Friday, October 24, 2008

MATTHEW: Leaving It All Behind

Matthew 9:9-12

After years of counting out coins, writing out customs receipts, and collecting Roman taxes from his Jewish countrymen, Matthew finally heard an offer he could not refuse. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and he left all, rose up, and followed Him" (Luke 5:28).

Matthew left everything (see Matt.9:9). The taxes. The extorted excess. The receipts. He left it all-except, praise God, his gift of accurate record-keeping!

Before his conversion, his name had been Levi, the son of Alphaeus (see Mark 2:14). But after he came to Christ, he received a new name, Matthew ("Gift of the Lord"). When Luke and Mark refer to Matthew, they call him Levi. But in Matthew 10:3, he refers to himself as "Matthew the tax collector"-a pointed reminder of a past he had given up.

What "old life" did you leave behind in order to fully follow the Son of God?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Intimacy With God

God's highest priority for our lives determines the impact of our lives.

Genesis 1:26

One of the greatest needs is to know that we are loved. Each one of us has to feel certain, deep down in our heart, that someone loves us, cares for us, and has our best interests at heart.

That is how God designed us. He wants us to know that He loves every one of us with a passionate intensity too deep for words.

God created human beings with fellowship in mind-first with Himself and then with others. But we cannot fully love one another until we have ourselves experienced the love of God. We experience His love when we willingly surrender to His call to be our Savior, Lord, and Friend.

There are at least 3 reasons God seeks our surrender:
  1. He loves us and desires our fellowship and worship. - So long as we hold something back from God, we cannot know Him completely or fully experience His love. When we surrender to Him, we get all of Him.
  2. He wants our service for Him to be effective and fruitful. - The more we know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. The more energetically we nurture our relationship with the Lord, the greater the positive mark we will leave behind.
  3. He waits for the freedom to bless us. - God is omnipotent, but He will not violate His own principles. He draws us to Himself so we can experience His love and forgiveness. He asks for our willing surrender so that He can give us the best blessings He has to offer.

    So why do we resist? With all this in mind, why does anyone resist surrendering to God? Pride is the key reason most people resist surrender. They think they know better than God and that they can handle their life better than He can, so they keep Him at arm's distance.

    Others do not surrender because they fear what God will do (or not do) for them. They think that if they give Him control, He'll make them do exactly what will make them most miserable.

    Still others refuse to surrender to Christ because they believe Satan's lie, which tells them that God is judgemental and will punish them for their mistakes.

    All of this is completely false! God always has our best in mind. He will refuse us no good thing when we gladly submit to His will (see Rom.8:32). He tells us, "I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope". (Jer.29:11)

    It only makes sense to surrender to God, because when we do, we grow close to Him-His highest priority for us-and we begin to have an impact on our world.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ABRAHAM: The Man of Endurance

Genesis 21:1-3

Call Abraham not only a man of faith (see Gal. 3:9), but a man of endurance. The starting gun sounded when God promised Abraham a son in his old age, and Abraham "believed in the Lord" (Gen. 15:5,6). But a year came and went, and no child arrived.

Abraham kept running. Two years flashed by, and still no child. Still Abraham kept running. Despite a stumble at mid-race (Gen.16), Abraham kept running. For 25 years he kept running, until at last, at age 100, he and his wife, age 99, had a son (Gen.21:1-3).

Why the long wait? Apparently, God wanted Abraham (and us)! to learn the connection between waiting, trust, and hope (Ps.33:20). And that hope, the apostle Paul reminds us, prompts us to wait on God "with perseverance" (Rom.8:25).

Even if that means running the longest marathon of our life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Admirable Quality of Kindness

Proverbs 3:1-4

What does it mean to bind kindness around our neck and write it on the table of our heart? It means that kindness should be a deep, central part of our life. Unfortunately, kindness doesn't automatically become one of our characteristics when we accept Christ as our Savior. We have to work at it-we must deliberately take responsibility for our actions and attitudes towards others, and choose to act compassionately toward others. So what are some things we should do to develop kindness?
  • First, we should realize that even though we don't immediately become kind at salvation, we do have the potential to exhibit kindness because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit develops the quality of kindness in us (see Gal.5:22).
  • Second, we must eliminate those characteristics, actions, and attitudes within us that stops us from being loving, tenderhearted, and useful. We cannot be selfish. Rather, we must lay aside the characteristics that do not fit who we are as believers in order for kindness to flow out of our life (see Eph. 4:31-32).
  • Third, we must focus on the needs of other people. As long as we are focused on ourselves-our needs, wants, desires, and plans-we are not going to be very kind. Yet, when we focus on others, we will become sensitive to who they are and what they need in life (see Col. 3:12-13).
  • Fourth, we must ask God to teach us to be kind. We must look to God to make us sensitive to the situations that need a special touch of kindness and to express His kindness through us. We do so with the hope that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ as their Savior (see Matt. 5:16).
  • Fifth, if we want to learn to be kind, we must practice kindness. Every day, we should ask the Lord, "Father, please show me at least one person I can be kind to today". We should look for opportunities to be kind and praise God whenever we find them, knowing that God is working through us whenever we show kindness to others.