Thursday, February 24, 2011

Come, Gracious Spirit

The world seems to get louder every day. Let us not allow circumstances, news, people or trials to distract us from serving our Lord and Savior with our words and actions. Our loyalty is to Him and Him alone, and He will guide our path. And so we humbly ask Jesus to:

"Be Thou our Guardian,
Thou our Guide
O'er every thought
and step preside..."

"Let love and and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." Proverbs 3:3-7

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:15-17

Friday, February 18, 2011

How Are We to Respond?

The following information was sent to me yesterday in an email from a woman who works at the State Capitol:







As Christians, what are we to make of this? I turned to John MacArthur, Pastor of the radio program Grace to You, to find out. He provides an excellent teaching on how Christians can act and think Biblically in situations like the one currently going on in our state capitol. To read the entire sermon, go to:

MacArthur begins by saying how the focus in our society is on rights.

“Everybody has rights in our society. Nobody talks about sacrifice, nobody talks about privileges, everybody talks about rights….And if you don’t get what you think is due, then you take it out on the society or whatever authority is over you. Strikes, protests, insurrections, rebellions against governments, against companies, walk outs, all kinds of common occurrences when people rebel against those over them who aren’t giving them what they think they have a right to…And if you don’t give me what I have a right to, I will rebel, I will fight back, I will lead a mutiny against you and I will harass you every way possible to get my rights. I will protest. I will strike. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

MacArthur says that sometimes those actions may lead to the desired outcome or beneficial compromises. But sometimes people simply lose their jobs.

He refers to 1 Peter 2:13 as being the Biblical course of action for Christians: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors…”

MacArthur says, “As citizens we are to submit to the government that is over us, designed by God for man’s safety and protection. We are to submit for the Lord’s sake.”

Another verse MacArthur sites is Romans 12:16-19 which says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.’”

MacArthur sums up the way Christians are to act and think when dealing with events such as those going on in Madison today. We are to be humble and respectful and maintain our fear of the Lord, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the government, the unions or the protestors. He cites Ephesians 6:5-8, which says, “Slaves (this means servants: i.e. employees) obey your earthly masters with respect and fear (of the Lord), and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave (servant) or free” (words in parenthesis added).

“Paul,” MacArthur says, “is reinforcing what Peter says. We’re to do it with the right attitude, sincerity of heart, as if we were serving Christ. The mandate then--no walkouts, no strikes, no hold outs, no protests, no mutiny. Why?” The answer is found in 1 Peter 2:15: “That by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” and because, in verse 19, “For it is commendable….”

Now MacArthur, in his teaching, says, “I’m not saying that sometimes the employees’ concerns are not justified…But I am saying that God requires that our attitude be right and that we simply commit it to God and don’t take vengeance ourselves...”

Finally, there is one other reason we submit with respect in a situation such as that in Madison right now. MacArthur says Christians should not be sending a message that we’re all worked up and we’re going to upset the system and then “lose our testimony” in the process.

Think about it. What good is it for Christians to engage in name-calling or ranting and raving and refusing to abide by the rules for something that is materially worldly? Of course, we can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. These verses are for believers.

I think this is a good time to reflect on Joshua 24:15, and teach it to our children and grandchildren: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Only God Through Jesus Can Satisfy

This devotion by Pastor Tony Evans of The Urban Alternative is an excellent example of speaking the Truth in love: a Truth that, surprisingly, many have yet to hear, internalize and be convicted of. May those who have ears to hear, hear.

"How has our nation become so dry in its devotion to God? The answer is simple – we have gone to other things for refreshment. We have sought ways of encouraging ourselves without God. We have turned and walked in the opposite direction, thinking that we will try something new and it will satisfy our needs. We fill the emptiness of our lives with people instead of God, and immediately they become like gods to us. Then, before we know it, they have done something to disappoint us, and we immediately feel betrayed and defeated.

In a nation that has the greatest material advantages, we want more and expect to get it. We’re no longer satisfied with simple things – we have to have the latest flat-screen television. We have the newest computer that plays more songs and that does more that we will ever use, and still we cry out for more. We have flashier cars, larger homes, walk-in closets with shelves filled with clothing that we cannot even remember buying. We repaint rooms in our houses, purchase new furniture, and still feel empty, alone, and in debt.

