Let’s Be the Real Thing!

With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26.9

As believers in this New Testament era, we have a faith that is both historical and experiential. When I think of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and the others we find in the Old Testament, I wonder what their experiences with God were like. They were looking forward to the cross, and we are looking back to the cross.

When I read these words from Isaiah’s pen, his longings certainly seem to be a lot like mine. He says: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night … ” There have been numerous times when I have awakened during the night and the longing of my heart is to cry out to God about something that is bearing on me. I know He hears me no matter where I am or what time it is. He is “on duty” 24×7.

And then we hear him say: “with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:” I think Isaiah was an early riser. That was when he met with God. The day was young, his mind was fresh, and his spirit had a longing to speak to this God who wanted to hear from him. I know that there are many whose work prohibits them from rising early. I believe it is not so much the time of day as it is the beginning of OUR day.

This last phrase causes us to reflect on how the world sees this God whom we worship: “for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Sometimes we hear false teaching that tells us that God is love and He will ultimately take everyone to heaven in the end. That sounds a bit syrupy because it is not true. When this world see God at work in His “judgments” here on earth, some people in the world begin to pay attention to the fact that this is the hand of God and not just a fluke of nature or that something else “just happened.” Where is our place in all this? Let’s seek God with our whole heart and live in such a way that even the vilest sinner will look at us and say, “there’s something different about that person’s life.” Just my thoughts …

 

Let God BE God!

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5.6-7
As Christ followers, you and I are called to a life of humility and total dependence on God. That being said, the emphasis of these two verses is a reminder to us that God longs to care for us but in order for Him to do that, we must yield control of all of who we are and all of what we possess. I think it is noteworthy that Peter is the disciple chosen of God to write these words. When he first met Christ he was anything but humble and when it came to the cares of his life, he handled things in a pretty head-strong way (remember the Roman soldier who came to arrest Jesus and Peter cut off his ear).
Think with me about this first phrase: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God … ” When God tells us to humble ourselves, what does that mean? I believe He is saying to us that we need to remember Whose  we are when we are in His presence and there is never a moment when we are not in His presence. Peter tells us the reason for this statement: “that he may exalt you in due time..” When I am willing to humble myself before god, He will exalt me in His time.
When we have humbled ourselves, the next verse becomes much easier: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” The realization of our need as Christ-followers will cause us to WANT to cast our cares on Him. When He offers to carry my burden, that means that I don’t have to. And if we are brutally honest, there are some burdens that we THINK we can carry, but we can’t. So why not let God be God in your life and see how you attitude and countenance changes. Just my thoughts …

Simple But Profound!

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him: and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37.4-5

I have a number of verses that have become favorites over the years. This duet is one of them. The psalmist gives us three very positive words in these two short verses: (1) delight, (2) commit, and (3) trust. Delight is the very opposite of disappointment. So for us to delight ourselves in the Lord, we must be something other than disappointed. Delighting ourselves in the Lord is not the same as understanding everything that He does in our lives. We do not have to UNDERSTAND everything that God is doing in order to delight ourselves in Him.

This second word “commit” implies a total act of faith. Ever get on an elevator and press the button for your floor and wonder, “Will this thing make it?” Once the door closes, you hear the motor begin to move it, but you can’t be guaranteed it will reach the floor you want. You do not have an attendant onboard to assist you. You have just exercised a total act of faith in that elevator. Can I just say that our God is much more dependable than that elevator? We don’t always KNOW where the next step will lead us, but we take that step anyway, believing that once we “commit” that step to the Lord, He will show us what’s next.

The final word is “trust.” We trust something or someone everyday. We walk into a dark room and switch on the light, trusting there will be electricity for the light. We go to work and our supervisor says something like, “You have never done this job before, but I trust your skills to do it.” You think to yourself, “He trusts me, and I trust him.” Look carefully at these words: “trust also in him: and he shall bring it to pass.” What does this little word “it” mean here? I like to think of this as God giving me a blank check and saying, “You trusted me. Now I am going to bring to pass whatever you have trusted Me for.” I find delight in that and it becomes easier to commit to God the next time the need arises. Just My Thoughts …

Lame Excuses

With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119.10-11

The encouragement and practical example for daily living found in this Psalm is powerful. Carefully inspect the words of this first phrase: “With my whole heart have I sought thee … ” That is what Mark Batterson calls being “All In” (in His book by that same name). The commitment made by the psalmist indicates several things: (1) intentionality, (2) focus, (3) purpose, and (4) a life filled with God’s best.

When I read the words of the second phrase, I need to understand that for which he is asking: “O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Is he saying to God, “Do what you must to keep me on the right path”? How often have we said to God, “Go ahead Lord and discipline me. I need it.” Most of us don’t want to experience discipline because we think, “Everything is ok in my life.” God KNOWS what is ok and what is not.

