Using Our God-given Abilities for the Best Results

BLOG’S SCRIPTURE STUDY

Here in Matthew 25,  Jesus and His disciples are just about to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  A similar account is also recorded in the Gospel According To Luke (Luke 19:11-27).  Both are referred to as the PARABLE OF THE TALENTS.  And by the way, the talents referred to are not the same as the TV show, America’s Got Talent, or from whatever the country you are reading this from.  TALENTS in the parable are monetary units.  Not really a coin but an ingot, weighing roughly 60-70 pounds and valued in that day $30,000.  Seventy-pounds of gold today in the millions.

Bear in mind that Jesus is using a parable to make a point.

What is a PARABLE?

A dictionary definition:  “a placing beside”.  It signifies “a placing of one thing beside another” with a view to a comparison (some consider that the thought of comparison is not necessarily contained in the word).  It is generally used of a somewhat lengthy utterance or narrative drawn from nature or human circumstances, the object of which is to set forth a spiritual lesson…” [See Credits]

Just to make another point: Exodus 38:24

[24] All the gold that was used for the work in all the building and furnishing of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was 29 talents and 730 shekels, by the shekels of the sanctuary.  [AMP]

You can do the math, and it boggles my mind!

And to make a quick side note: Revelations 16:21

[21] And great (excessively oppressive) hailstones, as heavy as a talent [between fifty and sixty pounds], of immense size, fell from the sky on the people…”  [AMP]

I think I’ve got a better understanding now–a mental picture–of what a TALENT is.

THE THREE SERVANTS

We have three servants listed in Jesus’ parable, each with different abilities or aptitude.  The master prepared to go on a journey, but first, he gave each of the servants a powerful gift, which in fact provided them with unbelievable opportunities to gain in wealth but also to do good among others.  After all, this wasn’t just about an opportunity for them.

In verse 15, we read that gifts were given to their ability.  The first was given five talents or 375 pounds of gold.  The second received two talents or 150 pounds of gold and the third received one talent or 75 pounds of gold.

We all have received blessings from time to time over the years in one form or another.  What we’ve done with those blessings is in need of reflection because of what Jesus is trying to get through to us.

The first servant went out and traded up his five talents and now has ten talents.  The second servant also doubled his talents to four.  The third servant did nothing with his single talent, he buried it to keep it safe.

It’s time for an accounting.

I believe this is such an important point and perhaps the most meaningful in the parable.  In verse 15 we read the master “gave” each servant according to his ability.

Now in verse 18, there’s a reference to “his master’s money.”  In the first part, there is no instruction or guidelines to reflect anything beyond a GIFT.  The why is the master asking for an accounting?

We may be given unrestricted use of God’s gifts, but we do have a responsibility to use them for HIS glory.

To squander them on frivolity, indecency, illegality is something that we’ll have to answer when our Master, The Lord Jesus Christ is going to return.  When He does, he will have us account for how we used or misused our blessings/gifts.

“But I only have one talent”

If you were setting the story up for dramatic irony, the guy with one talent should have been the good guy.  He would have been faithful with his one little talent and put it to work.  But Jesus didn’t go for dramatic irony, he went for what I think is pretty typical.

The guy who didn’t have as much as the other guys, he looked around and said, “I’m going to hold on to what little I’ve got.”

The guys with the five talents and the two talents do what they’re supposed to,  They get to work and invest their money, both getting a return.  And in both cases, they get the same reward.

You see, the Master didn’t care about the extent of the results, just that there were results.  As the results reveal, in both cases the reward is exactly the same:

They can live secure with the knowledge of two things:

  1. Before they had touched a dime, their Master knew they were worthy of His trust.
  2. And, once they were through, their Master was happy that they had been faithful with what had been given to them.

The LAST GUY, the guy with one talent, however, refused to believe that he was capable of doing anything for his Master.  

And his reaction isn’t shocking.

When he doesn’t think he’s worthy, he doesn’t think anyone around him is either.  He missed out on the fact that his Master thought him worthy to have a talent at all!  Frankly, he resented his Master.  Why me?  Why do I have this thing for him when he didn’t give me the resources to do anything?  Never mind that even at one talent, he still has a year’s wages in the bag to play with.  His attitude was that these gifts were burdens and tasks rather than resources and opportunities to revel with joy.

And so, he misses out!

The point is pretty simple, I think.  Don’t focus on what you don’t have.  That’s not important in the grand scheme of things.  Focus instead on what you do have!

We’ve been given a golden opportunity.

Jesus will someday return and will want to know what you’ve done with the opportunities.  God the Father has sacrificed His Son so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life as servants of His Kingdom.  So the question becomes, how are you investing what God has entrusted to you?

SALVATION

Have you shared the Gospel of Christ with anyone?

Have you invested by faith in the things of God?

Have you been a good steward and found ways to increase that which you’ve been entrusted with?

Has your faith grown, or have you put it in a hole in the backyard and covered it up?

Jesus will reward you for increasing that which He has entrusted you with and not the material things alone but more importantly spiritual things.

Our God has put into each one of us the GIFT OF SALVATION so there might be something more to take out.  Salvation by its very nature produces a return in you and those around you that’s measurable and that’s rightfully God’s to claim since He put in the seed money which was His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

By the shedding of His blood, Jesus will rightfully lay claim the Heaven and Earth’s throne as a payment for all the sin of humankind.

