Oct 04 2008

Do you see?

Subject: FaithRLW3 @ 10:01 am

When we find ourselves in the midst of distressing circumstances, we are frequently tempted to question either God’s motives, His methods or His level of concern. We are prone to complain along with Israel:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Isaiah 40:27 (NKJV)

Israel said this because that is the way it appeared. They were not alone in this feeling. Kind David wrestled with this too. “If God delay his assistance for a short time, we think that his care does not extend to us.”1 How frequently and how quickly my heart lapses into the same species of unbelief!

Why do you say, O Jacob,…

I can see two possible reasons that the prophet called them first by the name Jacob, the supplanter. Perhaps he sought to remind them of their natural roots. They were not God’s chosen because they had earned it or deserved it. Neither do we. Any and all manifestations of His goodness are owed to His wonderful grace.

Or, perhaps he sought to remind them that God had made a covenant with their fathers. Although they had repeatedly broken His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He would remain faithful to keep it.

We do not have any legal standing in and of ourselves to make a claim on God’s goodness. He does not “owe” us anything. God favors us because of our faith in His Son’s sacrifice.

and speak, O Israel…

After having reminded them of their natural character, the prophet reminds them of their spiritual heritage. Their father was given this name because he would not stop wrestling with God until God blessed him. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was encouraging them to continue wrestling in prayer for their deliverance.

“By these names he calls to their remembrance the Lord’s covenant, which had been ratified by promises so numerous and so diversified; as if he had said, “Dost thou not think that thou art that people which God hath chosen peculiarly for himself? Why dost thou imagine that he who cannot deceive does not attend to thy cause?”2 

Beloved, God does see. Even when we have no evidence. 

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)

  1. John Calvin’s Verse Commentary []
  2. John Calvin’s Verse Commentary []

Oct 02 2008

How did I get here?

Subject: Faith,Guidance,ObedienceRLW3 @ 8:26 am

I want to pick up the theme of trusting God for guidance since that is where I am personally.

This is a difficult subject for me. I am in the midst of a completely new venture. I have left the state that I have lived in for the past 31 years, the only church that I have attended since becoming a Christian 27 years ago, the house that I have built and lived in for the past 19 years and the job that I have done for the past 11 to move to a completely new state and attend a new church. I did this because I thought it to be the will of God.

For the first four months in my new state, I had to travel quite a bit for various reasons. I used the time to reconnect with my wife and children whom I had barely seen for the previous seven months. (if you want to read about it, click on the link “Lord of the Castle”)

For the past two months, I have been looking for employment. After several weeks with no success, I started to trade stocks in an attempt to bring in some money only to be naively blindsided by the current banking crisis.

Each step of the way, I thought that I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do with both my time and my talents. However, here I sit, unemployed, hoping the stock market revives so I won’t have lost our small savings and wondering how I got here.

As it was in the garden, the enemy’s first attack is “Has God said… Did God really tell you to take the actions that you have taken thus far?”

I know that I was not cavalier (put your mouse over the word, right click and look it up) in my attitude when I made each decision. To the best of my ability, I sought to “acknowledge Him in all my ways”. And when I review my choices in hindsight once again, I come to the same conclusion: I did what He wanted me to do.

The voice of doubt and self-accusation, whether my own or the enemy’s, taunts me: “Doesn’t God promise to bless those who obey Him? Then why are you STILL unemployed? Why has your investing FAILED?”

In times like these, my emotions are not trustworthy. Accusations of folly, irresponsibility, being hyper-spiritual, etc. flood my mind and emotions. Having arrived at this place by seeking to do His will, shall I now let my emotions lord it over me?

Thank God, I am not alone.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

Read that again…

“…that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

In times like this, the Scriptures truly do become my comfort. I have plenty of examples to show that I am not the first to go through this challenge. They truly do “strengthen…(me) with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” (Col. 1:11 NKJV)

Help for my soul is just an arm’s length away.

Sep 03 2008

Socially acceptable idolatry

Subject: Faith,IdolatryRLW3 @ 6:46 am

Four weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me something in the Scripture that I had never seen. Although I have lived a fairly devout and committed life since my conversion, I have been guilty of idolatry!

I realize that this sounds a bit “extreme”. However, I don’t know how to characterize it any other way.

I have recently moved to a new part of the country and am looking for a job. I was meditating on a very familiar passage to bolster my faith that my heavenly Father knows my situation and will provide for me:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)

Now, I have read this passage numerous times. I have memorized it. I have endeavored to obey it through these many years.

The verse previous to this passage holds even more value to me.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)

This verse has been a guiding light to me through the years. I have used it to discern motives and events, evaluate prospects and purposes and winnow the desires of my heart.

However, this time I noticed something different…”Therefore I say to you…

Jesus great passage on seeking the kingdom of God begins with the word “Therefore.”

I believe it was Kenneth Hagin who said “When you see the word ‘therefore’ in the Scripture, you probably ought to find out what it is there for.” “Therefore” refers back to the Jesus’ declaration that “you cannot serve God and mammon”. 

