Saturday, January 22, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Denial: a sacrifice to surrender

Before we look at this attribute of the Christian character, it's important to remember that God's Word repeatedly states that sacrifice is not His ultimate goal.  "I desire mercy and not sacrifice..." (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13);  "You do not desire sacrifice..." (Psalm 51) and many more.  This characteristic relates to a willingness to believe, to act on our belief and praise God as we do so.  Sacrificial living is a a natural outflow of the life of Christ--the One who sacrificed His very life that we might live.  It is not the entry to that life; it is the result of His sacrificial living and dying!

The words of Jesus gave the seed for this devotion:
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  (Luke 9:23)

Denying self is the sacrifice we are called to and it looks different for each of us.  What is always the same, though, is that self gets us in a lot of trouble. We must sacrifice what flows from 'self':  our opinions, our desires, our sense of 'right', our preferences, our fears, our doubts.  Those are the sacrifices we are to bring to the altar and lay them before God with praise for Who He is (eternal, good, loving) and How He works (powerfully, perfectly, purposefully).  This is the transformation of our character into the likeness of Christ!  We are not saved by those sacrifices but we are given the privilege of being a blessing.  They are the key to walking in the 'good works' which God has prepared for us to do!  

God will speak to each of us about the sacrifice He has called us to do.  Ask Him to reveal in your heart the sacrifice that will produce abundant life for others and blessing for yourself.  The chapter I am working on my other blog speaks of sacrifice as well:  Abraham's offering of Isaac.  If the Spirit is pricking at your heart about this, perhaps you'd like to read that and ask for more insight from Him:

Family Chat:

What do you love the most?  Who gave it to you?  Do you love the gift more than Giver?  Who gives us every good and perfect gift?  James 1:17

Gifts become idols when they are valued more than the Giver.

Would you give that gift back if the Giver asked for it?  Genesis 22

What does God desire more than sacrifice?  1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; Hebrews 9:9

Will sacrifices cleanse your conscience and bring salvation?  Hebrews 9:9; Isaiah 1:11; Malachi 3:3

BUT what kind of sacrifices can we give that will please God?  Deut. 33:19; Psalm 51:17-19; Psalm 107:22-24; Jonah 2:9; Hebrews 13:15

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Compassion

Compassion is a spirit clearly evidenced in Christ yet often seen in those who do not know Christ.  Human compassion brings some beauty to this world but it has tremendous limitations. What is different about Christ's compassion and the spirit we wish to emulate?   Christ-like compassion flows from the essence of God.  The compassion of our Lord is eternal and infused with the omniscience of God.  Our Creator always remembers that we are but dust and our days are short.  Human compassion is often based on experiential knowledge or fear and comes with our own pre-conceived expectations.  We offer our sympathy based on our own personal feelings and thoughts:  what we would like from others if we were in a similar situation; what we expect one should think and do in such a situation; and sometimes based on how helping makes us feel about ourselves.  Human compassion reacts to what we see; the Lord's compassion is based on what He knows (and willingly shares! if we seek Him). 

A startling aspect of divine compassion is that sometimes it is tough!  God knows what is best for us, and in His compassion, He will withhold anything less.  Human compassion is often just sympathy:  good can be the enemy of best.  Human compassion is not fully discerning.  Another vast difference between human and divine compassion is its duration.  Our compassion often is affected by the response of the recipient; if they persist in their 'foolishness' or reject our offerings of compassion, we withdraw our mercy.   God's mercy is patient and inexhaustible! 

So now that we see some differences between His compassion and our own, what will a Christ-like spirit of compassion look like in His children?   Christ-like compassion will see a need and meet that need--not because of any expected result or return but because that is Christ's heart!  Christ-like compassion will not be conditional or even situational; it will be the spirit with which the Christian lives moment by moment--gentle and long-suffering.  Christ-like compassion will have God-given understanding and it will not always be perceived as a blessing.  The spirit we are seeking to demonstrate will draw others because it is the same loving-kindness with which God has drawn us to Himself.

Chat Options:

Has anyone ever helped you through a hard time...been compassionate?  (John 11:35; Romans 12:15)

Has anyone ever NOT done what you thought was kind but later you found it is was the best thing? (Psalm 103:13-8)

Have you ever had someone help you for a while and then get irritated with you because you were not doing what they wanted?  Or have you tried to help someone and been annoyed by their 'failures?'  Psalm 78:38-9

How is Jesus so able to understand us?  Hebrews 4:15; Isaiah 53:11

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Assurance

Most of the things we are certain of in this world are not heart-warming!  Yet, the Christian spirit is blessed with a confidence that provides security.  The faithfulness of God is a rock-solid certainty in a world that is inconsistent on nearly every level.  The writer of Hebrews assures us Jesus is unchanging...the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Christ Himself assures us He will never leave us alone--God Himself is permanently with us.  God, the Father, assured Noah--and us--that as long as the earth remains seedtime and harvest will continue despite our impure hearts.  Those are promises which give security and allow us to live the full, abundant life Jesus came to provide for us. 

The Message translation of the Bible gives us a plain and simple result of this confidence:

So let's do it--full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.   (Hebrews 10:22-25)

God's promises and His equipping of us are more than sufficient.  We can walk forward into this new year with a courage based on the assurances of God.  HE is able and willing to meet every challenge we will encounter in this new year.  The 'fear nots' of the Bible are based on the identify of our Heavenly Father, not ourselves! 

I have been posting 'Family Chat' pages on my other blog  for several weeks; however, I will give a few questions and scriptures at the end of each of these weekly posts from this point forward.  My other blog: is now a daily blog with devotions on chapters of scripture.  If you would like to receive those, you need to send me an email or go to the blog and sign up.  Blessings to all of you!

Family Chat possibilities:

What do you have the most confidence in?  Have you ever been disappointed by that--has it ever failed?
Do you have someone you can always count on to encourage you or listen to you just gripe...someone who is ALWAYS there for you?

What does God's Word say about trusting in self or man:  Proverbs 28:26; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Isaiah 2:22; Jeremiah 17:5
How about trusting in earthly riches?  Psalm 52:7; Proverbs 18:11; Luke 12:19-20
Can faithful people ever mis-diagnose their own faithfulness? Matthew 26:33

What does God say we can safely trust in?  Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 112:7; Hebrews 13:6