Never Under-Estimate What God Can Do Through You!

 

A Bible Commentary –  Haggai 1:13; 2:1-19

We see in the Scriptures that God uses different people in different places, over different periods of time, for different purposes.

When Solomon was king of Israel, he built a beautiful temple in Jerusalem.  People from all over the world came and saw this wonder.  The Jewish people treasured the Temple because it was the place where God dwelled with a man and the place where they WORSHIPPED Him.

But as time went by, the nation began to turn from God, turning towards gods from the surrounding nations.

Civil war broke out and the Nation of Israel split into two kingdoms.  The Northern Kingdom (Israel) rapidly went downhill and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) followed close behind but at a slower rate.  The result of this turning away from God was Judah’s captivity by Babylon.  When the Babylonians came in, they destroyed the Temple that Solomon had built for God.

70 years passed, then God moved Cyrus of Persia to allow the Jews to return to their homeland.  About 50,000 people went back to Judah and when they arrived, nothing had changed.  Everything was in shambles.

Immediately, the returnees set about to rebuild the temple and re-laid the foundation during a great celebration; but then came opposition.  The Samaritans (who hated the Jews) didn’t want to see the Jews prosper, so they kept hitting back at them until finally, they stopped rebuilding the Temple altogether.

As the years passed by, slowly but surely, Jerusalem came back to life.  Homes were built, stores were opened, commerce re-established, fields planted, crops harvested, and life began to resemble something of a normal pattern, BUT there was a problem.  The Temple foundation still lay in ruins, overgrown with weeds.  Every time the Jews passed it, it stood as a reminder of their failure to take care of God’s house.

This situation remains for 16 long years.  Finally, God sent a prophet named Haggai to wake the people up.

From what history reports, Haggai’s ministry lasted only over a span of 4 months (Hag. 1:1; 2:1,10, 20).

We don’t know where he came from, we don’t know his lineage, his family – all we know is that he has come out of exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel.  God had a purpose for him after 70 years in captivity, and God had only 4 months for this man to minister.

And the effect of his ministry?

In just 24 days after his message, we see the people (led by their leader Zerubbabel and Joshua their high priest) started work again and reconstructing the Temple of God (Hag. 1:14-15).

THE WHOLE NATION turned around and completed God’s task because one new man spoke on His behalf.

This leads right into my title: Don’t Under-Estimate What God Can Do Through You!

GIVE TO GOD THE SMALL THINGS –

Fred Craddock, professor, and New Testament Emeritus says, “We think giving our all to God is like taking a $1,000 bill, laying it on the table and saying, ‘Here’s my life, Lord.  I’m giving it to You.’  But that’s not how it works!

God sends us to the bank to cash $1,000 bill – for 50 cent coins.  Then He asks us to give 50 cents here, and $1,00 there; to teach a Sunday school class, volunteer you help a hospice, or just clean up the sanctuary.”  The Small things!

So the question is – are we as prepared to be used by God?

  • It’s good to pause and think – what has God been calling you to do?
  • Does God expect anything from me?

What’s wrong with the people of Israel?

They’ve returned to their homeland Jerusalem more than 16 years earlier (586 BC, from captivity in Babylon).

  • They actually started rebuilding the Temple after their return with all good intentions.  [We all start out with good intentions, don’t we?]  But the work was suspended because of conflict with their Samaritan neighbors (Ezra 3-4).
  • They refused to let the Samaritans work on the Temple, the animosity grew, and the Samaritans fight back.
  • As a result, the work was halted and nobody bothered any attention to the unfinished work for another 14 years.

When God is out of mind, He’s out of your life.

The people had gotten indifferent about re-building God’s house.  They build “paneled houses” (1:4) for themselves.  It wasn’t a lack of resources; they have the time and the means to do it.  It was a lack of heart.

The Bible tells us where your treasure is for there your heart is also.  You can call it apathy, or being lukewarm, or just being lazy.  Whatever it is, God is neither in their mind nor in their lives.

So what’s the result of the God- absent life?

READ 1:6, 9-11

[6] “You have sown much but you harvest little”

Because the people had pushed God out the center of life, they were now suffering in every other area.  They had fields without produce, action without satisfaction. and labor without profit.  These occurrences appear to be a correlation between the blessings of life and our worship of God.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 (AMP),  “But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.”

When our priority isn’t right, then we’ll see it in our lives, the fruit of our labor.

We can read a similar message given to the prophet Malachi.  The people had drifted away from God and no longer bringing their tithes and offerings into the storehouse – the Temple of God.

And God says in Malachi 3:10-12…

WHY WOULD GOD DO THIS?

He allows us to suffer the results of our wrong choices in life to wake us up, convict us of sin, and to lead us to repentance.  The longer they put it off, the longer they deprive themselves of God’s blessing.

Let’s stop procrastinating when God shows us what is right and good.  By putting it off, you’re just delaying God’s BLESSING in your life!

