Not yours

Do you need God to move in a big way in your life? Wait. That’s a silly question. Who doesn’t need God to move in a big way in their life? If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t, then you really need God to move in a big way.

We all need God. And we all need Him to move in our lives. But most of us never really see God move in the ways we’d like him to. Jim Cymbala said in his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that he despaired at the thought that [his] life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on [his] behalf. What a sorry existence we live as Christians if we never really see God move in or through us.

So what does it take to see God move?

  • Individuals. A move of God starts when one person decides that they want more for their life than what their own plan can accomplish. It takes one person making the choice to put God’s plans ahead of their own.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands father than the practices of Israel.

2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NIV)

  • Leaders. A move of God requires leaders—those who have made the choice to put the plans and purposes of God above everything else—to stand up and encourage others to do the same.

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

2 Chronicles 20:20b

  • Families. If one person can make a decision, a family can make a difference. The entire nation of Israel was one family descended from Abraham. When they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, God went before them and blessed everything they touched.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

  • Worship. Our response to God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His good plans for us, stirs His heart. God cannot move where He is not welcome and what better way to welcome His Spirit than to stand in an attitude of adoration?

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NIV)

In the case of Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah, God went ahead of the army and defeated the enemy for them. By the time the troops arrived on the battlefield, all that remained were dead bodies and so much plunder that it took three days to gather it all.

We may not be headed into a physical battle, but we are most certainly in a spiritual one. If we want God to move on our behalf, there are certain things required of us. The greatest of these things is the sacrifice of ourselves.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 (NIV)

It’s hard to let go of our own wants and needs. Scary, even. But when we recognise God for who He is—a good God and a loving Father—it becomes easier to allow Him to set the course for us. And that is what we must do. God will move, but it will be in His direction, not ours. We must be committed and submitted to His will.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

The Word

The first five verses of John’s Gospel may very well be my favourite verses in all of scripture. One could study them for a whole year and still not grasp the full weight and complexity of their meaning. Previously, I’ve been focused on the Light, but today, the Word jumped out at me.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 (NIV)

Revelation 19:13 speaks of Jesus and his name is the Word of God. So, one could read the first verse of John like this:

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

If Jesus is the Word of God, what does the Bible have to say about the Word?

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

In this context, Jesus had to give himself up as a sacrifice for our sins because that is what he was sent to do. And if God’s Word, Jesus, will accomplish what God desires, Jesus had to achieve the purpose for which he was sent.

For me, this is another one of those big revelations that needs time to roll around and fully form. Read these verses again for yourself and see what God is speaking to you through His Word.

Read: 1 Kings 14-15, John 1:1-28

True life

We’re all looking for something or someone. Everyone wants to find purpose or meaning in life. And most people go through their entire lives searching but never finding because they’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

The Sunday after Jesus died by way of crucifixion, the women who had been following him went to the tomb to anoint his body properly for burial. One would assume that the best place to look for someone who had died would be the tomb where their body had been placed, but when they arrived, there was no body to anoint. Just a couple of angels with a message.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:5b (NIV)

In the entire account of the empty tomb, this one question stood out to me. In all of our searching for meaning and purpose in life, most often, we look for it among the dead. In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If there is life to be found, there is only one place to find it, and it’s not in the world.

The world, as hard as it may try, cannot replace or replicate the life that is found in Christ. Anything that is found outside of Christ can only mimic true life.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)

Meaning and purpose cannot be found just anywhere. Paul wrote to Timothy to tell the people to do good, be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. That is where true life begins. It is not a selfish search for ourselves, but a selfless search for Christ.

And if there is any doubt at all:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:35a (NIV)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

John 6:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NIV)

You may be breathing. Your heart may be beating. But are you alive? Are you truly alive?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Life is too short to waste looking for it among the dead. Life, true life, can only be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Read: 1 Kings 10-11, Luke 24:1-35

The profession of Christianity

Let us try not to join the profession of Christianity, with seeking after worldly advantages.

