Monday, July 6, 2020

Let Him Who Has Ears to Hear...

This week we had a principal from North Carolina share a prophetic prayer she felt led to pray over CedarWood, our Christian school. We were strongly encouraged by her sending it to us and amazed how God has people in the Body ready to pray for others when called upon.  It reminded me to "listen" for people or situations that He wants me to pray for, which led me to reflect on the somewhat disturbing words of Jesus, "Let him who has ears to hear, hear."  It is our choice.

It seems to me with the myriad of voices and the many conflicting opinions shared in the world, we are trained to take everything with a grain of salt, and simply become "dull of hearing."  Unfortunately, that attitude easily transfers to the way we receive God's Word or the Spirit's promptings. The point is that God's Word is sure, and when the Holy Spirit speaks we need to be like Peter, in Luke 5:5, who after fishing all night thought that fishing during the middle of the day was ridiculous, said, "but at Your Word." and did it.  Obedience always brings results. 
  
One of my favorite short verses is Romans 3:4 which essentially says "let God be true and every man a liar."  Sometimes that liar is me.  When I start doubting God's promptings because it doesn't make sense to me or I don't feel like doing it, I have to remind myself that my thoughts are not His thoughts and my ways are not His ways.  

The Word describes David, as a man after God's own heart, who will do all my will (Acts 13:22)  The more we want to please God, the easier it will be to do what He asks.  Having a willingness to do whatever God asks, makes a huge difference in discerning whether the "nudge" is really from God.  Jesus established this principle at the Feast of Tabernacles when He declared, "If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. "
  
My sheep know My voice.  David, in Psalm 85, states his choice, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to HIs people."  Yet why do the vast majority of Christians say God doesn't speak to them?  Here is the dilemma, our flesh says I don't hear God and our spirit says He calls and I follow Him because I know His voice.  Whose report will you believe?  If you do choose to "hear," then take time to be still before Him, to read and agree with the truth of His Word, and to set your will to obey the next prompting that the Holy Spirit gives you.  Write it down so you don't quickly forget it.  Then simply do or receive the word He gives.  Thank Him for speaking to you.  As you willingly are faithful to do the little things such as encourage a coworker, pick up a mess, or let someone know Jesus loves them, to your delight you will become more aware of His leading and have a greater desire to quickly obey next time.  Your faculties are trained by practice to distinguish between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).  Life becomes an adventure as you see God confirm His Word with signs following.  

God's invitation remains, "Let him who has ears to hear, hear."  It is time to be like Jesus who declared He only said what He heard the Father say, and did what He saw the Father do.  1 John 4:17 says "as He is so are we in this world." We are going to see the Holy Spirit move and accomplish great things, in and through us, as we likewise choose to hear and obey.  

If you are serious, may I suggest a simple prayer.   Holy Spirit, open my heart and mind to receive Your Word and know your voice.  I choose to hear.  I am willing to do Your will and I trust You to lead me into all truth as I hear and obey Your voice.  Help me be faithful in the next thing you speak to me.  I trust You to cause me "to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think, according to the power that works in me." (Ephesians 3:20-21) Glory to God Forever! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Never Fail Because the Lord is With You

As you recall, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up in Potiphar's house in Egypt.  However, rather than being defeated, Joseph's condition is described as "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man" in the house of Potiphar, who put all that he had under Joseph's authority.  Then after he refused to lie with Potiphar's wife, and he was put in prison Joseph's situation is described this way, "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy" so "the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners.  The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper."

Joseph triumphed even as a slave and prisoner in Egypt, because the Lord was with Him.  David recalls, in Psalm 23, that walking through the valley of death, he will not fear, because "Thou art with me."  Many of the patriarchs and prophets accomplished amazing feats because the Lord was with them.   Darkness changes to light when the Lord is with you.

In the New Covenant, Jesus, removed the barrier of sin through His death and resurrection (Colossians 2:13-14) and raised you up to sit with Him (Ephesians 2:6) and your life is literally "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).  Jesus promised and through His completed work, He made it a reality that "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  You are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and by His Spirit the Father and Jesus live in you.  We absolutely are in His presence NOW, not just after we die.  Paul further declares how amazing this truth is in Colossians 1:27, "To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  In short, the Lord is with you.

