Laying on Hands, Part 2 – Acts 6:1-6

The Laying On Of Hands Is Also Used To Appoint Someone For Service To The Lord

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

Selection for Service

The Apostles were engaged in very important work.  They were feeding the flock by teaching the word of God; church planting; and tending to the other needs of the flock.  Part of the responsibility that they were exercising was to ensure that the widows were being fed.  Rather than neglect their other responsibilities, they selected several men who were full of (yielded to the control of) the Holy Spirit to take over this aspect of ministry.

One of the failings of smaller churches today is that they need warm bodies to fill positions.  I have heard from people (who at the time were baby Christians) who were chosen to be Elders in their church simply because there was no one else to fill the position.  And God was faithful in raising them up, for if God calls you to service, He will certainly provide what you need to accomplish His tasks.

One of the outward signs of maturity in Christ is that the person is exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in how they conduct themselves:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The church leadership (or nominating committee) needs to seek out individuals who are exhibiting these qualities in their lives before they consider the person for service.  The qualifications for Deacons and Elders are clear on this.

Powerful Partnership

Ministry is not an isolated endeavor where people go off somewhere to do something by themselves; rather, it is a partnership between them and the local body.  The partnership can be both financial and spiritual.  It is important that the body of Christ provide a prayer covering over those who are engaged in ministry.  Anyone engaged in ministry has a target on their backs by our enemies who seek to disrupt the ministry and disgrace those who are in the spotlight.  We need to be in constant prayer as prayer partners, just as Epaphras struggled in prayer for the saints.

Careful Consideration

Paul also warns us that we should be careful in selecting who we should lay on hands (in the context of appointing to ministry):

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

It is important that we are yielded to the Holy Spirit and listen to Him as He speaks to our hearts and through the word of God in selecting who we should appoint to ministry.  God can certainly use anyone in any way that He deems fit.  He can certainly raise someone up, and provide and prepare them for what is to come.  Conversely, it is our responsibility to choose people who He wants us to choose.  Even in the case of Paul, the elders appointed Paul to ministry after being told by God to do so.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I yielding myself to the Holy Spirit as He is asking me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word.  Help me to better understand through Your word and Your Spirit the laying on of hands for dedication to service in ministry.  Help me to be better yielded to the Holy Spirit so that I may live the life You have given me for Your purposes.  Help me to walk in Your ways, and to a vessel of gold and silver that I would be useful to you.  Help me when I am called to discern when others should be chosen for service that it would be Your choice and not mine.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

In The World… Matthew 9:9-13

Jesus Came To Call Sinners, Not The Righteous

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Particular Pattern

Jesus, in His ministry, sets up an interesting pattern:

  1. He first calls us to follow Him
  2. He then eats and dwells with us
  3. He then teaches us
  4. He sets us free to replicate His success.

First, Follow

In another shocking event in the ministry of Jesus, He calls Matthew, a Jewish Tax Collector for the Roman Empire, to follow Him.  It was one thing for Jesus to call fishermen and other Jews to follow Him.  But to call a Tax Collector?  Stop the presses!

The Jews who became Tax Collectors were among the most despised people of the Jews.  They were considered traitors by most Jews who believed that they threw their lot in with the oppressive Roman government rather than stand against such villainy by uniting with the financially, socially, and otherwise persecuted Jews.

The Romans had inflicted terrible rules upon the Jews, including (among others) a forced census every fourteen years (the Roman Census forced all of the Jews [as well as the rest of the world] to return to their hometowns to register, imposing travel expenses and losses of revenue from their occupations due to the time (and goods) lost while they and their families [and their workers if they were employers] were off complying with the Roman dictates…), forced servitude (a Roman soldier could conscript a person to carry their possessions up to one mile),  and humiliation (the Roman soldier was permitted to slap a Jew on his/her face).

With this in mind, imagine the shock of all of the Jews (Matthew included!) when Jesus called out to Matthew to “follow me”.  Note that Matthew IMMEDIATELY got up and followed Jesus.  We too should have the same frame of mind, and constantly seek to follow Jesus in all that He said for us to do (and continues to tell us to do through the Holy Spirit within us and the word of God).

