God’s Will in a Short Reminder

Most of the time, I’m not confused about God’s will for me. I don’t fret over what I”m supposed to be doing and how God’s going to use me. If I need to know about those things, I can go to his Word and find out. I can memorize scripture to help me remember those things as I go about my day. His instructions are explained in simple terms and usually take the form of simple acts.

As I become more familiar with God’s will for me, I learn that there isn’t anything mentioned that I cannot do, but often there are things I balk at doing. Having scripture like the one above helps to remind me to keep it simple.

Rejoice. Pray in all circumstances. Give thanks. Put those three together and they spell Worship.

Be a blessing to someone today.

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Beloved, Hear My Heart: Book Review

  • Beloved, Hear My Heart: A Deep Sense of Righteous Urgency!
  • By Lawrence Sankar
  • Published by Vision Tomorrow Today
  • 2015, 166 pages

In this book by Lawrence Sankar, thirty-one essays present the author’s “deep sense of righteous urgency,” hence, the subtitle. However, on one of the inside covers, is a different subtitle describing the book’s content, which is “a collection of inspirational messages.” This is only one of several writing issues that confused me in Mr. Sankar’s work.

To his credit, Sankar is most certainly fluent in scripture, and uses it in the essays themselves to explain them. He’s able to make good application of the scripture he uses and the reader can relate to life much of what he says.
While reading the essays and notes following them, I noticed Sankar referred to many of these writings as parables. Some were written as parables; others could not be called parables because the form wasn’t there. This made it difficult for me to trust the theme. I became confused by this as well.

When I tried to find Sankar’s theme for the book–after all, any book should have a one–I finally found something close on page 69. “Believers must become the messenger of change in their family and the catalyst of change in their communities and the wider society.” At any rate, this is what I’m guessing is his central theme. Since each titled entry has a different form (parable, essay, ‘poetic discourse,’ ‘revelation,’ etc.), it took some re-reading of some of them to discover the message he was trying to convey. Often, it was found in his “notes.”

Sankar is passionate about revival and in the essay, “A Timeless Reflection,” he states, “But rather, I have decided to balance my discouragement with a sense of hopeful optimism.” This is evident throughout the book. I’m sad to say this is one of the few consistencies.

“Beloved” would have benefited from professional editing. Perhaps he could have divided the book into sections containing the parables, the essays, the so-called ‘revelations,’ and the rest. Some of his notes seemed to be essays in themselves as if he had more to say.

I don’t disagree with most of what the author says, but his method and having to explain everything to me was somewhat frustrating. The author seems to have a prophetic voice, speaking truth into our lives. However, one with such a voice must exercise grace. Truth and grace is how Jesus came into our lives (John 1:14).

For someone who wants to hear what the Bible says about revival and becoming an agent for change in the world, this book could help. I would suggest the reader dive in with his or her Bible on hand. Be like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12). Be wise and study for yourself along with this author.

Reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

Praying For “Them”

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

“Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18).

No matter how difficult it may seem to pray for someone who hurts us, it’s always the right thing to do.

Simeon and the Savior

This post is re-blogged from last December for this Advent season following my pastor’s sermon about Simeon last Sunday. While he taught on another aspect of the story, I find it interesting––and gratifying––that he and I are so often on the same wavelength.-Paula

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22-24)

Word made flesh visualAt first glance, this short passage of scripture might seem like a simple recording of an event in Joseph’s, Mary’s and Jesus’ lives. But watch what happens when an old man enters the scene.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” (Luke 2:25-28).

When I read this, I want to be like Simeon. Certainly, being righteous and devout sounds good, but also to speak to God with the confidence Simeon had. He praised God regarding the baby Jesus. He said,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29,30).

That baby was exactly what the old gentleman had been waiting for.

When it’s time for me to pass from this earth, I hope similar words occupy my mind and heart, because I have also been blessed to see God’s salvation. That fact gives me peace.

During this advent season, the coming of Christ reminds me there’s a wonderful hope for us. We have the promise of God’s glory when we know Jesus personally and trust Him as our Lord and savior. Like Simeon, we yearn to see Christ. We look forward to His return.

One secret to Simeon’s story is this: he listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and went to the temple when prompted. He knew from prior experience that the Spirit would speak. He anticipated the promise which was in line with his going. He trusted that he wouldn’t die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

As I said, I’m blessed to know Jesus and His salvation.

And like Simeon, I look forward to laying eyes on Him.

