Thursday, March 29, 2012

Only His Instruction

Sometimes I feel like I am discovering something new in the world--we see sin spreading like wildfire taking all kinds of "new" forms. We see many that we have known and loved for years walking in the counsel of the ungodly as Psalm 1 warns us about. We see "new" ways in which the church is trying to mix with the unsaved world despite all the commands throughout scripture to be set apart. We seem to miss that God called Lot out of Sodom. There is a time to "get out". There is also a time to stand firm where He has put us and be salt and light there. It take so much wisdom from the Lord to determine what we must do in every different kind of situation.

I was reading in 1 Kings 13 this evening and reminded how "old" some of these things are... things that seem "new" to me... perhaps new in my lifetime, but these things have been around since the beginning of time. Take a look at 1 Kings 13:7-25.
Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’” So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel. Now an old prophet was living in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the deeds which the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king, these also they related to their father. Their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” Now his sons had seen the way which the man of God who came from Judah had gone. Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he rode away on it. So he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” He said, “I cannot return with you, nor go with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. For a command came to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’” He said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house and drank water. Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the Lord, and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’” It came about after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, for the prophet whom he had brought back. Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body. And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown on the road, and the lion standing beside the body; so they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.
First off, this man of God has an encounter with God. In this encounter, God tells him not to even do so much as eat bread or drink water in that place... not even go back the way he came. It's a pretty amazing thing that the king invites this man of God to come eat with him. Certainly, he could have justified it. He could be salt and light to the king! What an amazing opportunity! But wait. God commanded him otherwise. We see the steadfastness of this man of God in how he turns down the king's offer in obedience to the Lord. The testing wasn't over yet. While this man of God was headed back a different way, someone pursues him and asks him to come back and eat. Okay, no problem... easy answer, "No, God told me not to eat bread or drink water!" Then comes the big test... this man too claims to be speaking the word of the Lord. We see the results of listening to this man--death.

I believe we as the church are in this kind of situation right now. There are so many claiming to be speaking the Word of God... and yet not everyone can be right. We are so tempted to just "get along" and be "salt and light" in places God has called us out of. We must be careful. Very careful. God does not take lightly to our obedience of others over being obedient to His voice. If we aren't listening to His voice to begin with, we obviously won't be obeying it... but assuming we are spending time in the Word and truly committing to hearing from the Lord and being obedient to Him, we must "test the spirits" to see if they are from God. If they are not, we must not waver in our faith... we must not justify our sinful desires. We must cast them aside and determine in our hearts to follow Him regardless of how we feel. His voice is the voice of truth. His words are the only words of life.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do We Love Him?

Okay, I admit it... I am kind of all over the place in the Word these days. I woke up a bit late this morning and ended up doing part of my devotions in the car on the way to work at red lights. I read in Deuteronomy 13 and it was a great reminder for me.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.
I think we all know (head knowledge that puffs up) that in the end times, there will arise people that can do signs and wonders that are not from the Lord... and yet we also know that these individuals will deceive many. They may even name the name of Christ and yet not lead us in His ways. The secret to separating truth from falsehood in such instances comes in knowing Christ. Knowledge of Christ comes by spending time in the Word. Discretion also comes through the leading of the Spirit (not to be confused with feelings). Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. We must be dependent on the Lord and not quick to "lay hands on any man", and "test the spirits" to see if they are from God.

One thing that really jumped out to me in this passage in light of the fact that God does not tempt anyone is that He does test us at times to see if we love Him. God is not looking for people who love Him when they feel like it. He is looking for those that love Him when He gives and when He takes away. He is looking for those that love Him when an alternative appears to be better than serving Him. He is looking for those that hold tightly to Him. He is looking for those that listen to and obey His voice.

God, forgive me for the ways in which I have loved the things of this world. Forgive me for my disobedience and my love of self. Forgive me for clinging to things that are not eternal. Forgive me for the ways I have served with wrong motivations. Renew in me a steadfast love for You alone. Help me listen closely to Your voice and obey it. Cause my heart to fear You as it should. Be lifted up in my eyes. Reign supreme and conquer every rebel power within this naturally wicked heart. Thank You for Your unending grace and the power of Your Spirit within me to guide me. Give me an attentive ear and a soft heart.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Over-estimating the Enemy

In church today, one of the men brought up an excellent point.  We were studying Daniel 9 and he mentioned that it says that Gabriel was caused to fly swiftly while Daniel was praying.  From this, we can be reminded that spiritual forces (good and evil) are by no means omnipresent.  I think we as a whole tend to under-estimate the powers of darkness in many regards, but we also over-estimate them in many regards.  For some reason, we ascribe characteristics that only God has to Satan.  We feel like he can be everywhere... but he is limited to one place at a time.  When God is speaking with Satan in Job 1, and God asks Satan where he is coming from, Satan says, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it."

Satan is not omnipresent!  Yes, there are spiritual hosts of wickedness, but they also are limited to one place at a time.  Another interesting thing is that it didn't describe Gabriel has being there instantly... he flew swiftly.  We don't know the limits of the spiritual realm and how that fits in with time and space, but we do know that only God is all knowing.  Only God is present everywhere. 

At the same time, we ought to remember the instruction from 1 Peter 5:8-11.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
May the Lord cause us to be firmly established in our faith so that we are not devoured by the devil. But, let's not ascribe to Satan more glory than he deserves. Satan is not everywhere. Satan does not know everything. Satan can not do anything he wants to do. Satan is under God's thumb.

Be on the alert. Know the Word. Be firm in your faith. Trust the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Trusting the Trustworthy One

God never ceases to amaze me in how He works. I don't like to get myself involved in issues unnecessarily, but sometimes things come up that I believe are important enough that I ought to step in and say or do something. This last week, there were three separate instances in three different contexts where I got to the point where I was ready to say or do something and after praying about it, just didn't sense from the Lord that it was what He wanted. I battled each one for several days and then later heard how God took care of it completely without my intervention. I was reading this morning and again this evening in 1 Peter 2 and Christ's example was such a great encouragement to me. Check out verses 11-25.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
The emphasis here is on doing what is right regardless of what is happening around us... and trusting that God will judge righteously. He never fails! There are times where we need to stand up, but sometimes all He wants us to do is be faithful with what He has given us and trust Him to do His part. I love that phrase about Christ--He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. What a powerful example for us. Let's do what is right and entrust ourselves to the One who is completely trustworthy!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


I heard a sermon on the radio about a week ago that has been continually on my mind since then. The speaker was talking about noise--the distractions of life. We can get in a pattern of using noise... even good things, like God-honoring music, to district us from really having fellowship with the Lord. Sometimes we forsake the clear command from God in Psalm 46 to be still and know that He is God. It is in quietness and trust that we find our strength from the Lord (Isaiah 30:15). Rather than being still before Him and allowing Him to speak to us and responding to Him, we so often fill our every waking hour with noise... good noise and not so good noise.

I have noticed a pattern in godly individuals that have gone before us... they all have patterns of spending much time quiet before the Lord in the Word and in prayer. It is so essential to our relationship with the Lord that we take the time to be still before Him and listen. Let Him convict us of sin and righteousness and judgement. What we ought to fear more than conviction is fear of not being convicted! If we are not being convicted, we are not listening to Him. May God help us to be still before Him and give us the grace to respond to what He communicates to us.