Second, Sup

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

After we begin to follow Jesus, we are to sup with him.  Jesus (God the Son), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit) take up residence within us.  They make Their home in us.  The Holy Spirit is our down-deposit on our inheritance provided to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as heirs to the Kingdom of God.

Since He dwells within us, we can partake of the food which others do not know, and drink of the spring of Living Water that flows within each of us.  As we yield ourselves to God, we are able to partake of His character and know Him better.

Third, Teach

As we grow in our spiritual life, we begin to get a foothold on the truths of the word of God.  We then begin to overcome, then mature into adulthood.  When we mature, we should be seeking to handle the Word of God correctly.  When we handle the word of God correctly, we will then be able to teach others the word of God.

Fourth, Free

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It is time to free the captives.  Those who know they are sinners and are torn over what they should do about it know that they are slaves to their sin.  It is time for God’s people to get out and proclaim freedom for the captives.  It is time to remember our great calling, and to do what our Lord has commanded us to do.  Is is time to yield everything that we have and are to God, and let Him take care of the rest.  It is time to be proper examples to the lost – Light on top of a hill, and Salt to a culture that needs the savory flavor of freedom when everyone seems to be in bondage.  Let us not be lacking in compassion to those who are in a spiritual prison, but rather, let us be the ones who seek their release and rehabilitation back into the world of spiritual life.  For Christ has come to give us life, and abundantly so.  Let us finish His good work, so that we may claim our reward.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I prepared to be a productive worker in the kingdom of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me Your Son that I may be free.  And if the Son has freed me, then I am free indeed.  Help me to extend this freedom to all who would hear.  Help me to remember that I am just the messenger.  Father, prepare my heart for rejection, and my spirit for persecution, for I am not greater than Jesus, and should expect this when I step out for Him.  Give me the same passion and drive that You gave the Apostles and Paul.  Help prepare me so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Help me to learn and know Your word, and how to handle it correctly.  Then help me to remember that in the time of challenge, that it will be Your Spirit who speaks through me so that I will be vindicated, for this is my heritage.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Calling of God – Exodus 3:1-10

God First Calls You, And THEN He Equips You For Your Calling

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Anointed Announcement

Many times when God calls someone in the Bible, He either makes a personal appearance, or sends an angel to announce the calling.  One notable exception is Esther.  Yet, even in her calling to be the Queen so that she could save her people from the evil schemes of Haman, God’s call upon her life was very evident. Other examples of people who were called by God include (but are not limited to) Gideon, Elizabeth, and Mary.

Sign of Selection

In the case of Moses, God used a sign to draw Moses closer so that he could learn the fuller message.  A burning bush that was not consumed by fire drew Moses closer to God.  Moses had been chosen long ago, as evidenced through his birth and upbringing among the Egyptians.  God will make His calling evident by three things:

  1. God will first call you
  2. God will then equip you
  3. God will then use you

Calling Confirmation

Most people are under the assumption that God will give them the capability to do what He wants for them to do, and THEN He will call them to do it.  However, God does the opposite.  He first calls us, THEN he equips us.

In the case of Moses, God had to get forty years of Egypt out of him so that Moses would be ready for the calling God had prepared for His life.  We must remember that everything is dependent upon God’s timing, and not ours.  Patience is the key to ensuring that we are not jumping ahead of God, but rather walking alongside God in His time and in His way.

Gideon was a prime example of this.  God found Gideon threshing grain in a wine-press to keep it from being seized by the Midianites.  God hails Gideon with, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  How ironic!  God calls Gideon a mighty warrior, yet he is found cowering in a wine-press threshing his grain!  Gideon, greatly desiring to see the deliverance of his people, cautiously and humbly asked God to verify his calling with three signs.  He was willing to submit to the will of God, and wanted to make absolutely sure that it was God who was calling him.

The angel Gabriel appeared to both Elizabeth and Mary to announce the unlikely births of two of the most important people in the Bible – John the Baptist, and his cousin, The Lord Jesus Christ.  In both cases, biology would normally dictate that their pregnancies are unlikely.  Yet they believed God, and He honored them first through their calling, and then equipping them for the calling.  It is wise when approached with a calling from God to accept it.  Elizabeth’s husband, possibly discouraged by circumstances, did not accept Gabriel’s announcement and asked for sign.  Gabriel, in response to his uncharacteristic reproof of the announcement, struck Zechariah speechless until his child was born.

