MY STRUGGLE WITH OBEDIENCE…

I SAMUEL 15:22-23: “But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Does anyone else struggle with obedience? The story of Saul’s disobedience is imprinted on my heart and mind. I remember hearing this story as a child as my Sunday School Teacher laid it out on flannel-graph. And, I have preached on this text multiple times.

Yet – I still struggle with obedience!

Why do I struggle? It is the same reason that everyone struggles with obedience. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak. There are two things that we are all born with. The first is a sinful nature. The second is a Ph.D. in rationalization. When these two things get together the struggle with obedience becomes an all-out battle!

When I read God’s Word my spirit rejoices. Yet, my old man is ready to begin making his case for adjusting God’s command to fit the situation. This is what happened to Saul. God had commanded Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites for their refusal to help the children of Israel. Saul was also commanded to destroy all the plunder, including all the livestock and wealth they uncovered.

I don’t know about you, but this seems rather harsh. This type of judgment is alien to our New Testament concept of ethics and conduct. Yet, in the Old Testament God used the sword of Israel as His instrument of judgment against ungodly nations. His command to Saul and the army of Israel was not to be adjusted to their preference. God’s command was to be obeyed!

We know how the story goes. God tells Samuel about Saul’s disobedience. When Samuel approaches Saul he hears the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle. Samuel then confronts Saul about his disobedience and Saul defends his actions. In fact, Saul boasted of his obedience to Samuel.

  • “When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!… It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.” 1 Samuel‬ ‭15:13, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Saul began to justify his disobedience to Samuel. After all, he was going to use the sheep, goats, and cattle to worship the Lord. It did not make any sense to destroy these valuable resources. Saul convinced himself that he had obeyed the Lord. Self-justification is a powerful tool that can easily lead us astray. When Samuel pressed Saul further he then blamed his soldiers for his disobedience.

Self-justification always leads to finger-pointing.

  • “Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?” “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 1 Samuel‬ ‭15:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here is what I need to understand about obedience. Obedience is what the Lord desires from my life. Obedience is a natural response of my spirit but an unnatural response to my old nature. There will always be a struggle when I am faced with obedience. The temptation I will face is to justify bending God’s commands to fit my personal preferences and pointing the finger at others when I fail.

Obedience is a call that I am incapable of fulfilling in my own strength!

Paul recognized this and wrote about this struggle in his epistles

  • “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians‬ ‭5:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

When Saul failed to obey the Lord, when I fail to obey the Lord, it is for this very same reason. If I walk after the desires of my sinful nature I will fail. If I let the Holy Spirit empower me and guide me I will experience victory. What I lack in my personal strength and good intentions God supplies with the power of His Spirit within me!

  • “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians‬ ‭2:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

My struggle with obedience will always be a struggle until I acknowledge the struggle and receive God’s provision. Peter denied Jesus three times as he struggled to obey. Yet, the same Peter stood before thousands to give testimony of the risen Christ. What was the difference? It was the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through Peter.

The power of God working within us to obey His commands is the Holy Spirit!

Suddenly obedience becomes a simple choice. Walk in the light of my own wisdom and reasoning – failure. Walk in the wisdom that is from above in the power of the Holy Spirit – success. One is a struggle, the other is a gift. I can struggle my way through life and leave a path of broken promises and disappointment or I can be lifted up and empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life on the pathway of obedience.

The choice is simple and the choice is mine!

  • “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Romans‬ ‭8:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, this morning, help me to lay down my struggle with obedience and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every part of my life.

  • “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT DOES REAL REVIVAL LOOK LIKE?

ACTS 4:29-35: “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: We need revival in the church today! We need a great awakening in America! As we watch our culture slip further and further away from God – only a true Holy Spirit revival can save us.

What does Real Revival look like?

If you have studied any of the true revivals of the past you will note some important similarities that can be gleaned. Although each great awakening of the church took place in different times, different cultures, and even took on different expressions, there were three key elements that we can identify that marked it as a Real Revival.

Before we look at these three elements, it is important to note what Real Revival is not. It is not a weekend of meetings when we invite a special guest evangelist to our church. While this may yield some local fruit, it does not constitute real revival. Real Revival cannot be scheduled. It is not focused upon one individual or a group of special meetings.

