There’s A Big Difference Between Commitment and Involvement

TEXT: JOSHUA 24:1, 14-16

 

LIFE IS FILLED WITH CHOICES –

  • We must choose when to go to bed and when to get up.
  • We must choose what to eat and what not to eat.
  • We must choose what to wear and what not to wear.
  • We choose what to do with our time.
  • We choose when we’ll go to work and where we’ll go out to eat.

Now I must admit since I’ve gotten older and retired 15 years ago, the choices have changed…a lot!  But there are still choices to make.

Some choices are easy to make while other choices are more difficult to make.

WE ARE WHO WE ARE TODAY BECAUSE OF THE CHOICES WE MADE YESTERDAY.

The CHOICES we make today have an impact on the decisions we’ll be making tomorrow.

They establish a PATTERN and a FOUNDATION for our life.  That said, most of us haven’t always made the right choices…Okay, ALL of us haven’t.  You and I may never be able to undo those choices…BUT….I have some good news for you.  HE, who holds our tomorrow, is more than able to turn it around for us.

So after reading through the Book of Joshua and writing several Blog-studies, I want to focus on the only RIGHT CHOICE we each can make.

In the last chapter of JOSHUA, it begins presenting what is often called Joshua’s FAREWELL ADDRESS.

The first mentioning of Joshua given is the picture of an HONORABLE MAN–one that you would want to follow.  In his early years, he was sent as a representative of Ephraim to spy out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-33).  He and Caleb seem to be a different standard than the other spies–the exciting voice speaking out with enthusiastic optimism about their ability to take the LAND–

  • Let’s do it!
  • We can take it!
  • We can take them!

I wondered as I read in Joshua what it was that caused this nation to follow a leader such as he.  Was it FAITH?  Was it youthful exuberance”

Who can tell, but a leader is what Israel needed as they awaited moving forward in the new campaign–CROSSING THE RIVER!

A Brief Review of Joshua’s Life –

JOSHUA is now quite old in the last chapter, and he has seen a lot over a period of 110 years.

His early formative years he spent in service to Moses.  In his later years, he spent leading God’s people into battle to the promised land.  He’d seen the PLAGUES OF EGYPT, the parting of the Red Sea.  He has endured the trip through the desert to the edge of the promised land, then the trip back into the wilderness for 40 years of wandering in the wasteland.

He saw God part the Jordan river.  He saw God crumble the walls of Jericho, sending the enemies into a panic.  He also saw the PUNISHMENT OF ACHAN after his sin,  He then saw the RESTORATION OF THE BLESSING–not ‘a blessing’ but “the blessing.”  The presence of God.

He’s led a full life and he has known the POWER and the PRESENCE OF THE LIVING GOD in his life and in his leadership.

At the ripe old age of 110, Joshua recognizes his death is near.

JOSHUA’S Last Days Are Where We Find Ourselves –

I wonder what the Israelites might be thinking at this point of history.  They understood after all those years, their campaign was now coming to a close and a LEADER is leaving his parting words on his people.

Joshua’s Life Is Coming to an End.

There’s a transition to take place.  From a people consumed with getting the other people out of the land to being a people in the land.  So Joshua asks this nation, who will you SERVE now that you are NOT FOCUSED on the conquests?  Will you return to the gods you used to worship, or will you SERVE YHWH?  Like me and my family.

There’s a back and forth going on between Joshua and the gathered ELDERS-HEADS-JUDGES-OFFICERS.  They are gathered at the same place where after Ai was finally captured, in Shechem–Joshua calls his people together for another COVENANT invitation.

JOSHUA 24:1 (AMP)

[1] THEN JOSHUA gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders of Israel and their heads, their judges, and their officers; they presented themselves before God.

In this FIRST VERSE, as I read in preparation for this BLOG study, really caught my attention.  Joshua called for the LEADERS of God’s people and they were where they were supposed to be.

We should know where the LEADERS of the Church are located.

They were on their post and Joshua knew, if no one else was around, the LEADERS were at their post and were committed.  You cannot LEAD if you can’t be found.

LEADERS then should be out front in the congregation.

Joshua before addressing the nation of Israel called upon and challenged the Leaders FIRST.  He challenged them to be more than INVOLVED…to be COMMITTED!

THE POLITICAL AND MILITARY CENTER OF GOD’S PEOPLE –

Joshua challenges their ABILITY TO BE FAITHFUL.  Now that’s an interesting thought!  If we can’t be FAITHFUL to God, we can’t be FAITHFUL to the Church.  If we’re not FAITHFUL to God, we won’t be faithful to any ministry we’re in.  To put it simply, if not FAITHFUL to God, you don’t have the ABILITY to be FAITHFUL!

  • Staying at home on Sunday mornings don’t bother you.
  • Staying home on Thursday nights from prayer and private worship don’t bother you.
  • Staying at home at 3:30 PM on Fridays at the Alzheimer/Dementia section in town doesn’t bother you.

Then You are Involved and not Committed.

