Tuesday, July 30, 2019

NTDS (46): The God of Comfort

2 Cor 1:3-4  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…NIV

This is a bold statement made by the apostle Paul. God comforts us in all our troubles? Some of you may be thinking right now that this statement isn’t really true. You may have gone through or are now going through troubles and you say “I am not experiencing this comfort!” We may all go through times where we do not feel comforted and yet we know that God’s word is always true. If that is the case, then why do we not always experience His comfort?

I think there are two reasons that we may not always experience the comfort of God. You can remember them in two R’s, Recognize and Receive. What does that mean?

First, we need to recognize how God comforts us. I believe that God comforts us in three ways: the truth of His word, communication with Him in prayer and from the fellowship with other believers.

When trouble surrounds us, we should look to the Word, especially the promises that He has given us. We see in the Bible that everyone goes through tough times, so we know that we are not alone. John 16:33
 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

We also learn from the Word that our hardships often have great purpose. 2 Cor1: 8 "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."

God also promises us that our troubles will not last forever, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter 1:6

The word tells us that there are benefits that come from enduring trials, James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

These promises and the promises of salvation, eternal life with Him and the knowledge that He will never leave us or forsake us should always bring comfort to our hearts.

Secondly, when we are in the midst of difficulty, we gain comfort in prayer. Just knowing that we have an all-powerful God, who will actually listen to us, should bring comfort. Ps 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.”
Ps 118:5 "In my anguish I cried to the Lord,and he answered by setting me free." 

Many times in prayer, the Lord will speak to you with words of comfort. He will bring to you and overwhelming sense of peace, that you cannot explain, John 14:27“ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The third way that He brings comfort is from other believers. 2 Cor 1:6-7 “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

As you pray, God will often bring others into your life that can bring comfort to you. Paul shares two examples of this 1Thess 3:6-8, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.”

2 Cor 7:6-8 “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.”

Now, the second R. Sometimes the reason we are not experiencing God’s comfort is that we refuse to receive it. If we really thought about it, I think we would have to admit that sometimes we would rather just wallow in our circumstance, rather than receive God’s comfort. We look at the promises of God in his word and choose to doubt them. We do not go to him in prayer and ask for his help and comfort. We don’t want to allow the Holy Spirit (the comforter) to render His comfort to us. Sometimes we even refuse to receive the comfort of a person God sends to us to help us through our time of grief.

Just as we had to make a free will choice to accept Christ into our life, just as we had to choose to surrender control of our life to Him, we must choose to receive the comfort he wants to bring to us. God has promised us comfort, He has promised us peace. We must learn to recognize how and when He is bringing it to us and then receive it from Him.

So, next time you are going through a difficult time, I pray that you will look for God’s comfort, so that you can recognize it when it comes and then choose to receive it gratefully.

God bless you

Thursday, July 25, 2019

NTDS (69): KISS: Keep It Simple, Saints

1 Thess 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. NIV

It seems to me that we sometimes make our lives with the Lord overcomplicated. After all, we read the Bible and don’t always understand it. We don’t always know what God wants us to do in situations. We struggle with obedience to His commands and sometimes, may even be confused about what His commands actually are.

When you start feeling this way, it is good to get back to basics. In chapter 5 of 1st Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul summarized how we should live as Christians. It really isn’t as complicated as we often make it. Paul starts off with a motivational statement, as to why these believers should live their lives in the manner he will present. In verses 1-9 He tells them that the day of the Lord, as predicted many times in the Bible, will certainly come and that they should live their lives as people who will not be surprised by that fact.

1 Thess 5:4-6 "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."

Then, in typical Pauline fashion, he gives them simple instructions on how to live their lives accordingly. These instructions apply to us as well and can certainly help simplify life for us. You might think of these as, keeping our priorities straight. Let’s look at his list of instructions for simple Christian living.

