it.

To love God means to obey what God says

May we as Followers of Christ daily seek to show we love God through acts of obedience to God. May we obey God even when it’s tough, because we love God that much!

Posted in Helpful Passages of Scripture

God Alone

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still, and know that I am God…” The NASB translation says “cease striving, and know that I am God…”

Life can quickly go sideways, heading in directions we weren’t prepared for. It is easy in those moments to start to worry, or to begin to work harder to control the situation.  But all we end up accomplishing with our worry or attempts at controlling things is that we begin to run our self ragged, worry our self sick, or make a bigger mess instead of controlling the damage.

That is why this verse is so awesome. It reminds us that the best course of action is not to worry or try to figure out how to gain control, but rather to simply be still. Cease striving. Quit trying to take care of things on our own, and instead remember that He is God. We are not God, we have no real control, and on our own we are weak and struggle to properly deal with life’s difficulties.

We are not God, but He is God. He is the creator of everything. He is sovereign and in control of everything, even the things we don’t understand. He can handle any situation in this life, because He is bigger than every situation in this life.

We were meant to go through this life in a relationship with God. We were meant to lean on Him, trust in Him, rely on Him, and follow where He leads us. We were not created to do this life apart from Him. We often try, but it gets frustrating and tiring and exhausting and difficult real quick. And then we either begin to worry or try to take more control, and that only makes us more frustrated and tired and exhausted.

It’s a vicious cycle that does not lead us where we want to go, it simply leads to more of the same.

Be still. Cease striving.

Remember we are not God. Remember that He is God.

When we don’t know what to do, we need to simply rest in Him and focus on the truth that He is God. When we think we need to figure out how to control things better, we need to stop and simply rest in Him and focus on the truth that He is God. When worry begins to overwhelm us and we feel like we can’t breathe because of it all, we need to take a deep breath and simply rest in Him and focus on the truth that He is God.

We are not God. He is. He is God alone. There is no other God except Him (Isaiah 45:5).

May we allow Him to be God in our life. May we allow Him to be in control, to give us peace and rest, and to work His INCREDIBLE grace into every situation. He is God alone…and we must allow Him to be that in our life each and every day, no matter what.

May we learn how to be still, and know that He is God.

Posted in Bible Study, Helpful Passages of Scripture

Powerful truths from Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

There is a lot of truth packed into that one verse. At first glance it might not be evident, but let’s explore it a bit.

The first line says “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me”. In that first line, I see three important truths.

  1. We are reminded that God is “the Lord”. Lord is not just a name for God, rather it is a term that means he has authority, power, and control. A Lord is one who rules and reigns over others, who has the ability to make decisions, who is a master and a chief. Right from the beginning of this verse the writer puts God in his place, and at the same time puts us in our place. He is Lord, we are not…we are under his authority, power, and control.
  2. The end of the first line lets us know that he has a purpose for us. That means God has a plan and is working to accomplish that plan in our lives. The things that happen in our life are not random or make no sense, they are part of a greater purpose and plan. We can choose to be ok with what is happening and seek God in the midst of it, or we can choose to not like it and even try to fight with God in the midst of it (how we choose to react to what is happening in our life will have an impact on the future direction of our life). However, regardless of how we act and react, God has a plan he is working to accomplish.
  3. It tells us he will fulfill his purpose. This goes right along with the point I just made, that God has a plan and is working to accomplish that plan. It’s not that he is trying to accomplish his plan, he WILL FULFILL it. His plan and purpose will happen, because he is Lord and in control. It will happen whether we react to it in a godly way or ungodly way.

That is a lot to take in from one statement. But it is the truth. God is Lord of all, he has a purpose for your life, and he will fulfill his purpose.

The second line in this verses is, I believe, meant to be encouraging after the potentially heavy truth of the first line. The second line says “your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever”.

In the first line we are reminded of who is in control of our life, and that he has a purpose for our life that he will fulfill. That can be comforting to remember, but also be difficult to accept…especially when faced with the pain or hardship that might come with his purpose. So after that truth is stated, there is a statement that reminds us all of the fact that God, our Lord, loves us.

This love is not just average love though, it’s steadfast love. Steadfast means it won’t waiver or fluctuate at all; it’s not fickle, not dependent on the circumstances of life, and not even affected by how we choose to act and react to his purpose for our life. It remains strong and steadfast. It also never ends; it will endure forever and ever.

Whether or not we have times where we fight against God or complain about his purpose in our life, his love remains steadfast and endures forever.

When things are going well and we are enjoying life, his love remains steadfast and endures forever.

In the midst of extreme pain and difficulty where we can’t seem to make sense of things, his love remains steadfast and endures forever.

If we don’t like how God’s purpose is currently playing out in our life, we can continually rest in the truth that his steadfast love endures forever. Praise the Lord!

The third and final statement in this verse comes across as being the final consensus of the writer. The writer of this psalm has made the powerful statement that the Lord will fulfill his purpose in his life, then reminds himself of the awesome truth that God’s love endures forever. With this final statement, he makes a declaration concerning his life based on the truths he has just stated (as well as the truth found in all of Psalm 138, but we aren’t dissecting the whole chapter at this time). The third statement says “Do not forsake the work of your hands”.

Consider the potential gravity of that statement. Knowing God is Lord and has a purpose for his life that he will fulfill, and realizing the truth that he does not get to choose what the Lord’s purpose for him is (he can only choose how he acts and reacts to it), he tells the Lord to not forsake the work of your hands. In other words, he tells the Lord to do what he needs to do in order to accomplish his purpose.

The writer ends by saying, in effect, “do what you need to with my life; accomplish what you wish to accomplish; use my life however you desire to.”

Truth – God is our Lord, which means he has complete authority and control.

Truth – God has a purpose for our life and will fulfill his purpose.

Truth – God loves us with a steadfast love that endures forever

Question – Are we willing to make the statement the writer did? Are we willing to tell God “do what you want to with my life; fulfill your purpose for my life, no matter what that might mean”?

My prayer for myself is that I am willing to have the same mindset as the one portrayed in this verse, in order that I may be willing to make the same declaration as the writer did.