Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let him hear

“Did you hear what I just said? What did I just say?” the frustrated teacher responds to the disobedient student. Training children to listen and actually follow instructions is the challenge of every parent, teacher, or coach.
The amazing thing is that Jesus had the same problem with adults. He would state a life-giving truth and then conclude “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9) He even quotes the prophecy of Isaiah (6:9-10) that states men will hear and not understand, see and not perceive, because “their hearts of this people have grown dull, their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes are closed.”
Why is it so hard for people to hear? The Isaiah verse Jesus quoted gives some pertinent insight. It points out that a choice is involved. The people have hardened their hearts, meaning they don’t want to be affected or corrected. Likewise, closing their eyes and becoming hard of hearing suggest that one deliberately chooses to refuse to see and hear, usually because it would require a change of attitude, thinking, and behavior. Man doesn’t want to change. Man wants to do things his own way, he wants to be God.
God calls us to repent. Repent means to change our inner heart and attitude, and then carry out this different way of thinking through deliberate different actions. God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than our ways. He looks for the person who has “a humble and contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2) When someone humbly lays down his own thoughts and honestly seeks truth and life from God’s thoughts, then God is free to let His presence and power work mightily in that life.
How can anyone know what God is really saying? Jesus said in John 7:17 that if anyone’s will is to do the will of the Father, he will know whether the teaching is from God or man. The real question that determines whether we hear is not the volume of the words that falls on our ears, but rather the inner willingness to obey what is spoken.
So the point is, what are you willing to hear? Do you desire God to speak into your life? Have you taken time this morning to read His word with an attitude of wanting to let His thoughts and desires become yours? John Wesley always knelt down to read the word because he wanted to be in a position of surrender to God’s will. When you tremble before the majesty and authority of God’s word, your ears will be attentive and you will hear.

Friday, November 27, 2009

How Much is Enough?

Walking through the stores very early on Black Friday morning and feeling the throngs of shoppers snatching up as many deals as possible is an experience to challenge the rational mind. How much stuff do we need? What makes us willing to pay such a high cost to amass more stuff? Why do we continually seek something new and more powerful to meet our wants? Do we really need more? What is the root cause of desire?
Christmas is the season of many things, but for children in most Western countires the first thought is the presents. Even though parents and Christian teachers have labored hard to bring the emphasis back to God and the coming of Jesus Christ, nothing replaces Santa Claus and their desire to get more stuff. We may have created a monster, but the roots were there long before we watered the plant.
Even Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida, points out that desire is never satisfied and infinite in what it seeks. Likewise Paul would contrast the desires of the flesh as diametrically opposite to the law of God in the spiritual man. Fallen human nature, according to Ephesians 2, follows the desires of body and mind. Even Solomon, who had the capabilities of letting himself satiate every human desire from wealth and fame to sex, concluded that all is vanity and that it did not satisfy.
The problem is simple. Our flesh wants everything it can desire, but it doesn’t have the ability to know what really satisfies those desires. Once man is born again with a new spirit, his mind and desires must be renewed or changed by God’s desires, revealed in His word. As the word becomes flesh in us, our thoughts and desires are transformed to be like His. Then promises like Psalm 42 which declare how we long for the living God as a deer pants for water become reality inside our hearts. God is even pleased when we honestly admit our lack of desire for Him, and then ask Him to give us a hunger and thirst for Him.
So how much stuff is enough? Stuff may be useful but not helpful if it deadens or is sought in replacement of the true fulfillment that only comes from knowing Jesus and enjoying the presence of God. Once we know Jesus, His Spirit can lead us to the right amount and use of stuff. Ask the Holy Spirit to sanctify your desires and give you that which matters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thank you, Jesus

Thank you, Jesus. Giving thanks begins with realizing that you have been given something valuable, beyond what you earned or deserved.
There are two sides of the foundational coin of thanksgiving. The first is admitting or knowing who we are and freely responding. The second choice is allowing an attitude of ungratefulness to settle in our hearts and suffering the consequences.
1 Corinthians 4:7 asks “what do you have that you did not receive?” In other words we brought nothing into this world, we did not create any of our faculties, aptitudes, or abilities that make us who we are, or do anything to cause us to be alive. God knew every aspect about us long before He knit us together in the womb. It isn’t that we have a checklist of twenty things we are thankful for, but rather there is nothing outside of the incredible treasure that we have been given. All any honest man can do is acknowledge he is blessed.
On the other side of the coin, the person who refuses to give thanks begins a downward spiral of delusion and pride. Romans 1:21 explains that “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The person who will not acknowledge God as his creator, usually demonstrated by being thankful for who he is and all he has been given, then no longer can think with true understanding and becomes captured by false desires. Verse 22 continues that this person claims to be wise but actually is a fool.
Giving thanks to the Giver is so simple and so right. The word of God continually exhorts us to humble ourselves by understanding what we have been given and walking in an attitude of gratefulness and obedience. Taking time to express thanks reminds us how blessed and valuable we are. God doesn’t need our praise and thanksgiving, He simply is worthy and has been incredibly good to us. We are the ones that need the right attitude in order to experience and enjoy the tremendous relationship that His gift has made possible. Come to Him right now with a simple, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fresh Mercy - Get It and Give It!

