to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24
The most important decision anyone will ever make is if they are going to follow Jesus and become one of his disciples. After that comes the difficult task of allowing our old habits, or our old self, to die. I know when I first decided to follow Christ my old habits were hard to give up. It was so easy to fall back into my old routine. I had to allow the Holy Spirit to come and change my daily habits. I was no longer a citizen of this world but had gained citizenship in heaven. I had to stop looking and acting as the world around me did.
Over the past few months, I have looked around me and seen some of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ acting according to their old self. We have all had moments where we placed our hope in a politician, a vaccine, or a something else to give us hope and help us explain what is going on in our lives. All of us who are disciples of Christ need to stop, ask forgiveness, and repent of our misplaced trust. By doing so, we will allow the Holy Spirit to come in and renew our minds so that we can shine the light of hope of Jesus into a dark world that needs a savior.
Take some time today and ask God to show you where you have misplaced your trust or hope. How are you going to live as “the new self” and show that “the old self” has died?
Taking a look back at 2020, we see where God allowed us to be put into some uncomfortable situations. He moved us from our comfort zone into the unknown. This caused me to question God at times about what he was doing and why he was doing this. At times, it seems that there is no end to when this stuff is going to be over. I had moments where I was worn down and tired. The prophet Jeremiah experienced this same feeling and spoke to this in verse 18.
so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.“Lamentations 3:18
When these times came upon me, I had only one place to turn for help. I had to turn and trust that God has already taken care of everything that I was going through. My focus had to shift from my problems to the problem solver. Just a few verses later Jeremiah realized this also and penned verses 22 and 23.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;Lamentations 3:22-23
his mercies never come to an end;
great is they faithfulness.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
These two verses inspired Thomas Chisholm to write a poem that later was turned into the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. This hymn has been sung in churches for decades now. The chorus is almost a direct quote of these two verses.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Thomas Chisholm
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Take heart and know that God is not surprised by what happens in our lives. He never changes and is quick to forgive when we doubt and stray. Take time today and think on the new mercies God has given to you today.
As we are approaching the new year, most people are thankful we have made it through 2020. Also, they are looking forward to 2021 by making New Year’s resolutions. Most people are taking an inventory of their life and seeing where they want to change. The most common goals seem to fall into how people view themselves physically, like losing weight or working out more. I know I should certainly focus on these areas of my life, but even more important is the taming of my tongue. This is something that I am constantly having to check myself on. It is easy for me to criticize, in writing or speech, the way someone believes or does things. I know I have the ability to be just downright mean about it.
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.James 3:8
James the brother of Jesus has laid out a few characteristics of a mature believer. In the first two chapters of this letter, a mature believer is seen to be one who is patient in trouble (James 1) and practices the truth (James 2). The third trait of a mature believer is their ability to control their tongue. I know if I do not allow God to take control of my tongue, it can do so much harm and cause a plethora of issues among the people around me. When I am allowing God to tame my tongue, I may still disagree with what someone says or does, but the way I say it and treat that person changes considerably. Only God can tame the tongue, and we must submit control of it to Him. Paul reminds us about how we should talk to one another in Ephesians.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29
My challenge to you and me starting today is to allow God to control your tongue. Watch what you say and how you say it. When we make the effort to do this, the way we treat people will change, and they will notice.
In Malachi, the people have had to take a hard look at themselves as a group and individuals. They have had to take inventory of what they had and had not done. In Malachi 3, God points out that the people had been robbing him and each other. God specifically calls the people out for withholding their tithes from their first fruits. God had made a covenant with Israel. They were to obey him, and He would bless them. However, Israel’s disobedience was costly.
God has also made a covenant with you and me. We are to be faithful and obedient to God. I know this year has been a tough one, and the temptation might be to look at your finances and see where you can cut back. We think, “I can miss my tithe; no one will notice.” My encouragement for you is to not fall into the trap I have fallen into before when time and finances got tough. I made the mistake of saying that God would understand if I held onto His portion of what He gave me. When I would do this, my money would alway run short. On the other hand, when I was faithful and tithed, like God called me to do, He alway made my finances work out just right.
When times get tough are you going to be faithful and obedient to follow God? Or are you going to follow your own path?
