What does the Lord require?

I want you to imagine that you have a significant other that you’re telling how much you love them, and imagine you haven’t gone on a date with them for a few months, you barely call them- only when you need something, and you never do anything they ask you to do.

How long would that last?

How long would you stay if you were treated this way?

Probably not long for either question.

Love requires and demands evidence in every relationship. Words are not enough. Expensive gifts are not enough. Public declarations are not enough. It requires our heart.

It’s the same with God. He wants our hearts.

Psalm 51:16 says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Matthew 5:18 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

God wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to care. He wants us to keep His love and commandments on our mind. It’s not enough for us to say we love Him. It’s not enough for us to give to the church. We have to mean it. Nothing in this world can substitute our wholehearted commitment to Him.

Commitment means obedience, commitment means prayer, commitment means thought put into your relationship.

You may have that special someone. And you may not be able to spend time with them right now. You may not be able to give them expensive gifts. You may not be able to take them on dates. But if they know that they have your heart (your commitment)- your relationship will last.

With God, you may not have many talents to give Him, you may not have the years to give Him just as a younger person could, and you may not have any special skills to offer.

God only wants your heart. He wants your love, your commitment, and your full obedience and reverence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, that you can give. That, you can always give.

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

 

 

What if you lost a finger?

Around 8 months ago, I stepped on a scale and my jaw dropped. I was like, I do not weigh ___. I do not. I was horrified. I knew I was not healthy, but it had been so gradual, that I never noticed how terrible it was.

Something finally clicked inside of me and I decided that this was not ok. Determination or desperation grasped me and without knowing how, I knew I would find a way to become healthy. Eventually, I found a plan and I stuck with it. Over the next months I consistently restricted my diet and exercised without wavering, and I lost over 50 pounds. I’m not telling you this so you can be impressed, but because I want to share an idea with you.

You see, I had always wanted to lose weight. For over ten years I had been saying I needed to. But I didn’t NEED to. I wasn’t desperate. I wasn’t determined. If I could lose weight, or eat cake . . . well the cake might win or it might not. And that’s how I lived. Saying I cared, but living like I didn’t.

I feel like that’s how we are often in our Christian walk. We have addictions and pet sins. And we say, “I need to stop doing x.” But we don’t feel like we NEED to. You see, we’ve become accustomed to our sinful stumbling Christian walk. Just like I had become accustomed to carrying around an extra 50+ pounds.

Changing our lifestyle would be uncomfortable. And we don’t feel the pressing urging need to change.

Christ once said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

That’s how seriously Jesus took sin. This verse is mainly speaking about salvation and coming to Christ initially, but it still carries the meaning of the seriousness of sin.

Take a moment and consider.

What are you allowing in your life that is unwholesome? What sin are you aware of, and comfortable with?

Take that sin, and picture it right now.

Would you let someone chop off one of your fingers so you could do it again?  Willingly be maimed for life:

Because you felt like gossiping about your coworker.

Because you wanted a second piece of cake.

Because you wanted to think an immoral thought.

Because you wanted to: Fill in the Blank.

Does it bring an entire new meaning to taking sin seriously?

It does to me. I would never sacrifice a piece of my body so I could eat a piece of cake, or do any of those things.

And yet we sacrifice our fellowship with God- something far more valuable than our bodies- for a moment of pleasure.

Last night I met with an old friend who noticed my transformation. I told him excitedly how I had decided one day and it all came into place. He looked away wistfully,

“I wish I could lose weight like that”

Immediately I jumped in, “You can, just do this and this!” I began to explain my journey. He shrugged his shoulders,

“Ahhh, I don’t feel like doing all that, it’s such a hassle. ”

I walked away so full of sadness. I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the times pastors have told me to do daily devotions, pray, or seek God – and I said to myself,

“I wish I could have spiritual victory, but that’s such a hassle.”

 

You weren’t in the trenches

I was being tempted to waste my time, and the temptation was strong. Considering the position I found myself in, I gave up. Temptation being that strong, I just decided right then and there I wasn’t going to fight it. I know it sounds convoluted, but I found I could muster up enough strength to do my devotions first and I had sorta decided I’d waste my time doing purposeless things later.

In my devotions God spoke to me. I found new strength and will to fight my selfish desires, and I did not waste my time afterwards.

