Forever seek Him

No, not your potential husband. And not the man of your dreams. I’m talking about the One who is more than a man, and who is able to do above and beyond anything you could EVER ask, think, or dream (Ephesians 3:20). I’m talking about God Himself!

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

This passage goes on to describe Noah, Abraham, Enoch, Moses, and other people who went through life with one thing in common: They went through it via faith. God was with them, and they knew it, and they were not surprised at His presence.

Why do I say that they were not surprised at His presence? Because the Word lets us know that they lived by faith. Faith is not surprised. Faith knows now, though it may seem like knowing something in advance. They knew what was going to happen in their individual situations before having ever gone through the situations. Noah built an ark, Abraham went to sacrifice his son, Sarah believed she would have a son, Enoch pleased God. All of these things that happened wouldn’t have made sense to the mind, because the mind (our brain, our soul, our  “thinking cap”) cannot receive the things of the spirit. This simply means that your brain has the ability to comprehend nothing that is spiritual in nature.

Well, what is God, but spiritual in nature? John 4:24 says that He IS spirit, and they that worship Him MUST worship Him IN spirit and IN truth. Sidebar: Right now, the teens in our youth group are diligently seeking Him in spirit and in truth, taking Him at His Word and going to it to learn more about who God is, and what is character is like. But back to Abraham and those guys…

So, in their hearts – their spirits – they knew that God was going to make good on His Word, and on His promises. Noah had never seen rain, but he knew exactly how things were going to end up when his family and all those animals got onboard the ark. He knew it while he spent years building it (the history states that it took between 55-100 years to do!), and while others undoubtedly thought he was crazy. Abraham knew that God would provide him an heir, and Sarah conceived one. The faith that they all exhibited was not a shallow faith. The faith they had was deep. Why? Because they had built it over time. They believed that He was, and that He was a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.   

  What does it mean to diligently seek someone? Think about relationships. How many of you have a relationship with someone that you would consider “deep”? How about any relationships that you would consider “shallow” or “surfacey”? In which of these relationships have you spent the most time? What have you done to nurture this relationship? It is not up to one person to nurture a relationship; no, it is the responsibility of both parties involved to care for and look after that relationship. How have you contributed to its growth? Now ask yourself the same question about your relationship with God.

Have you nurtured this relationship? If not, you can start now! Spend time with God, like you would a close friend, or someone you actually WANT to get closer to. You know how to do this. You and I do it all the time with the people we “like like”. If we want to get to know someone better, we start paying attention to every little thing that we see in them. We literally absorb gobs of information about people whom we know nothing about at first, until one day, we feel strongly confident that if asked, we could honestly say that we really know that person.

Justin Bieber. Britney Spears. One Direction. Our crush. We say we know a lot about these people, and perhaps we do. But we only know what we were diligent to seek out.

God doesn’t want us to only know fact about Him though. It starts out that way, sure. But eventually, the relationship becomes less about knowing ABOUT God, and more about KNOWING God personally, on a one-to-one level. 

Some people think that this is impossible. That no one deserves to or has the right to know God in this deeply personal level, as one speaking to a friend and a Father. But the Bible disagrees.

But as many as have received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Which were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, but of the will of God. John 1:12

You have the right to know God as a son. As a daughter. Seek Him, expecting that He will teach you, show you things, and guide you through things as a Father would to His sons. And never expect anything less. For He will never give you less.

Grace and peace,

Leon 🙂

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In Christ Alone

Please read this if you are having a bad day. Or a good day. 🙂

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

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There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns I’ll lift His name—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

Known truth

This is going to be a short post. But I think simple points don’t need much explaining.

There has long been the idea that in order to be Christlike, we merely need to be doing the do’s. That we need to say the right things,sing the right songs, or carry an NIV or other translation, and know the words to every Sunday School verse ever taught in Mrs. Simpson’s Sunday School class from the dawn of time.

Well, my friends, I am more than ready to say that that simply is not true.

What good does it profit anybody to say words that appear and sound friendly, yet in their heart, there is hatred, malice, and spite? And what benefit is there for a person who sings the latest Christian hit, but has never sang the song from their heart, but rather from their head? What difference does it really make if you bought your Bible from the nearest Christian book store and got the nicest leather-bound copy or the one with the hologram of a cross on the front cover? Does it really matter that you have a notebook in your Bible bag, filled with notes scribbled on every inch of every page? And is it really doing anybody any good to know the words to John 1:1 without knowing Who the verse is actually talking about?

