Monday, February 19, 2018

TIME TO HEAR

"He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him." - John 14:21b

We live in a day of 12-step programs for this, four points to success for that, and all forms of programmed means of becoming successful. Have you ever wondered how you can guarantee a greater revelation of Jesus in your life? Jesus tells us how this can be done. It is all tied to obedience. In John, He tells us the following: "Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him" (Jn. 14:21). The key here is in the last three words. He will show Himself to us because of our loving Him through our obedience. The more obedient we become, the more revelation of His presence we will feel in our life. Jeremiah tells us, "Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jer. 33:3).
Many Christians wonder why they cannot hear or sense God's presence in their life. It is because they do not seek Him with a whole heart, and they are not obedient to the things He has asked. God does not show us the next move until we are obedient to the first thing He has spoken to us. It is a progressive process. He entrusts the small things to us first, then moves us to the larger. I was like many today who are so focused on seeking the activity of God rather than seeking God Himself. Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. In the Old Testament we are told, "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 4:29).
I realized if I was going to hear God's voice, I had to make time to seek Him and hear Him. I had to spend focused time alone reading, studying, and seeking His face only. Jesus set the model for this when He often left the crowds to be alone and seek His heavenly Father. I also had to tune my "radio" to His frequency. Static comes into that frequency when I am disobedient. My level of seeking determines the power of my "radio" to reach Him. The more I seek Him, the more I hear Him. Seek the Lord today so that you may be empowered by His presence.

Friday, February 16, 2018

HAVING EYES FOR ONE

"Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." - John 6:21

The disciples were traveling across the lake to Capernaum when a strong wind arose and the waters grew rough. Suddenly they saw a figure on the water, and they were terrified until Jesus called out to them and identified Himself.
Isn't that the first thing we do when unexpected calamities or even something that we have never experienced before comes into our life? We panic until we can see that God is behind these events in our lives. In Romans, Paul tells us that, "from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen" (Rom. 11:36). God has an eternal filter in which nothing can touch us unless He permits it. Even satan must have permission to touch us. And God may even use satan for His own ends, as in the case of Job.
God shows us a second principle in this story. The Scriptures say when the disciples were willing to take Jesus into the boat, they reached the shore where they were heading.
I was faced with some very difficult circumstances in my business. I had no income for some time, and I saw no immediate remedy to the situation. The circumstances created fear in my heart. The anxiety began to grow until, one day after my evening prayer walk, the Lord said, "How long do you want to keep your eyes on the circumstances instead of Me? Do you think I have brought you this far to throw you into the water?" The truth was that I was halfway in already because my eyes were looking at the "big waves" surrounding my boat. One night, in a support group for men, the leader asked each of us to keep our eyes on two men who were going to walk from the room. One man represented Jesus, the other, our circumstances. "Now, I want you to keep your eyes on both people," he said. The men stood up and began walking across the room in opposite directions. It was impossible to keep looking at each of them at the same time. So we had to choose which we would focus on.
The lesson was clear. We could not keep our eyes on Jesus and our circumstance at the same time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WORTHLESS IDOLS

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." - Jonah 2:8
Have you ever exercised your will over the will of God? Have you ever been so willful that you were going to go your own way no matter what God said? If so, you have been at the same place as the prophet Jonah. God called Jonah to deliver a message to God's people as a warning. Jonah flatly refused. It was Jonah's will over God's. Guess who won?
Talk about willpower; Jonah had it! In fact, he was so rebellious toward God's will that he got on a ship to go the opposite direction. But he couldn't go far enough. The omnipotence of God caught up with Jonah, and he was hurled overboard when the seas became rough and the ship's crew figured Jonah was the source of their problems. Overboard he went and into the belly of that big fish.
God has a way of getting us to rethink our decisions, to reconsider our position. In fact, we see the extent of Jonah's willfulness by the amount of time he was willing to hang out in the belly of that fish - three full days. Then, Jonah decides enough is enough! Obedience is better than this fish belly and seaweed.
From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
He said: "In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all Your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, 'I have been banished from Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.' The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord." And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh (Jonah 2:2-3:3a).
In the midst of realizing his own calamity, Jonah made a seemingly out-of-context statement: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." Jonah was thinking of the sailors who threw him overboard and how they prayed to worthless idols. In the business world, we rub shoulders with those who cling to worthless idols every day. How tragic.
But this story's primary message is for every believer. And I can identify with Jonah. There's been many a man placed in the "belly of the fish" to encourage him to fulfill the purposes of God for which He called him. Jonah's situation changed immediately upon his obedience. Obedience is a mysterious thing. Jesus had to learn it through the things He suffered (see Heb. 5:8). If Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering, what does that mean for you and me? Sometimes willing obedience requires encouragement.

Monday, February 12, 2018

DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

"Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart" (Ps 36:10).


