Dealing With ‘SEESAW’ Christianity

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Philippians 2:12-18

Before we open our Bibles in the study, let me first give you definitions of the word SEESAW:

One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain and to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times.  It’s called BALANCE.

I remember going to elementary school way back when and riding a teeter-totter with my best friend and trying to keep all our feet off the ground in perfect balance.  It took a lot of our focus, many times finding ourselves up in the air or flat on the ground.

BALANCE IS CRITICAL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

What has guided and given me direction and purpose in life are the words found in Luke 2:52.  This Bible verse follows the story when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days in the big city of Jerusalem.  When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the greatest teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well.  And the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed by his understanding.  After all, he was only 12 years of age at the time.  The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life.  We don’t know exactly what happened during those years but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says…

...JESUS increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

So what we know is that life should be filled with BALANCE:

  • He grew in wisdom…Intellectually.
  • He grew in stature…Physically.
  • He grew in favor with God…Spiritually.
  • He grew in favor with man…Socially.

And if we want to live as Jesus did, we need to learn to do the same.  Because, they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE, we’re happier.  And when we’re out of BALANCE, we’re miserable.  Balance is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us of three areas where we must maintain balance:

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

To understand what Paul is saying here we need to understand what he’s NOT saying.  This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  He’s not telling us that we have to work to be saved.  It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said…

We cannot be SAVED by works.  In fact, Paul says it is NOT by works.

So to understand what Paul is saying here, you must bear in mind that he is writing to the CHURCH, to believers, so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people already knew Jesus!

So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith.

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “work out” in the Greek N.T. means “to work to full completion.”  It refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or garden reaches its full potential.

So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask ourselves at various places in life:  Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average?  What is my level of obedience to Christ Jesus?

Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that becomes our PURPOSE in life to OBEY Him in absolutely everything.

When we get sick and go to the doctor he diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do.  He hands us a small slip of paper where he’s written the correct prescription on.  We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication.  Now up to that point, everything has been done for us.  A diagnosis…A prescription…We have received the medication.  Now it’s our responsibility to do something and here it is–follow the doctor’s orders.  Work out the process and if we do, we will recover.

This is also true on a spiritual level.

And here should be our goal.  Paul tells us in verse 13 that God works in us to fulfill His good purpose.  And he describes that PURPOSE as being good.

Whether we know it or not, God wants us to find happiness and contentment not only in the next life eternal but also in this one.  You see there won’t be anything to work out in the next life–it will all be taken care of, but in this one there is.  There are things to be worked out.

Someone has said there are three types of people in the world…

  • Those who make things happen
  • Those who sit and watch things happen
  • Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  This is a balance of power and purpose.  He pours His power into us, we do the things that bring Him pleasure.

Now Paul wants us to see something here.

  • It is His pleasure (not ours)
  • It is His will (not ours)
  • It is His glory (not ours)

This is what makes our lives meaningful.

But there’s a potential conflict right there since most of us prefer to have things go our way.  It’s our attitude.

So Paul tells us the second area where we need BALANCE.

There must be a balance of attitude and action.

To accomplish what Paul is saying here, he gives us a negative and a positive.  Because this is how we get BALANCE.

On the negative side here, Paul says to all of us–you need to watch your attitude.  There are two things Paul mentions here that shows our bad attitude:

  1. Are you a grumbler?  Boy, I’ve been here too many times in my life.  Grumbling is not usually loud.  Its low tone, negative complaining, whining, and one thing it will do for you is that it will steal your JOY!  And unfortunately, it just comes naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around,  Grumblers can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it…that’s what they focus on.

BOUGAINVILLEA – 

 

I was born and raised in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year–a Mediterranean climate.  Certain plant species especially do well there and my parents loved colorful plants around their home.  We lived high above the street level, so mom and dad decided to plant Bougainvillea on the hillside to cover it with beautiful flowers.  It took several years to blanket the front of their home, but oh, how I remember the beauty that hillside was in full bloom.  Now each year you would find mom and dad crawling over the Bougainvillea to prune them and make them tidy.  The unfortunate undertaking was always a loud outburst by my dad while standing in the middle of the flora–“I hate these thorns!  Let’s pull them all out!”  All dad saw was the THORNS.  He couldn’t enjoy the flower.  The reason is perspective.  It’s an attitude.

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove to be different by our actions.

He said to prove that you are a blameless and innocent child of God and in the midst of a very dark world, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.  We should brighten up the place.

Remember that little song we used to sing with our parents and then taught ut to our kids?  “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  But we are not just “little lights” to the world.

Paul refers to us as stars…

These are no small stars!  The smallest star in our universe is basically the size of the planet Saturn,  The word here means luminous.  Luminaries are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us, let your light shine so the people can see your good works and through that glory will be given to God the Father.  [Matthew 5:16 – ESV]

There’s no need to shout, stomp your feet, or scream.  No need for drama.

  • JUST SHINE!

The negative Paul gives us here–don’t grumble.  The positive–just shine!

Get your attitudes and actions in BALANCE.

Then Paul describes a third area we need to balance: There must be a BALANCE at being serious and being joyful.  (verses 17-18)

Reading these two verses gave me an amazing word picture worth looking closely at.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”  Unbelievers had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–would pour one out on the ground before every meal, then eat–then pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshipped.  The PURPOSE was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul is speaking of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  This has a very serious connotation here.  He’s saying, I may never get out of the situation alive.  Remember he is in prison and facing execution at any moment.  But even if I don’t make it out…it will be worth it!

If you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–it makes you think really serious thoughts.  Paul was imagining that he might be living his final days, the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.  He refused to FOCUS on the dark side.  He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death and steal his JOY.

Then he says to us–you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Paul’s words have encouraged me every day after reading his thoughts through in study.  To find something during my last days; finding something to be continually happy about, something to laugh about, to take a day off from writing, to take a walk around the block with my dog, to watch a movie, to work out in the garden, to do something that can take you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy each and every day.

Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in the world, had the amazing ability to keep his focus; to concentrate and keep his balance.  But one night in Puerto Rico, he fell to his death while up on the wire.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him he always focused walking the tight rope, but on that given night for some reason, he kept focussing on the possibility of falling.

Often the difference in our success and failure is losing one’s balance and looking in the wrong direction.  The Scripture tells us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Solomon says, don’t look to the left or right, just keep your eyes on the heavenly Father (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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CREDITS:

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

The Interlinear Bible

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV); New King James Version (NKJV).

Going Out On A Limb Might Be Risky!

CHEERS is an American sitcom that ran on television from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993.  The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meets to drink, relax, and socialize.  The show’s main theme song, written and performed by Gary Portnoy lent its famous refrain “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” is the show’s tagline.

CHEERS, (from left): Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, Paul Wilson, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, 1982-93. ©Paramount Television / courtesy Everett Collection

Everyone likes to be known by their name.

