Friday, April 19, 2024

A Call to Follow

 Friday, April 19, 2024

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?...  In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27-31;33

A Call to Follow
Jesus never said commitment would be easy. We sometimes try to relate to Christ according to our own  concept of commitment rather than God's standard.  Jesus had a standard - something that He used to determine who He would use in His Kingdom work.  We have learned a lot in the past few months about what it means to truly follow Jesus and live The Jesus Way. Jesus is serious about our relationship with him. He says we must come after him daily. Being a disciple of Jesus in an everyday recommitment. on our part. It is a daily decision to take up our cross and follow him. 

We have all heard the variety of excuses people use to avoid coming to or following Christ.  None of these excuses are new and most were given to Jesus when He called men to follow him.  

What are some of the more common excuses that lead to half-hearted discipleship?

The Selfish-Emotional Response
This response is based in a philosophy that says the end of all things is the happiness and pleasure of man.  Base appetites drive this. "As long as I get something I want I will follow."  One who follows only to get something will never understand the value of sacrifice and service.  God does have much to give and a great desire to give it.  It is proper discipleship that gives Him the ability to bless.  The GRACE of God is FREE not CHEAP!  His blessing cost God His Son and costs us our lives.  Have all who have professed understood?

The Procrastinating Response
One of Satan's greatest tools is Tomorrow.  Most people don’t want to believe that  procrastination is the same as rejection. But we will never BECOME tomorrow what we refuse to BE today.  Great disciples do today what weak disciples put off until tomorrow. (A cards of thanks, daily Bible Study, a time of prayer) Take even just a small part of your free time to commit to doing the things the Holy Spirit lays on your heart and you will see growth as a disciple.  Make it a priority.

The Peer Pressure Response
No other influence can encourage or discourage as our friends can.  However, waiting for the approval of the world to follow Christ is utter foolishness.  Even if you do receive their approval, you may find yourself accepting their interpretation of what that means as well.  Scripture warns repeatedly about not being men-pleasers but God-pleasers.  Who do you seek approval of as to the level of your discipleship?  It’s a fair question for all of us.

The truth is, God is jealous for us.  He wants to own our heart and He deserves our undying devotion. The decision to accept Jesus as your Savior is not to be taken lightly.  It is not a childhood whim to follow because everyone else is doing it.  It is a serious life-changing experience that should be given great consideration as to the level of commitment we are willing to give. Jesus knows your heart. Jesus only requests that we "count the cost" before we respond in commitment to Him.
The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:25-26

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Regeneration

ThursdayApril 18, 2024 

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit. One who is righteous has many adversities, but the Lord rescues him from them all. He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken. Psalm 34:17-20 CSB

Regeneration
A forest often grows back greener and more plentiful after a forest fire has ravaged all the existing life.  Fires, although devastating, can actually help to clean up forests and keep them healthy.  They burn away all the underbrush and sometimes the upper level of the trees too.  This allows the sunshine to reach the earth and purify the soil.  The sun gives warmth and energy that plants need to survive and regenerate.  


Forests will evolve in the presence of fire and even adapt to it. Forrest Hall, a physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explained that wildfire is an integral part of the forest ecosystem.  Hall also said Fire is the mechanism by which the forest is continually regenerated.   Fires consume dead, decaying vegetation accumulating on the forest floor, thereby clearing the way for new growth. Some species, such as the jack pine, even rely on fire to spread their seeds. The jack pine produces "seratonous" (resin-filled) cones that are very durable. The cones remain dormant until a fire occurs and melts the resin. Then the cones pop open and the seeds fall or blow out.


This all reminds me so much of us and the fires we go through in life and how we adapt.  We can have everything singed away taking us down to the raw core of our being.  At this point we are generally wide open to allowing God to do whatever He wants to do with us.  He is free to purify us, revive and rejuvenate us.  We are completely vulnerable and weakened, ready to be molded by His caring and capable hands.   This is a sweet time of refuge and comfort in the midst of or after a trial.  We adapt to the fires and come out a little scarred and then we adapt to the scars and move on, until another fire breaks out.  We move on dragging our scars along with us.  


Some things we can remember when we are in the fire:

We Must Trust God – God is in control and although He has absolute power, He allows these fires in our lives for a reason.  He could take us out of it but for some reason He does not. Trust in His good, acceptable, and prefect will.  He loves us and wants the best for us.  He will take this fire and use it for good. 


