Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is What You Want What You Really Need?

"But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me.  
And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  
But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:40-42 (NKJV)

If you ask people what they need you will get many different answers.  If someone is dealing with a financial issue they will usually say they need more money, if people are very busy they will say that they need more time, and if people are feeling alone they will say that they need a friend.  But, is what we say we need really just what we want?   Instead of more money maybe we really need some financial restraint, instead of more time maybe we need to set the right priorities, and instead of finding new friends maybe we need to take a look at the people that are already around us to find the companionship we long for.

Too many times we mistakenly think that what we want is what we need and this causes problems.  In the story about Mary and Martha, Martha was so distracted by what she was doing that she thought that the help she wanted from her sister was what she needed.  However, when Martha tried to have Jesus tell Mary to help with the serving, Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was really necessary, what was really needed.  What Martha was doing was not wrong, and no doubt she had good intentions in wanting to do a good job with her serving, but what she wanted from her sister was not really what she needed.

Just like Martha, the things we are involved in can cause us to think that what we want is what we need.  For Martha, what she wanted was help from her sister but what she really needed was to be less focused on her serving and more focused on Jesus.  If we only consider ourselves and the things we are immediately dealing with we can lose sight of what is really necessary and what we really need.  First and foremost in life we need to develop in our relationship with God and allow things to develop from there to be able to correctly discern what is really needed and not just look at what we want.  God will meet our needs but He will not always give us all of the things that we want.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Whose Prayers Are The Most Effective?

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
James 5:16 (NKJV)

There are some people who are very skilled at what they do, often these people are professionals in their areas of expertise and they make their living from doing what they are highly specialized in.  For example, everyone can count to 10, but some people are specially trained in the areas of finances and accounting.  But, while some people are experts in these areas and some are not, you don't have to go to a professional to be able to use a calculator.  There are some things that may seem complicated and difficult, but with the right training those things can be done by anyone.

Some Christians seem to have the idea that prayer is a mysterious process that does not work the same for everyone, and someone like a pastor can get prayers answered that others cannot; these people believe that prayer is something only certain Christians can do because they are experts at it.  Some people have even told me that they have a special ministry of prayer that others do not have, but there is no ministry of prayer listed in the Bible.  Prayer is really just communicating with God, and while some people have developed in the area of prayer more than others, we don't need to be a prayer expert to be effective with our prayers.

James 5 tells us that the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Every righteous person can pray as effectively as any other righteous person, and as Christians we are righteous in Christ.  The words "effective" and "fervent" here talking about prayer mean active and efficient.  When we pray according to the Word of God we are praying effectively and our prayers are actively working in the areas we pray about.  We don't need to look for a prayer expert, God will hear and answer our prayers as quickly as He would anyone else who prays according to His Word.  We can all go to God in prayer and be confident that our prayers will work!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Well, What Did You Expect?

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."
Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Have you ever had something happen that was not exactly what you had hoped for, or even what you might have expected?  For example, maybe you asked someone to do something for you and it did not work out or you tried to do something that in the end did not succeed.  Someone might say, "Well, what did you expect?  That is how things always work out".  Sometimes things happen in a way that, if we were honest, it is about what we thought would happen and we did not really expect anything different.  We start with some hope and an expectation, but we honestly don't expect too much to happen.

Every December, before the next year begins, people start to have some expectations about the coming year.  It is a strange thing that sometimes people's hopes and expectations are based solely on the changing of the calendar year, as though this is the only time that things can change.  But, people have some hope that things can be better next year than they were this last year.  The problem is that if people were honest, they are really only hoping and there is no actual, positive, biblical expectation of things improving.  The good news is that with God things can always improve and we always have a reason to have hope and a positive expectation.