By His victory over death Jesus’ resurrection has won for us eternal life and He will be proclaimed the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Revelation 12:10 (NKJV)

As Christians, let us make the most of this precious opportunity that has been given to us.

Our Jesus is returning and with Him, he will reward you for your faithfulness and stewardship.

Bring to Jesus an increase of your faith and devotions along with a good increase in godly character.  Let’s make our King’s treasury rich by risking to invest the great salvation into the lives around us.

I have inserted a video as a conclusion to this study.  I hope you’ll view it as a reminder:  We all come in different shapes.  God made us that way for the best results.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words – “PARABLE”, pg. 457, by W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger, William White Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Video:  YouTube – The Parable of the Talent

Bible Translations:  Amplified (AMP); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

 

Having A DEAF, DUMB, and BLIND FAITH

“Not another message about faith?”  YES!  And during the Christmas season, especially.

FAITH definition:  “Faith is not believing that God can; it’s knowing that He will.”

Application:  Walking by faith is being prepared to trust where we are not permitted to see.  FAITH allows God to do for us and with us what we could never do alone.

This Bible study in Luke, chapter 7,  begins with a Roman soldier’s faith and takes us inside TRUE FAITH showing how and what faith does in lives.

FAITH is deaf to doubt, dumb to discouragements, blind to impossibilities and knows nothing but success in God.

Scripture study:  Luke 7:1-10

At Christmas time, especially, faith is the highpoint from the event that happened so long ago in the small town of Bethlehem.  In this story, we find a Roman centurion who, though he was a Gentile, understood who Christ was and is.  And although this story of a “Centurion” is ancient history to us today, it would have been of special interest to Theophilus, a Gentile to whom this account is addressed (Luke 1:3).

The story is a significant one being this was a Gentile who exercised this faith that even Jesus would remark that this man’s FAITH was amazing.

Only twice in all of Scripture Jesus said to “marvel” or be amazed.  The other time was when He began His public ministry in His hometown of Nazareth and He was rejected by His fellow Jews–(Mark 6:6; Luke 4:14-30)  “He marveled (“was amazed’) by their lack of faith.”

The Centurion had a FAITH that was more knowing and sensitive than anything Jesus had witnessed in Israel.

What could be more horrible than to amaze the Son of God by one’s lack of faith?  What could be more thrilling than to amaze Him by one’s faith?  This centurion had amazing faith!

“Why was Jesus so amazed?”  A question I had to investigate.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTIC MAKES THIS MAN’S FAITH SO AMAZING?

Luke 7:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  AFTER JESUS had finished all that He had to say in the hearing of the people [on the mountain], He entered Capernaum.  [2]  Now a centurion had a bondservant who was held in honor and highly valued by him, who was sick at the point of death.

This man had an amazing faith that caused him to love across all barriers.

Jesus had just completed the teaching known to us as “The Sermon on the Mount.”  He now enters Capernaum, a city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While Jesus is in Capernaum, He is approached by representatives of the Roman Centurion.  Centurions were commonplace during the Roman Empire and equivalent in rank to a modern-day army captain, normally in command of 1000 soldiers.

This particular centurion had a servant who was ill.  Matthew (8:6),  in his account of this incident, says, “a servant boy.”   Whoever this young man was, Luke, who was a doctor, said he “was sick and ready to die.”

If you’ve ever clung to a loved one at death’s door and felt they were slowly losing the battle, you must know this centurion’s awful sense of helplessness.

We are told that this man loved Israel, though it was not the land of his birth.

It’s also obvious in reading that this man cared deeply about his young servant which is very out of the ordinary socially and the crossing of racial and ethnic barriers when as a Gentile, he appealed to a Jew for help.

This man loved people not just like himself.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel particularly effective in loving folks who live outside the social barriers around me (eg. “skid row”, the homeless in tents on the city sidewalks…).

The second characteristic I noted of an Amazing Faith was that it caused this man to be excited and active in the work of God around him.  (vv. 3-4)

 

We need to understand that the Jewish elders had little love for the Romans in general and Roman soldiers in particular.  This Roman officer must have been a very unique individual for the elders to be willing to approach Jesus on his behalf.

The elders not only bring the man’s request but they vouch for their Gentile friend.  They argue that he’s a man of integrity he’s well-liked by the Jews, and worthy of Jesus’ help.

Verse 3 says,  “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant.  [4] When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, This man deserves to have you do this [5] because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

This man had given substantially to the building of a house of worship.  Gentile worshipers were barred from the Temple in Jerusalem but not so much with synagogues in the outlying areas.  The synagogue was a place that even Gentiles could come and listen to the word of God being taught.

So in that time and place, this centurion lived the major way that God was using to spread His light within the synagogue system, using his money, his reputation, and influence to build the synagogue.  The centurion consciously chose to participate enthusiastically by involving himself in what was most apparent in what God was doing.

In stark contrast, according to George Barna, a church statistician, adults who regularly attend church, 37% didn’t give a dime to a church in the last year [George Barna, How to Increase Giving in Your Church (Regal Books) p.20].

In this man’s marvelous faith, it caused him to approach Christ in great HUMILITY (vv. 6-7).

This passage reveals two essential components of the Christian FAITH–an understanding of who Christ is and an understanding of who we are in Christ Jesus.

Not only did this man display great love, but also his great humility.