YOU ARE FAITHFUL TO THOSE THINGS THAT YOU ARE COMMITTED TO –

This, of course, applies to all areas of our lives.  As an example, if we’re not committed to weight loss, then we will not be faithful in the process.  Ever start college or trade school?  If we’re not committed to the process then we will not be faithful in going to class and study (been there!).  And when it comes to marriage…ok, I’ll leave that alone.

The Mood Has Changed from the Beginning of this OT book…

When God’s people were wandering in the wilderness, they found themselves fighting and defending their little nation.  Joshua now reviews the conquest campaign, as well as a history lesson with God, being good to God’s COVENANTAL AGREEMENT.

He then concludes his message with a personal statement regarding his family’s FIDELITY in VERSE 15:

NOTICE, Joshua doesn’t say, “as for me and my people,” rather, he states, as for me and MY FAMILY, or “household”.  WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.

It appears Israel was fit for a battle campaign but now the question arises, are they fit for settling in the land and trusting God in a new way campaign?

Ultimately, isn’t that the most any of us can say?

  • In spite of what I decide to do…
  • In spite of my commitment level,
  • In spite of what I want to do with my time,
  • In spite of how I feel about supporting the Church…

Me and My Family Will Serve the Lord!

With POSSESSION of the Promised Land comes great Responsibility –

It now becomes your DUTY to take what you have already secured and passed it along to the next generation.  But as far as Joshua goes, his BATTLE DAYS are coming to a close.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are plenty more battles to be fought but Joshua’s time has come to a close.  After all the BATTLES, the slaughter, and the delivery of land, the ONLY THING Joshua can have control is he and his family.

Opportunity Is Knocking At The Front Door –

I’m sure the compiler of the conquest narrative more than likely lives in the aftermath of these days, in the time of Judges– when the people of God were all too quick to forget this covenant.  So they knew Joshua’s hesitation reaffirmed the COVENANT for a good reason.

But the people say: “No! We will serve the Lord.”  

They could have said:  “Well Pastor, this weekend is my time to sleep in.”

Here was the opportunity to walk away, to be more honest, to pledge just partial commitment, to say, “Pastor you know I work all week!”

BUT THEY DIDN’T!

Joshua needs them to know and understand the gravity of their being A COVENANT PEOPLE.  To ensure they really wanted to be God’s people IN THE LAND, not just A PEOPLE IN THE LAND.

A STANDARD OF SERVICE DEMANDED (24:14 NIV) –

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.”

Joshua doesn’t leave any room for CASUAL FAITH, for serving God when it’s convenient or when things are going well, or when life is easy.  He doesn’t leave room for doing FAITH on our terms.  He calls us to SERVE ‘with ALL faithfulness.’

What if in our serving there’s no reward, no appreciation?

Joshua says, “serve Him in sincerity and in truth” (AMP).

There is A RESPONSIBILITY OF CHOICE that goes along with Commitment –

With the right to choose comes the responsibility to choose.  You can’t defer this CHOICE to anyone else.  It’s easy to say if I had a better Husband or Wife; if we had a better Preacher; to say if only others in the church were committed.  We cannot defer or place our CHOICES on others.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”  (24:15)

I just want to add here…THE RECORD OF CHOICE.

It has always been LIFE or DEATH, BLESSING or CURSES.

  • Adam and Eve CHOSE Death.
  • Ananias and Sapphira CHOSE Death.
  • The Rich Young Ruler CHOSE Death.
  • King Agrippa CHOSE Death.
  • Pontius Pilate CHOSE Death.
  • Judas CHOSE Death.

BUT…

  • Lazarus CHOSE Life.
  • Abraham CHOSE Life.
  • Paul CHOSE Life.
  • Peter CHOSE Life.

There is a Record of the Repercussions of the Choices you make.

Which Do We Choose?

WHO ARE YOU GOING TO SERVE?

It was fairly easy for the Israelites to worship other gods–these gods didn’t demand much.

  • It was EASY to carry a wooden carving.
  • It was EASY to throw a bit of grain at an altar.
  • It was EASY to bow to the sun.

BUT GOD DEMANDS “ALL”!

It’s relatively EASY for us to carry our own dreams and desires and live for them.  It’s also EASY to throw a bit of money at a charitable cause.  It’s relatively EASY for us to raise our hands and shout praise to a local sports hero.

BUT GOD DEMANDS ALL!

Maybe Joshua is getting less patient with age.  I recognize I’m less patient since growing older.

So Joshua lays it out bluntly–either SERVE the Lord WITH ALL FAITHFULNESS or, if you don’t like that, CHOOSE some other god to serve.  It will probably be a lot easier serving another god for they don’t demand much.

AND BY THE WAY, NEITHER DO THEY OFFER MUCH IN RETURN.

Because of GOD’S GRACE, we are invited into relationship with God.  Because of GOD’S GRACE, Jesus came and died for us and bridged the chasm that separated us from God.

