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How Can We Have Renewal, part 2

Which way will you choose? Renewal, part 2

Thank you for reading the last post, “How Can We Have Renewal? part 1”.

The importance of practicing the presence of God cannot be overstated.

When we find ourselves confused, bewildered, angry, doubtful, grief-stricken and ready to “throw in the towel”, where do we turn? What immediately comes to mind? Is it exercising, gardening, pursuing a hobby, cleaning the house, or going for a walk? Some of these activities I think can be healthy outlets to taking our minds off that which we obsess and at the very least have us doing something constructive. Many people have learned over time to turn to unhealthy habits such as work (when the family is neglected), alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, gambling, shopping, abusive anger and other addictive vices.

We all have times where we start obsessing on things and situations in our lives that don’t make sense, are painful, painful to others and incredibly frustrating. Things that, for the most part, are beyond our control. These painful and confusing situations we face are common to everyone. No one on the planet past, present or future is immune from pain, including Jesus. As humans, it is simply not healthy to bottle up the pain or ignore it.

Eventually, the pain becomes so great that we cannot ignore it.

If we continue to wallow, obsess and focus on the painful circumstance that surrounds us, the anger will build up, the depression will go deeper, the isolation will increase and we become weak in so many ways. The pain gets worse, friends disappear and God becomes more distant. After a while, after staying in the muddy and murky situation we become hardened, lifeless, and without joy. For those that harbor resentment, anger, un-forgiveness, and depression, their physical bodies begin to suffer. The result of this can be ulcers, hair loss, headaches, heart conditions, cancer and ultimately death.

How do we turn the tide and let go of it? How do we get out from under this murkiness? Remaining in this lowly place is as sinful as anything else. For when we stay there, we lose faith, lack hope, have no love to offer and really become unproductive and useless for God’s purposes. This is right where the devil wants us.

What can we do? What remedy do we have?

The answer can be seen in the actions of a young child. When a three-year-old boy falls and scrapes their knee, where does he go? How about when a child has her toy taken away, where does she turn? When a child disobeys and her privileges are removed, who does she cry out to? That’s right, they come to their mommy or daddy for consolation and comfort. They will crawl into mommy’s lap and she will kiss their boo-boo and somehow make all their pain go away. Mommies and daddies have a way of doing this by just their mere presence. Not long after a child cries for what seems like hours, the pain is gone. The toy is forgotten, they’ve learned their lesson, and the boo-boo is hidden by a Flintstones bandage.

It is most joyful to know that coming to God brings the same result, that is when we know and love Him as our heavenly Father. The more you love and know Him, the more joyful this relationship becomes.

Galatians 4: 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

Of course, this message only applies to the believer, those who fear God and put their trust in Him. They know who their heavenly father is.

“There is no peace for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22)

For those people that do not know Him cannot take solace in this message. I have no hope to offer those that reject Him. They reject their Creator and remain ignorant, some willfully.

2 Peter 3:  3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6 Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

Just as flesh and blood are common to all people, past, present, and future, so is the Creator common to all people, past, present, and future. He created you and knew you before you were born. He wants you to know Him and to be your Father.

If you aren’t a parent, pretend for a minute that you are. Imagine your child crying out to someone else’s parent. What if your ten-year-old child visits your neighbor’s house when he’s hungry. Imagine your sixteen-year-old daughter seeking advice from their friend’s parents or asking them to buy a prom dress. As a parent, would this not make you a bit angry or in the least be painful?

How do you think God feels when we treat Him like this?

Isaiah 65:
2 All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.
But they follow their own evil paths
and their own crooked schemes.
3 All day long they insult me to my face
by worshiping idols in their sacred gardens.
They burn incense on pagan altars.

As a small child, all we knew was to cry out to mom or dad but as we grew older and if that dependency was not transferred to the Eternal One that we are ultimately accountable to then we learn to trust in everything but God. This is why it is so essential for fathers to teach their children about trusting in God and setting this example.

Deuteronomy 4: 9 “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. 10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai, where he told me, ‘Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them. Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also.’