It’s interesting to note that God told them what they were thinking (1:2), “This is what the LORD Almighty says”

God not only knows the situation, He knows what you’re thinking!  He knows the condition of the heart!

So when God speaks to you and me, during the reading of His Word in the Bible, He’s addressing a NEED He sees in us.

A thought came to me, about the time when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan women at the well in John 4.  He was able to tell her of five husbands, and the woman said, “I can see you are a prophet.”  And when the conversation ended, she ran back to her village crying, “I can see a man that told me all that ever I did!”  The woman came for the water, but that wasn’t her greatest need.  She needed the LIVING WATER, and Jesus spoke to her need!

When God speaks through the prophets in the OT, He’s addressing the NEEDS of the people directly.

God was telling the people in Haggai’s time the real cause of their misery in life.  It pays to listen attentively to God when we are moved by a message.  We find this phrase repeated again and again (1:2. 3. 5. 7. 13; 2:1…):

“This is what the LORD ALMIGHTY says; the word of the Lord came through…”

Today God is doing the same thing – He is constantly speaking to us!

It may come as COMFORT, a WARNING, a word of WISDOM.  God is addressing a NEED in you, in me, or as a church.  And the result is the same – our heart is being stirred.

Being “stirred,” that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter!  Taking the Word of God and showing it to us, convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  

So when God speaks, listen!  Don’t listen to – rely on, a sermon for someone’s sake.  The LORD says repeatedly, “Give careful thought to your ways” (1:5, 7; 2:15).

This is the right response to His Word.  Ponder carefully – to think about; reflect on, consider especially a matter soberly and quietly – and respond to Him.

1:12 says the “whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the prophet Haggai because the LORD their God had sent him…”

  • They recognized it as a message from God, not from Haggai, not man’s suggestion.

This one decision – to heed God’s Word – changed them completely!

You may have been indifferent to 14 years, it really doesn’t matter.  What’s important is to take note of what God’s saying to you and act upon it.  It might just be a simple decision, but you need to MAKE IT!  Procrastinate and you can find yourself still in misery for another 14 years.  “Someday” is the devil’s tool to keep us from growing in the Christian life.  It’s not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of a heart.  Many Christians know what’s right and good, BUT…just couldn’t…wouldn’t act to doing it.

There’s a legend that’s worth repeating because it contains an important truth to this study.  *[See CREDITS]

Satan held a passing out parade at the spiritual academy.  During the day he questioned 3 of his evil spirits.  To the first, he said, “When you get out into the world, what are you going to say to the people?”

“Oh,” the evil spirit replied, “I shall tell them there’s no God.”

“That’s no use,” said the devil, “Creation tells people that there is a God.  Not many will believe you.”  Then he said to the second evil spirit, “And what are you going to tell the people?”

“I shall say that there is not going to be a judgment,” was the reply.

“That’s not much use,” answered the devil.  “Conscience tells them about judgment.  Not many will believe you.”  Turning to the third evil spirit he asked, “What about you?”

“I shall tell people that there is a God and a judgment to come,” answered the third evil spirit.  “But I shall add there’s no hurry.”

“Excellent,” said the devil.  “Many will believe that!”

People believe that there’s no hurry about accepting Christ, turning to God and putting things right.  The truth is – the time is running out fast, and the time to respond to God’s voice may just be now.

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CREDITS:

Legend Story:  “There Is A Legend” – June 18, 2007, Sermon Central.com; Mark Sutton, Missions Today.

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

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Dictionary:  Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary – To “ponder”

 

Understanding SEX–One Christian’s Point Of View

Scripture Study:  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

 

At the end of their first date, a young man in a bygone era took his favorite girl home.  He decided to try for that important first kiss.  With an air of confidence, he leaned his hand against the wall of the house, smiled, and said, “How about a goodnight kiss?”  [I never had that kind of confidence as a teen!]

“Are you crazy?” she said.  “My parents will see us!”

“Oh come on!  Who’s gonna see us at this hour?”

“No, please.  Can you imagine if we get caught?”

“Come on, they’re all sleeping!”

“No way.  It’s too risky!”

“Please.  I like you so much.”

“No,  I like you too, but I just can’t!”

“Pleeeeease?…”

Then to their surprise, the porch light came on, the door opened and there stood the girl’s sister, hair tousled, in her pajamas. 

With a big yawn, in a quiet, sleepy voice she said,  “Dad says to go ahead and give him a kiss.  Or I can do it.  If need be, dad will come out on the porch and do it.  Whatever you do, tell your date to take his hand off the intercom button”  [source: semi-joke@yahoogroups.com]

There was a time when a kiss on a date was considered “risky”.  Now couples are expected to jump into bed together, if not on the first date, at least by the time they get serious with each other.  So-called virgins are laughed at.  They are considered weird and sex outside of marriage has become the norm in our society, even among Christian singles.  In  a recent study found at ChristianMingle.com, Christian singles between the ages of 18-59 were asked,

“Would you have sex before marriage?” 

