Archive for May, 2012

Fuel for the Fire, #21: SIMPLY TRUST

Monday, May 28th, 2012

 “Who among you fears the LORD?

Who obeys the voice of His Servant?

Who walks in darkness and has no light?

Let him trust in the name of the LORD

And rely upon his God.”

Isaiah 50:10

When faced with problems, our normal human response is to think it through, figure it out, and come with a plan. That’s a God-given ability, and is not a bad thing in itself.

And yet, life’s challenges can easily defy our ability to solve them with human reason.  Some of us are facing problems so deep and questions so vexing that attacking them with mere reason only exacerbates the matter.  Trying to “figure it out” at that point is like a stuck car spinning its wheels in mud: the harder we try, the deeper we sink into the mud of confusion.

Sometimes the only answer is to simply trust.  Cease striving to work it out, to figure it out, and to find a way out of the trial; just trust your Father in heaven.  We must leave the matter in His hands, and choose to trust His heart of love for us.  Trust can take us where trying cannot.  It draws us into the presence of God.

THERE’S HEALING IN HIS PRESENCE

 “When I thought how to understand this,

It was too painful for me

Until I went into the sanctuary of God;

Then I understood…”

Psalm 73:16-17

The psalmist knew he needed to run to the “sanctuary” – the place of God’s presence – for help and healing.  You and I are just the same: some things only become clear when we are resting in the presence of the Lord.  There’s peace of mind and healing for our wounded hearts as we draw near to His heart of love for us.

It’s no surprise, then, that the enemy fights so hard to keep us from the Lord’s presence.  He uses the very battles we’re facing to whisper accusations of God’s heart for us, such as “If God is so good to you, why did He allow ______ to happen to you?  Why would He allow you so much pain?  Why wouldn’t He bless you the way He’s blessed others?  Look at how well things are going for them – what does He have against you?”

The accuser can be pretty effective sometimes, and such questions prove “too painful” for us to answer.  That’s when we must be like the psalmist and run “into the sanctuary” – into the presence of the Lord.  There His love answers our hearts more deeply than the questions troubling our minds.  We may not come away understanding the “why” of our situation, but we find ourselves resting in His love and able to trust Him again.  

Some questions won’t be answered until we see Jesus face to face.  The One who died for me deserves my absolute and unreserved trust, including when His ways don’t appear to make sense.

My brothers and sisters, let us simply trust Him… Trust His will, trust His ways, trust His wisdom, and trust the Man who died for us.  The Day is coming when we will see, we will know, we will understand all things clearly (see 1 Corinthians 13:10, 12).  Until then, let us choose to simply trust His heart of love.

For Prayer This week, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Somalia who are facing trials for their faith beyond what we in the West experience.  Somalia is one of the most dangerous nations in the world to be a Christian, and Believers must keep their faith secret or else endanger their lives.  Muslim groups have vowed to wipe out Christianity through killing every Christian they find, often beheading their victims.  As we struggle with our trials and tests this week, let us keep an eternal perspective and intercede for our family in Christ whose problems are much larger than ours. 

Much love in Jesus,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012

 

Fuel for the Fire, #20: ONLY by the Spirit of God

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the LORD of hosts.

Zechariah 4:6 NKJV

My brother, how are you going to live a pure life in this dirty world?

My sister, how are you going to forgive that one who hurt you, and speak lovingly toward the one who hasn’t even asked for forgiveness yet? 

My friends, how will you and I control our temper or our tongue?  Think thoughts that honor Jesus?  Choose trust instead of fear, and humility instead of pride?  How will we put others first, and serve with love when no one seems to care?

And how will we become more like Jesus?  Honestly, the Christian’s most common answer is, “I’m going to try harder next time!” This is well-meaning and may be most sincere; but it is a recipe for defeat. God’s Word shows us only one way to live a pure life, to be truly changed in our hearts, to overcome the enemy’s schemes, to become more like Jesus, and to face all the other challenges this life holds: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” says the Lord.  