This morning a fresh blanket of snow covers the ground in the Denver area which reminds me of the blood of Jesus and the fresh mercy that He gives to start each day. Truly, God makes all things new for those who receive it. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, according to Psalm 23.
What an amazing God! Instead of rejecting us for our wrong choices and sinfulness, He has made a way for us to not only be forgiven but also to enjoy a perfect harmony and peace with God Himself. This gift is His mercy. Ephesians 2 reviews the consequences of our fallen flesh and then reassures us, “But God who is rich in mercy.” It certainly is not a coincidence that the presence of God in the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant, was the home for the mercy seat. Praise God that His nature does not change and He is continuing to be rich in mercy to each of us today.
The foundation of the word “mercy” is from the Latin word meaning “price-paid.” How true! God can afford to extend incredible mercy because of the total price paid by Jesus who freely shed His blood for every sin.
Joe Kuhlman, the father of the famous evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, was mayor of Concordia, Missouri. One day as the city council was gathering for a meeting and entering the city building, a drunk pushed over the mayor as he stumbled into the revolving door. One city councilman said to Mr. Kuhlman, “Are you going to take that?” The Mayor replied, “Sure, I can afford to.” Obviously Jesus, who paid the supreme price, can afford to forgive and show mercy to you and me.
Since we did nothing to receive this priceless gift of His mercy, it follows that we cannot “un-earn” it. Naturally, we did not and do not deserve it. Yet God can do what He chooses to do. Thank God He has chosen to give mercy to us through His shed blood and He chooses to continue to give mercy to each of us. However, there is something we can do to show we are thankful and to continue to walk in it. Jesus declares in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” His challenge to us is to demonstrate the mercy of God, which you have freely received, as a gift to others.
How much more magnificent in the eyes of God, than the beautiful fresh falling snow, would be the earth covered with the mercy of God. We are the instruments of His mercy. This morning, we are clearly reminded to receive and to show others that gift which is beyond human origin, the fresh mercy of God.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Unshakeable

Unshakeable
All things that are made, according to Hebrews 12:27, will be shaken so that only the things that cannot be shaken may remain. The question is what parts of our life are involved with the unshakeable?
A teenage boy spends hours playing Halo or some other video game mastering the fine points of how to reach the higher levels. A young girl reads all about the latest “hottie” in People or some other popular entertainment magazine. A man spends hours each day checking the latest sports news and scores as well as various favorite Internet sites which may even include some pornographic sites. Many people think nothing of spending several hours texting and posting on the various social media networks. What lasting effects or what practical value has these pursuits? Obviously, none.
Furthermore, the majority of people spend significant amount of time and effort to make money to spend on worldly comforts and pleasures. We strive to get the highest paying job that doesn’t require too much work or stress. We consider various luxuries such as the latest cell phones, high definition televisions, computers with high speed Internet connections, and various entertainment options as necessary expenditures, yet seldom consider the possibility of a higher and more unshakeable investment that could change lives forever. Would we be so nonchalant and secure if we knew that the vast majority of these activities will be shaken? Would there be a shift in the way we look at things and how we seek to spend our time?
According to Barna surveys the typical Christian spends less than a minute of the day talking to God or reading His word, and uses the other 1,439 minutes for mostly temporary things that don’t matter and will pass away. Jesus said that heaven and earth will pass away, but His word will not. Likewise in the parable of a wise man building on the rock instead of the sinking sand, the difference was hearing and obeying the word. There is a critical need to examine and determine what is built solid on Biblical principles in our lives. In other words, what parts of our life are unshakeable?
It isn’t even a question “what if” things were to change, the only question is when. Knowing this what type of person ought we to be? How can we begin to change? The answer is simple and yet completely profound. Read the word. Think about the word. Make our thoughts and ways line up with the truth of His thoughts and ways. What you think, what you desire, what choices you make that are consistent with God’s word, these will last forever and be unshakeable.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You Get What You Plant!