If we trust in everything but God, where will that lead us?

That could mean we trust in people (friends, family, and anyone else that seems smart) or governments, banks, employers, horoscopes, religion and everything in between. In other words, idolatry. Then when the people, governments, banks, employers, horoscopes, and religion fail us we seek comfort through those activities mentioned earlier for relief.

Deuteronomy 30:  15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

Knowing this should make our choice between life and death ever so clear. It is to choose God or anything else. This makes it very simple for the devil. He will think to himself “If I can only keep people distracted by anything instead of knowing the Almighty God in Heaven, I will keep them from life.”

The choice we have to make is a daily one. 

Am I choosing to start each morning by yielding myself to God? Do I surrender to Him before doing anything else? Am I setting apart time each day to read His Word and seek Him in prayer? Do I meet with His followers regularly to give encouragement and receive comfort and sense of family?

God loves you and He wants you to get to know Him. It is a win-win situation when we decide to make every effort to put Him first in our lives, give everything over to Him and pursue Him wholeheartedly.

Hosea 6:
6 I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

Let these words from Jeremiah sink into your soul.

Jeremiah 17:
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”

14 O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
if you save me, I will be truly saved.
My praises are for you alone!

Will you turn your heart toward Him?

“Dear God, please have mercy on me. I am such a sinful creature, completely lost and hopeless without You. You are my Maker, the One who knit me in my mother’s womb. Please show me how to follow you more faithfully. Help me to learn how to trust in you. Keep me on your path so that I might have the joy that only you can give and sing praises to you so that everyone may hear. For your namesake Lord, please keep me from falling away. I want to know you more, please reveal yourself to me. Thank you for having patience with me and for all that you have done in my life. Let all that I am praise the Lord! In Jesus’ name, I pray this prayer, Amen.”

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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How Can I Have A Greater Peace? part 1

How Can I Have A Greater Peace? part 1

My last message, Why Should I Be Worried?, evoked the greatest response to any prior messages. Was it because my writing skills have improved significantly? I think not. I think that the topic that God gave me struck a chord and it hit home with many of you. One of my close friends put it this way if I can paraphrase him: “You discussed something that we all go through but no one ever seems to talk about.”

In light of this great response, I thought I would focus on how we can experience a greater peace and offer some practical ideas on discipleship.

In a practical sense, worry and fear are probably the worst emotions a believer can display. This terrible twosome can cause paralysis and can ruin our witness. If non-believers observe that we worry as much as they do (and they do observe)… “Just how great is their god?, What does she have that I don’t, she worries just as much as I do? He’s worried about a job just as much as I am.” 

Do you see where I am going with this? Do you see why it just might disturb our Lord a bit when He tells us time and time again in His Word not to be afraid and we’re out there in amongst the mass population not any different than the atheist next door?

I think we might agree that there is a worry-peace continuum with worry and fear being on one end of it and peace and joy on the other end. Since last week we focused on “not worrying”, I thought we’d approach it in a more positive way by focusing on having peace, one of the fruits of the spirit.

When it gets right down to our personal ministry, if we are overly preoccupied with our own circumstances, to what degree will that hinder us when it comes to serving others with love and attention? We owe it to our loved ones and the people we serve to find His perfect peace and walk in that path. This is not easy and requires great care and patience, but it’s worth it.

Galatians 5:  22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

The key words here are “the Holy Spirit produces”, that’s not “you will produce” or “your pastor will produce for you” or even “after much effort, you will produce”.  Here are more promises:

Psalm 29: 11 The LORD gives his people strength.

The LORD blesses them with peace.

Matthew 11: 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

John 14: 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.  27 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

How does that work? Does He just give peace to all and that’s it? Do all believers receive it regardless? I don’t believe so, re-read Galatians 5: 22 above.

It is fruit. How does any living thing yield fruit? By staying in fertile soil and getting fed.

Let’s review that wonderful parable of the Sower:

Luke 8: 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.