Now we are invited to be in a relationship with God, invited into a reunion with the Holy and jealous God Joshua describes. 

God gives us the GRACE to SERVE Him for we can’t serve Him on our own efforts.

But Here is the HEART of the Gospel:  We can serve a holy and jealous God because He has invited us to by His Grace.

NOW IT’S TIME TO MAKE A CHOICE.

  • To put that god of Alcohol away.
  • To throw away the gods of drugs, opioids, pornography…

To come to the altar, on your knees if you need to.

Today is the day to CHOOSE LIFE and follow God.

“Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”

 

LISTEN TO THE WORDS TO THIS MUSIC/VIDEO:

 

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CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings advanced.

Music Video:  As for Me and My House – John Waller/Youtube.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

“Do You Hear What I hear?”

THE “FOUR VOICES” OF ISAIAH REVEALED IN STUDY

Scripture Study:  ISAIAH 40:1-11

VOICE #1,  “Comfort God’s People” – (40:1, 2).

“COMFORT, COMFORT my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  [New International Version, NIV].

God Loves to Comfort His People!

Follow along with how the apostle Paul refers to God in 2 Corinthians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…(and here is the description) “the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [who is the Source] of every COMFORT.”

And this isn’t the only place in the bible where we find God described as a COMFORTER…

PSALM 23, the psalmist says of God the Good Shepherd,  “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

“As one whom his mother comforts, so will I COMFORT you; you should be COMFORTED in Jerusalem.”  (Isaiah 66:13)

So God does love to COMFORT His people.

And…He is a great source of comfort…BUT…God recognizes we need someone with skin on them too!

"Sometimes we need someone with skin on them"
“Sometimes we need someone with skin on them”

A Mother’s Words of Comfort (See Footnote [i]):

Dr. George W. Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas for 50 years, told a story of a young, unbelieving couple in a sermon.

The young couple, who had lost their baby, came to Dr. Truett, asking him to conduct the funeral, so he did.  He said later, he had such joy of seeing them both trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many months later, he said the young mother who had lost her child stepped forward, went to a young girl’s side and said, “I passed through this and I know what you’re passing through.  God called me, and through the darkness I came to Him.  He’s comforted me, and He’ll comfort you.”

God recognizes that just like that young girl in the story, sometimes we need someone in the FLESH to come and sit with us, hold our hand and listen to our heartache.

In the first verse of the text, God says,  “Comfort, Comfort My People…”

This command [“comfort” spoken in succession] is of God to comfort His people is directed not only to Isaiah, but to ALL of God’s prophets.

BUT before COMFORT can come…SIN was dealt with–that God calls His prophet to comfort.

The first 39 Chapters of Isaiah…

God doesn’t call Isaiah to “comfort” His people.  It’s only after “their” sin has been absolved that He can send the prophet Isaiah with words of COMFORT.

So in reading Chapters 40-66 of Isaiah, the words will show TRUE COMFORT consists (not in telling people what their ‘itchy’ ears want to hear), BUT in presenting the whole truth concerning their tragic condition.  AND…in causing them to SEE GOD as their only HOPE.

It is only when reality and ugliness of SIN raises its head that the announcement of DELIVERANCE can be made.

There’s A Prerequisite for COMFORT…

Apart from the Declaration of Judgment found in Chapters 1-39 of Isaiah, the WORDS OF COMFORT in 40-66 are without much point.

The prerequisite for comfort seen here in Isaiah is much the same as JESUS taught on the Sermon On The Mount–(Matthew Chapter 5).

He too talked about people being “comforted”–But before they could be comforted, JESUS SAID, they must be “poor in spirit” and acknowledge their absolute dependence upon God–and then they mustmourn” over their sin and hopeless condition…

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be

COMFORTED”

VOICE #2 – “PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD” – Isaiah 40:3-5

[3] “A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God!  [4] Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places made plain.  [5] And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

Pope Francis was visiting the USA this past week, and as I watch all the proceedings on TV, I thought what preparations must have been made ahead of time for his arrival.

Isaiah here, pictures the scene played out by the Royal Road Builders–smoothing the way for their King, working diligently, removing barriers and obstacles in order to make the King’s journey somewhat easier.

The PROPHECY…

Though all the prophets had a part in preparing the way for JESUS’ entry into the world–this PROPHECY ultimately was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist.

Three of the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke quote this verse from Isaiah and apply it to the Baptizer.

JOHN the Baptist Prepared the Way…

john-the-baptist2

John prepared the way by shouting out in the wilderness that the only way to get right with God–was to REPENT and be IMMERSED in baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

John also helped prepare the way by grooming some of JESUS’ first disciples – Peter, John, Andrew, and James.

Once John prepared the way–removed the obstacles–showed the futility of religious ritual–preached repentance–

Once John did this, then…the GLORY of the LORD was revealed.  John the Baptist prepared the way “FOR” (“I AM the way, the Truth, and the Light”)…

We still got some “PREPARING” to do today!

