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For my sake

Genesis 3:17 “…cursed is the ground for your sake…”

God spoke to me Sunday morning.  It was in His usual way of laying out thoughts from nowhere.  He said the struggle is normal and necessary, and why did I think any differently.

I was leaving the retirement community where I visit a couple of times a month and thinking about the same things I usually think about after a visit.  Did I do any good?  Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in the ministry?  Am I even supposed to be in the ministry or did I get everything wrong?  If I’m supposed to be here, why does it still seem so difficult after all this time?

I have officially been in the ministry for twenty-eight years, and except for the youth minister position I held during college, it has all been voluntary.  While there is certainly nothing wrong with doing volunteer work, there are some caveats.  You have to have other means of financial support, you cannot expect any recognition or sometimes even gratitude, and unfortunately, since you’re not in a church position or classified as a missionary, your work may not be seen as true ministry service.  My latest job played out six months ago, some other doors for ministry have recently closed, and lately I’ve had others question whether I was even in the ministry.  I tried to share my frustrations with a ministry peer.  I thought perhaps he would suggest some other ministry avenues or even offer to mention my name to other ministers.  His only response was to suggest that I hadn’t actually been called to speak.  Hmm, really?  Did you catch the part about doing it for twenty-eight years for nothing?

I’ve been praying about all of this for a while, but one aspect had been weighing heavily on my mind of late.  I have a strong passion for teaching and preaching the Word.  I love getting into discussions about spiritual things.  I receive the most satisfaction and fulfillment when I can help someone understand something from the scripture.  So why have I always had such a hard time doing my own reading and studying of the Word?  Why do I seem to have to force myself to have quiet time with Him?  Why is it so hard to give Christ the preeminence in my life?  Where is that passion?  Those are the questions God answered.

After Adam sinned, God told him the ground was cursed for Adam’s sake.  Part of his punishment was actually for his benefit.  How did that work?  Because of the fall, all of creation would now be in a downward spiral.  All things would move to a state of death.  Nothing would improve on its own.  Man left to himself would deteriorate until he wasted away.  The only way to combat this would be for man to struggle, to fight against the downward pull of his sinful nature.

We are instructed to read, study, and meditate on the Word of God, to learn as much as we can, to make it a part of ourselves.  Like a typical man, I saw this as a task to complete, something to work on until it was finished, and for some reason, fully expected the task to become easier as I did it.  However, the point has never been about the task, but the results of it, what you gain from doing it.  The task itself, having a daily time with God, reading the Word, searching the scriptures, will always be difficult like every other task on this fallen planet.  The important part is what we learn from the reading, studying, and searching.

Fortunately, when God spoke, I was still in the driveway of the retirement community so I could pull over and consider what He had said.  I felt rather foolish for not seeing the forest for the trees.  But I also felt great relief.  Getting my focus off the task and on the results has not only relieved some of my anxiety, but it’s also freed up the motivation that was actually there.  So strange that the desire I sought was present, just out of sight.

I still have questions about what He wants me to do, why doors aren’t opening, why He is quiet on many things.  But I choose to trust Him.  And I’ll enjoy the new found sense of purpose in spending more time with Him.

Consider My servant

Seems like I’m always in the middle of some mess.  I’ve heard you’re either going into a storm, going through a storm, or going out of one.  And there’s not much room between going out of one and going into the next.  It may be normal for life, but it is taxing on the soul.

At the moment I can’t tell if I’m going in or in the middle.  Feels like being in and just getting darker.  Guess that’s why I was thinking about Job.  All the things he went through without knowing why.

But I remember what God said at the beginning.  ”Have you considered My servant.”  What an awesome statement!  I’d never considered how much hope there is in those words.  My servant.  Not a servant, or the servant, or even the man.  MY servant.  Job belonged to Him.

A lot of things were about to happen to Job that he couldn’t explain, but in reality, he belonged to God and that was the best place to be.  I know he wasn’t in on that conversation, so he didn’t hear God say that, but that doesn’t change the facts.