Everyone likes to know that someone knows their name and knows their name and knows them.  It shows intimacy; it shows that the person has put in some effort to actually get to know you.  Unfortunately today, we seldom are known by our names, but rather by a number.  You have to know your ID number by heart: When you complete forms you have to enter your ID number.  When you complete your Tax Return you have a number that was given to you, and you only.  We have become numbers to people and it’s impersonal reflecting an unwillingness to know you as a person.  And even if they know your name, they probably are not willing to spend the time to get to know you better.

There is no personal relationship!

I understand that it’s impractical to suggest that everyone we meet can’t have a personal relationship.  It’s just impossible.

But with JESUS, it’s a different story.  For JESUS we are not just another name.  JESUS knows my name and He knows your name and He knows us! He knows our innermost being!!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 19:1-10:

WHO WAS ZACCHAEUS?

Zacchaeus is a Jewish name (it means he was a Jew) AND…it means “Pure One.”

Not only was this man a tax collector, he was the Director of the tax collectors…CHIEF among the publicans (KJV).  The Greek term indicates that it seems Zacchaeus was a tax commissioner over the district of Jericho.  He more than likely purchased this position from the Roman authorities.

The local JEWS hated those who worked for Rome because often if not always, overtaxed them.  That’s how they made their money.  They didn’t receive a salary but received either a percentage of the tax they collected or…Rome would give them amount to collect and anything more was theirs.

So we know and see Zacchaeus was a powerful man and he was a very rich man.

The GOSPEL also tells us something else about this man…

This I believe, is extremely important, but often taken as just another piece of information.

Zacchaeus was a short man.

WHAT DID ZACCHAEUS DO WHILE BEING IN A TREE?

He tried to see who Jesus was.  He couldn’t see Him because of the crowd and because of his height.  I think it was even probable that the crowd might have noticed him trying to see Jesus, standing on his tip-toes, but they blocked him on purpose because of who he was.

They hated him!

Because of this, Zacchaeus climbed a nearby TREE to see Jesus better.

He was a JEW and he knew about the prophecies.

  • He probably heard about Jesus and that he was the Prophesied Messiah.
  • He heard that THIS MAN was the savior of the Jewish people
  • He heard that THIS MAN was the savior of the Jewish people.
  • He heard that this man had performed miracles and healed the sick.

He wanted to see who this man was…but nobody wanted to give him the opportunity because of who he was.

So he climbed a tree and Jesus called him and told him that He wanted to go to his house and stay there.

AND HERE COMES THE THING…

Zacchaeus was glad to WELCOME Jesus into his home.

Luke 19:6 – The MESSAGE Bible:

“Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him.”

WHAT DID THE CROWD DO?

The people voiced their disapproval at Jesus eating at the house of a sinner.  Remember, a tax collector was seen as a SINNER; they were not allowed in the synagogue or the Temple.  “Sorry, but you are not welcome at church!”  So the Rabbis and the people rejected these people.

What it meant that Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name.

JESUS SHOWS THAT HE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE!

Even if you hide, He knows where you are.  He knew where Zacchaeus was.

Zacchaeus was probably HIDING IN THE TREE when Jesus and the parade of people came by; He knew exactly where Zacchaeus was!  I’m sure that he didn’t want anyone to see him in the TREE because it could have damaged his standing in the community.

So Zacchaeus was hiding in the tree, hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus as He passes by.  He was HAPPY with only a glimpse of Jesus.

But then Jesus does the unexpected!

Jesus stood still under that tree and He called him.  By doing this Jesus recognized that He knew where Zacchaeus was.

As hard as Zacchaeus tried, he wasn’t invisible to Him.  Maybe the CROWD missed him there out on a limb, but Jesus didn’t!

JESUS KNEW WHERE HE WAS.

But not just that, Jesus knew the situation he was in:

JESUS KNEW his past…

JESUS KNEW his childhood…

JESUS KNEW all his secrets…

JESUS KNEW all the pain he had to endure and still endures.

JESUS saw all the tears that flowed when Zacchaeus was growing up regarding the importance of mentioning his size.  It was important to mention it in order to explain why he was in the tree in the first place.

But I wanted to go deeper in thought about Zacchaeus’ character.

I believe that Zacchaeus was probably MOCKED as a child growing up because of his stature.  I’m sure the neighborhood kids during his time were much like children today.  They can be cruel by belittling other children.  In today’s culture, they call it “bullying”.  Because of the “bullying,” not all children grow up forgetting these experiences.  Some children grow up with these experiences and the hurt grows with them, in them.  They never heal from it.  Some of them will even go to the extreme

Some of them will even go to the extreme and dream of one day being in a position of POWER and then they will show them.

I believe that Zacchaeus was one of those children.  He was MOCKED because of being ‘altitude challenged’ and that’s why he eventually became a tax collector.

THE PROBLEM…NOTHING can really fill that void of HUMILIATION, EXCEPT JESUS!!

Zacchaeus tried but never succeeded…and then Jesus called him by name.

“Zacchaeus come down!  I must stay at your house today.”

AND THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE.

Maybe you find yourself hiding out on a limb of a tree.

Maybe you are struggling with certain things in your life right now.

Maybe you are living a sinful life and cannot comprehend that JESUS would even look upon you, much less talk to you or call out your name. You can’t think that He can forgive you for what you have done.

HERE SOME GOOD NEWS for you!

JESUS is standing right next to you where you are and He is calling your name…

Low Self-Esteem –

Maybe there are things in your life that have broken down your self-worth, your self-esteem.  You might be in an abusive relationship with your husband or wife, physical or psychological.  You might not enjoy life as it is supposed to be enjoyed (John 10:10).  You are being abused and it has hardened your heart towards everyone, including God.

Maybe you blame God for what’s happening in your life…

MAYBE HE HAS ABANDONED YOU…

He hasn’t.

He sees you.  He sees what you are going through.

He sees your pain and He cries with you.  Tears are running down His cheeks.

AND YET, GOD IS CALLING YOUR NAME!

“Get out of that tree.  I want to stay at your house.”

Some people are happy with getting a glimpse of Jesus as He crosses their path.

BUT JESUS WANTS MORE THAN THAT FROM US!

Jesus is calling your name where you are.  So, you will have to come down out of that tree and meet Him on a personal level.

Understand this:  It is not us who called Jesus.  He called us first!

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16] You did not choose me, but I chose you…

Ephesians 1:4 (AMP):

[4] Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world…

He calls us first and on that CROSS He called out your name.

All you have to do is to give heed to His call and come!

ZACCHAEUS was carrying a heavy load.  All it took for him was to listen to Jesus’ call.

“Zacchaeus, come down…I want to stay at your house.”

ISAIAH 49:16 (NIV):

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

When Jesus was nailed to the CROSS, your NAME was engraved on His palms.  ENGRAVING is a process that is permanent.  That’s how much He LOVES you.  That’s how much He CARES for you.