Powerful Provision

After God calls us, and we accept the call in faith, God THEN prepares us for the calling that He has chosen for us.  In the case of Moses, a murderer hiding from the Egyptian authorities, God then prepares him to shepherd His people.  Moses had a speech impediment.  But God told him that He would speak through Him.  Moses did not fully trust that God could use him in that way because of his circumstances, so God appointed his brother Aaron to be his spokesperson.  Imaging how much more effective Moses would have been he trusted the Lord God Almighty to speak through him!

Gideon was first given a simple act of obedience – tear down his father’s altar to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it.  In that simple act of faith, God was preparing him for the next big challenge – defeating the enemies of Israel.  God then equipped Gideon with three hundred men who would be used in the attack against their enemies.  To help Gideon have courage, God then gave Gideon the opportunity to go down and listen at the tents of his enemies, where he learned that they already knew his name, and were in great fear, for the dread of the Lord had come upon them.

In the case of Elizabeth and Mary, the barren woman well outside of the age of childbirth and the virgin both became pregnant.  As simple as this was, it was the supernatural provision of the Lord God Almighty to make possible the impossible.

Mighty Manifestation

Once Moses was equipped with Aaron as his spokesperson, a staff that could turn into a snake, and other signs, He was ready for his confrontation with the Pharaoh of Egypt.  God used Moses in a mighty way.  He delivered the Israelites from Egypt through the Red Sea, and led them for forty years in the desert.  Moses had the opportunity to get so close with God for so long, his face glowed.  And Moses, along with Elijah, appeared with Jesus Christ on the mount of transfiguration.

Gideon successfully led the attack on his enemies, giving his three hundred warriors torches that were simultaneously made visible using pottery, invoking God’s name and his own.  And God Himself routed the enemies of the Israelites.  God used Gideon mightily after preparing him.

With the birth of John the Baptist and The Lord Jesus Christ, the teaching, nurturing, education, and encouragement of these women helped these two men to achieve their God-given roles.  Of John the Baptist, it is said of those born by women, no greater man was born than him.  And Jesus Christ fulfilled His preordained life, fulfilling all scripture about Him and providing the way that men might be reconciled to the Father through His shed blood and resurrection.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What has God called me to do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call each and every one of us according to Your plan and purpose.  Help me to accept Your calling, even if it seems impossible, for You will equip me to do all that You have called me to do.  Help me to yield myself to You so that You can properly prepare me for what is to come.  And I ask, Father, that You do as You please with me, that everything You desire to be done is accomplished in order that Your name would be glorified, magnified, and exalted for all eternity.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Commission of God – Luke 10:5-7

Staging for Success

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

Primary Peace

The disciples were emissaries of Jesus Christ, preaching peace with God through the Gospel.  The traditional greeting was “shalom”, which meant “peace be unto you.”  This peace was more than just “inner peace.”  It was meant to convey completeness, wholeness, prosperity.  Additionally, it was to also it indicate not just a lack of conflict between the person (or persons/organization) offered the greeting and the greeter, but an  amicable connectedness  between them.  But since the disciples were told not to greet anyone on the road, they were to present this blessing of peace to those who permitted them to stay with them.

Participating Partnership

In addition, their peace – the peace that was provided through the reconciliation to God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – would only come upon those whose hearts were prepared for it.  If anyone rejected their message, their protection and provision of peace would leave the unbelieving persons and rest again upon the disciples.  The peace of God will only descend and rest upon those who receive the message of the Gospel.

Have you ever been near someone and felt at complete peace around them, as though the cares of the world vanished, and the presence of God protected you from all harm?  I believe that this is the peace that God provided to those who received the disciples, that it would be both a blessing to their hosts and a witness to the disciples’ calling from God, so that their hosts would receive what God intended for them to accept and receive – the peace of imputed righteousness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Contented Consumption

God’s provision did not only include housing, but also food and drink.  The disciples were in the process of being staged to deliver the message of God, and in doing so, they were to accept what was provided to them in contentment, without questioning the source; for the source was The Lord God Almighty.  God would provide everything that they needed to be successful in the calling that God had provided to them to fulfill.  This also freed them to work full-time on their calling, rather than concerning themselves with funding their efforts.

