Category Archives: Word of God

All You Have and All You Need

*Adapted from Advent Devotion written for First Family Church

 

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope” Psalm 130:5 (NASB)

Hope – a word that can spark emotion and elation in one’s heart. Hope – an expression of the expected fulfillment of one’s desire. Hope – a quality of existence with unique implications for the Christian. In the native Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the word for “hope” is “yachal”,  meaning to “wait with expectation.” Nearly half of these occurrences are in the book of Psalms.

The author of Psalm 130 spoke of a hope that transcends mind, body, and soul. This Psalm of lament has great implications for the present day Christian. In the character of God, we see One who hears the cry from the depths of our heart. Despite no underlying merit from the psalmist’s debased soul of misery, He entertains his plea for mercy. The faithful cry and plea is rewarded with forgiveness. What a God worthy of our worship and gratitude!

While the soul’s cry and plea are often immediate external expressions, waiting and hoping are enduring internal motivations. We live in one of the most affluent societies in the history of the world – where the ease of instantly gratifying our desires nearly invalidates the idea of waiting and hoping. Our consumer driven society allows us to bypass “hoping for” and “waiting for” in most instances. Is it really surprising that this all affects our spiritual lives as well? We can become so comfortable in this world, that it replaces the yearning and the hoping for the soon coming of our Lord and Savior, King Jesus.

“…my soul does wait, and in his word I do hope”

Do we have this confident hope and expectant waiting in God? In His word? In His judgment? In His mercy? In His redemption? Can we make this confident expression of expectation in the God who is always faithful to His promises (see Hebrews 10:23)? Does your soul wait and hope for a new heaven and new earth where God himself will dwell among us (see Revelation 21)?

If you can go back to the moment where your soul first cried out for Jesus, you will realize that hope was all that you had. My prayer is that we will find that this hope in Jesus is all that we ever need!

Father God, thank you for gifting us the blessed hope, Jesus. In the midst of our busy lives, teach us what it means to wait with hope for your coming kingdom. Let our souls find complete satisfaction in nothing but you! In the blessed name of Jesus, AMEN!

How Will I Be Recognized?

Do you ever feel like you are having a tough time living up to the expectations that you have placed on yourself? Do you ever feel that your best, simply isn’t good enough? Have you ever come to the realization that you are not perfect? Well, the good news is, if you’re like me, you have aced this test!

As I poured forth effort this past week to study our small group’s weekly passage found in Acts 4, I was in awe of the spirit-filled life of the Apostle Peter.  My awe of the life of Peter exemplified in Acts 4, left me cut to the heart.  Here are two men, Peter and John, who are “uneducated and untrained”, whom are clearly recognized as having been with Jesus after speaking with authority to the religious leaders of the day.  They were initially observed as confident (Acts 4:13) and later exemplified boldness (Acts 4:20).  My heart concurs for this to be the reality of my life, but then I am left to an honest revelation that I am no where near that “bold”.  To be utterly transparent, I often look a lot more like Peter in Mark 14:66-72 (i.e. cowardly denial).  Ever been there?

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for my small group, I was unable to teach past the point where God is dealing with me. Sometimes my desire to appear “educated and trained” gets in the way of “being with Jesus” (can I get an “amen” from the fellow “type A’s”?).  Notice this is the exact opposite of Peter and John in Acts 4:13. To put it plainly, I often seek out answers for questions instead of seeking the Person who answers.

So this is where I stand, needing to place myself under the authority of God’s word.  To spend time daily with my savior to know the heart of God, while I ‘m left pleading to God for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.  Not so that I would appear “educated and trained”, but so that I would appear as nothing but a vessel, and that I would only be recognized as one who has been with Jesus.

I must also realign my thinking for the questions that I opened this post with.  For I should have no expectations but Jesus’ and because of Jesus I am “good enough” and one day I will be perfect (Revelation 21).  Until then, I put forth effort to be will make it my desire to be content with being recognized as having “been with Jesus”.

