Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Receive Or Resist

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Acts 17:11 (NKJV)

If someone offers you something there are two basic reactions you can have, you can receive what they offer, or you can reject it.  If someone tried to give you something that was not very good it would be natural to resist accepting it.  But, it would be strange for anyone to be offered something good and beneficial without that thing being received.  Normally, we like to receive good things, but if someone tries to give us something and we don't understand the true value of that thing, we might not be so excited about it.  This could result in our resisting something instead of receiving it as we should.

The Bible is filled with good things that we need to know, but we still need to receive those things.  In the Book of Acts, we learn about the people of Berea who, we are told, "received the word with all readiness of mind".  Not only did they receive the Word, but it tells us about their attitude towards the Word of God, they received it with "readiness of mind".  In other words, they were eager to receive the Word rather than having a questioning attitude about it and not being sure if they really wanted what was being offered to them.  They did not resist the Word but they were ready to receive it.

There are times when we might hear the truth of God's Word, but we are not too excited about what it tells us.  There are times we will see things in the Bible that show us where we need to make changes in our life, to either stop doing something that is out of line with the Word or to begin doing something we have failed to do in the past.  James 1 talks about receiving the Word and then doing the Word; if we resist what God has said and we don't receive the Word then we certainly can't do it.   We all need to be like the Bereans and be ready and eager to receive the Word and to do the Word.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Holy Spirit Notifications

"Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn"
So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am.""
Exodus 3:3-4 (NKJV)

Today nearly everyone has a cell phone.  Cell phones, which are also called smart phones, are very useful because of the different things they can do.  While cell phones can obviously be used for calling other people, you can also do things on social media through a cell phone and get news updates.  For many of the different things that are available to you through your phone, there are often notifications that apps will use to let you know that something has happened.  Whatever it is, maybe something on social media or a news or weather alert, the notification lets you know there is something for you to see.

God wants us to know His will, but He will never force us to do His will, He will work to direct us into His plan.  There will be times in our walk with God that we have a similar experience to what Moses had with the burning bush.  In this story, we sometimes just notice that God spoke to Moses and miss the fact that it was not until Moses turned aside to see what was happening that God actually started to speak to him.  This is similar to notifications we get on our phone, the notification itself is not the main thing, the notification is letting us know that something is going on that we should be aware of. 

God has given us the Holy Spirit, who lives in us to help us and guide us, and we will receive Holy Spirit notifications to make us aware of something that we need to know about.  God will get our attention through something in the Word or some "idea".  Then we need to pay attention to those things and, like Moses did, turn aside from whatever it is we are doing to put our focus on God to allow Him to speak to us.  Remember, God did not speak to Moses until Moses turned to give his attention to the burning bush.  God wants us to know His will and as we pay attention to the Holy Spirit notifications He gives us we can walk in His will and carry out His plan for our lives.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Danger, Stay Away!

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God,
having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!"
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV)

Things and places that are dangerous often have warning signs designed to let you know about the possible danger.  For example, there may be a warning sign informing you of the danger of high voltage electricity.  Some places have fences or other barriers to keep people from getting too close to something that could be a possible danger to them.  On some hiking trails and in mountains there are fences to keep people from getting too close to the edge of the path or the mountain.  While there may be many different types of signs or fences designed to keep people away from danger, if someone does not pay attention to them there can be problems.

In 2 Timothy 3 we have a list of things that we are told will be prevalent among people in the last days and we are told that these are the kind of people we need to stay away from.  We have a specific list of things, and that is helpful, but if we do not stay away from people who exhibit these characteristics we can have problems.  While it is true that we need to do all we can to help people with problems, we also need to be wise and led by the Spirit in all that we do and we need to make connections with people for the right reasons, because who we spend our time with is important.  Ministering to and helping other people is one thing, becoming close friends with them is another.

It is impossible to live a life of isolation where you never interact with people who have problems or act wrongly.  But, we do not have to intentionally spend our time with these kinds of people.  Yes, we may have family members or coworkers who act in a wrong way and we need to pray for them, but we must heed the warning that the Bible gives us about staying away from the wrong kinds of people, as much as we are able, because people with wrong attitudes and habits can have a negative influence on us.  We need to be wise and choose the right kind of companions and make sure we stay away from the wrong kind.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here I Am ...

