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Faith & Love

Faith & Love

Faith comes first.

A person comes to God in/through faith (belief):

Hebrews 11: 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Love comes after.

There is no way to love someone without knowing them. He already loves us as He’s always known us.

1 John 4: 19 We love, because He first loved us. (NASB)

By coming to Him in faith we are simply responding to His love. He is the initiator.

He promises time and again throughout His Word that when we seek Him, we will find Him. Here’s just one example:

2 Chronicles 15: 1 Then the Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded, 2 and he went out to meet King Asa as he was returning from the battle. “Listen to me, Asa!” he shouted. “Listen, all you people of Judah and Benjamin! The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach them, and without the Law to instruct them. 4 But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him.

Here is another verse that sheds some light on God’s character:

James 4: 8a Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

Notice that He doesn’t seek after us. To get our attention, He can do any number of things. But for us to really know Him, we have to do the seeking and this takes time and effort as do all valued relationships.

The more I know God personally, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the greater my faith in Him becomes. Our faith and love for Him go hand in hand.

As a child, and like most children, I had implicit faith in my father. I could jump from the monkey bars and into His hands without wavering because I knew him and loved him. I had great faith that he would catch me. God wants the same from us, which is why He requires “child-like” faith:

Mark 10: 13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

Faith in God does not happen overnight. If we are truly “born again” (of the Spirit), we all start off as babes in Christ and need to grow and develop into young men and women of God.

Keep in mind that Abraham walked with God at least 38 years before he was asked to sacrifice his only (legitimate) son.

David spent many years with God as a young adult working as a shepherd and was able to develop a great faith in God after experiencing God helping him kill lions and bears while watching the flocks.

1 Samuel 17: 34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”  Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Without a relationship with the Lord, which God requires (love the Lord your God), we will never grow in faith.

Yes, faith comes first which introduces us to God in the first place but in order to grow and have deep roots we must love Him and learn to love Him more and more.

Ephesians 3:  14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

This helps us to understand why the greatest commandments are:

Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Out of this relationship, obedience should come naturally.

God desires obedience more than sacrifice, which brings glory to Him:

1 Samuel 15:
22 But Samuel replied,
  “What is more pleasing to the Lord:
     your burnt offerings and sacrifices
     or your obedience to his voice?
  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
     and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
     and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
  So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
     he has rejected you as king.”

John 14:  23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.

So how could we ever obey Him if we fail to hear His voice because we don’t know Him? It becomes our heart’s desire to obey Him when we love Him.

What does obedience mean to you on a day to day basis? Is it simply doing good things and making sure we don’t do wrong? I can tell you most assuredly that God desires much more than simply staying away from evil and doing good works.

He wants your heart, completely.

Jeremiah 29: 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD.

When you know Him and trust Him enough to give Him your whole heart, it will be your greatest desire to do what He want’s you to do. This does not mean that you’ll never be without sin, please don’t have that expectation. What can be expected, however, is a transformed heart and that, my friends, is the greatest!

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

1 Corinthians 13: 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

If you do not know how to seek Him or how to develop this relationship, feel free to reply to this message and I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Will you take the time to know Him?

“Dear Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for getting my attention and letting me know that you desire a relationship with me. Please help me to get to know you more and help me to stay on your path. Draw me close as I’ll draw close to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Photo by Daniel Páscoa on Unsplash

 

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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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Is There A Better Way To Pray?

Is There A Better Way To Pray?

Today I’d like to examine one of the greatest examples of prayer that we have in all of Scripture, and it’s very simple.

It is the prayer that Jesus prayed while in the garden of Gethsemane just after the last supper. To me, it is the perfect example of a surrendered prayer life. It is honest and He yielded to His Father’s will.

There is a lot to be learned from the words that were said that night, let’s take a look…

John 17: 1 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.

Jesus knew what was coming next. It was the event that finalized His work here on earth, the crucifixion. Most of us know that Jesus is God in the flesh, but in these passages, we also see that He was also human.

When He first arrives at the garden He becomes filled with grief:

Mark 14: 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Isn’t this interesting? The overwhelming events ahead must have been unbearable to think about.

