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

 

 

If you’re asking “Who am I?” You’re looking the wrong way

Most people, (Even non-Christians) know who Moses is. God’s hand-picked leader to bring Israel out of Egyptian bondage. When God called Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3), Moses gave God so many excuses, and objections because of his own shortcomings, that God had to put Moses in his place.

You see, Moses was looking at himself. He was saying, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” But God was saying, “I will be with thee.” After a few more or Moses’ excuses, God said, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?”

Just like Moses did, all those thousands of years ago, we can get too caught up in looking at ourselves. When God moves or directs us to do something, or take leadership, we might say, “Who am I?” Looking at ourselves and our experiences and abilities, we may shrink in the sight of the task that is before us.

But that is not how we should act. We are not to focus on our capabilities, but realize God’s. He is the one who called us, and He will do it. He will take the reigns and direct us, all we must do is obey.

I challenge you, no matter what task or responsibility you may see ahead of you, do not turn away in fear. Look to God and depend on Him. He will direct you. It’s not about you. It’s not about your abilities. It’s about His glory. And it’s about His power to use you to change the world and glorify Himself.

So many books, so little time

Gazing out at the city lights reflecting over the waves, I considered how much there is to know. Each light in the city had a purpose, someone who used it. Overhead, a plane flew and I saw it’s lights blinking it’s path. Who was on it? Where were they going? Every person has an entire life story. Every city on the globe has a new culture to experience. Many of the countless books in the world symbolize a lifetime of study, learning, and toil.

I don’t know what brought on this contemplation, but I was suddenly overwhelmed. So much knowledge. So much to experience. I realized, I don’t have the time. How can I sift through all the information in the world to find what I need? What if I’m missing something? I can’t read all those books and visit all those places.

The Lord suddenly put me at peace. He reminded me that I had misplaced my priorities. Pleasing Him was all I need to do. It was so relaxing to realize that. All we need to do is please God. He will work out all the details. He will take care of all the information. We don’t need to stock up on knowledge. We don’t need to stress on making sure we are knowledgeable so we can handle every possible situation. We just need to please God.

As the Lord put my crazy thoughts to rest, He reminded me of the words of Solomon when he said, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” But the Lord didn’t stop there, He reminded me of the very next verse as well. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Solomon had it right when he said that the whole duty of man was to fear and obey God. That is all . That is our duty. If you are a curious person with a thirst for knowledge like I am, I’m sure it is easy to get caught up in gathering information. If you are, I would just like to share this thought with you: Put knowledge in it’s place. Knowledge is not an end, but only the means to one. In the end, all knowledge is vanity compared to serving God.

Don’t ever allow your quest for knowledge to ever distract you from your purpose of serving God.

Keep hitting the ground!

The Bible is filled with odd or unordinary stories. Even when it’s a story we know very well, it usually is not ordinary when we really think about it. God doesn’t usually work with the ordinary or “expected” way of doing things. He’s not limited that way. In 2 Kings 13 we find one such story.

In this account, the king goes to Elisha and seems to be distressed about the war situation with the Syrians. Elisha used a bow and arrows to portend the king’s victory. He had the king shoot an arrow out the window. Elisha then told him that this symbolized that he would have victory. Then Elisha commanded to beat the ground with the other arrows. The king beat the ground three times and stopped. Elisha rebuked the king for not hitting the ground more, and told him that he would only defeat the Syrians three times.

Now, at first glance, this account seems strange- and slightly unfair to the king. Right? I mean, Elisha didn’t tell the king to hit the ground indefinitely. Isn’t that like some trick question?

Whenever we examine the Bible, we must always understand who God is. Obviously God was directing this exchange, and told the prophet what to do. God was in no way unfair or “illogical.” If the king was rebuked, then the king must have been wrong. Honestly, I was always puzzled by this account, but I believe the Lord has explained this a little to me.