Real Revival is the sovereign move of the Holy Spirit within the church!

So what are the three elements that we can identify that are common in a Real Revival of the church? They are prayer, sacrificial love, and the proclamation of the Gospel! We see each of these elements in this account in the book of Acts and every sovereign move of God in church history!

The first element is prayer! Throughout the Scriptures, and church history, revival among God’s people have always begun when God’s people have turned their hearts toward God in true repentance and prayer! When the church turns its heart toward God in prayer – God always responds!

  • “When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—”. Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭4:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The prayer that brings revival is the united cry of God’s people. It is when the church turns its heart toward God in true repentance, surrender, and worship. The apostles had just been threatened by the Jewish leaders. This new church was beginning to face opposition, which would soon turn into persecution. When the apostles shared these threats with the church – the church responded in united prayer. And, when they prayed – God responded!

  • “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”. Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭4:29-31‬a ‭NLT‬‬

Over the past 50 years, there have been waves of renewal that have flowed through the church. However, the last great awakening was what we can identify as the “Jesus Movement” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This move of God changed an entire generation. I was a product of this revival. We did not have Christian music, live multi-media presentations, and there were no Christian superstars. Hundreds, yes thousands of young people met several times a week to simply join in worship, prayer, and the study of God’s Word. I can remember our times of prayer vividly. They were filled with God’s presence and power.

The second element that can be identified is that of sacrificial love. When God’s Spirit is truly moving in revival, hearts are directed toward others. The question is not – “How will I be blessed?” The question becomes – “How can I become a blessing to others?” This is what took place in this young church in Jerusalem!

  • “All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭4:32-35‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This was not the beginning of a communistic system. It was the natural expression of the love of God being poured out upon His people. When God’s love is poured out in revival it turns our hearts toward His heart. God is a giver! Giving, generosity, the desire to bless others, is the natural expression of a heart that is captured by Real Revival. Our prayer begins to be focused upon the needs of others. And, our resources are released from our grip of need and fear in an act of trust in the Lord and true generosity!

The final element of Real Revival is a refocusing of the church on its true mission! The mission of the church is not to have the largest facility, the best programs, or the most dynamic worship team. The mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel and to make disciples. The Jewish leaders, cooperating with the agenda of the enemy, were focused on stopping this from happening. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, was focused on releasing God’s people to complete His call!

  • “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭4:29-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Note what they prayed. They asked for boldness to preach God’s Word. They asked for miraculous signs to be done as a witness to the power of the name of Jesus. Their prayers were directed toward the harvest of souls, not the comfort of the saved. And, when they joined in this prayer of agreement with the heart of God they were met with Real Revival! From the threats of those who opposed them, they responded with acts of love and a renewed proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with great boldness!

This is what Real Revival looks like!

We need Real Revival in the church today! I need Real Revival in my heart today! Lord, turn my heart toward You in sincere repentance and prayer, acts of unselfish love, and a renewed calling to reach this world for Jesus Christ! Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your church again today.

Bring a mighty wave of Real Revival to our land.

In Jesus Name!

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IS MY HEART IN TUNE?

PSALMS 125:4: “O Lord, do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Is my heart in tune with the Lord? Am I focused on things above or on the things of this earth? At the end of the day have I been seeking first His Kingdom or mine?

I have played guitar since my days in college. I picked it up one Summer break to give me more options in ministry the next year. Most of the time I would sing or lead worship by myself. The interesting thing about a guitar is that you can tune it to itself and still be out of tune at the same time. When you are playing solo there is no point of reference as to whether you are in tune or out of tune, unless you tune to a pitch pipe or a piano.

This does not affect the results when you are flying solo. All it does is change the key you are playing in or singing in. However, if you try to play with anyone else you quickly will discover whether you are flat or sharp. This is true in life. We can convince ourselves that our hearts are in tune with the Lord while we are stubbornly pursuing our own path. It is only when we lay our heart before God’s Word that we find whether we are really in tune!

The most difficult area of discernment in life is to distinguish between the thoughts and the intents of the heart. In reality, we are not able to do this. Our emotions cloud our perspective. We may have been tuning our hearts to ourselves so long that we have become accustomed to the altered key that we find ourselves living in. We need a pitch pipe to determine if we are really in tune with the Lord!

