May 25, 2013
STEP NUMBER FOUR: Spend much time in God’s Word.
Let me tell you why. In chapter 55 of his prophecy, Isaiah tells us there is as much difference between the thoughts and ways of God and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth (vv. 8-9). He then goes on to describe one of the many supernatural functions of the Word of God.
The Word of God establishes an alignment between our thoughts, ways and wills, and the thoughts, ways and will of God.
I once heard Billy Graham tell of boarding a plane before he was famous. He spoke to an old pastor friend who was sitting in an aisle seat reading his Bible. The old pastor completely ignored Billy. When they had been in flight for about an hour, the pastor came back to where Billy was seated and greeted him enthusiastically. He apologized for ignoring Billy earlier. He said, “When I pray, I am talking to God, but when I open God’s Word, He talks to me. He was talking to me when you spoke to me and I could not interrupt God just to talk to Billy Graham.”
Thomas à Kempis opened his Bible every morning with this prayer: “Let all the voices be stopped. Speak to me Lord, Thou alone.” If we sincerely want to know the will of God, we must be in relationship and in conversation with God. We should speak to our loving heavenly Father in prayer and expect God to speak to us as we open the Word of God. That is why two of the bases we must touch when we seek to know the will of God are prayer and the Word of God.
May 20, 2013
“If any man wills to do, he will know.” (John 7:17)
STEP NUMBER TWO: Be willing to do the will of God.
When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He taught them to say, “Your will be done.” When Jesus modeled this, He sweat drops of blood as He prayed, “Not My will, but Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10; 26:39; Luke 22:42-44) Jesus gives us a principle that shows us how we can know His teaching is the teaching of God. This principle also applies when we are seeking to know the will of God in the marketplace.
The principle is simply this: If any man wills to do, he will know.
The Living Bible paraphrases Psalm 139: 16 to say God had every day of David’s life scheduled before David existed. David writes there that God is with him in such a way that it is impossible for David to escape God’s personal interest in every move he makes. This intimacy with God is obviously not only the experience of David, but can and should be the experience of every child of God.
According to Jesus and Paul, knowing the will of God for our lives does not have to be complex. God does not deliberately obscure His will. The complexity is not in the will of God, but in your will and my will. As Paul tells us how we can know “the good, acceptable and perfect will of God,” he begins his prescription for knowing God’s will by telling us to throw up our hands and offer an unconditional surrender of our wills to the will of God (Romans 12: 1-2). Our unconditional surrender to God will significantly un-complicate our quest to know the will of God.
May 18, 2013
“Prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of spiritual maturity.” (Romans 12:2 JB Phillips)
When someone questions me, a pastor, about the will of God, they might be referring to a fork-in-the-road decision or sometimes the issue has been the broader question, “How can I know the will of God for my life?” While answering that question many times over many years, I have come up with twelve steps I believe you should take when you are seeking divine guidance. These twelve steps are not a precise formula that will immediately and clearly lead you to the specific will of God, but they do focus some issues that should be visited, or bases you should touch, when you are trying to establish an alignment between your will and the will of God.
THE FIRST STEP: Believe there is such a thing as the will of God for your life.
“Every time a tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree, God goes to the funeral!” Observed a preacher from another generation, referring to the teaching of Jesus that not one tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree apart from the Father’s plan. The application Jesus makes is that since two sparrows are sold for a penny and we are of far greater value to God than a sparrow, if God has a will regarding the details of the life and death of a sparrow, then we can be sure He has a will regarding every detail of our lives (Matthew 10: 29-31).
According to the Bible, God is our Shepherd and our Father. God is personal and has a plan for our life we can know and experience.
May 7, 2013
“So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:24)
After the greatest miracle in the Old Testament delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt they went around in circles of unbelief for nearly 40 years. Moses went up on Mount Sinai several times interceding for them with God. While he was there the people became so corrupt they made a golden calf, which was an Egyptian idol for God. They were going to return to Egypt behind this idol proclaiming that this God deserved the glory for bringing them through the Red Sea and out of Egypt!
Moses confronted Aaron who was the spiritual leader responsible for them. He asked Aaron, “What have these people done to you?” I quoted the reply of Aaron. While Exodus 32 tells us Aaron skillfully created the golden calf, his response to Moses was that he threw their gold in the fire and out came this calf!
Life is a banquet of consequences and every one of us must eventually sit down and eat the banquet we have accumulated. Our capacity for following the example of Aaron is almost infinite. We can rationalize until we convince ourselves that we put a lot of gold in the fire of life and somehow there came out this calf. Denial (‘de Nile’) is not just a river in Egypt. We often elect to swim in denial until we are far from reality.
We need to deny our denial, confess and be mature enough to accept the responsibility for what we have contributed to our personal banquet of consequences.
Will our choice be reality and responsibility or to swim in denial?