The response?  63% of the single Christians responded, “YES”.

Kenny Luck, Executive Pastor of Ministries (Crossline Church), in response to the survey, said, “[Christian young adults have become] sexual atheist.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on the subject of consequences or at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them following their own course of conduct.  It’s the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise sovereign and loving God can also believe simultaneously that he/she shouldn’t, cannot or will [let them] inform their thinking [about them] sexually.”  (See Footnote [i].)

There’s Got To Be Another Way!

And there is!

Exodus 20, where in just one short sentence, God tells us how to have fun, fantastic sex without all the hang-ups:

“You shall not commit adultery”

There you have it!  Keep sex exclusively within the marriage relationship and you will enjoy true intimacy.

You see, God is the One who created SEX; and when He did, He called is “VERY GOOD” – Genesis 1:31

Sex isn’t some “dirty” little secret of every married couple.  It’s a beautiful creation by God.  One pastor called it “God’s Wedding Gift,” after a wedding ceremony.  The point is, I believe, “Don’t spoil the gift!”  Don’t take what God created as good and beautiful and ruin it by taking it outside the context of marriage.

All of this takes us to our passage of Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 4:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE HOLY (OR SANCTIFIED, SET APART) IN ALL YOUR BEHAVIORS.

That means He wants you to be set apart, different, special, not like most of the rest of the world, cheapened sex.  Specifically, God wants you to abstain from sexual immorality–ie, any kind of sex outside of marriage.  WHY?  Because sexual purity is God’s will for your life.  It’s why God wants purity for His people because He loves them so much.  You see, God doesn’t say, “Abstain from sexual immorality”, to kill your enjoyment.  On the contrary, He wants you yo enjoy life more, more abundantly than you thought was possible…till it overflows!  (John 10:10)

Sex outside the boundaries of marriage leaves you feeling empty.

But a passionate relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most fulfilling, satisfying thing you will ever experience.  God is passionate about you.  That’s why Jesus died on a cross for your sins.  He did it so God could have a relationship with you, a mind-blowing relationship beyond anything selfish, self-centered act He can ever give you.

SEX ITSELF IS SACRED!

SEX IS SPECIAL!

Sex is a holy thing in a marriage, and any kind of sex outside of marriage cheapens it.

1 Thessalonians 4:4-5

Don’t be driven by your passions like people who don’t know God, no!  God has set you FREE from that through the Cross.  Instead, control your bodily urges with holiness and honor.

You see, SEX is NOT dirty.  It’s holy and honorable within the bounds of marriage.  It’s special!  It’s sacred!  Don’t cheapen it by taking it outside the context of marriage.

INTIMACY Explained.

Gerontologist Dr. Karl Pillemer wrote a book, 30 Lessons for Loving, drawn from 700 interviews with older adults.  He discovered that older adults, “place intimacy as a high priority” in their marriages.  After 55 years of marriage, I can say AMEN to that conclusion.

An example, was Jennie B., an 82-year-old widow who married her first and only husband in their mid-20s and was sexually active throughout their 47 married years.  Jennie explained, “There’s an intimacy that comes later that is wonderful.  You can hold hands with this person you love and adore, and somehow, it’s just as passionate as having sex at an earlier age.  There’s such a sense of connection and intimacy that grows out of a long relationship, that touch carries with it the weight of so many memories.  And many are sexual.”  [See footnote [ii].]

That’s the beauty of sex within the long-term commitment of marriage.  The intimacy only grows the older you get with a whole lot less effort.  But if you take sex outside of marriage, it becomes a cheap thrill with diminishing satisfaction.

Sexual Immorality Robs Others.

SEX outside of marriage is stealing.

It’s taking something precious that belongs to someone else.

1 Thessalonians 4:6a (ESV)

[This is the will of God] that no one transgresses and wrongs his brother in this matter…

Literally, no one should “go over” and “get more” in the things concerning his brother.  In other words, when a man sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, he robs that woman’s husband; and if she’s not married yet, he robs that woman’s future husband.  He robs that woman’s husband of his wife’s purity.  He robs that woman’s husband of a beautiful relationship that they could have enjoyed without the entanglements of previous sexual activity.

Don’t Go Messing Around With Someone Else’s Property.

“Returning from Sunday School one day, where the Ten Commandments had been the topic, a young boy asked his father, “Daddy, what does it mean when it says, ‘Thou shalt not commit agriculture’?  He didn’t quite pick up on the word “adultery”.  But there was hardly a beat between the question and the dad’s smooth reply:  “Son, that just means that you’re not supposed to plow the other man’s field.”  (Reader’s Digest, July 1979, pg. 87, http://www.SermonCentral.com)

Don’t go messing around with someone else’s property.  Don’t rob your brother of the joy of a pure and holy relationship with his wife.