When he pens the words of v. 11, he is following through with what he can do to insure that he maintains his “whole heart” commitment. How does he propose to do that? “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart … ” In this age of digital technology, many have come to the conclusion that they don’t need to memorize scripture because “I always have my phone with me and I can look up what I need.” Hear me on this, that is Satan’s lie. If you can memorize your cell phone number, you can memorize a Bible verse.

Why was it so important for the psalmist to “hide” God’s word in his heart? “that I (he) might not sin against thee (God).” Several years ago I asked a guest speaker at the church I was attending to write something in my Bible. These are the words he wrote: “Sin will keep you from this Book. This Book will keep you from sin.” Think about it. Just my thoughts …

A Mother’s Prayer

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands: and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31.30-31

There are so many ways to give mothers special recognition. Solomon speaks specifically in these words: “a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” In the Summer of 1951 my mother was taken from this life to be with her Heavenly Father. I was 11 years old. To speak of all the qualities my mother possessed would fill many pages, but this I remember, she feared the Lord.

In my early school years, we lived in a trailer park (a mobile home). It was nothing like the roomy mobile homes we see today. Instead it was very small. I remember coming in from the outside one night where I had been playing, and my mother was on her knees beside the sofa praying. I remember hearing her say, “And Lord, let my son be a preacher boy.” I never forgot hearing those words fall from her lips.

At age 17, I attended a Summer Teen Camp at Lake St. Marys, OH. On the last night of camp, Dr. Charles Billington was preaching. I don’t remember his topic, but I do remember hearing God say, “Jerry, I want you to serve me.” I came home from camp and told my boss that I was going to go to Bible College that fall. He said, “I knew I shouldn’t have let you off to go to that camp.”

To make a long story short, I attended Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO and graduated in 1960. For 19 years I served in three different churches in one capacity or another, but not a senior pastor. In December of 1979 I accepted the pastorate of Calvary Baptist Church in Rittman, OH and I served there for 32 years. God answered the prayer of a godly mother. It was my mother who prayed but it was God who called. I have never regretted a day of the ministry God has given me. Thank you, Mom. I love you! Just my thoughts …

Sometimes Life Is Just Plain Tough!

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations: 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1.2-4

Make no mistake about it as followers of Christ we will face trials. These trials are not meant to break us but to make us. I know we find this difficult to comprehend but remember who is writing this book. In my opinion, James is perhaps the most practical book we will encounter when reading the New Testament.

How do we count something as joy when we are struggling just to get through the next moment, not to speak of getting through the day? We looked at the answer in a previous blog. In 1 Thessalonians 5.18 Paul gives this advice: “In every thing give thanks: for this IS (emphasis mine) the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” On numerous occasions I have had this verse misquoted in my presence, i. e. “For everything give thanks … ” Paul did not say, “Give thanks for your cancer.” Or “Give thanks for the accident that took someone’s life.” He DID say, “In everything … ” My communion with God when I may seem to be at death’s door (and I have been there) is not one of complaint, but one of giving thanks because IN that situation God is STILL with me and still in control.

When your faith is pushed to the limit, does your anger flare up at God because you do not understand, or have you learned to WAIT until God chooses to move? THAT is where patience is being “worked” in our lives. James continues: “let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. ” This word “perfect” speaks to spiritual growth that leads us to spiritual maturity. When a baby is born, they are totally dependent on us. But when they reach that stage of dressing themselves, and feeding themselves, we begin to rejoice because AT LAST they can do some things on their own. The same principle applies to those who are spiritual babes. If they NEVER grow beyond being spoon fed, there is a problem. Let’s take James at this word here and “let patience have her perfect work … ” Just my thoughts …

Confusion? Not a Chance!

In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. 2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. 3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress. 4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. 5 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.” Psalm 71.1-5

I have included five (5) verses so that we get an idea of the context for these remarks. We don’t know the author of this Psalm, but it seems that he is facing some serious opposition in his life. The pleas for help that we find here speak volumes to us.

Look at these affirmations: (1) in you I put my trust, (2) don’t let me be confused, (3) deliver me, (4) cause me to escape, (5) incline your ear to me, (6) save me, (7) let me find refuge in you (strong habitation), (8) you are my rock and my fortress, (9) you are my hope, and (10) you are my trust from my youth.

Let’s pick out one of these for consideration: “ … let me never be put to confusion.” Satan is a mastermind at twisting what God says and that may lead us into a state of confusion. Hear these words from Proverbs 15.19: “The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.” While we know that God is able to make His path for us clear, we also know that Satan will do all he can to confuse us. I believe verse 5 holds an important key for us: “For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.

When I am looking to God for guidance, I can not allow anything to be between my soul and my Savior. If I really believe “the way of the righteous is made plain”, then I need to live like a righteous person – hearing God’s voice, waiting for God’s leadership, and walking consistently with Him EVERY MOMENT of every day. Just my thoughts …