Relying on the King

Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:7-9

Israel relied on the king of Aram and not the Lord. If this isn’t fitting for where we are today in our nation, I’m not sure what is. It’s always dangerous to rely solely on mere men to make the tough decisions that need to be made. Let’s face it, men and women make mistakes. We all do. From President Washington to the sitting President Bush, they have all had to make extremely difficult decisions daily that very few people ever have to make.

Blessed are the leaders who readily admit that they don’t have all the answers and falls on their faces before Almighty God. Blessed also are their followers who also take the time to bathe those leaders in prayer.

And Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

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The god of This Age

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Any cursory study of Biblical end times will reveal that Satan does not win in the end. And he knows he can’t win, so what does he do? He deceives as many as possible. That deception comes in many forms and ways. Lying, stealing, cheating, lusting, drunkenness, greed, gossip, debauchery, envy, hatred, and every other kind of sin imaginable. Satan knows weaknesses and exploits them.

So when “sinners” sin, why should we be surprised? It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to stop it, but we really shouldn’t be surprised at the moral decay we see all around us. And we sense that it’s getting worse. Satan knows his time is short and is doing everything in his power to deceive as many as he can. He knows what the “light of the gospel” is and will do what it takes to prevent others from seeing that light.

There are people we know personally that have been blinded by “the god of this age.” Today, pray specifically for that person (by name), that God would remove those blinders. Ask Him to shine the light of his glory into his/her life.

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Return To Me

“If you will return, O Israel, return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.” Jeremiah 4:1-2

As I write this, the returns are just starting to come in from Tuesday’s Presidential election. At this point, no one knows who won. But even if the most righteous man in the world ran for President, these verses would apply to our nation.

You see, without the Lord we are nothing. As Jesus pointed out, ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ John 15:5.

Nothing.

We value many things in this world: wealth, freedom, military might, pride in country, entrepreneurial spirit, diversity, tolerance, and yes even our sins. Somewhere along the way God has faded into the distance. We say that God continues to bless this nation, but for how long? It grieves me even to write it.

In the next few hours (or days depending on lawsuits that have become part of the American election landscape), a new President will begin selecting cabinet members and setting up his administration. Pray with me that our nation will return to the Lord, that we will once again seek His face. Pray that the men and women who will lead this nation will have a awesome fear the God.

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The King’s Heart

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1

As I write this, it is the eve of the U.S. Presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama. Tensions on both sides have been mounting for weeks. As you read this, people all across the United States will be going to the polling booths and poking holes in paper or touching a screen to vote for whom they think can best lead this nation over the next four years. A lot of money has been spent and it’s been a long race.

This verse above comes to mind because ultimately it is God who guides and directs the way He sees fit. In this election, both sides will undoubtedly say they were robbed and that the election was stolen from them if they lose. People across this country have been praying for the outcome for weeks and months now. Make no mistake: God knows the outcome. Often He gives people what they want as He did in Israel when they wanted a King (1 Samuel 8). It’s also important to remember, though we live in a democracy, what people want may not be what’s best for them (i.e., giving candy to a child because he wants it usually is not in the child’s best interest).

But God is in control. I don’t think I can state that clearly enough. Our strength and our hope come from God, not the Government. God will use whoever is in place for His glory and honor. In our ever-changing world, we do have a Rock more stable than Gibraltar.

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Caught, Not Taught

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “this is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat. But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:35-37

Jesus, even after spending time with his disciples in a boat and teaching those who followed the boat to the shore, still wanted to minister to the people. His disciples were slow to catch on regarding his mission. Later we’ll see the miracle with the loaves and the fishes, but before that, Jesus needed to teach His disciples. I actually think the miracle with the food was secondary to what Jesus needed to show his disciples.

We’ve heard the phrase “ministry is caught, not taught.” That’s what’s happening here. They’re probably all exhausted because they’ve dealt with people and each other all day. When they’re weakest physically was when their guards were down. They just wanted to disperse the crowd and get some rest. Jesus had other thoughts.

I think this is an often overlooked point about ministry. We may not have the luxury of being at our best at all times. God knows that. Those in ministry know what it’s like to get emergency midnight calls when we’re clearly not at the top of our game. Ministry is about people, and people need help at very inconvenient times!

If you’re in that situation, rest easy knowing that God see and knows you best. Leaning on Him during those times is absolutely essential for maintaining sanity and balance. The disciples obviously had to lean on Jesus because they hadn’t a clue about where they were going to get food to feed the crowds. It was a lesson that was caught, not taught.

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Time and Compassion

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot…When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:32-34

Jesus had taken His disciples aside to teach them and to find out exactly they had been doing (v30). As the disciples traveled in a boat, many followed them on foot.

Picture this scene. Jesus is teaching in a boat on the way to a quiet place, a place where they could be alone and regroup. His disciples are jabbering a mile a minute, probably trying to “one-up” each other in their stories. He and the others see the crowds on the shore rushing to their probable landing place. His followers undoubtedly are watching Jesus closely to see what He would do when He landed. After all, he made the suggestion that they get away (v31) and now that their peace and quiet would be interrupted, what would He do? This moment is as much for the disciples as it is for the people who followed Him.

So what did He do? He had compassion on them and began teaching them. He would eventually feed them from the loaves and fishes.

Don’t miss the significance of that. Even when Jesus had been busy teaching and counseling His own disciples, He made time to minister to others who came to Him.

Their needs were similar to ours. And it’s evident that He’ll have time for us when we come to Him.

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The Love of God

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so.

We learned the simple song as kids. We smile as its nostalgia. The years and worries and cares and fears and hurts have changed us. God hasn’t changed.

We sometimes forget that God loves us. We forget that God does what is best for His children. We forget that the God of all Creation is on our side and ready to help at the mention of His name. Yes, we certainly forget about the love of God when we’re in the midst of this thing called life.

Fortunately–fortunately–God doesn’t forget that He loves us.

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De-legislating Fruit

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

A very popular phrase used by people who do not appreciate moral truth is “you can’t legislate morality.” You’ve heard it but what does it mean? The phrase is used against people who have moral problems with issues of the day: abortion, death penalty, abstinence among teens, right to die, sexual promiscuity, etc. While it is not the space or time to debate the merits of that phrase, it is very clear that you can’t write a law that forces people to love someone or be patient with someone or to be gentle. Laws do not produce those character traits. Instead, the Spirit of God must impress those upon us.

Paul grappled with the Law and the Spirit throughout the book of Romans. He admitted that he doesn’t always do what he wanted because his flesh told him he needed to do something else (chapter 7). But the crowning verse in Chapter 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The bottom line is this: on our own we are weak and helpless. Sin can easily overpower us. But fortunately we have a solution. More than that, we have a Savior, one who knows what temptation is like (Hebrews 4:15). He knows the struggles that we face. He knows our need because, as incredible as it seems, He was one of us – yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16).

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Out of Control Self-Control

But the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Groan. Nobody enjoys self-control. We just like to do what we want, when we want. Whether it’s our out-of-control eating, our wayward tongue, our selfish temper, our destructive lusts, our bad habits, our limitless spending, or how we entertain ourselves, we don’t like self-control. And we know it.

But the beautiful thing about God is that if we want He’ll point out things that we should have more control over and give us the strength and the power to accomplish it. “For the grace of God …teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and Godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12). If we want. He won’t force the issue. He may nudge a bit (until you’ve said, “no” many times) but He won’t force it.

So, what is it? What is the one thing (not 5 or 10 or 20 things, but one) that you need more control over? What is it? Not only does God teach us to live self-controlled lives but He gives us the power: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him…” (2 Peter 1:3).

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