HE KNOWS YOUR NAME BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHO YOU ARE!

Jesus Recognizes and Sees the Potential in All of Us–

Zacchaeus means Pure, Righteous.  But the people didn’t see him as “pure” and “righteous”.  However, JESUS saw the REAL Zacchaeus–He knew who he was supposed to be.

WE HAVE PURPOSE!

Jesus doesn’t see who we are, He sees who we are supposed to be.

The world sees us as they want to see us.  They see us because of what we do, what we portray, who we are.  They see only our number or title.

BUT JESUS SEES WHO WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

He sees Zacchaeus as pure and righteous.  He sees POTENTIAL.

You see, you and I were created for a PURPOSE: Romans 8:28-20 (NAS):

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

YOU ARE ALREADY CALLED!  YOU WERE PREDESTINED!!

The question now becomes…Will you listen and take your calling with both hands?  ZACCHAEUS DID!

When Jesus came to his house that day he had a change of heart because for the FIRST TIME in his life somebody saw the REAL him.

For the FIRST TIME, someone ate with him.  Not because of what he had, nor because of his power or money or status.  But because of who he was. At that moment the void in him was filled–he knew that he was worth something more than money.

JESUS SHOWS THAT WE ARE PART OF THE FAMILY (v. 9):

[9] Today salvation has come to this house…

Zacchaeus lineage didn’t bring SALVATION, but his FAITH, evidenced by public confession, sure did!

JESUS sees him as part of the family.

But people will not always look at you that way.  When you repent of your sins and you accept JESUS as your savior, then you reveal your Family Relationship, your true identity.

When Jesus Called Zacchaeus’ Name He Showed That He Knew Where He Was.

He showed that he had PURPOSE and…He showed that he was part of the Family of God!

Somewhere on your journey, you may have lost that sense of family.  But JESUS is calling you right where you are.  HE’S CALLING YOU BY NAME!

JESUS wants you to come down from your tree and to accept Him into your home, into your life.  He wants to dine with you.  He wants to feed you and protect you.  But He can only do this if you LISTEN to His CALL.

AND HE IS CALLING YOUR NAME!

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CREDITS:

Harper’s Bible Dictionary: PUBLICANS, pg. 84.

Sermon Notes from Searching For Answers? A Candid Look At The Life Of A Seeker by Mike Dankson.

PHOTOS:  Google’s Advanced Image Search.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted in the text.

 

“Me And My Arrow”

ISAIAH 49:2
ISAIAH 49:2

Bible Scripture – Isaiah 49:1-7 NIV Bible:

Coming up with this week’s title, “Me And My Arrow”, was an epiphany I received from a song by the same name by Harry Nilsson and… from the TV Movie, The Point. [Footnote [i] ]. 

It was an animated movie about a boy and his dog, living in a land where every one thing was “pointed”, including the boys dog “Arrow”–except for the boy.  He didn’t have a point! His name was Oblio:

I can hear catching tune in my spirit of Harry Nilsson’s theme, running constantly through the movie plot:

Me and my arrow

Straighter than narrow

Wherever we go, everyone knows,

It’s me and my arrow.

(I’ll leave out the “Do do do’s”)

I’ll try later to tie this all in,  In the meantime, my study in Isaiah 49 –

A Little Background of ISRAEL’S History –

Troubles, troubles, and more Troubles…

To help in understanding God’s Word in the referenced scripture, I thought first, I would look back in history of Israel:

Beginning with 900 years before JESUS’ birth, king Solomon dies, and his sons can’t decide who will lead in his place.

So, the KINGDOM becomes divided in two…a church split.

Nine tribes form the Southern Kingdom known as JUDAH, and the remaining three tribes for the Northern Kingdom known as ISRAEL.

They enter a time of great stress and fighting amongst themselves–the one great nation of ISRAEL…has now been split…TROUBLE!

Continued TROUBLE!

Fast forward a few years, we see Egypt’s rise to power…starts conquering land.  Assyria rises to power and IT begins conquering land.  You have the Babylonian Empire rising in power and conquering land.

Trouble…trouble…and MORE trouble!

This leads us into 700 BC…(200 years after the death of the great King Solomon); the great Northern Kingdom…the nation of ISRAEL…is fallen!  Leaving just JUDAH…TROUBLE.

600 BC…JUDAH falls.

This begins what is known as the Babylonian Exile.

ISRAEL & JUDAH are destroyed and all its people are scattered like dust in the dry desert wind.

Trouble…trouble…trouble…trouble!!!!

You now have the setting where our Scripture Text lives and breathes.

Scripture Given by the Prophet Isaiah…

ISAIAH is writing in response to all the “TROUBLE”…he writes to his people–exiled…completely defeated and destroyed after all the conflict.  He writes to his people, and he begins addressing the exiles back in Chapter 40…and his first words are this:

“Comfort, O Comfort My people Israel,

says my God”

“Comfort…O Comfort”…

That’s how Isaiah starts…and it keeps going on for 20 more chapters, addressing the people who’ve been destroyed.

In my first reading of the verses, I wondered what the people were hoping for.  And then, there it was, right in front of me.  They were looking for a savior!  A savior to rescue them and deliver them home.  And that’s what Isaiah gives them.  Here, in beautiful language…Isaiah gives them the SAVIOR they hunger for.

Knowing now the CONTEXT behind all this, read along with me in ISAIAH 49:1-7 NIV BIBLE:

“[1] Listen to me, you islands;hear this, you distant nations; Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has mention of my name.  [2] He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

Now pay close attention to this next part–

“he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver…[v. 3a] He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel…”

The people have been kicked out of their homeland; they’ve lost the war; their armies decimated; they’re down and out, shouting and shaking their fists at the LORD, and saying…

(Verse 4 a.)

“I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing…”

AND NOW THE LORD SAYS–

“He who formed me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him and gather Israel to Himself ” (verse 5)

(Here he’s talking about bringing them BACK HOME!)

“…for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength–“

(verse 6)

He says:  “It is too small a thing for you to be my SERVANT (“servant” – Here he’s talking about his servant JESUS and ISRAEL together) to RESTORE the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept…”

(If God was going to bring them home, that’s fine…but God wants them to know that He has MUCH LARGER PLANS FOR THEM!)

God continues, “I WILL ALSO… 

make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

(verse 7)  This is what the LORD says–the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel–to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers;

(Again, He is talKing about JESUS…which is somewhat odd, because they want a savior–a conquering king–to take them home and here Isaiah is talking about the Savior who is despised, abhorred, who is a SERVANT!) 

“Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Things are getting even more interesting all of a sudden…

All the verses are filled with a ton of great stuff…all the words of advice to a fallen people.

The FIRST thing I want to focus on, takes me all the way back again, to Verse 2:  “He made me into a polished arrow.”

