The Power of Grace

2 Corinthians 12:7-10  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Ever notice how one ingredient can make or break the taste of a dish? Some ingredients are able to be supplemented with something else. Then there are some ingredients that are absolutely necessary in order to make something taste good. Life is the same way. We can live without some things, but there is one ingredient that is absolutely necessary. Matter of fact this ingredient can make anything taste good. This ingredient is called grace.

Notice in the scripture that Paul was given a thorn. It was called a messenger of Satan and its job was to constantly beat him. This thorn in Paul’s flesh was something he wanted removed. He begged God three times to remove it, but it was never removed. Rather than remove the pain, God added an ingredient that would change everything. God told Paul He had enough grace to make His strength perfect during the moments of weakness. It was through God’s grace that Paul quit complaining about the pain and started taking pleasure in the pain.

One ingredient was applied, and it changed the way everything felt. Throughout our lives God may not change our situations, but He will give us the grace to not only accept the situation but also to take pleasure in them. Ever notice that it is through the pains of life that we able to discover the depths of God’s grace? Grace has the ability to get our eyes off the pain and placed on the Lord. The thorn is there to humble us. God’s grace is the channel through which His strength flows. God’s grace has the ability to prove himself the strongest when we are the weakest.

We may be at our weakest moments, but it is through God’s grace that we discover our greatest strengths come when we feel the weakest. Take pleasure in the painful thorns of life because God will prove himself strong during our times of greatest weakness.

Glory In Tribulation

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  2  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  3  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  4  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  5  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

John Tuck preached yesterday using this text. The title of his message was “The Fruits of Justification”. Being justified is one of the life altering exchanges that happens when a person gets saved. A person that is justified is someone who is deemed righteous through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Being justified gives us access to God, it provides hope for the future, and it also causes us to glory in tribulations. John spent some time teaching us about being able to “glory in tribulations”. Personally, I still struggle with the ability to glory in tribulation, but here is my take on what we were taught yesterday at church.

Tribulation is something that no one signs up to experience. None of us want to have to deal with hardships, sickness, difficulty, or persecution. I have come to realize that tribulation is a reality that everyone faces whether we are Christian or not. The ability to glory in that tribulation is only possible through being justified by God. Rather than tribulation sending us into a spiral of depression, anxiety, or anger it allows us to fellowship with God on deeper levels. We have to look at the outcome of tribulation in order to understand how to glory in tribulation. Tribulation has the ability to unlock levels of God’s love and spread it across our hearts. When making a sandwich most people take a knife and spread the mustard, ketchup, or mayonnaise across the bread in order to cover the surface. Tribulation is basically the knife that spreads the love of God over our hearts in order to cover the entire surface.

We want hope but it is only through patience that hope is experienced. We want experience but without patience we have no ability to endure long enough to gain the lessons necessary to be educated. We need patience, but without tribulation patience is not possible. We want to experience the love of God, but that only comes through the process of tribulation. We have to keep this verse in our minds and understand God does all things well. Even when it is bad, God is still good!

Sow Not Among Thorns

Jeremiah 4:3-4  For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.  4  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

The matters of the heart are a serious thing. Our hearts can be very fragile. I noticed yesterday how easy it is to send the heart into a downhill spiral. It is easy for our spirit to become contaminated by things around us. We must constantly be on guard and make sure our hearts are right. I think the key to maintaining the right heart condition lies within the context of this scripture.

The scripture teaches us to break up fallow ground and to not sow among thorns. Thorns have the ability to choke out what God wants to produce. We have to clean up the areas of our heart that prevents God’s word from taking root and growing. The Lord tells us to circumcise ourselves to the Lord and take away the foreskins of our hearts. This means we have to sanctify ourselves unto the Lord and remove the sin from within our heart.

Ask God to search your heart and remove any sin from your life. Make sure the heart is conditioned correctly in order for God’s word to take root and grow.

The Power of a Seed

2 Corinthians 9:6  But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

One of the principles we can draw from the law of sowing and reaping is that we will only get out of it what we put into it. It make sense to make sure we sow plenty in order to reap plenty. Within the context the chapter is addressing giving. God is letting us know that we cannot out give him. The great principle is that when we release what is in our hand, it causes the Lord to release what is in His hand and the Lord has bigger hands than we do.

The thing I think we over look in this principle is the power of one seed to produce. Have you ever noticed that one seed never produces just one piece of fruit. I do not know how many tomatoes are formed off one tomato plant but I know it is a bunch. One seed planted in the ground has the ability to produce a lot of fruit. Correlate that with our spiritual lives. God has the ability to take one seed and multiply it exponentially. Unfortunately, that can go both ways. The seeds of wickedness can do exactly the same thing.

Moving forward, let us make it our mission to plant more so that we can produce more. The power of one seed can produce a lot. Just think about the power of multiple seeds. The fruit produced can sustain families for long periods of time. The same goes for the next generation. Prayerfully what we plant can be enjoyed by the next generation. We may plant a tree in this life, but it will be the next generation that enjoys the shade.

According to Your Works

Romans 2:6-11  Who will render to every man according to his deeds:  7  To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:  8  But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,  9  Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;  10  But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:  11  For there is no respect of persons with God.

God does not show partiality. The results are right here in black and white. Those that walk in disobedience and follow a lifestyle of unrighteousness and wickedness will receive tribulation and anguish. Those that seek after glory, honor and immortality God will give eternal life. I guess what I am saying is that you will always find what you are looking for.

I have come to believe that one of the greatest judgments God can pass down upon a person is to give them exactly what they want. We get self consumed to the point that we lose sight of the eternal things we are suppose to be pursuing. Sin paints such a pretty picture. It is like this shiny lure, but we fail to see the hooks. We fail to see the outcome of disobedience. God shows us right here in this text that the outcome for those who follow after unrighteousness is tribulation, and anguish. Sin produces the most awful fruit.