That day I learned a lot about myself. You see, I didn’t have the strength to make the decision to fight the temptation head on, but I knew where to find it. God strengthened me, and I escaped. But my whole attitude was off.

I had convinced myself that I was helpless against temptation once it became strong to a certain extent. It’s almost as if I had courage against little trials, but I couldn’t imagine putting in the effort to overcome big ones.

It reminds me of a verse in Hebrews 12, it says,

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Think about that.

The word “resisted” there, means to line up for battle.

Imagine coming back from a fight, a battle, a war- without a scratch. Usually, if a person doesn’t have a scratch on them, they weren’t involved. Essentially, the writer of Hebrews is saying,

“You didn’t get in the trenches”

“You didn’t fight”

“You haven’t begun to fight”

I think that applies to many of us. A lot of times we sin because it’s convenient, or because we feel like it. The addiction is too strong, we say.

I would suggest to you, that we aren’t feeling the pain that our sin causes.

We’d rather live comfortably, than live purely.

Our sin is tolerable to us, our discomfort is not.

This is the crux of the issue.

I challenge you to follow after God. Make Him the ultimate need in your life. Don’t live comfortably with sin.

Resist. Unto blood.

 

 

When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.

The author is you

With every breath, the pen moves across the paper. Another word that is etched on the pages of eternity. Sentences are formed within milliseconds, these become paragraphs which become chapters which continue on and on. Your life is being written. This is your story.

Once a word is written, it cannot be unwritten. No matter what you do you cannot take away a single sentence, nor can you replace it. Once it is marked on the pages of eternity, it is there forever. Each and every person has their story. Each and every person has their book. You will never have another story to tell, this is yours. For all eternity. You only get the one life. The one story.

Psalm 90 speaks of the shortness of our lives and how they appear to be useless since they are so short compared to God’s eternality. In verse 9 it says, “we spend our years as a tale that is told.”

Our years are spent. They are traded. Never to be redeemed. Never to be bought back. There are no refunds. You can’t take you memories back to God and trade them in to live again. This is it. Every action. Every attitude. Every encounter. Every moment you lived is preserved just as it was. What did you do with your time?

I ask you now? What will you do with your story?

How will your story end?

Will it be a tale of foreboding and warning? Will it be uplifting and inspiring?

No matter how you have lived, or what kind of story you have told with your years, it isn’t too late to turn it around. You may even be on your last chapter- it’s not too late to finish with a perfect ending!

I entreat you, tell your story well. Live your life with meaning, purpose, and with a destiny in mind. You aren’t living just for yourself, but as a testament for all eternity.

Jesus didn’t heal some people

I think we talk a lot about the people Jesus healed. And he healed a lot of people. But there were some He didn’t heal. Obviously some never came to Him, but some did, and he did not heal them. The Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time taking about it, but still, it is mentioned. And I think it’s important to understand.

In Luke 5, we are told, “But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”

Christ had people all around him, they were hungry to hear His words. They were anxious to be healed. They wanted His power in their lives . . .

And He left.

That doesn’t quite sound like the Jesus we all hear about.

I think we imagine Jesus healing people constantly, nonstop. Whoever came, Jesus gave them His full attention. But this was not the case. It says here, that this time, Jesus withdrew himself.

In order to understand why Christ wasn’t healing and teaching, I think we must examine what He was doing. He was going to get some private time with God. Christ needed communion with the Father.

Let me give you an observation.

If God needed some peace and quiet in prayer when he was here, you do too.

Our society is filled with workaholics, super soccer moms that never take a break, pastors working themselves to exhaustion, our way of life is business to the point we forget our purpose and our perspective.

We get so involved with our work, our ministry, our family, and the needs of others, we forget our most basic need- God.

Jesus recognized that He needed a break. He needed to recharge. He needed the fellowship of the Father.

And why?

So he could minister to those people who needed him.

He didn’t take a break for Himself. He took a break so He could give of Himself again.

Let me exhort you, you can’t give any more when you’re empty. Sometimes you need to look away from the need around you, and recognize the need within you. If you aren’t able to recharge in the presence of God, you will be burned out.

Workaholics may eventually find themselves without purpose other than work. Super moms can run so ragged they can no longer give to their family, and they find themselves feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. Pastors can lose their way, and become susceptible to spiritual attack.

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Wait on the Lord. Listen to His leading and calling. Perhaps you might need a refuge in prayer. Perhaps you might need to leave the need around you, and let God fill the need within you.