“A POLISHED ARROW”

isaiah49-21_web

Imagine, if you will, the finest ARROW made from the finest wood, with absolutely the straightest feathers, and the sharpest steel…and then you polish it…and polish it.

This is a “polished arrow,” and they did this for a valid reason:

  1.  So the ARROW would FLY FASTER…
  2.  FLY FARTHER…
  3.  And, FLY STRAIGHTER than any other arrow.

AN ARROW WITH A SPECIAL PURPOSE

Now hold on to that descriptive narrative and take it back to VERSE TWO…

ISRAEL is talking to the LORD at this point and says,

“[God] made us into a polished arrow, and He CONCEALED us in His quiver.”

You make us into an arrow…not just any arrow…but a POLISHED ARROW, and then you put us in Your quiver.

That’s how Israel feels:

  • A polished arrow…
  • With All That POTENTIAL…
  • All of That PURPOSE…
  • All that God has been preparing them for..

And God just tucks them away.

ISRAEL is feeling frustrated…they want to FLY, isn’t that what an arrow is for?

“We want You to use us for the purpose that you made us for!  You are WASTING us in Your quiver.”

Frustration Expressed (verse 4):

“I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing”

Israel is getting a little whiney here I think.  “WE ARE THE ARROWS…”  “WE GAVE YOU EVERYTHING…” and “NOW WE ARE SITTING ON THE BENCH!”

That’s the people of Israel…that’s their situation.

1771893902_2f6883341dDo you ever feel like a “polished arrow”; put back into a quiver…just waiting?

Boy, I sure have.  We feel like a polished arrow…ready and waiting to FLY…but put back into the quiver.

A little…OK, a lot, of FRUSTRATION emerges.

It’s here that the prophet FLIPS IT! – (verse 4 (b))

“Yet what is due me is in the LORD’S hand, and my reward is with my God”

Remember, we just got done whining in at the beginning of verse 4:

“YET”…there’s the “yet”…”Yet what is due me…”

“And now the LORD says–He who formed me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him and gather Israel to Himself…”

Remember, Isaiah is talking about bringing them BACK HOME!

When are we going…BACK HOME!

We go from whining to a PROMISE.  Your time will come!

But, Some Things Are Gonna Have to Change First… 

THE LORD wasn’t prepared at this point in time, to bring the nations back…Isaiah has all the way until Chapter 60 before he gets to the “CELEBRATION!”

We will get to see it…the celebration DOES happen, but understand where we are…the celebration HASN’T happened…the HOPE of a nation is still WAITING to be fulfilled.  This is still the sad whiney time.

Let’s Kick Up the Narrative A Notch…

“Just going home?”  That is what you are whining about?  You just want to go home?  That’s it?  You want a leader to rescue you and just go home?”

Guess what…that is too small a thing.

You are a polished arrow!

Just going home is too small a thing.  

You have a very SPECIAL purpose.

To just send you hoe is too small a thing!

It would be like taking a polished arrow and shooting a gopher!

“When your time comes…”

Isaiah lets the people know that when their time comes…they won’t just go home…but they will ALSO begin the process of opening the door of SALVATION to EVERYBODY!

(verse 6):  “He says:

“It is too small a thing for you to be My servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” 

The people are whining about going home, and Isaiah lets them know that their day will come, but in the meantime, they need to remember they ARE a polished arrow.  

They need to understand the PURPOSE of a polished arrow.

What Are You Aiming At?

Target

What kind of target do you save a polished arrow for?

You don’t wanna hit a small target…you want to hit a BIG target!

“Me And My Arrow” – (verse 7):

Thus says the lord, the Redeemer of Israel, Israel’s Holy One, to him whom man rejects and despises, to him who nations abhor, to the servant of rulers:  Kings shall see you and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, Who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, Who has chosen you.  (AMP. bible).

Isaiah wraps it all up; identifying Israel’s purpose:  You are going to have to introduce the entire world to Jesus Christ!

They are a POLISHED ARROW, God is aiming them at a BIG TARGET and that is SALVATION for everyone!

Our PURPOSE Today As Christians–

Do you feel like  “POLISHED ARROW”?  Because guess what, every single one of us that make the confession of a disciple (a “follower”) of JESUS…is a POLISHED ARROW!

God has been working on you, polishing you for a special purpose.  He has made you to FLY straight, FLY true, FLY far, and hit your target.

BUT unfortunately, we haven’t seen our OWN potential.  We’ve spent our energy and spent our purpose aiming at small targets…shooting gophers!

We AIM at small targets, keep our HOPES small, keep our VISIONS small, keep our AMBITIONS small…and the WORD for us is…that is too SMALL a thing.

You are a POLISHED ARROW.  Think about what that means.

Maybe, just maybe, NOW is the time…

Time to take aim at a bigger target.  Let the LORD draw you back, and LET YOU FLY!

God is telling the CHURCH…”Me And My Arrow” (s)…you are polished arrows…you were meant to fly…you were meant to hit a BIG TARGET.  One day, I’ll bring you back home.

 


Footnotes & Credits:

FOOTNOTES:  Footnote [i]The Point, the Movie; Wikipedia @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Point

PHOTO CREDITS: Google Images.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS: NIV (New International Version) – [Note: I capitalized words in referenced to God within the text];  AMP (Amplified Bible).

 

JESUS Loving the Unlovable

REVELATION 3:19:

JESUS is talking to a church and saying,

“Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them].  So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]”  ~ Amplified Bible.

I seldom hear about the CHASTISEMENT OF THE LORD from today’s pulpits.  In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing about God’s discipline for people in the church.  But it is an issue that all Christians should learn about, and sooner or later, most of us will probably discover what it is to be chastened of the Lord.

The Purpose for Chastening is…?  

“The Lord has chastened me sorely, but He has not given me over to death”  (Psalm 118:18).

The PURPOSE is not to destroy but to LEAD to repentance.

“…You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; bring me back, that I may be restored, for You are the Lord my God.  Surely after I was turned [from You], I repented; and after I was instructed, I penitently smote my thigh.  I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth [as a nation]”  (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

And to RESTORE God’s blessing.

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct,  O Lord, and teach out of Your law (Word)”  (Psalm 94:12).

I must admit, I’ve never been fond of the idea of spanking–on the receiving end, or the giving end.  Probably because as a kid I received quite a few spankings.  And by the way, hiding under my parents bed to escape punishment never worked [It doesn’t work for God either.].

Mom would have an ever-present tree switch nearby, and would shout to me in my hiding,  “If you don’t come out right now, the punishment will be much worse!”

Looking back now, I recognize that the discipline of my parents was necessary in keeping me out of trouble–and in many cases to spare me from greater pain and suffering.  Of course back in those days, because of my immaturity, that reasoning wouldn’t make sense to a youngster.

Furthermore, I realize now what my parents went through during those years.  I too experienced the same in the raising our three children– the ordeals of correcting–not because my parents dislike us, but because they love us.  I don’t think my children understood that reasoning either while growing up, but its application was the same never-the-less.