Is there now no more PREPARING for the Lord–since John the Baptist, clothed in camel’s-hair, eating wild locust, shouted in the wilderness?

In a way, YES.  But, in the way, NO.

YES, there is no preparing in the sense of preparing for the Lord’s earthly arrival.  JESUS has already come in the flesh.  John the Baptist prepared the way.

But in another sense, this PRINCIPLE still applies today.

The LORD still wants to REVEAL Himself in Glory to His church.  

But, before He can do this, there are OBSTACLES that must be removed; BARRIERS that must be torn down and ROUGH PLACES that must be made smooth again…So that JESUS can arrive and be EXALTED–LIFTED UP!

TODAY’S BARRIERS, OBSTACLES, AND ROUGH PLACES REVEALED: What has to be removed before the LORD’S GLORY shows up!

Making The Way Smooth…

Women labourers throw dust on a road tarmac under construction at Bharadva village in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Women labourers throw dust on a road tarmac under construction at Bharadva village in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave

What are we in the CHURCH lifting up rather than Christ Jesus?

We are lifting up…

  • Personal Sin,
  • Pride,
  • Prejudice,
  • Indifference,
  • Opinions,
  • Comfort,
  • Convenience,
  • Worldly Pleasures.

In a word, we are lifting up SELF.  If we want to see the Lord’s Glory revealed in His Church, we too must LISTEN to the voice of God and prepare the way…there is way too much talking and not enough listening to God’s Spirit.

We must make a straight path/raise valleys/lower mountains/level the rough ground and make the rugged places a Plain.

VOICE # 3  Is Crying, “Invest in the Eternal” – Isaiah 40:6-8:

[6]  “A voice says, Cry [prophesy]!  And I said, What shall I cry?  [The voice answered,  PROCLAIM:]  All flesh is as frail as grass, and all that makes attractive [its kindness, its goodwill, its mercy from God, its glory and comeliness, however good] is transitory, like the flower of the field.  [7] The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely [all] the people are like grass.  [8] The grass (a) withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

(a.)  The apostle Peter quotes this verse (1 Pet. 1:24-25) and then adds, “and this Word is the good news which was preached to you” –which confirms as fact that Isaiah is here referring to the times of Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One *** (Amplified Bible footnote, Page 1029.).

PETER then goes on to say,

“SO BE done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy and jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.  Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation”  (1 Peter 2:1, 2).

Since God’s Word is ETERNAL and everything in this world is NOT–we should rid ourselves the things of the world and crave God’s Word.

Unfortunately, we find that many people more often than not are CRAVING the temporary…craving the things of this world (money, looks, physic, career, pleasure) with passion.

While they pursue God’s Word with casual indifference…“I’ll get God’s Word from my pastor on Sunday.”  God says INVEST in something that will last!

Making Foolish Investments In The Temporary, Ignoring the Eternal…

JESUS addressed this issue in a parableLuke 12:16-21:  “What good is it to gain the world, yet lose your very soul?”

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?  

DO YOU HEAR THE VOICES?

The VOICES are calling God’s people and they’ve been calling for centuries…

  • “Comfort, Comfort My people”
  • “Prepare the way for the Lord”
  • “Invest in the eternal”

And there is one more voice, and the VOICE IS CRYING out to us,

“GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN” – Isaiah 40:9-11:

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[9] You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain, You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”  [10] See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him.  [11] He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young  (NIV Bible).

The Announcement of the Presence of God Must Be Proclaimed Far and Wide…

GOD’S PEOPLE are not to be silent; keeping the Good News of the Lord’s arrival to themselves.  We are to go up on a mountain, but not just any mountain.

We are to go on a HIGH MOUNTAIN.  And we are not to just softly speak about the Lord’s presence, we are to SHOUT!  Lift up our VOICE…

We are not to be intimidated but rather to shout…  

Here’s your God!!!  He is powerful and mighty!!!  He is a God who rewards greatly!!!”

The VOICE compels us to “Go Tell It On The Mountain” –

Matthew 5:14-16:

[14] You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  [15] Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  [16] Let you light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

ISAIAH began the second half of his ministry by hearing the VOICES OF GOD calling him to:

#1.  Comfort My people…

#2.  Prepare the way for the Lord…

#3.  Invest in the eternal…

#4.  Go tell it on the mountain.

And ISAIAH WAS FAITHFUL and answered those VOICES…

And the voices, are they still calling today?

Do you hear the voices?

Will you respond to what you hear?

Or, will you ignore them?


Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i] – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/comfort-someti…h-skin-on-them/

Photo Credits- Google Image Search & Photo Pin.

Bible Translation:  The AMPLIFIED BIBLE, except where noted in the text.

Smiling On A Cloudy Day

A CLOUDY DAY!

A VIEW from my porch
A VIEW from my porch

My wife and I were sitting on our front porch at the end of summer, looking towards the western sky.  We started a new tradition this year, borrowing it from my brother and sister-in-law, of ringing a brass bell while the sun is setting.  The “ringing out” of the end of another day.