Hopefully you stopped for a moment and considered the last section of this post. If you have ever asked yourself those questions, no matter what answer you may have come up with at the time, it is important that now – right now – we understand that the answer to those questions are “None. Nothing at all. Nada. Nope. Not even a little bit.”

John 8:31-32 reads:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in my Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 

What Jesus is getting at hear is that these superficial tasks or traits that you could have checked off your list don’t really matter much in the long run. Knowing the truth shall make you free.

Please notice one thing: It is not that the truth by itself shall make you free. Case in point: God is the Creator. Knowing this point does not make you free. There are people and have been people all over the place who believe that nothing in this word could have been created with human or otherwise limited hands or random acts of physics. And if none of them actually accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Son of God, they are no more free now then they ever were. Jesus Christ came to preach liberty to the captives and to heal the oppressed. But knowing that He came to do that, and knowing that He succeeded in doing it are two different things entirely.

John 8 says that those who abide (remain) in His Words will KNOW THE TRUTH. And then when they know the truth, the truth shall make them free. Do you want freedom? Do you relish it?

Simply put, friends, know the Word. I’m not saying that you should go out and buy a study Bible and study the entire New and Old Testaments in a day. I’m not saying you should try to impress the world with your vast knowledge of Scripture, an act akin to raising your hand in Mrs. Simpson’s class repeatedly , but as an adult.

Take whatever bit of the Word you know, or have in front of you, and learn that. Study it. Know it. When you do, then that truth will be activated to make a change in your life. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. And faith comes with each word spoken by God, if you know it. To hear and to know are two entirely different things.

So I challenge you. Or rather, I pose a question for you all: What truth do you know?

The Way Things Look vs. the Way They Are

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. Acts 16:25-26, NKJV

Wow. What a picture. Few people probably know what Paul looked like. We see word pictures of his journeys and the miracles that were performed through him, the adversity that he overcame, and power of his ministry, and the way that he was mightily used of God for many years. But we don’t really see a picture of his physical stature. This really struck me when I was reading this chapter. I should tell you that the reason I was reading this chapter of the book of Acts is because my pastor taught on the topic of reframing your problems through the Word yesterday at church and I realized I needed to reread some of the Scripture that he mentioned. I strongly encourage you to do the same when you read this blog. Go into the Bible and see what it is that the Word says firsthand. Don’t simply take my quotes and excerpts and take them to heart. Ensure that what I am saying is right, and then take it to heart, if they are. Anyway, back to Paul…

In all the stories recorded of Paul’s life we see great and mighty exploits, experiences and tales worthy of making him appear to be a great man in our eyes. He certainly was considered to be great in the Father’s eyes. After all, greatness is judged in servitude to the King. (Mark 10:43)

But what does the Word say? It doesn’t really say that Paul was great. It says that the Lord was great IN him. So here is Paul, in Acts 16 – he has just been placed in the innermost dungeon of this Roman prison, and his feet are fastened in the stocks. He and his compatriot Silas are beaten and bruised and bloody (Acts 16:22-23). On the surface, things are NOT looking very good for Paul.

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But there was more to this picture and Paul saw it. Do you?

Beaten and bruised, Paul began to pray. Paul and Silas prayed to the only One who was capable of changing their circumstance. They prayed and talked with the One who had been with them before they were thrown into prison, and now surely He was with them while they were IN prison. Paul had a problem. What strength of person enables one to see past their situation to the One who is holding their salvation? So often, we lose sight of our hope, of our lives, and of each other when we deal with a problem. We see problems as mountains, when we should see them as stepping stones. I don’t mean that problems are given to us by God in order to get us to a higher place, spiritually. They aren’t. Read Matthew 7:10-11 if you don’t believe me. God gives answers. He doesn’t create our problems. Paul knew this. He knew that in every moment, God was with him, and in every moment, God was still powerful. God was still on the throne. He was still Lord, and Paul served the Lord. He knew that God was able to turn any moment into a moment where glory was made known. So this moment in the prison was no different, and your problems aren’t either. I’m not saying “God USES” our situations as necessary tools of getting things done for the sake of the kingdom. I’m saying God OPERATES in every situation, if you will allow Him to. He can use anything, sure. He can turn anything to anything, sure (water or wine, anyone?). But I believe His primary instrument of working on this earth is still you and me, with the Holy Spirit and His Word being used in us.