That realization reminded me of God’s word in The Letter to the Hebrews– 12:9-11:

[9]    Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we yielded [to them] and respected [them for training us]. Shall we not much more cheerfully submit to the Father of spirits and so [truly] live?

[10] For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness.

[11] For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness–in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. 

God’s Word Exposes the Church’s Hypocrisy…

 “I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold or hot. Would that your were cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing, and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”  (Revelation 3:15-17).

Though JESUS has just exposed church hypocrisy, and has implied that many are pretending to know Him, yet don’t, His reasons are not because He hates them for falling in such a state but because He deeply loves them; He wants to come into their lives.

He reminds the church that He is impartial, always consistent while confronting and discipline.  That is the way GOD treats everyone He loves when they get off course, and believe me…I have certainly gotten ‘off course’ during my 42 years of Christian Life.

Proverbs 3:11, 12:

My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastising of the Lord  [His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial]; neither be weary of or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof.

For whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

[Other Scripture to meditate on:  Hebrews 12:5-11; Job 5:17; Psalm 39:11; Proverbs 15:10]

JESUS’ Harsh Assessment…Revelation 3:19.

His harsh assessment of this particular church wasn’t for the purpose of driving them away from Him, but rather serve to put them on notice–YOU MUST BE ZEALOUS–they must be “HOT” (verse 16) and “REPENT” [changing your mind and attitude].

God Wants What Is Best For Us–

He wants us to have SPIRITUAL LIFE, not death.  All this language, the language of LOVE;

–  it’s the treatment of LOVE

– it’s LOVE rebuking, chastising, and exhorting.

JESUS wants to see you restored.

For this very reason, He will discipline us who persist in sin; will even deal out correction if we show signs of APATHY or SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENCE.

“Spiritual Indifference”:

Indifference robs a church of its MAXIMUM WORSHIP POTENTIAL-

It shows itself through…

…NEGLECTED ATTENDANCE…PREPARATION…PARTICIPATION…

Enthusiasm to Worship King of kings, Lord of lords, the Almighty living God will be missing (Psalm 122:1).  Violation of God’s Word will rob the brethren and yourself of EDIFICATION in the body of Christ (Hebrews 5:11-12).

Our interest must increase for our worship to be a blessing– “I don’t get anything out of worship.” — Are you putting anything in?!

AGAIN, Revelation 3:19, [The New Living Bible]:

“I continually discipline and punish everyone I love, so I must punish you unless you turn from your indifference and become enthusiastic about the things of God.”

“I Hear You Knocking…”

Picture of Door by Sarah Langova
Picture of Door by Sarah Langova

Since I’m a product of the 50’s, and  remembering listening to the music of the day on my old Silvertone Radio, the Fats Domino song rang out in my ear.  Although the rest of the lyrics certainly don’t fit the topic, the title certainly does.

“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in”

Revelation 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and be [will eat] with Me.

JESUS IS THE DOOR! – John 10:7.

Restoration is Made…

What a telling image Jesus gives.  JESUS pictures Himself standing outside the DOOR of the repentive heart.

So often this famous verse is used to invite UNBELIEVERS to accept Jesus into their lives.  And of course, that is the message.  BUT the fact that He needs to ask to be let into the hearts of supposed Christians found in the church of Laodicea is a horrible assessment of their condition.

They, like the unbelievers around them, need to repent and welcome Him to come in and take control of their lives–to RESTORE the relationship they once demonstrated

Proverbs 15:10 says,  “The HEART knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”

Psalm 39:11:  “When with rebukes You correct and chasten man for sin, You waste his beauty like a moth and what is dear to him consumes away; surely every man is a mere breath.”

Indifference Robs A Church!

Robs it of what?  Of its MAXIMUM WORSHIP  POTENTIAL.

It shows itself through neglected attendance, preparation and participation.  My ENTHUSIASM to worship will be missing (Psalm 122:1):

“I WAS glad when they said to me,  Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Violation of God’s Word will always ROB the brethren and yourself of EDIFICATION: The meaning “edification” in the sense of “being built up, strengthened in one’s faith” [Expository Dictionary of Bible Words].

Our interest must increase for our WORSHIP to be a blessing;

“I don’t get anything out of worship.” — Are you putting anything in?!   [ [i] Referenced].

While Christ is Knocking at Our Door…(3:20)

He is directing some of us to knock at Him; “knock and it shall be opened.”

He will certainly hear our voice and open the door to us.  He will not be DEAF to our voice, nor bar the door, nor keep us standing in the hallway, nor send us empty away.

Christ’s Church When He Comes…

The body (the church) will be found in different circumstances then, as well as now, and with many kinds of knocking; yet in all, it’s the same earnest desire on His part to be let in.  He will not force the door; but still wants to be let in.

Don’t find yourselves repeating the lyrics to a song that was popular in the 50’s: “I hear you knocking, but You can’t come in!” How much you will lose out on!

In His Absence…

—  NO outward prosperity,

—  NO riches,

—  NOR numbers can compensate…

IF HE IS KEPT OUT–all is sadness, and leanness, and poverty.

IF He is admitted, ALL IS WELL…

—  HAPPY is the church where Christ is daily feasting…

—  HAPPY the soul in which He has come to live…and who, is in daily communion by Faith and ENJOY the TASTES the Bridegroom’s LOVE!.

“I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.”

 

 

 

 Reference:  [i]  www.bibleanswer.com/indiffrn.htm

Bible Translation Used: Amplified except where noted.

 

 

“UNCHECKMATED”

A Famous Chess Game
A Famous Chess Game

 A Defeat in Progress–

The Fausts’  famous painting hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Faust is seated at a table engaged in a competitive game of chess.  And at first glance, looks like Faust is losing.

His opponent in the chess game is Satan.  The devil sits there grinning smugly, thinking the VICTORY is in hand.  He is pointing at the chessboard with an evil, gloating look on his face.

As you look at the painting, you can almost hear the devil shouting:

“Checkmate!  Games over!  I win!”

An international famous chess player was admiring the painting when all of a sudden, he lunged forward exclaiming:

“Wait a minute!  Look! Faust has another move and that move will give him VICTORY.”

THE TEXT from Acts 26:16-18: “Another Move!”

[16]  But arise and stand upon your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you.  [17] Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you–  [18] To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.  (Amplified Bible)

JESUS HAS GIVEN US PURPOSE:

I remember years ago, when I was asked to give an account of how and when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before a small group.  How inadequate I first felt.  It wasn’t that I feared standing in front of people to speak, but I thought my story wasn’t….exciting enough.  I hadn’t been driving down a road, when a lightning bolt struck the pavement in front of the car; pulling to the shoulder; hearing the audible voice of God saying,  “Mel, I have a specific purpose and objectives in mind for you.”

