Tag Archives: following God

Entering God’s Rest

Hebrews 1-4

This morning, a dear lady from my church entered the rest the writer of Hebrews describes. She may have struggled to take her last breath in this life, but she is now breathing freely in the arms of her Savior. The cares of this life are over for her, because she followed Jesus in the midst of heartache and physical pain, with the joy of the Lord.

But her’s is not the same end for those who choose to live this life apart from God. These chapters in Hebrews not only explain who Jesus is and what He did, it explains who it is that can receive the eternal blessing He offers, and who will never receive that blessing.

Today when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (4:7b)

You might want to believe there is nothing after this life. But there is.

You might want to believe everyone goes to a better place when they die. Not everyone does.

You might want to think that identifying as a Christian is your ticket into God’s rest. It isn’t.

Ii might be a good idea for all of us to take time to read the book of Hebrews because the lines between right and wrong, truth and lies, good and evil are becoming so blurred we are all in danger of falling away. “Don’t harden your heart” applies to you.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. (4:12-13)

Your Job Description

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

What does it mean to be a follower of God, a disciple of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be part of a church fellowship, worshiping and serving with other like-minded believers? I think Paul gives us a pretty good job description. ( I’m using the NLT today)

  1. Warn those who are lazy. The thing is, none of us should be idle. James tells us our faith
    without works is dead faith. Those who are satisfied to sit on the sidelines need to be warned of that.
  2. Encourage the timid. Baby steps. A new believer, or a believer who hesitates to serve for any reason, needs someone to come along side and support them until they are ready to fly. It’s another description of mentoring.
  3. Take tender care of those who are weak. And who isn’t weak at one time or another? Yet we so often end up condemning the weak instead of nurturing them and giving them the spiritual PT they need be be strong.
  4. Be patient with everyone. Not just the people you like. We are all works in progress.
  5. See that no one repays evil for evil. Paul is not just saying YOU shouldn’t do that. He is telling you to be sure I’m not doing that, either. Yes, we are accountable for each other.
  6. Do good to each other and to all people. Look around. Jesus died for that person, and that person, and that one. Reach out to them for Jesus’ sake.
  7. Always be joyful. That might be a tough one because we all go through times of deep sorrow. Does Paul mean we are to put on a sappy smile? If you are a believer, I think you understand the difference between happiness, and the gift of joy from the Holy Spirit. It’s not just a feeling. It’s what comes from knowing our sins are forgiven, from a right standing with God, and a relationship with our precious Jesus. It’s not dependent on circumstances, but rather on the person of Jesus Christ.
  8. Never stop praying. That constant conversation with our Lord is vital to our relationship with Him, and our service for Him.
  9. Be thankful in everything, for this is God’s will. Yeah, thankful. Everything. Paul counted it a privilege to suffer for the Name, thankful for the chance to represent God even to the people who persecuted him. You have an opportunity to be a light to people living in darkness, through whatever you are dealing with today. Are you thankful for the privilege?
  10. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. You stifle the Holy Spirit when you are holding on to a sin rather than repenting of it.
  11. Do not scoff at prophecies but test everything you hear according to God’s written Word. There are a lot of things being tossed around today by people claiming to speak for God. Can you tell the difference between who is true to God’s Word, and who is speaking Satan’s lies? Open your Bible!
  12. Hold on to what is good. Hold on, dear one. Our world is calling bad good and good bad. You need to know the difference, then hold on to what is good with all your might.
  13. Stay away from every kind of evil. That might mean turning off your TV, walking away from a group of friends, coming out from among the ungodly and being separate. We are told to be holy as God is holy. We can’t be holy if we continue to sin without repentance.

So how did you stack up as a child of God according to Paul’s job description? I know there are some things I need to change if I want the privilege of doing that job well. I believe if our churches were filled with people who fit that description we would see an epic outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and many lost people would find their Savior.

And isn’t that what we want to see as followers of God, disciples of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit, and members of His Church?

Give It All

Mark 10, Mathew 19, Luke 18

To some people, hearing Jesus talk about the rewards promised His followers has them expecting a financial windfall. The prosperity false gospel of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Joel Osteen, Robert Tilton, Hillsong, some of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches, etc. all place their faith in it. Health and wealth are promised to followers of God, they proclaim.

They expect to receive 100X as much in return for their investment. After all, that’s what Jesus said.

Even some who reject the prosperity false gospel’s interpretation of these verses, still fixate on the level of reward they will receive in heaven They’ll put up with being the least in this life if they can have a front row seat in glory. After all, that’s what Jesus said.

But the point of what Jesus said to the young man in these verses is this: GIVE IT ALL. And “all” isn’t just material possessions. It’s family, career, reputation, social position, a seat on the Board, your health, etc. It’s your very life.

That’s the point of the lesson. Give it all, and trust God with everything, including your future. Give it all. Don’t hold back. Jesus wants us to hear Him say that in order to follow Him we must submit everything to Him with open hands, like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. You relinquish control, and allow Him to do as He wills. The reward isn’t the goal. Submission is.

Don’t make this about what you will get out of following Jesus. Make it only about what God will receive as a result of your total submission to Him.

Give your SELF to Him. Give it all.

Living As I Should

Psalm 119

May this psalm be my prayer. And may these verses describe my life:

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.

You have charged us to keep your commandments faithfully. Oh that my actions would consistently reflect your decree! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.

As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me. (Verses 1-8, emphasis mine)

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.