You’re Doing It Wrong

1 Thessalonians 2:13 

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

A few days ago I was working at my computer using a program that had been updated with new features. While I had used the program before, these new features added elements with which I was unfamiliar. I was having trouble with what should have been a pretty simple task. Each time I tried to make it do what I wanted, the program would override my action, doing something else to the document. In frustration, I called out for help from one of the other pastors, who is quite computer savvy. When he came to my aid I said, “This stupid thing is not working.” To which he replied. “That’s because you are doing it wrong.” After a moment of being offended, I realized he was right and I humbled myself allowing him to show me the correct way to work the program. I was delighted to find it was not the program that was being stupid, and the upgrades were actually quite helpful. But what does that have to do with our text?

“The word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

I have heard people say something to the effect of, “I tried reading the Bible, but it did not work for me.” Others, might even goes so far as to say, “I tried Jesus, it did not work.” To which I think the proper response would be, “you are doing it wrong.” Notice that Paul speaks of the effectiveness of the Word of God to work in the life of the believer. He actually lists three necessities if we want the Word of God to work effectively in us.

You received the word of God which you heard from us”

First, they took the time to hear the Word of God. We read in Romans that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The first step to being transformed by God’s Word is to receive the Word. We must put ourselves in a place where we are ingesting the Word of God on a regular basis. This includes the need for daily Bible reading, as well as church attendance, where we are being taught through the Word of God. Sadly, not all churches teach the Word. Find one that emphasizes the Bible and teaches through it.

“. . .you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, . . .”

Second, as they read through the Word, or heard Paul teach, they recognized these were not the opinions of man to be argued with, updated or discarded. Instead, they realized the Bible is in fact, the Word of God given to man. Writing to Timothy, Paul declared the Word of God is inspired and profitable. We all like that word profit, it means we gain from it. When we understand the Bible is of great value, take the time to listen to it, not to argue with God, or try to conform its teaching to fit our lifestyles, we will find that it effectively works in us.

“. . . the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Finally, Paul declares when they heard the Word, it was coupled with faith. They believed God wanted to do exactly what He said and they expected to see those things worked out in their lives. I recently read a tweet that said, “If you are not praying for a miracle you probably won’t get one.” The same idea is true when reading the Word. If you do not believe what God is saying, you are not going to be willing to put it into practice, and you will find yourselves accusing the Word of God of being impotent, instead of effectual.

Allow me to encourage you to approach your Bible as the Word of God, receiving it daily, trusting in its warnings and promises, so you, like the Thessalonians, may find that it has effectively worked in you.

Pastor Jim


  

Personal Devotion 

Zephaniah 1:5
“Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but who also swear by Milcom”

Zephaniah was commissioned by the Lord to warn the people of coming judgment. In order to prepare the people for what was ahead, he explained the reason they were facing judgment. His message was both clear and simple, they must change their ways if they were to avoid what was ahead.

The first infraction the people were guilty of was worshipping the hosts of heavens on their rooftops. In ancient times rooftops were considered a part of the house and were used for family gatherings. It was on a rooftop where Bathsheba bathed, Peter rested and had a vision from heaven, where husbands are exhorted to flee from a contentious wife, and where the people of Judah were practicing idolatry.

Zepheniah’s ministry took place during the reign of King Josiah, who had brought about great reforms in the nations. Much of the idolatry that had plagued Judah for generations had been removed from the public sector. The problem was, while these idols had been removed publicly, they still remained in the private life of the people. God’s judgment would come because public reform was not affecting private living.

We are told the people continued to worship Baal, the sun, moon and stars, and Milcom, the false god of the Ammonites. Essentially, they were turning worship into syncretism by blending the worship of the true God with idols. Tragically, this is a common practice today. Many who claim to be followers of Christ, seem to pick and choose verses they like while ignoring others. By doing so, they are essentially creating a god of their liking, rather than submitting to the God of Scripture. This synchronistic idolatry ultimately caused Judah to turn back from following the Lord. When public commitment does not change private living, we will ultimately turn our backs on the Lord as well. It is in private where the real roots of the Christian life are developed.

What you do with your early mornings will chart the course for your entire day. Jesus rose a long while before daylight, departed from others, and spent time alone with the Father. His life was a pattern set for the rest of us to follow. It is important to begin each day with the Lord, in His Word, allowing Him to remove from your private life anything that does not belong.

Pastor Jim

 

A Beautiful Song 

Ezekiel 33:32
“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”

It seems, for a a portion of Ezekiel’s ministry, he had become quite popular. His use of imagery and his skills as an orator caused many to flock to hear him speak. Rather than be enamored by this sudden popularity, the Lord reminded Ezekiel that while the people might be coming in droves to hear him speak, they were not living out the things they heard. In essence, they had become like the foolish builders in Jesus’ story who built their lives upon the sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

There is great value in listening to a Bible study, and you should attend a church where the teaching grabs your attention. However, hearing the Word is only the first step. If we want to have a healthy and growing relationship with the Lord, we need to take the next step and put things into practice. Those who have a vibrant relationship with the Lord are the ones who allow the Word of God to change the way they think and behave. When reading your Bible or listing to your pastor teach, you should be looking for ways to put the Word into practice in your life.

The purpose of a good sermon is not just to captivate your attention, it must go beyond that and affect your living. Think back to the message you heard last Sunday, how has that changed the way you think about God or how you treat others.

Let’s be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

Pastor Jim

 

I’ll Take The Low Road 

Ezekiel 17:24
“And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.”

