Sunday, March 29, 2015

Other Side

Other Side
March 30, 2015
Joshua 24:8 "I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They waged war against you, but I gave them into your hand so that you might inherit their land, and I destroyed them before you."

It's no secret what the Lord did for the Israelites when they were living as slaves in Egypt.  The Lord delivered them.  But after He delivered them, they still had to travel to the Promised Land.  It was a long journey, that took forty years, despite it actually being an eight day hike.  Those forty years were a difficult time.  There were many life lessons for the Israelites to learn and many battles they still had to fight. There was temptation, sin, and enemy attacks.  It was tough and there were many casualties along the way.  The path was filled with battles, struggles, difficulties, and suffering.  But they made it!  They made it to the other side by the skin of their teeth.  And the Lord was the One given credit for the success.

Then they had to cross over to the other side of the Jordan and finally receive what the Lord had for them.  That crossing over to the other side, it was a significant point.  The Jordan River represented life, new life from a world of pain and struggle.  This is symbolic of the new life we will have in Heaven, but it was and is also symbolic of overcoming obstacles on earth.  When the Israelites were on the new side, they were constantly told to remember the things the Lord brought them through, the battles He helped them win.  The other side was a blessing, but the past couldn't be forgotten.  The past was meant to be a reminder for the Israelites of their former life.  They were to reflect upon it and learn from it.  They were on the other side, but still had to carry with them the wisdom gained from the years of struggle.

You, too, have come through many struggles in your life, many battles the Lord helped you win.  You fought hard, suffered much, and grieved along the way.  You may be on the other side now but you are still required to have the wisdom gained from all those life lessons.  You should be a slightly different person than who you were when you started, a better person.  If you have bitterness and resentment from the journey, then you will not enjoy rest on this new side of the river.  This is an opportunity to reflect upon the sorrows you experienced and learn from all that happened.  Your tough journey was not an accident and it was not without purpose.

If you are struggling to find the purpose of that tough journey, let me explain it to you.  The Lord was refining you, molding you, making you into the man or woman of God He intends for your life.  It wasn't mean to destroy you but build you up.  If you suffered loss, that loss was for your good, even though it seemed painful.  If you sinned, it is now an opportunity to prove you've overcome that sin, being an example to others who might be on a similar path.  You must recognize you are now stronger, more determined, and in a better place to help those around you.  Your life has purpose, it always has, and the Lord will now use you in new ways never imagined.  Only never forget what the Lord brought you though, the tough journey to the other side.  Prove to your Heavenly Father and the rest of the world that the journey was worth the trip.

If you doubt what I have said, please read Deuteronomy chapter 8 and hear it from the Lord's own heart!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Josh 24, Deut 5:15, Deut 8, Rom 8:28

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Don't Want To Anymore

Don't Want To Anymore
March 23, 2015
2 Thessalonians 3:13 "But you, brothers, do not be weary in doing good."

What happens when you don't want to do something anymore?  You usually don't do it.  It is easy to move forward with something when you have the drive to do so, but what happens when you just don't feel like it?  What happens when you are just too tired, maybe even exhausted?  How do you move forward?  How do you keep going?  Most of the time, people stop if they're tired.  But what if it just has to be done, even when you're tired?  I know of dairy farmers who experience this scenario.  Cows must be milked twice a day, no matter what the circumstances.  In order to keep the milk supply, a dairy farmer must milk the cows even when he doesn't want to or is just too tired.  Even if he is sick, he must move forward.  Hopefully he has a good support system, family members to help when he's too tired.

What happens when you are too tired to do the Lord's work or the right thing?  Maybe it would be the right thing to visit your neighbor who needs help, but maybe you're just too tired.  What happens when the pastor doesn't feel like preaching today or the minister of song just doesn't think he can do it?  Should they go through the motions and fake it, doing the best they can?  What if their heart isn't in it; does it still honor the Lord even if they are just going through the motions?  It is actually a good sign when you're tired and don't want to do it anymore; it means you need a break.

The fact remains, people get tired.  The Lord rested on the seven day of creation, to demonstrate the importance of taking breaks.  If you find yourself just not wanting to move forward with doing the right thing for the Lord, then you've just experienced burn-out.  If you don't want to anymore, it is because you didn't schedule a break for yourself, a rest in order to replenish, recharge, and revitalize yourself.  This is good news.  It is a sign, not to quit, but to take an appropriate rest.  This doesn't mean you can stop altogether, but find a way to pull back a little.

