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Are We There Yet?

As adults, we should know better than to question how long it takes to arrive at our destination. We know that the trip is expected to be long and that we don’t usually receive a detailed explanation of the journey, but we’ll still question God about not arriving at our destination yet. Wait a minute, allow me to clarify, where is this destination?

The destination could be anything on which we’re waiting on God for.

For example, it could be healing from an affliction, an addiction, or a behavioral change. Maybe it’s the salvation of a friend or relative or waiting for an unbearable situation or circumstance to pass. In each of these cases, we are powerless. There is nothing we can do, in our own power, to heal ourselves. We can’t make someone come to know Christ (although we try) and for most of our situations and circumstances, we are hopeless in our own strength.

 What is it that you are waiting/praying for? Oh, you have a list? Me too.

 What are we to do in the meantime, while we wait? We have many accounts in the Word of God on which people waited on God for certain things, why don’t we look at a few of them and make some observations, shall we?

 Genesis 12:  1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

 This may be one of the most well-known examples of waiting so this is a fine example.

 In verse 2, God starts His promise saying that He’ll make Abraham into a great nation. At the time, he was 75 years old.

Genesis 15: 1 Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” 2 But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. 3 You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”

 4 Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” 5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”

Are you being this honest with God, sharing your true thoughts with Him?

 We are not sure how long “some time later” is, but we know it’s less than ten years. We know a lot has happened since he came to the land of Canaan, so he could’ve been 80-85 at this point. These are such comforting words he receives from God in verse 1. But we can certainly see the frustration that Abram has in verses 2-3. He surely had his doubts, and as I can tell, he dismissed the idea of having his own son. Then in verse 4 God contradicts him and sets him straight.

That brings us to this key verse: 

6 And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

 Abram was counted righteous because he believed, not because of anything he had done, but because he chose to trust in the Lord.

 Genesis 16: 1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. 3 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)

 Here we see the two of them, Abram and Sarai coming up with their own solution. This is their efforts to fulfill God’s promise. Abram was 86 when Hagar’s son was born, verse 16.

Abram’s 99, are we there yet?

 Genesis 17: 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2 I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

 Despite Abram taking things into his own hands, God is still faithful to him. Notice the instruction given: Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

 15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

 17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”

Abraham still doesn’t get it.

He thinks that Ishmael is the promised son. So again, God contradicts him in verse 19:

 19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.

 And then finally, 25 years after the initial promise, Abraham receives the promised son.

 Genesis 21: 1 The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. 3 And Abraham named their son Isaac. 4 Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.

 A lot happened in those 25 years and there were times of belief and unbelief, but God promised, and it was never about Abraham’s ability to do anything or being perfect, even when he had his own solution. This is all about the greatness of God.

God delivers on what He’s promised.

 And then there’s the story of Hannah, mother of Samuel:

 1 Samuel 1: 2 Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.

…  6 So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. 7 Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.

 After many years, Hannah prays this prayer:

 9 Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”

19 The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, 20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

Would you devote your son to the Lord?

 This is another great story of someone that waited on God and God came through for her. It doesn’t appear that God ever promised her a son as He did Abraham, but I think the key here is in her prayer. She devotes her son in advance, saying that she will give him back to God. It’s a huge sacrifice for her to make and it was done in faith. Samuel turns out to be a great man of God, which blesses the entire nation and God blesses Hannah in return: 

20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.” 21 And the Lord gave Hannah three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

 I think the key to Hannah’s story is that she persevered and went to God in her great anguish. And because of her great devotion and sacrifice to God, He was able to use her immensely through her son Samuel.

Here’s an example of what not to do:

 1 Samuel: 13:   Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

 10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

   Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

 13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

 In verse 8 we see King Saul gripped with fear. This fear eroded any faith he’d had. Saul chose to focus on the enemy and what they were doing while he should’ve been holding fast to Samuel’s instructions and waiting.

 Psalm 37
A psalm of David.
 1 Don’t worry about the wicked
      or envy those who do wrong.
 2 For like grass, they soon fade away.
      Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
 
 3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
      Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
 4 Take delight in the Lord,
      and he will give you your heart’s desires.
 
 5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.
      Trust him, and he will help you.
 6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
      and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
 
 7 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
      and wait patiently for him to act.
   Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
      or fret about their wicked schemes.
 

We looked at 3 different characters in 3 entirely different circumstances and they each have their own unique lessons. I pray that God spoke to you in some way as you read this message.

 Isaiah 40:
 28 Have you never heard?
      Have you never understood?
   The Lord is the everlasting God,
      the Creator of all the earth.
   He never grows weak or weary.
      No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
 29 He gives power to the weak
      and strength to the powerless.
 30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
      and young men will fall in exhaustion.
 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
      They will soar high on wings like eagles.
   They will run and not grow weary.
      They will walk and not faint.

I know this was just 3 examples of people waiting on God. If you’d like to analyze more, would you let me know?

“Dear Lord, I will trust in you. Although sometimes I lack faith and the circumstances at times look bleak, you are good and I will rejoice in you regardless because I know that you have great plans for us and that you are preparing us for your purposes. Thank you for these encouraging and revealing stories from your Word. You are a great and loving God and I am privileged to be your servant. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Photo by Dino Reichmuth 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.
Have You Had Enough?

Have You Had Enough?

Let’s face it, life is filled with frustrations and pressure seems to come from all angles. These might include IRS notices, bill collectors, family issues, politics in the workplace, betrayal of friends, health issues, destructive and uncontrollable behaviors, lawsuits, and last but not least bounced checks.

Have I hit a nerve yet?

Life is messy and can be very unfair. Most of us start with such high expectations of life and I believe this is where much of the problem lies. Now that I know what I know, at 50+ years of age, I don’t think growing up with fairy tales, Disney movies, and cartoons is such a good idea.

I’m no psychologist, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that whatever we fill our minds with is what forms these unrealistic expectations. Does the saying “garbage in, garbage out” ring a bell? The problem with children is that they don’t know what reality really is. They are still trying to figure things out, but whatever their minds process gets stored and it has a lasting effect.

So here I am today, an adult, with unrealistic expectations trying to figure things out and constantly disappointed. The dream house, car, spouse and job are nowhere to be seen. The idea of retirement still motivates many people, but that is no longer looking probable for many.