Human nature has an almost-magnetic pull toward thinking we can get away with anything. It also likes to follow the path of least resistance, doing only what it has to. We seem to think that we can do what we want and have no consequences. Our flesh thinks we can eat fattening deserts, drive over the speed limit, watch hours of TV, listen to music with vile lyrics, look at pornographic pictures, entertain negative thoughts, and still expect to have everything go perfectly.
Jesus disagrees. Galatians 6:7 starts out with “Be not deceived,”as it proceeds to declare the eternal principle of sowing and reaping. Why would God say that first? From the beginning He makes it clear that this principle is the opposite of what our flesh so easily rationalizes as acceptable truth. We cannot get away with anything and we will surely reap consequences or results from everything we sow. Every thought and action produces something.
Even though this Scripture about sowing and reaping is commonly used as an incentive in financial giving, the overall nature of the principle is whether we sow to the flesh or sow to the Spirit. Sowing to the flesh simply means doing whatever our mind or flesh wants, according to Ephesians 2:3. In Proverbs Solomon reminds us that “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall poverty come on you like a prowler.” In other words, being lazy will surely lead to lack.
Jesus instructs us, rather, to sow to the Spirit by obeying His leading. Romans 8 promises that those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. Jesus himself demonstrates this principle saying I must work while it is day, because night comes when no man can work. We only have the window of this lifetime to sow good seed. Jesus at times was so busy teaching and meeting people’s needs that he didn’t have time to rest or even to take a lunch break.
Our flesh looks for a life that is comfortable and convenient. God invites us to rather spend ourselves freely to serve Him and others, promising eternal fruit. Do we believe Him enough to change our perspective from what do I have to do to what can I do today?
Holy Spirit, lead me today in specific things that I can do to sow good seed, because I believe the truth that whatever I plant is what I shall receive.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Overcoming the Deceiving Enemy

“I really should, but…”
How much control do you have over your own flesh? When you have this quiet voice inside saying that you should do something, is it easy to say you’ll do it later? When you preface your remarks with “I shouldn’t say this…” are you able to not say it? Do you waste 30 minutes on a television program you really weren’t interested in, but it was easier to just sit there than to get up and start the project? When you have a spiritual need that requires prayer and fasting, are you able to quit nibbling or thinking about food? Do you say inside, just one more? In short, who rules inside of you?
James 1:26 points out that the one who claims to be religious but can’t bridle his tongue deceives his own heart. In another place, Jeremiah declares that the heart is deceitful above all things (17:9). Have we accepted the fact that our flesh is at war with our spirit and will always try to sabotage our godly desires? There clearly is a war going on, but many people do not realize the opponent and how to win.
Muscles develop through exercise. Hebrews 5:14 describes the mature Christian as one who has his senses or faculties “exercised” to discern both good and evil. The time to exercise your spiritual muscles is now. 2 Corinthians 6:1 states that now is the time of salvation. Much like a workout program, the benefit only comes with a willingness to start doing it and then being faithful in carrying it out consistently. The man of God must show diligence in mastering the flesh.
Wait, help is on the way. The Holy Spirit is our helper and clearly is involved in our cause “to will and to work” for His good pleasure. Even Jesus offered himself, according to Hebrews 9:14, through the eternal Spirit. So likewise, when you commit to God’s will in big or little things, God’s Spirit is right there to help you make the decision and to do it.
Today is a new day and God’s mercy is fresh for you. What is God telling you to do? Change the outcome and lethargic feeling that follows by simply saying “I choose to do that and my flesh will not overrule my decision. Trust the Holy Spirit to give you the desire and the power to overcome. You are an overcomer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jesus running to help?

In my quiet time this morning I came across the phrase in Hebrews 2:18, “He is able to succor them that are tempted.” The reason given was because He Himself suffered and was tempted with everything that we could be and yet without caving in.
The word “succor” caught my attention. It reminded me of a science term for a branch that is grafted into a tree and gains life from the established plant. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines succor “to run to support; hence, to help or relieve when in difficulty, want, or distress.”
What an incredible God! He not only is a “very present help in time of trouble” according to Psalm 46, but consider also His heart and attitude in being with us in those tough times. Can you picture Him running to help you just when you need it. He takes pleasure in us trusting His help rather than giving up.
No wonder God warns us about the deceitfulness of sin. Sin lies. It wants us think that we are powerless and that God doesn’t care and may even have fdeserted us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are engraved in the palms of His hands. He never leaves His children alone. He knows every pain and temptation that we endure.
God reminds us not to cast away our confidence for it has great reward. Then He paints this picture of Him running to help so we don’t have to believe the lie that the situation is winning. God is pleased when we maintain our confidence in Him and His word during the hard times. In Hebrews 3:6, the word declares that “we are His house if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.”
The word today is simple: you can trust Jesus’ help, He has been there and won. So you can rejoice, because now grafted into Jesus, you win! Rejoice!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Have You Had Your Multi-Vitamin Today?