But in saying that, when we accept JESUS out of obedience…for He chose you, you didn’t choose Him; you accepted the calling… out of obedience.  The obedience doesn’t stop there at conversion.  It’s ongoing!

The Apostle Paul’s Testimony in Acts 26–

We find Paul stating his God-given purpose through his testimony to the whole Jewish Legal council.  Also, to three of the highest political officials in Palestine:  FELIX, FESTUS, and AGRIPPA.  All three hear the GOSPEL MESSAGE because Paul was arrested and imprisoned on false charges.

PAUL’S TESTIMONY:

He was blinded by an arrogant sense of his own importance.

Thought he was on a mission for God.

Though he was defending God…he had gone on the offensive; to wipe out as many Christians as possible.

He was chasing them down everywhere, arresting them, sentencing them to prison, even torturing them if needed.

If they (the Christians) refused to renounce their faith, like Stephen, Paul saw to it that they died as a heretic.  Saul, as he was known to the world, quickly became infamous among the Way (what believers were known as before the term “Christians” was applied).  Would Paul’s INFAMY put him in CHECKMATE after his obedience to God’s calling?

BUT SOMEONE SAW PAUL’S POTENTIAL–  JESUS!

Paul’s testimony– that JESUS turned on the lights for him–blinding him on the Road to Damascus.  Now, his eyesight was “20/20” regarding spiritual matters.

3 OBJECTIVES TO CONSIDER:

THE FIRST OBJECTIVE we are to meet is to accomplish the purpose; to move out of a “checkmated” position. 

JESUS has given each one of us in the church assembly, the BODY OF CHRIST this command:  GO AND TELL!  (verse 17)–

“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles”

“I AM SENDING YOU”:

God has placed you and I to penetrate our community with the good news.

We are a sent people–

In fact, the smaller number in attendance at the church I attend, with various age differences, different occupations–we are all given the same responsibility; penetrate the world, our community, with the Gospel.

None of us live at the church, though you may complain you feel like at times.  Most of us don’t work at the church; we live and work among the people outside the church walls.  That’s just where God wants us to be.  He wants us living out there, moving about, meeting people, being involved in their lives and shining God’s Light around our own lives.  Does that sound just to “poetic” for you to grasp and understand?

THE “CHURCH” IS MORE THAN A LIGHTHOUSE:

As some of you know, I sang in a men’s Gospel trio in Southern California in the late 70’s.  One of my favorite Gospel Hymns to sing out in the community was, The Lighthouse.  The lyrics refer to Jesus as the Lighthouse, and that is certainly true.  But since we are Christ’s Ambassadors, we are to represent the “Lighthouse.”  The last verse of the song contains a powerful thought:

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Everybody that lives about us

Says tear that Lighthouse down.

The big ships don’t sail  this way anymore

There’s no use of it standing round

Then my mind goes back to that stormy night

When just in time I saw  the light

Yes, the light from that old Lighthouse

That stands up there on the hill.

Please understand, this idea is often a mistake in the body of Christ–the Christian Assembly.  We sometimes believe that the CHURCH BUILDING is our Lighthouse and not the Light living inside of us.

It is time for the church to start  “wiggling”–MOVING OUT!

I came across a story this past week, of an E.M.T. (emergency medical technician):

Bill Stelianessis was called to a nursing home for a routine transport.  While there, he encountered four residents enjoying the warm day, relaxing in lounge chairs, all staring up at the sky.  When he looked up to see what they were looking at, he saw a flock of large birds flying by.  Then one resident spoke up:  “Margaret,” she teased, “for goodness sake, wiggle or something.  Those buzzards are getting closer!”

We are going to have to move folks.  We are supposed to be “living lighthouses”–guiding, directing, and warning others.  We do not ask people to come here to the “building”, for most won’t come.  We are to go where they are, and show them the LIGHT.

Moving Lighthouses
Moving Lighthouses

A SECOND OBJECTIVE–ANOTHER MOVE we are to meet, to accomplish the purpose of Jesus has given us– “…to open eyes…” (verse 18).

God wants spiritually blinded eyes to be opened:  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said,  ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’  made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”  (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIV).

It is God who created LIGHT in the beginning.  HE SPOKE.  IT HAPPENED!

He has a method in mind.  It’s you and me.  We are PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT in communicating the TRUTH–God’s Word.

Our Responsibility–

To LIVE and SPEAK words of truth, so that when people’s eyes are opened, there is something to believe.

Holy spirit never opens the eyes of the heart until there is GOSPEL TRUTH in the mind to believe.  We do not SAVE people, and I think most of us already know that.  But on the other hand, Scripture indicates His only plan includes our communication–God doesn’t do it without us.

3042052_b6efc7004cTHE THIRD OBJECTIVE TO CONSIDER IS “TURN THEM” INTO VICTORY (Verse 19):

“To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness…

I remember when I was living in darkness…the “darkness of sin.”   Before being saved, I use to think life couldn’t be any better.  And those who did…I thought they were more than a bit “nutty.”  I thought that DARKNESS was light and LIGHT was darkness.

Are We Hiding the Light in a Paper Sack?

TWO CLASSMATES from Washington State University were discussing their frustrations of dorm life.  High up on their list was the difficulty of keeping others from eating ice cream stored in the dorm’s refrigerator.

“I’ve solved that one,” one of them said.  “I just wrap my ice cream in a brown paper bag and label it ‘TOFU’.”

It’s possible that the devil has done the same thing.  Wrapped up the light (THE TRUTH) in a brown paper bag and called it “TOFU”–as a result, no one is going near it!

SATAN’S POWER OVER PEOPLE:

His power is simply based on DECEPTION.  He does so by working hard to keep people away from the TRUTH.  So he bends and twists the TRUTH (God’s Word), keeping people at bay and off-balanced.  He did that with us…unsuccessfully.

I certainly remember why and how he FAILED.  It was because of one small, unattractive looking pastor, living out the truth every time he came to the place where I was employed.  Because eventually, after his repeated visits, the opportunity arose… to SHARE the Gospel TRUTH with my wife and I in the living room of our home.

Paul’s Example to Us All.

Paul wasn’t concerned about his own condition, as much as he was about the condition of those who stood before him.  While he was standing in chains, he was more concerned about the spiritual chains around the necks of Festus and Agrippa.

WE ARE CHOSEN AND ENTRUSTED WITH A MISSION:

Encouragement Presented.  BE A MOVING LIGHTHOUSE!

Those of us who were called–called out of the tunnel of darkness, into His marvelous Light are entrusted with a MISSION:

To remove whatever obstacles that prevent others from rejoicing in the brilliance of God’s unconditional acceptance.  We are to GUIDE, DIRECT, SHOW THE LIGHT.

Are the people living in the DARKNESS simply because you are not sharing your light?  Have we become CHECKMATED?