John 16: 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Reading this verse tells us a lot. Jesus tells us things so that we can have peace in Him. We will have trials and sorrows. And we can have confidence because Jesus has overcome the world.

Compare the truth we just read from the John 16 verse above with “…and they lived happily ever after.”

Do you see the problem with this?

Regardless of where we got our expectations, we all experience trials and have to deal with life as it plays out. So what about you?

Have you had enough?

Are you about ready to “throw in the towel”? (It’s OK, keep reading!)

It seems that God allows ourselves to reach these most frustrating times so that we in some way reach a “breaking point”. You can probably relate, this is when everything seems to be going wrong, the world conspires against you, and the pressure builds up and it leads us to either burst into tears of uncontrollable sobbing or shout out in a fit of rage, or both.

We can only handle so much and after allowing things to get to us, there is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and that’s when we let it go. Can anyone relate to this, or is this just me? When we come to God for help in these times I think we are exactly where He wants us to be, which is fully surrendered.

The fact is that we are powerless (without Jesus)

For many of us, after years of thinking we had things under control and that we didn’t require anyone’s assistance, we came to realize that we really needed God’s help and that led us to humble ourselves and cry out to Him:

Exodus 2: 23 Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.

This is where God steps in and starts to work.

We reach a place of brokenness and I think this is necessary or a normal course of action in which God uses to work in our lives. I’ve reached several breaking points with tears and they end up being times of healing and end with a great sense of peace on the other side.

Let’s examine a few characters in the Word of God who have reached a breaking point and see what God’s response was and where it led, shall we?

Exodus 5: 19 The Israelite foremen could see that they were in serious trouble when they were told, “You must not reduce the number of bricks you make each day.” 20 As they left Pharaoh’s court, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them. 21 The foremen said to them, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!”

22 Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”

This was a particularly bad day in Moses’ life. It seemed that what he was doing was backfiring against the Israelites. Moses could not do a thing about it, except take it back to God, the One who sent him there, to begin with. Notice that he is very direct with God and he doesn’t hold anything back, including God’s call to send him in the first place. Also, as far as he was concerned, God had done nothing so far towards releasing the people.

What was God’s response?

Exodus 6: 1 Then the Lord told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!”

2 And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’- but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. 4 And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. 5 You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.

In verse 1 God explains to Moses that it was all part of His plan so that “he will force them to leave his land!” And then God makes it clear who He is, the same God as his ancestors and He reaffirms the covenant.

Now let’s look at Elijah:

After winning the contest on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal, Jezebel threatens his life…

1 Kings 19: 1 When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

He had had enough.

You see, even this great prophet and man of God had a breaking point. From this point, the Lord feeds and restores him and is then led to Mount Sinai where God teaches him a few things.

And then there’s Job:

Job 3: 1 At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:
3 “Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
4 Let that day be turned to darkness.
Let it be lost even to God on high,
and let no light shine on it.

Of course, after having lost everything, Job goes on and on in utter agony, understandably. He doesn’t know why the tragedy (read chapters 1 and 2) happened to him and he wants answers. Sound familiar?

Finally, after an unspecified amount of time, God responds…

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

Job 38
1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
3 Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
5 Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
6 What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
7 as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

Notice how God puts Job in his place right away, as if to say: “I am the Creator of all things, and you are a mere human”
God goes on and on to set His servant straight, bringing Job to this conclusion:

“I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

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.”

Through Job’s trials and sorrows, he questions God and really wrestles with his circumstances and why God allowed it. Ultimately it all leads to his repentance and Job takes back everything he said. Through these trials and sorrows, he becomes a changed man, true transformation (even in the Old Testament!).

Although he was the most righteous man in all the land (Chapter 1), he had only heard about God before. But now, after going through a tragic sequence of events and the dialog with his friends and Maker, he has seen God with his own eyes. Without his trials, would he have had a chance to get to know God in such a personal manner?

Psalm 50
14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
15 Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.”

And then there’s Jeremiah

For those that have read about Jeremiah, you know the trials he endured, check out this plea in chapter 15:

Jeremiah 15: 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.”

This sounds like a typical prayer, doesn’t it? Can you relate to this? “I’ve done all these good things, and you still allow me to suffer?” I think he crossed the line, however, at the end of verse 18. Then God responds…

Here it comes…

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.”

God has a great way of putting Jeremiah in his place, then gives Him great instruction and ends up by encouraging him.

Notice that in neither of these responses does God give a direct answer to the questions He’s asked. Nor does He respond to the ignorant accusations. He always offers something that brings conviction, builds up, comforts, encourages and is instructional. He doesn’t get into arguments with His servants, nor defend His decisions. He does things His way, which are always right and it is our decision to work with Him or against Him. It is our responsibility to allow Him to change our lives and transform us so that we work with His perfect plan through our daily surrender, not fight against it.

Matthew 12: 30 “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.

And Jesus illustrates this Himself in the garden just prior to His own trial:

Luke 22: 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.”

On that note, I will leave you with these last few verses…

Philippians 1: 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.

Galatians 6: 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

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.

Revelation 3: 10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.

“Dear Lord, your Word is precious. Thank you for revealing yourself and your very nature in these passages we’ve read. You give us understanding and help us to know you more. This will help us to be more faithful to you. For we know that your plans for us are good and that you have a great purpose through these trials which we endure. Thank you for these trials and for what you are doing in our lives through them. You are a great and masterful God. We love you and give you all the praise, in His name, amen.”

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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.

Are You Wanting Too Much?

We live such complex and dynamic lives. Life seems to progress rapidly and it can be very challenging just to “keep up”. Bills are always due, work is constantly challenging me, people can be demanding, always wanting results sooner than what I can deliver. I can’t please everyone, it’s just impossible. Can you relate?

 On top of the craziness, the consumer side of me (or should I say my flesh), struggles with ideas of a “faster computer”, a “cooler tablet”, “nicer clothes”, and other cool stuff that I really don’t need. As if life is not complicated as it is already, I think of having “something new” that I really don’t need, and, in some cases, would only require more of my time, which would only make life more complicated and stressful.

 This is not mentioning the people that love to remind us that there is, even more, to worry about than what’s already heavily weighing on our minds. These are the people who warn us about not having enough for retirement, or making sure we have enough insurance, or how about a new business opportunity which will require another 5-10 hours a week of which I really do not have because I’m busy as it is. Don’t get me wrong, those people may mean well and for some people, they are looking for solutions to problems that can address a certain need. So although these people have a worthy product, service or opportunity, it doesn’t mean that it is for me.