“Try harder, give more effort, plan ahead next time, stay one step ahead of the wiles of the devil and the weaknesses of our flesh…”  Whew!  That’s an exhausting way to live.  And it simply doesn’t work ~ you and I don’t possess the smarts, strength, and inherent goodness to purify, protect, and guide our own lives (regardless how hard we try). 

And THAT, my friends, is where the power and help of God’s Spirit comes in.  For instance:

  • Need holiness?  The Holy Spirit is our Source of purity to overcome sin and to obey Jesus:

If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13 NKJV

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:16 NKJV

We cooperate with His Spirit by asking for His help, obeying His promptings, and swinging the Sword (speaking His Word – see Ephesians 6:10-18) – but He alone must be the Source of our strength and our purity. 

A Secret of the Kingdom 

Here is a simple and powerful truth, and yet one that many Christians have never experienced in an area of besetting sin:

Calling out to the Spirit for help when tempted is a thousand times more effective than the old “grit your teeth and try really hard not to sin” method that we know so well.

Trying harder seldom works for long, because it hinges upon our own efforts (and feeds our spiritual pride when we do experience some short-term success).  But crying out to God is Biblical, proven, and powerful – the Father loves to empower us by His Spirit when we feel our need and call on Him. 

  • Feeling weak or weary, beat down by the tests & trials of life?  The Holy Spirit is the Father’s means of imparting strength to our innermost being:

…That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…

Ephesians 3:16 NKJV

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.

Romans 8:26 NKJV

And speaking of strength, let’s not forget when and how God’s strength comes to us – not in our times of self-sufficiency or ability, but at our place of recognized need:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 

He gives power to the weak,

And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Isaiah 40:29

  • Need guidance?  He is the promised Gift of the Father who would be our Guide:

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…  

John 16:13 NKJV

Of course, these are just a few of the many areas in God’s Word where we are told to trust in, rely upon, and expect the Spirit of God to be our Helper and Strength.  Whatever your specific trial or temptation today, I encourage you: turn it over to the power and help of the Holy Spirit.  Cease fighting your own battles your own way, and allow Him to guide you in His plan for victory and joy. 

For Prayer:  “Dear Lord, we need a revival of Your Spirit’s power in our lives, families, and churches!  Gracious and loving Father, forgive us of all the times we’ve tried to be our own holiness, or guide, or strength.  We confess our utter need of Your Spirit to fill, lead, and empower our lives.  Come and have Your way – be strong in our weakness, and transform us by Your Spirit’s power.  Let Your anointing return to Your Church, that Jesus may be glorified in His people again.   In His mighty Name we pray, Amen.”  

May the Lord comfort, strengthen, and guide you by His precious Spirit this week,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© 2012, Springs of Life Ministries

 

 

 

Fuel for the Fire, #19: Do You REALLY Believe how He loves you?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

“Jesus loves me, this I know…”  We all learned the song in Sunday School; and yet, I would like to suggest that few of God’s people fully believe what His Word says about the magnitude, depth, and power of God’s love for us.

For instance, do you and I really believe that we are loved by Jesus the very same way – in quality, commitment, and duration – as the Father loves Him?  Listen to Jesus’ own words:

 I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love.

 John 15:9 NLT

Now if we’re honest, some of us may be thinking, “Well, that’s Jesus – I suppose He really loves me… But I think the Father just tolerates me ~ after all, I fall pretty far short sometimes.”  If that’s you, listen to what Jesus says about the Father’s love for you and me:

Then the world will know that You sent Me and will understand that You love them as much as You love Me.

John 17:23 NLT

Amazing!  Jesus just told us that:

1.     He loves us just like the Father loves Him, and

2.     The Father loves YOU & ME as much as He loves Jesus.

Please understand: this is not some “me-centered, pop-culture Christianity, power of positive thinking” sort of message – quite the contrary, it’s examining the true report of God’s Word for the purpose of stirring up our faith.

You see, we live differently when we really believe how God loves us.  We’re more devoted to Him, quicker to repent, quicker to receive His cleansing, quicker to obey Him (from a motivation of love, not dead religion or drudgery), quicker to enjoy time with Him, and quicker to come to Him in times of need (see Hebrews 4:15-16). 

