Saturday, March 26, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Trust

At the end of Christ's life--and at the end of Stephen's life--both men committed their spirits into the hands of the Father.  Fearless trust in God in the closing moments of life is built on years of walking with God and finding Him trustworthy.  Death is the final dark enemy that is swallowed by Christ's victory:  yet every darkness of life can be swallowed if we allow this trust to build on a daily basis.  Great blessings are promised for those who trust in the Lord.  Consider some of these promises given to those who trust in the Lord:
  • no condemnation
  • redemption
  • unshakable, eternal endurance
  • perfect peace
  • gifts of God's goodness
  • surrounded by unfailing love
  • safety
Throughout scripture trust is repeatedly encouraged; blessings repeated promised.   The trust Christ exhibited on the cross is part of the character we have inherited. Let us embrace this aspect of Christ's character, reap the blessings and rejoice the heart of our Father!

Family Chat:

Have you trusted Jesus' work on the cross?  He is the ONLY way to heaven.(John 14:6)
What is the hardest thing for you to trust God with?  (Your dreams, a certain desire--a spouse, a child, a career; a fear; a hurt someone has done to you?)
Challenge:  Find a scripture that will help you release that thing...and keep giving it back to God it until you are fully confident in God.

Extra encouragement:  Psalm 31:19; 32:10; 34:22; 37; 125; Isaiah 26:3; Jeremiah 17:7; Nahum 1:7

Friday, March 18, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Growing

Growth is not something we commonly associate with our divinely perfect Lord. Yet scripture tells us Jesus grew strong in spirit (Luke 2:40) and increased in wisdom, stature and favor with man and God (Luke 2:52). Christ, fully God yet fully man, demonstrated growth; it is our privilege to do so as well!

God’s Word is our primary nourishment for growth; we must feed His life within us. Our salvation rests upon the completed work of Christ, but our growth allows us to enter into the life He has prepared for us now! God’s Word opens our eyes to the riches we have already received in Christ. All of those riches belong to those who have entered into eternal life by faith in Jesus’ work. Consider these verses from the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11):

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. (Hebrews 11:33-34)

Faith has some awesome power; we must feed on the Word and exercise our faith that we can ‘wax strong’ like Jesus!

Grace and knowledge are important aspects of growth (2 Peter 3:18). We can read that verse as telling us that we must exhibit more grace and knowledge (and we will as we grow). Yet the verse also reminds us that God’s grace and knowledge nurtures growth. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners; He has drawn us with cords of loving kindness—He will not suddenly turn on us and begin whipping us into shape.  He knows us perfectly and will use that knowledge to grow us perfectly!  The enemy, though, will make us think God is being unjust and is dissatisfied with us. Satan uses shame and guilt to drive us away from Jesus. Our Lord calls us to Himself that His very presence will transform us into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). Conviction is a gentle nudge toward Jesus; guilt is the sword of the enemy to drive us away from Christ. Do not be deceived:  tune your ears to the loving concern of Christ.  His sheep know His voice!

Growing is such an exciting characteristic; the fruit is so beautiful, I must force myself to stop this little devotion. Colossians 1:9-13 offers us a beautiful prayer to lift up for each other. I will leave those verses and some chat options below.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:  (Colossians 1:9-13)


What is the foundation for all spiritual growth? Hebrews 6:1

Who began a spiritual work in us? Philippians 1:6

Who gives spiritual growth? 1 Corinthians 3:6 (What if we are complaining about another’s growth—whom are we really complaining against?)

What are some ways we can grow? Luke 17:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 2 Peter 1:56 (and many more!!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Character - A Life Example

We looked at the quality of faithfulness in our study of Christian Character a few weeks ago.  Today, though, we are preparing to go to the funeral of a lady who exuded this characteristic.  May you be blessed by this little tribute to her:  Miss Marilyn Davis.

Sixty-nine years of teaching Sunday School is a pretty solid example of faithfulness.  Yet, it only scratches the surface of this saint's example.  Courageous conviction lived with humble meekness are the right words, but the reality is so much more beautiful than the words.  Miss Marilyn lived consistently...she was the antithesis of the double-minded man in James. 

Miss Marilyn could always be counted on to do what she said--even to living her entire life without electricity or running water because she made a commitment to her father years before.  I never heard her complain: she hauled coal buckets (and ashes) for heat and cooking; she carried water; she used an outhouse.  Yet all those things were simply the backdrop of a life that constantly reached out to others. 

She planted hundreds of  'Impatience" seeds each year to give to the ladies of the church on Mother's Day.  She shared the bounty of her garden with all but the woodchucks; she had a gun and knew how to use it!  She loved her woods and walking through God's beautiful creation; and she shared it with those who wanted to walk with her.  She saved stickers and cards to give to the children.  She shopped for presents and candies to encourage the children's attendance in Junior Church.  She shared Missionary stories to give little hearts a glimpse of devotion to Jesus.  She shared her life with everyone to give a glimpse of Jesus. 

Miss Marilyn, we will miss you but your example will never be forgotten.  Thank you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Waiting

The character of Christ embodied confidence in both the purposes and the timing of His heavenly Father.  Even when we trust in the Lord's ultimate purposes, we have a tendency to forget that His timing is perfect as well.  As our character transforms more into the likeness of Christ, we will feel the reality of Isaiah 40:31 in our lives.  We will have our strength renewed.  We will soar above the mountains of life and the boulders which seek to crush us.  We will run the race God has set before us without weariness, and we will embrace life's daily drudgeries with a heart that does not faint in discouragement!

The disappointments, struggles and heartaches of life are many.   God allows the the tough stuff of life to call us to to look to Him, to place our confidence in Him.  We must choose:  we either succumb to the temptation to doubt the power and goodness of God or we can allow His Spirit free reign and wait in confidence.  Often our reaction to the struggles of life is to rely on strengths in our human character; in fact, in our own strength we can accomplish much and survive even terrible heartaches.  But the Christ-like Spirit is the work of God alone; it is our spirit submitted to Him.  Only the Spirit of Christ within can evidence patient confidence to the very end of our journey of life.  The example of a spirit able to wait with faith--absolute trust--in God is a blessing to all who walk alongside. Our own strength has limits; His has none.  Our courage will eventually fail; His perfect knowledge gives Him complete confidence.  God created us to have amazing capabilities, but we pale in His glory.  Let us choose to allow His Spirit to fill us, to propel us and empower us!

Family Chat:

What have you struggled to wait for? (a present, a trip, a visit)

Did anything happen while you waiting that discouraged you?

How do you cope with discouraging things?  Do you get angry?  Do you trust that God has a better plan?

In Genesis, God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be put into slavery but that He would free them and they would have great riches.  God is always faithful to His promises but it was over 400 years before this happened.  How do you think Joe Israelite born 300 years into this time period might have felt?  Did he have hope?  Did he think God forgot His promises?  Can we rightly judge situations with our own view?

What does the Bible say about God's faithfulness?  Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 36:5; Hebrews 6:18

Consider these verses describing Jesus in Revelation 1:5, 19:11.