WE STILL HAVE A MOVE ON THE “CHESSBOARD”:

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and]  do superabundantly far over and above all that we [dare] to ask or think  [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–  To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen (so be it) – (Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP).

I see VICTORY in these two verses and the victory is in bringing others to Christ Jesus–letting the Holy Spirit do the convincing while we verbalize the “good news”!.

Nehemiah: Healing Brokenness–Never Give Up!

Never Giving Up!

Nehemiah 4:14-23  (NIV Translation):

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.  Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.  But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there.  Our God will fight for us!”

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.”  Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Samuel Smiles was a political advocate in Scotland in 1837.  As my investigation began this week, I ran across the following quotation of Doctor Smiles:

“The battle of life is, in most cases fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor.  If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to achieve.”

Looking back over my life, I have been in certain circumstances (uphill battles)–reaching a point where I was ready to throw in the towel and give up.  We sometimes become so tired and frustrated in ‘fighting the battle’, we get exhausted and feel like there’s no use in continuing to even try.

Whether it’s a job, a relationship, health related problems, school, trying to lose weight, etc…we sometimes just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.  We would rather just quit the whole process–the FIGHT.  Have you been there before?

And then someone comes up to you, who doesn’t know where you’ve been or what you are going through and asks:  “How have things been going with you and your family lately?”

And you answer, “Well, it’s been an uphill battle of late.  How about you?”

Their answer is often the same as yours, “an uphill battle” or they don’t realize in the slightest that you are going through stress and pain; they smile and say something like  “Well, nice seeing you again.  Say hello to your wife/husband for me.”

WHAT ARE THE “BATTLES” WE FACE?

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people,  “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes”  (Nehemiah 4:14).

1.  WE BATTLE FEAR AND ANXIETY:

Remember the Lord and focus our thoughts on Him in our circumstances no matter what they are:

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him”  (Nahum 1:7).

The presence and peace of God comes when we put Him in the middle of our circumstances and issues of life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:6-7).

When my wife went through breast cancer several years ago, we of course were both anxious in the outcome of surgery and radiation.  We both used the above verse in our quiet times and confessed the words verbally to one another.  Did anxiety completely disappear?  No, it didn’t but…the peace of God, which transcends–goes beyond understanding, gave us PEACE; guarded our hearts, minds and soul.  We were that confident because God said so; His Word promises that our hearts and minds will be guarded against the attacks of anxiousness, fear, and doubt.

ANXIETY and FEAR causes us to ignore the God of possibilities or potential:

FEAR can force believers into re-activity, disastrous and concrete thinking:

*  Pushes us from God.

*  Injures our trust in God’s deliverance.

*  Avoids healthy spiritual disciplines.

*  Distracts us from our faith.

*  Chooses circumstance-centerness.

There is an answer…but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.

2.  WE BATTLE ISOLATION:

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.  Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other,”  (Nehemiah 4:16-17).

I LOVE THIS!  Each builder had a TROWEL in one hand in which to build, the other hand carried a sword to defend himself.  These two weapons or instruments should be in the hands of believers today, and carried always.  There is nothing like preparedness before we are faced with difficult circumstances that will come our way.  And yes, they will come your way!

The Trowel–

The TROWEL represents the fact that believers should build themselves up in the FAITH.  I disagree with folks who say that when a person is first saved (“born again”), they should immediately jump in the body and start serving.  I don’t think new converts to Christianity should be used to quickly in the ministry.

THE FIRST NEED is to learn by experience that Jesus saves and keeps and satisfies.  It’s wonderful to hear So-and-So was saved Sunday morning or last week; but let us hear from that person a year or two from today to see if they have been BUILT UP in THE FAITH (“discipleship”).

The Sword–

We need to hold the SWORD of the Spirit: the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God where we defend ourselves.  We need the TROWEL in one hand and the SWORD in the other.

3.  WE BATTLE INDEPENDENCE:

I Thessalonians 5:11:

“THEREFORE encourage one another and build each other up…”

Standing there at the wall with a trowel full of mortar is going to BUILD UP anything that is broken.  You have to work at it and not all by yourself!

4.  WE BATTLE IGNORANCE OF GOD’S WORD:

Psalm 119:19:

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So, how then are we going to WIN THE BATTLE?

BY FIGHTING WITH OUR GOD–remember that our God fights for us:

Romans 8:31:

“If God is for us, who [can be] against us?  [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]”  (Amplified Bible).

Joshua 23:10-11:

“One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord you God fights for you, just as He promised.  So be very careful to love the Lord your God”  (NIV Bible).

2 Timothy 1:7:

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with His gifts, but bold and loving and sensible”  (The Message Bible).

WE HAVE POWER: (dunamus)-

“DUNAMUS”, the Greek word for power can be translated into the English language as “dynamite; explosive power”–strength, power, ability–

–  power for performing miracles.

–  power for maintaining purity.

–  power and resources to use in the Assembly (the Church).

–  power to overcome in anything we face in life!

John 14:27:

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”  (NIV Bible).

Isaiah 43:1-2:

But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

What I like to do when I’m going through trials–passing through, deep waters, passing through rivers of life and even walking through the fire…I like to read out loud a certain Bible verse such as Isaiah 43:1-2 and make it personal.  *[use a concordance for help]

Every time I see the word “you”, I replace it with Mel: He created Mel, He formed me in my mothers womb; He has summoned me by my name, “Mel”–Mel you are mine.  I think you get my drift.

We Fight With PERSEVERANCE!

Nehemiah 4:21-23 NIV Bible:

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people,  “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve as guards by night and workmen by day.”  Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went into the water.

Being clothed today–

–  They had a mind-set to work,  v. 6

–  They had a heart to pray,  v. 9

–  They had an eye to watch,  v. 9 [seeing the spirit world]

–  They had an ear to hear,  v. 20.

Nehemiah says, “of course when we took a bath we took of our clothes”  (You see, there is HUMOR in the Bible.  Even in a crisis like this, the Lord inserted a little humor.)

Otherwise, they never removed their clothes–day or night in their struggles.  They were on guard all the time.

Oh, to be so clothed today with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).

ALWAYS BE PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME; grab your trowel and your sword and start patching and building up the ‘holes’ in your life today, never giving up!

Hiding Your TALENTS and GIFTS in a Tennis Shoe?

Hiding Your TALENT in a shoe?

IN THE PROCESS —Matthew 25; The Parable of the TALENT and Luke 19; The Parable of the MINAS  (First READ Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27).

I assume you have probably read the two passages by now.  Let me give you the similarities between the two parables:

  . man goes to another country, stays a long time, then returns.

. man allocates his resources to his servants, expecting them to be profitable in his absence.

  . first two servants are faithful; they are praised by their master and are given more authority in the process.

  . third servant hides what was entrusted to him.

  . third servant seeks to excuse himself by accusing his master of being harsh.

  . third servant claims he was afraid of his master.

  . third servant does not make a profit for his master.