In verse six we find,  “So Jesus went with him to his house.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  [7] That s why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you…”

Before Jesus could reach his house, the Centurion sent a second representative to Jesus, to tell Him that it wasn’t necessary for Him to come to his house.  All because he was familiar with Jewish religious customs, he didn’t wish to put Jesus in a position of having to enter the home of a Gentile.

This Roman soldier, a man of considerable influence and power, was also uniquely HUMBLE and regarded himself as undeserving of having Jesus come under his roof, even felt unworthy of meeting Jesus in the street.

This soldier, unlike the Pharisees, doesn’t ask Jesus for a sign that he was who He said, he was.  This man doesn’t even ask to meet Him.

The third characteristic of this man’s remarkable faith might be summed up in this song–his willingness to trust Christ alone even before the Cross.

How much more do we have today but to TRUST in Christ alone?

Verses 7b-8 (NIV) –  [7b]  “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  [8] For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

The centurion apparently realized the One who had the power of life and death; that could heal with a word, must be God incarnate.  And if Christ is divine, then he, as a Gentile sinner, must be unworthy to even meet Him.

All Jesus must do is say the word, and he believes that it is as good as done!

There’s no evidence that I could find in Scripture that this man ever personally heard Jesus preach, and yet he believed.  He made his request known based on what he heard of Jesus.

In verse 8, the word “myself,”–“also,” in other translations–we see that the officer saw a parallel between the way he commanded his soldiers with the way Jesus commanded diseases.

If this Roman, with very little spiritual instruction, had that kind of FAITH in God’s word, how much greater our FAITH should be!

In VERSE 9, we see the reaction of Jesus:

[9]  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and He turned and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such great faith [as this].”  (AMP)

This man’s remarks amaze Jesus, so much so, that they came from a Gentile.  He marveled at a Roman centurion, whose background and circumstances ought to have made it difficult for him to have faith, a man whose occupation prized being big, bad and tough, a man steeped in paganism, a man hated by the Jews because he was Roman.

Yet in spite of all the circumstances that went against him, here stood a man who was a perfect example of FAITH.

Almost as an afterthought, Luke adds verse ten,  “And when the messengers who had been sent returned to the house, they found the bondservant who had been ill quite well again.”  (AMP)

So how often have you displayed such faith?

We will never be perfect in our faith but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to enables us to incorporate the elements into our lives.

Back to the question:  HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU DISPLAYED SUCH FAITH?  If you’re like me, not very often.  And that’s a sin.  Because it’s God’s will that we all have amazing faith.  But all too often in our ‘business,’ we get so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t show true care and concern for others.  Remember, true faith is “active”–not sitting around the fireplace talking about the unfortunate.  What startled and impressed Jesus were the characteristics that anyone like you and me can have in our lives.  Some think that “amazing faith,” is the ability to do the miraculous.  But miracles are something that Jesus can do anytime.

This Bible study in Luke should bring the understanding there are today those whose lives that would impress Jesus, because of their faithful godly lives.

The characteristics of a marvelous, amazing, faith!

  1. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO LOVE ACROSS BARRIERS.
  2. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE EXCITED AND ACTIVE IN THE WORK OF GOD.
  3. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO APPROACH CHRIST IN GREAT HUMILITY.
  4. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE WILLING TO TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE.

Through the POWER of God’s Word, and through our Savior Jesus, we can be people of amazing faith–someone whose FAITH is unselfish, unassuming, and unwavering, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves.  AMEN.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  YouTube video, In Christ Alone – Brian Littrell

Photo Images:  Google Image search

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

Various Commentary on Luke 7:1-10:  Sermon Central

Finding Your Purpose

 A Study in Nehemiah 3:1-32 [Be sure to have your Bible nearby!]

NEHEMIAH’S VISION – To rebuild the walls around Jerusalem (Chapter 2:5-8)

If OUR VISION is to start rebuilding in our churches, our communities, in a relationship, our trust, our faith…the time is now to put into action all the planning and praying.

To REBUILD successfully, you need VISION. 

What Is Your Purpose?

If there are others in your midst that are going to be a part of your intentions to REBUILD, what’s their vision, their expectations, their purpose?  If your vision and their vision aren’t the same there’s a problem!

What if Nehemiah’s workers built their own visions of the wall?  You most likely would have had a section of decorative fence, a section of wood, a section of the block, etc…The fence would’ve looked…stupid?

My wife and I are both ardent followers of Chip & Joanna Gain’s TV show, Fixer Upper.  And in a lot of shows we watch together, we have differing views of what should have been done:  “Too much shiplap for me.  I would have done it in beadboard.”  And Dianne would counter, “I love shiplap there!”

To rebuild successfully you’ll need someone to unify everyone.

You need to lead!

Nehemiah had noticed and was troubled that the wall of protection had fallen into disrepair.  He had defined the PURPOSE, communicated his discontent, motivated the people to accept the task.

Now the work began.

The walls of Jerusalem had fallen into sad shape for about 150 years, and Nehemiah was determined to REBUILD them and to end the shame brought upon the Jews in Jerusalem.  It was work that couldn’t be undertaken or carried out by one person.  It would take many people with common purpose and desire!

Nehemiah was wise enough to allow a variety of people, some more skillful than others to pitch in to help build the wall.

There’s a good lesson for us here.

Some of us have more skill than others.  Some have more experience than others.  Some have more wisdom than others.  But there’s a place for ALL willing to work.

