Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Importance Of Prayer

"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many works.
Therefore do not be like them.  For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."
Matthew 6:6-8 (NKJV)

Have you ever been in a situation where someone needed help, and you wanted to help, but the other person would not let you help them?  It could be that you are in a position to do what was needed, and you had even offered your help to them previously, but they did not accept the offer.  You may have the necessary expertise, ability, or resources to help the person, but for some reason, they refuse your assistance.  In this type of situation, the only thing to do is to let them struggle, because to force your help on them would be inappropriate.

Some people today have the same problem that people in the past had with prayer, they think prayer is some ritualistic exercise that when done long enough produces results.  Jesus said this is how the heathen pray, not how believers should pray.  Jesus talked about prayer as communication with our heavenly Father; prayer is not the act of trying to talk God into something but rather talking to God about something He has already said to us.  We don't need to beg God endlessly for what we have need of, but we do need to ask Him for those things.

God is not going to force us to take what we need, whether we want it or not.  God wants the best for us, but He has given us the ability to ask and the position to come to Him in prayer to receive what we need.  God knows what we need even before we ask for it, but we still have to ask.  God has shown us in His Word what is available to us because of our relationship with Him and because of Jesus, but if we never ask we will never receive.  What do you need God to do in your life today?  Go to Him in prayer and ask, He is ready and willing to give, if we just ask.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Preparation And Implementation

"Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV)

There are two parts to a successful process.  Whether it is teaching or preaching, a sales presentation, carrying out a task, or doing some job, preparation is as important as implementation.  Before something is done there should be some preparation and then when the proper time comes you implement what you have been preparing for.  If you only have preparation without implementation you will never get anything done.  On the other hand, if you only have implementation without any preparation you will also have very limited, if any, success.  You cannot rely solely on preparation or implementation, you need to have both.

Colossians 3:16 says to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" and Ephesians 5:18 shows us that we need to "be filled with the Spirit".  We must all have a regular time of reading and studying the Bible as well as spending time with God in prayer and developing our relationship with our heavenly Father; all of these things could be considered preparation.  Once we are full of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit we are ready for any situation that may arise in our life.  We can then follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as to how we can best use what we have and what we know in those situations.

It would be impossible for anyone to be able to figure out ahead of time exactly what they will face and exactly how they need to deal with the circumstances that they find themselves in.  In Luke 12 when Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say when they needed to say it, He was certainly not implying that we do not need to do anything ourselves other than wait for a prompting from the Holy Spirit in every situation.  We should be led by the Spirit as to what to do and say, but we also have a part to play in preparing ourselves to be ready to follow the Holy Spirit and speak the Word as He leads us.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Way Forward Is Backwards

"A man's steps are of the Lord: how then can a man understand his own way?"
Proverbs 20:24 (NKJV)

From regional trains, that stop at every town, to the high-speed Intercity Express trains, there are different kinds of trains that operate within Germany.  I have passed through the city of Stuttgart several times as I have traveled to cities in the southern part of Germany.  The first time I took this trip I was a little surprised, because once you get to Stuttgart to pick up and drop off passengers you then leave the station traveling in the direction that you just came from.  The first time this happened I was a bit shocked, but I soon realized that the train was just making its way out of the station and not really going the wrong direction.

When we are traveling somewhere we usually have an idea of where we are going and we would normally check the travel options to find the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get to our destination.  But, our path in life is not like a trip to some natural location.  As we follow God and the plan He has for our life there will be times that we are not really able to figure out exactly how the direction we are going now will take us to where we want to go.  Sometimes to get to where we need to be it seems like God will first take us backwards before we go forwards.

It is really not possible for us to understand everything about the direction God has for our life.  If we could understand everything on our own we would not need God and we would not have to walk by faith, as the Bible shows us (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Since God is the One who leads and directs us, it should not be too surprising that we can't always figure out for ourselves exactly how the steps we take today will lead us into the bright future that God has planned for us.  To be able to get to where we need to go in our life and to do the things we need to do we must learn to trust God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Walking In Love Is Always Appropriate

"Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end] ..."
1 Corinthians 13:8a (AMPC)

Have you ever been to a party or some event where when you arrived you realized that everyone else was dressed in a different style than you were?  Maybe you thought it was a very casual event but you found out that everyone else was dressed up.  It might be that no one told you what the right style of clothing was, or maybe some notice was given about what to wear and somehow you did not find out.  No matter how it happens, it is always a bit uncomfortable to find out that what you are wearing, or even what you are doing or saying, does not fit in and is not appropriate.

Not wearing the right type of clothing can be uncomfortable, but it is not the end of the world, acting inappropriately or saying something that is out of line is another thing all together.  Unfortunately, there is not one perfect set of clothes you can wear that will always fit in and be appropriate, but there is a way that we can be sure that what we do and say will be appropriate in every situation, that is by walking in the love of God.  In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talks about the love of God and he shows us what it looks like by giving us a clear definition of what love is and how we can and should act to display God's love to everyone, in every situation.