But on this particular evening, a wisp of clouds seemed to be layered over the horizon, and as I grabbed the wooden handle of the bell, I stopped, looked at my wife and smiled…

“You go, God!”

GDIBKM878

“Clouds come floating in my life no longer to carry

rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset day.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds ~

SCRIPTURE VERSE – ISAIAH 19:1:

9fbd131ec772ec0b081af7ceaa27f231

“AN ORACLE concerning Egypt:

“See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before Him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them” ~ New International Bible.

As I continued with my reading and study in the Book of Isaiah this past week, I soon discovered, how closely the above verse identifies “CLOUDS” with GOD (Isaiah 19:1; Revelation 14:14).

GOD USES A “CLOUD” IN THE BIBLE…

  • To guide the Children of Israel through the wilderness.
  • GOD spoke to Moses in a CLOUD on Mt. Sinai.
  • GOD appeared to Aaron on the Day of Atonement, at the Mercy Seat, in a “CLOUD.”
  • The GLORY of the LORD left the Temple in Jerusalem, in a “CLOUD.”
  • When Elijah predicted rain, his servant saw a “CLOUD” the size of a man’s hand.
  • GOD spoke in a CLOUD at the transfiguration of JESUS.
  • JESUS ascended in a CLOUD.
  • We will be caught up in the CLOUDS in the Rapture.

A.  Bible verses where GOD used a “CLOUD” –

  1.  Genesis 9:13-16 – God Teaches Us About HIS PROMISES:

[13] “I set My bow [rainbow] in the cloud, and it shall be a token or sign of a covenant or solemn pledge between Me and the earth. 

[14] And it shall be that when I bring clouds over the earth and the bow [rainbow] is seen in the clouds,

[15] I will [earnestly] remember My covenant or solemn pledge which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy and make all flesh corrupt.

[16] When the bow [rainbow] is in the clouds and I look upon it, I will [earnestly] remember the everlasting covenant or pledge between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”

THE RAINBOW –

One of God’s covenant SIGNS to the world is that there will never be another FLOOD like that one!

It’s a PROMISE from GOD… 

It had never rained before the flood (Gen. 2:5-6) and when GOD caused the great flood, He caused it to RAIN for 40 days & 40 nights.

Can you imagine what NOAH must have done, when he got off the ARK, saw a DARK CLOUD in the sky?  He might have run back to the ark.

UNTIL…he smiled and remembered God’s PROMISE…the RAINBOW.

Maybe…there are some DARK CLOUDS in your life right now.  Remember the cartoon character who always had a dark cloud following him everywhere?

images (1)
LIL’ Abner

Looking Beyond the Dark Clouds…

There can’t be a RAINBOW, without clouds!

There’s an old saying, “Beyond every cloud there’s a silver lining.”  While that may not be true, there’s always a RAINBOW of God’s presence… behind every dark cloud.

There’s NOT A DARK CLOUD without a RAINBOW of promise.

DARK CLOUDS always mean showers of blessing – “Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised” ~ Romans 4:21.

2.  Exodus 13:21-22 – God Teaches Us About His GUIDANCE:

“The LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”

GOD used the CLOUD to GUIDE people through the wilderness –

Where the cloud went, Israel went and when it moved, they moved…when it stopped, they stopped.

There were no road maps, roads or a resident travel agent…they had a CLOUD.  They didn’t need to stop and ask for directions (Moses was a man…he wouldn’t have anyhow!).

The CLOUD didn’t go faster than they could follow…

BUT…they had to keep up with the CLOUD.  They could see it…it didn’t go away…it was always there.

IN A LIKE MANNER…we are to walk by FAITH, not by sight.

We can’t see the CLOUD…BUT…we still have a GUIDE through the wilderness of our own lives.

We NEED to keep our eyes on Him, for He will never LEAD us astray.

3.  Exodus 14:19-20 – God Teaches Us About His PROTECTION:

[19] “And the [i] Angel of God Who went before the host of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before them and stood behind them,

[20] Coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. It was a cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, but it gave light by night to the Israelites; and the one host did not come near the other all night.”

NOW…the CLOUD goes behind the children of Israel (“I got your backs!”).  They didn’t need to be guided across the Red Sea…it has opened up for them.

What they needed now was PROTECTION–a GUARD at their backs…BECAUSE…the Egyptian army was closing in on them.

The CLOUD became a partition between them and their enemy.

God Stands in the Clouds, as a PARTITION between you and your enemy, the DEVIL – 

Psalm 34:7:  “The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe] and each of them He delivers.”

4.  Exodus 16:10-12 – God Teaches Us His PROVISION:

[10] And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud!  [11] The Lord said to Moses,  [12] I have heard murmurings of the Israelites; speak to them, saying,  At twilight you shall eat meat, and between the two evenings you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God. 

God had guided them; protected them so far… Would He NOW, not PROVIDE for them?

God continues in my life to provide for my family, for we are His children and He provides for us ABUNDANTLY, and He does for you as well!