GOD USES ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE!

Nehemiah Chapter 3, notice that there are:

  • Priests and Levites and other temple servants.
  • Goldsmiths, perfumers, and merchants.
  • Officials.
  • Men and women.

What are they doing?  WORKING!

Nobody is too young, too old, too poor, too rich.

God accomplishes His PURPOSE through people…

But people need leaders to motivate, not manipulate, and organize them for the cause.

There are some areas in your life, in my life, where we need to lead.

It is your life…your purpose and if you’re not going to care enough to make a decision to lead then why would someone else?

The same people listed in Nehemiah 3 had been living in the city for years, but the wall didn’t get built until God sent Nehemiah to lead the charge.

I thought it was interesting that Nehemiah is never mentioned by name in chapter 3, but his labor is behind the whole chapter.

So a LEADER must…not mind if the credit goes to others.

Nehemiah didn’t want a huge sign over the main gate or a bronze plaque reading:  The Nehemiah Memorial Wall.  Rather, Nehemiah was committed to the task.  He wanted the wall to be built so that God’s name, His glory, would be exalted in Jerusalem and His people no longer live in ridicule.  I would call GOD’S PURPOSE…REBUILDING PEOPLE!

Nehemiah knew that God would recognize his efforts.

Hebrews 6:10 (AMP)

[10] For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name’s sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do.

Nehemiah was laboring to hear “well done” from the Lord.

With over 40 years in the construction industry and 5 years in sales management behind me…I learned by experience that MOTIVATING people on the job can be difficult at times.

MOTIVATING OTHERS AS A LEADER…

The Jews had been back in the land for 90 years, but the WALL for their own protection hadn’t been rebuilt.

But Nehemiah came along and got everyone excited about the rebuilding idea.

Motivation is a KEY to productivity.

The difficult thing about motivating others is what motivates some turns off others.  Even Nehemiah couldn’t get the nobles of Tekoa to join the project.

One way that Nehemiah motivated the people…now catch this; was assigning many of them to work on the portion of the wall that they had a particular interest in.  No one wants to be a square peg put in a round hole.  Me, included!

The priests worked on the SHEEP GATE where people would bring sacrifices to the temple.  Others repaired the wall in front of their own homes.

Jerusalem, 1940-1946

THE “DUNG” GATE

There are 12 Gates to the city of Jerusalem and I’ll admit that it might have been difficult to motivate someone to the task of building at the DUNG GATE.

Please make a note on this point:  IF YOU HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING, others may have the same attitude.

As a LEADER, sometimes you’ve to be the ‘cheerleader’; get people excited about what they’re doing.

That brings us to PLANNING & ORGANIZING.

Leaders gotta do this!

It’s obvious the smooth operation taking place in Chapter and it is evident Nehemiah had done some extensive planning and organizing.  He had figured it out how to go about this huge task by breaking the project down into small manageable units.  He assigned the available workforce into various units, then worked to coordinate them so everything fit together.

Just a reminder here, its God who provides the strength.  He alone provides the skills.  He alone provides the wisdom.

God is looking for our FAITHFULNESS!

Even though you might feel that your contributions to a given task are insignificant in the process, everyone counts, every effort counts in God’s kingdom work.

There was a big job to be done in Jerusalem, and it took FAITHFULNESS from everyone to get it done.

WHAT FAITH CAN DO – “By FAITH…” Hebrews 11:21-34

  • Prompts us to do…
  • Activates us…
  • Arouses us…
  • Motivates us…
  • Urges us…
  • Helps us…

Delegate & Oversee –

Nehemiah couldn’t possibly have done all the work himself and neither can we.  Sometimes, being honest here, it’s easier to do the job myself than to delegate it; but as the task grows in size, the necessity to DELEGATE grows.

Nehemiah had to entrust the work ahead of time to the workers giving them authority (an important gift) to get the job done.  And by the way… delegating doesn’t mean dumping or dictating.  To dump something on someone and walk away from it isn’t effective leadership.

While all along, Nehemiah was delegating the workload, you can be sure that he went around inspecting and overseeing the progress, talking to his leaders, helping them keep things moving toward the GOAL.

In 3:20, Nehemiah makes a specific note on a worker’s ATTITUDE on the project:

Baruch “zealously” repaired another section…”

Apparently, Jeremiah knew not only WHO was doing what, but also HOW they were doing it.

We don’t use the word ZEALOUSLY in our ordinary conversation these days, at least I don’t, so I turned to the KJV Dictionary for an accurate definition:  ZEALOUSLY = WITH PASSIONATE ARDOR – WITH EAGERNESS.

Baruch did an exceptional job.

A leader must give proper recognition when due.

Apparently, Nehemiah wrote down in detail who was doing what on the project.  He mentions some workers completing more than one section of the wall; BUT…the important thing I noted…not every worker was recognized, yet God recognized them by including their names here.  Oh, that’s GOOD!  How many times over the years have I felt hurt in service because man wasn’t recognizing my efforts?

As a leader, you can’t get distracted…

And the enemy will do everything to try to distract you.

Nehemiah 3:5 (AMP)

[5]  The Tekoites repaired, but their nobles or lords did not put their necks to the work of their Lord.

Perhaps the nobles of Tekoa refused to “put their necks to work” was because their necks were stiff–from PRIDE.

