God’s Provision for a New Year

provision, Philippians 4, faithLast year is over.  A new year has begun.  While making New Year’s Resolutions might be the popular thing to do, as God’s people we are assured that we don’t have to wait until a new year in order to turn over a new leaf.  God says “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and God’s help and provision are always present tense and available right now to all who would receive.

Maybe last year wasn’t a good year for us.  Maybe there were circumstances that brought pain and sorrow or perhaps we found ourselves in a place of regret over mistakes that were made.  Maybe we began this new year with a hope for something better but without a concrete plan for positive change.

I’m here to tell you, God has what you need.  In his letter to the church at Philipi, Paul offered encouragement and Godly wisdom which is still applicable to us today and can completely transform our lives if we will put it in to practice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB)

Thankfulness in all things and in all circumstances is the first step.  No matter what’s happening and no matter how we feel at the moment, we can express our thanks to God.  Not that all things are good or desirable, but that God Himself is always worthy of our thanks and that His salvation and Spirit sustains us even in the midst of the darkest days.  And with that thankful heart we are then in a perfect position to offer up our prayers and requests to God who is able to provide for all of our needs.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

Once we have decided to be thankful (and it is a conscious decision that we must make) and offered up our earnest prayers to God, then God Himself will provide an incredible peace which is able to do a miraculous thing for us.  God’s peace will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”!  This is a wonderful promise because a heart and mind that is guarded by God’s peace is one that is not easily moved or swayed by the evil of this world and can begin to be a light for others.  In other words, this is the foundation for a vital and growing faith that we must exercise and put to daily use.

Ultimately it is God who controls our circumstances and much of what happens around us is outside of our ability to change.  What is possible and expected of us is to become all that God would have us to be by putting His word into practice.  We must trust God with our lives and with our needs and most importantly, with our hearts and minds.  There is no blessing that God will withhold from the one who is completely surrendered to Him and there is no power in this world that can overcome those that are committed to doing His will.

An Opportunity For Mercy

mercy, grace. ChristmasMy family deals with a local business for goods and services a couple of times a year.  We’ve enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement for many years now and we’ve gotten to the point where we are on a first name basis with most of the staff.  This business relationship has gotten more personal as we’ve gotten to know each other and my trust in them has grown as they have proven themselves over the years.

But now, for the first time, we’ve run into a problem.  The single largest order that I have ever made with them for a part seems to be stuck in limbo.  Because they are a successful business they are in the middle of an expansion project and it seems like during their office move some records got misplaced and no one is quite sure if my part has arrived or where it might be.

If this was just a simple order and pay for it later type of thing then it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But because of the special nature of the part and the customization it required we were required to pay up front at the time the order was placed.  We were told it would take around two weeks.  It has now been more than a month due to the complications with the move.

I spoke with someone in the office recently and it seemed like the move and expansion was still under way.  And because it is now the end of the year and the Holidays are upon us, it may be sometime after the first of the year before they are able to deliver the part.  What should have taken two weeks will probably end up taking over two months.

I’ve been tempted to complain to the owner and make a bit of a fuss.  As a consumer it would be within my rights to do so.  But as soon as I had the urge a thought popped in to my head.  The thought was “well, here’s an opportunity for mercy”.  I can assure you this thought did not originate in my flesh.  My flesh knows only selfishness and the concepts of grace and mercy can only come from the Father through the Spirit.

Despite the fact that I could claim my right to ask for my money back or take my business elsewhere or even complain in any number of different ways the Holy Spirit has prompted me not to do so and to be patient.  And in doing so, I am reminded of what God did for me and for all mankind.  I am reminded that we celebrate Christmas because God had an opportunity for mercy and sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins and be the savior of the world.  I am reminded that God is patient with us despite our failings and our weakness.

In the end, as a child of God, I choose to forfeit my rights in favor of the better, more perfect will of Him who died for me.  But even as I make that decision I know that there will be more opportunities for mercy in the days ahead and not just for me but for all of God’s children.  My prayer is that we set our flesh aside and choose the path of grace and mercy because in doing so we show forth the attributes of our Savior.

 

The Imposition of Real Worship

worship, adore, praiseImposition is not a word with an especially nice meaning.  To impose one’s self upon another is by definition to force an unwelcome or unfair demand upon that person.  In most all cases, when someone tells us that something was an “imposition” they are telling us that they were put out and would have preferred something else to have happened.

