Archive for the ‘Practical’ Category

Scattered thoughts

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Scattered musings of the morning…

God reveals Himself to those who need Him. If we don’t see God working in our lives and revealing Himself to us, perhaps it is because we do not need Him…

“Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). Often times assemblies with which we are associated are small in number. But God is great in using small things to accomplish great results, to His glory.

The way in which we conduct our meetings does not appeal to the natural mind, but it should appeal to the spiritual, biblical mind. Do I have a spiritual or self-centered mind? Do I seek heavenly things over earthly (Col 3:1-2)? Am I dead to this world (Col 3:3)? Is Christ my life (Col 3:4)? Does the Word of Christ dwell in me richly (Col 3:16)? Am I marked by thanksgiving (Col 3:17)? Do I live for the commendation of the Lord over the praise of men (Col 3:23)?

Quote from Voice of the Martyrs magazine (Dec 2016): “When people persecute me or talk about me badly, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I always feel sorry for them.”

It’s not too late to begin a reading plan

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” –Matthew 4:4

The Henry Groves Bible in a year chronological reading plan was suggested to me. I took the suggestion. Would you like to as well?

You can mark off your progress here. If you want daily reminders, you can sign up with the Facebook group.

 

106. “Bring them here to Me”

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Matthew 14:18

5 loaves.

5,000 men.

5 words*.

“Bring them here to Me.”

“Lord, what are five loaves and two small fish among so many? Feed everyone? Impossible!”

“Bring them here to Me.”

“Lord, You might as well say we don’t have anything at all in comparison to this great task.”

“Bring them here to Me.”

“Lord, I can’t do this.”

“Bring them here to Me.”

***

I wonder how many times I have sighed beneath the load, trying to do something for the Lord, feeling helpless, fruitless, failure. Am I trying to feed over 5,000 with 5 loaves?

Are we trying to do the growing for that little seed we sowed, or are we giving that seed to God and watering it with prayer?

Yes, we need to supply those few loaves and fish. God notices the “insignificant.” But how many more would be blessed, and how much more glory would we bring to God, if we truly realized it was His work, His miracle, not ours?

“Bring them here to Me.”

***

*4 in Greek

97. Able…according to

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Eph 3:20 says, “…Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (NKJV)

Wow, what power! what blessing is available for us! But tonight I have been impressed in a new way with the end of that statement–“according to the power that works in us.”

What if I don’t allow Him to work in me?

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” Eph. 3:16-17 NKJV

93. Why? (Part 2: The murder of the innocent)

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

The murder of the innocent

As countless mourn the death of twenty-six victims in one of the worst mass-shootings in United States history (Wall Street Journal)  at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the constant question is… why? This question goes beyond the reasons for why the gunman did the horrific deed… Why do things like this happen? What makes someone act like this? Where is God in all of this?

We don’t know for sure why the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary took place, and we can’t read the mind of the gunman to know if he was mentally mad or emotionally outrageously angry. We don’t know if the violence on television and video games played a part, though they certainly could have. But let’s look at the first murder recorded in the Bible for some general answers to some of these questions.

The first murder happened in the first family

Genesis 4:1-14 gives the account of the first murder. In this account, Cain brings an offering to the LORD from the best of his farm’s produce. Abel brings a lamb to sacrifice to God. Abel’s offering is accepted, and Cain’s is rejected. They were both told what God would accept, but Cain chooses his own way, not God’s. God tries to reason with Cain, reminding him that if he would only bring what God required, he would be accepted too. But instead, in anger, Cain kills his own brother.

What was Cain’s motive? Why did he do what he did?

First of all, we should make it clear that the origin of evil is not God, but Adam’s sin (disobedience and wrong-doing) in the Garden of Eden. Because like produces like, Adam’s descendants can only be sinners too. Both Cain and Abel were born sinners, but Abel chose to believe God and Cain chose to reject God. When Cain rejected God and God’s way, God rejected Cain. When Cain couldn’t have his way, he became angry, and that anger was unleashed on his innocent brother, Abel, and Abel died as a result. The very first man born into this world was a murderer.

Why did Cain murder Abel? 1John 3:12 gives us the answer:

“…not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” (NASB)

We are told Cain was of the devil. He hated righteous Abel, because he had chosen evil and was inspired by Satan to do evil deeds. God uses this incident as a lesson to each of us to love one another (1 John 3:11) and to not be surprised when the world hates those who are righteous (1 John 3:13).