In Hebrews 10:23 it talks about holding on to our confession of hope; the Greek word that is used here means an expectation.  No matter where we are now, where we have been, or what happened in this last year, we can have a positive expectation that with God's help things will be better next year.  As we move into the New Year we should all place a positive expectation on the future.  Find out what the Bible has to say about you and your life and then make that your confession for the next year.  No matter how things look, we have a faithful God who is interested and willing to work in our lives.  Expect things to be better next year and believe for the best in life!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Good Things Come In Small Packages

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Christmas is one of the main times of the year that people receive presents, the other occasion being a birthday.  I remember when I was a child that my first response about the presents I would receive was based on the size of the present.  When it was my birthday or Christmas, and presents were coming my way, I would look to see how big the package was.  If the package was big I expected a big gift, and if the package was small I would almost get disappointed.  But, I learned over the years that a present does not have to be big to be good, good things come in small packages too.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, this was God's greatest gift to the world.  But, when Jesus arrived on the earth it was not with a lot of fanfare or some big elaborate display of majesty.  When Jesus came to the earth He came as a baby, not as the conquering king that most of the Jews were looking for.  The birth of Jesus was not what many people expected for the arrival of the Heavenly King.  People knew about Isaiah 9:6, but they mainly focused on the second part of the verse that talks about Jesus ruling and reigning and not the part about the Child being born; but good things do come in small packages. 

Jesus' humble birth and beginnings on the earth were no reflection of His true identity or destiny.  Just like many people only expect big things from big packages, many people miss the real significance of Christmas because they focus on the baby born in the manger.  We talk about angels. wise men, and a baby and sometimes miss the real importance of Christmas.  This Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus let's make sure we don't forget that Christmas not only marks the arrival of Jesus in a small package but it also signifies the arrival of our Savior; He is Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Activating What You Need

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress: My God, in Him I will trust."
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil shall befall, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways."
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-11 (NKJV)

Over the years I have done a fair amount of traveling and often I travel by airplane, which of course means going through an airport.  Most airports and their bathrooms are modernized and many things are motion activated, like doors, escalators, sinks, and hand dryers.  But, while these things will operate automatically there is still something that is required to activate the "automatic" function.  A door will not open unless you walk towards it, the escalator will not move until you step on to it, and the water in the sink and the hand dryer will not work until you put your hands in the proper place.

We can read in the Bible about how good God is and how God provided so many things for us through Jesus.  But, why is it that we don't always see these things in our everyday life?  The reason is that while God has indeed provided many wonderful things for us, these things require us to do something to activate what it is that we need.  Psalm 91 gives us a good example of this and shows us that by doing and saying something God is able to do what He wants to do.  It does not say that just because God is so wonderful that these things happen, but they happen because of something we have done in response to what God has provided.

In Psalm 91 it talks about dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and saying that God is our refuge and fortress.  Later in this same Psalm it says that because we have made Him our dwelling place and because we have made Him our refuge all these blessings of protection become ours.  This is why it is so important to learn about what belongs to us as Christians and then to do our part to activate the blessings of God.  For salvation, healing, protection, and provision we need to do our part to activate the blessings that God has already provided for us through Jesus, it won't just happen automatically, we have a part to play.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Be Careful How You Hear

Therefore take heed how you hear.  For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him. 
Luke 8:18 (NKJV)

Our sense of hearing is very important to us.  But, if you want to stop hearing certain things you can use earplugs or maybe some headphones to cancel out the noises around you, or to listen to something else.  This could be a problem, however, if you are hearing one thing when you should be listening to another thing, or if you have blocked out all the sounds around you.  One simple example of this is if you are being given instructions on how to do something, but you don't get the necessary information because you either did not hear what was said or you were listening to something else.

In Luke 8 Jesus talked about the importance of what we hear and He also emphasized the importance of how we hear it.  Jesus had just told the parable of the sower and how the same seed had different results, based on the soil where the seed was sown.  Jesus explained that in this parable the seed represented the Word of God and the soil is talking about the people who heard the Word.  The Word of God, the seed, is always good but depending on the person, the soil, there will be different results.  We need to hear the Word of God on a regular basis and be careful how we hear it.