If you look at the actions here like a metaphor, it becomes very clear. First, the king is told to shoot an arrow out the window. He obeys. His obedience is rewarded by confirmation of victory, and he is told that the arrows symbolize God’s deliverance.  Next, the king is told to beat the ground. He obeys, but not enough. Think about it. If you knew that your immediate actions were a picture of your ultimate success, wouldn’t you do everything you could to succeed? Of course! This king was not thorough in his obedience. He quit before God was satisfied.

So what is the lesson we can learn from this story?

When God tells you to do something, do it. And keep doing it.

If a commander tells a soldier to stand up, the soldier stands- and he remains standing. Imagine if a general told a soldier to stand up, and the soldier stood and then sat down. I don’t think that soldier would be rewarded for his “obedience.” Just like that, we won’t be rewarded if we take God’s commands flippantly or only partially follow them.

I challenge you, if God directs you to do something- DO IT! And do not stop until he directs you differently. An ancient king lost much because he did not obey God completely. Let us not make the same mistake. Let us continue to do what God commands, or in other words- Keep hitting the ground!

Riches are not forever . . .

When God says something about the uncertainty of riches, He usually is reminding us of the eternality of spiritual things. This trend is repeated many times in His Word. But in Proverbs 27, God says something a little different.

In verse 23, God says, “For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?” The first word, “for” tips us off that this truth is a reason to do something. So, we have the reason for action- What’s the action? When we look to the previous verse- it says, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.”

Here in this verse, God does not seem to feel the need to remind us of spiritual things. He’s giving some simple advice on life. Since flocks and herds were the general measure of a man’s wealth in that day, we could say that God is saying: be diligent with your money. He repeats Himself by telling us to “look well” to our wealth. Those words “look well” literally mean: “put your heart into it.”

And why should we do this? Because money doesn’t last. And authority and ruler-ship does not always pass to the “rightful” person. God’s telling us that we have to be diligent with what we’re given or we could easily lose it.

But He’s not telling us to go out there and focus our life on money, either. We must use some discretion. God has said in other places, “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” – Prov 23:5

“Riches make themselves wings” – truly.

So my friends, be diligent to protect what God has given you. Whether it be riches, authority, or anything else. Don’t work only to be rich. Don’t spend your life chasing after the wind. Remember: God gives you to ability to get wealth. (Deut 8:17-18) When we are diligent with our money, we are for His sake- not our own. When we are diligent, God can give us more, and we can be used greater for Him. He doesn’t need servants that chase after riches. And he doesn’t need diligent servants in order for Him to get money.

He wants us simply to be obedient. And that means here and now, with whatever we’ve been allotted.

Let’s be diligent stewards with what we’ve been given!

When God will do it

Have you ever thought of something that you wanted. You desired this material thing, promotion, status in life, position, relationship, etc. You believed it was God’s will for you to have this good thing. Not only did you believe that it was God’s will, but you were fixed on the idea that you must work to gain this ________.

I’m speaking generically, but please, visualize something. Think of something good you believe or know God wants you to have.

Now, remember, God desires this for your life. That’s why you desire it, right? Because you want only God’s will for your life. So if God desires this too, do you think He’s going to let you battle the whole world for it? No, of course not. God has everything in His control. So there are only a few reasons why you don’t have what God wants for you.

1) God doesn’t want it for you now. Think of the Israelites. They spent hundreds of years in bondage, and yet God had promised them a homeland. I honestly don’t believe God has their land in store for them yet. David was anointed king. God obviously wanted Him king, but it would be several years before God brought that to pass. Sometimes, it’s not the right time.

2) You haven’t prepared yourself for the blessing. Think of the Israelites again. They wandered in the desert without the promised land for forty years. Why? Because they had not believed God. God wanted to bless them, but they couldn’t be blessed because they were spiritually unprepared.

Now, remember those two conditions. If God doesn’t want something for you right now, or you haven’t prepared yourself for His blessing, and you try to get it, then you’re fighting God. It’s going to be a struggle. And you’re going to lose. God will either refuse to give it to you, or He’ll give it to you and you will see why He didn’t want to give it to you in the first place. Either way, you’re wasting energy God could be using elsewhere, and it will end badly.