Genesis 4:5-8 tell us that Cain killed Abel out of anger.  Cain’s anger may have been fueled by his hurt pride, his self-pity, feelings of failure, jealousy, resentment, rejection, bitterness, and desire for revenge, among other things. Anger is blinding. It turns one’s thoughts and focus inward on self alone, and results in irrational behavior. Jude compares Cain’s ways to that of an unreasoning animal (Jude 10). Romans 1 teaches us that those who willfully reject God become like depraved animals.

God attempted to turn Cain away from his anger. He showed His concern in the situation, and demonstrated love toward Cain even in his anger and sinful ways. But Cain chose to let sin and Satan rule over him, and killed his brother Abel anyway.

Understanding God’s response

So why didn’t God stop Cain from killing Abel?

Though God is not required to answer all our “whys,” I think we can understand some of the reasons by looking more into the Word of truth.

We know God didn’t allow the murder of Abel because He didn’t love Abel. Abel is the first to be commended in the great chapter of faith, Hebrews 11.  There we see that Abel is still speaking to us today through his death, telling us of a sacrifice that was made for righteousness’ sake, condemning the hatred, anger and evil of this world. So God uses bad things that happen to speak to others.  Through Abel’s death, we are given a lesson about love in 1 John 3: 11-13.  God did not do Abel an injustice by allowing him to die– in fact, Abel is honored far more as a result.

But there is more. Let’s say God prevented all murders. Then what about thefts? But if God prevented all thefts, what about fights? And if fights, what about lies? So is God responsible to prevent all sin before it happens? The answer is no. God has created mankind as a responsible race. He set mankind over the rest of creation (Heb. 2:5-8). God has made us each accountable to Him, our Creator, and each of us will have to give an account to God for our own sin. The courtroom scene is not in this life. We don’t see the Judge setting everything right yet, but He certainly will in a coming day (Rev. 20:12).  “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9 NASB).

Cain’s punishment was greater than he could bear. Abel’s honor is greater than he could have imagined. God’s ways are best, even when we cannot understand them.

The wages of sin is death. When man chooses his own evil way, there are consequences. And sin affects even those who are not at fault. It brings suffering, sorrow and shame, even upon those who never committed the crime. Sickness, a result of sin, touches every one of us. The curse is upon all of creation, and it groans (Rom. 8:22). If the effects of sin were seen in the first family that ever lived, then it is not surprising if we see its effects in our world today as well, on a larger scale.

So why did God allow it? In summary, the murder of Abel happened because of sin’s affect on Cain and Cain’s choice to rebel against God. It was allowed by God because God has given responsibility to mankind for their own actions, and has given them the freedom of choice. Our choices affect others, and the final result of sin is death and sorrow. God teaches us about the evil of sin through the tragedies of life, and demonstrates His love through tragedy. God brings good out of evil, and as a result of Abel’s death, Abel is highly honored in the pages of Scripture beyond what he could have had otherwise, and he demonstrated to us the value and virtue of righteousness.

God’s remedy

Does not all of this touch the heart of God? Cannot he stop the hurting? Is there no end to suffering? There is!

God’s heart was grieved over sin in Noah’s day, and He is just as grieved over sin today. He could destroy the world with a word, and stop it all once and for all. But God is also a long-suffering, patient God (2Pet. 3:9). He longs that those who practice evil would turn to Him from their evil ways, and live. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). But a day is coming when the patience of God will run out, and His righteous wrath and judgment will fall upon this ungodly world (read Revelation). Christ will return and set up a righteous rule, and all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. Peace will finally reign from sea to sea, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. For the saved, there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more death. They will appreciate heaven so many times more after the sorrows of earth, and they will appreciate the Savior so much more for all that He suffered for them, having suffered themselves. To the grieving and heartbroken, there is a loving God and Savior in heaven who long to bring comfort and strength to all who will turn to Him in their distress (Matt. 11:28, 2Cor. 1:3-5). When the tragedies of this life cause us to turn to God, blessing and healing will result.

So we must close our meditation with the Savior, because He is God’s remedy for mankind’s problem of sin. He knew what it was to suffer, not because of His own sin, but because of the sin of others. He knew what it was to feel the spikes and to know the thirst of Calvary. He knew what it was to die upon a cross, forsaken by man and forsaken by God. He knew what it was to endure the hatred of men and the wrath (righteous anger) of Almighty God. Why? Why should the innocent have to die for the guilty? Why should the Son of God die for a wicked race who had failed in their responsibility toward their Maker? Why didn’t God just send us all to a sinner’s hell?

We will never know the full answer to that why.

Oh love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure, the saints’ and angels’ song. (Frederick Martin Lehman)

 

Related links

Why? Part 1: When loved ones die

CBS news, after the Virginia Tech shooting, spoke of those who believe one act of violence fuels another.