One of the reasons that I had never noticed this before is because of the little topical headings that the publisher puts in to help us find certain passages. The heading “Do Not Worry” is placed between verse 24 and verse 25. However, verse 25 is a continuation of Jesus thought in verse 24. Read it again…

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God an mammon. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life,

Lest you think that I am stretching the text and either exaggerating or distorting Jesus meaning, consider this…

For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,

He begins and end the “Do Not Worry” passage with “therefore”. In the beginning, he says that you cannot serve God and Mammon, therefore, do not worry. At the end, he says that your heavenly Father knows your needs and will provide for them, therefore, do not worry.

Worry is a form of idolatry. It is serving Mammon. If I look to Mammon to meet my needs and care for me, then worry is the tribute that I pay as a token of my dependence. If I look to God to meet my needs and care for me, then I must not worry for He is good and He can be trusted.

I cannot tell you how this has impacted my life. To my shame, I have worried incessantly. When I was a minister, for 5 years I worried about sinning and being disqualified.

When I resigned from the ministry, I worried about getting a job. When I found good steady employment, for 11 years I worried about being laid off. Ironically, when I was unexpectedly laid off earlier this year on a Friday, I received an unexpected phone call and had a new job for the same pay plus a car and a gas card by the following Monday!

When we bought a house, since we had no savings account, every month for 18 years I worried about how we were going to pay the bills!

I have tried many times to obey Jesus and “not worry.” Now that I see that it is a form of serving Mammon, I WILL not worry again.

Jul 22 2008

He will do it

Subject: FaithRLW3 @ 6:09 pm

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.  Psalm 37:4-5 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit’s ends this passage with the promise that “He will do it.” What will He do? He shall bring about His glorious purposes to pass in our lives. He will bring to pass His desires that He has put in our hearts.

How He does that is His concern, not ours. All that we are required to do is to carry out our duty according to His precepts. He will do what He has promised.

Thy way, not mine, O Lord, However dark it be;
O lead me by thine own right hand, Choose out the path for me.

Smooth let it be or rough, It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it matters not, It leads me to thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot, I would not if I might;
But choose Thou for me, O my God, So shall I walk aright.

Take thou my cup, and it with joy or sorrow fill;
As ever best to thee may seem, Choose thou my good and ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon “A Treasury of David”

Jul 22 2008

Trust also in Him

Subject: FaithRLW3 @ 6:09 pm

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.  Psalm 37:4-5 (NKJV)

Committing our way to the Lord is the beginning of the adventure. The Holy Spirit follows this injunction with and exhortation to “trust also Him”.

Our walk of faith has only begun when we “commit our way to the Lord.” Derek Prince said, “Commit describes a single act of faith. Trust describes a continuing attitude that follows the initial act of committing. After that, God takes over: He will do it.”

For most, it is comparatively easy to “commit our way” to Him. However, trust is an entirely different matter. When it seems that the Lord is delinquent in fulfilling His promises, we are faced with a test: Do we continue to trust in Him or do we ‘take matters into our own hands’?

It is very sad to witness how prone I am to fretting-over my future, my success or lack thereof, my reputation, of being misunderstood, etc. Fretting eventually leads to unbelief. My heart starts accusing God: that He is against me, that He is frustrating me, that His promises are not true, at least not for me, etc., etc.

He is not against me. He is carefully orchestrating my circumstances to bring about what He cherishes the most: a heart that trusts Him.

“When we bear the burden of our own affairs ourselves, and are chastised with anxiety and want of success, and with envying the ungodly who prosper better than we do, the best remedy is first to do our duty, as we are enabled in the use of the means, then cast the care of the success over on God, as the ploughman doth when he hath harrowed his land; and let the burden of it rest on God, and let us not take it off Him again, but put our mind to rest, resolved to take the harvest in good part, as he shall send it.   David Dickson

Jul 02 2008

The timing is not good!

Subject: Faith,GuidanceRLW3 @ 5:51 pm

He who observes the wind will not sow…  Eccl. 11:4a

The man described in this verse can never find a good time to sow because the wind is blowing. If he sows today, the wind will blow the seed where he did not intend it. Therefore, he should wait for the wind to die down.

Frequently, we, like this man, don’t start new projects because of what might happen. We cannot be certain that our “sowing” will work out the way we have planned. So, we do nothing because something might go wrong. The timing is not quite right. Why? We don’t really know. It just doesn’t “feel” right.

At the root of this behavior and view of life is an erroneous belief that all of our success depends on us. God, who controls the conditions or circumstances, cannot be trusted. Our unbelief prevents us from launching out on the new venture that God has put into our hearts.

…and he who regards the clouds will not reap.  Eccl. 11:4b

If you talk to enough people, you will soon discover that there is never a “good” time to make any change. You can ALWAYS find dark clouds that might soon empty themselves.