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me.""
Isaiah 6:8 (NKJV)

Have you ever had the experience of going to a store to buy something and then finding out that the thing you wanted was not there?  I have had this experience more than once.  There were times I had planned to get something, and I had even done some research about the thing I wanted to buy, only to then find out that the item was not in the store.  What I wanted was somewhere, but it was not where I needed it to be for me to actually buy it.  I have even had a store employee tell me that the thing I wanted was available, but it was not where I was, so even though it existed somewhere else it was not available for me.

In both Isaiah 6 and Acts 9 we have stories about people who heard the voice of God.  In both cases God was looking for someone to do something.  In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah heard God speaking and asking who would go and then speak to the people.  Isaiah replied that he was available and that God could send him.  In Acts 9 God spoke to a disciple named Ananias to go and pray for Saul of Tarsus, who had just met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  The first response from Ananias was to try and explain to God how this Saul was a bad person and dangerous.  The good news is that after his initial hesitation Ananias did finally agree to go and pray for Saul.

Being available means more than just existing somewhere, it means being ready for use.  God spoke to both Isaiah and Ananias, but at first Ananias was not really willing and available to do what God had said.  We sometimes have the same problem in that God will speak to us about something and we think we have to explain the situation to Him, as if He does not already know about it.  But, if God asks us to do something we can be sure He will help us to do it.  We need to be available, ready, and willing to do whatever it is God asks us to do.  Today God is still asking people to go and do different things in different places; are we ready to say "Here I am, send me"?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Keeping The Peace

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 (NKJV)

There are many different countries in the world and many different kinds of people.  Within many countries today you can even find a variety of people and cultures represented where there are some obvious differences and other things that are not so obvious.  But, no matter where you go or who you meet, there is one thing that everyone in the world has in common, we all face difficulties in life.  Whether it is something big or small, challenges come to one and all.  It is an inescapable fact of life that we all have to deal with problems, the difference is in how we deal with them.  

No one can control everything that happens in their life.  But, God does not want us to live a life where we are overrun by our problems, God wants us to live in peace and walk in victory.  Some Christians who learn about the authority we have in Christ have the mistaken idea that if we just know how to use our authority and take a stand in faith on God's Word that we can live a life without problems.  But, when we look at Paul, who wrote more about our authority in Christ than any other biblical writer, and even Jesus, we see that they often faced difficult situations.  What we should notice is how they dealt with those things. 

Jesus said that He had spoken some things to the disciples so that they could have peace, even though they would have problems.  Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God surpasses all understanding, so we know God's peace is not a mental thing; as Jesus said, our peace is based in God's Word.  If we face problems without a foundation of the peace of God we can make bad decisions and allow ourselves to be overcome by emotions and negative thoughts.  We need to always focus on what God's Word says so that we stay in peace and find the path to victory that God has for us.  The peace of God is something we can and should experience at all times, no matter what we are facing.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Finish Your Course

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

When I was in high school I was involved in the sport of cross country.  This is a race of three miles that was usually run over a course through fields and forests and not on a track, where running events are most often held.  Running a three-mile race and the training required for it can be challenging and not everyone who starts the sport continues with it.  I remember times where I wanted to quit, especially when the weather or other conditions made the running more difficult.   But, like all the other runners, I knew that if I quit I would not finish the race and the whole point was to finish, and to finish well.  

In the Book of Acts, Paul compared his work for God to a race.  In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul told Timothy that he had finished his race, Paul had successfully fulfilled the will of God for his life.  This is the goal that all of us should have as well.  We don't want to just start our race for God or only run a part of it.  Our goal should be like Paul that one day we too can say that we have finished our race.  Paul also knew that the race he ran would be difficult, and we must also realize that just because we are a child of God it does not mean that every part of our race for God will go smoothly, but we keep going anyway.

Some people think that because Paul was an apostle that it is only he and other spiritual leaders, like pastors, who have a race to run for God.  That is one of the reasons so many do not finish their race, they don't even know that they are in one!   No matter who we are, we have a race to run.  We must recognize that serving God and doing His will is how we run our race.  We can find the guidelines for our course in God's Word, and the Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us successfully run our race.  We need to be like Paul and be determined to finish our course and fulfill the will of God for our life.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Are You There?