How blessed we are to live in our time.  Paul said the prophets of old longed to see the things we see.  And even the Angels are amazed at the mystery of redemption that is ours.  We can see the whole plan of redemption from beginning to end.  We know who the Messiah is.  We know what He has done.  We know He’s coming back.  And we have heard Him say that not only are we His servants, but He also considers us friends.

“Well done good and faithful servant.”  I’ve always wanted to think that I might hear that someday.  But at the moment, “consider My servant” has a much better ring.  To know I belong to Him is better than any reward I can imagine.

Jesus – the early years

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.”

Why did God not give us more details about Jesus’s early years?  After the tale of His birth and a short note about an incident when He was twelve, why does He just spring on the scene?

We would be like the people of His day.  We wouldn’t listen because we think we know Him.  If we don’t know someone we tend to listen to his message first and then look at the person.  We’ll give folks the benefit of the doubt, even if it’s just long enough to hear what they say.

God gave us the best combination with Jesus.  He shared Christ’s arrival, His deity, His Lordship with us to establish in our minds that this was the Christ, the Messiah of God, the One foretold in scripture.  Then he jumps us forward to the point of hearing Christ’s message without allowing us the chance of creating a false impression derived by our judgment or misconception of events in His life.

Here is the King of the Jews as foretold by the prophets.  Here is My Son in whom I am well pleased.  Here is My Son; hear Him.  Here is My Son dying on the cross for you.  Here is My Son, conquering death by rising from the grave.

And one day soon…

HERE IS MY SON!  HE HAS RETURNED!

If My People

“If My people, which are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways…”  So the LORD said to the people of Israel in II Chronicles 7:14.  Because of what Christ did by redeeming us to Himself and grafting us into His family, I believe we can apply these verses to ourselves.  More importantly, I believe God has said we can; He will fulfill this promise to us as His children.

But are we understanding the true picture of what is being said?  Humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways…  A casual reading will lead us to think it means if we realize we need God’s help in fixing our mess, and we humble ourselves enough to ask Him for help, and we ask for His will to be done, and we promise not to do the same things again, then He is obligated to come fix our problems.  I’m afraid we’ve missed the first point and thus miss out on everything else.

We must interpret the first point by the last to get on the right track.  We must humble ourselves, not to the point of asking for help, but to the point where we realize and acknowledge that we are wicked.  We have sinned.  We are fully responsible for the mess we are in.  And we must be willing to forsake it all.  Completely.  There must not be any vestige of ourselves or our pride left in our confession.  We then pray and seek His face.  Not His hands.  Not what He can do for us, but God Himself.  A relationship with Him.  An acknowledgement that we want to continue our lives with Him and not on our terms.  Then we will be empowered to truly turn from our wicked ways.

August 24, 2013

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all by goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”  I Corinthians 13:1-3

A conversation:
“Yes, I am a Christian, and my faith is very important to me.  But I don’t force my beliefs on others.  My beliefs are best for me.  I can’t tell others what’s right for them. ”
“So, you don’t think your beliefs are the truth?”
“Well, yes, it’s the truth for me.  But it may not be the truth for them.”
“You don’t believe that Jesus is the only way for salvation?”
“Well, of course, I do.  That’s what being a Christian is, isn’t it?”
“Okay, so the truth is that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and you believe that, but you don’t think it’s a truth worth sharing with others?”
“I didn’t say that.  Of course we’re supposed to share it with others.  But I shouldn’t force anyone to believe the way I do.  If I offend them, it might turn them away from the truth.”
“Ah, so you’re not going to share the truth of Jesus with anyone because you might offend them and make them not want to hear the truth that you’re not going to share.  Makes perfect sense.  One other question; if Jesus is the only way for salvation then anyone that dies without Him is going to Hell, correct?”
“Well, yeah, I guess.”
“So, it’s good that you know the truth, but it’s perfectly okay for everyone else to go to Hell as long as you don’t offend them.”