  • “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Wouldn’t you be skeptical of a surgeon who was preparing to do surgery with a butter knife? Why are we so easy to consult the opinion of others and neglect consulting the Word of God? Could it be that we know how powerful God’s Word actually is? God’s Word is the only thing that can discern, expose, and heal our wayward hearts. Yet, just as a surgeon cannot perform surgery on an unwilling patient, so God’s Word cannot reveal the true condition of an unwilling and unsurrendered heart.

If I want my heart to be tuned to God’s heart, I must align my heart to His Word. When Jesus was asked by His disciples to teach them how to pray the first thing He instructed them to do was say,

  • “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭6:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus was instructing His disciples (and us) to begin prayer by tuning our hearts! We tune our hearts to the Lord when we begin with reverence and worship – “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” We fine-tune our hearts when we begin to align our desires to His desires – “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

My heart is not tuned to the Lord by self-tuning against my own life and desires. My heart is not tuned to the Lord by tuning my heart with others who themselves may be out of tune. You could actually create an entire band that is playing out of key. My heart is tuned when I surrender my heart in worship, when I lay my personal will at the altar, and when I pick up my cross and begin to follow Jesus – and HIS WORD!

GOD’S WORD IS THE TUNING FORK FOR MY LIFE!

Lord, this morning I want to be in tune with you. I am tired of living out of key. I want my life to be in harmony with Your will and desires. I want to join in the heavenly choir surrounding Your throne in praise.

This morning – “Thy will be done, in me, as it is in heaven!”

In Jesus Name!

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REMEMBER GOD’S FAITHFULNESS!

PSALMS 121:1-8: “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” NLT‬‬

OBSERVATION: Do I daily, moment by moment, remember God’s faithfulness? Is my faith anchored in a hope that is founded upon His great love? Am I aware of His presence each and every moment of my life?

Psalm 121 is known as a Song of Ascent. It was one of the Psalms that was sung and recited as those Jews who lived away from Jerusalem traveled to the Temple for the great feasts. As they looked forward with anticipation of celebrating the great feasts of the Lord they would sing and recount His faithfulness in their lives. They would also sing and recall their failures to trust in His love and faithfulness.

This Psalm begins with great contrast. In a cursory reading, one could miss it entirely. In fact, for years I would sing the chorus that was written from this Psalm and think of looking to the mountains as one who would admire the handiwork of God’s hands. Although this is a worthy thing to do, it is not what the Psalmist intended. When the Psalmist says – “I look to the mountains – does my help come from there?”, he was remembering Israel’s sin of worshipping in the high places.

The opening question was – “Who are you going to trust?”

This is the question we all must face as we begin each day of our lives. It does not matter whether you have been walking with Jesus for a few days or an entire lifetime. Each day begins with this question. Today – will I put my trust fully in the Lord? Today – will I remember His faithfulness in my life? Today – will I live a life that is filled with faith, hope, and love? Will we join the Psalmist as he declares –

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!”

The contrast could not be any clearer. We can put our trust in the works of man’s (or our) hands, or we can put our trust in the one who created all things. The choice is so obvious. Why do we struggle so much with it? It is because to put our trust in the Lord we must exercise faith. Faith is established upon what God has done and it is anchored in what He has promised He will do.

It is the in-between of faith that we struggle with.

We can recount what He has done. Yet, during a difficult situation, we are unable to see what He is doing. Faith is the only thing that gives us insight into God’s actions in our life during these times. So, the Psalmist reminds us that God is always at work – especially when we do not see Him working!

  • “He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.”

Faith understands that God is always working on our behalf. He never falls asleep on the job. He is always watching over HIs people. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Each night there is a day coming. We do not see it but it is real nonetheless. Such it is with God’s faithful care for our lives.

  • “The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.”

Faith must believe that He is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. This means that those who place their trust in the Lord will not be disappointed, They will not be burned by the circumstances of life. God will both protect them and redeem them. He is working all things toward His good purpose for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose!