 

God Asks Questions

Occasionally, I ask God a question. It’s not a case of questioning God, which is entirely different. Sometimes I just feel the need to have a conversation in which he makes things clearer. I don’t always understand.

For instance, I sometimes ask, “What’s going on here, Lord?” Hoping he’ll give me insight to a situation or how another person is responding, I check in with him first. Another one I ask is “Will you please direct me here, Lord? I’m not sure which way to go.”

These, obviously, aren’t hard questions for God. He can answer any question. When he wants to. The thing I’ve learned about asking God a question is sometimes he answers in a way I wasn’t expecting. God’s answer to my question might be that I get another situation. When asking for direction, he more often than not leads me to some place I never even considered. Or someplace I thought of but didn’t want to go.man in woods praying

God is in the habit of asking me questions as well. In fact, I get more questions from God than he gets from me.  To inspire me toward further spiritual maturity and to being conformed to the image of his Son, the questions are much harder for me than my questions are for him.

Obviously.

Some time ago, God asked me about my motivations and wanted me to be clear on something. Turnabout is fair play with him, for sure. This is what he asked me:

“What is the difference between your devotion to Jesus and devotion to your idea of what Jesus wants?”

This question is one I return to repeatedly. Because I tend to think I know what God wants, my actions will reflect that. If I don’t stop and consider first my relationship with Jesus and remember what his mission is, I create my own mission.

Heavenly Father, I’m so grateful that you’re always working and that your Son is as well. The questions you ask are sometimes difficult for me because I so often think I know the way you work and how you want to work in the world. Please keep reminding me that you are the one in charge, even when I don’t understand what’s going on. You’re the perfect parent and I trust you to raise me as a good Father would. For your glory, Amen.

Thinking About Spring and “Fruit”

apple-tree-blossoms-john-brink

I’m thinking “Spring” and remembering the beautiful flowers on the apple trees in the yard of my childhood home.

The pink and white blossoms smelled so sweet when you stood close to the tree. Then it seemed all at once, the driveway was covered in petals. First, they showed off their potential for the fall harvest. Then, we waited for those apples to emerge and ripen.

I’ve come to understand that we must all undergo challenges in life so that we may grow and bear fruit like those trees. Struggle. Obey God in the struggle. Then move forward in spiritual maturity.

For the fruit to grow, we must first lose the bloom.

Elisabeth Elliot on Discipleship

“In order to be a disciple we must deny ourselves. This is to exercise authority over our own spirit. We must take up the Cross. This is to submit to Christ’s authority. And we must follow. This is continued obedience.”

E Elliot with childElisabeth Elliot (December 21, 1926 – June 15, 2015) was a Christian author and speaker. Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca (now known as  Waodani) of eastern Ecuador. She later spent two years as a missionary to the tribe members who killed her husband. Returning to the United States after many years in South America, she became widely known as the author of over twenty books, including “Through Gates of Splendor” and “Discipline: The Glad Surrender” She was also in constant demand as a speaker. Elliot toured the country, sharing her knowledge and experience, well into her seventies

Follow Your Heart?

Often, I hear the phrase “Follow your heart” as an encouragement to people to do whatever they think is best based on ‘gut feelings.’ They might also say “Follow your gut.” I believe we all have a conscience given by God and our conscience along with leadings from the Holy Spirit will help us to make decisions based on right and wrong.

And I admit the idea of following my heart used to be something I didn’t think too much about. I know I’ve let even major decisions be based on emotions. Then I became familiar with the Bible and what it had to say about just how poorly my heart acts as a leader in such cases.

Here’s some biblical wisdom I’ve picked up over the years

Jesus speaking in a short sermon: “For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” Luke 6:44,45

“The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick–who can understand it? I, the LORD, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9,10

“All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the motives.” Proverbs 16:2

In addition to heeding what God says in his Word about our actions, words, thoughts and attitudes, I like this advice from Oswald Chambers.

“The only test as to whether we ought to allow an emotion to have its way is to see what the outcome of the emotion will be. Push it to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something God would condemn, allow it no more way.” From “My Utmost For His Highest”

Most of the time, I know exactly what God would like me to do. I know his heart. Since a person’s heart is the seat of emotions, following God’s heart is always the best decision.

Father, I know my selfish tendencies. I ask you to constantly remind me that, giving over to my emotions, I’ll often fail to make right decisions. I want to please you. Guide me with your Truth. Test my heart and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

Sometimes It Doesn’t Make Sense

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:16, 21, 22

What happens when there’s something we know for certain we need to do, but the action itself goes against what makes sense to us?