What is the problem? Why don't we walk around like "He is with us" and "He always leads us in triumph?"  Maybe Hosea 4:6 says it best, "My people are being destroyed because of lack of knowledge." Our natural mind cannot fathom the thoughts of God.  We desperately need the revelation of God's truth. Jesus said we live by the Word of God.  That Word has to abide in us to bear fruit. The benefits of having God with you and in you are infinite. You will overcome. You will be free. You love others and yourself.  You will have peace, love, joy, and are satisfied forever.  Obviously when we leave this earth and come before God, we will bow in awe of His greatness, His glory, His presence and overwhelming perfect love.  A young man in Atlanta, Georgia, who died and came back to life describes his experience of being in God's presence as "being totally satisfied" and all he wanted was "to do what God wanted him to do."   You and I are in  His presence NOW.  Jesus promised that if we continue in His Word, we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free.

What is our experience as we realize we are in His presence.  Psalm 16"11 states that "in His presence is fullness of joy.  The joy of the Lord is my strength.   The Word likewise reveals His love that casts out all fear and His peace that flows like a river.  Choose to remind yourself that the living God dwells in you.  What can man do to you or me if God be for us and with us?   However, since our natural fleshly thoughts are fallen, we need to renew our minds and refresh our feelings by God's Word.  We can change our thinking by following David's instructions how to enter into His presence, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, and bow before Him."  In Philippians, Paul reminds us to give our anxieties to God in prayer and He will keep our minds and hearts in peace beyond all understanding.  The Spirit helps us apply this truth and put to death those doubts, fears, and hindrances which seek to steal all the benefits of His presence. 

Take a moment to be still, and know that He is God.  I will never leave you or forsake you.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

God Is?

Have you ever walked into a room, or a gathering such as a wedding or party, and nobody even acknowledged your existence?  What if you gave everything you had for someone, maybe your children, or your grandchildren, and they didn't even take time to respond?  Can you imagine how God feels, after creating for us this awesome infinitely designed universe, making a perfect planet for man to thrive, literally breathing His life in us, and finally after man sins, becoming a man and laying down His life for us, then only to be completely ignored and unappreciated?

On the other hand, have you noticed how Genesis, the Lord's prayer, and David's Psalm 23 all start by declaring God is: "In the beginning God,"  "Our Father who art," and "The Lord is."  Clearly the starting point of life and true prayer is recognizing God as God.   David seals the argument with two different psalms, 14 and 53, that declare "A fool says there is no God."

Then to bring this point into focus, Hebrews 11:6, states "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."  It always seems so simple and unnecessary to state as a "must believe" that He is.  However, if you remember Satan's temptation to Eve and Adam was that they would become like God.  Fallen man thinks he is God.  It follows that the only way to deny our carnal nature is to humble ourselves by declaring God is God, "not we ourselves" as Psalm 100:3 repeats.

Until we acknowledge our pride and sin, come to God as our creator and one who loves us enough to die for us, we fail to recognize our true condition.  All creation shows His handiwork, but accepting the message of the cross reveals the heart of His infinite love.  He is who He reveals He is.  Creator, Savior, Father, Shepherd, and Merciful Lover.  Then we can receive Jesus and the "It is Finished" plan to deliver us from our sin, our faulty thinking, and sin's consequences, making us new creations that please Him forever. 

All life comes from God, is created for His pleasure, and certainly will return to God.  There is a day coming that no man can escape when each one of us will stand before the living God.  Books will be opened and ever thought, word, and deed will be reviewed.  Nothing is more important for eternity than the outcome of that moment. May we all come to the place and attitude when we acknowledge God is, and receive the incredible, wonderful reward of receiving what Jesus has done.  When we do this simple step, God is pleased forever. 

In every situation, good or bad, stop and declare " God is..."

Monday, June 15, 2020

God Chose You, to be With Him Forever!

Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts.  We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house. Psalm 65:4  A 23-year old young man who died and then came back to life, tried to share what it was like to be before God.  All he could say is that he felt "satisfied" and just wanted to do whatever he could to serve Him.

This morning I had a rough time reigning in my mind and some thoughts from dreamland, but the Word of God proved true as I began to declare God's fresh mercy this morning.  Psalm 59 states "I will sing aloud of Your mercy and loving-kindness in the morning."  So I just started singing that old classic song, I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever....with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations.  It didn't take long for the Holy Spirit to refresh my mind and help me reflect on all He has done for me.  I am a strong believer in Psalm 92:2 which tells us to declare His mercy every morning and His faithfulness every night.  What a great way to start the day, and what a great way to have peace as you retire at night.  

