Tuesday, December 31, 2013

God Judges The Heart

 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
10. But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.  I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”  (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

God judges on two levels; the action and the secret motive that leads to the action.  This was why Jesus rarely seemed to be too concerned about external behavior.  He was trying to get to the source of the problem.  Are you frustrated because you are dwelling on external issues without allowing God to change the heart?  Permit God to deal with the root (the heart) and the surface issues will take care of themselves.


Are You Worried About Your Reputation?

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
 and your judgment as the noonday (Psalms 37:6 NASB). 

The great commentator Matthew Henry once wrote, “If we are careful to keep a good conscience, we may leave it to God to take care of our reputation.”  We get it wrong.  We have a tendency to try and maintain our reputation and are tempted to do things that defile our conscience.  Henry goes further and says, "he will make it clear that you are honorable, and that is honor enough".  If for some sovereign reason God does not share that honor broadly, as long as you and God know, that is always enough. You and Him are always a majority.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

If You Pray His Word, You Will Be Heard

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.   And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (I John 5:14).

     Who does not want to get more of their prayers answered?  Is there a way to ensure this will happen?  To give credit where it is due, the topic and many of the thoughts came from a message preached by my Pastor, John Freel of Messiah Christian Church in Richmond, Virginia.   I have placed a link to the full message at the end of the article.
     From our scriptural reference, there are two things that sort of leap out off of the page. First, if we ask according to his will, He hears us.  And if He hears us, He will grant our requests.  That seems nice and tidy.  Until we think of that little word with huge implications.  "If" we ask according to His will.  The "64 Thousand Dollar Question" (I know I am dating myself) is how do you determine if what you are asking for is God's will?

David Got It Right
      In I Chronicles 17, the narrative illustrates one factor in discerning God's will, being able to take correction.  David had in his heart to build a house for the Lord.  And at first he got human encouragement from the prophet Nathan.  But then Nathan received a different message from the Lord. “Go and tell David My servant, ‘Thus says the Lord, “You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in” (I Chronicles 17:4).  Nathan continued and said, ... Moreover, I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you (v. 10).  David wanted to build God a house, but God planned to build David a house through his son Solomon.  With God, most every correction has an intended blessing.  God knows how to do it better than we do.
            How did David respond?  “Now, O Lord, let the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as You have spoken” (v. 23).  David submitted to the will of God.  Prayer is not trying to change God’s mind, but agreeing with His intended purposes.  David prayed God’s Word, and as verified by biblical history, God heard and granted his request. 

The Pitfall, Our Own Understanding
The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary; The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).  Mary responded to the angel by saying, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v.34)  Mary was perplexed and confused as most people would have been.  But doubt does not have to be spiritually fatal.  Mary listened to Gabriel’s explanation of how it would happen.  The angel lended credibility to his account by referring to how her relative Elizabeth had been enabled by God to conceive in her old age (v. 35-36). 
            At this junction Mary must have responded in her heart similar to the writer of the book of Proverbs, Trust in the Lord with all your heart
 And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight (Proverb 3:5-6 NASB).  She did not let her own understanding become her stumbling block and allowed the angel of the Lord to illuminate her path.  God wants to reveal His will to us more than we want to hear it.
            The angel sensing her rising faith brings the clincher.  “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:31 NASB).  Mary concluded that, as incredible as it seemed according to the laws of nature, this was God’s will for her life.  Mary replied to Gabriel.  ...“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word...” (v.38).  Mary prayed God’s Word and she was heard, and you all know the rest of the story.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Christ Our Greatest Need

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33 NKJV).