It’s not fair

Anger, a ruthless killer

 

92. Friend of the world, Friend of God

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

In James 4:4 NASB we read, “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” This statement reminds me of Lot, Abraham’s brother.

In James 2:23 we read of Abraham: “and he was called the Friend of God.”

Let’s see what we can learn from one who acted like a friend of the world, and one who was truly a friend of God.

Choices and Riches

We know from 2 Peter 2:7 that Lot was a righteous man. He did not love evil, but he lived in a wicked city with worldly aspirations. Lot lost immeasurably. In Genesis 13:7-13, we find that Lot chose the physical over the spiritual. He chose pleasures over piety. He chose to live close to the world instead of close to God, and was sucked in to the evil world system. He had his eyes on the luscious valley, but his focus was drawn away by the pull of materialism to an evil city.

Abraham was a righteous man as well (Gen. 15:6), but his sights were set higher than this world. He made choices for eternity instead of for time. He was a humble man, giving Lot the choice of where to settle. He chose others over self, and chose to live close to God rather than to enjoy this world’s fleeting pleasures.

Cottages and Tents

Lot chose to dwell in a land doomed for destruction (Gen 13:12). He likely had a nice home with the delicacies of the city. Abraham chose to live in the land of promise (Gen 13:14-18). His cottage was simply a tent (Heb. 11:9), and he looked for a city whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). Lot was involved in the politics of the world, and appears to have had a high position socially. He had roots deep into this old world. Abraham, in contrast, was ready to pick up his tent and move where the LORD led him at a moment’s notice. Though God blessed him materially, he didn’t let his material possessions keep him from being where God wanted him to be. Abraham had failures in his life and wasn’t always in the place God desired, but God always brought him back to the right place again.

Conquests and Captives

Lot was taken captive along with the world he lived with (Gen 14:12). It was Abraham, the Friend of God, that had power over the enemy and who could rescue his captured brother (Gen 14:14-16). Lot lost basically everything he owned a second time when the city was destroyed– he never learned his lesson. In contrast, Abraham refused the world’s reward (Gen 14:21-23) and instead received God’s reward (Gen 15:1).  God was his shield and his “exceeding great reward.” God promised Abraham His friend an eternal inheritance.

Care and Welcome

Both Lot and Abraham showed hospitality and care to the angels that visited them. The angels’ message to Abraham was a message of life: Sarah would have a son. Their message to Lot was a message of death: the city was doomed for destruction. Lot’s ability to welcome and care for the angels was severely affected by the environment in which he lived.

Children and Sacrifice

Lot was willing to sacrifice his daughters to the world (Gen. 19:8). Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to God (Gen. 22).

Character and Testimony

Lot softly chided the wicked men of the city, calling them brothers (Gen. 19:14). Abraham spoke of Sodom as “the wicked” (18:23). The character of Lot’s testimony was such that his relatives would not believe him when he told them that they were in grave danger. Abraham failed in his testimony as well, lying about his wife and putting others in danger (Gen. 20:5), but the LORD overruled and made things right again. Abraham’s character as a whole was honorable (Gen. 18:19).

Catastrophe and Intercession

Lot was spared through Abraham’s intercession (Gen. 19:29). Abraham was a man of fervent prayer, bold faith, and deep concern for his brother (Gen 18:17, 25). God revealed special things to Abraham His friend that He did not reveal to others (Gen. 18:17).

Lot hesitated when told to flee from the doomed city (Gen. 19:16). He didn’t want to leave all his earthly possessions behind. Abraham, however, wouldn’t take the smallest thing from the King of Sodom (Gen. 14:22-23). After Lot finally left the city, he didn’t want to fully obey the Lord’s command, and requested to go to a small city instead of fleeing to the mountain (19:19-20). He wanted a shortcut, an easier way, and a place closer to the familiar world he came out of. In the end, he became afraid that God wouldn’t do what He said and preserve him there, and left the city. In contrast, Abraham, when given the last great test, fully obeyed the Lord and climbed the mountain of sacrifice to the very top (Gen. 22:18). There he learned of God’s provision and salvation.

Considering the spouses

Lot’s wife, in her death, is a lesson to us not to love the world (Luke 17:32). Abraham’s wife, in giving birth, is a lesson to us to remember God’s blessing and care for His people (Isaiah 51:2).

Culmination

Lot had some good characteristics, but these things did not profit him because of his association with the world. The last we are told of Lot, we see him in a cave with nothing left but his two daughters and their sinful ways (Gen. 19:30). The descendants of what transpired there eventually were a snare to the people of God. Yet we see that God blessed Lot’s descendants with an inheritance in Deut. 2:19.