The Bible is filled with seemingly paradoxical statements. Here God promises to bring the low high and the high low. The context makes it clear that the low are those who willingly submit themselves to His ways, and the high are those exalt their own opinions above the teaching of the Word of God. James said essentially the same thing when he wrote,

James 4:6 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

In the economy of God, the way up is down. If we desire to experience the life God intends for us, it starts with being willing to humble ourselves under the authority of God and His Word. There is something about the fallen nature of man that causes us to resist authority. None of us likes to be told what to do. If we have given thought to something and determined the best way to accomplish a task, then someone “above us” comes in and tells us to do it differently, we become resistant. Our muscles tighten, our emotions rise, our hearts begin to rebel, and we may even lash out against them, as though somehow our character has been challenged. We not only do this with one another, but we do it with God. It is common for us to know what the Bible says, but to make exceptions for ourselves and our circumstances. We will never experience the life God intends as long as we are unwilling to submit ourselves to Him and His Word.

Deuteronomy 29:19

“. . . and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.”

We cannot follow our own ways and expect to receive the blessing of God. It is time for us to take the low road of submission to God, to reach the height of living.

Pastor Jim

 

Love And Obey

2 John 1:6
“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”

Scripture teaches, the most important of all graces is love. Jesus said it was the first of the commandments, the proof of our relationship with Him, and our most effective witnessing tool. Paul defined love in first Corinthians 13, and declared that love will outlast time. In our world, love is a very common subject, admittedly difficult to define. I think it is important we keep in mind, while the chief thing is love, the chief love, is love for God. John helps us to understand what love for God actually looks like.

“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”

Simply put, if we love God we will do what He says. This is not something John made up because it sounded good in a letter, but was a lesson he had learned from Jesus.

John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

John 15:10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

The truest evidence of love is obedience. Sadly, we all know those who claim to have a passionate love for Christ, yet have no desire to do the things that please Him. That is the height of inconsistency. Love will always evidence itself by seeking to please the one loved. When my children were little, I would take them out to shop for birthday presents for their mother. They always ended up in the toy section and wanted to purchase her some sort of action hero. Because of their immaturity, they could only think of what would make them happy. As they have grown, I no longer make them buy gifts for mom, they choose to go out on their own, and purchase things that they know she will enjoy. In fact, it has become hard to outdo them, because they love their mom so much and want to give what will please her most.

What pleases God, is not great sacrifice, as much as simple obedience. When we read the Bible and do what it says, we are expressing a love much greater than ONLY singing praises, or declaring empty words.

1 Samuel 15:22 “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…”

Pastor Jim

 

Rebel Without A Cause 

Ezekiel 2:8
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Ezekiel played a pivotal role in the history of Israel. His ministry took place during the seventy years of captivity. It was, no doubt, largely responsible for motivating the generation that would renounce idolatry and repatriate the land. Although he was used in a mighty way, the early chapters reveal that his ministry was difficult. He faced the most difficult opposition that a missionary will ever face, hardened hearts. He was told in advance that the people were rebellious, impudent, stubborn; their hearts were as hard as flint stone. Ezekiel was also given the secret to a successful ministry among the hardhearted. He was told,

But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious…”

The rebellion of the people was not used as an excuse for Ezekiel to disobey God. Instead, their hardheartedness made his obedience all the more critical. Often, the reason we are less than faithful in ministry is because of the difficulty of the task. We start out with a sense of calling, which is soon overshadowed by the opposition we face. In many cases, the difficulty causes us to give up, surrender, retreat, or at least hit the pause button, hoping things will get easier.

Ezekiel sets an important example for all of us. He was a man who knew the difficulty he faced required a deeper commitment to faithfulness. He did not let the rebellion of the people justify his rebellion against the call of God. If you are facing hard hearts in your attempts to share Christ with others, the solution is not to give up. Resolve to seek strength from the Lord, pray more specifically for the lost, and continue your efforts to win souls for the kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

Self-Willed 

Jeremiah 43:4
“So Johanan the son of Kareah, all the captains of the forces, and all the people would not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah.”

After the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar’s forces, the inhabitants of Judah began to look to Egypt as a place of refuge. Jeremiah warned them that fleeing to Pharaoh would result in further death and destruction. The same people who refused to listen when the prophet told them to willingly go to Babylon, are the people who are now fleeing to Egypt. On the one hand, the Word of God told them to go, on the other, it told them to stay. In both cases they chose to disobey. It is not the commands of God that are the problem, but the will of men. Disobedience is always driven by self-will.

Scripture is filled with examples of people choosing to place their will above the will of God. We find Jacob wanting his brothers things, so he lies, cheats, swindles and steals to get it. We read of the multitude of Israel erecting false gods, looking for a leader who will lead them back to Israel, and refusing to enter the promised land. We recall men like Samson who continued to pursue the lust of his flesh to his own demise, or Saul who initially refused to accept the position of king and later refused to let it go. The details may vary, but the one constant in every case of disobedience is placing self-will above the will of God. We often do this because we are driven by fear, misunderstanding, or a lack of trust.

The inhabitants of Judah could not process how staying in Jerusalem and submitting themselves under Babylonian rule could ever be a good idea. They had seen Nebuchadnezzar’s forces come multiple times over a period of 15 years, taking waves of people as prisoners of war. What they failed to realize was the cause of the fall in the first place; their unwillingness to submit to the authority of God and His word. They were developing a pattern of living however they wanted, then blaming God for the outcome. As time unfolds, the command of God will make perfect sense. It would not be long before Pharaoh and his forces were defeated and those who allied themselves with Egypt became the enemies of Babylon.

Don’t allow your inability to understand the ways of God limit you from being willing to do what His word says.

Pastor Jim