“Always wanting more” is never enough

 As you can imagine, thoughts and ideas are coming at me from all directions, most of which are driven by the underlying belief of “I want more” or perhaps “I want things to be different”. These two beliefs are the same as thinking “I am not content”, “I am not happy” or “Life isn’t good enough the way it is”.

 I am convicted as I write this. These are real struggles for me and now that I am reflecting, I realize that I need to repent. I am a child of God and a son of the King of Kings.

 Psalm 50: 
 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine,
      and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
 11 I know every bird on the mountains,
      and all the animals of the field are mine.
 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
      for all the world is mine and everything in it.

 Let’s look at this from God’s perspective. Let’s say that you have a son, let’s call him Johnny, he’s just 6 years old and you are about to serve a nice dinner for him. It’s his favorite, homemade macaroni & cheese with hot dogs. Your 14 year old wouldn’t appreciate it, but Johnny absolutely loves it. So you start calling his name, “Johnny, Johnny, dinner’s ready!” but he’s not around. You peek out the window to see if maybe he’s outside playing, and he’s not in the yard. But then you see him at the neighbor’s house, and he’s eating a plain piece of white bread on the steps! “What on earth is Johnny doing, didn’t he know that we’d have dinner soon? And didn’t I tell him that I was making his favorite meal?” You might say to yourself.

 I am guilty as charged.

Do I fully trust my Father in heaven?

 Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 

 There is no question as to why I should be reading the Bible daily. It helps me to refocus and cleanses me of unhealthy thoughts and to fill my mind with His truths and desires. 

How’s this for a great reminder:

 Matthew 6:  24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

 25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 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.

 I love that last verse, don’t you?

That verse alone is great to be memorized and meditated on. But this is a passage that I need to read again and again, and this is not even the whole chapter. I think every book of the Bible has something for me to read and reminds me of God and His ways. Consider these thoughts:

 Ecclesiastes 1:  21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. 22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

 And here’s another one:

 Psalm 73:
 3 For I envied the proud
      when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
 4 They seem to live such painless lives;
      their bodies are so healthy and strong.
 5 They don’t have troubles like other people;
      they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.

Same message, different books!

Do you see how these three passages, from Matthew, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms relate to each other?

What’s really neat is that they each give a different perspective of the same topic. The first is straight from the Teacher, a direct message filled with illustrations and commands. The next comes from the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, who wrote his thoughts on the topic into a book. And the third is a great testimony from Asaph, someone who actually struggled with the same thoughts I do and he goes on to explain how God set him straight.

 The Word of God really helps me to see things from His perspective and this helps me to manage my expectations. As I read the Bible I read stories of people that suffered through enormous struggles and I get to witness how they handled the situation and what their attitude was…

 Job 1:  20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,
    “I came naked from my mother’s womb,
      and I will be naked when I leave.
   The Lord gave me what I had,
      and the Lord has taken it away.
   Praise the name of the Lord!”
 22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

 From this, I learn that grief is to be expected, to worship God in times of grief. I learn that the Lord gives me all that I have and He can take it all away. Also, regardless of any circumstance, I should Praise His name.

These lessons are priceless.

 Psalm 46:
  10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
      I will be honored by every nation.
      I will be honored throughout the world.”

 This says to me, be still, get to know God, spend time in His presence and be patient. He will have His day and He’s in control.

 And this relates to that:

 1 Chronicles 28: 9 “And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”

 Again, get to know the Lord, not just superficially but on a deeper level. Give to Him my whole heart and be willing to serve Him. He knows every thought and plan that I have. If I seek Him, I’ll find Him, and if I abandon Him, He will reject me. I should approach this seriously. The Lord chose me to do His work and He will strengthen me.

Just one more and we’re almost done:

Let’s revisit Psalm 73:

 Psalm 73:
 27 Those who desert him will perish,
      for you destroy those who abandon you.
 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
      I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
      and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

 Can you see the connection between this and the passage from 1 Chronicles? Personal testimonies are powerful; they inspire me to know God even more.

 Do you see how I’m sort of playing “topic association” with His Word? I don’t know about you, but I enjoy this. This is my idea of a Bible Study and it gives me peace. This is just how my mind works I guess, but it’s come after becoming familiar with the Scriptures and I am thankful that God has done this in me. Notice how I started this message with worrisome thoughts and referred to related passages and then I thought of more passages, maybe relating differently, but it helped me to refocus my thoughts from me to Him. My thoughts were focused on my problems, but then transitioned to my God, the only One that can help me and also practical instruction for what I can do, as opposed to what I can’t control.

To summarize…

Our lives are crazy busy, sometimes overwhelming, and mostly out of our control. This naturally leads us to worry, doubt and negative thoughts. When we consider what God has to say and look at our lives from His perspective, He helps us to put our focus on Him, taking our mind off of our problems, and giving us practical actions we can take to draw closer to Him.

 So, to answer the initial question for myself, I find myself wanting way too much!

Psalm 23: 1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have what I need.

Let me encourage you to seek Him with greater zeal. You will find Him and never look back! Here is a link for the entire chapter of Psalm 73, read it carefully for an extended study. 

 What lesson have you learned today?

 “Dear Lord, you’ve made me aware of my errant thoughts that lead me to want, be malcontent and unsatisfied. Lord you are everything to me and I am sorry for letting my mind veer off course. I know that you want me to focus solely on you and look to you for all my needs. You are my Rock and my Provider and my hope is in you, not in the world. Thank you for setting me straight and for giving me the words to write this. You are so good to me and I pray that you use this message to inspire others to surrender themselves wholly to you. 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.

Who Was King Ahaz And What Can We Learn From Him?

2 Chronicles 28: 1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the LORD, as his ancestor David had done. 2 Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal.

It’s amazing what we can learn from just the first two verses. Right from the get-go, we learn that Ahaz was only 20 years old when he became king and reigned until he was 36. He was the twelfth king of Judah since King Solomon and he’s the father of a much more famous king named Hezekiah.

Kings are usually classified as “good” or “bad”. According to the history books, 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, the authors make it clear whether a king was pleasing to the Lord or not. Each king was defined by his obedience to God. My assessment of this observation is that this is what God valued most about their reigns.