Sexual purity is important, because #1, it pleases God; #2, Sex itself is sacred; #3, Sexual immorality robs others; and #4, Sexual purity is important, because…

SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE ISN’T SAFE.

It’s hazardous.  It’s downright dangerous, not only to your body but your soul as well.

1 Thessalonians 4:6b (AMP)

“For the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we have already warned you solemnly and told you plainly.”

There are very real physical AND spiritual consequences of sexual sin.  A devoted Christian mystery writer, Dorthy Sayers, put it this way:

In our society, there are two kinds of laws:  The law of the STOP SIGN, and the law of the FIRE.

The STOP SIGN law says when the traffic is heavy on a certain street, and as a result, the police department or the city council decides to erect a STOP SIGN.

They also decide if you run that stop sign, it will cost you between $25-$35.  If the traffic changes, then then they up the ante.  The police department or the city council controls the law of the STOP SIGN.

Then there’s the law of the FIRE.

The law of the FIRE says that if you put your hand in the fire, you’ll get burned!

Now imagine for a moment, that all of the nations of this entire world gathered in one great assembly, voting unanimously that from here on out, FIRE would no longer BURN.  The first man or woman who left the assembly put his or her hand in the fire and discovers the law of the fire is different than the law of the stop sign.  Bound up in the nature of FIRE itself is the PENALTY for abusing it.

So Ms. Sayers says, the moral law of God is like the law of FIRE.  You never break God’s laws; you just break yourself on them.  God can’t reduce the PENALTY, because the penalty for breaking the law is bound up in the law itself.   (Hadden Robinson, “Crafting Illustrations”)

Sex outside the context of marriage will burn you every time.

You may escape the STD some of the time, but you can’t escape the emotional, psychological, and relational damage it always brings.

And finally, SEXUAL PURITY is important, because…

GOD GIVES YOU HIS HOLY SPIRIT

God Himself dwells within and helps you live a holy life.  He gives you the resources to do what He has called you to do.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

God gives to you when you are SAVED–“born again”–His Spirit who helps you live a holy, sanctified life in this world of ours.  Without Him, you could only fail, and His commands would only frustrate you.

But with Him, you can live the life God has called you to live.  All you need to do is TRUST Him!

That’s the GOOD NEWS in all of this!

Even if you’ve already failed in the area of sexual purity, invite the Lord into your life and let Him begin to clean you up from inside out.  God wants you to enjoy life with Him at any age, whether you are newly married, married for 50 years or more, or without a spouse.  Just open the door of obedience to Him.  And if you are reading this post from one Christian’s point of view, and living the single life, God has laid down the standard.

The Standard of God.

What seems to be a secret with so-called Christianity in the 21st Century is that God has standards for us to follow.  God’s standard is His will for which you are to live as a Christian single.  If you are truly saved you will be moved by the Spirit of God inside of you yo live by His will and not your own.  And that will is that you live your lives in holiness, sanctification, set-apart and transformed from the world’s standards.

I’ll give you two familiar Bible verses read and think about regarding your lifestyle as an encouragement.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Kenny Luck, “Sexual Atheism; Christian Dating Data Reveals a Deeper Malaise,” The Christian Post, 4/14/14.

Footnote [ii] :  Mark Tapson, “Is Sexual Variety the Spice of Marriage?” Acculturated blog, 4/1/15; http://www.PreachingToday.com.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.  [CopyRights may apply]

Bible Translations:  The NIV Bible; The Amplified Bible (AMP); The English Standard Bible (ESV).

 

Moving Forward In Spite of the Past

Scripture Study:  HEBREWS 4:14-16

ILLUSRATION:

One man said to his friend:  “Say, you look depressed.  What are you thinking about?”  “My future,” was the quick answer.  “What makes it look so hopeless?”  “My past!”

Our past does tend to put a cloud around our future.  Good, bad, or otherwise.  Our past sometimes determines the path we take in the future.

When we look back over our lives, we all have things we’ve tucked away in our hearts and minds that we would like to delete, the Bad, the SORROWFUL, and remember and even increase the joy-filled times.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (MSG-The Message Bible)

[14-16]  Now that we know what we have–Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God–let’s not let it slip through our fingers.  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.  He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin.  So let’s walk right up to *Him and get where *He is so ready to give.  Take the mercy, accept the help.  [* Capitalized because of what He is, the spotless Son of God]

MERCY and GRACE, two great things we all need!

When it comes to the pain of the past, we must ask God for MERCY in order to get over it.  These are the same things that we find that are hard to handle,  and hard to overcome, such as:  losing a loved one in death, divorce, abuse, financial loss, etc..

We must ask God with confidence and boldness for MERCY, to put an end to our suffering over these things that are holding us back.

