Grow Up

shutterstock_109473368“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.” Hebrews 6:1a NLT

Warren Wiersbe once said, “After over forty years of ministry, I am convinced that spiritual immaturity is the number one problem in our churches.” Sadly, I have to agree with him. In today’s society, more and more Christians are abandoning their spiritual growth to churches and pastors, believing that hearing God’s Word on Sundays is enough to get them through the week.

In the passage above, the writer of Hebrews charges believers to “stop going over the basics” of their faith. This does not mean to forget the foundational teachings of Christ, but rather, to build upon them. To become mature means we begin to seek to know God deeply; we strive to know His nature and earnestly desire to know His Word so we can model our lives after it.

So what is the first step to mature faith? You must desire mature faith. Like any new toy or electronic, you must first have a desire to use it before you will actually put in the time to learn how to use it. Did you catch that?  If you are going to attain spiritual maturity, you must want it. So there’s the question: do you want mature faith? Because God wants mature faith for you!
If you are a Christian, growth should be your goal. Maturity is mandatory for every child of God. Because when a Christian stops growing, he starts backsliding; you never stay the same. Start a journey to grow in Christ this week. Spend at least 15 minutes in the Bible every day. If you really desire maturity, the Lord will encourage you to achieve it.

–James Merritt

Trusting God Fully

“When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die. Jesus asked, “Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?” The official pleaded, “Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.” Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live!” And the man believed what Jesus said and started home.” John 4:47-50 NLT

Trust. It is the foundation for every relationship, and the peace of mind for any situation you find yourself in. Still, it is arguably the one area of life that most Christians struggle to fully surrender to the Lord.

John chapter 4 tells us an incredible story about real trust and the avenue many must take to arrive at it. The man in the passage above is an important officer in government court. He is a man of both prominence and position, but he has a problem. His young son is deathly ill, and no nurse, doctor, or drug has been able to heal him. It is the man’s personal, tragic circumstance with his son that brings him to Jesus for answers and solutions.

So often when trouble comes into our life, we begin to doubt God. We begin to doubt His love and care for us, even though He has given us promise after promise that He will always take care of us. I want to say with full conviction that I believe any time trouble or tragedy is allowed into our lives, God uses it to draw us closer to Himself. He uses it as a time to grow our faith and increase our trust in Him. Trusting God completely means we surrender all our doubts.  It means to whole-heartedly believe He will work every situation we face for our good. God has promised, “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” He is worthy of your complete trust.

–James Merritt

Leave Your Baggage Behind

shutterstock_167992091-2“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

Wow, it’s hard to believe 2014 is already here. But I am so excited for all the plans this new year holds! A new year brings an opportunity to start fresh. It’s a time to make new goals, learn new things, and improve the things that failed the year before. However, in order to fully move forward into 2014, you must put 2013 behind you.

In the passage above, the Apostle Paul reveals how to successfully step into 2014: “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.” Paul had learned the valuable lesson that you cannot fully focus on where you are going, until you forget where you’ve been. Yes, you failed at something last year. Yes you disappointed a loved one last year; but in order to grow, you’ve got to press on.

I am convinced that one of Satan’s greatest weapons against Christians is the ‘shame game.’ The enemy loves to pummel us into the ground over sins we’ve committed and times we haven’t obeyed God. We must repent, but then we must also learn to move on. So start fresh in 2014. Leave your baggage and shame behind, and move forward toward what is ahead.

–James Merritt

What Child Is This

shutterstock_90316786“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 6:9

I love how Isaiah describes the Christ child in this passage. This was penned nearly 700 years before Jesus came on the scene in our world, yet every word is divinely and miraculously true. As you prepare to celebrate Christmas with your family and friends this week, I want Isaiah’s prophecy to remind you who Jesus is and what His birth means for our world.

Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor. So many people today are going to psychologists and therapists looking for the answers to life’s problems. Let me tell you friend, these earthly doctors can only give their opinions and advice; Jesus is the only real solution for life’s problems and He will daily guide you if you lean into His counsel.

Jesus is the Mighty God. Wholly God and wholly man, Jesus is in complete control over this universe. Psalm 1:6 says, “For the Lord watches over the path of the godly…” So as a child of the Mighty God, you can always rest easy. He is mighty in His presence and in His power.

Jesus is the Everlasting Father. This literally translates to say “He is the Father of eternity.” Jesus is the eternal Lord who brought into this world eternal light, that He might give to this world eternal life, and bathe this world in eternal love. Regardless of anything we have done or will do, Jesus will never leave His followers.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. In the world today, it seems like we have every kind of war going on: social wars, party wars, genocides, and the list goes on. But Jesus came to bring peace. He has given us the privilege of laying our burdens at His feet and He has promised to carry our worries for us.

What Child is this? What does this Child mean personally to me? This Child is God’s gift to you by special delivery wrapped up in love.

— James Merritt

According to the National Science Foundation, the average human ‘thinks’ around 50,000 thoughts per day. Now that is just the average mind you; some researchers estimate that humans can have closer to 70,000 thoughts each day! The mind is an incredibly wonderful and powerful thing. But in order to live a victorious Christian life, we must constantly and intentionally set our minds on the things not of this world.

“So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world…For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.” 1 Peter 1:13 & 18 NLT

In the passage above, we see Peter reveal two crucial concepts that we ought to set our minds on daily. The first, is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You see, when we are looking in anticipation for Jesus, we will be living for Him. Dr. R.A. Torrey said this when asked about the Second Coming of Christ, “It fills my life with the most radiant optimism even under the most discouraging circumstances.”

The second thing we should daily set our minds on is the reality that as children of God, we have been brought from death to life! Verse 18 above says we have been freed from “the empty life.” Listen carefully; as a Christian, your life is not empty or meaningless. It is on purpose and for a purpose! Take encouragement from that true today, knowing wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, God has a purpose for your life.

Friends, as we walk through this season of Advent, let’s set our minds daily on things above this world. Let’s daily dwell on the glorious truth that God has provided a Savior for us! Let’s shift our focus this Christmas season to the riches we have in Christ, instead of the presents we’ll give and receive.

–James Merritt