Sunday, August 25, 2019

If Commanded

If Commanded
August 26, 2019
Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

When Moses died, the Lord spoke to Joshua very clearly. It was made known before Moses died that Joshua would be leading the nation of Israel through to the Promised Land. The day came and it was time for Joshua to lead. The Lord encouraged him. He told him to be strong and full of courage. Why would the Lord encourage Joshua of those things? While Joshua was a strong and fearless leader, he certainly was tempted to shrink back, otherwise the Lord would not have had to encourage him. If Joshua was a robot, He would have programmed him to follow orders without fail. But Joshua was human and likely a huge target for a mental or emotional attack from the enemy. The Lord was the one could encouraged Joshua.

As the Lord was encouraging Joshua, He reminded him would was sending him. He reminded Joshua that the Lord, the God of Heaven, was the one sending him on the noble mission to lead the people through the promised land. The Lord reminded him because He wanted to emphasize the might and direction from the Lord if the Lord was requiring the task. The Lord told Joshua that He was going with him on the journey. The Lord promised He was leading and guiding every step of the way, that he should fear no man and no circumstance. If the Lord is the director, why would anyone question the safety or validity of the mission? Joshua had to rely on that as the days and weeks and months progressed. 

The Lord used a rhetorical question with Joshua; He said, "Have I not commanded you?" It was meant to remind Joshua that the Lord was the one requiring the mission, not a mission made up on Joshua's own terms. It was meant to remind Joshua who the real leader was and instill confidence in following the mandate from the Lord. Joshua had a mandate to lead, and do so with strength and courage because the Lord was in charge. You and I have mandates from the Lord but when the going gets tough we start to move forward in weakness and fear, which eventually leads to quitting. The Lord never intended us to live in weakness or fear, but always with strength and courage. We lack strength and courage sometimes because maybe the task we are in is not from the Lord or maybe we need reassured who was really in charge of the mission in the first place. Th Lord had to ask Joshua who had commanded the mission. Once Joshua could answer that with confidence, then he was able to lead with strength and courage.

How do you answer the question on a daily basis; who has commanded the task and path you are on today? If the Lord has planned the task and path that you are on, then move forward in strength and courage. If you made it up, making your own decisions in life and the path you are following, it makes sense to live in weakness and fear. If commanded, strength and courage are easy, and essential for succeeding. If you are not succeeding, maybe you were not commanded, OR maybe you need reminded to move forward in strength and courage because the Lord is with you.  

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Joshua 1:1-9

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Pray to Persevere

Pray to Persevere
August 19, 2019
1 Colossians 1:11  ". . .being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. . ."

Paul wrote to the Colossians regarding a prayer that he had for them and it was a model for us to pray for ourselves, over our own lives. The prayer was progressive in nature, each section of the prayer building upon the previous step rather than a laundry list. The first item of the prayer was needed for the next item of prayer, meaning once the Lord honored the first portion it was then time to move on toward the next portion. The successive items (order specific): filled with the knowledge of His will through the Spirit, bearing good works from the knowledge of that will, be strengthened to persevere in those good works, have patience and endurance to make it to the end, receiving an inheritance along with Christ when it is all said and done. 

If you work it backwards, you don't get the inheritance along with Christ if you weren't patient until the end. You cannot have patience through that unless you've persevered through the hard times of those good works. Your good works are nothing unless they are in direct obedience to the Lord's will not your own. You cannot know what God's will is until the Spirit has revealed it to you through His wisdom and knowledge. It is an admirable prayer and a building-block style prayer for your life. Most Christians, however fall short of that prayer to completion. Their either miss a step or two, or they stall on one of those steps too long. Some people become Christians, and never figure out what the Lord's will is for their lives. Either they never sought the wisdom and knowledge from the Lord or they didn't like where it would lead so they ignored it in its entirety. I know some Christians who are so paranoid in getting His will correct that they never step out and begin executing it, bearing that good fruit. Some people don't like where it will lead so they pretend they never heard the Lord and yet still profess Christianity.

Maybe you got the Lord's will right at the beginning and you're half way into it and its hard, possibly too hard. Maybe now it is time to persevere through that. Paul wrote to the Romans that they needed to pray in their perseverance, because when the going gets tough some want to quit. You cannot have the full inheritance if you've quit halfway through your life. You won't have the full character that Christ requires of you if you stop part way through it all. As humans, no one likes to persevere, because that means times are tough. It isn't perseverance to sit on a beach and stare at the ocean relaxing; that requires no effort. Persevere contains the root word severe, translated as really bad. Paul says that's the epitome of your Christianity, being in the midst of something severe and staying through it when its really bad.

Paul says you're making it as a Christian if you are in the midst of severe and you stay the course. Humans like to avoid the severe because its really bad. This was Paul's whole point, you don't get to avoid the really tough part and fully accomplish the Lord's will for your life. The Lord's will for your life isn't really bad, just that portions of it will feel extreme at times.  Jesus said if we follow Him then we WILL share in His sufferings, that's part of the deal. If you get out of it when it's severe, what does that say about your character? Unfortunately, the only way to fully execute the Lord's will for your life is sticking it out when it's tough. I pray you can persevere, in the midst of the really bad is when you must pray the hardest, not to get rid of the really bad but so you can make it through it all.  The finale to Paul's prayer is gratitude for making it through. We're get there if we persevere.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 5:3-5  1 Col 1-12 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ready While Asleep

Ready While Asleep
August 12, 2019
Revelation 3:3  "If you refuse to wake up, then I will come to you like a thief, and you will have no idea of the hour of my coming."

