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

 

 

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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

Don’t look at your feet!

 

Sweat bands, running shoes, compression clothing

Electrolyte enhanced drinks and orange slices.

It’s a race! The runners take off from their marks and begin to flash towards the finish line.

Hebrews 12 compares our Christian life to a race. In this race it tells us we should run, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;”

He’s the author and the finisher.

I know for myself, I forget the finisher part. I think over and over, that God shows me what’s wrong, and then its just up to me to fix it. But this isn’t the case. The thing is, once I decide to fix it- with wonderful intentions of course, I’ll begin to look at my actions, attitudes, feelings, wrongdoing, and whatever else I can find. I look to my own self so much, I stop looking at God.

That’s no way to win in the Christian life. You don’t look at your hands when you shoot a basket. You don’t look at your legs when you kick a goal. You don’t look at your feet when you run a race. You don’t look at yourself when you live your Christian life.

It may seem right to try to deduce what went wrong, where the wrong thinking was, how you got to be so out of line. Sometimes examining these things is very helpful, but we must remember it is not the solution to the problem.

 

God is the solution.

No matter how hard we think about our problems, we can’t fix them. We need God to transform us. We need God at the center of our lives. If we will look to Him, and focus on His plan for us, and His will for us; we will probably be surprised how easily things work out.

Putting God at the center of our lives, humbly asking Him to change us is the only way to ensure genuine lasting change in our lives.

Won’t you do that today?

Do you run?

There’s a small list of people who went to Jesus in Mark chapter 5. They each had a request. They needed healing, for themselves or someone close to them. They wanted freedom or redemption. Whatever it was, they wanted the power of Christ in their lives. And of course, Christ gave it to them.

There was a ruler in the synagogue who’s daughter was sick. There was a woman who had a major illness. And there was a man possessed of demons.

Each one of these stories has an essence of desperation in them. The man’s daughter was literally on her deathbed. The woman couldn’t be healed by any of her doctors. The demon possessed man has a horrible quality of life. Each one of these people came to Christ in their desperation.

The ruler of the synagogue was powerful, and had multiple servants. But he came himself. He counted God’s power to be something that was personal, and worthy of His full attention. We know the woman must have been weak from her blood loss, and the crowd thronged Christ. Fighting her way through must have taken every ounce of her strength. And she considered it worth the fight. The man possessed of demons ran. He ran to Jesus. He knew he was in a miserable state, and he wanted to remain tormented no longer. He wasted no time coming to Christ.

Put each of these portraits together. What do you have?

Coming to Christ needs to be personal.

Coming to Christ needs to be worth the fight.

Coming to Christ needs to be first priority.

Do you consider your relationship with Christ to be all that? Do you give Him all of your attention? All of your effort? All of your urgency?

I would submit to you, your relationship with Christ must be all three. And you must count every deliverance worth all three. Are you addicted to something? Need deliverance? Do you count your deliverance worth all of these?

Do you succumb to temptation occasionally? Do you want to have victory? Do you count your victory worth all of these?

Are you apathetic in any area of your relationship with Christ? If you want victory, you must give Christ your full attention, your every effort, and your utmost urgency.

“For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6

God’s employee benefits [no begging required]

When you’re looking for a job, it’s almost paramount to have good pay, but you probably also want benefits. Sometimes employers will pay for holidays, contribute to a 401k retirement account, vacation pay, sick pay, stock options, company car, you name it! You work for them, they take good care of you.

What about God?

God promises to provide for us many times in the New Testament. In Matthew 6, He tells us to look at the flowers of the field and see how God takes care of them. Look at the birds, how they are supplied for. He tells us not to take a care, but to follow Him and seek His kingdom. He says, “All these things shall be added unto you.”

So think about that.

Food, drink, and clothing are all taken care of. “shall be added”

Does that sound like you have to work for them?

Do you have to work for things that will be added to you? No, of course not, they’re added.