Forgo Favoritism

God is not a respecter of persons.  He does not show favoritism.  By staying at the house that initially invited them in, and provided hospitality to them, there would be no appearance of impropriety with moving from house to house.  This ensured that their base of operations within the town and the city was established.  Additionally, as the townspeople saw that blessing that was afforded by God to the host family, they might have begun to wonder what had happened and be drawn to hear the message.

In any case, it would not be good to have the people say that the disciples were leaching off of families, staying until they had worn out their welcome, begging for food and shelter from any who would provide.  By staying at one residence, it removed any charges of favoritism.  Imagine what would be said if they came to a poor home, and within a day or so, moved to the home of a wealthy person or a person of authority or prominence.  The charge of seeking favoritism would rightly have been leveled against them.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we staging for the ministry that God is preparing us for in contentment and peace?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the provider of all good things.  Thank You for the opportunities that You provide to me, and for Your gracious provision in all that I have.  Help me to have a walk that is so close to You that Your peace surrounds me like a cloud.  Still my heart of any anxiety for any situation that I may be facing today.  May Your presence be felt by others around me and be a witness to Your provision, love, and care.  Show me how to stage my life that Your plans may be fulfilled through me.  Father, help me to be a vessel emptied of myself and filled with Your Spirit.  Prepare me to be a better tool that You might use me mightily in Your Kingdom.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Commission of God – Luke 10:8-12

Proclaim The Gospel!

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

Contented Consumption

During the time of Christ’s ministry about two thousand years ago, people often sacrificed their foods to idols and false gods.  Jesus, aware of the Jewish dietary concerns of His disciples, indicated to them that it was OK to eat the food that was offered to them.  Paul later gave more insight into this area.  By accepting the food offered, they were able to not offend their hosts and receive the blessings that God had provided to fulfill their needs.

Move in Miracles

It has been said that miracles should follow believers, and that believers should not follow miracles.  God gave these specific men special grace to heal the sick, cast out demons, and perform other miracles.  This verified their calling from God, and opened the hearts of the people to believe the Word of God when preached to them.  When we merely follow miracles, we are not ourselves the bearer of miracles.  When we focus on the mission of God, He will validate His calling upon His people so that the unsaved would recognize the power and glory of God upon His servants, and that His servants would recognize God’s calling upon them as well.

Prudently Proclaim

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, believed in the Soup -> Soap -> Salvation principle.  He believed that it was very difficult to preach a loving saviors to a person that was starving to death.  Once a person was out of pain and suffering, they were in a better position to be able to listen.  Tending to a person’s physical needs enabled that person to hear the Gospel with more open ears.  And after healing the sick, the disciples mightily proclaimed it.

Witness the Warning

Just a reminder to all of us, as well as them, Jesus implied that we are merely the mail carrier.  Whether or not the person desires their mail, opens it, or even likes it, is up to them.  It is our responsibility to deliver the message, nothing more.  The Holy Spirit is responsible for the preparation of the soil of people’s heart – we merely cast the seed.

And when people refuse the mail, we merely remind them that we delivered the message, and that they have heard the message – “The kingdom of God is near.”  Then they shook the dust from their feet.  This was a symbolic message equivalent to today’s phrase, “I wash my hands of this.”  The disciples had done everything that they could, and even the dust would be a witness against them.  Paul put this into practice when he and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet at Pisidian Antioch.