This verse probably doesn’t describe you, someone, that yearns for a deeper relationship. It does, however, contain a most valuable message and one to share with our friends who are “living on the surface”. It is easy to fall away when we are not deepening our faith (growing spiritually). This was me several times in my life when I just didn’t take God seriously. “I prayed the prayer, I know I’m saved. How can I live up to His standard anyway?”

14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.

Unfortunately, this used to describe me perfectly and I am afraid many believers are caught up in this today. Can you relate? “What time is the game on? Oh, what did the pastor just say? I wonder where we will eat after church. I gotta get me some baby back ribs! Hold on, this pastor is way too fast for me, did he just use a Star Wars reference in church? I wonder when that new movie comes out…” I’m sure this does not happen to you, does it?

15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.

Personally, I prefer to read the Word of God rather than listen to it. My mind wanders way too easily, as I’ve illustrated above, and I miss things when I hear it. But when I read with the intent to understand, I take the time I need to devour the His Word as if it were a tender, juicy, medium rare Rib-eye steak, taking delight with every bite.  I have friends who prefer to listen or even both. I know God’s made us all different and I think whatever it takes to get His Book into your body(heart, mind, and soul), do it! And at all costs.

This is where we need to stay in order to produce fruit, compare with:

John 15:  7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

These two verses clearly spell it out for you: Keeping a soft heart and receiving and meditating on scripture is required to produce fruit. The list I put together in my last post as a lesson from Job is a good list for growth, by the way.

If you’ve been frustrated that you have no peace or joy and always felt that being a believer in Jesus should be a life of peace, perhaps now you know why.

We read our Bibles daily to grow in spiritual maturity and get to know God more, not just to say we do it or just a habit.

“But I’ve tried to read daily before, I just don’t get it” Or “I want it to be from my heart, not an obligation, so I choose not to read because I don’t have the right motives”

These are cunning tricks that Satan loves to employ to keep the child of God at arm’s length of their Heavenly Daddy.

John 10: 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

If the desire is not there, I understand (been there). But pray that God will soften your heart and read it anyway. If you continue to pray for God to work on your heart and read out of obligation in spite of your attitude, keep reading and the joy of His Words will come to you and the more you read the more you will enjoy it and the more you will get out of it. Then keep reading.

If you do not understand it, I get it (been there). Pray that God gives you understanding. In the meantime find a friend/elder/woman of faith that does understand and ask for assistance. But read anyway. I have a close friend that knew nothing of the Bible (was an unbeliever, but a seeker), started reading Genesis and read straight through the Old Testament which prepared his heart for the Good News of Jesus Christ. He did not understand much of what he read but he understood enough, talked with various people about it and kept reading. What excuse do you have? All believers should continue to be seekers.

Psalm 105: 4 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.

DO NOT LET ANYTHING, ANYONE, ANY SIN OR ANY REASON stop you from getting to know the loving and living God, the One who created you. 

This message has eternal implications and cannot be stressed enough. After all, what else is there in life worth excelling at, much less compares in importance?

The Kingdom of God is not like High School.

Matthew 13:  44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

With God we can’t afford to squeak by in class, going through the motions hoping He’ll give us a passing grade on judgment day. He’ll either know us, or He won’t. Do we really want to casually hope for the best? The time you spend serving in ministry is meaningless if you’re not spending the time to know Him. Where does my passion to serve come from? The heart and mind of God, or from my filthy self-righteousness?

Matthew 7: 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

This is the difference between participating in ministry because it was just a good idea and God calling you to ministry because you heard His voice and were obedient.

If we stay in good soil, as explained above and develop the disciplines of being in His presence daily with prayer, reading, and regular fellowship, we will continue to grow. We will experience His peace, joy, and eventually all the fruits I believe. Trees don’t think about producing fruit when they keep growing, good fruit happens. Same with us, when we stay in good soil and diligently pursue Him, He will produce good fruit in us and it will just happen, right before our eyes.

I’ll leave you with a couple more verses on peace and that’ll wrap it up. Thank you for reading, I pray that you take this message to heart and seek Him with all you’ve got!

Isaiah 26:
  3 You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Psalm 46: 10a Be still, and know that I am God!