But this principle doesn’t just apply to kings…

Luke 12: 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

One thing I love about the Bible is that in so many occasions we read a principle in the New Testament such as Luke 12: 48, and see it illustrated in the Old Testament. This is why it is just as important to read the Old Testament as it is the New Testament. The Old Testament illustrates much of what the New Testament teaches.

In this case, we see a king who has been given the kingdom of Judah and is responsible for all the citizens. Since a king is given much, much is required of him. God entrusted His people to these kings and they were held accountable to God accordingly.

Our disobedience will eventually affect others

With King Ahaz, we read that he did not do what was pleasing to God. Let’s find out how his lack of obedience towards God affects his kingdom.

Let’s keep reading about King Ahaz’s practices:

 3 He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree.

And the penalty for this?

 5 Because of all this, the Lord his God allowed the king of Aram to defeat Ahaz and to exile large numbers of his people to Damascus. The armies of the king of Israel also defeated Ahaz and inflicted many casualties on his army. 6 In a single day Pekah son of Remaliah, Israel’s king, killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops, all of them experienced warriors, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

Did you catch that?

Because of his sins God allowed a foreign king to defeat them. Do the words “they had abandoned the Lord” sound familiar?

Psalm 73:
27 Those who desert him will perish,
for you destroy those who abandon you.

Just as reading the story of King David gives us an idea of what to strive for, the story of King Ahaz poses as a great example of what not to do. This is just what the apostle Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 10: 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

Isn’t it amazing how God uses these stories from long ago to encourage us and warn us of how to live our lives today?

We are encouraged when we read about how God fights the battles for King David and warned when we read about how God allowed destruction come to King Ahaz’s kingdom because he did not love God or even attempt to love God.

It is my prayer that the words in this message will persuade all readers to come to the same conclusion that Joshua did:

Joshua 24: 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

 “Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful words you’ve given us to read in these Scriptures. They are precious. They are the words that give eternal life when we apply them to our lives and seek you diligently when reading them. Thank you for the knowledge you’ve given us and help us to understand the responsibility we have for this truth that we know. There are people in our lives that do not know you and you’ve entrusted us to be like Christ in the flesh to these people. Lead us to be responsible servants so that we can truly please you with our lives. 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.

Who Was Elisha And What Can We Learn From Him?

Do you remember, from my last post about Elijah, the last task given to Elijah when hearing from God on Mount Sinai?

From 1 Kings 19: 16 “… anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.”

In verse 19 Elijah meets up with Elisha:

19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away.

Here we see Elisha at work, in his soon-to-be previous career. Yes, Elisha, the great prophet that goes on to perform many works of God and establishes a reputation similar to that of Elijah, was a farmer. He was an ordinary man, hardworking, and loved his parents. When Elijah recruits him, however, he’s ready to go:

20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

Elisha was not looking back, he was fully committed.

I’d like to focus on one of Elisha’s many encounters and highlight a few lessons that we can learn today from this most revered man of God.

Expectations and obedience

 2 Kings 5: 1 The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”

We haven’t even gotten to Elisha and the story is already interesting. Right away we know a lot about Naaman, what he’s done for Aram and this major health crisis he’s facing. What I love about reading this is that here we have this commander of the Aramean army who is willing to follow the advice of his foreign servant girl. So Naaman goes to visit Elisha:

9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

That didn’t go well, did it?

But why? It seems that Naaman expected to get healed, but how? It wasn’t going as he expected. In verse 11: “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!” He first expected to meet this great man of God face to face, instead, he met his servant. When you’re the commander of an army, you usually aren’t meeting with someone’s servants, much less taking instruction from them. On top of that, he expected instant healing. With the instructions he did receive, it involved the Jordan River, which in his eyes was not nearly as good as the Aramean rivers. He was angry at this point, but watch this:

13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (ESV)

You gotta’ love those words “Wash, and be clean”.

I think for a moment Naaman allowed his pride and expectations to keep him from thinking straight. He forgot why he was there and that he was at Elisha’s mercy. His servants pointed out the obvious and saw it for what it was a “great word” from the prophet. Again, we see Naaman’s not above taking criticism and listening to his subordinates. I don’t think he’s your typical, modern-day “mighty warrior”. So he listens to his servants…

14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!

Lesson: This is a very important lesson for all believers to learn and that is to be flexible with our expectations. When we have preconceptions of a result or outcome that we’re hoping for we are often met with disappointment and sometimes anger. The second part of this lesson is to be obedient when we know what God tells us to do, just do what He says rather than argue with Him.

Above all else, our purpose is to glorify God

God’s fame and reputation are what really matters and Elisha understood this.

7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”  8 But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

The letter is sent to the king to go before Naaman, giving him safe passage. But when the king reads it he’s dismayed because he thinks it is for him, and he’s not in the healing business. Notice what’s on Elisha’s mind? He sees an opportunity to let it be known that Israel has a true prophet. And here is the result of God’s mercy on Naaman:

15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

Naaman became a believer!

In his joy he offered a gift to Elisha, and what how does Elisha respond?

16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.

The works of God are not for sale. Elisha understood that as a servant of God, he was not to accept anything in exchange for the works of God. Elisha was not concerned about earning an income, but he was concerned about God’s reputation. Naaman’s experience did not disappoint as he vowed only to worship the Lord:

17 Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord.

Lesson: As a servant of God, stay focused on the main objective, which is to love God more than anything, including our well-being. Put Him first and He’ll take care of all else. Sound familiar?

Matthew 6: 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

 Be content

After Elisha declines to accept the gift, which he does in front of his servant Gehazi, Gehazi starts to scheme…

20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, said to himself, “My master should not have let this Aramean get away without accepting any of his gifts. As surely as the Lord lives, I will chase after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi set off after Naaman.

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha thinks he knows better than his master. He second guess’s Elisha’s decision and where does this lead?

When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he climbed down from his chariot and went to meet him. “Is everything all right?” Naaman asked.

22 “Yes,” Gehazi said, “but my master has sent me to tell you that two young prophets from the hill country of Ephraim have just arrived. He would like 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothing to give to them.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

It leads him into a web of deceit as he conjures up this fictitious story and lies on behalf of Elisha. That’s not cool.

23 “By all means, take twice as much silver,” Naaman insisted. He gave him two sets of clothing, tied up the money in two bags, and sent two of his servants to carry the gifts for Gehazi.