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” ~ Acts 4:13

A Time of Refreshing

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing  may come from the presence of the Lord.” ~ Acts 3:19

For my family, the month of July was one that could be quantified by number of miles driven.  You could also number the nights we slept as a family at our home, or simply count the smiles on the face of our children enjoying a summer filled with fun trips and family time.

However, for me, the month of July has felt like a time of spiritual refreshment.   To be more accurate, this time of refreshment probably began in mid-June after my wife and I attended the NICHE Conference in Des Moines.  As I sat down for my quiet time tonight, the scripture quoted above from the book of Acts was recalled by my mind, as I reflected on my time of refreshment over the past month.

Therefore, repent and return
To put this passage in it’s proper context, Peter is preaching to the men of Israel  after Pentecost.  He has just finished detailing Israel’s sin and involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus.  Talk about “blunt”.  However, this is the place where we are all called to arrive.  Peter could just as easily be preaching directly to us and to our own responsibility for the cross of Calvary.   For it is not simply Israel’s role in the trial of Jesus which resulted in their need for repentance, but the underlying sin behind the acts for which he was nailed to the tree.  We have all been there… we have our “disowning” of Christ (Acts 3:14), the moments in our lives where our sins have made a mockery of Jesus. Throughout the past 12 years of my Christian life, my mockery of Jesus has looked quite different each time.  Have you considered that there may be sin in your life that makes a mockery of Jesus?  I have found that this self examination does not happen often enough in my own life… (ouch!)

so that your sins may be wiped away
I am constantly amazed at the cause-effect relationships that are found throughout scripture.  It continually points to the fact that God’s ways are not only higher, but wiser than my own!  We are not told to “try and do better”, but to confess our sin and turn and go the other way.  While scripture puts our sinful nature and sin’s ramifications in it’s proper perspective, we are never left without hope.

in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord
Not only are we given a clean slate before our Creator but a promise.  We live in weary times.  There are constantly things that pull at us and drain us of our time before the presence of the Lord.   This is why the time of refreshing has been sweet to me.

This is where the rubber meets the road… will we examine our lives before a Holy God and His Holy Word?  We will we acknowledge our need to repent and return to the Lord?  Will we see our need to repent of our mockery of Jesus and actually do it?!

I pray for you (and me) that the answer is YES!!!

Blessings,
Travis

I Am Who I Am

Every Father’s day is becoming sweeter and sweeter to me.  My growing appreciation for the opportunity to set aside 24 hours in honor of Father’s transcends multiple levels of my life.

My Heavenly Father
I love that Father’s day always fall on a Sunday.  Is there a sweeter way to celebrate, than in worshiping the Father of Lights and King of Kings? Today, as I stood in worship at FFC, my heart was overwhelmed at one point in worship to the song, You are God Alone (written by Billy J Foote and Cindy Foote, made famous by Phillips, Craig & Dean).  There is nothing unique or exciting about the lyrics, it is simply a praise hymn.  However, in the simplicity of the lyrics, something happened.  For today it was transformed into a testimony of God’s beauty in my eyes (thanks Pastor Todd).  For this might and unchangeable God, sent His only Son to die on the cross for MY sings.  While it easy to use the words that name God as “Father” (see the Lord’s prayer), it is another thing entirely to call and cry out to God from our hearts as “Father” in the spirit of adoption (see Galatians 4:4-7).  I am who I am today, because of my Heavenly Father’s, saving grace and work of sanctification in my life.

My Earthly Father
My Father was and is a hard-working man who embraced God’s calling as provider for his family.  He loves God and has always placed his family above all other things that would consume his time.  As busy as me and my siblings were in high school, I can scarcely remember a time where he was not present at one of our events.  His support and sacrifice was never-ending.  My Father taught me what it means to work hard and sacrifice to accomplish the things which you want in life.  As I sit here at the computer, a time during my high school years stands out to me.  I distinctly remember an instance where he “encouraged” me (more like challenged me) to have a stronger work ethic. While I can’t quite remember my immediate reaction (suffice to say it probably wasn’t very God or a great example of submission and respect to my father), as I look back on that time in my life my earthly father was right (in substance) and had every right (in role) to challenge me in this area.  It is little events like these, accumulated over the past 27 years of my life, that allow me to say I am who I am today because of the love and training of my earthly father.

