Sunday, September 28, 2014

God's Got Your Back

God's Got Your Back
Sept 29, 2014
2 Thessalonians 1:6  "God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you."

Have you ever been in the woods and crossed the path of a mother bear protecting her cubs?  No?  Neither have I, because I wouldn't be here to tell about it.  Apparently you don't want to come near the den of a mother bear when her cubs are little; she will protect them at all costs, without holding back.  She will destroy anything she deems a possible threat to the livelihood of her young.  The young cubs will be unaware of it, but the mother bear considers anyone and anything a credible threat.  She will attack, with only a small, short warning.  You'd better heed the small, short warning, lest you be mauled.  I have five children, and I can promise this is the same for human parents.  They will protect their children instinctively against any perceived threat, however rational or not.

The Lord is the same way, despite our understanding of its timing or validity.  He will protect His children to the extreme.  In over half the books of the Bible, the Lord promises to avenge, repay, destroy, annihilate, punish, and plunder those who rise up against His children.  He vows His protection to His children similar to a mother bear and her cubs.  I would not want to cross a mother bear and I would not want to cross the Lord.  In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel received the promise of the Lord's protection.  In the New Testament, it extended to those who were and are willing to be grafted in to the family of the Lord.

The Lord demonstrated His protection time and again in the Old Testament.  It is well documented and those on the wrong end of His stick could attest to it.  The Children of Israel of the Old Testament, by extension today are living in the nation of Israel.  This is why many nations extend the aid of armed forces to Israel against those who would see it destroyed.  It is also why many nations are afraid of Israel, because they can read of the Lord's promises of protection in the Bible.  They are afraid of offending Israel, lest they offend the Lord and wake the mother bear.

If nations today make military decisions and alliances based upon the writings and promises in the Bible, it would be reasonable to consider doing the same.  If you consider yourself a Child of the Lord Almighty, then you've been promised His protection.  The Lord's got your back.  But this is the same for ALL the Lord's Children.  It goes both ways.  You might stand taller knowing the Lord is behind you, but be careful how you treat your fellow Christians.  In a moment of weakness on the highway or in line at the grocery store, you might threaten one of the Lord's little lambs.  This would and could awake the mother bear inside of Him, protecting His child.  If you want the Lord's protection then be aware that His wrath could come against you someday for your actions toward another.  Just because the Lord has your back does not mean you can do what you want in stepping on others, or threatening the spiritual livelihood of His child.

It would also go well with you to make genuine alliances with others who are considered a child of the Lord.  Make sure you stay on the correct side of the mother bear.  If someone has risen up against you; just sit back and watch the Lord work.  No need to step in and help Him out.  He's got it!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 32:35, 1 Kings 2:44, Job 21:19, Pro 24:12, Is 59:18, Jer 51:6, Zeph 2:8-11, Rom 2:6, Rom 12: 17-19, 2 Tim 4:14

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dedication Vs Love

Dedication Vs Love
Sept 22, 2014
1 John 4:19  "We love because he first loved us."

I am a dedicated person, completely and almost perfectly.  I am a dedicated husband; I've never cheated on my wife and I come home to her every single night.  I am a dedicated father, being physically present for everything and anything possible.  I am a dedicated follower of Christ, obeying the Bible to the fullest extent and attending church when it's available.  But just because I'm dedicated, doesn't mean I have love for any of those things.  I can be dedicated to attending my children's soccer games, but that doesn't necessarily mean I love going to them.  I can be dedicated to serving in the church, week in and week out, but that doesn't mean I love serving in the church.  I can be dedicated to the Lord in practice, but that doesn't mean I actually love Him.

Dedication and Love are two different things.  If you have love, you will naturally be dedicated.  Dedication can and should be an outflowing function of love.  If you love something, you will be dedicated to it.  But you can choose to be dedicated to something without actually loving it.  It's called going through the motions.  Maybe at one time we loved something and became dedicated to it, and out of habit we kept up the dedication.  But maybe we've lost the love portion of the equation.  I know each and every one of you can think of an activity you do on a daily basis because you're dedicated to it, but you certainly don't love it and may not even like it.  A growing number of people have jobs they actually despise, but because of dedication, they go to work day in and day out.  It is a shame to have to work without loving what you do there.

