Tag Archives: following God

180 (Acts 9-10)

Saul obeyed. Ananias obeyed. Cornelius obeyed. Peter obeyed. And what they did in obedience was a 180 from where they’d started.

Saul was headed to Damascus to arrest all believers he could find because he wanted to stop people from proclaiming Jesus. He was an educated Jew, and educated Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. But when Saul had an encounter with Jesus, he turned from someone who wanted to silence people, into someone who would not be silenced.

Ananias was comfortable there in Damascus. He may have felt safe in his home from the coming trouble. But when God told him to go to Saul, the very man who threatened Ananias’ life, Ananias moved out of his comfort zone and walked right up to the one person he considered an enemy, ready to pray for Saul to regain his sight.

Cornelius was a Gentile who believed in Israel’s God. But he was still a Gentile, and Gentiles and Jews had no use for each other. Cornelius had a good ministry there in Caesarea, but when God told him there was something more, Cornelius went for it even if it meant going to a Jew to get it.

Peter knew Jesus personally, was a disciple and one of Jesus’ closest friends. But he was Jewish, and Jews felt Jesus was THEIR Messiah. They were pretty protective of that relationship. A sign with “No Gentiles allowed!” was placed over the door of their clubhouse. But when God showed Peter, not once but three times (we are talking Peter here), that God makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, Peter turned his back on what he thought he knew, and went to the home of a Gentile to share his Messiah, Jesus, with Cornelius and his family.

Sometimes God pushes us forward, sometimes He turns us around. We, like the men in these chapters of Acts, need only to obey.

What is God asking of you today? Is it time you did a 180?

What Do I Still Lack? (Mathew 19, Mark 10)

The rich man had followed all the laws since his youth. He knew how to do church, and he did it. But he went to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life anyway.

What do I still lack? (Matthew 19:20)

He must have had a sense that merely following rules, going to church, offering sacrifices, going through the motions wasn’t enough. So in response to the young man’s question, Jesus pointed him to the problem:

His heart.

His heart had been given to wealth. Money was his god. And, sadly, the young man couldn’t let go if it at that moment. He actually walked away from Jesus.

What has your heart? It could be money like the young man we read about today. It could be a relationship, or anger, or hurt, or pride, or even yourself.

I pray that you will let God put a finger on exactly what it is you need to deal with today. Are you ready to let go of it and follow Jesus from your heart? I’m asking the same of me.

Do Not Follow Your Heart (John 6; Mark 7)

I am sure at some time in your life, you’ve heard someone say, “Follow your heart.” Maybe it was said to you as you faced some personal dilemma. Maybe you’ve even said it to someone else you thought needed a bit of encouragement. We want to believe we know what is best for us, that somewhere deep inside us is the key to happiness and contentment. We ask “What does your heart tell you? Go with it.”

Is that sound advice? Listen to what Jesus says about trusting our hearts:

For from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)

These words are recorded in John 6 as well.

Someone once said to me, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” That may be true. But what the heart wants, according to Jesus, is sin.

We Jesus-followers should never tell another person to follow their heart. Never! Instead we should be encouraging each other to follow God, spend time in His Word and in prayer, ask others to pray with us and for us, truly seek God’s heart in the matter. God will reveal His will if we let Him.

God’s will might not be what our hearts “want.” But wanting what God’s heart wants for us is so much better than we can imagine.

Follow God. Do NOT follow your heart.

But we had food… (Exodus 16-18)

The problem with the Jews was, they had left Egypt physically – but not emotionally. Look how often they told Moses they wished they were back in Egypt where life was good.

“We had food in Egypt. We had water. We were protected.”

This following God stuff was hard. But the Jews seem to have forgotten that in Egypt, they had been slaves. They had no power, no free will. They were in bondage…

but they had food.

Didn’t they remember that the food they ate was produced by the sweat of their own brows, and the lashes on their own backs if they didn’t work fast enough or produce what was demanded? They were mistreated…

but they had food.

