What do you really want in life? Would you like help when you are facing tempting situations? Would you like to be delivered from evil people? Would you like to be sure you don’t take the wrong path but learn to make the right choices in life? Would you like to understand what those right choices are? Would you like to come to a real, true knowledge of God?
If you were to do a study of Solomon’s words to his son in Proverbs chapter two, you will find answers to all those questions (in reverse order). The answers all flow from one thing.
My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures… (Proverbs 2:1–4)
Making the right choices in life, help with temptation, and having a true knowledge of God come from one source. All those rivers come from one spring. They all come from God’s Word (“my words”), and what you do with it.
When God’s Word is valued more than silver, and when it is studied and searched as if you are hunting for treasure, you will find those answers. Pick up your Bible. Treasure it. Study it. Do it.
It seems that we are often surrounded by conflict. It might be conflict within a family, conflict at work, or just arguing politics on Facebook. Yet, there is a greater conflict, mostly unseen for now. It is the conflict between good and evil and will culminate one day in the return of Jesus Christ.
These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)
If you are among those who are “with” the Lamb, there are three things that God wants to remind you of.
You are called. He knows your name. He has something for you to do. There was a day when you heard His voice, and He said, “Come, follow Me.”
You are chosen. I still remember in elementary school sometimes being the last one “chosen” for a softball team. Being chosen speaks of value. You may not be sure of your own worth, but God is. He’s chosen you to be on His team.
You must be faithful. Being called and chosen are what Jesus does for me. Being faithful is how I respond to Him. I respond to His call by trusting Him. I respond to His choice by being someone He can count on. I will serve my King. Are you with Him?
And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. (Ezekiel 33:32)
Ezekiel was living in Babylon. He had been taken captive along with the rest of his nation and was now living in a foreign country. The Babylonian Captivity was a time of judgment on God’s people for their continued disobedience to God and His ways. Yet even in this time of judgment, God continued to speak to His people, primarily through prophets like Ezekiel.
I guess being a prophet in Ezekiel’s day was a little like being Rodney Dangerfield. He got no respect. The people liked to come and listen to the prophet speak, but in reality, he was nothing more than entertainment to the people. They had no intentions of actually doing the things that God was encouraging the people to do.
Where does God’s Word rate when it comes to things that influence the direction of your life? Is it a curiosity to you? Is it perhaps even a bit entertaining? God has no desire for His Word to simply be another item on your Netflix queue. Though we may find great comfort and encouragement in God’s Word, there will also be times when it’s a bit hard on us. God wants to keep your life on track. Make it your goal to not just hear God’s Word, but to do it.
For those of you whose candidate won on Tuesday, I would say…don’t gloat. It doesn’t look good on you and don’t forget that half of the nation will hate you for it. For those of you whose candidate did not win on Tuesday, I would say…don’t despair. Any of us who have been looking to a candidate to be the ultimate fix for our nation have been looking in the wrong direction.
Our nation is still a long way from where it should be. There is still injustice in our nation. Our moral compass is still MIA. Over the years we’ve gotten pretty good at calling evil things “good”. When you notice what’s reflected in TV, movies, or the internet, our nation knows how to indulge in everything wrong.
Here’s something we should all consider doing. We should all consider praying regularly for our nation and its leaders. Jeremiah told us we should do it (Jer. 29:7). Paul wrote, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2). This isn’t something you should do only if you agree with the candidate. This is something we are called to do, no matter who is in office. If Paul could ask the church to pray for wicked Nero, you can pray for your president.
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (1 John 3:22)
One of the chief benefits of doing what God says has to do with the relationship between obedience and answered prayer.
When I walk in disobedience to God, my sin hinders my communication with God. David wrote, If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18). Sin puts me in a “dead zone”, and my connection to God is spotty at best.
When I walk in obedience to God, my connection with God grows. Obedience to God involves the things we choose to do, as well as the things we choose to avoid. God not only wants me to stop sinful behaviors, He wants me to cultivate acts of kindness. God is also concerned about the attitudes I cultivate in my life. Am I walking in humility? Am I loving the people He brings into my life?
When my life conforms to the attitudes that God wants me to have, as well as the actions He wants me to be doing, I will find myself running life’s race right alongside God Himself. Growing intimacy with God gives me confidence in the things that I ask of Him. My prayers will blossom in His presence. Obey. Ask.