Do you take a daily multi-vitamin? Do you feel stronger and healthier after you take it? The truth is that rarely does one immediately feel stronger or healthier. However, knowing these vitamins and minerals are available to our body system gives one the confidence that they will be utilized as needed to keep the body healthy and functioning well. It is like a timely deposit into the bank of good health.
Then the next obvious question is “do you take a spiritual multi-vitamin each day?” What do you do to ensure that you have the resources available to your inner man, your spirit, to maintain spiritual balance and focus in challenging times? God has provided spiritual vitamins in His word. These life-giving capsules likewise may not give immediate strength, but they are sure to work effectively in times of need.
One of my favorites is found in Ephesians 3:16, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” This simple request assures me that God is providing that inner strength to meet the challenges of the day.
Another great one is Colossians 1:9-11, “that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” Who doesn’t need encouragement that we have God’s power to be patient with joy and fruitful in all we do?
Have you found a good spiritual vitamin to take daily? As you read in the Word each day make a list of great “vitamin” verses and put one in a conspicuous place each day so you remember to dwell on it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

God's Incredible Favor

Walking in God’s Favor
Psalm 5:12 declares, “For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield.” The one who accepts Jesus’ righteousness and walks in it will enjoy God’s favor.

Recently a friend shared how God’s favor followed him at work. On a slow day in the store God sent the right people to him that needed the merchandise that he sold. One after another they came to his department and made purchases. In a few hours he was able to sell more than his quota for the week. God is so good.

Then on arriving home, I was met by my son who shared what incredible favor he had received at work where his boss’s boss gave him some projects and could not say enough about how much she valued his work. My own experience and testimony this week also is that I have seen amazing favor from God.

As the school year has started at CedarWood, the favor of God is upon us.. From staff members cheerfully giving their all, to parents willing to help, to the attitude of our students, to a tangible presence of God in worship and students willing to seek Him with all their heart, it is clear that we are enjoying God’s favor. God has hand-picked the young people who are being trained and taught the ways of the Lord and we believe it is His favor that inspires the creative ideas as well as the efforts of teachers and staff to make it possible. We are blessed.

With God there is no partiality. He feels toward you just as He does toward Jesus.(John 15:9) He reveals to you that you are “My beloved son (daughter) in whom I am well-pleased.” Truly God's favor surrounds you as a shield.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Commitment or Convenience

Convenience or Commitment?
Everybody loves the football team when they are winning; but what happens during the times when the team is losing. Where do the “fair weather” fans go? All things are tried by fire. When tough times come, the truth comes out whether people are doing things just out of convenience or out of commitment. Similar to the sports fan situation, the test of following Jesus is not what is said, such as “Lord, Lord” but what a person does, especially when it is inconvenient.
Jesus strongly stated, “whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” This seems completely unreasonable and undesireable to our flesh. However, in over 2/3 of the countries of the world, people who accept Jesus Christ are brutally persecuted and often killed today. Why does God require so much? Deeds not words show the faith of a person. When a person is willing to lay down or sacrifice that which is in his hands, he demonstrates a step of faith that trusts God does care and will, in fact, meet his needs. Why was Jesus thrilled at the widow who gave her last two mites or the woman who freely applied the costly spikenard to Jesus? Both demonstrated the kind of love for God that gives all.
The same is true about Christian education. When a person has enough money to afford Christian education and still keep all the comforts and conveniences he has become accustomed to, then it is easy to enroll the children in XYZ Christian School and declare God has led them to Christian education. However, the test comes when the money for tuition isn’t there. Has God lead the same person to Christian education when times are hard and in order to provide for Christian school it might be necessary to not have a high-definition TV, cable, or cell phones, or a new car, or many other modern-day “necessities.” Where is the Biblical spirit that one swears to his own hurt (Psalm 15:4) or is willing to give all to obey the Lord? One parent recently shared that she and her husband had to re-prioritize their lifestyle an make some choices including continue to drive an older car so their sons could be taught and trained at CedarWood. In other words, they were willing to do whatever it takes to not compromise the godly mandate to raise up children in the instruction and correction of the Lord.
The love of money is the root of all evil. It is amazing how many times the real issue is money that causes our reasoning to change. Most of us know that God instructs parents in the word to “bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) and to be careful to “see that no one makes a prey of you through the philosophy and traditions of man” (Colossians 2:8) rather than obeying Christ. Yet, when the choice is between “free” public education and the cost (and sacrifices required) to have tuition for a Biblical education based on truth and love, the thoughts and intents of the heart are revealed. And unfortunately, often the world and its desires win. We rationalize that our strong Christian home will compensate for the ungodly influence of worldly thinking that our children will be exposed to for 8 hours a day. The Barna survey organization reports even young people who are from Christian families that participate regularly in Sunday church services and at least one extra meeting a week are greatly affected. 87% of these young people will have lost their faith by the time they finish public education.
The tragedy is that many people have been so thoroughly affected by the world and the desire for comfort, success, and convenience that they are unaware that the world controls their decisions. Yet James 4:4 states “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Enmity means mutual hatred. Obeying God is not negotiable. You cannot serve two masters.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Never Be Afraid of God Again