Imagine hearing truth from Hitler

What if I told you that you should be kind to other people? Would you take that as something to be listened to? Would you take it to heart?

Now imagine your most hated enemy. Or perhaps it’s someone that hates you. Think of someone you hate the most, from history or from current times. Think of Hitler, Stalin, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, a terrorist who wants to kill you. What if they were here, and they told you to be kind to other people? How would you receive it?

In John 4, a woman is confronted by a similar situation. The Jews and the Samaritans had an old hateful relationship. The Jews resented the Samaritans because they were “half-breeds” with the Assyrians. And the Samaritans hated the Jews right back. There was a lot of animosity, and they were not on speaking terms.

So in the story in John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Immediately she is on guard, and she asks him, why he is talking to her. As the conversation continues, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah and He changes the woman’s life. She in turn goes back to the town and invites all them men to meet Christ and know His transforming power.

Now I ask you, what if that woman couldn’t see past Jesus’ Jewish heritage? Where would she have gone? How would her story had ended? She opened her heart, even though Jesus was a Jew. She chose to see past the hate.

I would like to pose the idea to you, that God has many ways of teaching us. He may want to teach us through our pastor or trusted friends, or He may use someone we don’t like. Sometimes God brings people in our lives to teach us things and these people we may not especially like. I challenge you, look past the outer shell and see the person on inside. Don’t let hate, bigotry, or stereotypes determine how you treat someone or whether you listen to them.

God uses everyone, don’t ever let your views of other people limit God’s working in your life.

For the Samaritan woman, looking past her feelings about Jews totally changed her life. She had a special talk with Christ, and it left her different. Imagine how God might speak to you if you listened for His leading despite the source.

 

Thirty-eight years later

Everyone loves a good story! And everyone loves the action! The fights, arguments, climactic points. These form the key elements of the story. Settings, character building, and description are necessary, but they aren’t usually what we remember.

But our lives are not lived like stories. We don’t get to skip to the action, to the climax. Sometimes parts of out lives go on and on without resolution. Days, months, years, decades all pass, and we still wait for the solution.

So it was with the lame man in John 5. We are told that there was a pool in Bethesda where an angel would come down and “stir” the water. The first person in the water after the angel moved it, would be healed. We don’t know how often the angel came, but there were a great many people.

When Jesus passed by, he found a man who had been there a great while. By the end of the story, Jesus heals the man and he leaves joyfully.

Those are the main ideas. That’s the plot. That’s the climax and resolution.

If we skim the story, we miss out on little details. We lose sight of the reality that was that lame man’s. In verse 5, we learn, that the man had been lame for 38 years. It is half of a verse. Barely noticeable to us as readers. But I assure you that it meant a great deal to that man.

38 years of his life he had been lame.

38 years of struggle. 38 years of pain. Was he able to find work at all? Or did he just beg? Did he go hungry at times? How long had he waited at that pool? How many times had he tried to crawl using only his arms? How many people had he seen be healed at that pool while he was too slow to get in? How many nights had he cried himself to sleep wondering if his life had purpose? How many people mocked him for his infirmity? How many times did he wish he could walk?

38 years

years

38 years of his life

And we blow past it in half a sentence.

He spent all those years waiting for healing. Waiting for the power of God. At the end of those years he was still by the pool. He hadn’t given up.

Did you catch that?

After 38 years he hadn’t lost hope.

I challenge you, whatever you are going through in your life, whatever you need God’s power for, whatever you are praying for – Don’t. Give. Up.

Seek God, pray, ask for His intervention, and don’t give up. This man’s story was written down so that 2000 years later we could be encouraged. He waited patiently, and God used his life as a testimony.

Won’t you stand strong and wait for God’s power in your life today?

tomorrow?

Or for as long as it takes?

I promise you it will be worth it.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

Feel the burn!

“No pain, no gain.” This saying is quipped by many as as a catchy way to explain how improvement comes through uncomfortableness. It is the mantra of sportsman, bodybuilders, and all sorts of physical competitors. They pride themselves on the difficulty they embrace to perfect their skills or deepen their abilities. I’ve seen guys pounding each other’s sore muscles leaving the gym- “Feel the burn!” they chant as they leave a particularly intensive workout.