I always look forward to this time of the year as we celebrate the brith of our Savior. The part of this season that I get most excited about is gathering together with family and friends. This year is different as we are gathering in small groups and not able to see everyone. I was reminded as I read Ezra 6 how God’s people had not been able to gather together to celebrate God for 70 years. During the time they were not able to gather, they adapted and overcame. But God–always working for the good of His people–had a plan. He worked it out to where a pagan king ordered the rebuilding of the temple and regathering of the people of Israel. When all the work was over and the people were able to celebrate as one again, can you imagine the excitement that the people of Israel were feeling?
It says in verse 22 that “… the Lord had made them joyful.” We need to find joy in this season not because of the circumstances of things going on around us but because of who is in control of all things.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
Our plans for this year may not have turned out like we thought they would or should, but God, out of his love for us, has a plan. We–His people who love Him–need to be faithful to follow, and He will take care of the rest.
Daniel 4 opens with King Nebuchadnezzar having had a dream. He is seeking counsel from the wise men in the kingdom about the true meaning of the dream, and none of them know what the dream means. Then Daniel hears the dream and interprets it for the king. The dream warns about the king being humbled and brought low. King Nebuchadnezzar does not heed the warning of the dream, thinking he is above all. The king had built a mighty kingdom and was untouchable in his mind, but God was faithful and followed through on the warning and humbled the king. After the prescribed time that God promised Nebuchadnezzar would be afflicted, he was delivered and restored to a normal life. This restoration began with Nebuchadnezzar submitting to the authority and power of God.
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”Daniel 4:34-35
Unfortunately, I find it easy to fall into the same trap that King Nebuchadnezzar did, by inflating my ego and allowing myself to believe I am better than I am. Even on my best days, on my own, I am nothing. God always, without fail, sends people into my life that bring be back down to reality. When this happens, I have to humble myself, repent, and acknowledge that God is who He is in my life.
What are the areas in your life that you need to acknowledge that you are trying to control instead of allowing God to take his rightful place? Are you willing to allow God to reign in your life? What do you need to do to for your relationship with God to be restored?
Jonah has been in the belly of the great fish for three days. What a horrid place to be for three days and three nights in complete darkness with nothing but your own thoughts. I know for me, when I dwell on my own thoughts, I can justify most of my actions or beat myself up over things I have said. Jonah had opportunity after opportunity to follow God and travel to Nineveh. Instead Jonah chose to follow his own path and wound up in this impossible situation. It is so easy for me to look at Jonah and think, “How hardheaded does he have to be to not see all the times he willfully disobeyed God?” Then Jonah goes to God in prayer saying,
I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried and you heard me voice. Jonah 2:2
This prayer is not one of affection but one of affliction. He had exhausted all other possibilities of running from God and was in an impossible situation that he was not able to get out of himself. Even though Jonah had run, God was still faithful to forgive him when he repented and humbled himself before God. How many times are we disobedient to God and only turn to Him for our rescue after we are so deep in a situation that we cannot get ourselves out? Why do we run so hard from the will of God and think that we know what is best? I am thankful that each time I repent, God is faithful to forgive me. Where are areas of your life that you are running from God and need to repent and follow God’s plan instead of your own?
As the end of the year is approaching, it seems my life is quickly becoming busy. I know during this time I tend to let the insignificant things become my focus and I become overwhelmed and stressed out. If I would stop myself and refocus my life on God and how great He is, I know things would not overwhelm me. How often do you stop and ponder the greatness of God? In 1 Kings 8, Solomon and the people of Israel are dedicating the temple, which is where God’s presence was supposed to reside on earth. As Solomon started to pray during the the dedication, he had what I like to call the Aha moment. He realized there is no way God’s presence could be contained in this insignificant, man-made temple. Now we know compared to worldly standards, the temple was the grandest structure around. He realized all that time, materials, and energy spent building this temple could never compare to the greatness of God. Solomon shifted his focus and the nation of Israel from the things the world and put their focus on God and His greatness. From time to time, we need to stop and take stock of our own lives. The focus of our lives will determine if we are looking to the insignificant things of the world or the grand things of God. If we will stop, slow down, and focus on God then everything in our lives will fall into proper order.
What are you needing to do so that life will not be so busy or chaotic? Are there things, people, or situations that you need to move down your priority list so that you can focus on God and His greatness?
As big as our God is, today he chooses to make a home in the hearts of believers. We need to move the insignificant out of the way so that He can sit on the throne of our hearts.