As anyone that is faced with fears or grief should do, He prays:

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Now it gets even more interesting.

Although He knows that He is to die and offer the atoning sacrifice for all mankind, He prays that the suffering be taken away from Him.

Hebrews 7: 27 Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.

To me, when I began to understand that Jesus asked not to go through with it, it gave me much joy, mostly because I could relate to Jesus. Although He was perfect, He had this human element that we all share. So the next time we pray “I don’t want to go through with this.”, we can look back on this verse and feel OK, we’re in good company. He was faced with circumstances that He did not want to face. This is just being honest and transparent before His Father. Dare I say that this is the weakest moment of his ministry? But the prayer didn’t end there.

“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

It was more important to Him to have His Father’s will done than His own. This was yielding to His Father’s will.

He not only prayed this prayer once but three times:

Matthew 26:  42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.

So like any child, He kept asking. (Practicing what He’s preached) He might’ve wanted to ask more, but time had run out, the “lynch mob” had arrived, led by Judas Iscariot (evil villain).

It’s in Luke we read that “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him”:

Luke 22: 41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Notice also in verse 44 we read that He was in such agony that we sweat drops of blood!

When the mob does show up, after these prayers, we see a different Jesus. After Peter slashed off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave, Jesus had these words to say:

Matthew 26: 52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? 54 But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

This is significant.

This is why the “Thy will be done” is so important. Jesus knew that if He would not have prayed for the Father’s will, and asked for protection, it would not have pleased His Father and Jesus would have none of that.

John 5: 19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.

Just like anything, “Thy will be done” comes off the tongue real easy, but it is not easy for me to pray it like I mean it.

A hypothetical situation

For practical application, let’s read about Tom and his wife Barb (fictional characters)…

A hard-working, God-fearing man, Tom, makes a mistake at the office. Not just any mistake, but a doozy. He loses a huge account for the company he works for because of this mistake. He knows that the company will review the situation and hold a disciplinary meeting that could result in the loss of his job.

Tom is quite concerned at this point and is surprised that he’d even commit a mistake like that to begin with. So he prays “Lord, please help me keep my job, the idea of being fired is unbearable.” The Lord, being the generous God that He is, has the company find favor with Tom and they decide to keep him. Praise God, that is wonderful!

But what if God had other plans in mind? Here’s an alternative ending. Suppose Tom had prayed this prayer “Lord, anything is possible for you, can you help me keep my job? Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” The next day Tom gets fired. He’s gone. He gets the boot. He’s sacked. He’s absolutely miserable.

The next day and in the days to come, he has more time to read his Bible, spend time with his wife, Barb, and he starts to see things from a different perspective. “I’m not so tense, he says to himself”. Weeks go by and he actually grows closer to God and to Barb. Yes, there is a financial strain and some humiliation (which is good), but his relationships are better off.

He’s already better off, God already worked out a plan that is better for Tom. Even if Tom gets a job that doesn’t pay as well perhaps he won’t have the tension or the long hours, he’s found that it is more valuable to him to spend more time with God and with his wife. Maybe God has a better job in mind that will pay him more and have fewer hours.

You can see where I’m going with this and this can play out in many ways. Most of the time it is difficult to know the will of God, but I think we need to give Him a chance in our lives just to show how great He is rather than keeping control over it ourselves.

We serve a God who knows everything about our future.

Of course, Tom wants to keep his job, that’s all he knows and few people like the “unknown”. Perhaps it is God’s will for him to keep his job. God gave him the job and he’s got great friends there. If it’s God’s will to keep the job and he keeps it, then Tom will give God all the praise and thank God from the rooftops for His mercy and grace.

Suppose God has other plans. How is Tom to know what’s best for him? Does he know the future and can he figure out where he should be to maximize his potential and glorify God?

So if it is God’s will for Tom to be fired, doesn’t God know what’s best for him? Doesn’t God care more about their marriage than they do? (absolutely)

Remember Job? God not only knew what Job would have to endure but gave Satan permission to humble him, stripping everything away from him. Job had no idea why it happened and suffered greatly while experiencing tremendous loss. Little did he know at the time that God had it all planned out. At the end of the story, he was awarded twice what was lost and became a better man of God than before. What an amazing God!