So Paul and Silas prayed. And I imagine he looked pretty beaten up, he and Silas. I don’t know that Paul was a brawny man, one that could “take a licking and keep on ticking”. I don’t know what measure of torture would have had to be dealt to Paul in order to get him to start succumbing physically to the pain that was being inflicted on him, but I believe that the rods he and Silas were beaten with (Acts 16:22) were designed to fid that point and pursue it. So, Paul and Silas sat there in the dungeon, probably looking a mess. The Word says of Jesus that people esteemed Him not, that He wasn’t every really a man that one would admire or fear physically. But we know from the severity of His beating before being placed on the cross a little something about how Roman officials were treating preachers of the gospel. And like He said, “A servant s not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also (John 15:20).” People respond to us the same way they respond to Jesus, one way or another.

While beaten and bruised and bloody, Paul and Silas prayed. But they didn’t only pray. Here in Acts 16:25 we se e that they did something else too. They sang. They SANG! We have heard that birds sing in the morning because everything is beautiful, and they just can’t help it. In this situation, where they are in the darkest dankest part of the prison imaginable, Paul and Silas SANG! And I am totally convince that the hymns they sang were nothing like the hymns you and I have grown up singing, where victory in Jesus is all but hoped for but never celebrated. These were hymns that proclaimed glory! The very words they spoke and sang ushered in a change to their physical situation (the walls were shaken and the prison doors were opened) but it was because they actually echoed and proclaimed their actual spiritual situation, which was the same before they went in the prison, and when they left!

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What was this situation? They were free! They were free, even while in prison. Christ had made them free. And whosoever the King makes free, he is free indeed (John 8:31-33, 36). They were already free. Prison did not trap them. Their physical bodies were in shackles, but their spirits were free to live with Christ, unfettered by chains, unbroken by despair.

Paul and Silas didn’t move the doors. They didn’t loose their chains. But the Word of God did. The power of God did. Their faith did. What is the victory? Our faith. 1 John 5:4-5).

Don’t see your situation as a mountain. See it through the lens of the Word. Take the Scriptures and hold them to your eye, and then look at your situations through them. In doing so, you will begin to see them the way God sees them. As stepping stones. As distractions. As burdens for the Lord to carry, not you. Take a load off. You’ve been holding it in your arms and on your back for too long.

Grace and peace, Leon 🙂

Serving Others – Following Christ

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:5-8

Don’t miss what’s being said in those verses you see at the top of this devotional. Paul makes a huge statement here. He says that our attitude should be like Jesus’ attitude. And how did Paul describe Jesus’
attitude? He said that Jesus (who was, you know, God Himself) saw His life as a life of humble service to others. Whoa.

If that attitude was good enough for Jesus to take on, then it should be good enough for us.

Spend today thinking about how this simple truth could radically change your life and your faith if you truly embraced it.

What would your life be like if you took on the identity of Christ’s humble service to the world?

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Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” Mark 9:35

There’s this understanding in our world that the way to get ahead is to “look out for number 1.” As long as you’re not harming anyone else, anything you need to do to make a name for yourself is fair game, or so they say. The tendency is to promote yourself and convince people that you’re cool through Twitter and Instagram. The tendency is to collect friends and likes. Through it all, make yourself look as good as possible. Be famous in your own little world.

The problem with this is that it’s pretty much the opposite of how Jesus talks about real greatness.

See, part of your identity as a Christ-follower is serving others. You’re called to look out for the interest of others ahead of your own. Because you’re a Christ-follower, true greatness comes from putting yourself last. After all, your complete identity is found in Christ, and isn’t that what Christ did, and still does?

This is SO counter-cultural to the world you live in, isn’t it? This means it’s a challenge to live like this. But it also means there is a ton of opportunity.

Today, as you read this, there are people in your life who would be blown away if you did something for them that showed them that they mattered.

Who are those people?

Who would be completely shocked if you did something today that put him or her first? What if you did something that said to him or her, “I’m thinking about you before I think about me. I’m putting your needs ahead of mine”?