Although this is not a problem for Naaman as he was happy to oblige, what about when he comes back to Elisha?

24 But when they arrived at the citadel, Gehazi took the gifts from the servants and sent the men back. Then he went and hid the gifts inside the house.  25 When he went in to his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”

“I haven’t been anywhere,” he replied.

26 But Elisha asked him, “Don’t you realize that I was there in spirit when Naaman stepped down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to receive money and clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and cattle, and male and female servants? 27 Because you have done this, you and your descendants will suffer from Naaman’s leprosy forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.

Apparently, Gehazi was not content.

His master declined the gift offered by Naaman. It was not the time to accept donations. Elisha’s instructions and God’s power led to Naaman’s health being restored. This was a work of the Lord and it is a great example of God’s grace. The healing was freely given after Naaman humbled himself and submitted to Elisha’s instruction. And how discontent was Gehazi? So much that he lied to both Naaman and Elisha. His lie to Naaman allowed him to receive what he shouldn’t have and his lie to Elisha was immediately rebuked. It was bad enough that he secretly sought after material gain, but he lied at both ends to attain it. He sold his soul. The end result was not only leprosy for himself but a legacy of leprosy.

This is the danger of not being content.

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!

Lesson: Be content with what you have. Accept what God has given you and don’t go secretly scheming around because deep down inside that which God has provided you with is not enough.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Elisha and the lessons found in the text concerning him. I think this might be the most important lesson here. If God can take an ordinary farmer such as Elisha and make him into a great representative of God, he can do it with you. What Elisha had that God was looking for is a willing heart that was fully committed to Him. That’s what He desires most.

Are you fully committed?

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.

 “Dear Lord, thank you for teaching us from your Word. Thank you for the story of your servant Elisha so that we may be inspired to be faithful servants as well. Lord, help me to be as willing as Elisha was. Help me to live my life as fully committed to you as he was. I know that you are my provider and that your wages are good. Thank you for the work you’ve given me and for the future you’ve put in my path. 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.

Who Was Elijah And What Can We Learn From Him?

As I continue to read the Scriptures, of all the people written about, there are some that I find more fascinating than others. One of those is Elijah. He is certainly one of the more mysterious figures of the Old Testament. Regardless of his reputation and great works, what does the story of Elijah have to do with us today? Could anything about Elijah’s life be relevant to our personal lives today?

Let’s recount some of the highlights of his life and learn what God has to teach us…

It is true, what they say “Where God guides, God provides”

We are first introduced to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:

1 Kings 17: 1 Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”  2 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 3 “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 4 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”  5 So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. 6The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.

In the opening verse, it becomes very clear who Elijah is, which is an ambassador and servant for God. It also doesn’t take long to see how bold he is, this is the king of Israel he’s talking to. Up until this time King Ahab is the evilest king to come along and worse yet he’s married to Jezebel, an evil princess from neighboring Sidon (1 Kings 16: 31).

Then, after telling the king that there’ll be a drought in his land for the next few years, God sends him to hang out by a brook for an unspecified period of time.

One might think (like me) that God would have a “better plan”

Imagine not only being sent to a brook to hang out for a period of time but being fed by ravens twice a day? There are many ways that God can provide for us, and this is just one great illustration. After a while, the brook dries up, because of the very drought that he called upon the land. One thing to learn is the fact that although the brook dried up it did not mean that God was not going to provide any longer, it simply meant that he needed to be reassigned.

I seem to “read into” my circumstances too often which can lead to a bad conclusion and one that doesn’t honor God. For example, let’s say that you or someone you know lost their job. Is that a bad thing? For “natural thinkers” of course, it’s a bad thing, remember last week, about being spiritually minded? For the spiritually minded, losing a job simply means that God has other plans and you’re being reassigned.

Lesson:  We don’t always know what’s going on and we’re not supposed to, but you can be certain that when you place your life in the hands of the Creator, He’ll provide for you.

 No job is too small

8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days.16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

Do you think any of your time or talents are being wasted?

We are uncertain as to how long Elijah stays with the widow. I think it had to be at least a couple of years during the drought which is mentioned in verse 14. One of the things I enjoy about this story is that here is this “great man of God” (which he is) and God gives him the assignment of ministering to this widow. God could’ve had him preaching or evangelizing like Jonah did, or serving a city maybe. For that matter, maybe he served the village of Zarephath, it doesn’t say. We are clear, though, that the widow was the focus of his ministry for that period of time. The story goes on about his time with her and her son and at least another miracle happens while he is there. (you should read it)

Other than learning again how God provides for us, one lesson I think that is extremely important for us to learn from this story is this:

Lesson:  No matter how much we grow spiritually or learn in our studies, there is no job “too small”. Our immediate and most important ministry will always be to those that are closest to us. Love those that God has put in your life the most and you are an obedient servant.

  You are not alone

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19: 10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” … 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

These verses take place when Elijah was running from King Ahab’s wife Jezebel, who had threatened his life after the contest on Mount Carmel. He apparently thought that he was the “only one left” that serves God. In verse 18 we read otherwise. God made sure he knew that he was not alone. I think this is a great reminder for us today when we feel all alone in our zeal for God. This is a great reason for us all to regularly enjoy fellowship with other believers, which seemed to be lacking in Elijah’s life at the time.

Lesson: Regardless of how bleak things seem to be, we are not alone.

 Even the “great ones” can’t do everything

1 Kings 19:  15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.

After meeting with God in the cave on Mount Sinai (Horeb), he was given these instructions: 1. Anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 2. Anoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel. 3. Anoint Elisha to replace himself as God’s prophet. Can you think of more important things to be told to do? I mean, really? Anoint a couple of kings? That’s amazing, isn’t it?

We know that he anoints Elisha, that happens in verse 19, but what about the other two tasks?

2 Kings 8: 13 Hazael responded, “How could a nobody like me ever accomplish such great things?”   Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you are going to be the king of Aram.”

2 Kings 9:  1 Meanwhile, Elisha the prophet had summoned a member of the group of prophets. “Get ready to travel,” he told him, “and take this flask of olive oil with you. Go to Ramoth-gilead, 2 and find Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. Call him into a private room away from his friends, 3 and pour the oil over his head. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you to be the king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run for your life!”