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ."
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)

Have you ever had the situation where you were at a certain place or event, but you were not really "there".  You can be somewhere physically but not really be there by not being connected to what is happening.  You can smile, act like you are paying attention, and go through the motions of participating, and still not really be involved in what is going on.  This can also happen with our job, we may not want to be there but we do what we have to do, maybe half-heatedly, and put our time in.  While all this can and does happen, it is not the best way to do things.

If we consider something to be valuable it will make a difference in how we treat it, which will make a difference for us and also have an influence on others.  It is important for us to be connected to and actually involved in what we are doing where we are, and this is especially true when we talk about what we do for God.  It can be easy to just go through the motions of going to church, and even being involved working in the church, without really being there and connecting with what is happening.  We need to invest ourselves into whatever we are doing as believers because what we do should all be done for God. 

We can be somewhere physically and not be connected to what is happening by not putting our best into whatever it is we are doing.  We can be involved in something and not really be there because we are distracted by something else.  We need to keep our focus on God and His overall plan and not just on ourselves and what we think is important.  We have to realize that what we do for God matters for eternity and even if it is not something that seems important to us it is something that can help other people.  Are we really involved in what we are doing, are we really there, or do we need to recommit ourselves to giving our best in all that we do?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Testing Comes First

"But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless."
1 Timothy 3:10 (NKJV)

Every product usually goes through some kind of testing before it is put on the market.  No company that wants to be successful will just create something and start selling it before they know that it will actually work, that it will be a benefit to people, and that it will not harm anyone.  This is a process that has been used for years by many companies to be sure that the products they want to sell will in fact be profitable.  No company would be foolish enough to intentionally start trying to sell something that was not first tested; if they did the results would be disastrous.

This principle of testing something before it is ready to be used can also be seen in the Bible.  When Paul wrote to Timothy about the kind of people who would serve as deacons, Paul told Timothy that these people first had to be tested and then they could serve, if they were found to be blameless.  Paul was talking about deacons, someone who would do things like serve food.  This would be the same kind of person that was talked about in Acts 6 where they looked for seven men of good reputation, who were full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom.  In 1 Timothy 3 and Acts 6 we see that both times they were looking for people who had already proven themselves.

When Paul wrote about elders, bishops, and deacons, he listed qualifications that those people needed to have before they could fill those positions.  To know if they had the necessary qualifications those people had to be tested.  Before we step into the things that God has planned for us there will also be a time of testing.  This does not mean God will send sickness and problems to us, but with all of the things we are doing in our life, in our relationship with God, and in where we are already serving in our church, we are really being tested.  God has good things in store for us, but to be ready and in the right position for those things we must first be tested and proven faithful.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chasing Waves

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Ephesians 4:14 (NKJV)

Waves can be created by different things like the wind or a boat.  For many years I lived by the Rhine River in Germany and every day barges and boats would go up and down the river, and as they passed by they would create waves.  One day, I was down by the river and I noticed a woman walking her dog.  This dog was running up and down the bank of the river chasing the waves that had been created by a passing barge.  When one wave would crest and disappear the dog would see another wave and start chasing after that one.  The dog was very busy chasing all those waves, but he never had an effect on any of them.

Instability, impatience, and difficulty paying attention are all characteristics of childhood.  Paul, and other writers of the New Testament, compare spiritual growth to natural growth.  God has a place and purpose for each Christian, and God's plan is for His children to grow and develop into spiritual maturity and take their place in the Body of Christ.  However, to find that place and to fully carry out that purpose requires mature, stable believers.  But, Christians are often running here and there, naturally and spiritually, chasing the latest wave that they see, and there are many winds that blow in life that can create waves.

Sometimes Christians are caught up in the latest popular wind of doctrine and they spend time pursuing those seemingly new, and exciting teachings.  On the other hand, some Christians go from one crisis and difficulty to the next, and they never get fully established in the truth of God's Word because they are constantly running around putting out the latest fire that has broken out in their life.  We all need to continually develop ourselves in the truth of God's Word and to learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  By doing this we will not only be stable, mature Christians but we will avoid the trap of just chasing every wave that we see.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Are You Waiting For Perfect Conditions?