Some of the last words we read about Abraham’s life are “Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way” (Gen. 24:1). He had the joy of seeing his son married and going on for God, and he had a rich inheritance to pass on to him (Gen. 25:5). He had bright promises to look forward to. His seed would one day be as the sand of the seashore and the stars of the heavens for multitude. He rejoiced to see a day when Christ would come (John 8:56). He went down in the Scriptures as the Friend of God, the Father of the Faithful (Rom. 4:11).

Lessons to be learned

So what can we learn from these two examples God has given us in the Scriptures? Here are a few suggestions:

Choices and Riches

I have a choice to make: will I choose to live close to the world, or close to God? Will I esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt (Heb. 11:26), and the reward of the eternal over the fleeting glitter of this world?

Cottages and Tents

Which do I value more, the mansions of this world or the mansions of heaven? Which world am I living for, this one or the next? Which do I value more, the inheritance that this world can give, or the inheritance that God can give?

Conquests and Captives

Am I one who is strong in the Lord and the power of His might (Eph. 6), or am I a friend of that same world that is an enemy of Christ and the child of God? Am I ready to “save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 23)?

Care and Welcome

Is my home a place where other Christians are welcome? Is it a place that is conducive to spiritual growth and development, or is it a place contaminated by the world and its ways? “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2 NASB).

Children and Sacrifice

What am I sacrificing to the world? What am I sacrificing for God? “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:35-36 NASB).

Character and Testimony

My character will greatly influence those I love and come into contact with. Does my testimony to the saving grace of God have an influence on those I love who are not yet saved? We all will fall in one way or another, but the Lord is able to lift us up and help us go on for Him, if that is our desire.

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Tim. 2:21).

Catastrophe and Intercession

Am I a man or woman of prayer, interceding for others?

If the Lord came today, would I be looking back longingly at my life’s possessions, or would I be looking forward to eternity with Him in that city of gold? Will I be one of whom it is said, [only] “he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1Cor. 3:15 NASB)?

Am I willing to obey the Lord completely, following in the footsteps of my Savior who went all the way up Calvary’s mountain for me?

Considering the spouses

Lot’s wife gives us the lesson of a wasted life. Abraham’s wife gives us a lesson of a life perhaps thought to be wasted (not being able to bare children), but found to be very fruitful through faith. Is my life fruitful, or faithless?

Culmination

When it comes time to leave to be with Christ, the award that awaits me will largely be dependent on whether I was a “friend of the world” or a “friend of God.”

 

86. God’s plan for me

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Does God have a plan for my life, and will He direct me into it?

I believe a sovereign, Almighty, all-knowing God does indeed have a plan for the life of His children, just as He had a plan for Paul (Acts 9:15). The same God that led Israel through the wilderness with the pillar of cloud and fire (Numbers 9:15-23) is the God that we have today.

Are Christians slaves to the will of God?

Do I need a word from the Lord as to which grocery store to go to today? What believer to visit? Which car to drive? Is every aspect of my life to be a simple adherence to what God places before me? Or is the will of God more than that? I would like to present what I believe is the teaching of Scripture in relation to some of these things– things that I have wondered about in time past.

A Christian is indeed a bondslave of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:6), but he/she is motivated by love, not by forced obligation (1 Peter 5:2, 2Cor. 5:14).

I believe God is more interested in developing His likeness in us than telling us specific things we are to do. Having a heart like His heart produces a life that is fruitful and which delights to fulfill His will. When the Lord brings into our circumstances something He has equipped and exercised us to do, it is the natural thing to do it. Also, God delights in giving us things we ask for that are according to His will (John 16:24, 1John 5:14). If we were robots, He wouldn’t want us to ask. Paul had a longing to see the saints in Rome (Romans 1:10). God granted His request, but it was in His way and time. God wouldn’t want us to ask for wisdom if He didn’t expect us to use it (James 1:5). So God isn’t looking for mindless followers, but for children who know Him, grow in His wisdom, and walk uprightly because they delight in His character and Person.

Doing the will of God is directly related to pleasing God. I can ask myself, “would this please God?” (Ephesians 5:10 NASB). God doesn’t need to give me special guidance for things He has already forbidden in His Word.