To the nobles’ shame, the people of Tekoa built two sections of the wall, and some other towns nobles rolled up their sleeves and went to work; but Nehemiah didn’t expend any energy on the nobles of Tekoa.  Rather, he worked with the many willing workers.  Those who didn’t get involved were losers in the long run.

To rebuild successfully, you’re going to need the help of others.

The PEOPLE heard Nehemiah’s VISION and they responded by building.

The WORKERS were willing to complement each other.  Everyone couldn’t do the same job.  Some worked on the walls, others worked on the gates, others carried heavy stones, etc…   Some workers were willing to work outside of their areas of strength.  Some of the people did things they weren’t trained to do and were not even good at.  It had to get done and they were willing to do it.  And those who physically couldn’t work, as there are in churches today, spent time on their knees in prayer during the project.  We can all do that!

Some workers were willing to do less glamorous or desirable jobs.

In Nehemiah 3:14, Malchijah (a “goldsmith”) repaired the Reuse (or Dung) Gate.  This was the GATE to the dump and sewer.

CONCLUSION:

What can we take to heart and mind from this passage of Scripture?

It’s time to start REBUILDING in our communities, our families, our churches.  No more, “I’m no leader! Let someone else lead.”

The time is right now, so do it right!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries Used:  KJV Bible Dictionary; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advanced settings.

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

Commentary:  God’s Task, Our Task by Scott Spencer–Sermon Notes.

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).

 

 

 

Putting OFF the Old Things / Putting ON the New You!

THE KARATE KID STORY –

The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts feel good film.  It’s an underdog story.

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) trains the young man Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of Karate for protection against neighborhood bullies.

Mr. Miyagi begins Daniel’s training by telling him the requirement of commitment that accompanies Mr’ Miyagi’s curriculum.

After Daniel agrees, Miyagi assigns Daniel to complete various lengthy, menial chores that appear to have nothing to do with Karate.

“Wax On / Wax Off”

THE EPHESIANS 4:21-24 STORY – “Putting OFF / Putting ON”  and the COMMITMENT Begins…

[21] assuming that you have heard about him, and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus  [22] to PUT OFF your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  [24] and to PUT ON the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  [ English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.]

2 Corinthians 5:17 says,  “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away.  Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  [Amplified Bible]

I beg to differ with a lot of Christians living in the world today saying or thinking that they can keep on LIVING the old life and claim to be a child of God.

I’ll admit it is not easy...it’s the hardest thing we have ever done.

  • TO SHARE THE GOSPEL,
  • PREACH THE GOSPEL,
  • TEACH THE GOSPEL,
  • LIVE THE GOSPEL.

The Bible says if you are SAVED by the GRACE of God, you’re a NEW CREATURE.

There is a lot of people who are hanging on to the old lifestyle; trusting in the material things and not living by the spiritual things.

Galatians 6:15 says,  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation”  (NIV Bible).

Romans 6:4 says We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Thank God We Are SERVING A Risen Savior…

And the Bible tells us that we’re supposed to WALK in the newness of life.  I remember when my three children were learning to walk.  My wife and I would hold our hands out across the room, encouraging to take one step, to place one foot in front of the other.  As long as they could see our faces they would slowly move forward.  As soon as they looked down at their feet, they lost focus and would stumble and tear up.  When that occurred, I think mom and dad also teared up.  But the training, the exercise, the dedication to commitment went on.

IT ISN’T EASY –

“Yes, but we all sin–we slip, we fall down and skin our knees– and fall short of God’s glory, don’t we?”  We sure do.  We still have the old body–the outside, but thanks be to God, we have a new man on the inside!

We sure do.  We still have the old body–the outside, but thanks be to God, we have a new man on the inside!

IF we are SAVED…and we’re a NEW CREATURE, we ought to live like it, then!

I’d like to point out a few training steps in “Putting Off and Putting On” A NEW NATURE.  

I’m not a Mr. Miyagi by any means, but here we go.

THE REQUIREMENTS OF COMMITMENT:

NUMBER ONE:  We need to be FOCUSED.

There are people who will talk about everything BUT God.  In church, social gatherings, sharing on social media, etc.  They are worried about everything BUT God.  They are not worried–not concerned–about lost souls.  I don’t care if the church I’m attending has 5 or 500 members on Sunday morning or if we have carpet on the floors. We’ve got to get past all the ‘STUFF’ in the church and start focusing on putting God first and caring about lost souls.

We’ve lost our FOCUS.

It’s sad to say that there’s a lot of Christians in the world that never picks up the WORD of God, then tries to stand up and give praise to God.

You’ve got to READ God’s Word, PRAY and SEEK God’s face in all that you do.  That’s what a godly or any relationship is all about.  You can’t have a close relationship, an intimate relationship at a distance.

The Bible says that JESUS came to SEEK and to SAVE that which is lost.  That’s what our FOCUS should be.  Nothing else!

I’ve been asked over the years by some people, “Why do we even have the church?”

The answer should be, “So we can get more lost people in here so they can find salvation!”

Sure the pastors of our churches could stand on a platform and preach, and preach, and preach and you’ll get some strength from it.  But if there aren’t any lost people sitting there on Sunday mornings, what are you going to do with that “strength”?  What are you going to do with the wisdom of God when you get it… IF you get it?

If you are not consistently READING your Bible during the week, you can bet you’re NOT SHARING Christ either.

We’ve lost our FOCUS.