It's also a shame to go to church and not actually love the reason why you're there or who you are there to worship.  Maybe you were excited in your love for the Lord at one time, but continue to go to church out of dedication.  While church attendance is an excellent habit, it is critical to find ways to renew your love for the Lord.  Marriages end in divorce all too often because the two people never renewed their love; they realized one day they were married out of dedication only, then decided not to be dedicated anymore.  This is also how Christians leave the church.  Christians realize they are only serving the Lord out of dedication, not love, and decide to end the dedication because it is hollow inside.  Dedication, without love is consuming and leaves you empty.  But love, it doesn't realize the dedication; it comes naturally.  Dedication keeps records of personal sacrifices, but love doesn't even realize a personal sacrifice has been made.

How do you love again, after simply being dedicated for so long?  You must find the reason you loved the Lord in the first place.  Scripture is very clear we ultimately choose to love the Lord because we realized His extravagant love for each of us.  I can tell you the Lord loves you, but unless you experience it, you will not love Him in return.  If you've ever loved the Lord, it was because He demonstrated His love to you in some fashion to the point you were overwhelmed with Him.  This made you love Him.  You couldn't help it; your love for the Lord simply flowed from your heart.  But you might be calloused now, unimpressed by His love and underwhelmed by His affection for you.  This would cause you to go through the motions, forgetting you ever loved Him.  It is time to renew your love for Him and find that reason, your own reason to love Him.  He never stopped loving you.  He is worthy of your love, but you must realize His love for you first.  Experience His love today and stop going through the motions.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 51:10, Is 40:31, Rom 12:2, 2 Thess 2:13, Rev 2:4

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Unexplainable Events

Unexplainable Events
Sept 15, 2014
2 Kings 18:29  "This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand."

Hezekiah was a king in the Old Testament who was regarded highly for following the Lord.  Hezekiah tried to rule as the Lord would have him lead, as he put his faith and trust in the Lord to accomplish the task.  There was an enemy king desiring to rule over Hezekiah and all the Children of Israel, but Hezekiah did not submit to this enemy king, nor did the Lord want them to submit to foreign reign.  Hezekiah tried to resist this king's army but wasn't successful at keeping him away.  In an effort to appease the foe for the defiance, Hezekiah took gold and silver from the Lord's Temple and tried to bribe the enemy king.  It wasn't working and now Hezekiah's back was against a wall.

Hezekiah had tried to do the right thing but when it appeared it wasn't working he made a bad decision by giving away gold and silver from the Lord's storehouse.  The war wasn't over yet, but Hezekiah got fearful of annihilation and tried to fix the situation according to what seemed his only option at the time.  Because Hezekiah got fearful, the Lord's storehouse had to pay the price.  This was NOT part of the Lord's design; the Lord never intended to give gold and silver to this foreign king.  Hezekiah made a decision out of fear and it was a foolish one.  He knew he wasn't supposed to submit to this foreign king's rule, but could not get out of the situation on his own.  The bribe didn't work and the enemy king wanted it all.  Now they were really pinched.  So, what does everyone do when they are out of options?  They pray and they pray hard.

Thankfully, the Lord was in control the entire time and was willing to fight on behalf of His servant Hezekiah and the Children of Israel.  In the middle of the night, while Hezekiah and the whole nation were sleeping, the Lord sent His angel of death into the camp of the enemy king.  Somehow, someway, an unexplainable event happened in that camp at night and 150,000 soldiers were killed.  No one knows what happened and the only wording in the Bible says the angel of the Lord put them to death.  How He did it will remain a mystery but nonetheless the Lord accomplished the unexplainable without Hezekiah or the fighting men doing a thing.  The Lord stepped in and moved His mighty hand in a way that only a God could.  A covert operation could not have killed 150,000 men while they slept.  It was nothing short of a miracle and the Lord moved when everyone else was asleep.  No one can explain how it happened, we just know it did happen.