A clear example of delegation found in Scripture

Notice that the other two tasks were delegated to Elisha. Why would God tell Elijah to do something when He knew that it would be Elisha that would actually do it? I don’t know. It could’ve been simply the chain of command. At the time Elijah was the master and Elisha was the disciple so the commands would’ve come to Elijah first and he passed them on to Elisha. It is interesting, to say the least.

Lesson:  Just because God has given you work to do doesn’t mean that you’ll see it accomplished in your lifetime.

For those of you that have read the story of Elijah, you know that these are just a few highlights. I’ve barely scratched the surface. Between Elijah and Elisha, there are some incredible events that take place and I encourage you to read about them. These were two great servants of God and models of dedication.

Keep this in mind as well:

James 5:  16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

As great as Elijah was, James reminds us that he is as human as we are.

Lesson:  Elijah was simply an ordinary man who took his service to God seriously and God did many great things through Him because of it.

God can do many great things through you if you’ll only commit yourself to Him.

“Dear Lord, you are great and I stand in awe of you. There is nothing you can’t do and no one compares to you. Who are we that you even consider us? How is it that you love us so much? Thank you for calling us, leading us, and sending your son to die for us. That we might experience life in its fullest. Draw us near to you so that we might become more like you. Thank you for continuing to work in us. 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.

Are You Spiritually Minded?

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.

You may be more familiar with other popular versions that read “Rejoice always” and “pray without ceasing”.

I don’t know about you, but this has been one of the most challenging passages of Scripture for me.

“Always be joyful?” 

Are you kidding me? That was hard for me to read. The idea of being filled with joy always is something I could not grasp. It was a foreign concept to be sure.

“Pray without ceasing?”

How does that work? I’d always say to myself. I’d pray in the morning, and 10 minutes later prayer would be the absolute last thing on my mind. Then toward the end of the day I might think “Did I pray this morning? Did I even think about God today?”

And then the hardest of the three…

“Be thankful in all circumstances” 

Forget it, next verse…

When we read something that is beyond our comprehension it is very difficult to process. It’s almost like reading a foreign language and it just doesn’t make sense.

Although these verses didn’t make sense to me and I couldn’t relate at all to them, what they clearly revealed was a deficiency in me. They indicated how far off I was from His standard.

Paul is charging the Thessalonians (and now us) to live a higher standard of living, and personally, I do not know very many people who even want this, let alone work for it. I think for many this bar is set too high, it is unattainable. That’s what I used to think. I’m not saying that I am living this way as consistently as it says, but I see a vast improvement to where I was before I started seeking God seriously.

I’d like to focus on verse 18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Let’s face it, this is a tough verse. Not only does it say to be thankful in all circumstances, but that it is God’s will for you. Imagine, Bills are late, be thankful. I lost my job, be thankful. My spouse is ready to walk out on me, be thankful. In a natural sense, this is a totally ridiculous idea. In the natural, there’s really nothing to be thankful for and why would there be, without any kind of supernatural perspective, life just stinks in those circumstances.

Has Satan ever spoken through you?

Consider these verses:

Matthew 16: 21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

From my boyhood years, I always remember this as “Get thee behind me, Satan!” from the KJV.

Notice verse 21

The Master is explaining to His student what lies in the future. He’s simply revealing God’s will for Himself. Naturally, Peter has a hard time with this news and, from a natural perspective it just can’t happen. Naturally what Jesus was saying did not make sense, but Peter was not seeing this with the proper, supernatural perspective as we learn from verse 23. It seems to me that Satan prompted Peter to say what he did, that’s how I see it. Not that Peter was possessed, but that Satan inspired him to rebuke Jesus. This was clearly a temptation from Satan through Peter, not unlike the temptations Jesus faced during His fast, only indirectly.

This is spiritual warfare 101

This can be seen in our lives from day to day once we’re attuned to it. For example, any encouragement to not spend time with God when we know in our hearts that we should is from the evil one. There is nothing more important than spending time in the Word and in prayer from day to day, but they can be the most challenging things to do and I think it is because of spiritual warfare. It’s difficult to even when the habit is developed, let alone when there is no habit.

This illustrates why it is so important to have a spiritual or heavenly perspective of things. When we don’t, things never make sense, we become frustrated, disappointed, and work against God, rather than with God. When we have the heavenly perspective that He wants us to maintain (prayer without ceasing), although we may be perplexed at times, we know that God is in control and that all things work together for our good.

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.

Only when led by the Spirit…

Only with a supernatural perspective can we be thankful in response to negative circumstances. Romans 8:28 is a great verse to memorize and/or meditate on if you don’t already.

I think this is one of the most unbelievable verses in the whole Bible. I think if we really believed it deep down in our hearts, then being thankful in all circumstances would not be difficult. This is the kind of truth that really sets us free. When we trust in Jesus with our hearts and believe that He’s got it all under control, regardless of what craziness happens in our lives, we still have eternal life with Him to look forward to and the peace that surpasses all understanding right now

Other than salvation what better news could we have?

Is it any wonder why God continually tells us “Do not be afraid”? Maybe it’s because we have absolutely nothing to fear when we trust in Him completely. But we can’t really trust in someone we don’t really know, which is where the Devotional Time enters in and why it’s so important.

Philippians 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

“Dear Lord, I love you. You are holy. You are so great and faithful. Who am I that you even consider me? Your Words can be challenging to me, but I long to understand them and appreciate them more and more. Please be patient with me as I struggle to comprehend your truths. Help me to know you more and draw me close to you. Thank you for teaching me! 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.

Do You Know That “One Thing”?

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.

I know that for some of you this message may seem like a “broken record” (remember vinyl records?) but I feel compelled to analyze a core biblical concept that relates to everything we’ve discussed over the past five weeks. The concept is this: “remaining in Him

John 15:  5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Another popular translation:

John 15:  5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (NASB)

The practice of abiding in Him cannot be emphasized enough as it is the key to growing spiritually. It is also the difference between life and death. Jesus continues…

 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

It only makes sense. The spiritual world mirrors gardening in so many ways. Not only do we reap what we sow, but if we are not growing, we are dying. Just like any relationship, it either moves toward oneness or isolation.

Although the Bible can sometimes be mysterious and complicated, there are core doctrines (teachings) that are very simple, understood by all readers, and repeated throughout all of Scripture. Do you know how a speaker will sometimes say “If you receive only one thing out of this message, this is it.”? I believe the message of remaining in Him is the “one thing” that really matters.