The Day of Destruction

Jesus gave us something to think about.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for their sin.  Yet the areas that were given the Gospel and refused it will be judged harsher than them, for they have heard the message of salvation and rejected it.  Woe be to any who hear and harden their hearts; for they don’t reject you, they have rejected the One who sent you.  And when the ones who rejected You come before the White Throne Seat of Judgement, God can say, “Did not my faithful servants bring you my message?  Did you not reject it?”  They will have no excuse.  Paul says that even creation itself shows them that they have no excuse.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we faithfully delivering the message?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it should grieve us to know that many will refuse to acknowledge Your Son as Lord and Savior.  Help me to remember that one reason that You have saved me is to do Your perfect will.  Transform my mind with Your perfect Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that I may be positioned to test and approve Your Good, Perfect, and Pleasing Will.  Strengthen me today and remove any hindrances that are keeping me from doing what You have called me to do.  May I be like Abraham and immediately attend to and obey Your commands.  Help me as I transition to being a better message bearer.  Father, all I desire to hear when I am called home is to hear Your Son say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  May my heart so greatly desire to hear those words that anything else I have been doing in my life will seem as insignificant as dust blowing in the wind.  Help me Lord God Almighty to focus on the tasks at hand and to not be distracted by anything.  Guard and guide my heart, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Commission of God – Luke 10:1-4

Get Going – The Harvest Is Ripe!

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

Get Going!

The hardest part of anything is taking the first step.  We are being sent out to fulfill The Great Commission!  The Church needs to take to heart this command from Jesus so that we can be fruitful in our labors.  If we aren’t pursuing this, then what are we doing?

Hefty Harvest

At the time this passage was written, the people were hungry for God.  The soil of their hearts had been prepared, and there was a great gathering of souls as Christianity spread throughout the entire known world.  Even today, in many places that haven’t heard the message of Christ, there is hunger when the salvation message is given.  We are to ask God to send people out to gather the harvest.  Let us be like Isaiah who said, “Here am I. Send me!

Little Lambs

Christians are referred to as lambs, and Jesus as our shepherd.  These metaphors were used because the world was an agrarian society, and the people would easily relate to the similarities in the stories to their own lives.  One of the interesting things about lambs is that they listen only to the voice of their shepherd.  If anyone else comes and tries to lead them, the lambs are scared and run away.  We need to learn the voice of our shepherd and listen carefully so that we can run from the voice of anyone else.

Trusting Travels

We are to trust in God.  God wanted the early disciples to trust Him completely.  He told them that they should take nothing with them – neither a purse (money) nor a bag (supplies) nor sandals (extra shoes).  They were to be completely dependent upon the one who supplies all of our needs.  And in fasting and prayer, following the Lord’s commands, they performed many miracles and drew close to God the Father.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask a question: Are we doing what we know that God wants us to do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have called us out of darkness and to Yourself.  Help me to completely and totally follow You with complete abandon to my former life.  Help me to trust You, and not look upon what has been provided to me.  You are able to provide for my every need.  If you have called me to something, You will provide whatever is required.  Your character is perfect, and You will fulfill all that You have set forth to accomplish.  Help me to know Your voice so well that I would flee the voice of any other.  Help me to take any first steps toward the goals that You have provided to me so that I may be faithful to You.  Show me the harvest that is ready, so that those whose hearts You have prepared will the brought into the light.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – John 9:4

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Jesus indicated that we are to work while it is day.  Just as we can see the light fading into dusk, so it is becoming in the world today.  In the Middle East, there is almost no light at all.  It is reported that Jesus is revealing Himself to people in visions and dreams because the people there have effectively put out the light.  It truly is night there – no one can work.

In very rapid succession, countries that were once brightly lit with the light of Christ have become dim.  In England, the cathedrals are being turned into mosques.  There are fewer and fewer people who would darken the doorsteps of a church.  Faith is failing.  And nature abhors a vacuum.  A most egregious evil is now afflicting those people.  When the light is placed under a bowl, it does no one any good.

Here in the United States of America, we are experiencing the same kind of withdraw by people.  Once our young people reach adulthood, they go off on their own, and reject the teachings of their youth (if they were brought up in the church).  Seeking to validate the claims of Faith by looking at the practical effectiveness of Christian living, they wrongly conclude that because Christians aren’t living out their faith correctly, that faith doesn’t work.