Some people hear the Word, but because they are listening to something else that they allow to be louder in their life than God's Word, the truth of the Bible does not make the impact that is should in their life.  Some people listen to what God is saying with the wrong kind of attitude and because of who is speaking or because of what they already believe they do not accept the Word and there are no results.  We must be ready and willing to receive the Word, no matter how it comes to us or who speaks it, and then apply it to our lives.  This is how we grow, produce fruit in our lives, and do great things for God.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

You Are Here

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,"
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV)

Have you ever been at a shopping mall or in an airport where you were trying to locate a certain place?  Whenever I have had this experience I looked for one of those location charts that are posted in places like malls and airports.  Once I found the location chart, I first found the marker that showed where I was, the "You Are Here" spot, and I then looked for the place where I wanted to go. It might be that I had already found the location of where I wanted to go, but I could still have a problem getting to my desired destination if I didn't know where I was currently located.

Our spiritual location is far more important than our geographic location.  One of the most important things Christians can learn about is their location, their spiritual position, with God.  Some people put an emphasis on their natural location and might even believe that they live in the best part of town.  Some people base their identity on their past and what they have experienced in life.  Others view themselves through their education, natural background, or even the church they attend.  But none of these things matter if we are in the wrong spiritual location.  The Bible is the place we need to look to find out about our true spiritual location and identity.

No matter who we are, where we come from, or where we are located geographically, our position with God is the most important thing of all.  When we are born again we are placed into the body of Christ.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:6 that spiritually we are seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Just like a location chart in a mall or an airport, the Bible shows us in places like Ephesians 2:6 the "You Are Here" spot we need to find.  Once we know our spiritual location we can move towards where we need to go in life and what we need to do.  We must base our identity on our spiritual location to be able to live the life God has planned for us.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Lifestyle Of Thanksgiving

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

The things we do on a regular basis can become a pattern and a way of life.  Things we do often enough can become a habit, which can be good or bad.  There are some things we can do so frequently that they almost become an automatic thing, something we can do without giving it much thought ahead of time and without an excessive amount of effort.  Our patterns in life, our habits, and the things that become almost automatic in our life could also be called our lifestyle.  On the other hand, we would not say something we rarely do or only do infrequently are a part of our lifestyle.

We can all develop and maintain good habits that will benefit us and that can become a regular part of our life, being thankful is one of these things. Having a lifestyle of thanksgiving will help us live a successful Christian life and enable us to be a greater blessing to those around us.  Unfortunately, a lifestyle of thanksgiving is not the standard for most Christians.  We need to be thankful no matter what circumstances we are in, no matter how we feel, and no matter what things look like.  While we cannot control all of the things that happen around us or how others act, we can control whether or not we will be thankful.

We need to be thankful for what we have instead of being unhappy about what we don't have.  We need to find things to be thankful for, and we could even make a list of these things to refer to when we don't feel so thankful; reminding ourselves about what we have to be thankful for can be a big help.  Having a lifestyle of thanksgiving helps us to keep focused on God.  We do not give thanks just to get something back from God, but we give thanks as a part of our lifestyle and our relationship with God.  Start being thankful today and make thanksgiving a part of your lifestyle!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Finding Your Gift

"As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

When I was a child I looked forward to Christmas because I would always receive some gifts.  We of course realize that Christmas is most important because it is the date that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on the earth, but usually children don't focus on that too much.  For children, presents are the main thing.  In my family there were four boys so we would have more than just a couple of gifts under the tree.  My biggest question was like most children, which is mine?  It did not matter to me what my brothers were getting because I was mainly interested in finding my own gift.

The Bible is very clear that God has a plan and a purpose for each and every person's life. In 1 Peter 4:10 it tells us that each one has received a gift and each one needs to be a good steward of that gift, we all have a gift from God and we all need to use our gift from God in the right way.  The problem with many people is that they either do not know that they have a gift or they do not know what their gift is.  Some people think that it is just the pastor or some church leader who have a special gift and everyone else is an unimportant part of the group, but the Bible says we each have a gift from God.

How do we find our gift?  The first and best step we take to discover God's gift and how to best use it is to look in God's Word and get to know who we are in Christ.  Second, we can take time to talk to God in prayer about our life and what direction He wants us to go.  Another way we can learn which gift God has given us is to take a look at our life to see what talents and abilities we have and also look at what it is that we find joy in doing.  It is one thing to recognize and appreciate gifts that others may have, but just like a child on Christmas we want to find out what our gift is.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Will You Sing For Me?