Trust That God Will Be With You In The Fire – There is a popular story in the Bible about three men who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they chose not to bow down and worship a statue which had been ordered by the King.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would only bow down to the one true God, so they were thrown into a fiery furnace to burn up.  Mysteriously in the midst of the furnace there appeared four men instead of three.  God was with these men in the fire and He will be with you.  He will be by your side, walking with you and giving you strength, and carrying you when you can’t go on.  


God Will Deliver You – Storms don’t last forever, and fires eventually burn out. God will not leave you where you are forever.  He will rescue you.  He will deliver you. You will walk away scarred and battered but embrace the scars as you would a great treasure.  They were very costly to acquire, and the return will be huge.  The wisdom and life lessons gained are always priceless to those who realize the value.  

I have called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flame will not burn you. Isaiah 43:2CSB

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Impact of Fear

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7

Fear has been with us from the beginning, not as an infrequent visitor, but as a constant companion. Fear may be the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind.  It is the first human emotion referred to after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3.  After they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, God came looking for the first couple to take their customary evening walk together.  Adam’s response to God’s inquiry about their whereabouts was: “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (v.10).  For the first time in their lives, fear gripped the hearts of Adam and Eve because of what they had lost and the One they had to face. 

The source of their fear arose from disobedience that brought about danger, disconnection, and desperation.  

Danger:  Safety was lost outside of Eden. Once evicted from the friendly confines of paradise, the man and woman were forced to face a world fraught with danger and increasing hostility (Genesis 3:14-19; 9:2-6).  The apostle Paul described an internal struggle with fear that was provoked by external dangers threatening him: “We were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5).  Fear was born when man was no longer under the full protection of God.

Disconnection:  Also, Adam felt vulnerable because he became separated from his Provider God. The death that he experienced immediately after he sinned was the loss of his vital connection with God.  He knew he was at risk.  He was naked, but it was much deeper than that.  He was emotionally, relationally, and spiritually cut off from his life-giving God.  Whenever our sense of well-being is threatened, we experience the same shudder of fear that Adam felt.  We feel alone and vulnerable.  Our disconnection from God fuels our fearful struggle with insecurity, inadequacy, and self-doubt.

Desperation:  Adam lost control of his world.  He was banished from the Garden, estranged from his wife, alienated from his God, and desperate to figure out how to survive in a hostile environment.  We all hate to feel out of control. Dan Allender wrote, “Different people fear different things with different levels of intensity, but all of us fear what we cannot control.  Fear is provoked when the threat of danger exposes our inability to preserve what we most deeply cherish.”  Fear invades our most cherished relationships because we have no real control over another person.  People are free to make their own choices.  And where there is freedom, there is fear.  Some spouses fear betrayal; others fear being ignored or unloved.  Parents fear that their children won’t turn out okay.  Employees fear that the company will downsize.  A sense of desperation comes when we lose control.

The truth about life is that all of the above are the experience we live in every day.  Therefore, fear can become the natural state in which we live.  The damage of such a state is profound as many physical issues, emotional issues and spiritual issues emanate from a spirit of fear.  But this is not God’s desire. He offers us courage, wisdom and guidance to offset our fear.  All of these are found in a vital relationship with Him through prayer, Bible study and worship. When we lean into him to overcome our unhealthy fear we find freedom. If we don't break free from our fear, it can cause us to stumble, pause, or stop altogether, keeping us from living The Jesus Way. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Even When We Are Afraid

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!” Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned s over to Midian.  But God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”  Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.” God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.” Judges 6:11-16 The Message

 Even When We Are Afraid

Israel had reverted back to doing evil things in God’s sight. God had put them under the dominance of Midian for seven years and because of this, the Israelites were hiding in the mountains and caves.  The Midianites had ravished the country leaving the Israelites with nothing. 

Gideon was threshing wheat in the bottom of a wine press, out of the sight of the Midianites, when an angel appeared to him and said God is with you, O mighty warrior! In fact, verse 11 says the angel of the Lord came and sat under a tree while Gideon worked.  He saw Gideon before Gideon saw him.  He most likely looked like an ordinary man.  He was just ordinary, appealing to Gideon in an ordinary way.

Gideon was quietly working, never expecting to have company.  He was in the middle of an everyday, mundane task and yet, right there, in the midst of the monotony of his task, he was met by the angel of the Lord.  This is often the way God meets us.  We don’t catch it sometimes and may entirely miss a “God meeting” because we are not looking for God in an ordinary way, in the midst of our ordinary day.  We think we are going to have some grandiose experience.  If we are always looking for an extraordinary and magnificent event, we may miss out on many intimate moments with God.  The routine, mundane, commonplace events in our lives are where God waits for us to find Him. Ordinary is often the disguise of the divine.