Psalm 34: 14 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Will you join me in seeking His peace?

“Dear Lord, thank you for this message. I pray that all who read this message take it to heart and set time for you each day so that they can get to know you a little better and understand you more.  Please help me hang in there when the situation is tough and remain steadfast in my effort to pursue you. You are the only One worth pursuing and I thank you for getting my attention. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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Why Should I Be Worried?

Why Should I Be Worried?

I don’t know about you, but I have more than a few things to worry about. Some big, some small. Some short term, some long term. A few things I have some control over and others that I have no control over. On top of that, I receive emails filled with details about additional things to worry about as if I should join the sender in their concern. There are a lot of things to worry about.

Can you relate?

If I choose to, I could worry about my car falling apart, my yard that needs mowing, a project that is really late, bills that are behind, the lack of money that is coming in and the fact that I have no health care. Oh, but that’s not all. I could also worry about my office that is a mess, or that many people, friends of mine, who struggle with little income and worse circumstances than I. While I’m at it I could also worry about our state and federal governments and everything else that is madness in the world.

My friends, all that I’ve listed here are genuinely a part of my reality.

Now I know that many of you have even longer lists than I. Some of you might be tempted to say “big deal, you think you’ve got problems, take a look at my list!” What I find fascinating is that I know people with long lists with poor circumstances that worry less than people with shorter lists and seemingly smaller issues.

Lessons I’ve learned

With this knowledge I draw these conclusions:

    1. Our worries and concerns are relative and in no way can be compared with someone else’s. People that live an “easier life” should not be put down or their problems minimized because they don’t “compare” to mine. Who am I to judge?
    2. It really is a choice to worry, but harder for some to break. I’ve been told by people that their mother worried so it became a learned habit for them, or even maybe a genetic trait, I don’t know.
    3. Some people can hide it well and some people wear it on their sleeve. Appearances can be deceiving, people don’t always “have it altogether” as you may think.
    4. Everyone’s worried about something, in various degrees. Everyone also has something to be thankful for. (Read Psalm 103)

What amazes me is that I can be out doing anything and can be in a cheerful mood when I suddenly have a worrisome thought enter my mind. If I ruminate (Beth’s word, not mine) on these thoughts without considering the sovereignty of God and His plans and purposes for my life then I’m left hopeless. It is that simple. Without God, there is no hope. If I fail to acknowledge my Creator then my cheerful mood quickly turns to despair.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Nothing substitutes our time spent with God

This is just one reason why it is essential to spend time with God daily in prayer, His Word, and spiritually charged fellowship regularly if we want any hope of having a joyful life regardless of the circumstances.

I think worry or fear is the absence of or lack of faith. Is God truly sovereign? Is He in control? Does He want what’s best for me?

Based on this passage from Psalm 112 I think the measure that someone worries is an indicator of how well they know their God, personally and/or intellectually.

Psalm 112:
1 Praise the Lord!
How joyful are those who fear the Lord
and delight in obeying his commands.

 6 Such people will not be overcome by evil.
Those who are righteous will be long remembered.
 7 They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
8 They are confident and fearless
and can face their foes triumphantly.

This passage in 1 John says it well:

1 John 4:16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

ALL things work together…

One thing that I’ve found is that God allows us to experience “rough spots” so that we learn to depend on Him more (which is what He desires most):

Romans 8: 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

And He stretches and matures us through the process:

Romans 5: 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Knowing this should excite us and then we can really shout with joy.

It tells us that there really is a purpose and that we’ll be better witnesses on the other end.

“Hard times”, when allowing God to work with us (remaining submissive), yields patience, compassion, joy, understanding, and perseverance. There are things you learn through difficulties that you simply cannot learn otherwise. Do you remember the book of Job?

Job was blameless from the beginning.

Job 1: 8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

He naturally went through a great period of despair. When God finally reveals Himself to Job He sets Job straight by making it abundantly clear that He is God and Job is not. What I think is really cool is how God showcased His creation to illustrate just how great He is. This humbled Job. It was this great experience with the Almighty and the revelation of things “far too wonderful” for him that led to his repentance and, after praying for His friends, concluded His test.