Vance Havner said, “There are only two kinds of people in this world; Christians and everybody else.”  That is absolutely true.  The Bible tells us that all of us will eventually die and face Jesus in judgement.  No matter what other labels you give people, no matter how you try to divide and sort the masses of the world, we will all stand before Him and be judged under one premise; you either know Jesus or you don’t.  Furthermore, the Bible is very clear on the consequences of not knowing Him; eternal separation in Hell.  Jesus Himself said, “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me.’ ”

This being the case, why are we so determined to come up with any excuse to not tell others about Him?  Or, why do we allow the world to convince us that we shouldn’t speak of Him lest we offend someone?  We have been ordered by our Lord and savior to tell the world about Him and His saving grace.  We know that what we have is the truth.  And we know that those who die without this truth will spend eternity suffering in Hell.  Yet we choose to remain silent or are intimidated into being so.

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sick and tired.  Tired of my own disobedient behavior when it comes to following Jesus.  Tired of listening to weak, worldly, wishy-washy Christians speak with pride about how tolerant they are of other people’s feelings by not sharing Christ.  Tired of the Family of God listening to the babblings of the world rather than the commands of our Master.  Tired of people using the love of Christ as an argument for their idea of tolerance when it is only an allowance for sin and an excuse for cold-hearted indifference toward others.  Love is not making other people feel good, about themselves, their beliefs, or anything else.  Love is commitment to the absolute best for someone regardless of the cost – even if they hate you, ridicule you, despise you, destroy you, or nail you to a cross.

Certainly everyone has the right to believe as they wish, and I believe we should respect each person’s right to do so.  But one’s right to believe as he chooses does not give his belief credibility nor does it cause his belief to merit the respect of others.  Furthermore, simply hearing or seeing things that do not agree with your own point of view does not violate that right.  Until someone insists that you change your beliefs, or behavior based on those beliefs, or face some sort of consequence, your rights are intact.  And frankly, I have NEVER seen anyone hold another person down and force their beliefs down their throat.  What I have seen is someone getting their feelings hurt over another’s ideas, someone refusing to accept that their own beliefs or ideas have no basis in truth, or someone being confronted with their own sin.

Truth can and does stand on its own.  It needs no one to believe in it for it to be the truth.  The world would have us believe that opinion is the same as truth, that all truth is relative to the person and situation.  We as Christians know that is a lie, and we must stop playing that game by the world’s rules.  Many things in this world are simply opinions instead of truths, and sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.  But God has the final say on what is and is not truth.  And He loves us enough to put that in His word.

All men, and women, have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  All mankind are in need of a savior.  All will one day stand before a righteous judge and give an account.  But praise be to God that He loved us enough to send Jesus, His only begotton son, the judge before whom we will stand, to pay the price for our sin and provide a way for us to be with Him.  These are the truths that a dying world needs to hear.  And if we believe these truths, if we are obedient to Him, if we care for others at all, then these are the truths we will share, regardless of the consequences.

January 2, 2013

Sparkling hats, crazy eye glasses, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people crammed into Times Square in the bitter cold.  Why do people make such a big deal of the new year?  I know some will take any opportunity as an excuse to celebrate, but the revelry of a new year appears to be universal.  . . . → Read More: January 2, 2013

December 15, 2012

Front pages all across our nation are carrying the same story this morning.  Once again we are mourning the loss of innocence as some warped individual decided to act out a crazed fantasy or lost control of his faculties and lashed out at his view of reality.  Television networks will bring in their experts for . . . → Read More: December 15, 2012

November 7, 2012

Election was yesterday.  Barack Obama was re-elected.  God have mercy on us.

Perhaps that is the point; we’ve put our faith in man and not in Him.  We may indeed have passed beyond the point of avoiding judgement.  As a nation, we’ve thumbed our noses at God and refused to repent.  As His people, we’ve . . . → Read More: November 7, 2012

Priorities

I use the social network site Facebook to keep up with family and friends. It’s nice to see what’s going on in folk’s lives, to see if they have joys to relate or problems that need prayer. It’s also a good way to find out people’s opinions on topics of the day.

Because the people . . . → Read More: Priorities

Out of Time

Jeremiah 15:1-3

The people of Judah reached a very disturbing place. They tried God’s patience for hundreds of years, and now they had reached the end. God declared judgment on them; a judgment from which He would not relent.

Study

15:1 – Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before . . . → Read More: Out of Time