  • ABUNDANT LIFE – John 10:10
  • ABUNDANT POWER – Eph. 3:20
  • ABUNDANT SUPPLY – Philip. 4:19

When Israel looked at the CLOUDS, they must have smiled.  

I ran across a humorous account in my study of clouds the other day that made me smile. It was in regards to the observation of clouds in the overhead sky:

“Aren’t the CLOUDS beautiful?  They look like big balls of cotton…I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by…If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations…what do you see, Linus?”

“Well, those clouds up there look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean…That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor…And, that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen…I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side…”

“Uh, huh…That’s very good…What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”

“Well, I was going to say I saw a ‘ducky’ and a ‘horsie’, but I changed my mind! “

[See footnote [i] ].

When Israel looked at the CLOUDS…it probably wasn’t viewed a “Linus” and “Charlie Brown” ‘s.

The CLOUD reminded them of God’s presence…His guidance…His protection…His provision.

Will GOD do any less for you and I?

My, how God supplies the necessities in our lives…

  • Have you missed a meal in the last couple of days?
  • What kind of vehicle did you drive in your garage today?
  • Did you walk into your church this past week, or did someone have to carry you in on a mat?
  • If you were to die before 8:30 PM, would you spend eternity in Heaven?

GOD PROVIDES!

5.  Exodus 24:15-18 – God Teaches Us About His GLORIFICATION:

[15] “Then Moses went up into the mountain, and the CLOUD covered the mountain.  [16] The GLORY of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the CLOUD covered it for six days. On the seventh day [God] called to Moses out of the midst of the CLOUD.  [17] And the GLORY of the Lord appeared to the Israelites like devouring fire on the top of the mountain.”  [“CLOUD”and “GLORY” were capitalized for emphasis. ]

MOSES goes up into Mt. Sinai to receive God’s law – (24:12).  And God, once again, MANIFESTS [disclose one’s self] in the form of a CLOUD.

I can almost see myself gathered with the Israelites that day (24:17).  What a privilege it must have been to see this CLOUD…to hear the voice of God…to see His glory!

We too, can See God’s Glory Today!

“And all of us, as with unveiled face,  [because we] continued to behold  [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever-increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit”  (2 Corinthians 3:18 AMP).

You and I are then to REFLECT the glory of God.  If we aren’t, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with God’s glory.  It’s because there’s something not right with the ‘reflectors’.

Maybe we’re like dirty mirrors at times; smudges everywhere, distorting the image of His true glory.

The “DO’s” of Reflecting God’s Glory –

  • By Good Works – Matthew 5:16.
  • By Bearing Fruit – John 15:8.
  • By Consecration – 1 Corinthians 6:20.

The Process of Constantly being changed–

The GLORY of God should be REFLECTED in each one of us who believe in Christ Jesus.  We should be constantly “being changed” in clearness of the IMAGE–the glory of God:  “From glory to glory” means spiritual growth…from a carnal (fleshly) Christian to a Spiritual Christian.

6.  EXODUS 40:33b-38 – God Teaches Us About His PRESENCE:

GOD’S PRESENCE (the “manifestation”) filled the tabernacle in a CLOUD.

As Christians, we are also filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  We are His “temple”…the dwelling place of God.

Because of His ‘infilling’ and His fullness, and His PRESENCE, we can have strength and victory in the Christian life.

The Israelites saw the CLOUD of the PRESENCE of God every day.  This should be true in our lives as well.  The HOLY SPIRIT lives within us…indwells us, so we too should experience His PRESENCE continually.

7.  ACTS 1:9 – God Teaches Us About His COMING AGAIN:

“And when He [Jesus] had said this, even as they were looking [at Him], He was caught up, and a cloud received and carried Him away out of their sight.”

JESUS ascends to His Father in a CLOUD…the visible image of an invisible God.

JESUS had broken visible fellowship with His disciples on earth, and entered His Heavenly home.  BUT…ten days later, Holy Spirit would come to indwell them.  He didn’t leave them without His PRESENCE.

Just like it was a CLOUD that took JESUS home, also a CLOUD will one day take US home (1 Thessalonians 4:11-17).

hurricane_clouds__gulf_of_mexico5

The CLOUDS we have seen here, REVEALS the glory of God.  The only way we can go home to be with JESUS, is ONLY if we are accompanied by His GLORY,

We have no GLORY of our own…we are only reflectors of His Glory!

WHENEVER we look up into the sky, and see a CLOUD…like Linus in the Charles Schultz story, we should smile, reminding us of…

  • THE PROMISE of God…that will never fail you.
  • THE GUIDANCE of God…that will never lead you down the wrong path.
  • THE PROTECTION of God…that He is always there to give you victory over the Devil.
  • THE PROVISION of God…that He will provide ALL your needs.
  • THE GLORY of God…that He is to be seen in your life, reflecting His glory.
  • THE PRESENCE of God…that He will never leave nor forsake you, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • THE COMING of God…that JESUS will return in the clouds to take you home with Him.