1 Corinthians 13: 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

There’s that word “nothing” again. We can do nothing apart from Him and we are nothing if we don’t love others. We cannot love others apart from Him. Only because of His love are we able to truly love others. He is the one who created us, in His image. We enjoy life only when we work with Him, but are nothing and have nothing when we’re not working with Him. This is all by His design. He simply wants us to respond to His love, to turn to Him:

Matthew 4: 17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

This was His main message. He began His ministry with this message and the rest of His time on earth He taught how to live it. Repenting and turning to God is not a “one-time” event. As long as we pursue Him He requires continual repentance. This is dying to self. We are counted righteous and Holy in Christ Jesus, but He continues to transform us when we submit to Him.

In light of all this, doesn’t make sense that His greatest commandments are as such:

Matthew 22:  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.”

This is the “one thing” that God wants us to get and in doing so we remain in Him. The rest of Scripture helps us to get to understand Him better. The more we understand Him, the more we can trust Him and learn how to really love Him. He not only tells us what we need to live and have eternal life, but also how to achieve it.

John 3: 36 And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

This belief in God’s Son for most starts out at an intellectual level and for some it is emotional or both. God wants this belief to grow deep in our hearts. The levels of belief are quite evident in Scripture and we observe the disciples achieving a deeper and deeper level of conviction as they witness Jesus and His works. As the disciples walked with Him on a daily basis, so are we to do so, this is what discipleship is all about. Over the past five weeks, I covered the essential disciplines.

Wherever you’re at, regardless of how your relationship is with God, let go of anything keeping you from getting to know Him more. I know I may be the only person telling you “read your Bible daily”, but let this brief, weekly message sink deep. Think hard about who Jesus is to you and how you relate to Him. Is He the most important person in your life? Are you at peace with that? Or do you desire something greater?

Luke 13:  22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”   He replied, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

Do not allow your failed, broken and strained relationships keep you from knowing God. Do not put the failures of your parents on Him. He keeps His promises, He is gentle and sweet. He is completely reliable and will never let you down. If you can trust Him with your salvation you better believe that you can trust Him with all your daily cares and worries. He is always there for you and desires you to become one with Him. You’ll never find a greater person to fall in love with. The investment of time and losing whatever else that has to go by the wayside, like you, is worth it. You need to just keep pursuing Him, asking Him to reveal Himself to you. Consider what the apostle Paul had to say regarding himself:

Philippians 3: 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

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. 45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Will you remain in Him?

“Dear Lord, I do want to know you more. You’ve been so good to me and you’ve blessed me in so many ways that I don’t know how to thank you. You are so great and have been so patient with me. Please help me do whatever it takes for me to move closer to you. Teach me your ways as I become one with you. In Jesus’ name.”

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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.

Are You Doing The Small Things? part 5

Before I get started, for those of you who are wannabe readers but are not currently in the Word, please find a link below to create your own reading plan. And also, will you please let me know that you’ll follow a plan by replying to this message with a simple “I’ll follow a plan”?

Psalm 119: 34 Give me understanding and I will obey Your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.

 Let’s face it, the Bible is massive, compared to most books anyway. To the uninitiated, the thought of reading through it is daunting. This is no surprise; after all, it includes 66 books which contain 1189 chapters! Where does one start? How do you know what you should read next? These thoughts and related questions used to haunt me. I’d have enough guilt that finally the idea came to me to just read the book of Romans.

Can anyone relate to this?

So I made an attempt to read Paul’s letter to the Romans. That worked out for a little while. I started to read it daily but got busy and I’d skip a day here and there, no big deal, right? I’d eventually finish the book, but with little momentum. Then I’d think to myself “What’s next?”. I’d eventually pick another book, days later, and “attack” it in the same manner, which was not with a whole lot of zeal. My Bible reading habit mirrored my faith, which was lukewarm.

Revelation 3: 15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Anything but lukewarm!

This is not a good verse to identify with, but that’s where I was. I had no real eagerness to read the Good Book, nor did I have any consistency.  Now that I look back on it, of course, I wasn’t very eager, I wasn’t planted in very good soil. A big reason is that there was no one to coach me or inspire me enough to get me started, but was I ready to listen anyway? Were these just excuses?

They were and I knew better. In my heart, I was convicted about reading the Bible. I knew that I should’ve been reading His Word. Besides these excuses, I was labeled a “slow reader” in middle school and that was a big deterrent for me. “I’m not much of a reader.” I’d say to myself. I allowed my past to dictate my present. Although I might read through a book or two, I’d lose momentum, and the “worries of this life and the lure of wealth” (Matthew 13:22) would stifle my reading altogether.

The Christian faith is not for spectators.

It is one that requires participation if any growth is to be expected. To follow Jesus with my whole heart requires all of me, just as the greatest commandment states: “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). The effort put forth into seeking Him wholeheartedly is not easy, but it is incredibly and indescribably rewarding. The joy, the security, the sense of purpose, the sense of belonging and the unnatural peace are benefits that cannot be overrated.

John 4: 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!

These benefits are greatly undervalued by the world, but what do they know anyway? The world is trying to tell us that if we only won the Lotto everything would be great, while the God of all creation is telling us to forsake everything and follow Him.

Luke 14: 33 “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

Reading the Holy Scriptures cannot be overemphasized.

I really hate to say “You have to read the Bible.” But tell me this, how else will you gain an understanding of God as the verse in Psalm 119 started us off? If you desire a “close fellowship” with Him, there are no shortcuts. Relying on sermons and second-hand, processed scripture found in devotionals (like this message) and the latest “Christian Best Seller” is not good enough. While there are powerful devotionals and great Christian books, they are not adequate substitutes for God’s personal Message. The Bible is raw, unfiltered and organic. It was not written to appeal to all readers and be easily understood by just anyone. He reveals Himself only to those who sincerely seek Him.

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.

People are dying because of the Word

Do you realize that there are Christians in remote parts of the world that would do anything to get their hands on the Bible? While here in the States, we have any number of Bibles lying around the house simply collecting dust. What’s wrong with this picture? In those remote Countries, they are willing to die for their faith, while we (the majority of self-proclaimed, North American believers) are not willing to give 15 minutes a day to get closer to God.