  . first two servants are commended and go to heaven; the third is condemned and goes to hell.

The Process of Reaching Your Potential:

Several years ago, Dianne and I went on our second cruise to the southern Caribbean islands.  We had enjoyed our first cruise to the western Caribbean in the late 1990’s, so we decided to venture out to a different geographical area on our second cruise.

When we arrived aboard our ship into the harbor of Barbados, our previously planned excursion on the island had been canceled.  So we looked at the activity brochure and decided to go to the Orchid Farm by default.

After the tourist bus dropped us all off, we pretty much were on our own.  The orchids were all outside growing in the tropical climate and blooming in magnificence.  Some of the blooms even had a fragrance; one in particular smelled of chocolate.  We had to pinch ourselves; were we in heaven or in Barbados?  To a garden enthusiast it was almost overwhelming.

All of us have met unnoticed persons in our lives who live in the middle of struggle and hardship, far from the center of attention, yet live lives in the beauty and fragrance.  They are in obscurity, faithfully fulfilling God’s calling for them.

God’s question on the last day will not be, “How much were you noticed?” or “How much did you do?”  Rather His question will be, “Were you faithful in fulfilling your calling where I placed you?  Did you try?  Did you do your best?”  Titles or prestigious position won’t matter when Jesus comes someday soon.  Just do your best where you are and He will say, “Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant!  You have been faithful and trustworthy over little; I will put you in charge of much”  (Matthew 25:21 AMP).

What are you doing with your talents?

What a challenge we face in the process of possessing qualities and attributes that are on loan from God!  I hope you are not hiding them in a tennis shoe.  I can personally give testimony that even when God reveals to you a specific talent, your reaction might be skeptical.  You might say to yourself, “I have little or no experience in that task.  Why did God choose me to accomplish that …?”

I love growing Dahlias every year in the garden and last year I entered two blooms in the county fair for the first time.  I took first place with one bloom and second place with the other; a Blue Ribbon and a Red Ribbon.

Go ahead and produce beautiful prizewinning blooms where you are in life, even if all your neighbors are producing weeds.  Succeed where God has planted you.

JESUS LAYS OUT A PRINCIPLE FOR LIFE IN THE TWO PARABLES:

“Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent)”  Matthew 25:2.

“And [said Jesus, ] I tell you that to everyone who gets and has will more be given, but from the man who does not get and does not have, even what he has will be taken away”  Luke 19:26.

It is so simple sometimes and easy to miss: “If Rome wasn’t built-in a day, neither is character formed in a moment.”  There is a process in becoming all that God created us to be!.

BECOMING MORE LIKE GOD:

Becoming like God, in His character is a gift from God Himself; enabling us to express ourselves as a part of who we are in its process.  This surprising journey of holiness after receiving Jesus into our being is a complete transformation; a miracle of God and stewardship of man.  God promises to do what we cannot do for ourselves.  He commands us to do that which He will not do for us.  It is both a miracle and a responsibility.

In both the parables in Matthew and Luke, God entrusts us with His resources and holds us accountable for what we do with them. He lays down a framework to adhere to.

The framework for how the kingdom of God works.

The master in the parables distributes his resources among his servants.  Not proportionately or equally but as he chooses.  He leaves on a journey, to one day return and settle accounts with them.

An important note here! The master doesn’t tell them how to manage the money or what to do with it.  It does say he distributed the resources according to each individuals ability.  He didn’t give them more than they were capable of managing well.  Each one was effectively positioned to succeed.

The third servant, after receiving a single talent, dug a hole in the ground and buried it.  In today’s culture the servant might have placed his one talent in a tennis shoe.

Being “WICKED” and “LAZY”.

The servant who was given but one talent didn’t steal it.  He even returned it without being asked.  Yet his master condemned him with the indictment that he was wicked and lazy.  Is it possible that God views negligence and human capacity differently?

The servant was declared wicked and lazy when what he could have done was measured against what he did.  When we think of a person’s talent or gifting, we often put it in a category with added value.  Then, if an individual doesn’t achieve his or her God-given potential, we might consider it a tragedy.  But we would never think of it as wickedness.

From our common view of holiness, the third servant in both parables did nothing wrong regarding his actions.  He just didn’t do anything!  The servant’s wrong view of God’s character led him to the wrong conclusion of what God required of him.  At the same time, his wrong view of God led him to lose both potential of his life and the pleasure of his master.

God sees not only who we are, but who we can become.  When we neglect our God-given potential, putting our TALENT and GIFTS in a tennis shoe, it is wickedness in the sight of God.  How would it change the work of the church if our measure of effectiveness was not how little sin was being done, but how much good  was being accomplished?  We have more than likely seen very clearly that a life lived against God is wicked; is foolish.  But have we ever seen as clearly that to live our lives beneath a God-given capacity is equally dishonoring to God?  To not have that opportunity is tragic.  To relinquish it, to neglect it, to reject it is wicked in God’s sight.

FREEING YOUR GOD-GIVEN POTENTIAL:

You and I are created for more than just existing.

While we have redefined mediocrity as normal; ‘the best of the worst or the worst of the best’, we far too often expect nothing more.  God will not have it!  He did not create us to be average, but to be unique.  While you may be dreaming right now of a better life or the better person you could be, only God really knows the person you were intended to become.  Only He sees the fullness of what is being neglected or lost.

In both parables the servant was fearful and in neither parable was his apathy found acceptable by the master.  Whether you are a one-, five-, or ten-talent servant, you have not been left with only a tennis shoe.

Every one of us has God-given talent.  Beyond this, God pours into each of us His gifts.  Each is unique in the contribution he or she can make.

Potential and productivity are not the same.

In Seizing Your Divine Moment, we reveal the dilemma of untapped potential:

There’s so much talk about potential in our culture, as if it’s the end-all of success.  Has anyone ever said about you, “He has so much potential”?  If you’re under twenty–let’s give you twenty-five–consider it a compliment.  Potential–your untapped or unlocked capacity.  Potential–the hint of greatness not yet developed.  “She has so much potential–a statement of praise and maybe even adoration.  And then you’re thirty, and you still have all this potential.  Pressing forty, and you’re still full of potential.  If you’re forty-five and someone looks at you and says, “You have so much potential,” pause, excuse yourself, step into a closet, and have a good cry.

What once was a statement of promise is now evaluated as lost opportunity.  There is a point where you’re not supposed to be full of potential; you’re supposed to be full of talent, capacity, product.  Potential is a glimpse of what could be, yet there must be a shift from where we have potential to where we are potent in our servant-hood.  You’re not supposed to die with your potential.  Come on church.  Let’s quit putting our TALENTS and our GIFTING in a tennis shoe!

“You have been faithful and trust-worthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys.  [29] For to EVERYONE who has will more be given, and he will be furnished richly so that he will have an abundance”  (Matthew 25:23, 29 AMP).