Connecting With God

August 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Art Fulks –

Recently, I watched a video on the internet about connecting with God. I was simply searching for an illustration for some teaching that I was doing in my church on worship. What came from the process was a fresh perspective for my own life.

The message of the video was not spoken, but rather a series of phrases attached to a visible thread. It framed a cohesive thought reminding me that connecting with God in worship is not simply about an attitude of recognizing His worthiness. Nor is it a practice or behavior supported by a conducive set of worship songs or the right litergy.

Instead, true worship is the natural response of a person who is in a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe that is uninhibitted by sin. There is only one problem: There is no person on earth who’s relationship with God is not impacted by sin. That is why there is no way to connect with God in worship apart from the Gospel.

Simply put, the Gospel message is that Jesus Christ came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross to pay for our sin, was buried, and rose again from the dead three days later to secure our victory over death. He has ascended back to Heaven and will return again for His followers (God’s children) to live with Him for eternity. This salvation is a free gift that is received by grace through faith and repentance.

In John chapter 4 we read a story about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. Their conversation begins on the topic of a human’s essential need for water, but quickly turns to a universal heart issue about people connecting with God in worship. It reminds us that people all around the world striving to somehow connect with God.

As I continued to search for videos, the diversity of approaches illustrated online demonstrated that people across the street and on the other side of the planet are searching for spiritual peace and life in many ways. But God’s Word tells us where the connecting point truly is. It is found in Jesus Christ. In every aspect of our faith journey, there is a connection with the Gospel. Connect with Jesus and you connect with God.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’” (John 4:26 NASB)

Growing Up in 2012

July 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Art Fulks –

New Years resolutions are a waste! Maybe that is a bit harsh, but it probably got your attention. Most of us set aside any reality of keeping our resolutions by January 2nd. Setting goals is good, but our failures often make us forsake the goal as either impossible or improbable.

As I study the Bible, I am increasingly convinced that our definite, one-time decision to repent and trust Christ as Lord and Savior may be the only significant, instantaneous event on the Christian journey. After that, the process of becoming the follower of Christ that He desires requires daily acts of the will, (empowered by the Holy Spirit), that develop into patterns of noticable change in our life.

Following Christ is a journey of mountains and valleys, victories and set-backs. It is a path filled with joy and suffering, glory and grace. Understanding this helps maturity begin to grow in our lives. As we decide to surrender our life daily to God, our victories will not make us complacent and our defeats will not cause us to quit.

Bible passages like Ephesians 4 help us see a picture of what growing up in Christ looks like. Our progress is not measured by whether or not we keep one ‘resolution’, but rather faith that produces noticable change in our life over time.

All four of our children are now in their teens. I am noticing more how they are maturing, especially in the younger kids. Why? Because I am observing the patterns of our older kids being repeated in the younger. As a parent, I am not over-reacting as often as I used to because I have faith in the temporary nature of the process. Hopefully, I am also growing in patience.

I cannot help but wonder if that is how our Heavenly Father sees us. He sees our victories with joy and views our failures with disappointment. Yet He has the advantage of Sovereign knowledge that the process of maturity will be perfected in His children.

May we look back at 2011 and notice the ways we are maturing, while evaluating the areas where we still need to mature in the coming months. But whether it is becoming more healthy physically or spiritually, my prayer is that we will all look back at the end of 2012 and be able to see the noticable change as we grow up in Christ together.

BIBLE VERSE: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

Could God Do That in Our Family?

April 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Faith, Family

By Art Fulks –

A friend recently said it may have been the most difficult year he has ever experienced. This seems a resounding theme with many, including myself. As we approach the year’s end and reflect, we can
often get lost in the narrowness of our personal journey. For perspective, God directed me to a unique text.

As I looked for a fresh approach to the Christmas story this year, I came to Matthew chapter one. My eyes went immediately to the subtitle at verse eighteen, “The Conception and Birth of Jesus”. As I read, the Holy Spirit reminded me of 2 Timothy 3:16, that ‘all Scripture is inspired and profitable.’

It is possible that the most unread Scriptures are the genealogies. But repenting and refocusing, I returned to verse one, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” I was so excited that I could not wait to continue. (Just kidding.) Certainly this was not a great attitude. But what I knew about God’s Word allowed me to continue. And He did something incredible in my heart.