And yet, real worship IS an imposition on our human nature, is it not?  If we remain in the flesh and have our selfish desires foremost in our minds then the thought and act of real worship is never welcome or easily accomplished.  Our bodies, which are passing away, and our minds, which  must be renewed daily, will fight the bowing of our knees and the turning of our hearts towards God Almighty and His perfect will.  Simply put, to experience real worship we must approach God with humility and allow the Holy Spirit to impose His will upon ours.

When we first start our Christian walk, it can feel unfair and unnatural to empty ourselves of our own wills and seek to adore and commune with God through the Spirit.  Our old human nature wants nothing to do with this sort of thing and it is only as we gradually persist in this practice that the Holy Spirit can, little by little, imprint the act of worship upon us so that it becomes as natural as breathing.  And like any healthy habit, if we persist  we will reap continual rewards but if we slack off or stop for a period of time then it can become difficult to get started again.  The more we put into it by seeking God and praising Him for who He is and all that He has done, the better our worship will become for ourselves and those around us.

The upside of real worship and the rewards and benefits that it brings are a topic that could span several full size books.  Suffice it to say, all of the fruits of the Spirit will be born out of real worship and God’s presence will be felt strongly.  Additionally, those closest to us will be blessed and encouraged in their faith.  Finally, and most importantly, God’s Kingdom will grow as we make ourselves useful and grateful vessels for His service.

Real worship of God, in Spirit and truth, is a completely foreign concept to those who are walking in darkness and who have never trusted Jesus as Savior.  But for those of us who have the Holy Spirit living inside, real worship of God is a necessity for our spiritual growth and always worth the time and effort.  God can use us in incredible ways when we live a life of praise and adoration that is yielded to Him.

Preference or Unity?

unity, worship, church bodyThe unity of the body of Christ and the way we come together to worship has been central in my thoughts this week.  We are each unique individuals with differences in temperament, personality, experiences, age and abilities yet we are all called to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth and to do so in unity of purpose.

For human beings to be in unity for any length of time is not a natural phenomenon.  It does not happen often and when it does, it doesn’t tend to last very long.  Those very traits that make us unique can work against us when it comes to getting along with others.  And then there is the bigger problem of sin and the way we express our fallen nature through selfishness and insistence on our own way to the detriment of others.

How then, can selfish people who have so many differences come together to form a healthy, growing, effective local body of believers (church)?  Quite simply, it requires the laying aside of personal preference and personal ambition in favor of seeking to worship God and then out of that, loving and serving one another.  When each of us has the goal of entering into the presence of God in corporate worship and is willing to lay aside our own will and our own desires then God can perform the miraculous task of causing the many different parts of the body of Christ to work as one complete unit.  And the word “unit”, if you didn’t already see it, is only one letter short of the word “unity”.  When the unit is working together towards the same goal then unity occurs!

Unity is difficult to achieve because selfishness can be sneaky.  To be human is to prefer some things over other things and it is certainly ok to have those preferences.  I may prefer traditional hymns but my friend may prefer contemporary music.  I might prefer the thermostat to be set on 68 while he might prefer 72.  But when we insist upon our own preferences in a corporate worship setting (either verbally or just in our hearts and minds as a silent complaint) instead of laying them down and setting them aside for the goal of true worship then we have allowed selfishness to get in the way of unity.  It takes a conscious decision to not insist upon our own wills and instead tell the Lord that only His will truly matters.

It takes the power of the Holy Spirit and practice and preparation to get to the point of being able to lay ourselves aside.  It most certainly does not happen naturally but it absolutely must happen for a church to function for the glory of God.  To mature as a believer and to grow as a Christian we must practice and perfect the ability let go of what we think and feel in our own hearts and minds in favor of what God thinks.  When you have a group of people who are willing to do that and come together for the purpose of growing God’s kingdom then you will find a church who is doing great things for the glory of God.

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30) NASB

A Gift Not A Given

thankfulness, grace, GodI met a remarkable fellow this week.  In my job doing internet sales I come into contact with people from all over the world.  Mostly these are fleeting encounters that only take as long as a single phone call and are quickly forgotten.  This one man, however, I hope I will not soon forget.

I am confident that this meeting was ordained and orchestrated by God.  The reasons for the sale, both our product and his need aligned so perfectly that he flew half the length of the country to come and meet us face to face.  In addition there was a circumstance that required his presence in our state that was completely separate from the sale.  That this circumstance and his need for our product could have occurred at the same could only be considered providential.