If you’re going around trying to find a place where you can fit JESUS into your life, you’re in bad shape.  You have to fit your life into what Christ wants you to do.  Don’t go around telling God you need to see if you can fit Him into your schedule.

Christ Jesus is my whole life!  Without Him, I’m nothing!!

Several years ago, after realizing I had been playing spiritual games with people around me, I made this vow to God NOT to listen to man and just listen to Him.

Luke 14:27 says “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follows Me cannot be my disciple.”

There are more churches today than there has ever been…And there are more church goers than there has ever been.

BUT the Bible clearly says that the HARVEST is great but the LABORERS are few.

I see something wrong with that.  Hosea in the Old Testament, chapter five, says ‘a man should go with their herds and their flocks to SEEK the Lord but they shall not find Him for he has withdrawn Himself from them.’  [Paraphrased]

I saw a marquee in front of a church, a big church, awhile back that read…

MESSAGE For SUNDAY:

HOW TO GET ALONG WITH YOUR SPOUSE

I thought, if you get close to the LORD, you’ll know how to get along with your spouse.

You’ll know how to get along with everybody!

We’ve got to stay FOCUSED on JESUS–keeping our eyes on Him.

NUMBER TWO:  We need to be FAITHFUL.

John 8:31  “…If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples”  (AMP).

Christians will go work at a job and be there every day to get their paycheck–and God will tell them to do something and they can’t do it.

The LORD called me to SHARE the Gospel message through a weekly blog six years ago.  So I’m going to keep doing what God says to do.  I’m not going to back up or slow down so others can catch up.

WE NEED TO BE FAITHFUL.

Don’t ask what you want, but ask what He wants!

NUMBER THREE:  We need to be FRUITFUL in our new life.

Being FRUITFUL means you’re SAVED AND…you’re growing in the process!

It means that God’s ministry through you reaches other people and helps them the way God is helping you.

There are people who look back on their lives saying they haven’t done anything for the Lord.  It doesn’t work that way.  Our BLESSINGS come from our labor.  That’s why a lot of people aren’t acting blessed.  They aren’t doing anything!

Galatians 6:7

“Don’t be misled:  No one makes a fool of God.  What a person plants, he will harvest.  The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others–ignoring God!–harvests a crop of weeds.”  [MSG}

 

What are you planting; producing for the Lord Jesus Christ?

NUMBER FOUR:  Being Friendly!

We need to be friendly in our NEW LIFE.

Some of the meanest people can be “church folks”.  Whether you attend a Baptist, Assembly Of God, Independent/Bible church…YEP,  we are often called the “church folks” in the community.

It’s NOT niceness that will get you into heaven…BUT IF YOU ARE NICE, God will BLESS you for it.

According to Dictionary.com, the word NICE means  “pleasing; agreeable; amiably pleasant.”

We in the family of God are not supposed to have any kind of evil communication or put a stumbling block in front of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus for them to trip over.  Like a child learning to take their first steps, our SPEECH is supposed to be established with GRACE and encouragement and not condemnation.

Romans 7:6  says this:  “But now that we.re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God”  [MSG].

And in Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus’ words,  [24] “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  [25] For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”  [NIV].

There seems to be a lot of folks more involved with themselves than they are with their Savior.

In a Discipleship Journal, Carole Mayhall tells of a woman who went to a diet center to lose weight.  The director took her to a full-length mirror and on it, he outlined a figure and told her, “This is what I want you to be like at the end of the program.  Days of intense dieting and exercise followed, and every week the woman would stand in front of the mirror, discouraged because her bulging outline didn’t fit the director’s ideal. But she kept at it, and finally one day she conformed to the longed for image  [Daily Bread, August 8, 1990].

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LOOKED AT THE IMAGE IN THE MIRROR?______________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings: Advanced search.

Various Bible Translations:  Furnish by BibleGateway.com

 

 

 

 

GOD’S WORD and The Shoe Box

A Crushed Shoe Box
The Shoe Box

This week I decided to sort through all my “stuff” in the walk-in closet, going through the clutter and no longer needed clothing for a fresh start in the new year.  It’s a rotten job, but someone’s gotta do it!

I grabbed what I thought was an empty SHOE BOX tucked behind some old sweatshirts hanging up that I’ll never wear again and when I removed the lid from the shoe box–SURPRISE!

crumpled-money

Inside was a wrinkled twenty-dollar bill staring at me.  “How did THAT get in there?” A better question might have been, “How did I forget that it was there, and was I getting forgetful in my old age?  A lost twenty-dollar bill?” And, was what I found in the shoe box even salvageable–would anyone still accept what I found in this condition?

A Lesson Learned!

The next day while reading God’s Word in my bible, I asked the Holy Spirit, “Might there be a hidden message for me in that forgotten shoe box?”  I often get ideas for Blogging For God with questions that arise in my daily walk with Jesus.  How about you?

HEAVENLY ANSWER:  If I tried to alter what I found in the shoe box, it may no longer be accepted and would be worthless.

  • God’s WORD is worth much more than the twenty dollars.  Altering it can cost many people Heaven itself!
  • Unaltered, that WORD will accomplish what God wants.

BIBLE TEXT:  EZEKIEL 2:1-5 New Living Translation (NLT):

ezekiel-713x509-713x450

[1]  “STAND UP, son of man,” said the voice.  “I want to speak with you.”