I am going to chase a rabbit trail here.  We are at a crossroad in our country. Socialism is attractive to many who want “food.” They hear the word “free” and they jump on board. But hear me when I say nothing is free. The Jews paid for their food with hard labor. You will pay for yours with taxes from sparse earnings from companies where you work; government controlled companies struggling because of heavy taxes, and lack of autonomy. Those who are in favor of socialism are listening to a millionaire hypocrite, and although fiscal equality sounds good I doubt even you would work eight hours a day to support someone who would rather get what you earn for free.

But what we read in Exodus isn’t just about free stuff. There is an eternal lesson here. That manna that was given from God was Israel’s salvation. That water that came out of a rock came because God provided. Their victory in war wasn’t because they were superior soldiers. That victory was God’s.

The lesson here is that God IS salvation, and there is no other. There may be easier ways to live here on this earth. But there is no other way to the Father, no other door to Heaven. You can take what God offers, or leave it. Just beware. if you reject what God offers, you might have “food” for a while…

but that “food” won’t last for eternity.

 

Matthew 8-10; God Help Us

A middle-aged woman was grateful when her adult son moved back into their home after her husband died. She’d been so lonely in that empty house, and welcomed the company. He was a good boy. Clean cut. Had a good job. He was friendly, polite, and helpful. He was a son any mother would be proud of. Except for one thing.

Every once in a while her son would meet a nice young lady. They’d go out a few times, and eventually he’d invite her to the house. The mom would fix a meal, and welcome the girlfriend with a hug. They’d eat together, laugh together, and enjoy a relaxing evening together. Then the son would invite the girl to see the game room in the basement.

As the two young people would head downstairs, the mom would leave the dishes and head upstairs, to her bedroom. She’d turn on the TV as loud as it would go. She didn’t want to hear the sounds that would inevitably come from her son’s game room.

You see, he was a serial killer. He tortured and murdered the girls he took to the basement. But what was the mother to do? He was her son. She loved him. She couldn’t turn him in, or kick him out. She was his mother.

I totally made that up. But I hope you had some reaction to the mother’s response to her son’s actions. How could she let that happen in her own home?

I was part of a difficult conversation not too long ago. And, honestly, I wish I wasn’t thinking about it now. But it’s something God has laid on my heart. So here goes:

The subject of our conversation centered around a woman whose son had brought home his boyfriend and announced they were getting married. The question was: What would you do?

As we were talking, the verses from Matthew 10 came to mind. So when I read them today, I felt God nudging me to write about it. I’d really rather not, but I want to obey. I’m praying as I write. And I’m praying for you as you read.

First off, if you are tempted to be enraged because I seem to be putting serial killers and homosexuals in the same category (which means I must be homophobic) let me stop you right there. My story could have been about a thief, or a drug dealer, or a child molester, or a liar, a gossip, or a glutton. Would that have made you feel better? I could make this post about any number of sins.  Sin is sin, my friend. And enabling sin in any way is wrong. But God has laid the sin of homosexuality on my heart today.

And let’s get one thing straight. Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible. Unless you can show me a verse to the contrary, I’m going to proceed with that truth, because there is more than one verse that calls homosexuality sin, an abomination, unnatural.

Jesus, in Matthew 10:34-39, tells us His Presence will divide families. That’s hard to hear. He also said if keeping your family together is more important than following Him, you aren’t worthy of Him. If you put anything – including your children – above Him you are wrong.

I can’t imagine the pain of being forced to choose. Talk about a cross to bear. It has to be harder than losing a limb. God help us.

I’d like to say something to parents of young children. Sadly, the media has taken away your privilege of deciding the right time to have the “birds and bees” conversation with your children. The time is now. Don’t think that the subtle (and overt) messages that are imbedded in cartoons, kids programs and movies, video games, and commercials aren’t effecting your kids. They are impressionable. And once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it.

Your children spend hours every day in school. Do you know what they are being taught? Are you familiar with the curriculum? Most schools teach tolerance, some use books that promote homosexuality. Are you aware of any of that in your child’s classroom? What if your child’s teacher is homosexual? What do you say to your child about his friend’s two daddies, or the two women next door who just got married? How do you want your child to react when a boy in their second grade class starts wearing dresses to school?