Abandoning their faith, they are drawn by the pleasures and values of the world, the devil, and their own evil desires.  Those that do come back only come to their senses after 15-20 years, and only after great consequences have befallen them.  The Millennials also flock to the preachers that tickle their ears with what they want to hear.  Downplaying sin and righteousness, they receive a weekly dose of psychology that tells them God is Love and Grace (and He is!), but there isn’t mention of transformation and sanctification into the image of Christ.  Believing then only that God loves them just the way they are (very true!), they fail to grasp their need to repent, and go on to live their lives just as the rest of the world does, indistinguishable from those who are perishing.  And others, failing to look in the Bible to see how faith is truly vibrant, real, and effective, even if the outcome here on Earth is unpleasant, conclude that faith is foolishness.

As God slowly withdraws his protection and stabilizing influence from all of us as the world continues to reject Him, night falls and lawlessness increases.  The darkness HATES the light, and will do anything it can to flee it, or extinguish it, so that its wickedness will not be exposed, and permit the continuation of its evil practices.

But fear not!  Jesus has overcome the darknessWalk in the light, let your light shine before men, complete the works that God has given you to do, and let God deal with the consequences of obedience.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a Light that cannot be extinguished, and shines brightly for all to see.  For Your Son Jesus Christ said that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.  Father, I have been drawn, and grow weary today, not of doing what is right, but of wading through the thick molasses of evil and wickedness in the world.  Help me to overcome.  Grant me strength to keep on walking.  And as the path to righteousness grows more narrow every day, help me to not be swept away or held in place.  You have declared that I am an oak of righteousness,  and that no one can snatch me out of Your hand.  Guard me, guide me, try me, prove me.  Help me to be a bright light on a hill.  And whatever you allow to happen, even to the point of death, keep me strong that You may be glorified.  This I ask and pray in the precious and faithful character of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Saved by God – Joel 2:32

And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.

For those who have questions:

What is being saved?

Being saved is a spiritual state where God has legally declared you righteous because of your acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross as payment for your sins, as the final and only payment acceptable to God, and you have chosen to repent of those sins.  For it is by faith and faith alone, that we declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead for our sins.  Because of this, God restores to us a spirit of life, for we are spiritually dead because of our sin nature.

What about works?

James says that faith without works is dead.  So what place does works have in our walk with God?  Works are the outpouring of our lives in gratitude for what God has done and is doing inside of us.  It is a visible manifestation of the change of heart we have towards God and sin.  Works do not make us any more acceptable to God than we already are – for it is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable.   God has prepared works in advance from before the foundation of the world for us to do in order to glorify His name, not to earn our way into Heaven.

Who can be saved? 

ANYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord.  And His name is The Lord Jesus Christ.  For all who would come to the Father must go through the Son.  Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw ALL men to Him.  The Greek word translated “all” means exactly that – “ALL.”  Just because you are drawn doesn’t mean you have arrived.  If you are drawn to go to the Superbowl, but instead go bowling, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted to go; YOU WEREN’T THERE.  God says that He does not want anyone to perish.  But the wages of sin is death, so respond if you feel God tugging at your heart today.  For God so loved the world, He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does it cost to be saved?

EVERYTHING!  It is like a drug addict on the verge of overdose coming to a methadone clinic.  They want to be healed.  But the only way to do so is to GIVE UP THEIR WAY OF LIFE FOR A NEW ONE.  If the drug user gets clean but refuses to stay clean, what good was it to them?  God cleanses us of our unrighteousness, and give us the righteousness of Christ.  We can then, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit (think AA with a multi-billionaire as your sponsor) you are able to live a life free from being enslaved to sin.  Sin is a drug – once it gets its claws into you, it is very hard to break free of its grasp.  And what you thought you could control, now controls YOU.  But God is merciful and full of grace, and is faithful and just to forgive us when we sin if we repent.