  • “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”

Faith sustains us through the entirety of our life. It brings us to salvation, guides us through sanctification, and is culminated in our full redemption (body, soul, and spirit)! Faith, in other words, takes us from life to life – both now and forever. It daily reminds us that God is not done with us yet. The things that He has promised are being worked out in our lives through faith. What the enemy has meant for evil He is redeeming and transforming into good. He is keeping watch over us both now and forever!

FAITH REMINDS US – GOD IS FAITHFUL, ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

Lord, this morning I choose to remember Your faithfulness. I choose to put my trust in You and You alone! Your Word says the just shall live by faith. Grant me the grace walk in faith today as I recall and remember Your faithfulness. Thank you for keeping watch over me – both now and forevermore!

In Jesus Name!

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IS SPIRITUAL WARFARE REAL?

JUDGES 5:19-20: “The kings of Canaan came and fought, at Taanach near Megiddo’s springs, but they carried off no silver treasures. The stars fought from heaven. The stars in their orbits fought against Sisera.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Is there a spiritual reality that we cannot see? When we are going through a battle in life is there a level of this struggle taking place that is beyond us? When we read about principalities and powers in high places is this merely figurative language or is there something happening in the heavenlies? Was Deborah simply being poetic when she sang about the stars fighing from heaven, or was she tapping into the true reality?

There are many today who try to demystify the Bible. They do not believe in the miraculous power of God and look for natural explanations to dismiss every reference to the supernatural. On the other hand, some take these references to the extreme and begin to develop fanciful doctrines that have no basis in a sound exegesis of the Scriptures. Is there a balanced approach to understand spiritual warfare?

If the enemy of our souls cannot keep us from trusting in the Scriptures he will then try to move us to extreme views and doctrines of men. He knows that this will render our faith ineffective and keep us moving in the wrong direction. Such is the case with spiritual warfare. The most common tendency is a preoccupation with the enemy himself. Believers give Satan far too much credit and far too much power with their imbalanced preoccupations.

How do we develop a balanced view of spiritual warfare? First, we must acknowledge that it exists. Second, we must understand what part we play in the battle. Deborah, in her song, keeps these two roles separated the way they should be. There was a battle taking place on the ground with Barak, his troops, and the armies of Sisera. And, there was a battle taking place in the heavenlies among the principalities and powers of God’s forces and Satan’s forces. Paul echoes this reality in his epistle to the Ephesians.

  • “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we stop there we can develop all sorts of crazy doctrines on how we engage in this spiritual battle. We can become so preoccupied with the spiritual realm that we lay down our armor and forget to engage our faith in the real battle. Rest assured, the spiritual battle is real, but we, like Barak’s army, are called to engage in this battle here on earth using the weapons we have been given. What are these weapons?

  • “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:14-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let’s review our armor. Truth, the Gospel of peace, faith, assurance of salvation, the Word of God, and prayer in the Spirit! All of these are weapons we use to fight the battle here on earth. We are to proclaim the truth, preach the Gospel, persevere in faith, walk in the assurance of our salvation and eternal life, anchor our lives on the Word of God, and be faithful in prayer and intercession. In Jesus’ ministry, we only see one time when He went head to head with Satan. The rest of the time He directed all of His attention and battle here on earth!

Paul again gives us insight into this battle when he writes,

  • “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There is a spiritual battle going on all around us. God has His angelic hosts standing up for us in the heavenlies, and He has equipped us with every spiritual gift and blessing we need to engage in this battle here on earth (see Daniel 10:12-14). Our call is to focus on the battle at hand and trust God to carry on the battle in the heavenlies. The goal of our battle is to bring people to faith in Christ – “We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

As we engage in the battle of faith each day we can rest assured that God is doing His part. In reality, in Christ, we know the battle has already been won. The battle continues because God is still calling sons and daughters to faith. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to faith in His beloved Son. This is our battle. This is the purpose of our warfare. This is the reason we have been given the armor of God.

We have not been called to take over governments and nations.

We have not been called to assist the angels in the heavenlies.

We have been called to reach lives and hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Lord, give me a clear understanding of the battle at hand. Help me to wake up each morning and put on the full armor of God. May I walk in truth, be always ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, persevere in obedience through faith, walk in the assurance of salvation, stand fast on the Word of God, and continue diligently in prayer – until You return!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Judges | 1 Comment

AM I LYING TO MYSELF?