So before you go quit your job, realize the first condition. You must seek the kingdom of God. That means following God’s direction in your occupation, your singleness or your married life, your leisure time, and your ministry. Seek to glorify God first, and God will add all the necessary earthly things to your life.

Isn’t that wonderful?

God tells us, you focus on my agenda, I’ll make sure you don’t have to think about where your next meal will come from. He’s got it covered!

Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

His seed [children] will not beg for food.

Not: they won’t starve. It says: They won’t beg.

If you follow God, you don’t have to beg for His provision. He takes care of it!

I challenge you, choose to follow God. Seek His will. Seek His kingdom. The benefits will always be there, and the compensation will be out of this world! 😉

Do you wait for a mistake?

Have you ever watched someone, waiting for them to make a mistake? Maybe they showed you up at work. Or they always got an A on their tests. Maybe they seemed to be the perfect brother or sister. You hated the fact that they always did so well. you wanted to see them fail.

In Mark 3, the Pharisees did just that. Jesus entered the synagogue, and there was a man who needed healing. Immediately, the Pharisees were wondering if Jesus would work a miracle on the Sabbath.

They were looking to accuse Him.

They didn’t care about the man with the problem. They didn’t wonder or appreciate Jesus’ power and goodness. They cared about whether Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. And why? Honestly why?

Could I submit to you, that they pridefully wanted to have a grievance against Him. They wanted to be able to say He had a fault. They wanted to be better than Him.

Think about that.

They were filled with pride, they were blind to those around them. They didn’t care about Christ’s goodness or someone else’s condition. All they cared about was whether or not they were better than Christ.

Pride will do that to you. Pride will want you to accuse others. Pride will teach you indifference to the problems of others, and teach you to only observe you’re own assessed worth, how you measure up to others, and how they measure up to you.

Pride will teach you to accuse. To search for a fault in others, in your friends, and even in God.

I challenge you, make a commitment to banish pride from your life. Don’t allow foolish selfish pride to steal you from loving others, from loving those close to you, and loving God.

The Bible teaches us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

He doesn’t need any help.

When you’re in love . . .

I have never heard someone who was completely in love, obsess about something they really wanted- while in the presence of their love. When you’re with your special someone, the whole world seems right. Suddenly that muscle car, new pair of jeans, newest smartphone, or whatever else you desire- doesn’t seem so desirable. You are with your love- what else do you need?

You might still want a good steak, or a nice purse, or a new pair of sunglasses- but you don’t obsess about them. You are perfectly content. You are in love.

Now let’s take a look at Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

It tells us that our conversation (meaning lifestyle) should be without covetousness. We should be content. We’ve all heard this before right? Be content. Don’t be jealous of others. Don’t be obsessed with what you don’t have.

But Why?

Did you catch the reason?

God has said, “I will never leave thee”

God promised to spend eternity and whatever beyond with you. He will never leave you. Never.

That’s why we should be content.

The God of the entire Universe will share every moment of our lives with us. He loves us. He died for us. He made us so He could enjoy us. He is our purpose for living. Our true love in every sense. He will never leave us.

Why then, do we obsess about pleasing ourselves through the emptiness of things on this earth? The living breathing God, wants us. Is standing next to us. Is relishing every moment with us. And we run after things.

I challenge you, be content with the things you have.

Not because they are enough. Not because you will make yourself miserable if you run after what you don’t have.

No,

Be content, because the God who loves you, will always be with you.

What more could you ever want?

Running out?

I was finishing up my first mile of the night, last quarter- I got the sense I should push through. Run it out. Sprint. Go all out! I began to run, but I wasn’t giving it everything. My run wasn’t like a sprint. It wasn’t like my normal sprints.

Perhaps it was because I had already run 3/4s of a mile I thought. But that wasn’t it. It dawned on me, that I was holding back, because I was afraid if I gave this mile my all, I wouldn’t have energy left for the second.

Immediately, this reminded me of my Christian life.