Job 42: 1 Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
4 You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
5 I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
6 I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

One significant lesson to learn from Job is that being blameless is not enough.

If that is all you are seeking, you will miss out on Life Himself. What God desires most is for us to continually get to know and understand Him more which will only perfect our love and admiration for Him. This is why the greatest commandment is to “love God…” and not “Don’t sin and be blameless”. After all, it is our love for Him that ultimately gives us the power and desire to do good.

Here are some lessons from Job that will lead you to peace:

  1. Don’t count on advice or sympathy from ignorant friends, but pray for them.
  2. Spend time with people that know God personally more than you do. Usually, they are the older ones (not necessarily as in Job) at church that always seem to be full of joy.
  3. Continually strive to know God, both intellectually and personally (Bible reading, prayer, journaling to name a few activities).
  4. Do whatever it takes and pray that you stay humble and meek, keeping your heart soft.

I’m not at all suggesting that if you continue seeking God that you’ll ever be worry-free, for even Jesus was distressed in the garden of Gethsemane. What I am saying is that listening to and following these words will greatly reduce your worry, giving you peace, improving your witness and moving you towards godliness rather than bitterness.

These are great passages to memorize:

Philippians 4: 4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:  31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

If God, the Creator of all things seen and unseen, is for us, what do we have to worry about?

“Dear God, Let all that I am praise your name!, Thank you for teaching me so many things. My hope is in you and you alone, for you do not disappoint. Continue to lead me in your Truth so that I may grow in knowledge and understanding. Help me to know you better so that I can lean on you in dark times. You are awesome Lord and I thank you for loving me to begin with. Your loving mercies endure forever. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Take comfort from these closing words…

Job 23:
8 I go east, but he is not there.
I go west, but I cannot find him.
9 I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden.
I look to the south, but he is concealed.
10 But he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.

 

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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What Have You Been Called To Do?

What Have You Been Called To Do?

God had it all set up. Long ago, some 400 years prior to the exodus God let Abraham in on His plan to have His people sent to Egypt for 400 years of slavery.

Genesis 15: 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.

Over 400 years go by and sure enough, the Israelites have been in bondage long enough, so they cry out for God’s help. It’s time for the big event. The plan that was devised so long ago was ready to happen. But wait, what’s missing? God’s ambassador to the Egyptian Pharaoh, of course. His plan includes a key person to go before Pharaoh to request that the slaves be set free. It’s now time to call him into action…

Exodus 3: 1 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.

You can almost see the expression on his face when he says “Here I am!”. So far so good, God got his attention. But what happens when Moses is told to actually do something?

10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

As if a burning bush is not enough!

In spite of seeing God’s miracle and being addressed directly by the Angel of the Lord, He questions his Creator.

God responds…

12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

OK, fair enough? Not quite. Even after getting all his objections and questions answered, Moses still doesn’t want to participate…

Exodus 4 10 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
11 Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
13 But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”

Moses is still unwilling!

In other words, “You got the wrong guy, Lord!”. If I was reading this story for the first time I would think that God would go to His plan B, right? But God doesn’t have a plan B. Instead, God offers to send his brother Aaron as well and that was that, done deal.

14 Then the LORD became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you.

I think that is a beautiful way to make everybody happy. God gets His man, Moses’ gets to work alongside his brother, and Aaron gets a role in the plan and works with his long-lost brother. My friends, only God can do this and Israel is saved as a result!

This is just one example of a person being drafted into service, but I also think God asks for volunteers:

Isaiah 6:  8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

At this point, God was no stranger to Isaiah as Moses was initially and by this time Isaiah was ready. He enlisted himself and became willing. When the time came for an assignment, Isaiah was ready. What’s important to note, however, is that Isaiah prepared his heart for this.

God is still looking for volunteers.

He does not overemphasize this in His Word because He wants us to seek Him and learn how to love Him so that it is purely voluntary on our part. He doesn’t want you to work for him if your heart isn’t into it. What kind of witness is that anyway?