So when the storm clouds darken your life…just remember, the Light of God’s glory will always shine through.  That certainly makes me smile!

Let the CLOUDS remind you of the PRESENCE OF CHRIST!!!

 


 

Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i]: Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 5: 1959-1960.

Photo Credits for this Blog:  Front Porch Clouds at Sunset: Courtesy of my wife, Dianne [Thank you honey].  

Balance of photos used, by Google Images.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

 

 

ONE MORNING THE MUSIC JUST STOPPED AND THEN…

LOOKING BACK ON THAT ‘ONE PARTICULAR MORNING’:

And The Music Stopped
And The Music Stopped

The week before the awakening of a particular  Sunday Morning– after the pastor’s message, my wife and I headed towards the church parking lot. I found myself in a quandary. Why had his words fell flat in my hearing?  I was feeling the pastor’s presentation was being directed to a younger generation; my age group was being totally ignored, disrespected and my feelings were hurt . The more I thought about it as I left that day, the more outraged and disenchanted I became.

On arriving at our car, I opened the passenger side of the car for my wife (yep, after 48 years of marriage…I still open doors), then went around to the driver’s side and sat quiet in thought, as my hands rested on the steering wheel and finding myself in a trance.

My wife asked if I was alright.  My response was hesitant in the beginning, and then… the floodgates opened wide.  I told her I was dismayed with the Sunday morning message…then proceeded giving her all the reasons why this young pastor had missed the boat; he was preaching to the wrong audience.  Maybe it would be better to just skip this series of pastor’s messages.  I also went on to ask, “And besides…What did we get out of worship this morning?”  I’ll rephrased the question: “What did I…get out of worship this morning?”

— Needed counseling began that afternoon... 

Later that day, by the prompting of the Spirit of God, I realized that I had entered a designated place… of PRAISE & WORSHIP– out of my own needs, my selfish motives, without even thinking why I was there in the first place–to give PRAISE to Who praise was due.

–the following Sunday morning.

So Holy Spirit  urged me to go to church the following Sunday.  I knew He had something in mind.  I was to go with a  blank slate and not… with a predetermined outcome. I reluctantly obeyed.

To my surprise, the pastor didn’t continue with his message from last week. He had the flu all week and was unable continue in his message series.  Since our pastor also leads the music on Sunday mornings, I sang out with everything I had with voice and spirit– with my focus on who God is and the glory due His name.  Not the glory due to pastor…nor to my feelings, but to God’s Presence.

And after the music and singing stopped in the sanctuary, with my hands raised and head bowed, I waited IN SILENCE until praise began to rise in the heart of the people.  GUESS WHAT?  God turned up!

— It’s not about me, it’s all about You Jesus…

One of my favorite worship songs is a song that comes out of this tune by Matt Redman’s HEART OF WORSHIP:

When the music fades and all is stripped away,

and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth, that will bless Your heart.

I bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required, You search much deeper within, than the things appear, You’re looking into my heart.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about You Jesus.

I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, cause its all about you, all about you Jesus.

It’s not our singing that brings a change in the Atmosphere, it is our PRAISE and WORSHIP!

EXPERIENCING GOD’S PRESENCE:

Even though God is OMNISCIENT…”the attribute by which God perfectly and eternally knows all things that can be known past, present and future” [NIV Bible Dictionary]–He can and does manifest His presence in a realistic way in a place or in the midst of His congregation. We have to look for it!

“But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]”  (Psalm 22:3 AMP).

— When God shows up, the atmosphere changes!  Things happen!

ASCRIBE TO the Lord, O sons of the mighty,  Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in holy array.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The Lord is over many waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic.

The voice of the Lord breaks cedars;  Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;  The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve,  And strips the forests bare,  And in His temple everything says,  “Glory!”

The Lord sat as King at the flood;  Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.  The Lord will give strength to His people;  The Lord will bless His people with peace  (PSALM 29 NAS).

— When we release a sound of praise, the Earth must respond.  God’s Voice is manifested! 

When Israel was ordered by the Lord, into ranks and tribes…

When they crossed the Red Sea…

Whenever they moved forward and traveled on in their journey (Numbers 2)…

Whenever they went to war (Judges 1:1-2)…

Whenever they were called to stand before the Lord…

ONE TRIBE always took the lead position–JUDAH

JUDAH in the Hebrew means PRAISE.  So what the Lord was saying, in asking the Tribe of Judah to take the lead role was…PRAISE always leads us into the things of God.

— God’s Presence isn’t just a place to visit:

And the Lord said,  My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest  (Exodus 33:14).

JUDAH must go first!  PRAISE must go first in our lives as well!

— Our church

— Our Ministries

— Our cities

— Our Nation

“What are the benefits in The Presence?”

One of the first questions asked in a job offer are these words.  We are living in a “benefit-oriented” society; everyone wanting to know, “What’s in it for me?”

We don’t seem to realize that we are missing out on a greater source of benefits coming from living and dwelling in the PRESENCE OF ALMIGHTY GOD.