[2]  The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet.  I listened carefully to his words.  [3] “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me.  They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day.  [4] They are stubborn and hard-hearted people.  But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’  [5] And whether they listen or refuse to listen–for remember they are rebels–at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.

AS CHRISTIANS, you and I need to see ourselves as much a sinner as those outside the church environment to whom we can speak God’s WORD.  And when we do get the Holy Spirit opportunities to speak God’s Word, we need to fight against every ounce of self-righteousness in ourselves.  Maybe we haven’t committed exactly the same sins, but your sins and mine are just offensive against God as their sins, if not more so since we ought to know better.

HUMBLY see your SIN and then see JESUS, your Savior, who takes away your SIN.

Maybe the idea of the SHOE BOX might help you, as it did me, to be HUMBLE in speaking God’s Word.  The shoe box isn’t worth anything–it’s easily crushed.

What gives the shoe box value is what is inside.  Apart from God, we are but empty shoe boxes–worthless, and powerless.

BUT GOD has placed His WORD into your heart.  As you speak that Word, HUMBLY remember that your strength comes from the Lord, not from yourselves.

WE ARE JUST SHOEBOXES!  SPEAK His Word Faithfully, Knowing It Will NOT FAIL!

What God said proved to be TRUE.

The people would know that the prophet was speaking for God when the WORD came true.  That’s what God tells him,  “And whether they listen or fail to listen–for they are a rebellious people–they will know that a prophet has been among them (Ezekiel 2:5 NIV).

Many would REJECT Ezekiel’s message, but he wouldn’t change it to make it sound more acceptable to the people.

There’s a principle for churches today to glean from and the New Testament gives a great reminder and a WARNING:

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2 Timothy 4:3-4 New International Version (NIV)

[3]  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

[4]  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

How do we do that?

Through reading your Bible, coming to worship, joining a bible study group, and… keep on learning more and more what God’s Word has to say.

Don’t give in to pressure compromising God’s Word, because someone might not like it.

UNALTERED, that WORD will accomplish what God wants!

SPEAK HIS WORD FAITHFULLY!!!

Finally, SPEAK GOD’S WORD BOLDLY–

The LORD wants us to SPEAK His Word BOLDLY!

He makes it plain to Ezekiel that he will face opposition.  The LORD tells him,

(Ezekiel 2:4 AMP)

[4] And the children are impudent and hard of heart.

I send you to them and you shall say to them,

‘Thus says the Lord God.’

Knowing this ahead of time, it still didn’t stop Ezekiel.  He was to speak God’s WORD BOLDLY, regardless of the circumstances.

So, what gave Ezekiel the BOLDNESS to speak?

I have asked myself the same question after SHARING Christ with others: “Where did I get the “boldness” at that specific moment?  And I always receive the same answer from the Holy Spirit–

(Philippians 2:13 AMP)

[13] “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who

is all the while effectually at work in you [ener-

gizing and creating in you the power and desire],

both to will and to work for His good pleasure

and satisfaction and delight.”

As fellow Christians, we are bold to speak because we KNOW His Word won’t fail.

ISAIAH 55:11 says it best:  [11] “so is my WORD that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I declare and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

This should give us BOLDNESS even in the face of surrounding opposition and rejection.  There had been many times that opposition and rejection intimidated me when opportunities to share God’s Word arose.  My confidence began to dwindle, fear would begin to raise its ugly head…and then I would remember the words in Philippians,  “Not in your strength for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you…”

Each one of us, in our own private lives, has been CALLED OUT of the darkness of SIN to FAITH in Christ Jesus.  So, SPEAK HIS WORD!

With your TRUST in the Lord and the AUTHORITY, He has given each one of us as believers the CONFIDENCE to SPEAK HIS WORD!

Let me leave you with this message found in 2 Corinthians 5:20 in the New Living Testament (NLT):

[5]  So we are Christ’s AMBASSADORS; God is making his

appeal through us.  We SPEAK for Christ when we plead,

“Come back to God!”

fa47dcfcc6044578d814679e37ab84f3

 


CREDITS –

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

HOPE OVERFLOWING!

BIBLE STUDY TEXT:  ROMANS 15:4-13

imagesThere are probably some who are reading this BLOG ON HOPE that is not feeling a lot of Hope in your life right now.  Maybe on different occasions, you have had your Hope built up in things and they let you down.  Trust me, I’ve experienced this almost rehabilitating feeling in my own life in the past.

Maybe you have had your HOPE IN THE WRONG THINGS.

Maybe you have had your HOPE IN GOD, but what you expected God to do, didn’t happen.

Maybe you have lost HOPE or afraid to put your HOPE in anything for the fear of being disappointed.

Hopefully, this Bible Study in Paul’s Letter to the church in Rome will give you or someone you know to live in HOPE, because HOPE is absolutely essential for LIFE and FOR LIVING!

ILLUSTRATION: Wharf Rats Drowning.

I was reading this week about this experiment by some behavioral scientists did once with some rats.  They put some WHARF RATS in a tank of water, observed them, seeing how long they would survive before drowning.  The average time was 17 minutes.  Then, they repeated the experiment, but this time they “RESCUED” the rats just before the point of drowning, dried them off and returned them to their cages, fed them and let them play for a few days, then repeated the drowning experiment.

This time, the average survival time for these same rats increased from 17 minutes to 36 hours!  The scientists explained by pointing out the second time around the rats had hope.  They believed that they could survive this because they had done so before.  [See Footnote [i] ]

HOPE ETERNAL – 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV):

[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  [4] and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.