Talk is cheap. thirteen years ago I knew all the right words to say and knew enough about God that I could’ve fooled anyone to think I was a believer, but my heart was not in it. I didn’t really understand God, much less know how to love Him. It’s never just about our intellectual knowledge of Him. While this type of knowledge is an asset, what really matters is where our heart is. But the heart is not something we can change, that is His job when we give ourselves to Him.

This is the Divine Partnership.

He calls us, like when He gave you the idea to read this message, and you responded by reading it. He put it on your heart and you responded. These words are promoting Him and prompting you to get to know Him better. The question now becomes “How will you respond to this message?”. You can delete it and forget it, you can “repent of your sins and turn to God” (Matt. 4:17), or say “I think I’ll forward this to my friend who seems to be straying from God, as for me I’ll keep on reading the Word.”.

He calls on us daily to reach out to Him for fellowship. “Will we respond and how?” is the question we each have to ask ourselves. This partnership is meant to grow and develop into something beautiful, precious and fruitful, both for us and for His Kingdom. He actually takes pleasure when we move towards Him, it is mutually beneficial, which is really cool when you think about it.

Genesis 5: 23 Enoch lived 365 years, 24 walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

If you are content with your relationship with Him, then maybe you’re reading enough. How much is enough? That depends on where you’re at and where your conviction lies. I can’t tell you how much is enough. For me, I personally cannot get enough, but I am where He has led me and this was not my doing. I gave my heart to Him and He’s changed it dramatically since the time I was indifferent, about thirteen years ago.

I once was lukewarm, but now I’m passionate!

Although I knew Jesus and was introduced to Him as a child, I’ve grown more in Him these last thirteen years than the entire 38 years prior. He put it on my heart, late in 2006 to read through His Word in 2007. I responded and never looked back. He took me from a place of indifference to a place of being consumed by Him. He has truly turned my life upside-down and I am eternally grateful for that.

I haven’t got it all figured out, my life is not “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination, but I know in my heart that God is really good. I’m learning the secret, just as Paul did, about being content in any given situation. Just when I find myself losing my peace due to a change or disappointment, I’ve learned how to go to Him and find peace regardless of the situation.

Philippians 4: 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

I am certainly not telling you that you need to read the Bible in a year. While that is a great thing to do, that is too much to ask of many people. It was what I needed and keep in mind that I did not do it alone. My brother Jeff and my friend (and brother) Joe joined me in 2007; that was simply the start for me. The Scriptures came alive as did my soul. Along with the reading, my prayer life slowly started to develop. But at the start, I had very simple, short prayers as I was reading. These prayers went something like this “Lord, I want to know you more, please reveal yourself to me.” That simple.

Learn to be flexible, if you’re rigid, you’ll break and not be useful!

Tell Him that you desire more of Him, and just keep your mind open and do not be “set in your ways”. If you are truly ready for change, He will set things in motion to make that happen. So after praying these prayers do not expect your circumstances to get better, but expect to be drawn closer to Him. As you draw closer to Him there will be “growing pains” and there is a great purpose behind them as they are for your good.

Hosea 10: 
12 I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’

That being said, Paul had this to say and I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on them throughout your day. Reading the Word is “doing what is good” and there is no better way to love your neighbor than to draw near to God.

Galatians 6: 7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

How will you respond to Him?

“Oh Heavenly Father, please don’t give up on me. You seem so far away at times and I desire a closer walk with you. I want to know you as Paul knew you. Please change my heart that I may know you more and have a greater desire for your fellowship. Help me to understand your Words. Thank you for calling me and for your loving mercies. In Jesus’ name, amen”

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Are You Doing The Small Things? part 4

These last few weeks we discussed the small or simple things that promote spiritual growth. For review, these activities (disciplines) include reading the Word, private prayer, and Spirit-led fellowship. These are the essentials. These disciplines are foundational and without them, we’ll have no firm ground to stand on.

Remaining in Him is making certain that we’ll continue to grow and be ready for whatever challenges He leads us to next. We are never to stop growing as He is inexhaustible. At the very least, we are to pursue these three activities. They lead us to become one Body of Christ and one with Him, which is what He’s always intended.

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.

As we also discussed, these three disciplines are in direct pursuit of being obedient to His two greatest commandments. This act of worship and devotion will sow many seeds into Him and He’ll be certain to reward us richly when we’ve shown that we can be faithful and trustworthy with the “small things”.

Matthew 25:  21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

At the very least, the “small things” are the work He’s given us to do. It is in these small, simple tasks that we learn what He likes, dislikes, and how He operates.

Think of it as an orientation for a job.

Only it is an orientation that never stops. Can we ever master the Scriptures? Will we ever really know God? Will we ever be self-sustaining, not needful of others? These are the small things in each of our lives that we can control. These duties will always be required of us in order to keep growing.

John 15: 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 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.

This is practicing the very presence of the Living God and yields eternal blessings beyond our belief. It is true discipleship and is far more important than what any seminary will teach. You do not need a seminary to teach you how to draw near to God.

The apostle Paul, when considering his knowledge and pedigree had this to say, and it’s quite a statement:

Philippians 3: 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.

When we seriously pursue Him, we find that He is an incredibly personal God and He takes the greatest interests in the minor details of our everyday lives. What He wants most is our undivided attention and He teaches us lessons that He exclusively designs for us. Always remember that He is the Teacher and seek Him for direction that only He can give.

Only Jesus truly knows you

People cannot ultimately tell you what to do, although they try, they really don’t know what’s best for you or what you should be doing next. But Jesus does know and He wants to show you how to love Him, how to love others and how to live your life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Who else can teach us these things when we are so uniquely shaped and have our own diverse backgrounds and family cultures? In a society that seeks a one-size fits all, cookie cutter way of educating people this is a very foreign concept. Consider what Jesus says here:

Matthew 23:  8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant.  (NIV)

Remember, there is really only one thing worth being concerned about:

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.”

Is that simple enough?

Ephesians 3: 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.

“Dear Lord, you have the words that give eternal life. Where else would I go? Teach me your ways, oh Lord. Help me to know you more and lead me along your path. Thank you for creating me, for loving me, for calling me and for teaching me. You are everything to me and I owe everything to you. My heart is yours, Lord, do with me what you will, I surrender myself to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Photo by Aaron Burden 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.