Here are a couple passages that provide food for thought:

Isaiah 29:
16 How foolish can you be?
He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay!
Should the created thing say of the one who made it,
“He didn’t make me”?
Does a jar ever say,
“The potter who made me is stupid”?

Isaiah 55: 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Will you give God the chance to do what He wants with you?

“Dear Lord, You are my maker, why is it so easy for me to forget that? You are good, loving and only have what’s in my best interests. Please change my heart so that I will follow you more closely. You are the one that gives me life. Thank you for all that you’ve done in my life thus far, but I want things to change between me and you. I want your will to be done from now on, Lord. I plan on changing my prayer and allowing you to have your way with my life because I believe that you can do a better job with it than I can. It’s scary sometimes when I think about what might happen in the future but I will trust in you, thank you Father! 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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How Can We Have Renewal?

What Does Humility Have To Do With Renewal? Renewal, part 3

This continues our series on renewal, read the first 2, Renewal, part 1 and Renewal, part 2 if you haven’t already.

None of us are innocent, not one of us is without sin.

Romans 3: 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Sin hurts us and those around us, in many ways. The more I follow Christ the more obvious my sins are and the more pain it brings. How can I declare my love for God in the morning and in the afternoon willingly do something that I know He disapproves of? What kind of godly man am I?

Jeremiah 17: 
9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?

I am just a man, but it makes me want to hate myself. Am I alone with these feelings?

What’s really helped me is a greater understanding of Romans 7 and knowing that it is my flesh that I hate and I can have some compassion for my soul.

Romans 7: 14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Every time I read this is it astounds me. Knowing how God used His servant Paul to do the good works he did and then to read about his private struggles is incredible to me and refreshing. The more I struggle with my sin and examine my actions and thoughts in light of my faith, the more understanding and compassion I have for others. It truly humbles me.

1 John 1:  5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.

Sin is a terrible thing and it is the human condition. How do we go about approaching our perfect and Holy Father after engaging in a sinful event? Let’s look at some examples in the Good Book that we can all use to help get us back on the right path and have communion with Him when we find ourselves hiding in the garden.

9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

James 4: 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

James 5: 16a Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Repentance (changing your mind) and confessing is certainly where it starts, but it is not always easy, is it? Unless my heart is soft, I will not confess.

2 Samuel 12: 13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.

David’s heart was not soft after having Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed, that was until the Words of God pierced his heart through his friend and prophet Nathan. I think Psalm 32 sheds some light on what king David experienced:

Psalm 32:
 When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

I can totally relate to this, can you? Do you have a close friend that you can confess to? You are blessed if you do. If you don’t, pray that God will bring someone to you. A small group is good but cannot do what a single, close friend can do. Meeting with a single, similar gender, godly friend on a regular basis is invaluable, I cannot recommend it enough. There is a reason Jesus told His disciples to stay in the same house for the duration when visiting a town. I think that it was to build deep, lasting relationships. It is the deep relationships that we truly learn how to love others and we grow from them.

We read in 2 Samuel 12: 13 above that David confessed to his friend, but as we continue in Psalm 32 we find that he confesses to God:

5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

Whew, isn’t it great to get that burden off your chest? You can just feel his excitement through the text, can’t you? Why does it take so long for us to come to Him sometimes? (Read Jeremiah 17 above)

I believe the key to resuming a strained or broken relationship with God is humility. Since all sin is primarily related to pride it only makes sense that humility is required to return to the Lord:

James 4: 6b
As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.”

And notice that I did not say sacrifices:

Psalm 51:
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

When is the last time you wept over your sins? When is the last time you wept at all?

