Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God's Temple

Article:  God’s Temple

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (Acts 17:24).

God does not live in temples made with human hands.  This is a surprising and profound statement when you consider that so much of the world has always believed and functioned as though the only way to be close to God or to hear from Him was to meet him in some holy place.  All over the world, and throughout history, humanity has sought to reach out to God and hear from him in churches, temples, high-mountain caverns, desert shrines, and all manner of sacred spaces.  The Bible, however, draws a distinct line in the sand when it regards the habitation of the Most High.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the apostle Paul writes concerning a gift that God has given humanity- namely their physical bodies.  He writes to assure them of the sacred importance God places on the stewardship of our bodies.  This stewardship is primarily an act of worship to God.  He writes, “…do you not know that you body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  God did not only desire to dwell among men, He also desired to dwell within them in a relation of intimacy and fellowship.  That close relationship came at a high price, though.

You see, humanity is separated from God because of the sinful nature of our hearts.  There really is nothing we can do to bridge the gap between ourselves and God because our efforts fall short.  But God was able to reach down to mankind when He took on flesh and died to pay the penalty for our sins.  That’s what scripture means when it says we were bought with a price…that price was the life of Jesus Christ.  It is with an attitude of gratefulness and devotion that we respond to him in devotion for all that He has done.

Romans 12:1 instructs us to present our bodies to God as a “living sacrifice”, which is our reasonable act of worship.  When we devote our time and talents to the work of God, we are worshiping Him with the "living sacrifice" of our lives.  When we intentionally combat sinful habits and attitudes in our lives, we are worshiping Him with a “living sacrifice”.  When we simply acknowledge God and His lordship over our every day, we worship God with a “living sacrifice”.  We are invited by God to be transformed by His Spirit and made clean from the stains of sin and past brokenness.

God does not need anything from humankind.  He is God.  And yet, He has chosen to make His dwelling place, not just in some distant heaven, but here on earth within the hearts of His people.  He does this to reveal Himself to His people, and to show the amazing love He has for us.  Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Don't Waste Your Fear

Article:  Don’t Waste Your Fear

In my last article I shared with you some experiences that King David and the Apostle Paul had in dealing with fear and frustration.  Today I would like to continue the theme and encourage you not to waste your fear.  “Waste my fear?  I don’t even want to be afraid in the first place…how can I waste fear?”

First let me acknowledge the physical and emotional reality of fear.  Fear is a natural emotional response that human beings have toward a perceived threat.  It sharpens our minds and quickens our bodies to either fight the threat or flee from it.  However, overwhelming fear can also paralyze a person by causing them to retreat and emotionally implode.

You may have noticed in the Bible that it says many times, “Do not be afraid”.  In fact, that phrase shows up 33 times in the New Testament alone.  God isn’t being unreasonable when he tells us not to do something that seems to come so naturally, I believe he tells us not to be afraid for a reason…it’s because He is God, He cares for us, and He is there for us.  In other words, we shouldn’t dwell in fear, but rather use it as an opportunity to draw closer to Him.  Fear can lead us away from trusting in God when we let it take over and consume our thinking, but it can also drive us in a positive direction toward God when we ask Him for help amidst our dark times.

I would like you to consider the following ways in which fear might drive us to a closer relationship to God:

1.  Fear humbles us and drives us to our knees in prayer.  It takes humility to admit that our situations are above our heads and we need help from the Lord.  When we cry out to Him, He hears our prayer and is faithful to answer.  Psalm 34:15 says, "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.”  It has been said that there is no higher place than to be on your knees before the throne of God in prayer.

2.  Fear drives us toward fellowship with friends, family and other believers as we search for answers and help in our distress.  Hebrews 10:24-25 shows us a great example:  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  We network together as a family in order to encourage, instruct and keep one another going.

3.  Fear drives us toward the Word of God.  Such sweet words of wisdom and courage can be found in the Bible.  Millions turn to its pages every day for guidance, reassurance and blessing.  Finding God in the pages of His word tells us that He has not let us go, and that He cares for us.

Even though difficult times seem to tear us down and bring darkness to an otherwise beautiful life, God stands ready to hear and respond to the cry of our hearts.  Don’t waste your fear, allow it to drive you closer to the Lord and to those who love you.  Let it bring you to a greater dependence and trust in who God is and what He has done for us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Firm Foundation

Article:  Firm Foundation

“Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God…”  Isaiah 41:10

Fear is a silent and deadly killer.  It may not bring immediate destruction to the body, but fear kills the inner man by crushing dreams, stifling happiness, and by persistently pushing the mind into a dark corner that is filled with unknowns.  Fear is used as a tool of the enemy of mankind to induce us to retreat from the great adventures of life, and to take our eyes off of the God of light and peace that desires that we should find our satisfaction in Him.

Psalm 42 is a masterful song, penned by David, who had endured much at the hands of those who hated him so much that they sought to end his life.  They pursued his destruction with all of their might, but David knew he could find hope in God- he knew that nothing would come against him except that which God allowed.  In this psalm, its almost as if you can actually hear him pacing across the floor, on one hand expressing his angst, and on the other hand reminding himself of God’s promises.  He asks himself, “Why are you downcast, oh my soul; why so disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

When the apostle Paul was concerned with a physical ailment that plagued his life, he asked God many times to heal him and take away the weakness.  Perhaps you can identify with Paul’s desire to be rid of a weakness, fear, ailment, or other issue.  Hear what God said to Paul, and what He says to you and I when we struggle with our weakness, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul responds by saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Not only did Paul decide to hope in God like David did, he goes a step further and builds his confidence in the fact that he is weak and God is strong!  Talk about turning the tables on weakness!

The hymn, “How Firm a Foundation” is a marvelous declaration of God’s provision of hope amidst the clamor and fear of our world.  Verse two says this:
“Fear not, I am with thee- O be not dismayed, 
for I am thy God, Will still give thee aid; 
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, 
upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand”

For this reason we can hope in God, fear can be put in its place and put to its proper use.  Fear, loss, confusion and trial all have a place in bringing us to our knees so that we can finally look up to the God who loves us and seeks our benefit by providing himself as our hope.