Sometimes we’re tormented in our spirit for years over such things.  But our God is merciful.  We must ask for Him to be merciful in that boldness and He will demonstrate it.

And next, we must ask for GRACE to keep us moving forward.

Every day when I wake up in bed, as sleepy as I may be, I know that I am here by the Grace of God.  We exist by His Grace.  Good things come our way–His FAVOR, by the GRACE of God.  We are only able to forgive by the Grace of God.  And of course, we are only FORGIVEN by God’s GRACE.

We’ll never move forward in life without the GRACE of God!

Our country is in the process of always looking back and well, it should.  We are looking back on that horrendous day of September 11, 2001.

Everything points to the Lord. 

By Him, we live and survive.  And with Him, we die.  

Without Him, we cannot live or live abundantly as He planned in our lives.

John 10:10 (Amplified Bible)

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy…”

CATCH THIS…

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

And we certainly don’t want to die without Him!

In light of September 11, 2001, we must remember, honor and trust.

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM REMEMBERING THINGS?

Who doesn’t?

And personally, the problem seems to increase with age.

The other side of the coin is this:  We are pretty good about remembering certain things.  Things that deal with our own experiences; our own likes and dislikes.

For example, my wife has expected over the years, that I should take care of servicing her car.  Several years back, I would tell her when she filled up the car with gas, that the station’s attendant would ask if he could check under the hood [ I did mention “several years back”].

“if it needed oil, remember to tell them your husband would add the oil.”

One day she mentioned her car’s oil was down by a quart and she decided that she could add the oil.  After all, how hard could that be?

I asked her if she had any problems and she answered with confidence, “No problems.  But it took a long time to add the oil.”  Scratching my head and asking, “Why did it take so long?”

She explained that after she took the dip-stick out and putting a funnel in the little hole, it took forever to drain the oil can.

After showing her why she had experienced the ‘slow draining’, with both laughing, and thanking God she hadn’t put the oil in the radiator.  Obviously, I had not been taking care of her car.  Would I do that to MY car?  Probably not.

We could apply this though in many areas of our lives.  And we’d all be guilty.

We are quick to take care of ourselves, watch out for ourselves, feed ourselves whether anyone else gets fed or not.

One of the worst things in the world is SELFISHNESS, and one of the saddest things in the world is to forget people.  And it’s extremely sad to forget them in their suffering.

Luke 10, “The Good Samaritan” story.

There was only one good Samaritan.

The priest passed by on the other side, avoiding the injured man he saw in pain.  The Levite also passes by on the other side.  The stranger, the foreigner, the Samaritan took pity on the man and had a strong compassion.  He tried to take care of the man’s wounds…actually took the man to a place where he could be cared for.

If we could be really honest, most of us are like the priest and Levite.  We’re too self-centered, too self-absorbed, or too busy with our own lives to REMEMBER others.

Hebrews 13:3

REMEMBER THOSE WHO SUFFER.  AS IF YOU YOURSELF WERE SUFFERING.

It could be US instead of THEM!

If it weren’t for the GRACE and GRACIOUSNESS of God we all could be in prison!  We all could be some of those families in New York who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center.

Romans 12:15 (NIV Bible)

[15]  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

We must REMEMBER the suffering of others.

We must not be without SYMPATHY and COMPASSION for those who hurt.

May God help us to remember others.  May God help us to have the compassion of Jesus.

The Importance of HONORING –

Romans 12:10 (AMP)  “Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.”

Romans 13:7 (NIV)  “Give everyone what you owe him:  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Philippians 2:25, 27, 29 (NASB) 

[25] “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;  [27] For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  [29] Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;”  [HONOR]

Some people deserve to be honored.  Not the high and mighty, the rich and the famous, but those who SERVE, those who do, those who care, those who give, those who love, those who die for others without bringing attention to themselves.

It is always right to give HONOR to who HONOR is due!

Think about those around you who deserve your HONOR, your PRAISE, your THANKS, and your BLESSING.

AND THEN GIVE IT

  • TRUSTING 

There’s an old story of a father who took his young son out and stood him on the railing on the back porch.  He then went down, stood on the lawn, and encouraged the little guy to jump into his arms.  “I’ll catch you,” the father said confidently.  After much convincing, the little boy finally made the big leap.  When he did, the father stepped back and let the child fall to the ground.  He then picked his son up, dusted him off, and dried his tears.  “Let that be a lesson,” he said sternly.  “Don’t ever trust anyone!”

That’s a heartbreaking illustration of the world’s attitude on not trusting others in our lives.  The world says, “Watch out for number one, yourself.  Don’t trust anybody, not even family members.”

Without seeming too negative, I wanted to bring awareness to a strong and powerful truth.

HERE IT IS:  Matthew 7:11 (NIV)

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

None of us like to think that we are “evil”, but in a real sense, we have an evil side, a dark side to us, and it’s called the FLESH.  If we ‘dark-sided’ people are good to our children, how much greater is God, our Father, to us!  If we can be trusted in some form, how much more He can be trusted!