Part of what the Lord used to refresh me was the gift of realizing that He chose me, I didn't choose Him.  Incredible, that the almighty creator of the universe desires my company and will do anything (including dying on the cross) to make sure that I can be with Him forever.  So my Word today, is to realize and thank God that He chose you and has eternal purpose for you.  Before you were formed in the womb, God already had a definite plan, "for you were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10   So it is easy to see why He makes all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It's because He chose and loves you, and therefore desires you to fulfill your purpose.  When you know you are chosen by God, the rejection of men can't touch you.  

Just a side thought, He loves you because He is love, not because you are so lovely.  It is fallen man's nature to think you are not "good" or "worthy" enough.  Instead, set your mind on the truth of the Word, humble yourself like a little child, and receive His love.  Isn't it awesome to be chosen and loved by God?  Truly, we have every reason to confess Psalm 21:4, "I am the most blessed forever!"  

Last, but not least, Jesus came to serve not be served.  The Holy Spirit gently reminded me how easy it is to live for what I want, rather than see today as an opportunity to live to bless and glorify Him.  In the John 15 verse that reveals God chose you, Jesus continues to say the reason is to bear fruit and prove to be a disciple.  God even promises to help us do this.  He is the one who enables us  "to will and to work for His pleasure."  The clear goal of Jesus saving us and changing us into children of God is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, in other words, become like Him. 

In the Luke 18 parable on prayer and the widow woman who kept after the judge, Jesus concludes with the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"  Faith is shown by obedience, so when we respond to His choosing us, we choose to obey His command, "go and do likewise."  My question, will the Lord find you and me loving Him enough to serve Him (by serving others) rather than just getting caught up in society and spending all our time and effort in taking care of our own needs.  Remember, God chose you to live for His purpose.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Not Ignorant of Satan's plan

"Divide and conquer" has long been a strategy used by the enemy, whether Satan or armies or political movements.  If the enemy can find an area where there is division, bitterness, rebellion, or conflicting views, he can intervene and play one side against the other.  Everyone knows the uncanny way children can play one parent against another, especially where there is a difference of lifestyles and opinions.  James says it even stronger, "where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil thing."  Division is an open door for the enemy.

Unfortunately, this principle also applies to the church, the body of Christ.  A Hebrew friend quotes a  saying "Where there are two Jews there are three opinions."  Likewise, it doesn't take long to find disagreement in the Body of Christ.  Can Christians go to a Harry Potter movie?  Is there racial or sexual oppression in the church?  Should Christians support Donald Trump?  Is it okay to drink or smoke? What about homosexuals in the church or in ministry? tattoos? marijuana? divorce and remarriage? And the latest, to what extent do churches have to obey when political authorities close all public gatherings?

In contrast, Jesus prayed that the church would be so completely one that the world would know that God sent Jesus.  (John 17:21-23)   Obviously, there is a place for unity in the major issues and room for diversity in the minors. Even Paul talked about those who did or did not eat meat, or honored a special day, as long as each one did it for the Lord.  However, if we as Christians can be divided, Satan will easily divert us into fighting each other instead of carrying out our mission to reach people with the Gospel and to be the kingdom of God on earth. 

Jesus declared that the Word is truth, and when we know the truth, it sets us free.  Yet Satan quoted the Word (part of Psalm 91) in his temptation for Jesus to jump off the temple.  So just saying the words of Scripture does not guarantee that it is correct application. The Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah 53 asked Philip, "How can I understand unless someone guides me?"

Praise God, there is someone who has been sent to guide us!  His name is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach us all things, would bear witness to Him, and would guide us into all truth.  However, fallen human nature is proud and rebellious.  We think we are God, and our opinion is the best.  Social media is filled with everyone sharing their critical view of someone else.  Proverbs describes a fool as one who is right in his own eyes and delights in sharing his opinion.  Nothing is more disheartening than reading Judges and seeing God's people continually making poor decisions and suffering the consequences.  It closes with the summary, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  So the challenge remains to lay down our thoughts and be willing to be taught His truth.  After all, "His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways," according to Isaiah 55.  We need to be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us into His truth.

Many people believe that the Covid19 virus and the resulting financial pressure is just the beginning of the shaking that God promised would happen so that what is unshakeable would remain.  During hard times there is also a great opportunity for people to realize their need for God.  But if the church is divided and arguing with each other, we will not be able to look like the Lord Jesus to a hurting world.  Jesus, in His prayer of John 17, said that when His people are one, the world will know He is God.  Therefore, people's hearts will see that Jesus is real, only if and when, His followers become one.