As I came to each name, God seemed to make me pause and ponder the life of that individual. Some experienced significant tragedy and failure. For sure, many lived through years more difficult than my own. Most had no ‘Red Sea parting’ experiences. Some lived in dark days where the hand of God was not evident at all. Most were ordinary people, Jews and Gentiles, men and women.

However, verse sixteen confirms that God was at work in the good and bad to accomplish His redemptive plan. He was bringing about the birth of His only Son. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a life we could not live, died to pay a debt we could not pay, and rose from the dead to secure an eternal victory we could not win.

I know my family will not be used to bring about the birth of another Savior this Christmas. Jesus is the One and only. But could God use the ups and downs of this year to bring about the realization of the Gospel in the life of someone this Christmas, allowing my life and my family to be part of His redemptive plan? With all my heart I believe this to be true. Could God do that in your family? Certainly!

BIBLE VERSE: “…and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:16 NASB)

What Does God Want?

March 17, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Art Fulks –

It was a common conversation that I have with believers. Someone wanted me to know and understand his position about a decision that he had to make. I first told him that I loved him and that I wanted God’s best for him. But after listening and probing a bit, I heard something that really troubled me. He said he was going to make a list of pros and cons before making a final decision.

Why does that bother me so much? As followers of Christ, our process for making decisions should be different from that of the world. Yet what we too many times do is avoid the most important question: “What does God want?”

If we believe that God has our best interest at heart and has the power to bring into our lives that best if we follow Him, then why avoid asking the question? I asked that exact question and I believe this person answered it very accurately. He said, “I am not sure I want to know the answer.”

There are many decisions in my life that I wish now would have been preceded by this critical question. Certainly God gives us wisdom and intellect to figure out what to have for dinner. But how often do we get God’s perspective on weightier matters such as finances, relationships, vocation, education, etc.? When we do not ask God for His guidance in the most important decisions, we relegate our lives to asking God to bless our decisions.

God has given us His Spirit in order to make discerning choices. Opinions are everywhere and may even be godly. But as 1 John 4:1-6 tells us, we can ultimately know that our decision-making is sound based on two criteria: (1) Does it glorify Jesus Christ? and (2) Is it consistent with the teaching of God’s Word? If our ultimate goal in life is to glorify Jesus Christ, then it will also be for our best. And God gave us His Word as the fully sufficient resource to all of the questions of faith and life. You can depend on it.

BIBLE VERSE: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…’” (I John 4:1a NASB).

Family Buyback

February 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Art Fulks –

At age 16, I went to court for my first traffic ticket. The officer said I did not come to a complete stop. I had no defense. The scene is foggy today, but I remember the judge saying, “Son, I hear you are going to college.” A few minutes later, I walked out with a warning and no fines. I was clueless until my father said, “That was the last time I get you out of a ticket.” Then it was clear that someone contacted the judge, on my behalf, as a favor to my father. I never forgot those words, though he never brought it up again.

It may sound minor, but my father was teaching me the principle of grace without enablement. As a pastor, I deal with families and marriages where this is much more serious. Parents often do not know how to deal with wayward or drug addicted child. Husbands or wives do not know how to deal with an unfaithful spouse.

As believers, we are called to reconciliation, if possible. Yet we live in a society that seems to quickly look for a way out of marriage when we are hurt or betrayed. Conversely, some believers find it difficult to set appropriate boundaries. But the biblical model requires both for effective reconciliation and to accurately reflect God’s character.

Compared to my situation, the example of Hosea and Gomer was certainly an extreme case. His wife was a prostitute. No one would have blamed him for quitting. But God called him to not only take her back, He called Hosea to buy her back. What a picture of God’s grace and redemption! Gomar did nothing to earn favor or freedom. But Hosea also set clear boundaries for his relationship with his wayward wife. Likewise, In Luke 15, in the story of the Prodigal Son, the father forgave his wayward son, but did not give him another inheritance to sqander.

God loved us enough to sacrifice all in buying us out of sin’s slavery. We did not deserve it, and could not obtain it on our own. But His calling on our lives is to pursue righteousness. His love is endless, but the enjoyment of fellowship has boundaries. He will not enable us or help us to break fellowship and to destroy our lives. That is the balance to which He has called us. Listening to God through His Word and prayer will help us learn how to display His grace and not become enablers in our own family buyback situations.

BIBLE VERSE: “So I bought her for myself for fifteen sheckels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, ‘You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you’” (Hosea 3:2 – 3 NASB).

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