PSALM 119:29: “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Today we live in a world of relativism. Relativism is defined in the following way.

Relativism: “The doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Let’s put it in street terms. I can believe what I want. Truth is not absolute. Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth. It does not depend on facts. My truth depends on how I feel, where I live, what I desire, or what society says I should be. I can pick and choose truth from a menu, much like picking a meal at a smorgasbord restaurant.

Truth is not absolute – it is relative.

This is all fine and good at first glance. It creates a truth that is comfortable and fits me perfectly. I can adjust my truth when I feel like it and when the occasion demands it. I don’t have to worry about what others view as reality because they have the same opportunity as I do. At first glance, this seems very attractive, unless…

The truth I have embraced is really a lie!

If I am embracing a lie, if my truth is actually a falsehood, it will ultimately lead me to a place of disappointment, frustration, and destruction. As I buy into the social construct of relativism I find myself both deceived by a non-truth and I begin to lie to myself. I convince myself that my truth is real while it is merely a lie dressed up in my own making. I am headed for an emotional and spiritual cliff and I am not even aware of it.

During this pandemic we have heard a phrase so often it has become a part of our vocabulary. “Follow the science!” Yet, this too has been tainted by relativism. Those who say this do not do what they say. Our politicians and those in places of authority are not following the science, they are following the reality or definition of it that fits their narrative and personal agendas. The populace is lost in an ever-changing list of rules and regulations that are more emotionally driven than scientifically determined.

Science: “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Albert Einstien was one of the greatest scientists that ever lived. When he postulated the theory of relativity the scientific community mocked him. He was blocked from becoming a professor and began his career as a patent clerk. During these years he continued to write and explore his theories. Yet, they were only theories, and not science, until he was able to prove them absolutely with mathematics. Albert Einstein understood that truth was not relative, it was absolute. If it was true it could be proved and could not be altered!

Truth is absolute because it comes from a Creator. Science does not create truth it discovers the truth that already exists. This truth does not change. God does not change. God is not relative. God is absolute. If I choose to buy into false science and world views I find myself lying to myself and others. God loved us so much that He gave us both an intellect to explore truth, a world filled with His wonder, and the written Word of God as our guide.

The Psalmist declares,

  • “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.”

This sounds like a pretty good prayer for us today!

Lord, keep me from the deception of relativism. Keep me from lying to myself. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon me and allow me the privilege of discovering and knowing your truth. May I diligently search Your Word for every situation and for every decision that I make in my life? Keep me by Your Word for Your Word is the absolute expression of Your love!

In Jesus Name!

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THE KEY TO ANSWERED PRAYER…

JOHN 15:7-8: “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever hungered for a deeper prayer life? Would you like to see your prayers powerfully answered each time? Why were Jesus’ prayers always answered?

The key to answered prayer is not as difficult to discover as some may think.

Jesus’ disciples watched Jesus daily perform miracles. They witnessed Jesus breaking away to be alone in prayer with the Father. When He returned, they watched as He cast out demons, healed the sick, and fed thousands. At different times they would cry out – “Lord, increase our faith!”, and “Lord, teach us to pray!”. They wanted to understand the key to Jesus’ prayer life.

If we are all honest we have had times when our prayers were not answered. James tells us that many times we pray incorrectly, only to focus on our passions and needs. Whatever the case, we all have missed the mark in prayer. We have witnessed God’s hand in powerful answers to our prayers and we have shared in the disappointment of prayers that have seemed to go unanswered. Why is this?

In John chapter 15 Jesus uses the example of the vine and the branches to explain our relationship with the Father through Him. Jesus is the vine, the Father is the vine keeper, and we are the branches. The purpose of the vine is to bear fruit. The Father prunes the branches so that the dead, unproductive parts of the vine, are removed and the healthy stems can flourish. Here is where we begin to understand the key to answered prayer.

God uses His Word to prune our lives!

