Wednesday, October 18, 2017

THE PLACE OF OBEDIENCE

"Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing." Acts 9:8a

There is a place of obedience for all of us. For Paul, it was being struck blind on the Damascus road. God literally knocked him off his horse with a blinding light. A voice from Heaven asked Paul why he was persecuting Him (Jesus). When Paul arose, he could not see. Jesus told him to go to Damascus and meet a man named Ananias. There, Jesus restored Paul's sight through Ananias.
Each of us has a place of obedience. For some, it requires only a nudge of pressure to gently lead us toward God. For others of us, a lightning bolt is necessary to get our undivided attention. Many who are hard-hearted rebel against the living God. Yet God's love for these individuals is so great that He takes extreme measures to gain their attention-and their hearts. When you come in contact with people like this, do not fear their arrogance. Instead, see them as God sees them-as people who need the Savior and who could be a powerful force in the Kingdom if God saved them. It is a sign to begin praying for them.
We've all heard the saying, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." In many cases this is true. God has called many hard cases into His Kingdom through miraculous circumstances in order to save their lives from the pit of hell and transform them into a sweet-smelling fragrance. Do not let the hard exterior fool you. These are needy people who are crying out for help in their own prideful way. Whenever God begins this process in the life of a sinner, He has others standing by to assist. Ananias was the person in Paul's life. He found it unbelievable that Paul really could have been saved. An angel had to convince him. Has God placed such an individual in your path? Perhaps God desires to use you to be an "Ananias" in the life of one of His wayward children. To do so requires a willingness to come alongside that one who needs your help. Who knows, that person could be the next apostle Paul.

Monday, October 16, 2017

BEWARE OF THE FALSE LOVER

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5).
 
When a measured assault enters our life we often respond in two different ways. The pain caused by the assault drives us to a place of either embracing the pain or we embrace anything that will make us feel better. That becomes the entry door to a false lover. Men and women each seek to avoid pain in different ways. Larry Crabb has summarized these two unique strategies often used to avoid deep pain:
All of us are trapped by addiction to a desire for something less than God. For many women, that something less is relational control. "I will not be hurt again and I will not let people I love be hurt. I'll see to it that what I fear never happens again." They therefore live in terror of vulnerably presenting themselves to anyone and instead become determined managers of people. Their true femininity remains safely tucked away behind the walls of relational control. More common in men is an addiction to non-relational control. "I will experience deep and consuming satisfaction without ever having to relate meaningfully with anyone." They keep things shallow and safe with family and friends and feel driven to experience a joy they never feel, a joy that only deep relating can provide. Their commitment is twofold: to never risk revealing inadequacy by drawing close to people and, without breaking that commitment, to feel powerful and alive. Power in business and illicit sex are favorite strategies for reaching that goal.1
Many times we seek to deal with our pain through various forms of addictions designed to resolve the inner pain we feel. All addictions represent a counterfeit desire for genuine love and intimacy. We conclude these lesser desires are legitimate needs instead of band-aids of our fleshly soul. These addiction lovers become isolation chambers created for ourselves designed to mask our pain.
Every human being has a desire to be loved. When we do not feel loved because of some event in our lives we seek to reconcile this emotional pain. So, if you are fighting any kind of addiction--over control of people, sex, drugs, alcohol, workaholism, shopping, overeating--you are seeking to fill a void only God can fill.
Pain has a useful purpose in our lives. Facing it, rather than medicating it, allows us to move to a place of discovering a capacity for a different kind of joy. That is the purpose of pain. We must let inner pain do its work by experiencing it fully. It feels like a contradiction to actually embrace the pain, but it is the only remedy for moving past it so it can yield its purpose in our lives. Otherwise we will remain unaware of our deeper desire for God and be driven toward a false lover.
1 Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 2001, p.95

Saturday, October 14, 2017

COVENANT RELATIONSHIPS

"But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark - you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you." Genesis 6:18
The Bible is filled with covenants made between God and people. Six of those covenants were made with Old Testament figures: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. The seventh was made with His own Son, Jesus Christ. God is always the strongest partner in a covenant relationship.
God made a covenant with Noah in order to preserve the human race. This covenant involved Noah's participation by building an ark. He'd never built an ark before. He'd never had a boat. It was a totally new concept to Noah and the rest of the world. Why would he need a boat in a dry land?
Noah did not have to invent the ark; God gave him the plans-in specific dimensional detail. He did not have to gather the animals-God led them into the ark. God even closed the door when they all came on board. God made it rain to prove why the ark was needed.
The covenant provided all Noah needed to complete his mission in life. When God spoke to Noah to do this thing, he needed only to respond to God's call to do it. Noah could rest in knowing the covenant made with God was going to be fulfilled if he fulfilled his part.
If you have entered into a covenant relationship with God, you too can be assured that God will uphold His part of the covenant relationship. He is committed to fulfilling His covenant with you and to fulfill His purposes in and through your life. It only requires one thing on your part-obedience. He will even provide grace and faith to you to help you fulfill your part of the covenant.
Each of us has a covenant with God. But we also enter covenants with others in our personal and business lives. How are you doing in fulfilling covenants to others? God has given us the example to follow. Ask God if you have any unfulfilled covenants you need to honor. He has called you and me to be covenant keepers. The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

