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Are You Ready? part 1

Over the ages and I think especially in the last 100 years or so there has been lots of speculation in regards to the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. The popular term scholars use to describe the subject is eschatology, which simply means the study of end-times or end-times prophecy.

Can you say Eschatology? [ˌeskəˈtäləjē]

 Eschatology has been the subject of many books, movies and news stories over the last few decades. Some have even dared to put a date on Jesus’ arrival. I find it ironic that the people who proclaim to know these details, the ones who seem to know all there is to know about what the Bible says regarding the end-times are the ones picking the dates when Jesus himself said this:

 Matthew 24:  36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

 Of course, these scholars would be able to make the best guess, but for anyone to try to pretend to know such information is being quite presumptuous, and that’s putting it nicely. Here’s something we do know:

  37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

 Some scholars say we’ll be raptured prior to the tribulation period, some say during and some say after. Some don’t believe we’ll be raptured at all. I used to believe strongly that we’ll be raptured prior to the tribulation. The reason I believed it is because that’s just what I was taught and it seemed like a really good idea to me. I want to make it clear that my prior belief was NOT because I knew the Bible really well; honestly, I didn’t read it much at all back then.

We need to be ready!

Ironically, now that I’ve read through the Bible several times I have no opinion. Although I had a “pre-trib” bias, I am much less certain about the events at the end of this age. This is OK with me and I am much more comfortable with my agnostic position than I was comfortable with my beliefs in a pre-tribulation rapture. What I do have a firm belief in, as I’ve never had before is that the second coming will happen. We need to be ready, regardless of our eschatological viewpoints, and that God cares infinitely more about our heart for Him than He does our intellectual knowledge about the end-times.

 By the way, the Great Tribulation as many people like to call it comes from Daniel chapter 12, here is an excerpt, read the full chapter for more details.

the Great Tribulation

 Daniel 12: 8 I heard what he said, but I did not understand what he meant. So I asked, “How will all this finally end, my lord?”

 9 But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means.

 11 “From the time the daily sacrifice is stopped and the sacrilegious object that causes desecration is set up to be worshiped, there will be 1,290 days. 12 And blessed are those who wait and remain until the end of the 1,335 days!

 13 “As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.”

 I believe that the study of eschatology, for some at least, has become a distraction at best and at worst an obsession (idol), which is an absolute shame. Some teachers seem to have a greater concern about when their Lord is coming back rather than enjoying the blessing of knowing Him and spending time with Him now. When we really get to know Him these details become less and less important. I enjoy discussion of these events, but they no longer dominate my thoughts.

In part 2, I’ll give further reasons why we need to be ready and where our focus should lie in the meantime.

God Bless!

Photo by Andrew Neel 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.

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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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.”

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge 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.

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”

Click here to create your own Bible Reading Plan!



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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 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.”

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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 3

1 Corinthians 1: 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

Most plants require 3 essentials for growth. For those of you that are not green thumbs, let’s review: They are water, sun, and good or fertilized soil. Most plants require all three.

For the past two weeks, we discussed two elements that are essential for our spiritual growth. They are reading God’s Word and prayer. But they are not enough for us to thrive.

3rd small thing: Christian fellowship

The third essential element (and small thing) is Christian relationships (fellowship).

John 15: 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

This conversation Jesus has with His 11 remaining disciples takes place during the last supper. Notice how intimate it is. This is the culmination of spending three years with each other. Jesus actually exercises this “great love” the next day! This was a very tightly knit group of tax collectors, fishermen, a zealot, and we don’t know so much about the one’s whose professions are not mentioned, but they were a mixed bag that for the most part did not have a lot in common with each other. It was their love for Jesus that made them tightly knit. They were, of course, brothers:

Matthew 12: 48 Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

We are to be known for our love for one another

It is through these relationships that prove to the world that we are His followers:

John 13: 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Can someone look at your life and know that you are His because of your love for your friends?

These relationships are special and just like any other special relationship they take time to build. This is where believers become “Christ in the flesh” for each other. To me this is “fertile soil” that enables a believer to grow.

Matthew 13: 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

We can just call them “fellowship meetings”. 

These meetings of brothers and sisters should be a safe place where you are listened to without judgment. It should be a place where those issues that weigh heavy on your heart can be discussed openly without fear of laughter or shame.  They should be regularly occurring, consistent events that become typical of our lifestyle as believers. This is the only way for this love to grow, as we practice getting to know and love one another.  The fuel that keeps these meetings “alive” will be the reading of Scripture, discussion, praise and prayer. This can be between 2 or more people. I know this might sound like “just another church service”, but this is much more intimate with fewer people. It is OK to have several meetings a week other than the “regular church” service and I think it is vital.