  • “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Note that Jesus proclaims that it was the message He had given the disciples that had been used by the Father to prune their lives. Jesus came to proclaim and to clarify the will of the Father. Many times He said, “You have heard…but I say unto you…”. Life is a journey that we enter without a map. We can wander endlessly relying on trial and error, only to find ourselves hopelessly lost. Or, we can use that map of life that we have been given to lead us to our divine destiny.

This is true in life and it is true in prayer!

So many times we miss the prerequisites of our faith. These are not works that unlock God’s provision. Rather, they are the positioning of our hearts so that we can receive God’s grace and be transformed by the Spirit of God. There is a big difference between the two. One relies on our human effort. The other falls fully upon the grace and mercy of God! Jesus calls us to the latter.

  • “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”

The question that arises is – “How do I abide in God’s Word?” Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you…”. So, abiding in God’s Word has two components. We must abide in Jesus (in His love, His presence) before we can abide in His Word. God’s Word is never meant to be a textbook of promise verses through which we manipulate God to do what we desire. God’s Word is given as the expression of God’s love to us that we are meant to meditate upon and allow to change us from the inside out!

  • “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we read God’s Word as His love letter to us, as we allow it to speak to our hearts, it brings us to a place of repentance, change, and then action. God’s Word alone can discern between the thoughts and intentions of our heart. When we are laid bare before the Lord through His Word we feel the loving hand of the vine keeper pruning us so that we can be fruitful in our lives and our prayers. Our focus is turned heavenward. Our requests become the echo of His heart rather than the misguided requests of our selfishness. And, as we abide in this position of prayer we realize that abiding in His Word is not complete without a tangible response.

  • “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you…You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John‬ ‭15:9-12, 16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, let’s sum it all up. As we abide in Jesus Christ we abide in the Father’s love. The Father, who loves us, prunes our hearts through His Word. As we position our lives under His mercy and grace our hearts and motives are transformed by His Word. We grow in our communion and fellowship with God through His Word and the Holy Spirit and we respond with obedience to His commands. As our hearts are transformed we realize that the greatest call we have is to love God and love others. Our prayers begin to turn heavenward and become more intercession for others than supplication for ourselves. And, we find ourselves agreeing with God’s divine plan and seeing His Kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven.

We begin to see God’s power working as we agree with His purposes in our prayers! We discover the key to answered prayer!

Lord, forgive me for the many times that my prayer life has been self-centered. May my heart be captured by Your Word, Your love, and Your divine purposes. May I begin to pray in agreement with Your will and by Your direction? Help me to produce fruit, lasting fruit, so that I can bring glory to Your Name!

In Jesus Name!

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JESUS HATES DEATH!

JOHN 11:33-37: “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever wondered how Jesus feels about death? Have you ever considered the depth of anguish that takes place in His heart when one of His creation dies? In John’s Gospel, we get some insight into Jesus’ heart regarding death.

Jesus was a relational person. He was not simply God walking among us, teaching us, and demanding that we obey Him. He loved His family and was a dear friend to many. One such close friendship was between Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus had spent time with them in their home and loved them very much.

When Lazarus was sick, Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus. They did not demand anything of Jesus, but they knew as such a close friend He would want to know. Jesus could have run to their aid. However, the text says that He remained where He was for a couple of days and then went to see them.

  • “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” John‬ ‭11:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A close examination of the text also reveals some information that at first is a bit troubling. Jesus knew that Lazarus would die. In fact, Lazarus was probably already dead by the time the messengers brought word to Jesus. It is believed that Jesus was about a day’s journey from their home. If we add a day for the messengers to get to Jesus, two days to delay, and then a day to travel to his home. This explains why, when Jesus finally traveled to their home, Martha told Jesus that Lazarus had been dead for four days.

Why did Jesus wait an additional two days before traveling to see his dear friends? Jesus knew Lazarus was dead but He also knew that God wanted to use this situation as a public example that the Son of God had power over death. By waiting the extra two days there would be no question that Lazarus was truly dead and his being raised from the dead was a miracle that could not be disputed. Jesus went to fulfill the Father’s plan to display His glory through His Son!

  • “But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John‬ ‭11:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As Jesus came near to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus’ home, Martha came out to meet Him. She cried – “Lord, if you only would have been here my brother would still be alive.” After this, Mary came to Jesus and said the same thing. Mary had come weeping and she was followed by many mourners who were wailing in sorrow behind her. When Jesus saw this, and as He grasped the depth of their sorrow, something strange is recorded.