There have been countless times, that I’ve considered my life, and thought to myself: “God, if I give you control of all my money, I won’t have enough to do what I want to do. If I give you all my time, I won’t have time to do what I want. If I give you all my energy, I won’t have energy for what I want to do.” This thought has come to me over and over.

Even when I make life plans, I hold back.

In the back of my mind, I’m scared.

If I give everything I have to God, will I have anything left?

I challenge you, don’t ever allow yourself to be held back by fear. God loves you more than you can know. He wants the best for you, but He won’t give you all His blessings if you will not give Him all your allegiance.

When you give your everything to a workout, you have more to give next time. It’s the same with God. Give God control of your everything, and watch how He gives back to you.

“The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.” – Proverbs 11:25

God promises that generous people will increase in what they have. How much more when we are generous towards Him!

God’s provision isn’t the number you file your taxes with

A pastor once told me of when he first began going to college. He didn’t have the money to pay for his education, but he knew God wanted him to go. He saved up faithfully, but last minute expenses destroyed his savings. He said he stood in line for registration, praying over and over again. “God, I need money!” Again and again. He pleaded. He had no money to pay his bill.

Much to his surprise, when he got to the end of the line, he found that someone had paid his bill in full. He told the story in humorous and grateful manner. Praising God for His provision.

But let us pause to examine this. He said, “I need money.” But what did he actually need? Entrance into the college.

I give you another example.

In John 6, Jesus and the disciples are ministering to a crowd of thousands. Eventually it was time for the people to eat, but they did not have food. Jesus asks the question: Where are we going to buy bread for all these people? Philip expounds on the hopelessness of their situation by pointing out how 200 pennies would not be enough. Jesus answers his own question by miraculously feeding thousands of people with a single person’s lunch.

God provides with or without money.

Isn’t it funny how we can usually think in terms of money? We say, “I need money to buy my kids some shoes.” But in reality, we need shoes. We say, “I need money to pay for my groceries.” But in reality, we need food.

In reality, we need God to provide.

I challenge you to realize, God’s provision is not always in the form of money. Sometimes it’s a clearance sale. Sometimes it’s your neighbor’s leftovers. Sometimes it’s the generosity of a stranger. Sometimes it’s finding stuff while cleaning your basement.

In the pastor that was mentioned, God provided someone to pay his bill. In John 6, God provided a miracle. In your own life, there is no limit to what He may provide.

I challenge you, next time you have a need, don’t say, “I need money for . . .” Instead say, “I need God.” “I need God to provide!”

“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” – Matthew 6:30

Do you love death?

I’m pretty sure anyone reading this  would answer a resounding “no!” Well, perhaps not. There are a few fringe groups of people who may announce that they have a loving relationship with death. But since they haven’t died, there is only so much they can say. Death does carry a fascination for most people, but they say they love death, they probably don’t understand the nature of it.

But do you know that you can metaphorically love death.

You might be thinking, I love life. I don’t want to die! But in reality, you’re living a life that will bring you death.

In Proverbs 8:30, the personification of wisdom says, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”

If you hate wisdom, you love death. It’s that simple.

If you filled a room full of people, and asked them, “Do you hate wisdom?” Few to none would raise their hands. But oftentimes we hate wisdom in little ways.

We neglect to listen to our parents. We think that we can have it all figured out. We disregard our pastor’s message. Or our friends advice.

Look at it another way. Are you actively seeking wisdom? Are you looking for wise people to mentor you? Do you spend time searching the scriptures for guidance?

Do you love wisdom?

I would venture to say that for every bit you edge away from loving wisdom, you move towards hating it. The difference between love and hate is not black and white. Sin is missing the mark. There is no in between. Either you hit the mark, or you missed it.

Are you satisfied with how you love and seek out wisdom? Or do you need to work in that area? I challenge you, choose to love wisdom. Live your life searching it out. If you love your life by loving wisdom, you will probably find yourself with more of both.

“Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not . . . For whoso findeth me [wisdom] findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.” Proverbs 8:33,35