Other than corporate worship, there should be a small group of the same gender as well as for couples if one is in a relationship.  A small group should be not much more than 6. The bigger a group gets the less likely certain people will share and the more frequently they’ll need to meet for the group to “gel” (grow closer together). The leadership of the group should ensure that the focus of the group stays on the Lord and that the conversation stays positive and encouraging making sure that what is being said is applicable to the whole group. This is not always easy to do and certain people might need to be reined in accordingly. All meetings should start in prayer which sets the tone, always asking for the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation, inviting Him to be present.

I am convinced that this should be the normal lifestyle for the Christian individual. 

For some I know this could be a radical change, but it is this radical change that I needed to get my life in line with His and keep it there.  It did not happen overnight, but over time I started to integrate meetings into my schedule until I had enough and was not overburdened.

These meetings can also take place over the phone. I don’t think its ideal, but it works. Just like any relationship or plant, you will reap what you sow.

These meetings are an investment well worth your time. It is in these meetings where relationships blossom which make our lives incredibly rich.  The more time invested, the greater the value becomes.

If you are not currently in fellowship on a regular basis then
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Ask Him to bring people into your life or help you to meet with others and you can be certain that He will answer a prayer like that. He wants His children to get together and anytime I pray for a great meeting with others He answers it.

Acts 2:  42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

These are the small, yet essential things.

These three regular activities of reading His Word, praying and God-centered meetings are simple, yet essential for spiritual growth. When all three are combined it is most powerful and dynamic. Participation from each individual is key. It is important to make sure each person is engaged and a part of it. The leadership or simply those most mature of the group should naturally pray for all members on a regular basis as well. The evil one does not want these meetings to occur and he will do all that he can to disrupt.

Once meetings are established, it should be considered as if God engineered it and it becomes the work He’s given us to do. This is not work in any negative sense, but work that yields much joy and is something to look forward to because we know that it pleases Him and greatly blesses us.

Keep in mind that the great purpose of these meetings is all about putting into practice the two greatest commandments: To love God with everything we’ve got and to love our neighbors as our selves.  These meetings prepare us for ministering to those in greater need and those that do not know God.

Hebrews 10:  24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Are you ready for true growth?

Dear Lord, thank you for the precious relationships that you have blessed me with. Thank you for my family and for those people in my life that make my life rich and blessed. Help me to invest my time where it matters most, which is relationships. I pray that these relationships make you the focal point and lead to greater service for you. In Jesus’ 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 Doing The Small Things? Part 2

Are You Doing The Small Things? part 2

Psalm 112:

1 Praise the Lord!
How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands…
They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

Does this describe you? How do you handle “bad news”? When you realize the last check you wrote will bounce. Or maybe when you’re called into your boss’s office after a day when you know you made a poor decision?  How about when you’ve had an ugly dispute with your spouse who brought up the “D” word and they were serious? Or when you receive an intimidating letter from the IRS?

Does the passage in Psalm 112 resemble you?

If it does, and bad news doesn’t phase you, then you have found the peace that truly passes all human understanding.

If this does not resemble you, and you cannot relate to it, then let’s discuss an additional “small thing” that is essential in bridging this gap from who you are now to this “gold standard” of a believer given in Psalm 112. This peace is not something one can get from reading self-help books. It cannot be found in a yoga class or a zen garden. While some methods, such as these, may provide temporary relief, they do not compare to the peace that only our Heavenly Father can provide.

Peace, of course, is a spiritual fruit:

Galatians 5: 22 There is no law against these things! But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

How is this fruit produced?

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.

Isn’t this a fantastic verse? We’re actually told how spiritual fruit is produced. But wait, what does it really mean to “remain in Christ”?

How do we “remain in Christ”?

I think I know, and I am convinced that it is in these “small things”, exercised day after day, week in and week out, after many months and in some areas only after years can significant growth be seen.

Consider the oak tree, which begins as a humble acorn. It takes many years to grow to its full height and you wouldn’t want to sit around watching it grow. It would be like watching paint dry. But it grows, little by little and over time it becomes gigantic. It was designed that way and so are we.

