Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sacrifice of Praise

Sacrifice of Praise
Hebrews 13:15 "...let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise..." 
May 28, 2012

King David, in 2 Chronicles, was out at war and needed to offer a sacrifice to God as a payment for David's own sin. He went to a man who lived nearby and asked if he could build an altar on his land in order to offer the sacrifice to God. The man complied and even donated the land and the oxen for the sacrifice. But David interrupted the man and said, "I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

What is important about David's response to the man was the condition of David's heart. David knew the value of the sacrifice to God and to himself. He knew if he offered a sacrifice to God that didn't cost him anything, then it wasn't really a sacrifice. David would have given up nothing out of his own time, money, and resources; the offering would have no meaning. The meaning was so important that David insisted on it costing him, as David wanted to be the one to make the sacrifice.

Today, you and I don't offer burnt offerings (sin offerings) up to God. Jesus Christ was that burnt offering, or sacrificial sin offering. Jesus suffered on the cross, not because He was excited to do it, but to end anyone having to make a sin offering. If Jesus was the final offering for our sins, then how do we offer up to God a sacrifice that costs us something? How do we make sure our hearts are like David's? 

In Hebrews 13:15, the scripture says we should continually offer up to God the sacrifice of praise. The sacrifice of praise, in this instance, is an actual utterance from our lips and takes the place of us having to make a sin offering. Yes, there are other forms of praise to the Lord, but specifically, it is talking about what comes out of our mouths to praise and glorify Him. That praise, in this verse, is a direct response to God having already forgiven our sins. It is praise for Him and His amazing work in our lives that He completed 2,000 years ago on the cross.

You may not feel like praising the Lord at every given instant of the day, but I am confident you have done enough sinning to require a burnt offering every instant of the day. Every moment of the day is a chance to praise and thank God, with your lips, for the sacrificial offering of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. Do it in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for your own personal salvation.

And if you have no other thing to praise the Lord for, do it because it will bring Him honor, even if you are not excited to do it. If you still can't think of anything in your current situation to praise Him for, do it anyway. It's a sacrifice because He deserves it even when you don't feel like it. It's OK if it costs you something.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chron 24:24, Ps 34:1, Ps 54:6, Ps 148, Luke 7:36-43

Sunday, May 20, 2012

God's Will for Your Life

God's Will for Your Life
May 21, 2012
1 Thess 5:18  ". . . give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Christians have been trying to decipher the Lord's will for their lives since the beginning of time.  You've undoubtedly had this same internal debate over your own life, trying to decide what it is the Lord would have you do with your future.  We fret and worry that we've got it right or wrong, hoping we won't make a big mistake, never truly content that we're functioning in the Lord's plan for our lives.  Surely the Lord has a specific design for us and it must be our job to figure it out!  If only He would tell us in a clearly written fashion, unique and tailored just for us.  Life would be so much easier if we just knew what we were supposed to be doing for the Lord every single day.

Actually, the Bible does give us a clear message on what the Lord desires for our lives and the specific work we are supposed to be doing for Him each day.  In a letter to one of the first few church plants, Paul spells it out for the Christians in simplistic words.  He said that it is the Lord's will that they be thankful in every area of life.  This is how it is written in our Bible, at least.  But you must read Paul's words in their entirety to understand it fully.  Reading the few verses before it, it all paraphrases like this: find something to be glad about each day, and whatever you do, pray every chance and opportunity you get, no matter what.  Throughout it all, be grateful and thankful, even if it seems uncomfortable or undesirable. 

This does not sound like a winning formula for the Lord's will for our lives, however, if you examine Scripture closely it is more specific than you think.  If you can submit to the fact that the Lord is sovereign and in control, you can trust that He will work everything out for His own ends, however He sees fit.  If this is the case, then all you have to do is follow His leading every day and He will present you with opportunity.  Scripture says that the Lord lights up your steps for you, but it never suggests that He will illuminate your entire road ahead.  For some reason the Lord does not give us the complete picture of our lives, only the leading for today.  The Bible says you will hear a voice inside of you when presented with an opportunity, the right direction will only be there, though, if you are following Paul's instructions: be glad, pray, and thankful.  All the fine details are irrelevant and up to the Lord anyway. 

Notice that the Lord's instructions through Paul are for the immediate, the right now, today.  We sometimes think the Lord's will for our lives is in the future and negate the fact that His will is in present terms only.  The Lord's will for you is to be glad, to pray, and to be thankful through what He brings for you today.  The circumstances that happen today ARE the Lord's will for your life, but you have the choice in how you react to it.  Are you going to search for a hidden meaning and a future cause, or are you going to submit to the Lord, be glad, pray, and thankful?  Tomorrow is a new opportunity to be in the Lord's will.  Decide how you will respond with what He brings your way for today.  My suggestion is to be glad, to pray, and to be thankful as that IS His will for your life today and every day. He will work everything else out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 119:105, Is 30:21, 1 Thess 5:16-18, 2 John 1:4

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Help Yourself

Help Yourself
May 14, 2012
Proverbs 28:26  "Those who trust in themselves are fools . . ."