Someone once said, "Success is when those who know you the best are those who love you the most."
Years ago a self-assessment tool was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram called the Johari window. The Johari Window helps us realize where we are in our ability to know who we are and for others to know who we are. Real transparency in communication takes place when those we associate with us know who we are after we discover who we really are. See if you can identify what category you might fall among these four:
Transparent Life The transparent life is the life we should desire. I know who I am and others know me. There is nothing hidden. I have come to know who I am as an individual and basically people get what they see in me.
Bull-In-The-China Shop This person is blinded to the things that others recognize about him. The solution to becoming a transparent person is to get feedback from those around us about the blind spots in our personality. We must ask for the feedback and be willing to respond to their input.
Aloof/Hidden Secrets This person lives in a secret world. They don't allow others to know about themselves. They know themselves but are fearful of letting others know. Those around them do not know them either. What do others really know about you? Have you allowed yourself to get close enough to others to share who you really are inside?
Hidden Potential This is a combination of Bull-In-A-China Shop and Aloof/Hidden Secrets. It is the saddest of all conditions. These people don't know themselves and others don't know them either. This means both parties have to invest the energy to communicate and get feedback from one another.
How about you? Why not take a step to find out who you really are in the eyes of others. It could change your life.

Friday, February 9, 2018

OBEDIENCE WITH A COST

Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and You have not rescued Your people at all. - Exodus 5:23

Have you ever felt like you have been obedient to the Lord for something He called you to do and all you get are more roadblocks? This is the way Moses felt. When Moses went to tell Pharaoh to release the people because God said so, Pharaoh simply got angry and made the people make bricks without straw. Moses caught the blame for this from the people. Moses was just learning what obedience really means in God's Kingdom. You see Moses had not even begun to release plagues upon Egypt. He hadn't even gotten started yet in his calling, and he was complaining about his circumstances. There were many more encounters with Pharaoh to come, and many more plagues with no deliverances in sight. Why would God tell Moses that He is going to deliver them and not do it?
It was all in timing. God never said when He was going to deliver. He just said He would. In the next chapter, we find Moses arguing with God about not being capable of the job God had called him to:
But Moses said to the Lord, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and He commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 6:12-13).
Do you get the feeling God was losing His patience?
God had a good reason for His delays. He said, "And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it" (Ex. 7:5). God not only wanted the people of Israel but also the Egyptians to know Him. It would be the greatest show of God's power on earth.
God often causes delays in our lives that we cannot understand. Sometimes it seems our obedience is not getting rewarded. Jesus said He learned obedience through the things He suffered (see Heb. 5:8). Imagine that - Jesus having to learn obedience. What does that say for you and me? Sometimes God's delays are simply because He wants more glory in the situation, more recognition, more Christ-likeness in you and me through greater patience and obedience. Faint not, for the promise may yet come.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A TALKING DONKEY

The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day?" - Numbers 22:30

Most workplace believers I know tend to be task - oriented, motivated visionaries. And they will do just about anything to make their projects successful. This great strength can, if not properly bridled by the Holy Spirit, be a great weakness in their ability to fulfill God's will in their life.
Sometimes we want something to succeed so much that we fail to listen to that little voice inside trying to warn us by directing us on a different path. Such was the case of Balaam. He started out as a man of God, but then took the path of a "prophet-for-hire." God was not pleased with Balaam's decision to respond to a pagan king's request that he curse Israel. As Balaam rode his donkey to keep his appointment with the king, God sent the angel of the Lord to stand in the way and oppose Balaam. Although Balaam did not see the angel, his donkey did. Three times the donkey turned from the path and three times Balaam beat the animal in anger. Finally, the donkey turned around, and to Balaam's shock and amazement, began to speak to him, admonishing his master for beating him. Imagine a donkey talking to you! He warned Balaam of the angel of death who was standing in the road with a sword drawn, ready to kill Balaam if he continued.
There are times when pushing harder, trying to manipulate the circumstance, or pressing those around you is not the response to have to the roadblock. God may be trying to have you reconsider your ways. God may be doing one of four things when you are faced with an obstacle:
1) He's blocking it to protect you.
2) His timing to complete this stage is not the same as yours, and He may need you to go through a process of character refinement.
3) He may want other players to get in place, and the circumstances are not yet ready for them to enter.
4) He may be using the process to develop patience in you.
Relying on the Holy Spirit to know which one applies to your situation is the key to moving in God's timing.

Monday, February 5, 2018

SACRIFICING AT WHAT COST

..."I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." - 2 Samuel 24:24

One day I was having lunch with a man who had a certain amount of notoriety in his life. After a time of getting to know each other, he said, "How can I help you?" Those words surprised me coming from a man who obviously already had many requirements on his time. My first thought was that I was impressed with the individual. My next thought was to wonder whether it was a genuine offer or just an effort to impress me with his humility and Christian piety. I have since discovered he was sincere.
This encounter reminded me that each of us must be willing to give to others without a motive to get anything in return. It is simply an act of serving others. Jesus said that we must consider others more important than ourselves. When is the last time you did something for another without a motive of getting anything in return?
When King David came to offer a sacrifice and pray for the removal of a plague on Israel, he was given the opportunity to make the sacrifice without the cost of purchasing the sacrificial animals.
But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped (2 Samuel 24:24-25).
David, understanding the principle of giving, said he could not offer anything to God that did not cost him something. Otherwise, it was not a sacrificial gift.
When was the last time you sacrificed for another with no expectation of getting anything in return? We can all give something to others, such as our time, our money, or our expertise. This is real Christianity that models the Spirit of Christ. The next time you meet with someone, why not consider how you might be a blessing to that person. Why not ask, "How can I help you?"