Runners experience this, when competing in a marathon.  During a long race, runners will often get tired.  It doesn't mean they can quit, because they wouldn't finish the race.  Pastors can't quit the ministry just because they are tired, either.  Runners have a way to dial down their jogging to a restful pace if they feel they might get to a point of exhaustion.  In the same way, when you don't have the energy to do the right thing or go on with the Lord's work, you have to figure out a way to stay in the race without giving up.  Hitting a wall in your Christian walk doesn't give you the option to quit being a Christian; it means you're tired.  There is a difference between resting and quitting.  A rest is helpful, beneficial, and even a commandment from the Lord.  Quitting is never an option.

When you get to a point when you don't want to do it anymore, you've gone too long without taking a break.  Don't feel guilty to take a break; it actually honors the Lord.  In scheduling yourself a break you are actually being Godly.  You were made in the image of Him and even HE took a break and rested!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 2:2, Ex 34:21, Matt 11:28-29, Mark 6:31, Gal 6:9, Heb 4:4 & 9-10

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Lord Will Restore

The Lord Will Restore
March 16, 2015
Joel 2:25  "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-- the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm -- my great army that I sent among you."

We've all experienced physical loss while on this earth.  We've lost family, friends, finances, security, and serenity.  Sometimes those losses are for reasons beyond our control.  Sometimes those losses are a direct result of our stupidity and stubbornness.  Nonetheless, the Lord is in the restoration business.  First and foremost, the Lord cares about your soul being restored to His side.  With this in mind, everything that happens in life is secondary and submissive to His main goal.  If loss is required to restore you to Him, then the Lord will allow it.  I know I've lost a thing or two in this life and I wonder how much of it was for my spiritual benefit.  I would suggest any and all loss I experienced has been for my spiritual benefit, simply based on the sovereignty of the Lord.

But sometimes I'm tempted to want it back, the things stolen from me (family, friends, finances, security, and serenity).  Most of those items can be good, yet can also be harmful.  The Lord isn't interested in us having them back if they are a stumbling block to our spiritual growth.  Even still, the Lord promises in Joel to restore what the locusts have eaten.  It is important to understand the book of Joel as prophecy, words spoken by the Lord for the future, not just the immediate future but the on-going future of things to occur on the earth before the end of times.  And in that prophecy contains a promise by the Lord to restore what the locusts have eaten.  Look closely at the locusts, though, in the verse of prophecy.  There were several different kinds of locusts, all intended to inflict loss, AND they were sent by the Lord.

Anyone who suggests the Lord doesn't inflict loss, causing bad things to happen, has not read the Bible in its entirety.  The Lord sent the locusts for a purpose, a physical loss so the Lord's Children would experience spiritual restoration and growth.  The Lord wants to work in your life and mine, but sometimes He must strip away physical hindrances to that spiritual work.  He allows and even causes loss in our lives so His work can prevail in our lives and the lives of those around us.  If you doubt this, then read the book of Job.  The Lord was in control of the losses Job experienced, all so you and I can read about faith in the Lord in the face of suffering.  The Lord restored to Job what the locusts had eaten, once the work of the Lord and the spiritual success was accomplished.

If you've experienced physical loss and you're tempted to want it back, first and foremost you must make sure the spiritual work of the Lord is being accomplished in and through your life.  The Lord is able to restore what the locusts have eaten but wants to make sure the spiritual success is present in your life.  If you've experienced loss, your job is to work on your spiritual growth and let the Lord worry about the restoration.  It isn't for you to take back what the enemy has stolen, since the Lord was in control the entire time.  The Lord restored to Job after his losses and the Lord will restore to you.  I firmly believe the Church Body is entering a time of restoration but I challenge each and every one of you to ensure the spiritual success is there.  The Lord is not willing to restore your losses if His work is not being accomplished.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Job 41:10-11, Job 42:10, Jer 30:17, Joel 2:25-32, Matt 19:29

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Winter Has Ended

Winter Has Ended
March 9, 2015
Daniel 2:21  "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. . ."

Throughout the Bible, season are talked about by sage men, the Lord, and even Jesus.  They are discussed and described in order to parallel how things work in the Lord's system on earth.  In fact, there are over fifty analogies of changing seasons in the Bible.  In some instances, the seasons are even talked about as a type of character, giving them human characteristics to describe how they work, their purposes.  Despite our limited scientific understanding of the seasons, they are purposeful on earth.  The cycle of rain, cold, heat, etc, are productive in nature, accomplishing a task for which the Maker designed for them.  This is true physically in the natural realm of science, and this is true spiritually, in the realm of your personal life.

Winters, though cold and dreadful at times, are actually helpful.  We may not know all there is to understand in science about how the winters benefit the ecology of things; only the Creator understands this.  In winter, plants die off, but cannot produce new seed unless the old leaves and flowers are gone.  Many harmful viruses, bacteria, and other organisms die off in the cold of winter.  Even snow, though bizarre as times, provides a constant dripping of nourishing water to the previously fallen seed, as it melts.  The food chain in the animal kingdom has an opportunity to reset, as some animals migrate or hibernate.  There are probably a million reasons and benefits why the Lord created the winters, yet sometimes we get frustrated when winter seems too long or too harsh.