James 4:   9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

I’ve written before that weeping is a natural, God-given outpouring of emotions that is a real blessing. We were designed to be emotional and weeping is a part of it. Some of my most precious moments with the Lord have been when I’ve wept before Him. Sometimes out of joy, other times I’ve been overwhelmed by His Spirit and other times after humbling myself before Him because of my sin. We see all types of weeping throughout the Scriptures by all God’s leading men and women, from Joseph to Jesus. I am certain that if one hasn’t cried in recent years or especially as an adult that their heart has hardened. You may not agree with me on this because our culture has been teaching for so long now that “boys don’t cry” or “if I’m to be tough I shouldn’t cry”, but I am convinced that if laughter is common among all human beings so should the shedding of tears. Let’s learn at least this much from our Teacher:

Matthew 18: 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

John 11: 35 Then Jesus wept.

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned about keeping humble is to maintain my relationship with God daily by reading His Word and praying to Him. I pray to Him as I would my earthly father only I am more intimate with God than I am with my Dad who lives in Pennsylvania. I can tell my Dad that I love him, but I do not tell him about my feelings and what I am thinking. This daily relationship with God is what keeps my heart soft and malleable. I am determined to know Him more and am passionate about getting even closer. I also fellowship 4-5 times a week with other godly people. These habits are my way of staying on His path and they keep me from straying very far from Him.

You can get as close to God as you desire, there is nothing holding you back but yourself. If you are discontent about your relationship with God then you might want to consider changing your habits in an effort to know Him more.

Luke 10:  38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What is keeping you from getting to know Him more?

“Thank you, Jesus, for making my relationship with God possible. Help me to get to know you more. I love that I can come to you when I’ve messed something up or have sinned against you. You take away my guilt and renew my soul. Your love for me is so great and your patience is unending, you amaze me. Please continue to work on me. Keep me humble and willing to obey you. I will praise your name and rejoice in you. In Jesus’ precious 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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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.”

Photo by Dominik QN 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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How Can We Have Renewal?

How Can We Have Renewal? part 1

Let’s start 2018 with renewal! I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year.

Yes, I am late to the party, sorry for taking so long to get this blog post out. I have many more, promise. 🙂

If you have enjoyed or benefitted from any of my blog posts, I’d sure love to hear from you, thanks!

And now for the message…

One of the great things I love about God is His ability to renew.

Over the next few posts, I’d like to discuss the various types of personal renewal that we can experience.

We’ll start today with what I call the “That’s not fair!” renewal.

This is the renewal that someone can experience when it seems that life is not going as planned and things don’t look good. Frustration sets in. You may not relate to this, perhaps everything is going well for you and that what is taking place on the planet makes sense to you.

But if it’s the case that things aren’t going well for you and the world doesn’t make sense, you may be moved at one time or another to say “That’s not fair!”.

This applies to those times when we are frustrated, confused, angry, grief-stricken, doubtful, depressed, exhausted, and so on.

Can you relate to Jeremiah’s emotions?

Let’s look at a couple examples in the Bible so that we can learn from the Master himself.

Jeremiah 15:
10 Then I said,
“What sorrow is mine, my mother.
Oh, that I had died at birth!
I am hated everywhere I go.
I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose
nor a borrower who refuses to pay—
yet they all curse me.”

Here I think Jeremiah is having a bad day, don’t you? Actually, it’s an extremely bad day, the man wishes he’s never been born! Let’s see how God responds:

11 The Lord replied,
“I will take care of you, Jeremiah.
Your enemies will ask you to plead on their behalf
in times of trouble and distress.

God seems to take it well, reassuring Jeremiah that he’ll be taken care of.

But Jeremiah’s not done complaining yet:

15 Then I said,
“Lord, you know what’s happening to me.
Please step in and help me. Punish my persecutors!
Please give me time; don’t let me die young.
It’s for your sake that I am suffering.
16 When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
17 I never joined the people in their merry feasts.
I sat alone because your hand was on me.
I was filled with indignation at their sins.
18 Why then does my suffering continue?
Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,
like a spring that has gone dry.”

I don’t know about you, but this is hard for me to read.