You can go a long way toward showing others your true identity in Christ simply by putting them first. Not only will you be obeying Christ, but your actions will lead others to know a little more about Jesus and the difference He has made in your life.

It’s a safe bet that this guy or girl would realize that there’s something different about you. And you might just get the chance to tell them that you’re trying to live out your identity as a Christ-follower.

Don’t miss the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life by showing them the kind of humble heart Jesus wants to see in His followers.

Grace and peace to you,
Leon 😀😃

You are a city on a hill!

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“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

Psalm 48:1-2
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion,
on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”

Great is the Lord. True!
He is greatly to be praised! Also true!

Where does it say that He is greatly to be praised? Say it with me: IN THE CITY OF OUR GOD… Which is in the mountain of His holiness, according to the psalm.

Where is this city? ON A HILL… or on a mountain, according to the psalm. This is a metaphor that will change the way you view your life.

Christ often spoke in parables, carefully drawing connections with the truths of His teachings from the Word and with the experiences of the people He taught with the outside world. Here we see two connections drawn concerning LIGHT and ELEVATION.

You are the city of God. You are made holy habitations, or DWELLING PLACES, in Christ when you accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. You are the vessel, the place where the presence of God makes His home, because He wants to, and you are well-suited to be that person. You and I make up that city. It isn’t the church buildings that are the city – it’s the believers, the ones who believe and proclaim that Jesus is Lord, and He is coming again!

So, that sounds nice and all, but what does that mean for me?

Well, aside from all the benefits of having God living on the inside of you all the time, in such close proximity, what is the purpose of our building? We find it in the psalm and in Matthew 5:14…

We are to be LIGHT to a dark world. What does light do in the presence of darkness? It dispels it. Darkness is destroyed in the presence of light. Your light is the gospel of Christ inside of you, the good news of Jesus Christ redeeming you and God’s unwavering pursuit of all people, regardless of sin, regardless of doubt, and regardless of past and present mistakes.

This light is to be seen by all men. It is to be shown forth, so that they can know God the way that you do. Let them get to know God through the Son Jesus Christ. How can we show it forth?

By praising God! By speaking of how good He is. Think about it – what better way for the world to get to know how great and awesome our God is than to be shown and told by you and me?

Do not hide the light of the gospel that is in you. In the ancient years of the Israelites, cities were geographical markers. When walking along a large expanse of desert, one could use the light, the commotion, and the stature of nearby cities to guide them along the direction they wanted to go. A city on a hill was a guide. It showed people direction.

A city on a hill is not made to be put under a covering. It is meant to be seen. You are that city on a hill. You are holy, set apart. You are made to be the beacon. You are made to point people to God by showing His glory. Let it be in the words that you speak, in the way you act, in the grace you show your neighbor. Let it be seen in your demeanor, and the way you communicate with family, friends, lesser familiar acquaintances, and strangers. No matter what you do today, or tomorrow, don’t not let your light shine forth. Don’t miss an opportunity to point the way to God – the Way, called Jesus.

Grace and peace,
Leon

—-Be sure to join us this Wednesday and every Wednesday as we continue our look at Jesus and our IDENTITY

Jesus and Identity – Being Salt and Light

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ⎯ Matthew 5:16

When was the last time you played a video game and thought to yourself, “Wow, the person who wrote the code for this game was incredible”? Or what about the last time you watched TV and thought, “The electricity that powers my TV is awesome”? Chances are, you haven’t had this experience very often, if ever. In most cases, we don’t really think about the source of the thing we’re enjoying. We’re too busy enjoying it.

But Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:16 point to the fact that this may not be the case when it comes to how other people see our lives.

Look, people notice your actions. If you live a life committed to God, people will notice. And here’s the cool part: they’ll know something is different about you. They’ll see your life, and they’ll be curious about what makes you different. And this curiosity will lead them to God.

You have the opportunity to draw people to God simply by the things you do and say. The opposite is true, as well. If you identify as a Christ-follower, yet live your life as if knowing Christ has never really changed you, then you can turn people away from God.

What will you choose? Will your identity point people toward God? Or away from Him?

—— This is the first of three devotions for this week based on our current youth group study on JESUS and identity. For more info, visit us at:
http://www.bwccog.org/classes/youth
We will be continuing this study for the next three weeks every Wednesday all through October! See you then!

Grace and peace,
Leon 🙂