  • “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

Where was Jesus’ compassion? Where was Jesus’ understanding? Why was He filled with such deep anger? The answer is,

JESUS HATES DEATH!

Jesus saw what death does to the living. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but when He saw the gripping sorrow of Mary and those accompanying her He was filled with righteous indignation against the works of Satan, the author of sin and death! Death is antithetical to Jesus. Jesus came so that we might experience life, and life to its fullest!

  • “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus was so overcome with this righteous anger, He was so moved by the sorrow that filled the hearts of those He loved, that as He looked upon them it is recorded,

  • “Then Jesus wept.” ‭‭John‬ ‭11:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus loves us so much that He came to conquer the power of death through His sacrificial death on the cross. He endured the full wrath of God against sin for us so that we could enter into the full blessing of life eternal with Him! Jesus hates death! Jesus expressed His righteous anger against death when He looked toward the place where they had buried Lazarus and cried,

  • “…Lazarus, come out!” John‬ ‭11:43‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Yet, Jesus does not just hate death in its final sense. Jesus hates everything that kills and destroys the divine purposes of the Father in us. His teaching, His commands, His life, and His example were given to us so that we could experience life on every level. When people reject the words of Jesus they are embracing a culture of death. Jesus came to defeat death on every level!

  • “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭NLT
  • “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John‬ ‭8:31-32, 36‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

The gift of eternal life is not something that takes place when we die. It is something we receive when we believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. His life is given so that we can have life as God intended. The thief, the enemy of our souls loves death. Jesus came to give us life. When we walk in the light of His truth we walk in the light of His life. Jesus paid it all so that we could live life to the fullest and experience eternal life!

JESUS HATES DEATH!

JESUS GIVES LIFE!

GIVE YOUR HEART TO JESUS – AND LIVE!

In Jesus Name!

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DEAR WORSHIP LEADER…

PSALMS 107:41-43: “But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Dear Worship Leader…

Before I begin my thoughts I want to make two very important statements. First, I love to worship the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Second, I love worship leaders who devote themselves each week to leading God’s people to the throne of grace to offer praise, worship, and experience the presence of God. The following comments must be weighed by these two statements.

There are two statements that I would like to ask worship leaders to think about. The first is,

“We need to get used to worshipping the Lord because when we get to heaven we will be worshipping at His throne 24/7.”

This first statement shows the passion of the worship leader for what they are doing. However, it lacks a true Biblical basis in its premise. While we can glean from Revelation chapter 4 that there is always worship taking place around God’s throne, we cannot interpret this to mean that all we will do in heaven is stand around the throne and worship. The text is not meant to convey this idea and the balance of Scripture does not support it.

If God created man to be industrious before his fall into sin, can we imagine that God will have a different plan when He restores us from sin? The Scriptures tell us that the saints will be engaged with Jesus in ruling the nations. It sounds like we will be very busy in the new heavens and the new earth with the purposes and will of God. Work is not a product of man’s fall into sin. Work, sanctified work, creative work, fulfilling work, is the gift and call of God for mankind.

  • “To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them, I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Revelation‬ ‭2:26-29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The second statement I want to ask worship leaders to consider is the statement,

“God is good!”

Many times it is suggested that all we need to do is say “God is good” and all our troubles will simply be washed away. Is God good? Absolutely! Is God good all the time? Yes, every moment of every day! Then why do I have trouble with this statement?

Can I be honest? Sometimes I don’t feel like God is good. My circumstances don’t seem to mirror this truth. My emotions don’t echo this truth. I need something more than just a faith cheer to restore my heart in faith. I think if we are really honest this is true for all of us. Many times in their exuberance worship leaders will dismiss doctrine for a move of the spirit. Doctrine is not important. Our emotional response is all that matters.

To this, I would humbly suggest,

  • Worship without doctrine always leads to extremism.
  • Doctrine without worship always leads to legalism.

We need both!

  • “But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”

The Psalmist calls us to worship and be glad in the Lord. Yet, he also states how those who are wise will do this. They will see in their history (the record of God’s Word) the faithful love of the Lord!”