April 27, 2013
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1Timothy 4:16)
Although it sounds contrary to what we have been taught as believers the Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, that there are times when he should join the Me First Club. When you find something great in the Scriptures how many times is your first thought the person who simply must hear this truth?
In this prescription for spiritual growth Paul writes that Timothy should place the Scripture down on his life, and then hold his life up to the Scripture. Paul promises Timothy that if he will continuously do this as a spiritual discipline, he will experience salvation himself first and then lead others to salvation.
There are at least three times when committed disciples should put themselves in first place; when we are judging, when there is sin to confess, and when it comes to our own needs. Many disciples have become casualties in the spiritual warfare because they neglected these priorities.
There is a sense in which if we do not save ourselves we cannot save anybody else. When the oxygen masks appear on a commercial air flight, mothers with babies are instructed to place the mask on themselves first and then on their baby.
If you are a spiritual leader don’t apply Scripture to others that you have not first applied to yourself. Think of the priorities being taught here as concentric circles. You are the innermost circle. The other circles represent those with whom you share God’s Word after you have joined the Me First Club.
Save yourself and then watch God work as He saves others.
April 23, 2013
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 1-5)
According to Jesus relationships are a two way street. If you look at others under a microscope they will put you under a microscope and you will not like that. If you look at others through a telescope they will look at you through a telescope and you will be far more comfortable with that arrangement.
When you give to people whatever standard of measurement you use they will use when they give to you. It is your call. Will you give with a thimble or by the truckload?
This passage shows that Jesus had a sense of humor. Imagine a person with a one by six plank sticking out of their eye while they believe they are called to find specks of sawdust in the eyes of others.
Since this passage begins with the two words judge not many believe we’re never to judge others. Consider this passage carefully and you will understand it is not teaching that at all.
This teaching of Jesus is telling us to judge. It is telling us to judge ourselves first and as we relate to others decide if it is going to be a microscope or a telescope?
April 19, 2013
“But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
Have you observed how much Jesus valued community? He taught: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV) He also gave a great teaching regarding prayer community: “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.” (Matthew 18:19, The Message)
When He made that observation about being present when two or three gather in His name he was not giving us a consolation for a poor attendance at a meeting. He was being descriptive and prescriptive about the reality that His risen presence is among us in a special way when just two or three of us come together in His name.
The man who was thought to be the wisest man on earth in his day also wrote about the value of community. Before he wrote the words quoted above he told us that two are better than one for when one falls the other will help him up and “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” This could mean that when two or three are in community the presence of God among them forms that threefold cord that cannot be quickly broken.
Are you in community? If you are not then follow the teaching of our Lord and the wise counsel of Solomon and seek the spiritual community you need. I’m not telling you to go to church. I am writing about that special relationship with two or three people where you have accountability and deep sharing of life and faith. If you cannot find one, start one. It only takes you and one other person.
April 16, 2013
“We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
No matter how gifted we may be, sooner or later we will hit a wall of crisis where we simply do not know what to do. The Scripture quoted above is taken from an historical context when the people of God were overwhelmingly outnumbered and they simply did not know what to do.
The earthly half-brother of Jesus wrote that when we do not know what to do we should ask God for the wisdom we confess we do not have (James 1:5). He promises us that God will not hold back but dump a truckload of wisdom on us.
Years ago I received a telephone call from my youngest daughter when she was a first year student at the University of Virginia. With many tears she informed me that she had fallen down a flight of stairs and was sure she had broken her back. At the hospital they had discovered mononucleosis and seriously infected tonsils that needed to be removed. She concluded her “organ recital” litany: “Finals begin tomorrow and I just don’t know what to do, Daddy!”
Frankly, I was touched that my very intelligent young daughter believed that if she could just share her litany of woes with me and tap into the vast resources of my wisdom I could tell her what to do when she did not know what to do.
According to James that is the way we make our heavenly Father feel when we come to Him overwhelmed with problems and tell Him we just don’t know what to do. That’s why a good way to begin some days is:
“Lord, I don’t know what to do but my eyes on you!”
April 14, 2013
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT)
When Alcoholics Anonymous started it was called “The Saint James Fellowship” because it was founded on this verse. The founders later changed the name to include people of all faiths and those with no faith. While millions of secular people apply the truths of this Scripture and experience healing, it is a shame that many believers never make these healing applications.
When you meet with another believer do you keep your sins in the closet? Do you give the impression that you don’t have a problem in the world? Do they do the same? That does not burden you to pray for each other. But if you trust them and share some of your sins with them they would be burdened to pray for you. They would also more than likely have what I call “reality contact” with you by sharing their sins and that would burden you to pray for them. The result of these mutual prayers would be mutual healing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote extensively about spiritual community, put it this way: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So they remain alone with their sins, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
A paraphrase of James 5:16 is that honest prayers explode with power! It is a strategy of the evil one to isolate us into self imposed solitary confinement. Never let him isolate you into being a closet sinner; instead, find healing in confessing your sins and praying for one another.