If we learn to walk in love by following the guidelines given in the Bible, and by looking for ways to do things that will help and build up others, then we will always say and do the right things at the right time.  No matter what the circumstance, walking in love is always appropriate, the love of God fits and works in every situation.  And the good news is that as Christians we can walk in love because the love of God is in us (Romans 5:5).  By walking in the love of God and allowing it to be what motivates us, we can be assured that what we say and do will always be good, right, and appropriate.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Way To Success

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

Success is something that nearly everyone is striving for in some way.  About the only people who are not looking for success are those who don't believe it is possible for them to succeed in life.  For some people, success means reaching a certain goal or achievement, and for others, success would mean getting out of their present negative situation into something better.  Whatever the case, most people want to have success and no one likes to fail.  Today there are many books and programs available that claim to help people find success, but many people still do not find it.

Although not everyone actually believes it, God wants people to succeed.  While the meaning of success may differ in the minds of some people, God wants everyone to do well and live a life of success and well-being.  But, a life of success is not the goal, it is really the result of following God's plan for our life and things working the way that they should as we follow God.  People often make the mistake of pursuing the idea of success without realizing that by doing this they are putting the result ahead of the method and thereby hindering themselves from the success they desire.

In the Bible, God gives us the real plan for success that anyone can follow. After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the nation of Israel.  God showed Joshua that the way to success was through knowing, speaking, and doing the Word of God.  To succeed Joshua needed to know what God had said so that he could do what God had said, and he could then say what God had said.  No matter what area of life we need to succeed in, the way to success is the same for us as it was for Joshua: we need to know, speak, and do the Word.  By following God's direction, Joshua was able to succeed and we can too!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Border Test

"He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters."
Luke 11:23 (NKJV)

Several years ago, a member of the United States government made an interesting comment about being able to know what a country is like by doing what he called a "border test".  This official said it would be interesting to see what would happen if you dropped the borders of a nation, to see if people go in to or out of that country; if there were no restrictions which way would people go?  That is an interesting question as some countries have many, many people doing anything they can to get into them, while other countries have very few, if any, people who want to go there.

No matter where we live, or what country we originally come from, we can also do a sort of border test with ourselves.  Generally speaking, do we attract more people to what we are doing or do we repel people?  More specifically, do we attract people to Jesus, the Church, God's Word, and Christianity in general, or do we drive people away and make them want to go as far as possible from anything remotely connected to spiritual things?  Jesus made it very clear that no one really rides on the fence, you either help to gather people to Him or you scatter people away from Him.

In the Bible, we see that believers make up the Body of Christ on the earth today; God will work through us to reach people.  But, if our actions, attitudes, and words drive people away from the things of God, then that is not good.  We need to do all we can to be the light of the world that Jesus spoke of to draw people to Him.  We are either helping to bring people closer to God or driving them away.  God wants us to be successful, happy, and healthy for more than just our own personal benefit.  God wants us to be a living display of His love and goodness to draw others to Him.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What Price Would You Pay?

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
Matthew 13:44 (NKJV)

Auctions are interesting events. I have been to several different kinds of auctions and they are all fairly similar in that there are things to buy and people who are considering buying those things.  But, what can be very interesting about auctions is what people are willing to pay for different items.  What may have no real value to one person can be exactly what another person is looking for.  Some things will have many people bidding on them, and the price can go higher and higher, depending on how much those people want that thing and how much they are willing to pay for it.

Abraham is one of the central figures of the Bible.  One thing that stands out about Abraham is that he was willing to do what God said and pay whatever price God asked.  When God asked Abraham to sacrifice His son, Abraham was willing to give up his most precious possession because God asked him to.  God never really intended for Abraham to kill his son, God was testing Abraham to see if Abraham was really willing to pay the price to do what God had said (Genesis 22:1, 12; Hebrews 11:17).  Abraham was like the man in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13 who sold everything he had to buy the field that had the treasure in it. 

There may be times in our life, just like with Abraham, where God asks us to give up something and He is checking to see if we are willing to pay the necessary price to follow Him.  God is looking for people who are committed and willing to do whatever it takes, who will pay the price to do His will.  Everything will cost us something, whether it is our time, our efforts, or some financial or material thing. Some people would pay the price to serve God if the price was not too high.  The question is, what price are we willing to pay?  No matter what price we may pay to follow God and do His will, we will never give or pay more than God will give us in return. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Laborers Or Warm Bodies?

"Then He said to His disciples, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 
Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Matthew 9:37-38 (NKJV)

In my life I have had many different jobs, doing a wide variety of things.  I have done some very simple things, like working in a store taking payments from customers and I have had some jobs that were more labor intensive.  I have also had some jobs where I was in a position to oversee others and manage the business, file reports, and deal with customers and their complaints.  One thing all of my jobs have had in common was that before I started the work I had to go through a process of training to be ready to do the work, even if I had done something similar in the past.

No matter what type of work you do you will need some training and you will probably also have to undergo some continued education.  This is something that is understood in the business world and no one would raise a question about it.  But, when it comes to the things of God, serving in our church, and doing our part in God's Kingdom, we sometimes think that if we just love Jesus we can start doing whatever we want and somehow it will all work out.  Some Christians think that somehow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, everything will happen the way that it should no matter what we do.

When Jesus saw the multitudes He said that the harvest was great but the laborers were few.  Jesus told His disciples to pray for more laborers to be sent out into the harvest.  Jesus did not really say that just more people were needed, He said more laborers were needed.  God is looking for Christians who have grown up spiritually and developed the necessary skills to do the required work in the harvest field.  There is a place for every Christian in the harvest today, but we need to be trained laborers and not just warm bodies; the more development and training we have, through the Word and by the Holy Spirit, the more effective we will be.

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?