My Role as Father
To me this is the most frightening level of my life to write about it, because I am a long ways from being a perfect dad.   By God’s grace we have four wonderful children, they are well behaved (most of the time), and learning what it means to love God.  Yet, this is an area where God is currently “dealing” with me.  Have you ever had those times where God uses his instrument of wisdom (Word of God, quiet prayer times, godly books, sermons, etc.) to speak truth into your life? Currently this is one of those times. I believe that God is speaking to my heart that as a father, he has given me a high calling of leading my family physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I can’t necessarily define what that looks like or will look like in our family’s life, but I am seeking God and praying for wisdom (James 1:5).  Ultimately, my prayer is that someday, my children will be able to joyfully say, “I am who I am today, because of the role that my earthly father and Heavenly Father had in my life.”

Committing to "Doing"

I’m going public with my intentions.  After reading through the book “Radical” by David Platt, I am embracing the challenge to read through the bible and pray for the entire world in one year.  Now doesn’t that just sound like some “super-Christian” statement?  I thought you would be impressed!  The reality is, it is not impressive, it should be “normal” for me and for many other Christians.   As American Christians, I sometimes wonder if we spend more time “planning” how we are going to do something and “brainstorming” the most effective methods, instead of just simply “doing” it.  This year I want to replace my planning and brainstorming with “doing”.

So, last night I began my reading plan for the year.  Yes, I do realize that it is more proper to start the reading plan on January 1st instead of Februray 1st.  It’s amazing how many different “reading plan” options are out there.  You can basically customive your plan to your liking (but does every reading plan really have to start on January 1st).   Personally, I’m using the following webiste and plan to accomplish my reading goals for the year (My Reading Plan).  Pray for me that God will use my commitment to ignite a deep, hungering passion for his world over the next 12 months.

I suppose some people may be curious about what it means to pray for the entire world over the next year.  Operation World is a great resource and the one that I will be using.  It outlines prayer needs for every nation in the world, and it simply walks you through praying for them on a daily basis.  From what little experience I have with the book so far, I am thoroughtly impressed and very excited to be embarking on this journey.  God has been teaching me that my heart for missions and the globe in lacking.  I need a deep spiritual revival to give me a glimpse of God’s heart for all nations.

The reality that I face is that I am much better at explaining, organizing, and planning than growing an intimate relationship with my heavenly father on a daily basis.  I want less of my man-made ways of running my life and more of Jesus consuming every detail of who I am.

Blessings,
Travis

New Year New Reads

First off, I enjoy reading and learning.  I believe that one should strive to read good books on a consistent basis and as Christians we should be even more intentional about reading the Word of God.  I know I should have had this figured out prior to the “New Year” but I’m hoping to decide on a bible reading plan to help keep me more focused and disciplined.  As the saying goes, “without a plan the people perish”.  For me, without a reading plan my spirituality languishes.  Perhaps you fall prone to periods of less than diligent bible reading, then join me in a reading plan.  God’s Word is rich and true and life-changing, and the only way to develop a true, biblical, eternal outlook on life!

I am also planning to be more intentional about my “other” reading, trying to consistently work my way through “other” books.  I hope to have a steady slate of theology, Christian living, and professional development books.

It’s a New Year that I hope to fill with new “reads”!

Revival and Eternal Impact

In light of my most recent blog post on Hezekiah and Revival, I have been attempting to cultivate a heart of responsivness in my life through godly disciplines.  Over the past fews days, I’ve had some blessed time of communion with my Savior and he has been faithful in teaching me and growing me.

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how quickly “life can pass you by.”  This year has marked my 11th as a Christian, 8 years since high school graduation, celebrating my 5th anniversary with my wife, and 4 years since receiving my finance degree and moving to the Des Moines area.  The concept that “time flies” has become an all too real cliche’ and it causes me to ponder my responsiveness of God in the wake of a busy life.  The last thing I want is to wake up a year from now and say, “wow, I really didn’t make much impact for eternity’s sake during the past 12 months.”

