Plant yourself

2 Peter 3:18 NIV

Just like a plant, our growth is affected the most by two things – what we take in from the environment around us, and how we then process that. Even though we can’t necessarily have complete control over who’s around us, we can control whose input we place value on. Plants filter what they need from the air and the soil, and you can make that same choice. Look around you at the people who crop up in your daily life. Take some time to assess who is godly, encouraging, and wise. Commit to listening closely to their words, while brushing off the bad advice and criticism of those who you know aren’t good for you. As the proverb says: ‘walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm’ (Proverbs 13:20 NIV). Secondly, even if the environment is perfect, if the plant’s internal processes aren’t functioning properly, then it can’t possibly use the nutrients around it to grow. It’s the same for us. We can do everything mentioned above, surround ourselves with great encouragement and wise teaching, but we won’t grow without our own individual relationship with God. We need to give ourselves time and space to grow with Him on a deep, personal level through spending time in that quiet place, getting to know His Word, praying, and listening for carefully His voice amongst our thoughts. As the Bible says, ‘Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him’ (Psalm 62:1 NIV). It’s through spending that time with God that we can fully grow into His love and grace, and know what being saved by Him really means.

Num 29:1-6; Matt 24; Rev 11:15-19; 1 Cor 15:50-58

What’s in a name? (5)

Jeremiah 23:6 NLT

The name Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus: ‘I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line…And this will be his name: “The Lord Is Our Righteousness”‘ (vv.5-6 NLT). Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. ‘We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands…God has given us’ (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT). But Jesus changed everything. He is our righteousness. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). It’s only in Jesus that we ‘become the righteousness of God’. We don’t need to try harder to feel righteous, or do more good works, or obsessively obey all the commands. We should be aiming to live like Christ, but we don’t need to try and make ourselves righteous. We’ll always fall short, we’re human. But Jesus ensures that in the eyes of God, we don’t fall short. Our guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, our anxious hearts can draw peace, and our weary souls can draw strength from Jehovah-Tsidkenu. We receive salvation by faith alone. And we must draw righteousness, and everything else we need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for our use in Jesus, our righteousness. Paul said: ‘not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith’ (Philippians 3:9 NIV). We need to stop striving to become righteous, and instead, devote ourselves to Jesus, our righteousness.

Josh 16:1-19:23; Luke 20:9-19; Ps 20; Prov 23:10-12

Try God

Acts 2:38 NKJV

A sign on a church bulletin board read, “Try God Week.” The idea was simple enough: If you try Him for a week and don’t like the results, you can go back to your old life again. Peter didn’t tell the crowd on the Day of Pentecost to try God for a week. He preached, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (vv. 38-39 NKJV). A fish doesn’t try water; it needs water in order to survive. A plant doesn’t try soil; it needs soil in order to grow. Likewise, you don’t try God; you need God because there’s a void within you only He can fill. And He wants to do more than just come into your life; He wants to take over your life! “But I struggle with certain weaknesses,” you say. The truth is we’re all born with certain proclivities; some are just more obvious than others. That’s why every one of us needs to “be born again” (John 3:3). As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, although he had a natural birth he needed a spiritual birth to enter God’s kingdom. Salvation and the guarantee of heaven take place immediately; all you have to do is put your trust in Christ. But submitting to the lordship of Jesus is a project you’ll be working on from the new birth to the New Jerusalem.

Soul food: 2 Chr 32-34; Luke 18:1-17; Ps 119:145-160; Prov 22:14-16

Ants (4)

John 17:4 NKJV

The ant literally dies working. Now let’s be clear, the Bible doesn’t promote a workaholic lifestyle that endangers your health and causes you to neglect your family. Too many marriages fall apart when a couple subscribes to that philosophy, and too many children grow up resenting the fact that their parents never had time for them. That being understood, the contemporary concept of retirement can’t be found in the Bible. Yes, you may retire from a job, but you never retire from work. As long as you’re alive, there’s always work God wants you to do. Harvard University commissioned a study of some of its graduates. One group of one hundred participants retired at age sixty-five, while those in the other group worked to age seventy-five. In the first group seven out of eight were dead by age seventy-five. In the second group, of those who continued to work – only one in eight had died by age seventy-five. Researchers consequently concluded that retiring too early can reduce longevity. Stop and consider the three-and-a-half-year ministry of Jesus. At the end of it, He said, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” Has it ever occurred to you that salvation is available because Jesus proved Himself a faithful laborer who stayed on the task until the job was done? Again, rest, relaxation, and retirement are worthy and well-deserved rewards for a life of hard work. But the truth is, as long as you’re alive God has something for you to do! And in doing it you’ll not only find joy and fulfillment, you’ll bless those around you too.

Soul food: 1 Sam 16-17; Luke 4:31-44; Ps 102:1-11; Prov 17:4-6

Ants (4)

John 17:4 NKJV

Ants don’t have any sort of retirement. They always have a job to do, whatever stage of life they’re at. Ants literally die working. That doesn’t mean that we should all suddenly become workaholics. The Bible doesn’t promote a lifestyle that is dangerous to our health and makes us neglect important things like friends and family. In fact, God set us the example of resting when He took six days to create the world and everything in it, and then took time on the seventh day to rest. But our contemporary idea of retirement can’t be found in the Bible. As long as we are alive, God’s got work for us to do. We are never too old or too young for God to use us, and He’s always got a plan for us, whatever stage we are at, whether we are new to being a Christian, or if we’ve been following Him our entire lives. Jesus’ ministry lasted 3-and-a-half years, and at the end of it He said, ‘I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.’ Salvation is available to us because Jesus proved Himself to be a faithful labourer who stayed on the task until the job God had assigned to Him was completed. Rest and relaxation, and even retirement are worthy and well-deserved rewards for a time (even a lifetime) of hard work. But the truth is, as long as we are alive God has something for each of us to do. And in fulfilling the tasks He’s given us, we will not only find joy and fulfilment, we will bless those around us too.

1 Sam 16-17; Luke 4:31-44; Ps 102:1-11; Prov 17:4-6