Whether your back is against the wall and you're making bad decisions or you simply do not know how to resolve a situation, the Lord has a solution and does not have to explain Himself.  He can and does work when we are in a pinch and prefers to work in unexplainable events.  You cannot predict His methods or try and rationalize how He will work it out.  He worked on Hezekiah's behalf and provided a solution no one expected or could have predicted.  Hezekiah didn't propose a few options and let the Lord pick.  Hezekiah didn't tell the Lord how to work it out; the Lord doesn't take marching orders from anyone.  The Lord didn't ask how best He could perform His job; He doesn't solicit survey responses from a man.  The Lord can work in any way He deems best and will do so when the time is right.  You and I are not to determine when the time is right but the Lord will work in an unexplainable event when He decides it is time to reveal His glory in it all.

I'd like to know how those 150,000 men died in their camp that night but it's better it remains an unexplainable event.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Kings 18, Pr 14:12, Pr 16:25

Sunday, September 7, 2014

More Grace Please

More Grace Please
Sept 8, 2014
2 Corinthians 12:8  "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me."

Paul, after suffering some type of affliction, asked the Lord to remove the suffering, to  change the course of Paul's discomfort.  The Lord did not.  As close as Paul was to the heart of the Father, still there were prayer requests unanswered.  The Almighty Father, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to give Paul what he asked for during prayer.  The answer was a resounding, "No!"  The Lord wasn't being a jerk about it, but for some reason decided it was better NOT to give Paul what he wanted, even though there was nothing wrong with Paul's prayer request.  Paul wasn't asking for a million dollars or a dream vacation.  Paul wasn't asking to be famous or loved by the masses.  Paul was simply asking the Lord to remove a "thorn from his flesh."

While I am not the Heavenly Father, if my child came to me and asked me to remove a thorn from her finger, I would gladly help.  I would graciously and generously do all I could to remove the discomfort, to ease her troubles.  But the Lord, when Paul made such a request, denied to ease his discomfort.  This gives tremendous insight into the Lord's character that some people will never admit.  If a Christian has an unanswered prayer, or the Lord has denied the request, it becomes easy to judge the situation.  We cast our opinion on the subject, suggesting there is sin or a lack of faith.  Neither of these two things were present in Paul's unique circumstance.  There are times when the Lord simply deems it better to allow us to walk through the difficulty.  As a father, I would graciously and generously remove the affliction, but the Lord, full of grace and generosity, allowed the affliction to continue for Paul.  He allows it to continue for us sometimes, too.

How and why would a gracious and generous God allow such discomfort, especially after someone pleaded with Him earnestly, time and time again?  Such an answer to that question will never fully be known or revealed to us, but clearly it is for the better.  By NOT answering our prayer request, the Lord is somehow doing a better service to us and His kingdom.  The Lord is perfect, unfailing in His love.  The Lord is sovereign and works all things out for the best possible result.  If that means NOT giving us what we want is better, then He will allow us to remain without.  He promises to be gracious and generous, but without a perceived resolution to our situation.

This may not sit well with your current circumstance or your desire to see your scenario changed, but it creates an opportunity.  Paul, during his time of pleading, did receive a response from the Lord.  The Lord told Paul that grace would overflow in his life.  The Lord said His grace would be sufficient in place of the answered prayer.  The Lord was saying His power and presence in Paul's life would be enough to help him endure any troubling times.  The Lord didn't want Paul to have a changed situation, the Lord wanted Paul to have more of Him.  Your desire for a resolution creates the opportunity to desire more of Him.  If you don't have an answer to your prayer request after quite some time, you simply get to ask for more of His presence in your life.  If you have all of Him, you have all you need, despite your current situation or lack thereof.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 9:1-32, Rom 8:28, 1 Cor 15:10, 2 Cor 12:8-10