"He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap."
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NKJV)

We all like things to go smooth and easy and to have everything fall into place for us.  Sometimes we want to wait for everything to be just right before we do something, but this does not always happen.  Sometimes people don't do things because they are always finding a reason not to do it, rather than finding a reason to do something no matter what. There may never be a perfect time to start a business or start a new job, and farmers plant and harvest crops when it is time to do so, not just on nice, sunny days.  If we always wait for perfect conditions we may never get started on anything!

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith, not by sight.  This means we act, we sow, we do things, based on what God says in His Word and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  If we are waiting, looking at the natural circumstances, economic conditions, what others are saying, or how we feel about something, we might never do anything.  While it is always good to plan ahead, use wisdom, and get advice on the best way to do things, sometimes we have to be bold and take a step and not wait for perfect conditions that may or may not ever exist.   If we know God is leading us to do something that is in line with His Word then we know it is time to act.

Sometimes we do not take action because we are seeking perfect conditions, which really means that we are looking too much at the natural side of life.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who, naturally speaking, did not have such perfect conditions, but did something anyway and saw great results.  Paul's ministry is an example of this.  Paul faced many difficulties but he never quit and he kept moving forward with God's plan for his life, no matter what conditions he faced.  If we wait for the perfect conditions we may never act, but, as we step out in faith on God's Word, and at His direction, we will achieve great things for God!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Take Two

"Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry."
2 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV)

Most people enjoy music, movies, and television programs.  Of course, not every kind of music, movie, or television show is good, but generally speaking these are things that people enjoy.  The music we listen to and the movies or television shows we watch are the result of people working to get everything just right.  The majority of the time things do not work as well as they should the first time around, so they will usually try again, or as they say, "Take Two", in an effort to get a better result.  This same principle holds true in other areas of life, things don't always work right the first time so we need a second attempt to get it right.

There is a great example of this principle in the New Testament.  In Acts 13:5 we see that Mark went with Paul on Paul's first journey to preach the Gospel.  But, after just a short time, Mark left Paul's group and returned to Jerusalem.  People have many ideas about why this may have happened, but the Scripture does not really tell us.  Later, as Paul was about to take another trip, in Acts 15, Paul refused to have Mark travel with him again because Mark had not continued on with the group on the first trip.  Mark had a bad reputation at this point, but the good thing is that this is not the end of the story of Mark.

Paul did not approve of Mark leaving the group on the first journey.  But, in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him because Mark is "useful to me for ministry".  That is quite a change from what happened previously.  The lesson we can all learn is that no matter how things start we can have a "Take Two".  God, and godly people, will not give up on us.  God will help us to get past the mistakes and problems of our past to be people that are useful to Him in His Kingdom.  How about you?  Do you need a second chance, a Take Two?  If so, God is ready to help you turn things around and bring you to the place of being a significant part of His work on the earth today!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Doors And Opportunities

"Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,"
2 Corinthians 2:12 (NKJV)

Opportunities are like doors, they give us access into places that we were previously not able to enter into.  But, just like every time you see an open door you know it does not mean that you are supposed to enter in, every opportunity that we find is not necessarily a good opportunity.  There are different kinds of doors just as there are different kinds of opportunities.  Some doors look very different from others and if we are not careful we may mistake a door for something else.  If we pass up a door or miss an opportunity we could lose out on something very important.

In 2 Corinthians 2:12 Paul said a door had been opened for him to preach the Gospel.  In Colossians 4:3 he asked the people of Colosse to pray for him to have an open door to be able to speak the Word of God as he should.  Paul knew that God was the only One who could open some doors and bring him the opportunities he needed to do what God had called him to do.  But, just because a door opens it does not mean that everything is going to work out perfectly for us.  As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, a door of opportunity had opened to him but there were some adversaries.