The good news is, just like the drug addict, when you come to God, He gets rid of your addiction, and then gives you His wealth and strength to crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself.  God says He owns all the gold and all the silver.  And He is more than able to give you what you need, for He created everything, and can create some more if He wants.  Not only that, He gives you Himself.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in you to empower you, encourage you, direct you, and keep you clean and sober from sin. But because the world is like Bourbon Street, with bars lining both sides, it is hard to not walk in and have a drink.  When we do, the Holy Spirit becomes our advocate, and urges us to get sober, and gives us the strength to do so – no matter how embarrased we feel for falling off the wagon.  And as God helps us to grow in strength, it gets easier to say no to sin.  Whatever you feed inside you will grow.  Make sure you don’t intentially feed the monster by sinning…

When you come to God in intial repentance, you are basically saying that you are morally bankrupt.  God then fills your account with Christ’s righteousness until it is astronomically large (for you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing).  Who cares if you come to the table with 23 cents in your pocket?  God owns all the banks!  What’s 23 cents compared to immeasurable riches?  Change is never easy, is it?

How do I become saved?

Click here for more information.

Am I saved? 

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead as payment for your sin by faith and faith alone?  Then you are saved!  Read the Bible.  Pray to God.  Beg God to help you to live righteously for Him and to get rid of all the things in your life that are displeasing to Him.  God is faithful and will joyfully answer those kind of prayers!  Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Having put on the helmet of salvation, (experentially) know that you are saved!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us in Your word how good You are.  For You are a just God, and must punish sin; yet being filled with mercy and grace, have given us a way to be reconciled to You.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  I deserve to go to Hell, but you have given me a way to be with You instead.  Help me to live this life in obedience to You.  Carry me when I cannot walk.  Strengthen me for the battles ahead.  Provide all that I need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, that I may be equipped to do Your will.  Guide me in the way I should go.  This I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Stewardship with God – Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The great equalizer of man is time.  Everyone gets exactly 24 hours in a day (unless it is their time to give an accounting of themselves to God), and can manage that time any way they choose.  Like the parable of the bags of gold, God has given us various amounts of material wealth, and gifts as well to use for His purposes and to bring glory to His name.

These can be summarized as follows:

Time

  • Every second of every day, we choose how to apply ourselves.  Some watch TV for hours on end; others play video games;  some invest in their family;  some in their job; others in pursuits that bring them pleasure or to fulfill their obligations; some choose carousing and sleep.  Lastly, there are those that invest in God’s kingdom for God’s purposes during God’s timing.
  • We cannot ever get even a second of time back.  Once it is spent, whether for good purposes or not, it is spent; it becomes one less second that we have left in the life that God has provided to us.  Use your time wisely.

Talent

  • What gifts has God given you?  Are you a word-smith?  An artist?  A teacher?  An athlete?  A scientist?  A pastor?  God has given us all gifts that can be used to further His purposes, or squander on our own lives.  The Holy Spirit has also provided you with Spiritual Gifts.  What a tragedy when someone with a great gift refuses to use it!  Imaging the world today if Marie Curie chose to write limericks?  How about if Albert Einstein chose to play tiddlywinks?  Or, Christopher Columbus decided to make rock gardens?  What if Martin Luther chose to tan leather?  You have talents!  How you choose to use them, or not, is up to you…
  • For most people, working at a job – whether their own business or in the employ of someone else – is a daily need and responsibility.  God has provided you with talents that, when used for Him, will bring differing levels of wealth in compensation for the efforts applied, risks taken, and perceived value by others for your skills.  The Holy Spirit has placed within you special talents in addition to your other talents.  Find the one (or ones?) that give(s) you such great joy that you cannot wait to go to work!  Remember that the Sabbath was made for man – God intended for work to be so satisfying that we might forget to set aside some time to worship our creator!  Don’t believe culture – find what God has placed in you and live a more rewarding life!
  • Even if you are scrubbing toilets, do it with all your might as unto the Lord.  Others will notice your diligence, and will provide you with better opportunities to make them more money (if they are wise).

Treasure

  • Whether you inherited money, make it from working, get it from a charity, or receive it from the government, you have been entrusted with wealth.  Even if you have no money, the fruit of your labor is your treasure.  Be aware of what treasure you have, so that you can honor God with it.
  • Remember that money is merely a medium of exchange – it allows you to freely trade the fruit of your efforts for the efforts of others in goods and services.  Use it wisely.
  • If you don’t have money, barter your goods and services well.
  • Some people want to win the lottery.  Why?!?!  It came from the backs of the poor, the destitute, and math-challenged people looking for a quick fix to their financial woes.  Unless a person has experience in managing great wealth, they are more likely to abuse it, and end up worse once the money is gone than when they were before they received “the blessing”.  Who would want to have to give an accounting to God for what they did with it?