Matthew Henry

“You’ll never have to worry about anything again!”

“God wants you to be rich!”

“This is the best life ever!”

“Everything is good!”

All of these claims have been touted by Christians, preachers, and televangelists. They have brought untold millions to their knees to pray a prayer that they’ve been conned into reciting. While they all contain a partial truth, they are not indicative of the Christian life.

Jesus had some choice words for some who wished to take care of business before taking up the business of following him.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)

In order to “close the deal” when it comes to leading someone to salvation, we are often apt to spout the benefits while making light of the cost. The truth is, there are many, many benefits to giving your life to Christ, but there is also a great cost—one that cannot be ignored.

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)

The benefits come as a result of us doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

It is a difficult road to walk, this life in pursuit of God. On one side, we can be easily distracted by the thought of a reward and, on the other side, we can be so focused on our call that we deny the existence of any reward at all.

Our purpose in serving God should be just that—to serve Him and Him alone. If the reward is all we seek, our hearts are in the wrong place. But that does not mean that we should not be prepared to receive a reward or blessing.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If is with a pure heart and pure motives that we must seek after God. Yet, as His children, we must not deny Him the joy of blessing us.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Read: Judges 12-14, Luke 9:37-62

A little more action, please.

It is an astonishingly low number of Christians who attend church with any regularity. Even the measure by which we base church attendance is startling—just three of every eight weeks (nineteen church visits annually). One study showed that just 20 percent professing Christians attend church “regularly”. What about the other 80 percent?

Sure, we can all come up with excuses as to why we don’t go to church. The kids had a ball game. It was a rough week, I needed the rest. Church is boring, there’s nothing there for me. I can serve Jesus at home as well as I can at church. Church is full of hypocrites. Have I hit home yet? I could keep going… But I won’t.

If we really break it down to the very root of the issue, most Christians aren’t in church on Sundays because they’re not willing to make the effort. Somehow, we’ve come to the conclusion that church needs to be like everything else—on demand, how we want it, when we want it, now!

But what about those very first believers? How did they feel about gathering together?

[Jesus] went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those trouble by evil spirits were cured.

Luke 6:17-18 (NIV)

How far are you willing to travel to go to church? How much time are you willing to spend in transit? If there’s traffic, do you decide to stay home and try again next week?

This account takes place near Capernaum. Do you know how far Jerusalem is from Capernaum? 164 kilometres. That’s about 34 hours of walking. Tyre and Sidon would be comparable in distance. The crowds that followed Jesus travelled great distances at great expense. And I hear people complain that a 14 kilometre car ride is too far to go to church.

So what’s the difference between those who followed Jesus as he walked the earth and us now?

Expectation. These people came to hear Jesus. They came to get close to him. They came to touch him. They came to get something from him.

…and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:19 (NIV)

Excitement. Jesus caused a stir everywhere he went. Whether it was by contradicting the Pharisees or raising the dead, he gave the people something to talk about.

Evidence. Not only had people heard of Jesus’ message, but they had seen the evidence of it. Those who had experienced miracles by Jesus’ hand told others who told others who told others. The crowds knew that there was power and that it was a power that could change lives.

Without the first of these three, the second two don’t exist.

We must start with expectation. Very few people who go into church with the thought that it’s going to be another boring service are ever met with anything but. But the majority of those who walk into church expecting to meet Jesus there, do.

A little more action is required on our part. First, we need to get to church. Second, we go with the expectation that will we see God move. Third, we can’t give up.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

This leads me to my final point. When we come with expectation, we will show excitement and see the evidence of our beliefs. When we do these things together as a group of believers, something else happens.

Encouragement. The more you stay away, the less likely you’ll be to return. But the more you show up, the more involved you get, the more relationships you make, the more you’ll want to be there.

There is more purpose in the local church and the gathering of believers together than I can even begin to discuss here, but I cannot stress enough the importance of it.