God will give to us according to our deeds. In other words, we will reap what we sow. The seeds we sow are directly related to the works we perform. The way we live our lives has a big impact on rewards we receive. God speaks of seeking out glory, honor, and immortality. This is not self glory, and it is not self honor, but it is rather God’s glory and a God honoring life. We are to pursue a world and life that is eternal rather than one that is temporary.

If the next generation is following our leadership then where are we leading them? Are the actions of our own lives going to give the next generation a directional guide to eternal life? We must realize that God will give to everyone of us what we are working toward. This can be a scary concept to consider.

It is Time to Seek the Lord

Hosea 10:12  Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

If there ever was a time to seek the Lord, the time is now. The phrase “seek the Lord” is thrown about within our Christian circles a lot. I was wondering if we actually knew what the phrase meant. What would someone seeking the Lord look like? I really believe the answer to that phrase is found within this text.

Sowing in Righteousness is the idea of continuing to pursue a right standing with God. The idea of being righteous is being right with God, being on the right terms with God. When a person gets saved they are deemed righteous by God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. (Romans 5). Being right with God does not just stop the moment a person is saved. Being right with God is a practice that must continue throughout our Christian life. According to Romans 5 the day we trust Christ as our Savior we are made right with God. It is up to us to maintain that fellowship throughout our lives. How does this continue? Through obedience. It is time to seek the Lord literally means it is time to start obeying God and following the principles he has laid out in His Word.

Seeking God through obedience requires that we cultivate the ground of our hearts. Breaking up fallow ground means that our hearts need to continue to soften. The softer the heart becomes towards the things of God the easier it becomes to sow righteousness. In a world of bitterness, anger, and hate we need to soften our hearts in order for God to plant righteousness.

I want God to rain down righteousness on my life. In order for this to happen my heart has to be softened toward the truth of God’s word. It truly is time to seek the Lord.

Blessing Through Brokenness

Psalms 126:5  They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

The first thing that comes to mind when I read this is “how is this even possible?” God has a unique way of forming paradoxes. He connects things that seem to be polar opposites. The question remains: how do these two experiences connect to each other?

I have learned that it is through our tears that fellowship with God is deepened. The deeper our fellowship with God becomes the more joy is created. The way this works is that through sadness, hurt, pain, and brokenness God is able to comfort us. I cannot help but think about the movie “Inside Out”. It is a cute cartoon movie that looks at all the emotions within the mind and the role they play in a person’s life. During the movie “Joy” wants to prevent “Sadness” from being involved. Throughout the movie Joy begins to learn the need for Sadness. Sometimes the only way a person can feel better is through sadness. A good cry is usually the key to experiencing joy.

It is my belief that God brings blessings through brokenness. We want to make an impact on the next generation, but have we shed tears over their sinful condition? We want our children to be raised to follow God, but have we spent time agonizing about this with God to the point of tears. God uses our tears as an avenue to joy. We have to determine that we are not “too big” to cry. If there was something needed in the season we are experiencing in society today it would be a revival of tears.

The Condition of the Heart

Mark 4:3-20  Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:  4  And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.  5  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:  6  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.  7  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.  8  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. 

 14  The sower soweth the word.  15  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.  16  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  17  And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.  18  And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,  19  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.  20  And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

The condition of the heart has an impact on the seed’s ability to take root and produce fruit. Parents, teachers, preachers, and leaders are doing their best to plant seeds in the lives of people, but so little fruit is being produced because of the way it is being received. We have to access the condition of our hearts as well our environment. It affects the seed’s ability to grow.

God’s word is considered the seed. It is the greatest deposit that can be made in a person’s life. If we want God’s word to take root and produce fruit in our lives then we must determine whether our heart is conditioned to receive it.

  • If the seed is not sown on purpose and is just haphazardly scattered then it is possible for Satan to come and steal it. He does this by countering the truths of God’s word with lies. God’s word will tell you to get saved, and Satan may tell you that you already are saved. God’s word may be trying to get you to give while Satan will tell you about another way to spend money. The point is that we have to make sure we receive the seed by burying it in our hearts or Satan will come by and steal it.
  • If the seed is sown into a heart that is hardened then it has no room to take root and grow to its full potential. A hardened heart toward the word of God is dangerous ground. A heart full of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness is a heart that cannot completely experience the fullness of God’s Word.
  • If the seed is sown in a heart surrounded by weeds then the good fruit will be choked out. Relationships matter, and we have to make sure we are not allowing the people in our lives to suck the good things God wants to do out of our lives.
  • The seed that is sown on a prepared heart will be the seed that will take root and grow. We have to cultivate the heart to make sure God’s word can grow in our lives.

Remember it is out of the word of God that fruit takes its shape. Our obedience to God’s word and willingness to receive God’s word will have an impact on the fruit that is produced.

Week 25 Discipleship

“Impacting the Next Generation by Making Godly Deposits”

As you approach this week’s devotions it will be important to consider what some would call “The Law of Sowing and Reaping”. The fruit that is produced in a person’s life is a direct result of the seeds that are planted. Sometimes we choose our seeds. Sometimes someone else plants those seeds in our life whether we want them or not. The way we cultivate our hearts has impact on how seeds will take root and grow. The condition of the heart is much like the condition of a garden. If the ground is good and properly tended to then good fruit will be produced.

Please understand that we are constantly sowing whether intentional or not. We are planting seeds in the lives of others with every waking moment. Make sure we are sowing seeds that will produce a generation that will pursue God with all their hearts.