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. (1 Peter 4:3)
I’ve been doing a little history reading lately. In the two centuries that followed the times of the apostles, the church exploded. Some estimate that by the end of the third century, ten million people had become believers. All from a motley group of twelve disciples. How did they do it?
The church in those first three centuries didn’t seem to have any big named evangelists in their ranks. The gospel was spread by the people of the church itself. They had the work of the Holy Spirit, they had the Scriptures, but one of the most interesting elements of their outreach was the testimony of their own lives.
While the Roman empire continued to sink into a cesspool of deeper, unbridled lust, the Christians stood in stark contrast. The Christians took Peter’s admonitions seriously, and when a person became a believer, the immoral ways of the world were left behind.
We too are living in a world gone wild. One inhibition after another is being tossed aside, and as long as everyone else is doing it, who cares? Believer, your life is to be different. Be a light in the darkness. This world needs to see light, your light.
Are we “saved” because of our faith, or are we “saved” by doing good works? While some churches give you the impression that God has some sort of “brownie point” system that gets you to heaven, the truth is that Paul wrote, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8–9). Our salvation is not based on what we’ve done but on what Jesus did for us when He died. We receive salvation by faith, by trusting what God did.
The problem comes with knowing what to do with the person who claims to believe in Jesus but who clearly doesn’t live like a Christian. Paul himself said that a person who continually lives a life characterized by doing bad things isn’t going to go to heaven (Gal. 5:19-21). I’d suggest that if a person has no evidence of God being at work in their life, then perhaps their “faith” wasn’t genuine in the first place. James wrote, Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17). Good works don’t save us, but they do prove a point. They prove that our faith is alive. They proved our faith is genuine. We don’t do “works” in order to be saved, we do good works because we are saved. Abraham’s faith was proven by his actions. You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; (James 2:22 ESV)
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not. (Jeremiah 20:9)
In certain church circles there are folks who like to claim the title of “prophet”. For some of them, Jeremiah is their “uber-prophet” because he said some pretty harsh things, and these self-proclaimed prophets tend to like to speak nothing but “doom and gloom” as well. I sometimes wonder if some of these people weren’t hugged enough as a child. I also wonder if their message isn’t more a reflection of their personality rather than a true message from God. Here’s the rub: Though Jeremiah’s message was mostly “negative”, it wasn’t that way because Jeremiah was an angry man, it was negative because the truth was that the people were rebellious against God and they were facing judgment … judgment that did indeed come.
Not all messages from God are going to be daisies and cream puffs. When God speaks, He speaks truth. Sometimes, the truth we need is the comfort that God wants to give a broken, humble heart. Sometimes, the truth we need is a stern warning for a stubborn, wicked heart. Are you willing to hear the truth?
As I was growing up, I was taught that newer always meant better. Why would you want to listen to an old transistor radio when you can have a Walkman? Why drive an old Ford Falcon when a brand new Mustang was in your reach?
Old ways were the things that my parents or grandparents did. While they would enjoy their Perry Como records, we were the “in” generation with our Beatles albums. Though I have to admit that often the “new” things are indeed better than the “old” things, there are times when our lust for the new takes us down paths that cause us much grief and heartache.
Jeremiah lived in a time when the nation of Judah continued to look for “new and improved” ways to live life, including ditching God and looking to the latest idols to hit the store. Their pursuits weren’t innocent pleasures, but they were seriously destructive addictions. Jeremiah had the unpleasant task of warning the people that their “new” ways were leading them toward the end of their nation. Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)
God’s ideas of right and wrong don’t change.
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15 ESV)
Some say the secret to getting ahead in life is all about who you know. And some of those same people will tell you that you can get much farther in life as long as you have “friends in high places”.
Let me tell you about a friend who happens to live in the “highest” place. There is no one who is greater. If you want things “done”, there is no one who can “do” more. He also lives in the “holy” place. It’s a place of purity, good, and true beauty. His is not a place of bribes or people with evil motives twisting arms. Would you like to have a friend who lives in a place like this?
The secret to having friendship with God starts in your heart. If you are a person filled with pride and think that God is lucky to have you, you will find one day that you’re not the “friend” He is looking for. If you are a person learning to cultivate humility, you’re in a good place. If you are a person who is “contrite” and who grieves over your own sin and your own lack of holiness, you’re in a good place. If you are among the broken-hearted, as painful as it might be, you have a Friend in the highest of places. Jesus is His name.