2 Chronicles 16: 9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

You see? He’s ready to give you strength when you commit yourself to Him!

What assignment does He have? Here’s an example of what I would consider His universal work:

John 4: 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

Jesus was always about His Father’s business, as should we.

Here we read that His workers are paid good wages and much joy awaits.

Here is a clear message that God is looking for more volunteers:

Matthew 9:37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

“The harvest is great”

So “wake up and look around” as Jesus says here. Do you see people in bondage? Do you see the hurt and the needy? How about the spiritually lost? Do you think perhaps, with the knowledge and passion that God has put in your heart, that He’s called you to be a part of His grand plan?

Some of you may already be participating and acting on His instructions while others may be clueless as to what God’s called you to do. Perhaps God has already called you to get involved with a ministry found in your church bulletin or maybe He wants you to start a new one. This is between you and Him and don’t let anyone tell you what you should be doing for God unless He’s already told you.

1 Kings 13:  23 After the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the old prophet saddled his own donkey for him, 24 and the man of God started off again. But as he was traveling along, a lion came out and killed him. His body lay there on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. (Read the entire chapter to understand the context.)

The key is to be able to hear God’s voice and respond to Him. If you make yourself available to Him consistently over time, you will learn to hear His voice and He will give you work to do.

This isn’t a science.

It is simply an effort on your part, devotion if you will, to seek your Creator in such a way that He becomes your closest friend and the one person you learn to rely on the most. If He is not already, then you are not a true disciple.

Luke 14: 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.

 If you are not giving God a chance to speak to you or you are not available to Him through reading His Word, praying and regular fellowship, then you are not even in the game. You would be on what I call the “Inactive Reserve” list. To me, this is being apathetic, complacent, or indifferent to God. Perhaps this list would be compared with those described in Revelations 3:15-16. Please do not be associated with those people.

Psalm 105
4 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
5 Remember the wonders he has performed,
his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
6 you children of his servant Abraham,
you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

Are you ready to be called?

Will you pray this psalm with me?

Psalm 26, A Psalm of David.
1 Declare me innocent, O LORD,
for I have acted with integrity;
I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me.
Test my motives and my heart.
3 For I am always aware of your unfailing love,
and I have lived according to your truth.
4 I do not spend time with liars
or go along with hypocrites.
5 I hate the gatherings of those who do evil,
and I refuse to join in with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands to declare my innocence.
I come to your altar, O LORD,
7 singing a song of thanksgiving
and telling of all your wonders.
8 I love your sanctuary, LORD,
the place where your glorious presence dwells.
9 Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners.
Don’t condemn me along with murderers.
10 Their hands are dirty with evil schemes,
and they constantly take bribes.
11 But I am not like that; I live with integrity.
So redeem me and show me mercy.
12 Now I stand on solid ground,
and I will publicly praise the LORD.

 Can I get an AMEN?

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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What Matters Most To You?

What Matters Most To You?

Would you like to simplify your life and find greater satisfaction?

One thing that I admire about Jesus’ time here on earth is that He was laser focused. Nothing seemed to deter Him from His mission. He always knew what to do and what to say.

John 8:  28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.”

I love that last sentence “For I always do what pleases him. ” Wow, I wish I could say that about myself, how about you? It is so easy for me to get distracted and eventually I find myself thinking, “Why am I watching this show?” or “How have I allowed myself to waste the last hour of my life reading a meaningless news article or just ‘spacing out’?” I know that I am not perfect and that I’ll always fall short in one way or another, but the more I’ve gotten to know God the more I’ve valued my time and realized that it is our most precious asset.

Our lives are so short and we can never get time back when it’s gone.

Psalm 103:
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.

I’d like to discuss some ways that might simplify our lives when it comes to making decisions. As true believers in God and in His Son, shouldn’t our main focus in life be on pleasing Him and spending eternity with Him? If this is true, then read how Jesus simplifies things for this expert:

Luke 10:  25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

Can you imagine the expression on the expert’s face when Jesus gave him such a simple solution to this most important question? “Say what?, are you serious?” is what I think he thought to himself. But Jesus was serious. Of course, these are the two greatest commandments as found in Matthew 22:36-40 and Mark 12:30-31. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Focus on the two greatest commandments and we’ll be OK.