When we bring these three things – Time, Talent, and Treasure – into submission to God, our lives will begin to become more focused and effective.  God rewards faithfulness in stewardship with more responsibility.  And with more responsibility comes greater reward – not just worldly wealth, but treasure in heaven – when it is used for God’s purposes.

So, let’s ask the question:  How effectively am I managing the Time, Talent, and Treasure God has provided to me for His purposes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we praise You for You are wonderful.  We thank You that You have seen fit to permit us the opportunity to work, and to use skills to create and flourish.  Father, we are humbled that You provide this knowing that we mess things up.  I pray that You will show me, Father, how I can better use these resources to bring glory to Your name.  Reveal in me the talents You have placed in me that will bring me joy when used in Your service.  Help me to make any adjustments in life to fulfill this calling that You have given me, and fill my heart with joy knowing that doing this pleases You.  Forgive me, Father, for I don’t like change, and uncertainty causes me anxiety.  Remove these things from my heart that I may  die to self, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus with complete abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Salt, during the time of Jesus’ ministry, was of far greater value than it is today.  Communities were often formed around areas where salt was found, or could be traded.  It was literally worth its weight in gold.  Because Roman legions were paid in it, we get our word “salary”.  We also get the phrase, “worth his salt,” from it.  It was so valuable, wars were fought over it.

Besides being valuable as currency, salt served two very important functions at that time:

  • Salt brought out flavor
  • Salt preserved
    • Prior to modern refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food.  Meats would often go bad in hot, humid environments, but salt helped to extend the time that food would still be edible.
    • Our words and actions should have a preservative effect on culture, to retard the spread and decay of sin and unrighteousness, keeping life palatable for a much longer period of time.

Jesus gives us a caveat, however.  If salt loses its saltiness, or no longer has its intended effect, what good it is anymore?   He warns that it would be thrown out, to be trampled.  Inedible salt was practically worthless.  This is what the Christian Church in the United States of America has become.  No one seems to care anymore for the flavor of Christ, and we have certainly failed in preventing the rapid spread of spiritual decay here.

Who really wants to eat mashed potatoes without a little salt on it?  Would you really want to eat meat with mold on it?  That is what our culture is eating today, because we have failed one of our most important callings – displaying Jesus for all to see.  But God can change that.  Let us live our lives for Jesus, that our words and actions would have the same effect that Jesus had on the culture 2000 years ago when He walked the Earth with His disciples.

So, let’s ask the question:  Am I the salt of the Earth?  Or am I salt thrown out on top of the Earth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a very high calling, to preserve, display, and enhance righteousness in this world.  We are grateful that You desire to bring glory to Your name through us.  Father, help me today to be salt in this wicked generation.  Remember me – act divinely upon my half – that in everything that I say and do, Jesus would be reflected.  Strengthen me through the trials of today, and may my words and actions have the intended effect that You desire of me.  Guard me against all unrighteousness, and I pray for the opportunity to bring You to a people who are feeding on the rotting trash of culture.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

What a high calling!  To carry the requests of the people to Almighty God!  A great privilege indeed.  Oh, the needs are great in this wicked generation. What deep and soul-piercing burden has God placed on your heart to deliver to Him in His Throne Room?

Whatever your burden, bring it to God, who has the power to move Heaven and Earth to bring glory to His name.  Have you ever considered that the rainbow, God’s everlasting covenant with the Earth (Genesis 9:13), required Him to utterly change the very fabric of nature, to alter the laws of physics, to make the sign of His covenant (Genesis 9:12-16)?  What will He then do for you, His royal priesthood, out of love, mercy, and grace, to bring Glory to His name?

A short prayer of preparation:

Gracious Father in Heaven, forgive me my many faults.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, that with clean hands and a pure heart, I may bring my petitions and praises to you in full confidence of your ability and willingness to answer.  I an grateful that Your Holy Word tells us that you have already prepared an answer.  Grant your servant favor this day, as I bring these requests to You, for there is no request too small that You are unwilling to answer.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?