2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)  “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”

At our very worst times of unfaithfulness, God is still FAITHFUL!

He is for us!  He loves us in spite of who we are or in what we think or do!

I realize that concept is hard to comprehend because all we know basically is human love.  And “human love” often fails.

Hebrews 13:5

God is saying to each one of us:

“Why get so engrossed in making money!  I’m here for you.  I will provide for you and your family.  There’s more to life than money!  I’ll take care of you, feed you, put a roof over your head.  Quit wanting more.  No matter how bad your situation gets, no matter how deep in debt you find yourself, I’ll take care of you!  You’re My kid.  Please let me be your Father!  Please trust Me!”

Proverbs 3:5-6

TRUSTING is a hard lesson to learn.

There’s probably not a person in my life who hasn’t failed me in some form or another:  parents, siblings, mate, children, Christian friends.  And I’ve failed them as well.  I didn’t want to fail them, but I did.  I have and I probably will again.

All I’m saying is, that we FAIL one another.

BUT WE HAVE ONE WHO NEVER FAILS US NOR FORSAKES US!

Romans 8:28 (AMP)

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”

Romans 8:31-33

The famous preacher Dwight L. Moody once said,

“Trust in yourself and you are doomed to disappointment.  Trust in your friends and they will die and leave you.  Trust in money and you may have it taken from you.  Trust in your reputation and some slanderous tongue may blast it.  But trust in God and you are never to be confounded in time or eternity.”

The only way to live is by faith, by trusting God as our living, heavenly Father.  And by trusting in Christ as our Savior.

If we want to live as successfully as possible, as joyously as possible, we must live by FAITH.

WE MUST TRUST GOD.

Remembering, honoring, trusting and loving God.

Making these your commitments will keep you moving forward!

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CREDITS

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); The Message Bible (MSG); New International Version (NIV); New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Dwight L. Moody Quote:  201 Dwight L. Moody Quotes by ChristianQuotes.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW BIG AND HOW EFFECTIVE ARE YOUR PRAYERS?

 A STUDY in Psalm 20:1-9; Psalm 13

Before getting started in this Song of David, I hope you will take the time to listen and read the verses contained in Psalm 20.  

Oh, what an awesome God You are!

Does God Answer Prayer?

As good Christians, we are expected to answer that question…”Of course, He does!”  After all, He promises to answer prayer in His Word and God keeps His Word.

Yes, God does answer prayer!  And yet, I’ll ask the same question again – “Does God answer our prayers?”

Think for a moment and consider some of the prayers and petitions you’ve presented to God in the past.  Do you feel God has answered each of your prayers?  Has He provided healing when asked?  Has He saved those for whom you have asked salvation?  Has He sent the rain to earth in the midst of a hot and dry and thirsty season?

To be honest with you, each of us at times struggles somewhat with the question:  “Does God answer prayer?”

He does BUT…

So, what does it mean to answer prayer?  Does it mean “Ask and you should receive?”  Can we say that God ONLY answers us by giving what we ask for?  Can we come to God like a child with (what was a penny) a quarter, which he places in the candy machine and is guaranteed to receive a candy bar?  It comes out automatically and immediately.  We know that it doesn’t always work that way.  We know that God gives us those things for His sake and it has to be according to His will, not ours.

But still, we may wonder why then ask God?  If He’s going to do what He has already determined is His will and what’s best for us.

Perhaps the problem lies in how we expect God to answer.  We see PRAYER as something in which we ASK and in which God GIVES.

“Whole Prayer”

Walter Wangerin, in his book “Whole Prayer” says that PRAYER is communication.  That it’s NOT speaking to God but with God.

So let’s divide our prayers into four activities:

  1. First, we speak.
  2. Second, God listens.
  3. Third, God speaks.
  4. Fourth, we listen!

I wonder in my own prayer life how much time is spent speaking to God and little time listening to Him.  It becomes a one-sided communication.  And when we do this, we then wonder WHY He hasn’t answered us.  Perhaps He has, but we didn’t hear Him.

Psalm 20 is a PRAYER of the people, probably as they gathered before their king David as his army was about to go into battle.

They begin and end the PRAYER with a call for God to ANSWER not just this prayer, but future calls for help as well.

The Hebrew word for ANSWER is “anah”.  It means “to eye or to heed”, i.e. pay attention; to respond; to begin to speak; to sing, shout, testify, announce: -give account, afflict, bring low, cry, hear, lift up, say, speak, testify, (bear) witness. [See footnote [i].]

To ANSWER is to pay attention, to respond with words and/or with action.

The ultimate request was that the Lord protect them and give them victory.  That their plans will succeed.  That is the ANSWER they’re looking for.  That He will give them the DESIRE of David’s heart!  That ALL their requests be granted!

