Ready, Willing and …

Jeremiah 42:6
“Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God…”

A few years back I attended a men’s conference where this verse was shared during a worship session. Like most, I was encouraged by the sentiment of it, until I recalled the context. You see, as beautiful as the verse is, it is declared by a group of people who have no real intention of doing what the Lord says. The verse might better read, “we will obey as long as the Lord tells us what we want to hear.”

As requested, Jeremiah sought the Lord on behalf of the people. Ten days later the Lord spoke to him, instructing the people NOT to go to Egypt, but to remain in the land, trusting in the protection of God. This was not the message they wanted to hear. They wanted Jeremiah to tell them that they could go to Egypt, get a fresh start and receive the bountiful blessings of the Lord. When they heard his response their tone changed drastically,

Jeremiah 43:2 “You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you…”

I wish this were the only case in history where someone claimed to be willing to do what God wanted, until they heard from him. Tragically, this is an all too common occurrence. It seems now a days, whenever we hear something we don’t like, we simply hunt down another source who will tell us what we want to hear. Affirmation should never be exalted above truth. If we want to please God and experience the blessed life, we have to be willing to obey His word, even when we do not particularly care for the instructions.

Let’s not be those who boast of good intentions while continuing on a downward course away from Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

His Thundering Voice

Job 37:5
“God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend.”

Job is in the midst of a very confusing period in his life. He has been struggling to determine what God is doing, and why he is facing these particular struggles. Elihu reminds him that God’s voice is like thunder. Living in South Florida we know the sound of thunder. There are times when the thunder is so loud, the walls of the house actually shake. Elihu is saying the voice of God is so loud and pronounced it is impossible to miss.

The Psalmist put it this way,

Psalms 29:3 “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders…”

Years later, Scripture records an incident in the life of Elijah, who was facing some pretty intense trials of his own. The queen had vowed to use all the available resources to hunt him down, and have him killed. Because of the reality of this threat, Elijah fled to the wilderness and hid in a cave. In the seclusion of his mountain get-away, Elijah learned the voice of God is often like a quiet whisper in the heart (1 Kings 19:1-12).

So which is it? Is God’s voice like roaring thunder, or is it like a quiet whisper? The answer is both. God shouts His will from the pages of His Word. We don’t have to question if we should avoid sin, love others, share Christ with the lost, worship God, speak kindly, show compassion, take the low place, forgive others, honor the godly or look for ways to serve in our local church. Those things are declared with the thundering voice of God, in the pages of His Word. On the other hand, when we are trying to determine specifics for our lives, like who to marry, where to move, what to major in, or what job to take, the voice of God is more like a whisper. Instead of being frustrated when God chooses to speak in a still small voice, we should realize His purpose in doing so is to draw us close to Himself.

Luke 10:42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

While Martha was busy running around serving, her sister Mary sat quietly at the feet of Jesus, listening to His Word. When questioned, Jesus explained that sitting at His feet listening to His Word was more important than serving Him. There are things we will never learn if we do not make it our practice to sit quietly with the Lord and read our Bibles. Some make the mistake of never getting alone with the Lord, while others make the mistake of getting alone without getting into the Word. If you want to hear God whisper, make it your daily practice to spend time in His Word.

Pastor Jim

 

Chosen

Esther 2:17
“The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”

It could have been easy for a woman like Esther to feel forgotten. She had lost her parents at a young age, and was a believer living, in an area where she was surrounded by those who did not know the Lord. As the pages turn, it appears there must have been some level of persecution against the Jews, since Esther chose to hide her heritage from everyone in authority. This rising persecution will set the stage for much of what develops in her story. It seems as though, instead of allowing difficulty to tarnish her view of God, she allowed her situation to give God an opportunity to show His love in her life.

Apparently,  the removal of Vashti from her position as queen, and the king’s decision to select a new bride, must have spread through the kingdom. I can only imagine the wide gamete of emotions that must have run through young Esther when she was selected as a prospective queen and taken to the palace. As the next year unfolded, the Lord began to show His sovereignty and love, as Esther rose above the other candidates. When her turn came to present herself before he king, she was chosen above all others, as the next queen of Persia.

The remainder of this book will illustrate that when God changed her station, He did it to give her a larger platform, in order to be a part of the furtherance of the kingdom of God. This is an important principle to keep in mind. When God blesses us and raises our station in life, we need to ask Him why. Why has God blessed your resources? Is it so you can have a faster car or newer gadgets? Or is it so you can use your resources to further the kingdom. If God has increased your sphere of influence perhaps it is so you can have a larger platform to tell the world about Christ.

Esther teaches us that we are not forgotten, that God knows our current state, and that His plans for us include His desire to raise us up and use us for the furtherance of His kingdom.

Pastor Jim

Not Now 

1 Chronicles 17:2
“Then Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’”

David learned it is possible to have a great desire to do something, that is not the will of God. His heart burned within him to build a more permanent structure to house the Ark, and to provide a place for sacrifice. He prayed, sought godly counsel, and went forward with his plans, only to find out later, God had other plans for his life, and for the completion of the task. There are some important lessons we can glean from this story.

Obviously, it’s possible for us to desire things that are ungodly and harmful. We have all, at one time or another, pursued something the Word of God clearly forbids.  That is not what is happening here.