We learn from King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles that he certainly did what was pleasing, right, and true before the Lord his God (2 Chron. 21:20).   He made an impact for eternity.  While his name might not always be the first one you think of regarding God’s people (i.e. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, etc.), for the people who lived during his reign, you bet he made an impact.

[albeit the nation fell into sin and idol worship again – see Manasseh in 2 Chron. 33]

Have you considered how you may be able to make an impact for eternity?  Or do you just leave that up the so-called spiritual giants?  I think for too long, I’ve allowed myself to give lip service to that statement while sitting in the wings waiting for others to take the lead in making an impact.  While I may never have the opportunity to impact people as a leader such as Hezekiah did in his reign as king, I do have the same opportunity to choose this day, if I will be responsive to the Lord.  My impact may not reach to the ends of the earth, my circle of influence may remain relatively small, but if I do what is right and true, it will rise up before the eyes of the Lord my God. 

Blessings,
Travis

Revival and a Man Named Hezekiah

Lately the topic of spiritual revival and awakening has been on mind.  A blog that I read regularly recently broached the topic as well.  Has there ever been times in your life when God continues to show you things until you are prompted to action by conviction and encouragement?  I feel like now is one of those times, but I’m not sure what to do with it…

Earlier this evening, I was reading in the book of 2nd Chronicles and the story of Hezekiah when he becomes King of Judah (2 Chronicles 29-31).  Hezekiah is about my age when he takes over as King.  [Astonishing to think that someone my age could be leading God’s chosen people!]  While I typically don’t look for a theme of alliterations when coming up with lessons fro the scriptures, I couldn’t help but notice the words that I had underlined while studying this passage.  In the first few verses alone you see he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chr. 29:2), repaired the house of the Lord (2 Chr. 29:3), began reforming the house of the Lord through consecration (2 Chr. 29:5), restored temple worship, and as a result you see the people rejoicing (2 Chr. 29:36).  In chapter 30, you see his action to reinstitute the passover feast, people returning to the Lord, and prayers rising to heaven, the holy dwelling place (2 Chr. 30:27).  In chapter 31, you see continuation of reforms and the destruction of idols, the Lord providing for the tithe in abudance, and the people repsonding faithfully! What an absolutely riveting three chapters in the Old Testament (hence, one of the reasons that 2nd Chronicles is one of my favorite books)! The section culminates in 2 Chr. 31:20-21 with the following, “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all of Judah; and he did was good, right and true before the Lord  his God.  Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.” WOW!

[deep pause to take all of that in]

So…what do I take away from all of this?  What was it about Hezekiah that led to revival in the hearts of the the people of Judah? 

The over-arching theme that I see in the life of Hezekiah is responsiveness. He was responsive to the desires of his heavenly father.  He followed the examples of great men of faith before him.  It is evident that he sought the heart of God (2 Chr. 29:10).

So… what does this have to do with revival today?

Can the responsiveness of one man change the course of an entire nation of people?  [don’t dismiss this too quickly – see Hezekiah’s example of Ahaz, his father in 2 Chr. 28)] .  Can the responsiveness of one father bring revival to his household?  What about one mother and the spiritual lives of her children?  One Pastor and his church?  One church and the nation?

Although I don’t believe there is a “secret formula” to revival, I do feel that we are given examples and testimonies in God’s word of which we are to draw wisdom.  Based on the life of Hezekiah, I wonder if it may simply start with a heart of responsiveness…

Blessings,
Travis

Link: What to Read When You’re Tired

3 Chapters… 1 Chapter… 12 verses… zzzzzzzzzz

Perhaps you never struggle with this…but I am not ashamed to admit that I do.  Working as the head of the household, managing expectations, taking care of my wife and 4 chilren 4 and under, and finding some spare time to relax, can certainly leave one exhausted.  Don’t view that as a complaint, because I love where God has me in my life.  But simply put, there are a lot of things demanding of my time. 

Check out the following link for some words of wisdom regarding What to Read When You’re Tired