  • Worship without truth will never sustain the hurting heart.
  • Truth without worship will never fire the hungry soul.

We need a balance of both!

  • “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John‬ ‭4:23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, dear worship leaders. You are appreciated. You are essential. We need you to lead us to the throne of grace in spirit and truth. We need to sing songs that are filled with substance and call us to remember the covenant of hope we have in Jesus Christ. We need to proclaim the cross and celebrate the resurrection. And, we need to proclaim the hope and joy of heaven to come knowing that as He is, we will be!

While worship most certainly is not what we do for 30 minutes on a Sunday morning, while it is the totality of a life lived for Jesus Christ, what we do for these 30 minutes is essential. It is the difference between wandering in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water and coming to a refreshing stream where our bodies, souls, and spirits are refreshed in the presence of God.

Dear Worship Leader – Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts. I pray you will receive them in the love in which they were intended. May the Lord continue to bless you in your ministry and anoint you with a new song as you lead God’s people each week!

In Jesus Name!

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GOD IS ALWAYS GOING BEFORE US…

PSALMS 105:16-17: “He called for a famine on the land of Canaan, cutting off its food supply. Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them— Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever wondered – “Where is God?” You find yourself facing an extremely difficult situation, it looks like everything is working against you, and it seems like God is silent. You pray, you pour over the Bible, and you feel like you are in a dense fog unable to see the next step you are about to take. In all of this, the truth is…

GOD IS ALWAYS GOING BEFORE YOU!

Whenever we face times of uncertainty, whenever it seems like we are alone, we have God’s Word to remind us that God is always going before us. God gave us His Word for this very reason.

  • “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Psalms 105 is one of these wonderful reminders. It gives us two examples of God’s faithfulness to go before us. The first is the example of Joseph. God always works on the long game. He had made a covenant with Abraham promising him that he would make of his descendants a mighty nation. The Lord knew exactly what it would take to make this happen. It would involve a famine and a relocation to a different land.

In all of this God was always one step ahead. He gave Joseph a vision of his future that would keep Joseph walking in faith, even through the most difficult of trials. And, He allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery and be taken to Egypt.

Joseph’s life is a history of wonderful provision and setbacks. Yet, in all of them, God was always going before him. As Joseph persevered in faith God rescued and elevated him to the position of second in Egypt. When God gave Pharaoh a dream of the coming famine, He also gave Joseph the interpretation and a plan. This plan would prove to be the very provision to bring Jacob and his brothers to the next step of their covenant fulfillment.

As 400 years passed, God’s people multiplied mightily. From dozens, they were now thousands. And, when a new Pharaoh, who did not remember Joseph turned against them, God had already gone before His covenant people to bring them His provision.

  • “He sent Moses His servant, And Aaron whom He had chosen. They performed His signs among them, And wonders in the land of Ham.” Psalms‬ ‭105:26-27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God’s plan to rescue Israel began when He sent Joseph. It continued when He moved the hearts of Moses’ mother to hide her child in a basket so her son would not be killed. And, His hand was upon Pharaoh’s daughter when she took him in as her own son and raised him in the courts of Egypt. This happened a full 80 years before God would send Moses and Aaron to lead His people to freedom.

GOD IS ALWAYS GOING BEFORE US!

As I look over my life I can see the hand of God always going before me. The problem I have is remembering His past faithfulness. It seems like the current struggle erases the former acts of His love from my memory. This is why I need to daily feed upon God’s Word. These words were written so that we would never forget and in our times of struggle, we could find hope.

Hope is trusting God for the things we cannot see. Hope is strengthened when we remember the things He has done. When we combine our faith with hope we can walk in confidence, even in the darkest of times. Paul learned this very well and this is why he could confidently say,

  • “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” II Corinthians‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, as I walk through times of testing and discouragement, may I never forget that You are always going before me! The struggles I face are reminders that I must cast all my cares upon you. As I remember the times you have delivered me, as I walk in Your present grace and experience Your hand of provision, may I also walk in hope knowing that You will yet deliver me from all the challenges I have yet to face. Help me remember…

YOU ARE ALWAYS GOING BEFORE ME!

In Jesus Name!

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