There is a special quality in the heart of man that pleases God so much He literally calls it His treasure. Because of this desired characteristic, God promises some amazing and unparalleled blessings:
no want (psalm 34:9),
He will teach in the way He chooses (Psalm 25:12),
the eye of the Lord is upon him (Psalm 33:18),
a fountain of life to turn one away from the snares of death (Proverbs 14:26)
strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge (Proverbs 14:27),
the angel of the Lord encamps all around him (Psalm 33:7),
the secret of the Lord, a sharing of intimate covenant relationship (Psalm 25:14),
the compassion of a father toward his children (Psalm 103:13),
an everlasting to everlasting mercy upon him, and righteousness to grandchildren (Psalm 103:17),
He will be their help and shield (Psalm 115:11),
motivation and ability to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:16),
a person’s days will be prolonged (Proverbs 10:27),
leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction, he will not be visited with evil (Proverbs 19:23),
riches, honor, and life (Proverbs 22:4).

Many people have probably guessed this must be the rewards for loving whole-heartedly or walking in righteousness or practicing forgiveness. However, this heart attribute that is God’s pleasure is the fear of the Lord.
How can this be? Learning to not be afraid of God is one of the greatest comforts that comes from experiencing His great love, for perfect love casts out fear. Therefore, it is almost inconceivable for many people that God would want his people to learn fear. However, before we reject this concept, it behooves us to examine what the Scripture is talking about and understand what this heart quality truly is.

From the Bible definition in Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.” God is seeking to transform the heart of fallen man to have the same hatred of pride, sin, and evil that He has. It seems to start with an awareness of how great, how compassionate, how totally good God is. Psalm 33:8 speaks of His greatness of His creation and wisdom and instructs that “all the world stand in awe of Him”

However, the concept is much more than perceiving His majesty and reverencing Him. There is something supernatural about having this reality because in Psalm 25 God himself promises to teach the fear of the Lord to those who are willing. Proverbs 2 declares that those who seek and desire God whole-heartedly will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. We are instructed to choose the fear of the Lord in Proverbs 1:29 by His showing what happens when this choosing is absent.

God is so good. He desires such a tenderness toward Him that we are one with His heart and love. Fear of the Lord is that internal specialness of our relationship that causes us to hate anything that would lessen or harm this incredible closeness and union with Life and Love Himself. We walk humbly because in our heart of hearts there is such gratefulness to be chosen to be His, a revelation of His character, and such longing to respond to His love in a complete pleasing way. Therefore, take time to ask and let Him teach you and cradle you in the fear of the Lord, enjoy incredible blessings and benefits, and never be afraid of God again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Man's Pride vs God's Direction

All things will be tried by fire according to 1 Corinthians 3:13. How do we know what will be precious and lasting to the end and what will burn up? We know according to Hebrews 4 that God's word is able to discern the thoughts and motives of the heart, but even that isn't foolproof, because how many thousands of people claiming to follow the word differ or do foolish things?
The answer has to be to get a confirmation from the author to find out what He meant. Unless we lay down our thoughts and take some specific time and attention to let the Holy Spirit teach and guide us, we will still just interpret the word in our own perspective or prejudices. Why does God promise incredible blessings upon those who wait on the Lord?
Man is so proud. Everyone seems to think they know what the government should do, what the pastor needs to do, what is wrong with the boss, where our parents are wrong, where our spouse is selfish, etc. We even think we know what God should do. So many times our correcting someone else is just pride. God does give us the right to correct others in Galatians 6, but with humbleness and weeping.
The question is "Do you want to let God direct you? (Why did Jesus ask "Do you want to be healed?"?) Then humble yourself to honestly admit you can't direct your own life and the specific thing you are concerned about, and ask Him to lead you. Then wait...be still...listen...wait...be still...listen...until you know the next step He is directing. Then...do it.