I have heard it said that the Lord helps those who help themselves. This concept is not actually found in the Bible and is almost heretical in nature. True, the Lord chastises the slothful person for not working hard, but He never said that we must toil alone. The Lord requires us to do our best, to try hard, to stay diligent, and to be a good worker in all that we do, but He never suggested that we should trust in our own efforts for success. The Lord never even suggested that you could actually do anything on your own.  Nor should you try.

You are human, flawed, imperfect, and even sometimes a failure. But there is one who is divine, perfect, always a success; His name is I AM. He is all things and is the one who gives us success, helps us when we need it, grants us the good in our lives, and sustains us. The Lord wants you to seek Him and look for Him first in all things, before you work hard. Scripture says that unless the Lord builds the house, the laborer toils in vain. It means that the Lord is the one who grants the success.

King David wrote that his help came from the Lord, the Creator of the Universe. He also said that apart from the Lord he would have nothing good in his life.  David’s son, Solomon, said that a man’s heart might plan his own life, but the final say in it all comes from the Lord.  Despite the many talents and abilities that the Lord has given you, He still does not want you to attempt anything on your own.  He doesn’t want you to do anything by yourself, nor should you have to do it alone.

When King David talked about his help coming from the Lord, he was slightly bragging.  David was a king, a mighty warrior, and talented in many other areas of life, but he was saying that He still had God on his side.  You couldn't get any higher in the kingdom than David, yet he was acknowledging that his power was nothing in comparison to the Lord.  It is like a child bragging in the strength of his dad; no one else is bigger or stronger.

Christian, if the Lord is on your side, and He is, then why would you want to attempt to do anything in life without first asking Him for help?  The Apostle Paul boasted in the strength of the Lord; he said he could do anything if he did it through the strength of Jesus Christ.  This life is tough enough, why would we want to make it any more difficult by not seeking help from the Lord first?  He is our deliverer, our shield, our savior, our strength, our salvation, our advisor, our help.  If you need help, don’t ask your family, friend, or neighbor until you have asked for help from above.  The biggest way to help yourself is by asking the Lord for it.  Acknowledge Him first and He will make your path perfectly straight. If you don’t ask for the Lord’s help and simply trust in human efforts, the Bible says you will be cursed.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Acts Ps 33:11, Ps 16:2, Ps 54:4, Ps 94:17, Ps 121:2, Ps 127:1, Pr 16:1, Jer 17:5, Rom 8:31, 1 Cor 8:6, Philippians 4:13

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything
May 7, 2012
Acts 17:26  " . . . and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Timing is everything, or so it is sometimes said.  Despite the fact that random things frequently happen in our lives, the timing of them can sometimes seem uncanny.  I've had a flat tire on the way to an important job interview, but I've also had a job offer the minute I lost a previous one.  I've seen sickness arise the moment someone has lost their health insurance and I've seen sickness arise the moment someone is covered under new health insurance.  Whatever the circumstance, timing certainly is peculiar.  Or is it?

Hadassah was a teenage girl in a hostile land that was not her own, and her life circumstances happened at a peculiar time.  The king needed a wife and somehow, through a twist of fate, Hadassah was chosen to be queen; her name was changed to Esther to hide her Jewish identity.  There was a  plot to annihilate her people, but Esther's uncle told her that the Lord had raised her up at the right time so she could intervene.  Esther had the bravery to eventually approach the king and plead the case for her people; thankfully, they were spared.  The famous words found in the Bible that are used to describe Esther's unique opportunity are somewhat poetic: "such a time as this."

Timing was everything for Esther and her people.  She didn't understand what the Lord was doing with her life at the time, but in hindsight she was able to see how the Lord raised her up for just the right moment in time, for the right opportunity.  The Lord works this way for everyone, not just in a few historical instances of notoriety.  He works this way in your life and mine.  In the New Testament, Paul made this same argument when he said that the Lord marked out our appointed times in history.  He was saying that the Lord designed us to live for His purposes at just the right moment.  If you read Paul's words just after his "specific time" argument he said, "God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."
In Esther's case, she was confused and frightened in the midst of her opportunity.  She brought her case before the Lord, seeking wisdom and favor before approaching the king.  Times of uncertainty for us, though the Lord is still in control, are part of the Lord's design.  He wants us to seek Him, to figure out what He would have us do during these times in our lives that seem bizarre or even uncomfortable, the uncanny moments during life's unique timing.

Paul continued his discourse about God's timing.  He said, "For in him we live and move and have our being."  He was saying that no matter what the timing of the unique circumstance, it is an opportunity to serve the Lord through it and for His purposes, realizing that it might be a situation like Esther's.  I don't know why you are going through your unique circumstance, but I do know that the Lord's timing in it is perfect.  Seek Him, as that is His desire for you during this time.  Act appropriately and see what He brings about.  You are reading these words in the Lord's perfect timing.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Acts 17:25-28, Esther 2-7, Esther 4:14