Guidance from God

That being said, God has directed His people to do specific things in the past. For example:

  • The Old Testament is full of specific commands given by God to individuals, often through prophets.
  • Failure to ask for counsel and direction brought difficulty (Joshua 9:14).
  • God gave direction regarding who to preach the gospel (Acts 13:2) and where to preach the gospel (Acts 16:6-10).
  • God gave instructions in regard to Gentile visitors, Acts 10:9-21. Note that God didn’t give Peter all the information all at once. The will of God was made clear to Peter over time in various ways.
  • Many examples of today could also be given. Norman Crawford speaks of being without the money to be able to drive to meeting, and that day in the post office, though there was no mail, someone (who had no idea as to his circumstances) walked up to him and gave him money that enabled him to get to meeting that night, saying “the Lord told me to give this to you.” D. L. Moody has accounts of answers to prayer by men and women who obviously were led in some way to send the needed help at just the right time. Darlene Deibler Rose tells of how the Lord spoke and strengthened her through her many trials in prison camps (listen). Many similar circumstances could be related (including some in my own life).

God may not speak in the same way today as He did in past days, but I believe He still directs His people. So, God may choose to direct me to a particular grocery store so as to be able to share the gospel with someone there, but I should not be preoccupied over which one to go to if I don’t have reason to believe God is taking me to one or the other. He will see to it that His will is accomplished in my life if my heart is right before Him. It is good to be on our knees before God for direction for the day, and we can trust Him to do His work through us when the time is right, as we meditate upon His word, attend meetings, and receive His instruction. Chances are, if God wants me to talk to someone at a particular grocery store, He will work the circumstances in such a way that what He wants to take place will happen without my even knowing that He’s doing it. I just have to be in the proper condition before Him to be ready to take that opportunity. If someone comes up to you and asks if you’re a Christian, well, you don’t have to doubt whether God wants you to talk to them about the Bible! Be willing and ready and let God work. Consider the example of Esther. She likely didn’t know God was leading her into the position of being queen, but God put her there at just the right time so as to be in a position to save the Jewish people (Esther 4:14). Being in that position, she was faced with a decision and  finally submitted her will and personal fears so as to be a blessing to others (Esther 4:16).

Sometimes circumstances are out of our control, and we have to simply accept them as being the will of God (Acts 21:14). Sometimes things are unpleasant for us, but are still permitted by God for a reason–He is in control of our circumstances (Luke 22:42; 1 Peter 3:17; 4:19).

I do not believe that God wants us to be in constant turmoil over what is His will for me.  Rather, He would have us to understand His revealed will from the Scriptures which is plain and simple to understand. Then if we are open to the Spirit’s guidance in our lives, we will be directed into His will in other areas of our lives as well. We may not even know the Lord is directing us at times, but He is able to work all things out according to His good plan, whether I am aware of the details or not, and whether I do everything “just right” or not (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28 NASB). Don’t let the concept of being afraid to do the “wrong thing” paralyze your usefulness for God. Do what you believe God has given you the ability to do, and what is beneficial to others, and you will find that as you are actively seeking to live for Him, He will channel that desire and labor into the areas where it will fulfill His purposes.

Scripture selections from the epistles relating to the will of God for all believers:

Perhaps someone says, “The Bible is lengthy. Where particularly can I read about God’s will for me?” It is with this in mind that I have put together a list of verses that should give every believer a good idea of God’s will for them. You may choose to go through them as part of your daily reading.

  • Romans 12:1-13:14; 15:1-7
  • 1Cor. 10; 11:24; 13; 15:58
  • 2Cor. 4:7-18; 5:6-15, 20; 6:14-7:1; 9:6-15; 12:7-10; 13:11
  • Gal. 5:1-6:10
  • Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-6:20
  • Phil. 1:21-2:16; 3:7-4:9
  • Col. 1:9-12; 2:6-4:6
  • 1 Thes. 4:1-12; 5:12-28
  • 1 Tim 2:1-15; 4:6-6:21
  • 2 Tim 1:6-14
  • Tit. 2:11-3:8
  • Heb. 12:1-14; 13:1-18
  • James 1:27; 4:15; 5:7-20
  • 1 Peter 1:13-2:3; 2:11-3:12; 4:1-11
  • 2 Peter 1:1-11; 3:18
  • 1 John 3:23-24; 4:7-14; 4:21-5:3

Conclusion

Should I be interested about, convicted about, desiring God’s will for me? Yes! Should I be overly worried and preoccupied about His specific, daily plan? As long as I am open and willing, no (Phil. 4:6-7 NASB). We should use the wisdom God has given us and the desires He has instilled in us by His Spirit, while waiting on Him for specific direction when the need arises.

God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2). It is God’s best, though it may not seem best to me or be the most enjoyable. God’s will for Christ was Calvary. It meant hardship and suffering, but ultimately infinite blessing to us and infinite glory to Him. Let us seek to please Him in all respects (Col. 1:10 NASB, 2 Tim. 2:4), trusting Him to work in our lives (Hebrews 11:6).

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).