Then there are times when we desire something good, for all the wrong reasons. I met a man in West Africa who told me he had a dream that God was going to make him a great man. I could see in his eyes that he had visions of grandeur. It was almost as though he could see the stadiums filled with the people he would pastor. I did not want to undermine what he thought the Lord was saying, but I did take him through the Word and explain God’s definition of greatness; the greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all (Mark 9:35). That being said, I do not think David was hindered because of pride, or a desire to promote his own name.

Finally, we can desire things which are simply not the will of God for us. David’s desire was to see the work of God furthered. He was willing to give the time, effort, and finances necessary to make it happen. The looming question is, “Why would God forbid David to accomplish such a noble task?” I think the answer is simply, God had other plans. It was the will of God to build a Temple, but it was the will of God for Solomon to complete the task. Later, the reasons would become clear as Solomon became a picture of Christ, the Prince of Peace, making a way for man to fellowship with God.

I have seen too many Christians waiting for some ministry desire in their life to be fulfilled, instead of being involved in the ministry opportunities that are right in front of their faces. It may be, God will fulfill the desire that is burning in your heart to serve Him in some elaborate way, but in the mean time, remember that God designed the church and made you a functioning member of its body. Instead of always having your eyes on the horizon, look for ways you can get on board supporting the work of God in your local church. Remember, a servant must first be tested, and he who is faithful in little will be given much (Luke 19:17).

Pastor Jim

 

Perspective

Genesis 45:7
“And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

2015/01/img_1365.jpgEveryone of us has had the experience of being mistreated. For most, it has been the little things, like our character being questioned or our feelings hurt. Others, like Joseph, have experienced their entire life being altered by the deeds of another. The story of Joseph is significant in so many respects, not the least of which is, he used his newfound position of power, not to retaliate, but to rescue. It is nothing short of a miracle that this man was not bitter, angry and vengeful. I wonder if we can uncover the secret behind his success.

As the mask comes off, and Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he reflects upon the years of his life. Instead of dwelling upon the time in the pit, or the prison, his focus is on the palace. He was able to see the difficulties which he faced, as part of a bigger plan and purpose. If there had been no pit, no Potiphar, and no prison, there would be no palace, and no preservation for the people of God. He views his entire life through the filter of God’s promises. Joseph understood he was playing a part in the salvation of a people, and every obstacle was, in fact, an opportunity.

Too often, we go through life with the wrong perspective. We see hardship only as it effects us and our comforts. We fail to see it as a small piece of a much larger puzzle. God is looking down at a world he loves and wants to save, and He sees each of us as playing a role in this great deliverance. Instead of complaining at the difficult hand we have been dealt, we should be looking at life from the perspective of preservation and deliverance. How does God want to use our current situation to bring others to Christ?

Joseph was able to see all he went through, as part of God’s plan of salvation. Do you see your life that way? Are you using your current sphere of influence for preservation and deliverance?

Pastor Jim

 

Terms And Condition

Genesis 28:20-21
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.'”

2015/01/img_1331.jpgJacob has made a mess of things. His own ambitions have driven a wedge between himself and his family, he has been forced to flee for his life, and is now, just about homeless. With his head resting on a rock, he develops his own covenant with God. “If you will do these things for me, then you will be my God.”

I find it fascinating, that people will debate with themselves, whether or not they will choose God. It is as though they make a mental pro-verses-con list, to determine whether He is worth it or not. While the debate rages within, I think it is worth noting, God is not on His throne in heaven, questioning whether or not He wants you. That question was answered long ago, when He sent His only Son to make a way for us to be forgiven and go to heaven.

Instead of putting ridiculous requirements upon God, why not look at all He has done to show His unfailing love and amazing grace. Stop debating and start following; abundant life awaits.

Pastor Jim

 

It Must Be The Lord

Genesis 27:20
“But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ And he said, ‘Because the LORD your God brought it to me.’”

Unknown-1.jpegIsaac was ill and thought death was at his doorstep, so he sent his son Esau into the field to hunt and make him his favorite meal. It was his intention, at the meal, to pass a blessing on to Esau. When Rebekah heard his plan, she came up with a scheme of her own. She knew God intended this blessing for Jacob, so she got an animal skin, prepared a meal, and attempted to deceive her husband. Jacob dressed for the part and brought the meal to his father. When questioned as to who he was and how he had acquired the game so quickly, he replied, “it is me Esau, and the LORD brought it to me.”

Let’s examine that statement. Was this actually the LORD ? There is no question, it was the LORD’s intention for the blessing to be given to Jacob, not Esau. However, the way these events transpired was anything but the LORD. Lying, deceiving, and manipulating are never the pathway leading to the will of God. Instead of scheming, the proper response should have been praying, trusting, and submitting to the Word of God.

It seems to me, many are guilty of these same sins today. We realize God has made us promises, but rather than trusting and obeying, we stray from Him, in order to get what we desire. This is most common in relationships. A lonely Christian will venture out, get involved in an unhealthy relationship, and convince himself it must be the LORD. Circumstances, emotions, and coincidence, are inaccurate tests to determine God’s best for our lives. Looking into the Word, and living in obedience, is a much safer approach to walking in the will of God.

Be careful not to go your own way, then blame the results on God.

Pastor Jim