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
James 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Everyone likes to be a winner, no one likes to lose.  If you lose at some game or sporting event you can be gracious about it and accept the defeat, but that does not mean that you enjoy it.  However, when you are on the winning team, or if you accomplish some victory on your own, the thrill you have is unmistakable and you are ready to jump and shout.  At that point you don't need anyone to motivate you to be excited, you are ready to celebrate on your own.  We would find it strange to see someone on a winning team stand silent while having someone else celebrate in their place.

Over the years that I have been a Christian I have met and talked with many people who were going through some difficult situation.  Often these people will ask me to pray for them or maybe give them some biblical advice on what to do about their problem.  This is certainly something we see in the Bible as we are told to support and pray for one another.  What I find interesting is that while I often have people ask me to pray for them when they dealing with something difficult, I cannot recall a time when someone asked me to sing for them when they were happy.

James 5 says that when we suffer we should pray, when we are happy we should sing, and if we cannot help ourselves we should call someone to help us.  It is easy to sing and celebrate when things are going well and we are happy, but it is not so easy to pray when things are tough.  If we can always do the singing for ourselves then shouldn't we also be able to do some praying for ourselves, at least sometimes?  While it is fine and right to go to someone else and ask from prayer in a difficult situation, we should also get to the point in our spiritual development that we are not just looking for someone else to always help us but we are in the position to help others. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Clear Out The Clutter

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things."
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

When I was a child I was not so neat or organized, at least not as much as I am now.  In the past there were times when my room was very messy and some things were hard to locate.  At the time it did not matter to me where I put something because I knew generally where it was.  As I grew older I learned that it is better to have things in order and to be organized because it is not only much easier to find things when they are needed but having things neat and organized is nicer than having things messy and cluttered.  What I had to learn and practice was how to clear out the clutter.

One thing I learned in my process of becoming more neat and organized was that I had to part ways with some things and not hang on to everything forever.  I also learned that I had to be diligent with myself to continue doing what I knew needed to be done or I would slide back into the world of messy and cluttered.  This is exactly the same way we as Christians need to work on renewing our minds.  The Bible has a lot to say about the mind and it even gives us the guidelines we need to know what thoughts to keep or remove and how to continue having the right kind of thoughts for the rest of our life.

People often have problems in their minds because they do not think on the right kinds of things; God's Word will help us get the clutter and mess of wrong thoughts out of our minds.  Our thoughts need to be continuously monitored to make sure any wrong thoughts do not get into our thinking.  Wrong thoughts lead to the wrong kinds of words and actions so right and godly thoughts are vital to living the kind of life God has planned for us.  We all need to have a steady diet of the Word of God to help us have the right thoughts and to identify the wrong kinds of thoughts.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What Are You Here For?

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
John 6:38 (NKJV)

Have you ever had the experience of walking into a room and when you got there you didn't remember exactly why you were there?  You find yourself unsure of what to do next because you forgot the reason for why you are in the room.  Some people say that is just something that happens when people get older, but it can happen to anyone because we can all lose our train of thought or get distracted.  No matter how something like this might happen, the issue is about not knowing the purpose for being somewhere, without a purpose you can feel lost.

When Jesus was on the earth He made many statements about what He was doing here and why He was doing it.  For example, Jesus said He came to do His Father's will and not His own will (John 6:38), He came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Jesus knew why He was here and what He was here for, the question is if we know why we are here what we are here for.  If we don't know what our God given purpose in life is, then our top priority needs to be to find out.

The best way to discover God's purpose for our life is of course to read and study God's Word and to talk to Him in prayer.  A great way to learn more about our purpose is to get involved in our local church and by helping others.  Our purpose from God does not revolve around ourselves and it will only be seen in relationship to others.  God has a plan for each and every person and He has given everyone some gift and ability to use to glorify Him and serve others, our task is to discover this gift and then to make the best use of it as God directs us. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Watching The Master

"Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us."
Psalm 123:1-2 (NKJV)

Recently as I was out shopping, in the town where I live in Germany, I saw a man walking his dog.  As I came up to and then passed the man and his dog I noticed that for nearly that entire time as dog was walking along it was looking up at the man, who I would assume was the dog's owner.  What caused me to take notice of this particular dog was that except for one or two very short glances forward the dog was staring at their owner the entire time and still walking along fine.  The two thoughts I had were that this is a well-trained dog and that the dog is smart enough to know that the man is the master in the situation, so he was watching his master.