It would have been vain for David to lead a revolt against Saul. Why? Because God wasn’t leading Him to. And it would have been completely disastrous for Joshua to lead the Israelites to war with the Canaanites after God had condemned them to wilderness wandering because of their unfaithfulness.

Both of those situations would have ended badly, and so would yours if you were to try to take God’s will into your own hands.

God’s will doesn’t need a well planned out flesh move. We live in the Spirit and we must walk in the Spirit. We must be obedient to God and be willing to do anything. If God requires hard work, we will do it. If God requires character training, we will allow Him to train our character. If God requires patient waiting, we will patiently wait. We don’t have to fight for His will, He will give it to us when we are obedient.

So next time you think of something you believe God wants you to have, don’t stress over it. No matter what it is, God could give it to you today if He wanted. All you must do is obey Him now, and when the time comes, you will be in position to receive it when it comes.

Psalm 37:4-5 says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Notice that God brings it to pass. You don’t earn it, and you don’t fight for it. God brings it in His time, when you are obedient to Him.

Isn’t that comforting?

Take the path that the world has labeled insane

Contemplate the fact that when God calls you to serve Him, He calls you to deny your own flesh and the entire world system that surrounds to follow Him while changing inwardly to the point of bringing death to your most intimate and base desires. When you realize that, you conclude naturally that you need God’s help in order to follow Him.

In Philippians 2:3, God commands: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;”

If we think about what is natural for an unbeliever, and what people without Christ do, we find that almost everything that is done by unbelievers IS done through strive and vain glory.

Worldly people spend their lives complaining, competing, worrying, bragging, arguing, fighting, and living in agitation.

If you live your life constantly looking out for yourself and trying to prove yourself and make sure you get “what you deserve,” then you are living like the world. Your lifestyle is not only one of disobedience, but also one of incredible stress and agitation.

God says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory. . . “

How are we to live then?  We are to live in “lowliness of mind,” while we “esteem other better” than ourselves.  When you’re humble, you don’t have anything to prove. If you consider someone to be better than you, then you aren’t concerned if they think the same. And if you deny your desire for vain glory, and live to see God glorified, then you never need to obsess over whether or not the credit is going where it’s due. God will get all the glory no matter what. Just a side note: Living humbly is living peacefully.

 

Gods’ command to us is to conclude that our benefits, and our comfort, and our pleasure, and our fair share of (whatever we “deserve”) are all inconsequential to the Glory that God deserves. The next few verses in Philippians 2, call us to have the mind of Christ and humble ourselves to the point of death.

Unless you’re facing martyrdom for your faith, I don’t think God is calling you to literally die. It’s a word picture. Think about it, does anybody want to die? Most people want to live. In fact, if a person desires death, they are usually unstable.

God’s calling to us: to deny ourselves, would appear like complete insanity to the world.

In fact, God tells us that, “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

So I challenge you, surrender to the call of humility unto death. Take the path to lowliness that the world has labeled insane. Choose to forfeit your “rights” and live a life of peace and obedience. You can’t do it by yourself, so God has promised to help you. All you must do is decide.

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13

You think how you work

Any decent military operates like a well oiled machine. Orders are given, and they are followed. Disorder and disobedience are dealt with immediately and the punishment is usually severe. Over time, new cadets learn to follow orders without question. Throughout their training, they receive an order, and they follow it. They receive another order, and they follow it. When it comes time for battle, and their life is on the line, they continue to follow orders because it is what they were trained to do.

We are in the Lord’s military. We fell in rank when we received salvation. But when God gives an order to you, is it followed like it would be in the military? Too often, Christian discipline pales in comparison to discipline found in the average military.

God doesn’t always hand out immediate punishment for insubordination, but the punishment is still there. God wants us to discipline ourselves. Proverbs 16:3 gives us insight on how to do just that.

“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”

You may be thinking, “What’s that supposed to mean?” Well, think of the military again. Military personnel follow small orders all the time to train themselves for the big orders that come later. It is easy to change your actions for a moment, but it can be harder to change how you think. If your thinking is incorrect, it’s hard to remember to keep it in check all the time. God tells us that if we will do right things for God, then our thoughts will eventually be focused on right.