But they, we, have deeper needs.  Even deeper than the need for victory or the desires of our heart.

It’s the need to know that God has heard us; that we come to know God and His perfect will for our lives.

We need to hear Him and to know Him.

It’s in that way that He is not a candy dispenser or need dispenser, but rather one whom we come to know and trust.  To TRUST His answer even more than we do our own requests.

We need to hear His voice!

To hear Him comfort us, console us, and teach us.

And so we consider not just the ANSWER, but how God speaks in return to our requests and petitions.  To let us know He has heard us.

As parents, we don’t want our children to just ask for things then leave and expect us to give in time what they ask.  We want to communicate our LOVE by showing why their request(s) may be wrong and bad for them.

We want to talk about their desires on what they’re based.

So God wants to speak to us.

Even in this Psalm, we see two ways by which God speaks to us.

In VERSE 2, people say “May He send you help from the sanctuary…”

This could mean send help from heaven.  Or, it could refer to God Himself, since He is found in the SANCTUARY, His house.

In the Psalms, the SANCTUARY is always a picture of the place where we meet with God.  It’s where people worshipped and where God spoke to His people.  In Israel, it was the Temple, the place where the Israelites came to get his thoughts straightened out, get his thinking correct.  There they met with God, heard the Word of God, the mind and thoughts of God.

For us, the SANCTUARY can be the church (the “building”) or the Scriptures.  It’s there that God speaks to us.  Our minds are enlightened, that we begin to see the world around us from God’s eyes, not the way it appears, but to tell you the way things really are.

When we need help, we need to LISTEN to God.  And yet, do we really LISTEN to His Word?

God speaks to us through His Word and many of the answers to prayer are already given to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

[16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

[17] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

That’s ‘inhaling God’s exhaling’ [God breathed–The Breath of God Almighty].

The people also pray that God would grant them support from Zion.

Psalm 20:2 (b) – “…and give you support from Zion!”

ZION represents God’s Rule.

God’s Rule comes from a heavenly Zion or Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem is sometimes referred to as Zion.

Sometimes God answers prayer when He speaks to us by ministering to us in different ways.  He sent His ministering angels to the prophet Elijah at Mt. Carmel and to Jesus in Gethsemane.  In each case, they prayed to God for help in their distress.

Although God didn’t answer by changing their circumstances, He did speak to them so they could see His plan and His will for their lives.

So God can speak to us through angels and through the Holy Spirit, by enabling us to see things from His perspective.

In fact, when we pray, if we listen, we’ll see God’s COMFORT and PRESENCE.

In reading through the Psalms, many begin with cries for help, with anger directed to God even with despair. eg. PSALM 13

But God, as the psalmist listens, draws him to end the psalm or prayer with hope and peace and victory!

Psalm 13:1 (AMP) – HOW LONG will You forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

Psalm 13:6 (AMP) – I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.

There are ways God answers us and speaks to us that are not in this psalm.

God speaks to us through our experiences.  God is SOVEREIGN.  He can open and close doors for us.

We may want, desire something so much and yet we don’t know if it’s God’s will in our lives.

TRY AND SEE!  It was The WORD Detective ministry for me.

God also spoke through the counsel of other believers.

Not from Oprah, or the gang at work, but from those who know the Lord and who care.

For the director of music.

 A Psalm of David.

[1]  How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?

[2]  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?

[3]  Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;  [4] my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

[5]  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 

[6]  I will sing to the LORD. for he has been good to me.

Or Nathan giving counsel to David after David had sinned.

God provides ANSWERS for ALL our prayers!

Do we listen?

Do we hear?

Do we pray?

Tony Evans – Spend 30 seconds praying and 3 hours worrying–better the other way around.

But as we pray, LISTEN TO GOD!

Take time to list!

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CREDITS

Sermon notes:  Psalm 20:1-9 by Glen Branham, May 9, 2005.

Footnote [i] :  Abarim Pub. Anah meaning in Biblical Hebrew.

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

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Video:  Youtube – Psalm 20

 

 

 

STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?

I’m sure that many of you reading this already know that “stuff” happens in our lives.  You also understand those difficult things, unimaginable things, seem to come out of nowhere.

Now I’ve heard over the years people’s interesting answers to the “Why’s”, the “What for’s”.  And you know, there’s some really bad information floating around in the halls of religion to why stuff happens.  Here are but a few answers I’ve noticed and embraced by so-called “TV preachers and preacherettes”.

They say things like the reason things (STUFF) is happening to you right now is your fault, you don’t have enough FAITH or you have some SIN of unbelief in your life.  Their cure for your problem usually comes from some “power of positive thinking” message or “name it and claim it” sermon.  Most of this has no legitimate place in the church.

I can give you many examples and biblical reasons why stuff happens, even to “good people.”  And this brings me to illustrate my point using the life of the Apostle Paul and his own words–

We are the sum of all our experiences both good and bad!