NOW THAT IS AWESOME!  Awesome that we have that LIVING HOPE when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, believing in Him.

And how can we forget Jesus’ words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life”  (John 3:16).

We have this ETERNAL LIFE, not based on what we do, but solely based upon our BELIEF in and receiving of Jesus Christ.

LIVING IN THIS “HOPE” THROUGH HIS WORD!

Romans 15:4 (NLT):

[4] Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.  And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Through reading God’s Word on a daily basis, we can see and are taught how God has been faithful to His people, even in the middle of difficult circumstances.

God IS Faithful!

In 1985, my family was going through some “difficult circumstances”, in that I had lost my management job due to a company buyout.  Although we had food and shelter, other necessities were going to have to wait until I could get back on my feet with new employment.

The church we were attending at the time had mail slots for each member that hung on a back wall in the foyer.  Special bulletins, upcoming meeting notices, and anything else that needed to be circulated in accordance with church activities.

One Sunday morning, proceeding to check for mail, in the designated slot there was a white legal-sized envelope with our last name on the face.  I curiously opened the envelope and found an unsigned note paper clipped to a hundred-dollar bill that read,  “Buy some clothes for the kids, or yourselves…something personal to enjoy and not on bills!”

It is through reading His Word that our circumstances don’t necessarily change, but that He gives us strength and encouragement to stand in the HOPE that we have.

Earlier in Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:2-5). through His Word, we’re reminded of His PROMISE.

romans-5_2-5

Through His Word, we are told of God’s FAITHFULNESS to past generations.

Through His Word, we can be encouraged to live in HOPE, while rejoicing in our trials and sufferings.

GOD HELPS US TO LIVE DAILY IN HOPE…

Not only does He help us in our HOPE through His Word, but also, God helps us live in HOPE through His church (15:5-11 NIV):

[5] May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,  [6] so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[7] Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  [8] For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and  [9] and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.  As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”

[10] Again it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”

[11]  And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”

Paul talks about having a spirit of UNITY and the ACCEPTANCE of people as the Lord accepted us.

Sometimes we can confuse being “accepting” with condoning sin.  The Jewish Christians were struggling with the Gentile Christians with what they had to do to be part of the church.

  • Did they have to get circumcised?
  • Did they adhere to the dietary laws?
  • If they didn’t, could they really be part of the community of FAITH?

All these differences could destroy the church in the building up of the believers in HOPE.

But Paul tells the Jewish Christians that God has ALWAYS declared that He would bring the Gentiles to FAITH.

And notice how the apostle quotes from the Historical Books–the LAW, the WRITINGS, and the PROPHETS to make his point to the Jewish Christians that God’s plan was always to include the Gentiles so they should accept them too!

So God helps us through His Word and through His church, reminding us of the HOPE we have, but at the same time, we must remember OUR HOPE is only found in His Son.

HOPE IS ONLY FOUND THROUGH JESUS CHRIST (Romans 15:12):

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him, the Gentiles will hope.”

Titus 2:11-14

word-of-the-week-titus-2-infographic

Standing In That HOPE

I love Natalie Grant’s song lyrics that came to mind while studying the verses:

IN CHRIST ALONE-

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song.

This Cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ, I stand.

GOD gives us OVERFLOWING HOPE through His Spirit (v. 15:13):

[13] May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may OVERFLOW with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.

cup-overflowing

It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that those who TRUST in Jesus have, that our HOPE cannot just help us endure, but that it can OVERFLOW from our lives and we can thrive with that overflowing HOPE!

But you might be thinking, “Isn’t the ‘overflowing’ of anything a big waste?  When I overflow my car’s gasoline tank at the gas station, it always leaves a big mess!”

Not in this case.

As the Holy Spirit FILLS you with HOPE as you grow in FAITH through the Word, through the fellowship of other believers, through having your eyes fixed on Jesus and the SALVATION He has given you now, along with the INHERITANCE that never perishes, never spoils or fades, kept in HEAVEN for you…THAT HOPE you have, OVERFLOWS, spilling on to others around you!

As you interact with others in this world and live in the HOPE that you have, and speak to them of the HOPE that you have, it OVERFLOWS so that they want what you have in their life.

While you endure and persevere in difficult circumstances, the HOPE OF GLORY that the people see will want what you have even if that means their circumstances are not great.  That’s because HOPE is essential to life and to living.

If you have great circumstances in life but no HOPE, you really won’t be living!

All we have to do is look at so many famous people walking down the Red Carpet, who seem to have all kinds of great circumstances, but struggle with LIFE & LIVING.

CONCLUSION –

Do you have HOPE today?  Is your HOPE, an overflowing hope?

Have you trusted Christ as Savior?

If not, then that’s the step into HOPE you need to take!

But if you have TRUSTED Him, and not experiencing the HOPE He gives, then maybe you are not taking advantage of the things He has given us to help us to LIVE in that Hope.

Get in His Word!

Connect with a body of believers, in REAL RELATIONSHIPS, through Bible studies and serving in the community.

And as God POURS OUT that HOPE in you, SHARE that and experience the OVERFLOW HOPE of the Holy Spirit as He uses you and me to SERVE His kingdom.

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  The New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Footnote [i]:  The Remarkable Power of Hope by Joseph T. Hallinan, Psychology Today.