Also, we treat others differently when we’re receiving His love – with more grace, forgiveness, kindness, and with far less selfishness.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit changes us when we believe our Father’s Word and receive our Father’s love.  It allows God’s love to start flowing to us and through us.

I could go on for pages (or chapters!) about the marvelous, matchless, amazing love God has for us (as shown in Scripture)… But for now, let’s meditate on just a few more verses:

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…  We love Him because He first loved us.

I John 4:16, 18-19 NKJV

Hallelujah!  There is the secret: “We have known and believed” the true report of God’s love for us.  You and I know it in our heads ~ but are we believing it in our hearts right now?  Sometimes we first need to repent of all unbelief in God’s love for us (the fruit of which often shows itself in fear, doubt, worry, discontentment, and seeking love from other sources) before we can be refreshed in our belief in His pure, powerful, unfailing love for us.

It’s the most important thing you’ll do this week… And if you start your week choosing to believe and receive how He really loves you, it can transform your life and change the way you handle everything that comes your way this week.

FOR PRAYER:  Please pray for refreshing, renewal, and revival in your life, in my life, and in the lives of all our brothers and sisters who will read this devotional. Let’s ask the Lord for:

1.     A fresh experience of His love,

2.     A renewed understanding of His love,

3.     And for a REVIVAL in our lives (and in His Church) as we believe and receive His love in a deep and powerful way.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:5-6 NKJV

May the Lord bless you in His wondrous love this week,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© 2012, Springs of Life Ministries

 

Fuel for the Fire, #18: “I’ll Rejoice When…”

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

Philippians 3:1  

 Deferred joy is a dangerous thingWe all know what Scripture says about deferred hope: it “makes the heart sick” (see Proverbs 13:12).  But deferred joy is a spiritual malady as well, stealing contentment, peace, thankfulness, and our ability to glorify God in the midst of trouble.  We all know the Bible verse:

Rejoice in the Lord always!

Philippians 4:4  

But human nature says, “I’ll rejoice in the Lord LATER!”  After all, today we have problems to solve, bills to pay, prayers to see answered, etc.  So we tend to put off rejoicing in Jesus until things improve.  

But the truth is, if you and I don’t choose to rejoice in the Lord today, we probably won’t do it when our circumstances improve, either.  Problems are inevitable, but misery is a choice – and so is rejoicing in Jesus.  

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I realize that some of us are going through a deep valley right now, and the questions appear to far outnumber the answers.  Rejoicing can seem impractical, improbable, even irresponsible at such a time.  And yet, sooner or later our mouths will find something to say about our circumstance – and when we fail to rejoice we leave the door open to complaining.

My friends, our present crises are crucibles for becoming more like ChristThey are a testing ground that will guide us to a greater testimony if we trust Him.  Choosing to rejoice in His love – right now, before signs get better or circumstances improve – brings Him great glory, and allows His Spirit to do a deep and transforming work in our hearts. 

Beware of Circumstantial Contentment 

The inevitable truth is this: if I can’t be content in Jesus’ love for me right now – with my life “as is,” problems and all – then the odds are great that I won’t find contentment when my circumstances improve.  Jesus deserves a people who rejoice in Him simply for who He is, remembering all He has already done, and trusting Him to lead us safely home – where we will rejoice FOREVER. 

 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

1 Peter 4:12-13

FOR PRAYER: “Father, forgive us of the times we’ve chosen to fixate on our problems, and failed to rejoice in You.  Quicken our joy, help us remember all Your great deeds and faithful love, and take us back to the Cross of Christ where Your love was proven above and beyond all doubt or question forever.  Deepen our devotion to You, focus our hearts and minds, and let these present trials propel us more deeply into Your heart of love for us.  Make us like Paul and Silas, praising and praying while chained in the dungeon at the midnight hour.  O God, strengthen our brothers and sisters who are in a valley low, and grant them grace to sing You a song of trust and praise in the night.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.” 

Much love in Jesus,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© 2012, Springs of Life Ministries