Paul’s Recognition that Stuff Happens In Life…prior to becoming a ‘born again’ believer begins in Acts 26.

There have been many important events in history and obviously, the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ are at the top of the list but beyond that, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ranks with the most important and influential events ever!

He describes his conversion to Christianity in Acts 26:12-18 in his defense before King Agrippa.

Paul’s life after his commission –

Paul describes many of the things (the “stuff”) that happened to him after his commission in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 11:21-28 (NIV)

[21] To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!  Whatever anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about.  [22] Are they speaking Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  [26] I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger of bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers.  [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.  I have been cold and naked.  [28]  who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

PHILIPPIANS is one of Paul’s Prison Letters…

And in VERSE 13, he speaks of his “chains”:  

Philippians 1:13 (NIV)

“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

According to what most scholars believe, Paul was under house arrest in Rome.  He would later finish his “race” when he was re-arrested and imprisoned in the Maritime jail.  Church history generally looks to Paul’s martyrdom outside the city of Rome at the hands of his Roman captors and it’s from this second imprisonment we have the 2nd letter to Timothy, considered Paul’s “last will and testament” (2 Timothy 4:6-18).

Paul’s Realization When STUFF Happens – 

Most of us want to view the STUFF of life through a microscope whereas Paul looked at life through a telescope!  He envisioned things that had happened to him as a teaching moment.

Contemporary wisdom would say that what had happened to Paul was a BAD THING…BAD STUFF! And that’s true, it was.

But Paul saw everything through the lens of the providential arrangement of God–GOD’S PROVIDENCE–GOD’S IN CONTROL!  

The English Standard Version translates verse 12 in this way:

Philippians 1:12 (ESV)

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

Paul declares that his “…CHAINS in Christ…” revealed to the Imperial Guard and everyone else in the palace that he was imprisoned for Christ’s sake.

The news spread from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, and then to the front doorsteps of Caesar’s household.

This very sight had to give great comfort and joy to the brethren at Phillipi.

Second, Paul ended the Philippians letter by saying,

Philippians 4:22 (AMP) – “All the saints (God’s consecrated ones here) wish to be remembered to you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

It’s important to understand rightly the phrase Paul uses here.  That’s what Word Detectives do!

“Caesar’s household” doesn’t mean Caesar’s kiss in kin.  

Caesar’s household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the known world.  The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who were in charge of the Imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EMPIRE, all these were known as “Caesar’s household”.  [See Footnote [1] ].

Look at what Paul says next in VERSE 14:

He says that most of the “…brethren…” were emboldened by his chains and they preached the Word without fear.

This is important and a great lesson for believers today.

When we SHARE our faith it serves to give encouragement to those around us.

And Paul’s Response When STUFF Happens… (Philippians 1:18-19) –

“Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Jesus!”

The overwhelming THEME of Philippians is JOY.

16 times Paul uses the word JOY or REJOICE.

He’s THANKFUL in the midst of his STUFF…

#1.  Christ is proclaimed.

Paul acknowledges that some preach Christ because they’re jealous and quarrelsome, but others do so from genuine goodwill.  They do so from love and because they know that God has given me, Paul, the work of defending the GOSPEL.

The others don’t proclaim Christ sincerely but instead, from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I’m in prison.

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I’m happy about it–just so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, right or wrong.  And I will continue to be happy!

#2.  Christ is honored – Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJ)

Many who are reading this, or know of someone who is struggling with some STUFF that has happened or happening in life have questions but no answers to the circumstances faced.

Maybe I can give you a few things that might help you and others understand the “stuff” that happens.

FIRST, and this is important, you’ll never understand what’s going on without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE APART FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV)

[1] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,  [2] for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  [3] Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  [4] Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  [5] Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  [6] In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Ask Him to help you see LIFE the way He does.  I know that’s hard but that’s where TRUST comes in to play.

Remember what He said…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1:5 (NIV)

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 3:17 (NIV)

[17] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God Will Make A Way in a Tragedy…

In other words, as we depend on the Lord in difficult circumstances–in the STUFF that can surround us at times, when we persevere in doing what’s right even when it’s hard.

Several years ago, Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call.  His mother-in-law called to tell him that a tragic car accident involving his wife’s sister and her husband, and their four small boys on a road trip when the tragedy occurred.  The oldest, who was eight, was killed instantly.  The others in the car were seriously injured.

As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, Don felt helpless at communicating hope and grace to his wife’s sister and brother-in-law.

Don recalls how God helped him through the tragedy:

“It was as if the Lord gave me these words”

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Media:  YouTube Video – Don Moen, God Will Make A Way, 1990; Integrity’s Hosanna Music/ASCAP.

Photos:  Google Image Search, subject to copyright.

Footnote [i]:  William Barclay, The Letters to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other versions used are noted in the text.

 

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!”

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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.

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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

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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.