EVERYTHING you could ever need or want can be found in THE PRESENCE of the Lord.

— Do you need healing today?  You will find it in His Presence!

— Do you need provision today?  You’ll find it in His Presence!

It’s so simple, yet many Christians are missing out on the powerful truth.  It’s so amazing that many believers fail to exercise or practice God’s Presence.

Think about it.  Everyday in making decisions, we say no to God’s offer of fellowship and choosing instead, filling our minds with TV, gossip and mindless recreation.  Am I saying all of that is bad?  Not at all.  But if it takes or gets in the way of His Presence…you make the decision.

Results of Training and Practicing God’s Presence…

“TRAIN YOURSELF…For physical training is of some value, but godliness [practicing GOD’S PRESENCE] has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”       (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV–and my words added in the brackets).

— The experiencing of God’s Presence is the consciousness of His presence.

“And the Lord said,  My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you REST ” (Exodus 33:14).

God’s Presence isn’t just a place you visit…it moves with you wherever you go!  In fact, Moses goes on to say to God, I’m not moving from this spot until Your Presence goes with me:

“And Moses said to the Lord,  If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here! ” (Exodus 33:15).

Can you imagine yourself saying tomorrow morning before your day begins, Lord…I’m not going to start my day without Your Presence going ahead of me!

GOD-CONSCIOUSNESS:

Experiencing God’s Presence is the direct consciousness of God’s Presence in our lives.  It’s not making God become present on Sunday morning’s Worship and Praise, but it’s becoming more aware of the Holy Presence that is here and now!

One of the ways, the most basic, most powerful in experiencing the Presence of God is through His Word.  How?

“IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself”  (John 1:1 AMP).

GOD AND HIS WORD ARE INSEPARABLE!

 When you are in the presence of the Word, you are in the Presence of God.

Something powerful happens when you spend quality time in your Bible.  Something happens to your heart;  it feeds your spirit, changes you right where you are and continues to actively work in you, even after you close the Book and walk away.

— Benefits of Two Partners Found In God’s Presence:

“Glory and honour are in His presence…”  (1 Chronicles 16:27 KJV).

GLORY – the God-kind, appears any time something promised in the Word is manifested [made visible] in the physical realm.

AN EXAMPLE: When HEALING, as promised in God’s Word (Scripture), comes into someones life, that’s GLORY!

Where can you go to see the GLORY of God manifested…made visible in your life?  According to the above verse, when you enter into the Presence! THAT…is a definitive BENEFIT!

— GLORY HAS A PARTNER:  HONOR

What kind of HONOR? The HONOR OF GOD.

[4] “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of [earth-born] man that You care for him?  

[5] Yet You have made him but a little lower than God, and You have [crowned] him with GLORY and HONOR”  (Psalm 8:4, 5 AMP). 

SOME PRACTICAL STEPS IN “PRACTICING AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE”:

— What works for one, doesn’t mean it works for every one.

Being aware of God’s Presence is not some kind of formula.  I haven’t spent much time before this blog-post, in analyzing what I do to be more aware.  I like to think it’s a work in progress.

These are but a few STEPS that I practice:

STEP #1.  Make sure my awareness is not required by anything or by anyone else.  EX.: i’M NOT DRIVING A CAR, CROSSING A STREET, TALKING WITH SOME ONE ELSE–or, with myself  for that matter :-).  Nothing that requires my attention.

STEP #2.  I always practice my awareness in a quiet place; where I am not likely to be interrupted.  

AWARENESS and ATTENTION are fleeting,jumping from one thing to another; one thought to another.  I wish some churches who initiate “fellowship time” right after Worship and Praise on Sunday mornings, would re-evaluate their practice.  

So, a quiet place with few distractions works best for me. 

STEP #3.  I close my eyes.  Visual stimuli are distracting for me.  Maybe it’s is just my age :-).  The fewer the distractions, the more aware I become.

STEP #4.  I turn my attention away from the daily activities in my life.  I turn my attention towards God’s Presence in the ‘right now’.  I sometimes have to take a deep breath and relax.  Then start praising God in the Spirit of Who He is!  Giving thanks that God so loves us “that each of us is in God’s Presence.” 

So What Works For You?

Use your own creativity.  It may be that the awareness you might have is unique to you.

In closing, my responsibility is to be aware of God’s Presence.  I don’t somehow conjure up God in doing magical things that might cause God to be present in the moment.  That’s already done for me, and, I believe for all.

It is up to me to do something about this Presence–not the pastors–not the music team–not the congregation–to reap the benefits available of God’s Glory; healing, provision, etc.

The “ball is in my court”, as, I believe, it’s in yours.  So let ‘JUDAH PRAISE’ lead out, and then start practicing–being aware–of God’s Presence in your life.  And maybe one Sunday morning, the music will stop…and you too will be aware of His Presence manifested in your Tabernacle.  It’s a work in progress for me and I hope it will for you.