As we were wrapping up and he was preparing to leave he shared with me a little bit about his other reason for visiting our state.  A younger relative of his who no longer had any parents or guardians around had gotten in to some trouble with the law and was incarcerated on some serious charges.  As a retired pastor and minister of the Lord he felt it was his responsibility to go and visit this relative and pray with them and give them whatever comfort and wisdom he could.

This man was now in charge of a large non-profit ministry that fed and assisted the homeless in several communities across the northern part of the country.  Based on his own past experience and the trouble that his relative was now in he made this statement:  “If you can work and provide for your family and put food on the table and keep a roof over your heard then that is a gift, not a given.  We are all equal in God’s sight but we do not all have equal abilities and are not all equally capable.  Some people just need more help than others.”  Although it went unspoken I could see in this man that he felt that he had been called to help the helpless and I thanked God for his witness.

Later in the day I thought about my job and my home and all that God has provided me and I realized that I tend to take it for granted.  I don’t thank God enough for giving me the ability to work and a place to work.  As I look back on my forty years I realize that I have worked for over half of it and I have never had difficulty finding a job when I needed one.  God has always been there, looking out for me and making a way for me.  He has provided for my family and even in lean times we have always had enough.

When you really get down to it, God does not owe me or anyone else anything at all.  We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and God would be well within his rights to turn His back on us and leave us to our own devices.  Yet His love and grace is persistent and His mercy is new every morning and He delights in giving His children good gifts.  Woe to me if I begin to think that I am owed God’s provision or that I deserve what He so generously offers.

My prayer is that God would open the eyes of His children to see all that He has done for us and that we would not take any of it for granted.  I pray that He would keep us humble and help us to acknowledge Him in everything that we do.  God’s grace is given with every breath that we take.  Let us always remember that this is a gift, not a given.

The First Step Towards God Meeting Your Needs

provision, Matthew 6:33I would like to focus on a thought the Holy Spirit shared with me this week and examine it in closer detail.  God is so good and faithful to His children and as I was praying for wisdom and direction for this week’s blog entry, this is what was impressed upon me:  In order for God to fully provide for us, we must fully provide ourselves to Him.

Immediately following this thought I recalled a verse of scripture, Matthew 6:33, which says:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to (provided for) you. (NASB)

By the fact that this scripture immediately followed the thought I knew that it was from God and that I needed to share it.

On a basic level, all of us enjoy the blessings of life, whether we know God and acknowledge Him or not.  But according to our thought for today and the scripture verse that goes along with it, certain things will only be provided once we have begun to seek Him first, over and above all else.  Does that mean that God will withhold certain things from His children when they do not seek Him and do not put him first?  Yes, I believe that is exactly what it means and once again we can go to scripture to look for examples.

“But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.
 “Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you
While there were still three months until harvest.
Then I would send rain on one city
And on another city I would not send rain;
One part would be rained on,
While the part not rained on would dry up.  (Amos 4:6-7) NASB

Notice, God withheld rain and there was a lack of food because His people were in rebellion and would not turn back to Him.  Rain is necessary for water to drink for all living things and without it food becomes scarce.  Rain and the water it brings can be thought of as the most basic and critical necessity for life and God alone is responsible for its abundance or lack thereof.

Our verse in Amos was in the past but what about in the future?  Does the Bible have anything to say that would indicate God could use this type of withholding again?  Yes, it does, in fact.

 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.  And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. (Zechariah 14:16-17)

Zechariah chapter 14 is prophecy.  It speaks about a day that has not yet come to pass and verses 16 and 17 are thought to take place after the 2nd coming of Jesus.  So if God withheld provision in the form of rain and water from His people in the past and will do so in the future then it does not take any stretch of the imagination to believe that He is doing so now.  And if He will do it for an entire nation or body of people then He will certainly do it for us as individuals.  To turn around the thought we started with, if we are withholding ourselves from God and seeking after other things then we can expect God to begin withholding certain things from us and before too much time has passed we will begin to find ourselves in need.

As children of God, we should know that He is generous and desires to give abundantly.  It is never His desire to withhold from us and to see us in lack or in need.  We have a responsibility to stay in the place where God can bless us and He can only do so when we are actively seeking Him.  To find healing and renewal for ourselves, for our families and for our country we must turn our eyes and hearts towards Jesus our savior and cry out to Him.  Only He can provide what we so desperately need.