            If I am really honest I have to admit that sometimes I want what I don’t really need, and what I need I do not want.  Such is the state of human nature.  We can identify with the Apostle Paul when he said, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24 NKJV) This tendency can lead away us from seeking His kingdom first, even when the things we pursue are legitimate or good in nature.
            Most of us are needy people. We want to have our needs met and there is nothing innately wrong with this.  But it does not start with us but Him (Christ).  In congregations today many are clamoring for the pastor to meet their needs.  Alistair Begg, the Pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio has said that, “preachers are besieged today to begin their sermons with man and his need rather than God and His glory.”  It is not so much that one is good and the other bad.  It is the order of importance we place on these that can lead us astray.  Begg further commented “preaching today has become more concerned with wholeness not holiness.”  Pastor and author John MacArthur writes;
           “the goal of the Christian life is not to see our needs met or to be
            satisfied, but to see God satisfied. The Christian Church has traditionally
            dwelt on the mortification of the desires of the flesh and on crucifying
            the needs of the self in the pursuit of Christ-likeness.  Today we have
            bought into this need or self-centered theology which has lead us to a 
            man-centered salvation and sanctification rather than a Christ-centered one .”

            The critical point is where we start in our discussion in relation to God’s glory and man’s wholeness.  If we start with the needs of man we allow our circumstances or the culture to determine our theology and our corresponding preaching rather than the Bible.  Those of us who preach, teach, or write are not called first and foremost to meet people’s wishes but to give, as much as possible, a clear exposition of the full counsel of God, the Bible.  And the key element that enables us to focus on God and not man is our motivation for doing what we do.  Remember Jesus was never motivated totally by need but by the will of the Father.  Jesus only did what He saw the father doing (John 5:19).  When the crowds were waiting for a great revival meeting Jesus was off to a new location.  When the multitudes were clamoring for his presence he slipped off to a quiet place to commune with His Father.  Was he insensitive to the requests of His seekers?  No! He understood that only if he kept his focus on what he saw His Father doing, would He ultimately meet the cries of His followers. But not in the manner or timeframe anticipated by the people and not by placating needs that were really only wants in disguise.
            How could Jesus pull this off?  He could do it because He was not dependent on the applause of people.  Many years ago James S. Stewart, the Scottish Presbyterian minister said, “The disease of contemporary preaching is its search for popularity.”  Jesus taught His disciples to seek to serve instead of being served and look past their own desires to see a needy world.  Yes, God does want to meet our legitimate needs but in His time and way.  A.W. Tozer put it in perspective when he said, “Faith looks out instead of in---and the whole of life falls into line.”  If we seek God first and His Kingdom needs, He will meet all our earthly needs but not vice versa.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12

            Unfulfilled expectations can sap you of your spiritual stamina and deplete your ability to persevere in trusting God.  Trying to live by faith without hope is like endeavoring to drive a carriage without a horse.  You can crack the reins but you are not going anywhere.  You are just going through the motions.
            If you have been a believer very long, no doubt you have had experiences where heavenly vision did not translate into an earthly reality.  You were sure that you had heard from God, but the promise from Him did not seem to come to fruition.  It may be possible that you just misread God, but it could be that the promise was from God but you assumed a timing for it’s fulfillment.  The promise may have been genuine but you assigned a time for God to act based on your circumstances or what seemed reasonable to you.  As we read our Bible we can see that God’s timing does not always coincide with ours.  Many people in God’s Word, such as Abraham, had to wait, humanly speaking, past realistic periods of time to receive the promise.
            Most people in the USA have tasted a piece of Hersey’s chocolate. Hershey Chocolate Company was founded by Milton Hershey.  In 1876 Hershey started a candy business in Philadelphia, but despite six years of hard work, it failed.  He moved to New York City and started another business based on caramel.  It also failed.  He moved back to his native central Pennsylvania and started another caramel-based business.  This time it was successful.  He used the proceeds from this enterprise to perfect (taking years of trial and error) a process for making milk chocolate and mass-producing it. And the rest is history.
            What if Milton Hershey had stopped after his first or second failure?  The world would never have known the Hershey’s Kiss, not to mention many acts of philanthropy.  He would have died an obscure and unknown man.  What if the patriarch Abraham had not persisted in believing God past the biological possibility of conceiving the son of the promise? How might the history of God’s people been different?  How will our lives be different if we continue to believe God in spite of failure, disappointment, and delay?
            As they say in the theatrical world, it ain’t  over until the fat lady sings.  On many occasions in God’s kingdom, it isn’t over even when the fat lady sings.  It only over when God says it’s over.