Runners, weight lifters, athletic trainers all speak about that “good” pain. That “good” ache. Their body screams in agony, but they themselves fill with joy- they know that they have pushed themselves farther. They know they will be stronger. They know that their ultimate goals are just that much more in reach.

It’s funny how such a thought could be so obvious on a physical level, but completely escape our minds on a spiritual one. James tells us,

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

The temptations and trials you face- even your failures can be stepping stones to the victory you seek in Christ. When we are surrounded by pain, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, and temptations of all sorts- We should rejoice! The Christian life isn’t about comfort. It’s not about having everything just so. It’s about going through all of life’s hardships with confidence in Christ’s ability to bring us through stronger.

Every fear you face, every trial you endure, every temptation you forgo- you are growing. You are maturing. The pain of failure, the ache of regret, the weariness that you feel- all throw you into the arms of the Savior. They drive you closer to your God.

Be encouraged by it all! Every trial is a reminder of how much you need Christ! In Christ, you can be encouraged that your failures are not the end, and they don’t define you. Your regrets can be wiped away by joy and hope in God’s plans. Your weariness can be replaced by His strength.

Be encouraged by pain. Be joyous in tribulation. Be elated at the sight of trials.

Without such we might never feel our need for Him, we might never experience His power to perfect us, and we might never see how much He loves us and wants to empower us.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

He moves mountains yes, but what about molehills?

I was crouched on my living room floor playing with my dog. “Come here!” I called in a fun playful voice. The little beagle puppy wagged his tail, his floppy ears waved in the air as he jumped and sauntered towards me. He suddenly stopped. Between him and me there was a narrow passage between the couch and the laundry basket. He stuck his head in between and pulled back. He stayed on the other side whining and obviously distressed.

“You can make it through!” I coaxed. There was enough room for him to walk through, he was just nervous. Even if there wasn’t, he could easily move the basket because it was empty. I called him again, to no avail. He was nervous, he wanted to come, but he was too uncomfortable to get through.

I wasn’t asking my dog to do anything drastic, but I knew he was uncomfortable. So I moved the basket so he could come to me without being nervous.

You might say to yourself, “What a stupid dog! What was he so afraid of?” You might say it’s ridiculous- and you’re probably right, but I would say that more often than we realize, you and I are like my overly-nervous dog.

And for the record, it’s not just us. I’ll give you two examples.

First Gideon. God was calling Gideon in Judges 6 and 7, to lead the people of Israel out of bondage. Gideon was a bit frightened. Did you know, that God didn’t get angry with Gideon when Gideon was afraid. He knew Gideon’s heart. Gideon wanted to serve, Gideon wanted to obey. God made a way. God proved himself many times. First, His angel miraculously produced fire and consumed a meal Gideon had prepared. Then God did not one, but two miracles involving the morning dew and a fleece. And finally, without Gideon even asking, God told Gideon if he was afraid, he should go down to the enemy camp. In the camp, Gideon overheard that the enemy was scared of him!

Talk about patience, God was extremely patient with Gideon.

Second Moses. God called to Moses out of a burning bush. A bush. That was perpetually on fire. That was not being destroyed by the fire. I’m sure you heard the story. But honestly, Moses was still skeptical of God’s plans. Moses had a lot of questions. A lot. Almost 30 verses in Exodus are dedicated to God answering all of the doubt and insecurities that Moses had. At the very end, Moses is still uncomfortable, and God does get angry with him, but it is important to note that Moses literally asked God to find someone else at this point. Up until then, God answered every single doubt and insecurity Moses brought up.

With my dog, I could have yelled at him. Told him he was a bad dog. And sternly ordered him to come. But I didn’t. I moved the basket to make him comfortable, and my dog ran over- we had a great time.

And with us, it is very similar. God is King of the universe. He doesn’t have to help us. It is our duty to obey Him. If He orders us to do something, we should fall in line whether or not we are afraid. But isn’t it a blessing to know, that there are times when God makes allowances for our fears and insecurities. He knows we are frail. He knows we are weak. He knows we are afraid.

God knows our hearts, and He loves us. Isn’t it a blessing to know that He prepares a way for us to follow Him. He didn’t have to do all those miracles for Gideon. And He didn’t have to answer all of Moses’ fearful questions.

God had made it possible for them to obey Him. He had already moved the mountains. They were still hesitant, so He moved the molehills too.

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14