Do we ignore that nagging voice telling us to follow through?

God often gives instructions to act on what He says without explaining why. Perhaps you can relate to some of the stories in the Bible.

Joshua was a general. He followed Moses as leader of the Israelites when God led them to the Promised Land. It was now time for them to seize the property and take possession of it. The first city to be taken was Jericho.

God explained to Joshua that He had delivered Jericho into his hands. It implied that all the people had to do was follow God’s instructions. Imagine what some of the people must have thought when they were told the plan.

March around the city with all the armed men and the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant for six days. On the seventh day, as they marched, the priests were to blow the trumpets. When they heard the long blast from the trumpets, God told Joshua to have the people shout loudly. “The walls of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”

Yell at a huge fortified city after marching in silence for six days? That doesn’t make sense. But they did it. The city fell.

God chose Gideon as a judge of Israel to defeat the Midianites who were constantly harassing the people. Here’s another example of God commanding a plan that doesn’t make sense to mere mortals.

To prepare for the battle, God told Gideon to reduce his troops to 300 men. First, the ones who were afraid to fight went home excused. The rest of the army was tested to see if they lapped water like dogs or with their hands to their mouths. Only the men who drank water in a ready position were retained.

Fight the enemy with only 300 men?

Gideon had previously been wary of God’s message that he was a “mighty man of valor” and even went so far as to ask for signs from God that He meant what He said. When Gideon asked, God didn’t become angry; He answered Gideon in the way Gideon requested. (Judges 6:36-40; 7:1-8)

Naaman, commander of King Aram’s army “was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” He sought a way to be healed and one of his servants offered a solution. She suggested her master see the prophet Elisha. When Naaman arrived, Elisha sent a messenger to say that the commander should wash himself seven times in the Jordan River and his flesh would be restored.

Naaman went away angry. He had the idea that Elisha would intervene, calling on the name of the Lord for a miracle. When considering the solution given, he ranted that the Jordan was an unfit river and there were better ones in which he could dip himself.

Again, his servants seemed to grasp the situation better than he. They reasoned that if the prophet had told him to go and “do some great thing,” would he not have done it?

Washing in what Naaman thought was a dirty river didn’t make sense to him. But he went. He was cleansed. (2 Kings 5: 1-14)

The prophet Jeremiah had an inside track with God, continually receiving God’s word as a way to speak to the Israelites about His plans. The message that the people would be sent into exile wasn’t a pretty one. The message had been given by other prophets as well. Israel had plenty of warning about what was coming.

At one point, God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of land from his cousin. Surely buying property during a time of siege by the Babylonians must have seemed foolish to Jeremiah’s friends. Even to his enemies.

However, Jeremiah obeyed God when his cousin came to him in the courtyard of the guards. Despite the fact that he was a prisoner and the people would be exiled for seventy years, Jeremiah knew when God restored His people, “Houses, fields and vineyards (would) again be bought in (the) land.” (Jeremiah 32: 6-25)

Jesus’ chosen apostle, Peter, was a commercial fisherman. One day, after Jesus taught the people who gathered on the shore to hear Him, He told Peter to put his boat into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.

“Simon (Peter) answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

After fishing all night and not catching a thing? Why now? That doesn’t make sense.

But Peter obeyed. And they caught such a large number of fish the nets broke. (Luke 5: 4-11)take first step

Who are you most like? Naaman, who argues God’s instructions? Gideon who doubts he can be used by God and asks for signs to be sure? Jeremiah who has an inside track and trusts God will come through? Or Joshua and Peter, who obey immediately because God “says so”?

Maybe you’ve acted like any one of them at some time. That would be understandable because faith can be a tricky thing.

Sometimes, as in Naaman’s case, we need other people to help us see what God is trying to do in our lives. Or we need to ask God for further clarification like Gideon did with the fleece. Then we can move with a small “army” instead of surging ahead full force.

As we mature spiritually, God gives us an “inside track.” We may still pray for a clearer vision, or depend on others to help us see how God intends His instructions for our benefit. Ultimately, we’ll come to a point in which we simply obey because God says so.

Even when it doesn’t make sense.

Imagine what would have happened for the young man whom Jesus told to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Imagine the rewards he would have seen and the joy that could have been his if he’d decided to obey, despite the fact that losing his riches didn’t make sense.

What is God asking you to do today that doesn’t seem to make sense? God’s thoughts are greater than ours. His ultimate plan may be hidden even though He provides a way to see His revealed will. Maybe today is the day to trust God and put our lives completely in His hands.

“We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)