Powerful and productive, the winter was still designed to come to an end, making the way for a time of new beginnings, a time for new birth.  Since the Lord made the analogy in the Bible with seasons, describing the way He works in our lives, it is safe to discuss how it may apply to you, even right now.  You may have been experiencing a seemingly long and harsh winter, a period where the sun is hidden, the frost feels harmful, and the death of the flower is painful.  Nonetheless, it is for a purpose, a reason of future benefit.  The Lord designed the winters in your life to be for your own good.  If only we could see it that way as we watch the snow covering everything in sight.  It is true, though, even if you cannot understand it, even if you'll never know the reason why.  The winter in your life is for a reason and benefit.

There is good news for winter in your life.  All winters come to an end, and I believe the Lord is speaking to you now, encouraging your heart that this winter, this time of cold harshness, has come to an end.  The winter has accomplished its task in you and has made a way for new life.  The time of yesterday is gone and the time for beginnings is here, even today.  As you anticipate the opportunity for something fresh, thank the Lord for the work that was accomplished during those long, cold, and dark months, for the times when it looked like the winter was going to last forever.  Winter has come to an end.  Look forward as the new work begins, bringing life and beauty.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
Gen 8:22, Ps 104:19, Prov 26:1, Ecc 3:1-22, Is 55:10-11, Matt 24:32 & 45, 1 Pet 1:6

Sunday, March 1, 2015

God Changed His Mind

God Changed His Mind
March 2, 2015
Numbers 23:19  "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?"

The Children of Israel were living in sin, egregious sin, and the Lord determined to wipe them out.  He had just brought them out of the land of Egypt where they lived as slaves, demonstrating His magnificent power to save.  They saw the might of the Lord, yet decided to live according to their own evil and selfish desires.  The Lord was so frustrated with their behavior that He began killing them off.  The Lord started killing them in droves, akin to genocide; His hand was moving quickly and forcefully.  Soon there would be none left.  Moses, upon anticipating the immediate outcome, stepped in front of the Lord and begged for clemency on behalf of the sinful nation.  Thankfully, the Lord relented.

In one translation of the Bible, it suggests the Lord changed His mind when He stopped killing them off.  Remember the Bible is translated into our language and does not always portray the verbiage perfectly.  Most translations of the Bible say that the Lord relented, suggesting that He was applying mercy or clemency in the specific situation, rather than changing His mind about killing them.  The Lord didn't actually change His mind, He applied mercy when it was requested.  If you want to understand this story of the Lord relenting when Moses stepped in and begged for clemency, you must read the entire Bible from cover to cover.  The Lord's original intent was to bring the Children of Israel into His lasting inheritance, the chosen people of the Lord.  When He relented from killing them off that day, it wasn't changing His mind; His mind was originally set on building them up, not tearing them down.  Their sin warranted the just and due punishment.  It was so severe, it deserved death.  Moses pleaded on their behalf and the Lord allowed them to live, granting mercy.

Fast forward two thousand years, give or take, and you find Jesus walking on the earth, with the goal of providing a way to cover over our sins.  Our sins are so severe, deserving of death just like the nation of Moses' Israelites.  Jesus, stands before the Father, asking for clemency on our behalf, showing the Father the blood that was shed for our sins.  The Lord relents from our just and due punishment, granting Jesus' request for mercy on our behalf.  The story of Moses interceding for the nation of Israel was a foreshadowing of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Moses told them he would approach the Lord and attempt to make atonement for their sins, something only Jesus could perform.

Moses couldn't make the atonement perfectly, hence a few verses later the Lord told Moses that the people who had sinned, their names would be erased from His book.  This book is referring to the Book of Life referenced in the end of the Bible, when the Lord will determine people's eligibility to enter into eternity.  Any name can get written in that book if the blood of Jesus has been applied, or atoned, for their sins.  Moses wasn't able to stop the Lord from erasing names from the book, but Jesus can and does!  This story of Moses is a perfect example, a foreshadowing of the perfect Jesus Christ.

Our sins warrant the same punishment the Lord was handing out to the Israelites that day.  Thankfully, the Lord grants mercy when Jesus steps in on our behalf.  The Lord never intended for you and me to receive death.  His original plan was and has always been to grant us life and a future inheritance as His Children.  If it appears He is changing His mind, He is really granting mercy because of the request!  By the way, if you never request mercy, you don't get it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 32, Ps 69:28, Malachi 3:6, Romans 8:34, Heb 7:25, Rev 3:5