Jesus told a parable about virgins, ready and waiting for their groom. Some of those fell asleep, when the groom did not arrive when they were hoping. The virgins were tired and fell asleep, some not keeping their candles burning and missed the opportunity they were waiting for their whole lives.  This parable was speaking to those in the church, who were waiting for the Lord's return. Notice in the parable, they were virgins, saving themselves for the wedding. But they fell asleep, having grown tired of waiting. Then the sun went down, they grew sleepy and succumbed to the slumber, as the temptation to sleep was too strong.

This parable is reinforced in the book of Revelation, where Jesus writes a letter to several churches. One of those churches, in Sardis, had a reputation for being alive but had fallen asleep. Jesus said to wake up, which means to repent, otherwise they would miss the opportunity to be taken to Heaven when Christ comes back again. The threat was, and is, wake up and repent or be damned to hell. Like the parable of the virgins, who had waited their whole lives, the opportunity to met Jesus in Heaven can be lost if we are not ready for it. Obviously, the analogy of falling asleep is something we are familiar with; you cannot be ready to go while you are also asleep. In keeping with the analogy in both Matthew and Revelation, falling asleep means falling into sin, otherwise repentance would not have written to and required of Sardis. They were a church that had a reputation for being alive (waiting for the groom as a virgin), but had stopped waiting with excitement for the Lord's return. They weren't living like they should be living and Jesus said they would miss the opportunity that they had waited for their whole lives.

The original disciples were waiting for the Lord's return during their lifetime, fully believing that He would be returning before they died an earthly death. Obviously, 2,000 years later, that has not happened yet, but some of us put it off like it won't happen for another 2,000 years. The disciples eagerly awaited the Lord's return, consequently they did not fall asleep; they kept the faith. We get accustomed to each new day, without the Lord's return, then become complacent. The Bible clearly wants to motivate us in believing He is going to return in our lifetime, any moment. This was, and is, how the Lord intended us to live, even if His return is a few years off still. The only way to be found ready upon His return, is to wait in anticipation, with eagerness, believing it will happen any day now. Otherwise, it is easy to fall asleep. You cannot be ready while you are asleep. Remember, falling asleep is akin to falling into sin. If you are asleep, then you are not ready.

Are you ready for the Lord to comeback today? This question does not ask if you are tired of the earth and want something different, but are you truly ready to meet your maker? Are you ready for Him to show up tonight? When He shows up tonight, what sin is He going to catch you doing? If you are in sin, then you're not really ready. It is a tough journey, to stay watching and waiting all through the night, alert for His return. You cannot have it both ways, being asleep and ready at the same time. You're either ready or you are not; you are either in sin or not.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 25:13, Revelation 3:1-6

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Cannot Run

Cannot Run
August 5, 2019
Romans 11:29  ". . .for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."

The story of  Jonah was, and is, one of the most famous stories in the Bible. While it was not a story, as Jesus believed the recount of the fish tale to be true, there is more to be gleaned than most people realize. Recall that the Lord equipped Jonah to be an evangelist and told Jonah to preach salvation to Nineveh.  Jonah refused, flat out denied the Lord's request and ran the opposite direction. He ended up on a boat toward anywhere but Nineveh and the cargo ship he was on encountered a storm. The storm appeared out of nowhere and was so severe the crew on the shipped realized they may not make it. The crew started to throw all their precious cargo overboard, their livelihood in jeopardy if it did not get it delivered. But Jonah knew; he knew the Lord was chasing him. 

That night on the waters, before Jonah ended up in the belly of the fish, he put the lives and livelihood of those men on the boat in danger. Those men ended up losing their cargo intended for delivery and it was Jonah's fault. But the storm got worse and the men did not know what to do. Jonah knew his disobedience was causing the storm, the storm that put his life in danger and those around him. Jonah understood he was bringing the danger to all the men and the ship. He knew that if he stayed on that boat, that all would be lost. He could have been a hero and jumped overboard to save the lives of those on the boat, but he was a coward. He ran from the Lord and endangered all those he encountered. He could have jumped overboard to save the men and the boat, sacrificing himself, to spare those around him from suffering but he was too selfish. Even easier than that, he could have repented right there on that boat and I suspect the Lord would have calmed the storm. The Lord caused the storm on those waters to get Jonah's attention, but Jonah still tried to run from it. 

The men finally threw him overboard and the fish swallowed him up. Jonah was alive in the belly of the fish, realizing he was being digested alive, likely gasping for air at times. Jonah could have repented that moment, upon realizing he was being eaten alive, but he did not. Jonah had to rot in the belly of that fish for three days before he would repent from his disobedience and agree to follow the Lord's direction and request for his life. Jonah realized he could not run from the Lord and if he tried, the Lord was intent on chasing after him. The Lord's call on Jonah's life could not even be stopped by attempted suicide from the boat's deck. Jonah was content to be eaten alive, death was preferred from repentance or obedience. 

But the Lord did not allow Jonah's attempt at death or the disobedience. The Lord was patient with Jonah in the belly of the fish, sustaining Jonah even though Jonah preferred to end it all, similar to Judas after betraying Jesus. Jonah could not shake the Lord's call, it was irrevocable. Your calling, too, is irrevocable. You cannot out run or out last the Lord. He is patient and willing to chase you to the ends of the earth until you are willing to submit. Jonah could have submitted upon being swallowed by the fish, but it took three days for him to finally come around. Jonah could have even repented on the deck of the boat instead of forcing the men to  throw him overboard. The men on the boat lost their payload in the cargo that was thrown overboard; Jonah's disobedience cost those men a lot of money. Your disobedience does not only impact your life, but the lives of those around you. If there is something you know you are supposed to do for the Lord, it is wise to do it right away.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Jonah 1