Jeremiah is going through a lot of emotions here and is having a really rough go of it. Life is not fair and he’s making sure that God hears it. He seems ready to throw in the towel. I really think that what he says is ok up until that last sentence. I think that is what sparked this response from God:

19 This is how the Lord responds:
“If you return to me, I will restore you
so you can continue to serve me.
If you speak good words rather than worthless ones,
you will be my spokesman.
You must influence them;
do not let them influence you!
20 They will fight against you like an attacking army,
but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze.
They will not conquer you,
for I am with you to protect and rescue you.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
21 Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men.
I will rescue you from their cruel hands.”

What can I say? God gives him great reassurance and instruction. He also puts Jeremiah in his place when He says “If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman.”

It seems as though only those who speak good words will be permitted to be His authorized spokesmen.

If you ever had “issues” with the Almighty, you’re in good company.

Consider Habakkuk…

 Habakkuk 1
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help?
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
3 Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
who love to argue and fight.
4 The law has become paralyzed,
and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
so that justice has become perverted.

Habakkuk lodges a general complaint about the state of his nation. Could this be a complaint we might use today?

Here’s God’s response:

5 The Lord replied,
“Look around at the nations;
look and be amazed!
For I am doing something in your own day,
something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
a cruel and violent people.
They will march across the world
and conquer other lands.

Not good enough for Habakkuk, he had a second complaint:

12 O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—
surely you do not plan to wipe us out?
O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us,
to punish us for our many sins.
13 But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.
Will you wink at their treachery?
Should you be silent while the wicked
swallow up people more righteous than they?
14 Are we only fish to be caught and killed?
Are we only sea creatures that have no leader?
15 Must we be strung up on their hooks
and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate?
16 Then they will worship their nets
and burn incense in front of them.
“These nets are the gods who have made us rich!”
they will claim.
17 Will you let them get away with this forever?
Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?

These are great and legitimate questions.  How does God answer?

Habakkuk 2:
2 Then the Lord said to me,

4 “Look at the proud!
They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.
But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.
5 Wealth is treacherous,
and the arrogant are never at rest.
They open their mouths as wide as the grave,
and like death, they are never satisfied.
In their greed they have gathered up many nations
and swallowed many peoples.
6 “But soon their captives will taunt them.
They will mock them, saying,
‘What sorrow awaits you thieves!
Now you will get what you deserve!
You’ve become rich by extortion,
but how much longer can this go on?’

God continues to answer throughout the second chapter of Habakkuk along these same lines. He seems to answer the same questions we all might have about the proud and the wicked and why injustice seems to prevail at times.

What effect does this insight and wisdom give to Habakkuk?

Habakkuk 3:
1 This prayer was sung by the prophet Habakkuk:
2 I have heard all about you, Lord.
I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
In this time of our deep need,
help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger,
remember your mercy.
3 I see God moving across the deserts from Edom,
the Holy One coming from Mount Paran.
His brilliant splendor fills the heavens,
and the earth is filled with his praise.

And he ends with this:

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

It is rather difficult to explain how this renewal process happens but we see this time and time again through the Word of God. His people have their complaints; they bring them to God, which is what we all should be doing. God then reveals Himself to them mostly by demonstrating and explaining His awesome power and sovereignty.

This knowledge of the Divine has a way of giving us a proper perspective and helps us accept things as they are. He is in control and He knows what He is doing. It’s up to us to praise Him and give thanks for all that He does for us. This knowledge also leads us to share Him with others so that they might know they can experience peace on earth and have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 94: 19 When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Have you been renewed?

“Dear Lord you are Holy and apart from you, I am not.  You are sovereign, who am I to question you? You are the Alpha and the Omega, my life is but a breath in comparison. There is so much I do not understand. Your ways are not my ways and your thoughts are so much higher than my thoughts, how can I ever imagine how great your purposes are?

Please help me keep this perspective. You are far too wonderful for me to comprehend. I give you all the praise for you’ve done many wonderful things in my life that I can’t even begin to count. Thank you for even thinking of me! Please lead me to a greater knowledge of you and all that you do. I long to know you more and seek a deeper relationship with you. Please be patient with me. In Jesus’ Holy name, amen.”

Photo by Dominik QN on Unsplash

 

Did you enjoy this post?     Get Blog Posts


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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