Although I’ve known these commandments, up until recently I never really knew how to love God, much less with my whole being.  Now the question becomes “How do I love God?”

How do we love anyone?

Hosea 6:
6 I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

 By getting to know them.

This is especially true with God. You know how there are certain people that the more you get to know them, the less you like them? That’s because you don’t see their true personality and character through a façade and all it takes is a brief look behind the curtain and their true essence appears.

But isn’t that each one of us? We put on our prettiest face and best manners in public, but behind closed doors, we may say and do things that we’d rather most people not know about.

This is not the case with God.

To know God is to love God.

The more I seek Him, read about Him, and know about Him the more I am in total awe of Him. I can’t help but love Him because of all the good things I’ve realized that He has done for me. He loves me so much that it’s really not fair. I have nothing to offer Him but praise and thankfulness. Who am I that He cares for me?

Those that have just started to get to know Him can only love God so much. Different people will love God in different measures and ways, this comes easier for some, yet harder for others. This depends on how they’ve learned to love in the past. Perhaps for those that were not blessed with a loving home when growing up, they might find it difficult to love God the most. These people have the greatest need for your prayers, I believe.

The key for all of us is to continue growing in Christ, which only leads to a deeper love for Him. This is wonderful indeed. The person who just came to the Lord today can say “I love the Lord with all my heart!” just as the person that has been diligently following Him for 30 years. It’s all the same in God’s eyes. He looks at the heart and as long as our heart is for Him, regardless of our knowledge, we are accepted by Him and can come boldly before Him.

Ephesians 3: 12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

On this occasion, found in John 6: 26, people ask Jesus “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”. Jesus replies “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

You can’t get much simpler than this.

This is sheer brilliance on God’s part. This will make some scholars look foolish. I say this because you can spend your entire life trying to study and figure out God by reading all the right books and going to all the lectures and not learn how to believe, love, or trust in God.

All we have to do is believe in Jesus, the Word. Believe is defined as “to have confidence in the assertions of (a person).”

How much confidence can we have in someone we barely know? Not much.

But if we get to know someone and spend time with them on a daily basis discovering more and more that they are trustworthy we can have great confidence (faith) in them. Do you get the idea?

I am convinced that if the Body of Christ took daily prayer and Bible reading (devotion to God) as serious as they take their secular employment and or ways to make a living, then we would have a vibrant and most powerful church. But we don’t. We have a church, at least in North America, that by and large does not know their God, which is evidenced by its weakness and lack of love for their neighbor.

Your relationship to God is no different than any other relationship you currently have, in that, the more time and attention you put into your relationship with God the more you will love God!

His greatest desire is that all of you will get to know and love all of Him. He had His only Son die for this to happen! Not only is this is in your best interest but it will satisfy you in ways you cannot imagine. This is the intimacy that He wants with you. This will lead you to greater works that only God can give you to do. This level of intimacy will lead you to burst out in song in the middle of a prayer just because you’ll be compelled to. When this happens you’ll know you’re on the right track.

In Jesus’ own words:

John 17: 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

Will you join me in believing in Him?

“Thank you, heavenly Father! For you are too wonderful for me to comprehend! You give us life abundantly and I am only beginning to understand this. I am sorry that some days I do not spend the time with you that I could. I allow other things to get in the way and I’ve failed to recognize it when it happens. Please help me to put you first. Teach me to understand that you alone give me life and that my soul requires nourishment from you daily in order to grow. Will you help me get to know you more? Will you draw me closer to you? I want to love you as you’ve intended. Thank you in advance for teaching me and molding me so that I can be more like your Son, which will lead more people to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Photo by Ryan Brisco on Unsplash

 

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If you desire a closer walk with Jesus, just want more fellowship or “Bible Time” come join us at TheBibleTeam.com. We have weekly calls where our sole focus is spending time in God’s Word.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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