People are always talking about the surrounding economic conditions and using it as a justification for inaction. “Well, what’s the market like?” “I’ve heard that we are going into a recession.”

However, if we look, there are always people who prosper during adverse economic conditions. Microsoft was launched in the midst of terrible economic conditions during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Fabulous marriages are being both started and enjoyed right now even though many segments of our culture have accepted and even applaud immorality and divorce.

We also have many examples of people going bankrupt in the midst of a booming economy. There was a time when our culture held marriage in very high esteem yet marriages still failed.

We should be aware of our circumstances and the season that we live in. However, we should not make them our god. The environment doesn’t determine either our success or failure.

If we find ourselves endlessly observing the wind or regarding the clouds, we might do well to question ourselves. We shouldn’t be surprised if we find that the root of all our much “observing” is not “wisdom” but rather fear.

Change represents the unknown. Although the present conditions might be unbearable, we frequently prefer to remain in them rather than face the fear of making a mistake and the uncertainty of change.

Is it really better to live as a slave in Egypt than to venture out into the unknown trusting in the God of heaven to lead us into the land that He has marked out for us?

Jun 24 2008

What should we do?

Subject: Faith,GuidanceRLW3 @ 9:08 pm

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)

When we encounter contrary circumstances, our first response should be to boldly declare our trust in the God of heaven.

But what are to trust in?

  • That He is for us and not against us.

The Israelites refused to believe that God was for them. They accused God of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them. (Exo. 14:12) But they were wrong.

  • That He is presently working in us, actually helping us to both to choose and carry out His will in our lives. (Phil. 2:13) 
  • That He is presently working to complete the good work that He began in us. (Phil. 1:6)
  • That He is constantly and carefully arranging our circumstances to draw us closer to Himself. (Matt. 10:29)
  • That He is using our circumstances to mold us and shape us and fashion us into the image of Jesus. (Rom. 8:29)
  • That He is with us in the midst of the perplexing circumstances. (Heb. 13:5)

We felt the Lord’s presence when we first began our venture. When things grow a difficult, we must not let our circumstances deceive us into believing that He has forsaken us.

  • That is He is good.

Not just good in general. No, that will not do. We can do that while our heart is filled with unbelief. We must believe that He is good to us.

He is our great God that longs to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him. (2 Chron. 16:9) We must not throw away our confidence. (Heb. 10:35-36) We must remember that it is after all, our faith that is being tested. (James 1:2-3)

Jan 27 2008

“Big doors often swing on small hinges.” -A.W. Pink

Subject: Faith,Obedience,ProvidenceRLW3 @ 5:34 pm

This morning, the importance of obeying God in the smallest of things was reemphasized in my heart.

:1 And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. :2 So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. :3 But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. :4 And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him. :5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river. And her maidens walked along the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. :6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” :7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” :8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. :9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.  Exo. 2:1-5 (NKJV)

Here are some of A.W. Pink’s comments from Gleanings in Exodus:  

“Scripture informs us that it was neither affection nor infatuation but faith which was the mainspring of action. (Heb. 11:23) Faith “cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17): the parents of Moses must, therefore, have received a direct communication from God, informing them of what should happen and instructing them what to do. And they believed what God had told them and acted accordingly.”

“Should it be asked, Wherein is the faith of Moses’ parents to be seen? The answer is: In overcoming the fear of the king and in trusting God’s protection for the preservation of the child. And is not the strength of their faith evidenced by the selection of the place where the young child was put, after he could be no longer hid in the home? Surely the parents of Moses took him to the very last spot which carnal reasoning would have suggested. The mother laid him “in the flags by the river’s brink”! But that was the very place where the babies were drowned! Ah, is not that the last location we had chosen? Would not we have carried him as far away from the river as possible?”

“It was neither by chance nor accident that Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the river that day, for there are no accidents nor chance happenings in a world presided over by the living God. Whatsoever happens in time is but the outworking of His eternal decrees—’for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things’ (Heb. 2:10). God is behind the scenes, ordering everything for His own glory; hence our smallest actions are controlled by Him. It is because that whatsoever happens in time is the outworking of God’s eternal decrees, that ‘all things are working together (the verb is in the present tense) for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.’ ” (Rom. 8:28)

“Big doors often swing on small hinges. God not only directs the rise and fall of empires, but also rules the fall of a sparrow. It was God who put it into the heart of this Egyptian princess to go to the river to bathe, and to that particular spot where the ark lay amid the flags; as it was He who caused her to be moved with compassion (rather than with indignation at the defiance of her father’s authority) when she beheld the weeping child. And it was God who caused this daughter of the haughty monarch to yield submissively to the suggestion of Miriam, and made the princess willing for its own mother to care for the little child.”  

Frequently, it it the little things that are most important.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”  Luke 16:10

It is the “the little foxes that spoil the vines.” (Song 2:15)

I would recommend that you print the title of this post, frame it and hang in a place that you will regularly see it to encourage your heart that God is intimately involved with your life and that your choices and actions matter.