If You Start Badly, Can You Still Finish Well?

confession, forgiveness, Psalm 40:2Does this statement sound familiar?  “I am my own worst enemy”.  Or how about this variation: “My biggest problem is me”.  Does this describe where you are?  Can you relate to feeling as if for every right thing that you do you also do two or three things wrong?  I admit, some days I am right there with you.

In fact, it’s been one of those mornings already.  As I write this I’ve already been beating myself up mentally over some things from yesterday that I wish I had done differently.  Mistakes were made and the worst part is, right in the middle of it all, I knew I was making the wrong choice and I didn’t do anything to stop it!

That’s a bad, bad feeling and it leaves me both angry and sad.  If I chose to dwell on it and wallow in it then it would be extremely destructive and the mistakes of yesterday would lead to even more mistakes today.  Choosing to stay in a place of self-pity would mean that I miss God’s blessing for today and miss out on being a blessing to someone else.  I recognize that and I don’t want it to happen.

Here’s the good part:  No sin or mistake of mine is ever big enough or bad enough to overcome God’s grace and forgiveness for me.  Praise God for that truth!  I messed up.  No question about that.  It was yesterday’s sin and I choose, by the power of Christ in me, to leave yesterday’s sin behind and move forward to whatever God has for me on this day.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

One of the first things I did this morning, even as I was feeling very low, was to give thanks and praise to God above.  Even when I’m feeling very bad, He is always very good.  At the same time, I confessed my sin and spoke to God very frankly and earnestly about it.  I acknowledged that there are parts of me that wants to do what God hates.  As hard as I try and as much as I want to be perfect, I’m not there yet and I still sometimes make choices that are wrong.  As frustrating as it is, I let my sin nature get the best of me and I have to be honest with God and admit that the only cure for me is more Jesus and less “me”.

This is my blessed hope.  That Jesus isn’t going to leave me as I am right now.  He’s still working on me, I’m not a finished product yet.  I am ever amazed that he chooses to use such an imperfect person like me to do His work and carry out His plan.  I can only trust in Him to finish what He started when He saved me and called me to be His child.  His love covers all of my sin and sets me free from guilt, if I am willing to let go of myself and trust Him with everything.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:2 (ESV)

How about you?  Does guilt have a place in your heart today?  Does it feel as if your failures are hung around your neck like a weight that is dragging you down?  Do sadness and anger haunt your every step?  If so, then it is time to be free of it.  It is time to turn all of those things over to God who has already paid the full price for all of our sin.  There is no mistake, no error, no horrible act that was not covered by His blood that day at Calvary.  Confess it, commit to Him and let Him heal you of all that is broken and wounded.

 

The Human Contribution To God’s Deliverance

god's plan, faith and works, Psalm 21:31One of the best and most important steps that we can take in our Christian walk is coming to the place where we understand and agree with God’s viewpoint.  I say this in a general sense because it is a process that must be repeated over and over as our faith grows through knowledge and experience.  In other words, this understanding and agreement is not a one time occurrence but should happen many, many times throughout our lives as God reveals Himself more fully to us.

Learning to be a Christ-follower is a lifelong journey.  Wisdom and revelation are given to us as we continually seek after the heart of God through prayer, Bible study, private and corporate worship and time spent with other believers.  God made each of us unique. The way that we learn and grow is also unique and I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly working and ministering to us to help us receive exactly what we need to progress in whatever stage of life we are in at the time.

In Proverbs 21:31 we find a truth that we can apply, if we are willing.

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the LordProverbs 21:31 (NKJV)

Thus far we have talked about growth, development and the progress that we are hopefully making as children of God.  All of this can loosely be thought of as preparation.  Preparation for what?  Preparation for whatever comes next in life and ultimately in eternity.  Proverbs 21:31 tells me that preparation is an expectation and not an option.  As a complete thought, this verse shows us that our preparation does not in and of itself grant us victory or deliverance, only God can do that.  But the preparation must occur.

In every challenge that we face in life or are likely to face in the future, we can apply Proverbs 21:31.  Prepare.  Make sound, Bible-based plans and put in the work that is required as a faithful laborer.   God uses the work of human hands to carry out His will and any careful study of the scriptures will reveal how God used ordinary people to do His work and to carry His message of salvation to the world.