How are you helping your children embrace their God-given sexuality, when Satan is telling them it’s not determined by DNA, that it’s “fluid.” When Satan is telling parents they should let their two-year-olds choose what sex they want to be, what are you telling yours?

How important is it for you to follow Jesus according to Scripture? How important is it that your children choose to follow Him, too? Please start talking to them today about how they can know the truth. I pray that none of you will ever have to choose between your children and God.

But I’ll tell you right now, if you are forced to make that impossible choice, I pray you choose God.

I’m praying for you.

Jeremiah 32-34; Freedom, Part 2

A couple thousand people gathered at the pier last night to watch the colorful – and loud – fireworks display over the Atlantic Ocean, celebrating our nation’s freedom. Live music, glow sticks, bubbles, laughter, and the aroma of hamburgers on the grill made it a fun evening. We do have a lot to celebrate in this country.

Yesterday as I read God’s Word, I was reminded of the freedom we Christians have in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin! We have reason to celebrate!

But today as I continued to read in Jeremiah, I am reminded of another freedom that gives us reason to grieve. 34: 17 says:

…So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord – ‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine…

That freedom doesn’t sound very fun. And God wants us to know it really isn’t. God goes on to tell Jeremiah that there are severe consequences to we who have the freedom to choose God, but ignore or disobey Him. He gave us the freedom to choose. He did not give us the freedom to decide on the outcome of our choices.

It’s like, as an adult I have the freedom to smoke if I want to. I do not have the freedom to decide whether or not I get lung cancer. I have the freedom to carry a gun. But if I use it to rob a bank, I don’t have the freedom to decide whether or not I go to jail.

There is always a flip side to freedom. Maybe we are seeing that played out in 2018 America. Freedom without responsibility seems to be destroying us.

Our God-given ability to choose is a precious thing. He wants us to choose Him. But He won’t take away our freedom to make that choice for ourselves. That’s up to us. But know, without a doubt, that choosing to follow God comes with blessing. Choosing to follow anything else comes with devastating consequences God would rather you didn’t experience.

You’re free to do what you want. So is God.

I Samuel 13-14; Follow The Leader

If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?

Ever hear that one before? Maybe you’ve even said it to a young person you are concerned is following the wrong crowd. We all want our children to be leaders. But is there a time to teach them to follow?

My church had VBS this week. What a great time we had talking to kids about how much the Creator of the universe loves them, and how far that love goes to save them. We were Galactic Starveyors!

On our last night, when we were having our last practice before the closing program for parents, we had a visitor. An 11 year old boy came with his grandma, who was one of our teachers. I was in charge of music, and encouraged the youngster to practice the songs with us. I tried to assure him I’d help him learn the motions as quickly as possible.

“Just follow me,” I said.

Without skipping a beat the boy replied, “I’m not a follower. I’m a leader.”

I get that. He’s a good looking boy, a good student, a gifted athlete, and an all around nice guy. I hope he’s a leader in his school. I think his classmates would do well to follow his example.

But is there a time when even the best leaders should learn to be followers, too? I will tell you he got up there with the rest of the kids and did a crash course in song motions. Not an easy thing to do in front of peers who already knew what they were doing.

The Israelites and the Philistines were preparing to go to war. Not only was the Israeli army outnumbered by about a gazillion to one, on the day of the battle “not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or a spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” (13:22)

Can you spell “defeat?”

So Jonathan told his armor bearer to follow him and together they’d sneak into the Philistine post. His armor bearer replied, “Do all that you have in mind… I am with you heart and soul.” (14:7)

If your friend jumped into the Philistine camp, would you jump, too?

How do you know when to lead, and when to follow someone else’s lead? In this case Jonathan asked for God’s direction, then followed the Lord into battle – just he and his armor bearer – and defeated all the men at the enemy outpost.

Who do you follow, and why? Maybe you’re a Type A person who feels you’re the only one who can do any job, so therefore people should follow you.