God has entrusted to us the Gospel and the commission to reach the world.  We must let the Spirit of God teach us and transform us to become one, rather than getting divided over our opinions.  When we disagree, either you are wrong or I am wrong, or we are both wrong. Truth is one.  Can we lay down our thoughts and humbly seek Him until He shows us truth, which we both know is from Him?  Only as we submit to Him and His perfect love, will we fulfill our calling to be one (Ephesians 4:1-6) and experience His fullness.   God will have a faithful remnant who will hear His voice, unite in truth and love, and become the spotless beautiful bride. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

What Have You Done With the Life I Gave You?

Several people who have died, but who were sent back to earth to complete their mission, report that when they met Jesus, His question for them was "What have you done with the life I gave you?  People almost always say their whole life flashed before them.  What will yours look like, standing before Jesus who loves you and knows you?

It is time to reflect, repent, and choose to let this eternal truth be the motivating drive in our life.  Our life will be evaluated, honestly and completely by God.  So consider the judgments of God.

There essentially are two books, which suggest two judgments, the Lamb's Book of Life and the Book of knowledge, that records all that everyone has ever done.   The first judgment is whether or not your name is in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12).  Your name is written in this Book when you acknowledge that Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay for your sins and save you.  Your life for all eternity is decided by this choice.  Choose Life!

The second is the Bema or Great White Throne judgment, a term taken from the Greek for the judge that gave awards after an Olympic event.  In Revelation 22:12 the Word declares "Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with Me, to give every man according to his work."  Likewise in Matthew 25, Jesus, as the master who comes back,  will declare "Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord. '

This rewards judgment is not to establish whether we get to spend forever with God, but rather to establish the role we get to have in the kingdom of God forever.  God knows and is vitally concerned about every thought, word, and choice we make.  Did Jesus not say that giving a child a glass of water would not lose its reward?

There are positive and negative aspects to this ultimate exposure before God.  Several places in Scripture confirm this, for example, Jesus is recorded in Matthew 12:36, "But I say to you that for every idle word men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."  Also in Romans 2:6 it speaks of the righteous judgment of God, who 'will render to each one according to his deeds" and in 2:16 "in that day when God will judge the secrets of men."  Even David, in his instruction to Solomon, declared that the Lord knows and understands every action, thought, and intent of the heart,

Someday, you and I will stand before God who knows everything about us.  He desires to bring His rewards.  Yet, He must expose everything dark to the light so it can become light.  Ask the Holy Spirit to expose your heart, then acknowledge your wrong choices or sin, and let Him not only forgive, but also cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)  What a awesome God who not only warms us but also provides the means to be right before Him!

Today, aware of how awesome God is and how true this Word is, I try to make my thoughts, choices, and actions count.  How will the Lord respond to what  you are thinking now, what big and little choices you make today, and what sentiments you dwell on in your heart?  Psalm 19 says it best, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord."

Monday, May 25, 2020

Amazing Pattern Found in God's Creation

There is a lasting thought in my mind since we graduated our seniors yesterday in an online zoom ceremony.  It was beautiful and the sharing of these young people being grateful for their parents and all who invested in their lives was touching.  Secondly, seeing the growth in character and their relationship with the Lord was inspiring.  
The reflection God gave me was from Psalm 19, which declares that all creation shows His handiwork.  So obviously there are patterns in nature that have lessons for us who seek to walk in God's ways.  For example, do you know that the Monarch butterfly migrates from Mexico all the way to Canada every Spring.  This 2000 mile distance is beyond the flying lifespan of the butterfly.  It takes 3 or 4 generations.  So the butterfly that starts the journey, lays eggs and dies.  Then the new larvae grow into butterflies and somehow God has put in them the direction and desire to complete the mission of migrating.  Then they fly as far as they can in their lifetime, lay eggs and die.  The new larvae grow into butterflies and continue the migration, until the mission is accomplished.  
It is not hard to see the parallel for God's mission of sending Jesus to die for all, rise from the dead, and establish the kingdom of God and His love on earth. He then entrusted the disciples to go as far as they could go, then entrust the message to the next generation.  Jesus prays in John 17:20 "not  for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word."   We blessed these young people with the commission of carrying on as the light of the world wherever God leads them, and continuing the faith and love shown by those who went before them representing the Lord Jesus.  
So my word is, continue to share and spread the love of Jesus, go as far as you can go, then entrust this great faith to the generation that will rise up to complete the task.  In the book of Hebrews, God points out that those before us will be united with us to reap the rewards of living for Him, and together we will make it! 
So hear the Word of the Lord, give all you have and go as far as you can go, trusting the Lord Jesus to raise up the next generation to carry on the task of building up His Kingdom on earth until it is complete.  Come Lord Jesus!