UNDERSTANDING WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN

"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." 1 Corinthians 2:12

God desires for us to know what He has freely given to us. One of the responsibilities of the Holy Spirit is to reveal His plans and purposes to us. They may be hidden for a time, but if we seek Him with our whole heart, we can know what He has given to us.
John the Baptist understood this principle. When asked if he was the Messiah, he replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven" (Jn. 3:27). John understood his role in the Kingdom of God. He came to pave the way for the Messiah; he was not the Messiah himself. His ministry on earth was very brief, yet Jesus described his life in this way: " 'I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he' " (Mt. 11:11).
Once we understand what God has given to us, we can walk freely in our calling. However, if we strive to walk in a role that He never gave us, it will result in frustration and failure. God wants to reveal His plan to us by His Spirit. This requires a willingness to seek and accept what He gives us. It may be different from what we thought. It may require adjustments to follow His path for our lives. As we learn from the life of John the Baptist, obedience requires death to our own wills.
Ask God to reveal what He has freely given to you. Pray that you receive and embrace only those things He has reserved for you to receive and to accomplish in your life. Then you can be assured of a life full of meaning and purpose, and you can look forward to hearing those all-important words someday, "Well done, My good and faithful servant."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

MOUNT HOREB

"So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God." 1 Kings 19:8
Elijah and Moses were men of great zeal. They were passionate about their causes. Moses sought to free the Hebrews from the tyranny of slavery by killing an Egyptian with his own hand. Elijah, after calling down fire on the evil prophets of Baal, found himself spent physically and emotionally to the point he asked God to take his life.
Immediately after these two events, 500 years apart from one another, both men were led to the same Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. In Hebrew, Horeb means "desolation." This barren environment mirrored the condition of Moses and Elijah. For Moses, it was 40 years of barrenness. For Elijah, it was 40 days without food. Elijah became tired of standing alone for God.
As workplace believers we often become so focused on the goal we forget to meet God at our own Mount Horeb. This was the place God met both Moses and Elijah. It was a place of renewal, a place of new beginnings, a place of personal encounter with the living God.
Perhaps Elijah's greatest virtue was his zeal. Indeed, we shall see that twice in his communication with God, Elijah speaks of having been "very zealous" for the Lord. But zeal, unattended eventually becomes its own God; it compels us toward expectations, which are unrealistic, and outside the timing and anointing of God. To remain balanced, zeal must be reined in and harnessed by strategic encounters with the living God. We otherwise become frustrated with people and discouraged with delays. We step outside our place of strength and spiritual protection. Many of us become so consumed with our battles that we are no longer aware of the presence of Jesus. We have been traveling in our own strength. [Francis Frangipane, Place of Immunity (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Arrow Publications, 1994), 5.]
Pray that Jesus will teach us that intimacy with Him is the greatest measure of success. Lord, guide us to the mountain of Your presence.

Monday, October 9, 2017

YOU'RE DIFFERENT

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Cor 12:9).
I read this story told by Os Hillman, "I was in Switzerland visiting an acquaintance I had met briefly almost ten years earlier at a Christian conference on the island of Cyprus. We had stayed in contact over the years as he had become a big fan of TGIF and had the devotions translated into German. I had felt led to make the trip from Germany, where we had been attending a conference.
I was sitting in the kitchen talking with my friend when I said, "You are different. There is a different spirit about you than when I met you ten years ago on the island of Cyprus. I have to admit, I thought you were a bit aloof," I confessed to him. "Hmm, you know Os, I thought the same about you." We both chuckled at our observations.
There was a difference in both of us because something dramatic had happened in both of our lives. My friend was a very successful businessman in Switzerland and was running a family business when things went very wrong. He lost millions as a result. Although his fortune was not totally wiped out, it impacted him greatly. It brought a humility and new found trust in God that had not been there before.
I had a similar story. I had gone through a seven year "pit experience" in which I had major loses in family, business and personal income. Now we were both on the other sides of our "pits." We could recognize something in each of us that had resulted from our experiences. There was a level of humility that was not there before. It reminded me of a statement a friend of mine made years earlier: "Beware of any Christian leader who does not walk with a limp." Sometimes God creates circumstances in our lives to create humility and greater dependence upon Him. It is because God works greater through weakness than strength.
I often tell others, "You can get humility voluntarily or involuntarily. It is much easier if you get it voluntarily."

Friday, October 6, 2017

THE NEED TO CONTROL

"You acted foolishly," Samuel said.... 1 Samuel 13:13
The prophet Samuel had anointed Saul the first king of Israel. Saul was now 30 years old and was leading the nation in battle against the Philistines. The Philistines had gathered at Micmash to come against Saul and his army. The Lord was directing Saul through the prophet Samuel. Samuel instructed Saul to go ahead of him to Micmash, and he would follow in seven days. He would then offer a burnt offering on behalf of the people of Israel.
The pressure began to build as the Philistines gathered around Micmash preparing for battle. The people of Israel grew fearful and began to scatter throughout the countryside. Saul was also afraid. Samuel did not show up on the morning of the seventh day. Finally, Saul, fearing the impending attack, took it upon himself to offer the burnt offering. After he had done this, Samuel showed up.
..."You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him leader of His people, because you have not kept the Lord's command" (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
Saul believed he needed to take control of the situation. Whenever we try to take control of a situation out of God's will, we demonstrate that we are led by fear. Many a boss is so driven by fear that he attempts to manage by over controlling his people. This results in codependent relationships in which the employees are fearful of making the wrong decisions, and are driven to please the manager at all costs. This results in loss of respect for the manager. Many times the employees make poor choices just to please their manager; as a result, resentment begins to build among the employees due to the manager's over control.
Do you see any signs of over control in how you relate to others? Can you allow others the freedom to fail? Do you find yourself changing directions in midstream when you see something you don't like? Are you fearful of failure? These are all symptoms of a Saul-control spirit. Pray that God will allow you to walk in the freedom of trusting in Him and those around you.