There are so many theologies preached by so many different preachers, so many programs touted by so many “experts,” so many opinions voiced by so many people. Who do you follow?

My prayer is that you will weigh everything and everyone according to Scripture plus nothing. Only that which is grounded in the Word of God is worth following.

Jonathon waited for God. We need to, too. Whether it’s a building campaign, a missions trip, a city project, a Sunday School curriculum, our leader should first and foremost be God.

If God is laying some position of leadership on your heart, go to Him. Test Him. Then obey Him.

And if God is raising up another to lead you, go to God. This might just be a case where God is calling you to follow with your “heart and soul.”

Exodus 32; 960 Hours

It’s the middle of March. I’m wondering how many of you who made New Year’s Resolutions are still sticking with it. Myself? I quit making New Year’s Resolutions long ago. I stink at it.

But what about when we make promises to God? Are we able to keep those promises more than forty days? Forty days were all it took for Aaron and the Israelites to forget their promise to follow God, and make a golden calf to worship instead. 960 hours.

How seriously did God take their failure to keep their promise? 3,000 people died that day. I call that serious.

A man in my church lost a bunch of weight a while back. He looked great. I, who gave up my yearly resolve to lose these extra 15 pounds I’m carrying asked him how he did it. His answer? “I prayed.”

I don’t remember ever seeing an infomercial on that diet plan.

But my friend said that he prayed believing God would hear and answer his prayer. Then, every time he was tempted to open that bag of chips or have that second helping of dinner, he’d pray. And God answered his prayers.

Prayers. My friend lives his life in an attitude of prayer. And God answered his prayers as often as he prayed. He successfully lost the weight and has kept it off several years later.

I don’t think the Israelites did much praying when Moses was on the mountain. Because if they did, God would have answered their prayers. They would not have lost their confidence in God and Moses if they had prayed about that.

I take two things away from this chapter in Exodus today. One, God takes my promises to Him very seriously. And two, if I feel led to make a promise to Him, He is able to help me keep it. If I ask Him. And if I go to Him when I am tempted to break that promise, He will give me the strength to be successful.

He is able. And because He is, so am I.

 

Exodus 13; No Short Cuts

Another thing jumped out at me concerning God’s hand in the events of our lives. Verse 17 says God led the people by the desert toward the Red Sea, a longer route, because He knew if they took the short cut and had to go to war, they would want to give up and go back to Egypt.

It speaks to me of choice. God didn’t make them go into the desert. He led them, yes. But they chose to follow His lead. He led them that way for their own good, because He knew they could choose to go back to Egypt, and He gave them the chance to keep moving ahead toward the Promised Land.

It seems to me God directs our steps, but whether or not we follow His lead is up to us. Following where He leads helps us avoid hardships, even though the road might be longer. It might not be the road that makes sense to us, or looks to be the easier route.

God is directing our path. And if we follow Him, it’s always going to work out for our good, and His glory.

September 16 – A Prayer For Our World

Daniel 7-9

Reading Daniel’s vision reminds me that there are forces of evil out there. There has been since Satan and his followers fell from heaven. ISIS, murderers, liars, thieves, adulterers, bullies, and the like are tools of our enemy against a Holy God.

We act like it’s about us.

But evil is Satan’s tool in his war against God. I think if we want Satan defeated in this country and in our world, if we want to put a stop to the evil around us, our prayer should be like Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9:

Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, we have sinned. We haven’t listened to You. We are ashamed of ourselves in light of Your righteousness. We are rebellious and disobedient, so You have allowed us the consequences for our sin. Even in that, we’ve not turned to You. Now, O Lord, Your Name is a reproach to those around us. The name “Christian” is hated and scorned, and meaningless. So God, not because we have any merit on our own, not because we deserve Your mercy, but for the sake of Your Name… forgive us. Bless us in the sight of nations. Let unbelievers recognize Your compassion to those who humble themselves before You, who turn from their wicked ways, and who follow You alone. Not because we deserve it. But because by doing so, people may come to You. And You deserve that.