God’s expectation has not changed and He is still seeking those who are willing to be used.  God’s plan for every problem that faces mankind involves the work of His saints, up to and including the salvation of many souls.  To use an example, it is a good thing to pray for world hunger and for starving children but real progress is made when we open up our wallets and donate food to our local food pantry and worldwide relief organizations.  No problem is insurmountable to God but it is an important revelation when we discover that God intends to use us as part of the solution and to exclude ourselves from the process is to completely miss how God intends to bring about His kingdom on Earth.

The Privilege And Pleasure Of Proclamation

important message, praise, God is goodI’m doing this because I told the Lord that I would.  Let me explain:

Last month was a difficult one.  There were several things that I was praying specifically for but one in particular really burdened me.  I prayed that it would come to pass nearly every day and sometimes more than once a day.  Not only did this thing have the potential to effect me positively but it also had the potential of lifting up and encouraging everyone that I work with on a daily basis.

But even as I began earnestly praying I recognized that it was more important that God’s will be done than this one thing come to pass.  So as I prayed I told the Lord that I would praise Him and make it known if He allowed this thing to come to pass and if not, I would praise Him anyway.  Publicly.

The fact is, He is worthy of my praise and even when things don’t go according to my plan they will always go according to His plan.  Job said it like this:

“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

God’s purpose will be accomplished and His plans never fail.  So as I prayed I did so with the knowledge that God’s will was higher than my plans and I yielded myself to His will for my life and waited to see what the outcome would be.

Today I can tell you that the thing that I was praying for did not come to pass.  I was disappointed  and saddened but also encouraged that God had a higher purpose beyond what I could see.  Do I wonder why God did not allow this thing to come to pass?  Of course I do.  I wanted it for myself and for my co-workers and as far as I could see, it would only be a good thing.  But I can only see a fraction of the whole.  God sees it all.  I wanted what I thought was good but God wants to give me what is best, always.

I give thanks to the Lord because He is good.  I make it known to any who would read this that I trust in the Lord even when things don’t go exactly like I want them to go.  I recognize that His will and plans are perfect and that I am not.  And I say that it is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to write about how good God is and how blessed I am to be called one of His children.

Thank you Lord, for being so good to me!

A Five Minute Look At God’s Master Plan

god's will, sovereignty, salvationHave you ever considered God’s design for this world and for us?  There is the tendency to think selfishly whenever the subject of God’s will comes up (as in, “what is God’s will for my life?) but let’s think bigger for a moment.  What is God’s master plan for planet earth and for the human race?

Certainly, if we’ve studied the bible, we should know that God desires all men to come to salvation (1 Timothy 2:4) and that God created the earth and everything on it to provide for the needs of mankind and to point to Him as the creator of all. (Romans 1:19-20)  Within this sphere of creation, God ordered the times and seasons and marked out the days available to every person who would ever walk and live on planet earth. (Psalm 139:16)

The first man and woman created by God, Adam and Eve, knew God personally and from a study of the book of Genesis we can safely assume that God was in the habit of walking and talking with them in Garden of Eden on a regular basis.  (Here’s a great commentary and reference using Genesis 3:8)  What’s important to note is that in the beginning, there was nothing to separate man from knowing God and that man was created to be a close companion to God.

Then came Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God and with that choice, Sin entered the world.  With Sin, all of creation was cursed (Romans 8:20-21) and as a result of Sin, man was eternally separated from God and the close relationship and companionship that God intended for man was no longer possible.

To overcome Sin’s effects and provide a way for man to once again enter into an eternal relationship with Him, God paid our Sin debt through the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ who was God in the flesh. All that God requires is for man to acknowledge and confess his sin, accept Jesus as the savior of his soul and  then help and encourage others to do likewise.

Making this personal, God chooses to involve us in His master plan.  God does not need us to accomplish his will (Isaiah 55:11) but his desire is that we be intimately involved in his work here on earth and he blesses and celebrates those who choose to do so. (Isaiah 52:7)  Quite simply, God oversees the work, God plans and empowers the work, we get to be on the front lines in performing the work.

When we view ourselves and our lives within this framework, it can help us simplify and focus in on that which really matters.  While there are innumerable ways we can choose to occupy ourselves and spend the hours that God has given us, precious few of them have eternal significance.  Primarily, do we have that close, personal relationship with God?  Have we accepted Jesus as our savior and do we love him as Lord of our lives?  And if so, have we decided to be a part of God’s amazing plan to see that all mankind comes to a saving knowledge of God through Jesus?