On your way to church this week (I hope you do go), look forward to it—no matter what did or didn’t happen last week. Expect to receive something from God. Engage with the people around you. Sing along to the music. Maybe even clap along or raise your hands. Pay attention to the words being spoken. Listen for that one thing you can hold on to through the week. Don’t rush off afterward. Ask to be prayed for or pray for someone. Smile and wave to people on your way out. Then try it again next week. Do it for a month. See if all those ideas about church are really true or were simply made true by your own attitude and expectations.

Read: Joshua 21-22, Luke 6:1-26

Overshadowed

Identity is one of the greatest issues in the world today. We all want to be our own person. Find ourselves. Discover who we really are. We want to identify as someone or something and identify with someone or something. We have made it life’s number one goal—right or wrong. And in all of our searching and identifying, we have completely lost our identity.

We know that Satan is incapable of creating anything. All he can do is take the good that God has made and pervert it until it no longer resembles what it was truly meant to be. Our identity is one of these things. If the devil can make us forget (or never even know) who we really are, he’s won.

A long time ago, a young girl made the choice to give up her own personal identity in order to take one on that would have everlasting repercussions.

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Luke 1:36 (NASB)

Most people today would balk at losing their identity. What did Mary do?

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38 (NASB)

Mary submitted her own will, her own identity, in order to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

We often wonder why people no longer flock to churches and why religion as a whole is no longer popular in society. Could it be that we’ve lost our true identity? In search of ourselves, we’ve stepped out of the shadow of the Holy Spirit. We have made ourselves more important than our Creator. The world no longer sees Christ, they see us as individuals rather than the body we are called to be.

If we really want to make a difference in the world, we have to set ourselves and our own desires aside. Mary didn’t even hesitate to accept the angel Gabriel’s words. She would have known that, as an unmarried woman, she would be ostracised by her community and even mocked for her supposed infidelity. Standing in the face of great opposition, she still chose to stand in the shadow of the Almighty. Her acquiescence changed the world.

As Christians, our lives are not about our own personal identity. We don’t need to go searching for purpose or acceptance. Our identity is found wholly in Christ. He accepts us. He gives us purpose. It is not up to us to shine our own lights, but rather to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus can shine.

Read: Deuteronomy 33-34, Luke 1:24-56

The Lord your God

Read: Deuteronomy 8-10, Marik 12:28-44

On the eve of Israel’s move to the Promised Land, Moses takes a few moments to set some reminders for his people.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)

Israel had a terrible habit of forgetting about God and the covenant they had with Him. In the morning they’d be picking up manna and by the afternoon, they’d be complaining that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Moses knew he’d been leading a stubborn group of people. They only existed because of his intercession on their behalf. After all the trouble he’d gone through, he wanted to be sure they got things right once he was gone.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV)

The Promised Land was not a reward for good behavior. If God were to reward His people according to what they deserved, He’d have to send them back to Egypt. But because of His covenant and Moses’ prayers, Israel would take possession of the land promised to their forefathers.

This possession was not without its trials. God had already let the people know that they would have to fight. And it would be a long fight. The land would only be cleared of its inhabitants as Israel was prepared to occupy it. God would fight for them, but they still had to go into battle. God would make them prosper, but they would still have to do the work.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to you forefathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1 (NIV)

The promise to possess did not come without conditions. God wanted the obedience of Israel and He wanted their love.

When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied:

Mark 12-30-31.jpg

I believe that we, too, need the reminder, like Israel did, that the Lord is our God. And, if the Lord is our God, we should love and obey Him. Twenty-four times, Moses used the words the Lord your God in Deuteronomy 8 through 10. It must have been important. Important enough for Jesus to used the very same words when speaking of the greatest commandment.

If Israel remembered the Lord their God, loved Him, and obeyed Him, all would go well for them. The very same goes for us.

And we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)