In this microwave, drive-thru, cell phone and ATM culture we seem to want to go to church, pay for a fully grown “tree of spiritual growth” and bring it home.  That “tree of spiritual growth” starts at home, daily.

Here is my favorite Psalm that illustrates this growth:

Psalm 1
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

Do you see the connection to John 15? Last week the “simple thing” was reading the Word of God. Today it is prayer.

Prayer and Reading the Word go hand in hand.

They feed off each other. Reading His Word drove me to a greater, richer prayer life. God gave me a voracious appetite for reading the Word as a result of my sincere and diligent prayers. Prayer prepares my heart to receive His Word. The knowledge of Him, what He likes and dislikes have helped sharpen and enrich my prayers. Picture two vines growing together, intertwined as they continue to grow. This is how I see these two disciplines in my life. They are both maturing. I get more out of my Bible reading now than I did last year and my prayer life is more pervasive throughout my daily activities.

There are many different ways to pray and variations of it so I’d like to refer to a passage so that we are on the same page.

Matthew 6: 5 “ But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.

This is the type of prayer that matters most. Taking the time to be in His presence, seeking Him in prayer alone, can never be underestimated. But I know for myself it is what I lack the most.

How important is it?

Luke 10:  38 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.” Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 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.

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

Reading the Word and meeting him alone in prayer is sitting at the Lord’s feet. What does Jesus say?

“There is only one thing worth being concerned about.”

This makes it clear to me, from my understanding Jesus’ statement, that if there is ANYTHING that I do that is worth being concerned about from day to day is “Did I spend time at my Lord’s feet today?”. How do you read it?

When I meet with Him I usually like to get on my knees, in a prostrate position. I don’t know why, but I think this helps me meet Him with humility. This is my conviction, not to put it on anyone else, but this is what works for me. You could sit, lie face down, kneel at your bed, whatever you feel most comfortable for you. Not comfort in a physical sense, but comfort in a spiritual sense. Some days I am too tired and just lie on the bed and pray. This is not something to be dogmatic or legalistic about. God simply wants you to meet with Him and meeting with Him on a regular, consistent basis is essential for spiritual growth.

“…let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2c

I don’t necessarily know what I want to say to Him or ask of Him. There are times that I don’t have anything to say, but I feel a great desire to meet with Him anyway. I close my eyes, am still and take deep breaths. Slowing down and being still like this helps me to think and maybe prepare my words for Him. I usually start with “I praise your name”, or it’s never a bad idea to just start thanking Him and let the list go on for everything you have to be thankful for.

Psalm 50: 23  But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

Once you start a dialog with Him pray whatever comes to mind and let it go.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD

Psalm 55: 22 Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

If you are anxious, tell Him. If you are scared, let Him know. If you don’t know how to solve a problem, ask for His help. Don’t be in a hurry to leave. Pretend that you are a six-year-old that had a bad day with the other kids on the playground.  As a young child, you run to your Father with all your needs, anxieties, questions, and strange feelings that you cannot express.

Unload on Him as any child would and make it a habit. After a while, after you begin doing this, the idea to pray will change from “I have to pray” to “I really desire to pray.” You will find that you will desire it more and more, rather than as an obligation. Then if you stop doing it for any reason, maybe when taking a vacation, you will miss it dearly and He will teach you just how important it really is to maintain your peace of mind.

Remember that Jesus is humble, gentle and very patient.

He is not like some harsh taskmaster that likes scolding us. He has been good to me and I’m certain you’ll see that for yourself.

For those of you that are incessantly worrying about something right now, I want to give you an exercise that has helped me tremendously.

I’d like you to meditate on these two verses:

Philippians 4:  6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

God promises that if you meditate on this verse, storing it in memory, you will take on a new way of living. A way that is peaceful. This is what letting go is all about.

Fall into the arms of a great and loving God, the One who created you uniquely for His good purposes.

Will you join me at His feet?

 “Dear Father in heaven, you are so good to me. Thank you for calling me to know you on a more intimate level. Help me to remain in you and hold me tight. I need you now more than ever and I thank you in advance for leading me to a closer walk with you. In Jesus’ 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 Doing The Small Things? Part 1

Are you satisfied?

Do you know in your heart what the “abundant life” is? Is your life as a Christian what you’ve always expected it to be? Be honest with yourself. Are you content with your knowledge of God and the transformation that was once started in you? Do you think you’ve hit a plateau or are you progressing in your faith? Are you satisfied with your relationship with Him or do you want more?