So I challenge you, do the little things. Maybe you should practice diligence by organizing something or making a chore list. Work to overcome laziness by doing something productive at the start of your day. Do something nice for that person that annoys you the most, and watch your attitude change.

Sometimes changing our thoughts isn’t all that hard, it’s just simple training. Start now!

A tale of two men

The will of God isnt always clear. A lot of times, we fail to identify what God would have us do. Sometimes it seems that God would have us use the common sense he gave us to make decisions, but more times than not it is imperative that we acknowledge God in the decisions that we make.

Do you remember Joshua? The awesome leader that came after Moses. Early on, God spoke to Joshua and told him expressly, Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. Joshua 1:3 Thats a pretty awesome promise! God basically said that the whole promised land was his. Isnt that great?

Well, a little while later, Joshua was in the promised land. He had taken Jericho by the power and direction of God. Later, Joshua made ready to take the city of Ai. God promised him the land, so its only common sense that he should take it right? So Joshua sent out men to take another city. That attack failed and many men were injured or killed. (Joshua 7)
When Joshua consulted God, God showed Him that sin was in Israel, and that the sin needed to be cleansed before they could take the rest of the land.

So, I ask you, did Joshua make a mistake? Did Joshua sin? I know this, Joshua failed to seek the Lord and it cost him dearly.
Lets take a look at another man.

David was a mighty man with many men under Him. One day, his base city was attacked and all his stuff and family and all the families of his men were carried off. Now think, this is David! Hes a mighty warrior. Should he just sit around and wait? Shouldnt he go after those evil men?

I would think, Absolutely! But David was humble. In the midst of a seemingly obvious choice David consulted God, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? God gave David a thumbs up and David succeeded.

There are many, well, countless instances just like these in the Bible, but we dont have time for all of them. Let me make it simple, God has given you the ability to make wise decisions, but He expects you to make use of all your available resources.

There are two sides to every coin, and there seems to be two extremes to every truth. I challenge you, seek the Lord’s will on all your decisions. Truly ask Him for His direction. There may be "common sense" decisions, that He does not want you to make. We cannot see all ends. We do not fully understand every situation.

I do caution you, be careful of going a little extreme. You probably don’t need God’s permission to get up and go to work, or to do something you know you should be doing. Don’t use, getting permission from God, as an excuse to be lazy, but don’t ignore His wisdom either. Seek the Lord on finding the proper balance that He wants you to have.

Late to bed and early to rise probably isn’t God’s plan for you

Being exhausted seems to come with today’s culture. Most urban areas live a fast-paced sleepless existence. We thrive on power naps, energy drinks, and weekends. But is this really God’s plan for us?

If we think about the garden of eden, we can judge that God’s first people were pretty relaxed. Even afterwards, they were most likely farmers and therefore had a very relaxing day. It seems that we have brought this fast paced society upon ourselves. Is there anyone in the Bible who would relate to us?

The closest I could find was in Psalms 127:2. This verse says, "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep." I’m sure you might be thinking, "well, that’s it. We can all sleep in from now on." Well, not exactly. This verse has a very specific application. It has to do with the "bread of sorrows" that is mentioned.

‘Sorrows’ there doesn’t necessarily mean sadness. The word here means pain and toilsome labor. It has the idea that a person is physically bringing themselves pain. In some instances, the word was used to describe a woman giving birth. This labor is pretty intense.

What God is essentially saying is that you don’t have to wear yourself out. It is not His will for you to burn out while trying to feed your family, or simply trying to serve Him. As the verse says, "He giveth his beloved sleep." God wants you to have a life that is not full of stress. He wants you to have rest.

If you are wearing yourself out, you may be serving in a way God does not want you to serve. God may have other avenues for you to use to serve Him. Perhaps you are serving where He wants you, but you need to relax and cast your burdens upon Him. I challenge you, seek the Lord when it comes to your work schedule. Allow Him to direct your paths.

Remember, God gives His beloved sleep.

"The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it." – Proverbs 10:22