Only God has the ability to satisfy the deepest longing in our hearts. Sure, it is fun to wear a new shirt and feel as though you are looking your best. God is not against this. In fact, He wants us to do well in this life. However, He wants us to love Him above all things. He gives good things to His children, but when the good things become objects of worship, we find that we are headed for trouble.

God will allow us to drift until we wake up and realize that our needs cannot be satisfied by anything or anyone other than God Himself. A new marriage or a new baby will not relieve the pressure. Many times it only makes it worse.

You can stop the dryness in your life by telling the Lord what you are facing and how you feel. He understands your needs, but He also knows that the only way you truly will find refreshment and hope that lasts is by living your life for Him." Tony Evans, The Urban Alternative

“'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.'”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seek God First

Today is the last day of looking at Charles Stanley’s encouragements for walking in faith:

“Finally, realize obeying the Lord will require courage and full surrender. You must come to the point where you choose to believe in God more than you trust your own abilities and circumstances. This is ultimately the only way to grow in your faith.” Charles Stanley

2 Chronicles 12:14 says that King Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.”

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (not to be interpreted as “prosperity gospel”).

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

Matthew 7:24 says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

These are the verses that God has been putting on my heart the last few weeks. He’s been convicting me regarding how often I get in His way by seeing, controlling and planning things my way instead of His. Let’s take choosing a ministry to serve in, for example. God continues to point out to me the areas of pride in my heart and mind by showing me that it isn’t about being flattered or guilted into a ministry. It isn’t about impulsively signing up for something that on its face looks exciting or hip. In fact, it’s not about seeking a ministry at all—it’s about seeking the Lord.

Seeking God first always brings the peace that human “wisdom” never can and always brings answers, even if the answer is to wait and do nothing (something we humans have trouble with). Seeking God first in His Word and prayer, along with just talking to Him, will lead to everything falling into its Godly place.

But, as Stanley mentioned, it takes courage to trust God with everything. When I first went rappelling in college, I did not want to push off from the cliff and entrust my life to a rope. But I found it much more cumbersome and dangerous to try to hang on to the rock and stay close to the cliff. Only when I leaned out with a straightened back, pushed off with my legs and sailed out into the expanse of air around me did I feel ease and freedom and joy. I trusted the rope and it went well with me. And when I got to the bottom, I wanted to go up and do it again. When we seek God through trust--checking ourselves at the door--God tells us in His word, “I will be found by you.”

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:5-7

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5

“Do not be wise in your own eyes;” Proverbs 3:7

Monday, February 7, 2011

Greg Jennings Giving GOD the Glory after Super XLV

Greg Jennings repeated "To God be the glory" in another post game interview, including saying that when you humble yourself, God will lift you up. Thanks, Jennings, for your public witness and testimony!

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:10

"...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ears to Hear

I've been working through some encouragements for walking in faith that I received in the mail from Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries. The fourth encouragement is this:

“You don’t just talk to God, but you also listen to Him. You must pay attention to what He is communicating to you. Think about it. You cannot possibly know how to obey the Father if you never take time to hear what He’s saying. You cannot increase your love or your trust in Him if you are not listening to Him either.” Charles Stanley.

I remember the late Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers occasionally being mocked in the press when he talked about hearing God. But 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

As born again Christians, we know that to hear from God is not foolish at all. Some of us may feel sheepish on this point—or on the point of talking to God in the first place--but there’s no reason for sheepishness. Jesus makes it very clear we are to not only come to him and seek Him with all of our being, but to expect a response as well.

Luke 11:1 says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Holy Spirit is described in John 14:26 as a counselor: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

What we learn from these verses is a collaborative relationship (credit goes to Pastor Jon MacDonald for this term). In collaboration we talk, learn from guidance and feedback, and act on wise counsel. It is not a one way street where we pour out our hearts and then go and live our lives without taking any consideration for Jesus’ admonitions and calls for action, service and obedience to living a Godly life.

Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:12-15).

When I read that, I want to listen, very carefully, to every Word God speaks.

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” Psalm 40:6-8

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” Psalm 139:17