God is our loving heavenly Father and we are His children, but in Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1 it talks about our having a Master in heaven.  While Jesus was on the earth, His disciples called Him Master, and that word master could also be translated as teacher.  We know that our Father God and Jesus do not treat us as slaves by demanding harsh servitude, but we still cannot emphasize one aspect of our relationship with God over another.  While we do need to develop the relationship that exists between us as children and God as our heavenly Father we also need to develop in our relationship with God as His being our Master and Teacher.

As we go about our daily life, do we expectantly look to our heavenly Master knowing that He is truly our source of supply for everything we need or do we just move forward not even considering that He may have something to say about what we do and what happens in our life?  Just like the dog in my example who had learned to walk forward while all the time looking at his master, we need to learn to live our life with our eyes continually on our Master in heaven.  No matter who we are or what we might do in our lives we need to be watching our heavenly Father knowing that He has the best plan for our lives and He knows which direction we need to go.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Flip The Switch Christians

"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. 
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:31-32 (NKJV)

We have all seen different types of switches.  We use some switches to turn lights on and then turn them off when we leave the room or are finished with our work.  While the power that makes the light work is always available, the power is not put into use until the switch is turned on by someone who wants to have some light.  We don't really think about whether or not the light will work for us because we always expect the power for the light to be there.  But what if the power was not available?  How would we know until we turn on the switch?  If we can be sure that the power for the light is always available, then we can be confident that the light will always work for us.

Our relationship with God, our faith in His Word, and the Word of God itself are intended for full-time use, not just when we think we are ready for them.  We cannot just turn our relationship with God and His Word on and off when it is convenient for us.  Jesus said to be His disciple we need to abide, to live, in His Word.  Often we have the idea that because God is all powerful and God is always present we can just flip the switch, so to speak, and things will work the way we want them to.  If we have this mentality, then we are putting all the emphasis on God and His part in our life but we are ignoring our part in our relationship with Him and our being a doer of His Word.

While it is certainly true that the Christian life is not based on our works and we do not earn any of the blessings of God it is also true that God is not a vending machine that we put our money into when we want something to come out.  God and His Word in our life is not just something that is meant for our convenience but for a daily walk and relationship with Him.  As we spend time growing in our relationship with God and living a life that is focused on Him, that is when all the things we need are added to us (Matthew 6:33).  We must have a lifestyle of Christianity and not just a life of running to God when we have some type of problem that needs to be solved.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

So Much More

"And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles.
Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist."
Ezekiel 47:3-4 (NKJV)

There are some well-known sights that people are very familiar with and the places where these famous sights are located are often known for them.  For example: Paris, France is known for the Eiffel Tower, California is known for its beaches, and Switzerland is known for the Alps.  But while all of these places are known for these things, that is not all that there is to them.  Paris has other sights to see besides the Eiffel Tower, California has more than just beaches, and there is more to Switzerland than just the Alps.  If all you know about these places are the famous sights, you are missing a lot that these places have to offer.

One wonderful thing with God is that no matter what we have experienced with Him, no matter how much we know about His Word, and no matter how long we have been in our relationship with God there is always more.  Some people know about the goodness and love of God, but there is so much more to God than just that.  Some people have experienced miracles and mighty moves of God, but there is so much more to God than just that.  Some people have spent time reading and studying God's Word and have achieved a level of spiritual development that others do not have, but there is still so much more.

Some Christians have been taught well and are very knowledgeable about the Bible, but there is always more to learn about God and His Word.  Some have done great things for God and can't imagine that what has happened in the past can be surpassed in the future, but with God there is always much more.  Some believers have only waded into the things of God and then for some reason they believe that they have reached their limit with God.  But, we all need to go on to "deeper waters" with God.  As Christians we should never get to the point of complacency with God, because there is always so much more that we can experience with God, learn about God and His Word, and do for Him!