Be self controlled (v8)
Encourage one another (v11)
Respect those who work hard at leading you in Christ (v12)
Live in peace with each other (v13)
Warn those who are idle (not working, wasting time) (v14)
Encourage those who are timid (v14)
Help the weak (most likely in the spiritual sense) (v14)
Be patient with all (v14)
Don’t pay back wrong (or evil) with wrong (v15)
Be kind to all (v15)
Be joyful (v16)
Always be praying (v17)
Give thanks to God in all circumstances (v18)
Don’t resist the work of the Spirit in your life (v19)
Don’t despise prophecy but test it by scripture (v21)
Hold on to that which is good and avoid things that are evil (v21, 22)

What Paul is teaching us here, is that our decisions on how we live should not be that complicated. If you are confused about how to live, just review this list. Just because it is simple does not mean that it is easy to do.  We must choose to do what is right in God’s eyes, as represented here. The Holy Spirit will help us to make those choices but we still have to choose.

Paul then says that God himself will keep you blameless at he coming again of our Lord Jesus. He is faithful and we can trust Him to completely sanctify us (make us holy). As it says in verse 18, … “for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”  So let’s keep it simple, saints!

God bless you

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

NTDS 88: Live like Jesus

1Jn 2:6  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (NIV)

What comes to mind when you read this verse? If we are familiar with the Gospels, we may think, “Wow, do we have to be homeless for three years, going from town to town, preaching, healing and doing miracles? After all, that is how Jesus lived!”

Though there may be people who have been called to a similar type ministry, I don’t believe that John was intending that. Notice that there is a challenging contention at the beginning of the verse, “whoever claims to live in Him!” What is that referring to, what does it mean to, “live in Him?”

To answer that, we must go to the book of John, chapter 5: 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (NASB).
The word abide means to live. We are to live as a branch of a tree. No branch can survive unless it is attached to the trunk, fed by its root. In other words, our relationship with Jesus is one of complete dependence for nourishment and growth. Jesus points out that we cannot bear fruit (anything of spiritual value) without His abiding presence and power in our lives.
John is showing us, that if we claim to be attached to Him in this manor, it will be evident in the way we live. That way,will look like the life of Jesus. How will it look like Him? Can I suggest three ways that we can live as Jesus did? This is not a complete list, but at least one that we can know for certain is valid.

          1.   Jesus lived in complete surrender to the will of the Father. 
Jn 8:28  So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”
Jn 6:38  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
Jn 5:30  “Ican do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

So, if Jesus, who is in all ways equal to the Father, submitted His will to the Father, likewise, we submit our will to Him. That means we are to be in complete obedience to Him. Now before you say, “that is impossible” (you would be right), remember that He has sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do His will. 
Jn 14:16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— (17) But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Now, this side of heaven, we will never be perfectly submissive because we still battle our flesh nature. Even so, our heart’s desire should be total surrender to God’s will.

          2.    Jesus lived as a servant.
Mk 10:42  Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
On the night before Jesus died, He gave a stunning example of being a servant, when He washed the feet of the disciples in the upper room (Jn, ch 13). This may not seem that impressive in our culture today, but in that time, only the lowliest of all the servants of the house would be given the task of washing a guest’s feet when they entered the house.
So, as Jesus was willing to do the lowliest of tasks to serve others, we must be willing to do the same.

3. Jesus walked in agape love.
Everything Jesus did was motivated by agape. Agape is a Greek word that denotes a kind of love that is willing to sacrifice one’s self for others, without expectation of anything in return.
 Jn 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jn 13:34  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How do we know if we are walking in love? 1stCor 13 has the answer. It is a word picture of what agape love is and is not, and of what it does and does not do. 

1Co 13:4  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
If you consider this list, thinking of it in terms of your relationships with others, it is pretty easy to see whether or not you are walking in love.

Now if you were to narrow down this list of three measurements of how well you are living in Him, which do you think would be the most important?

Jesus, when asked which commandment of the law was the most important, said this, 

If we truly want to live as Jesus did, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to love God and love our neighbor. Our lives will look different from each other as we approach each day. Some will be in full time paid ministry or missionary work, but the majority will not and that is not only ok, it is good. God has a different calling for each of us in terms of work, family and interests. The common factor we share as believers in Christ is our commitment to obedience, service and agape love. I encourage you, as we are exhorted in our key verse, if you claim the name of Christ, then walk as Jesus walked!

God Bless you