God will open doors and bring us opportunities that no man ever could.  But, do we always recognize those opportunities?  And, when a door opens, are we ready and able to go through that door?  God could have given Paul many opportunities to preach, but if Paul had not recognized or taken advantage of them nothing would have happened.  If Paul had not properly prepared himself he would not have been ready to preach the Gospel or he may not had been able to deal with the adversaries that opposed him.  God will bring us the opportunities we need to do His will, but it is up to us to recognize them and step through the doors that He opens for us. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

God Will Reveal It To You

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this in mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you."
Philippians 3:14-15 (NKJV)

Over my years in ministry, and even personally, I have traveled to many different places in different countries.  No matter where I go, there is always a destination I am headed towards.  It would not make much sense to take trip with no idea about where to go, and it would make even less sense to start a trip with absolutely no plan of how to reach the destination.  If there is a journey to make, then there must be a goal in mind and to reach the goal you have to have a plan about how to get there, which normally would include taking the best route possible.

God wants us to know His will and to fulfill His plan for our lives.  Some people get very concerned about whether or not God really wants to show us what to do, especially if we make some mistakes or go off course at some point.  But, we are His children and He wants the best for us, and this includes knowing and understanding His will.  In Colossians 1:9 Paul told of how he was praying for those believers to be filled with the knowledge of God's will with all wisdom and spiritual understanding.  God does not just want us to know what to do, but He also wants us to know when to do it, and the best way to do it.

In Philippians 3 Paul talked about leaving the past behind and pressing toward the goal that God had for him.  He went on to say that this is how mature believers should think.  But, Paul also said that if we are not having the right goal in mind then God will reveal that to us.  We don't have to live in fear of missing God's plan because, as Paul said, God will reveal to us what we need to know.  As long as we are not in complete rebellion to God and refusing to listen to Him, God will guide us and direct us by the Holy Spirit into His plan and purpose for our lives.  God's wants us to know and fulfill His will and He will help us and guide us to be able to do that.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Connections Are Important

"from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV)

Connections are important.  Without the right connections, you can have some big problems.  We have machines that would not function if they were not connected to the proper power source.  We have pipes that transport water, gas, and oil that would be unable to do so if the connection was broken at some point.  Our bodies are filled with connections; our nervous system, our blood supply, and the different parts of our body must be properly connected or we could die.  It is vital to have the right connections for things to continue to operate the way that they should.

God created us to have relationships and connections with other people.  God Himself said it was not good for man to be alone.  We need to make the right connections with the right people.  There are people we need to be connected to for us to help them, and there are people we need to be connected to so that they can help us.  We cannot help someone, and they cannot help us, if we are not connected to them in some way.  The right connections will help us and build us up, while the wrong connections will hinder us in our relationship with God and in fulfilling His will for our lives.

Ephesians 4:16 says that every part of the body has something to give to help the whole body.  But, if some part of the body is disconnected how can it give the supply that it has?  This is what we see so often in the body of Christ, the Church.  Too many believers are disconnected, or if they are connected they are not involved anywhere so they are not giving their supply.  Every one of us is an important part of the body of Christ and we need to give our supply to the other parts.  As we all do our part the body of Christ will grow, but it can only grow if the right connections are maintained.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Follow Him

"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Going on from there, He saw two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them,
and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."
Matthew 4:18-22 (NKJV)

Any type of journey means traveling from one place to another.  If you never move from where you are you will never get to where you want to go.  Also, when traveling to some other place you have to have some directions and then follow those directions to reach your destination.  Sometimes, depending on the journey, you not only have to leave your current location but you may have to leave some other things behind as well, and if you don't you won't be able to take the trip.  For example, to travel by airplane there are restrictions to the amount of luggage you can bring with you.

We don't really know every story of how all the disciples met Jesus, but in Matthew 4 we can see how Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him and we can learn some important lessons.  For example, these disciples were not some unemployed, homeless people who had no purpose in life.  These four disciples were part of a business, and in the case of James and John it was a family business.   But, when Jesus called them to follow Him they left everything to do so, everything!  Think what they would have missed if they had stayed where they were with what they had.

The point is not that Jesus wants us to forsake our possessions or our family.  But, to truly follow Jesus and go where the Holy Spirit will lead us, there are some things we may have to leave behind.  If we try to hang on to what we have and where we are we may have a hard time following God's direction.  Does God want us to have a great life and nice things?  Yes!  Does God have a wonderful success filled plan for our life?  Yes!  But, if we put our goals, our possessions, and our plans ahead of God's we can have problems.  We need to be like the disciples who were ready to leave everything behind to follow Jesus, that leads to true success and satisfaction.