I believe that we are to be content in any given situation. Perhaps we should be content with the spiritual growth we have to date. After all, if you are seeking Him daily (or abiding in Him), you can be sure that you are growing because He knows what He’s doing:

Philippians 1: 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

But I don’t think that means that we should not want more. I don’t know about you but the closer I get to God, the more deficiencies and inadequacies I see in myself. This is something that I am not pleased with; therefore, I continue to pursue Him because I know that He’ll continue to work on me. The motive here is not just about being more Christ-like, but being more Christ-like so that I can be of greater use to Him.

This is the slow and painful death of me.

John 3: 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less

If God is the CEO of a company called God, Inc. then I am a “sold out” company man, reading the Employee Manual diligently and constantly discovering what the CEO likes and dislikes and being willing to change accordingly so that my life will please Him and the Boss’s Son.

Consider these verses:

Matthew 22: “‘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.”

Have you ever thought about what it really means to carry out these commandments? Forget about the 10 commandments, Jesus says these are the greatest and that all of the law is based on these two commandments. We are commanded to love Him, and everyone else.  Before you start thinking “Really?… commanded to love? What kind of god does that?” Think about this: He’s never commanded us to believe in Him. He’ll never force you to follow Him. He doesn’t make anyone believe that He exists (He gave Nebuchadnezzar seven years to come to his own conclusion, read Daniel 4).

He loved us first:

1 John 4: 19 We love because he first loved us. (NIV)

God’s love for us is constant. He is the Rock. He will not move or be moved.  We cannot do anything to make Him love us more or less.  King David understood this:

Psalm 18
1 I love you, Lord;
you are my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

Because He loves us, He’s given us free will. He is not some puppet master forcing us to trust in Him, otherwise, it would not be love. When we surrender our lives to Him, we make Him our Master. We are then His slaves because we have been bought for a price.

1 Corinthians 6: 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Just One Thing

I’d like to focus on just one thing you can do, if you’re not already doing it, that will help you to pursue Him and obey His greatest commandments. What I’m about to tell you is nothing new. It’s something I’m sure you’ve been told many times before, but it is essential to spiritual growth and bearing fruit. Are you ready? OK, here is the secret (not really a secret, it just sounds cool to say that) that I’ve found that really works:

READ YOUR BIBLE DAILY AS IF YOU

AND YOUR LOVED ONE’s LIVES DEPENDED ON IT!

Follow my logic for a second in case this is not clear enough…

God created you, right? You’ve made Him the Lord and Master (CEO) of your life, right? He commands you to love Him first and foremost, right? If you said yes to all three questions then what is stopping you from doing a simple daily task that will help you to love Him more? This is called obedience and it pleases Him.

John 14: 15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.

To know Him is to love Him.

Before I started taking Him seriously I read His Word very little, very infrequently and with very little interest. I really didn’t know how to love Him. After taking Him seriously and reading the Word several times, I appreciate Him much more now that I know Him a whole lot better. The more I know him, the more I love Him, it is that simple. Now that I love Him and because I love Him, I read his Word in greater volume, every day, and with great interest. Do you see the shift that has occurred in my life? This has taken me from being shallow and lukewarm to a passionate man with a purpose.

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

Look, friends. Reading your Bible daily is one of the “small things” you can do. And if you can’t be faithful with the small things, do you think He’ll ever give you greater responsibilities? (Let me clue you in for a second, completing seminary or starting some ministry is not necessarily God giving you responsibilities.) There are not many things that I can control in my life, but I can control what I read and how much I read, can you?

Enough for now.

But I must tell you that reading the Word is not enough on its own. Over the next few weeks, God willing, I’ll be discussing other essential elements involved in spiritual growth. In the meantime, I’ve included a reading plan that you can use to start developing the daily habit of reading the Word today.

I’ll leave you with this one passage to meditate on. I’ve had the privilege of watching these words come to fruition in my life and you can have hope in this for yourself:

Romans 12:  1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Will you give your body to Him daily by allowing Him to teach you with His Word?

 “Dear God, thank you for giving me the privilege of serving you. Please help me to know you more. As I read your Word, open my heart so that I might savor each word that is read. Help me develop a greater appetite for your Word and to develop a habit that will last for the rest of my life. In faith, I give my time to you. Give me the wisdom and discernment I need to spend more time with you each day from this day forward. Thank you, Lord, for leading me in this way. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Reading Plan:
http://www.thebibleteam.com/plans/Matthew.pdf

Photo by Aaron Burden 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.