“O Valiant Warrior”
Here is the really good part.  Here is Gideon hiding from the enemies, scared to death like the rest of his people and the angel of the Lord calls out to Gideon, O Valiant Warrior.  Gideon’s current position made the angel’s statement seem ironic and unbelievable.  To all of us, it may seem as though Gideon is a coward, but God had a different perspective of him.  His opinion of Gideon was not based on Gideon’s actions or current situation.  Gideon may have been scared and hiding, but God saw beyond that.  He saw something that Gideon didn’t even realize was in him.  

God’s view of us is so far beyond what we can grasp.  We hide away in sin, shame, and fear, thinking that God must imagine the very worst about us. Yet that is exactly where He meets us. If we could see our value and worth through God’s eyes, we would discover that through Jesus Christ He has redeemed us and made us “valiant warriors”.  We have been made to be conquerors not cowards!  Romans 8:37 tells us No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  It is His power in us that makes us valiant warriors and conquerors, giving us everything we will ever need for every assignment He gives us. Watch for the extraordinary in your ordinary and be on the lookout for the divine in disguise so you don’t miss Him while you look for something “magnificent.”

Gideon did not think he was capable of doing what God was calling him to do. He made excuses and asked for proof. His fear was keeping him from fulfilling God’s plan in his life at first, but God used Gideon, despite his fear.  Many times our response to God when he calls us to do something big is the same as Gideon’s. We tell God every reason we don’t measure up for the job. But like Gideon, he can still use us despite our fear and lack of confidence in ourselves.

What is your greatest fear? How is it keeping you from following Jesus? What excuses are you making based on your fear? Will you surrender that fear to the Lord and ask Him to help you trust him and follow Him by faith and in obedience? 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Faith Overcomes Fear

Monday, April 15, 2024

LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, 'My own power has delivered me.' "Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'" So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.  Judges 7:2-3

Faith Overcomes Fear

Gideon thought he was incapable of obeying God in rescuing Israel from the Midianites. He asked God for signs - including two different signs with the fleece as a way of proving that God was really going to do what He said. 


God brings Gideon and a vast army up, then proceeds to strip Gideon of absolutely anything that could be considered confidence in order to show the only confidence we need is in God.  Here we see the creation of that humility in Gideon, and lessons for us as we attempt to obey God’s voice.  God is going to do a series of things here that are totally counterintuitive to military strategy or even common sense - to prove that He doesn’t need anyone to accomplish His will.                                                                  


Christians are either overcome by of their unbelief or overcomers through their faith.


The familiar and exciting account of Gideon’s wonderful victory over the Midianites is really a story of faith in action.  You see, a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. “We’re simply going to have to step out by faith!” leads to the question, “Whose faith?”  Here are two reasons God tests our faith:

 

  1. To show us whether our faith is real or counterfeit, and 
  2. To strengthen our faith for the tasks He’s set before us. 

God tested Gideon’s faith by sifting his army of 32,000 volunteers until only 300 men were left.  I wonder if Gideon is thinking - "Hold the phone, Lord - of course the people are fearful - we’re going to war after all!"  It would be like saying, "There’s a chance that you might die so if that makes you frightened then beat feet and get out of here!"  Perhaps he was secretly hoping that great courage had been instilled in the people or something - but it was not the case and in the first sifting two thirds of his fighting force turned and left. What a blow to the flesh! God told Gideon why He was decreasing the size of the army: He didn’t want the soldiers to boast that they had won the victory over the Midianites. 


God loves to show up in our impossible battles so that there is absolutely no doubt as to where the vicpkso much, He has already fought those battles for us. We just have to trust Him and have faith. People who live by faith know their own weakness more and more as they depend on God’s strength. 


When we allow the enemy to sabotage us with fear, our faith takes the biggest hit. Fear has a way of spreading, and one timid soldier can do more damage than a whole company of enemy soldiers. But we can't live in fear and have faith at the same time. Either fear will conquer faith and we’ll quit, or faith will conquer fear and we’ll triumph.  John Wesley may have been thinking of Gideon’s army when he said, “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell!” But God wasn’t done yet as we shall see.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Strongholds “Fear”


Strongholds
“Fear”

Judges 6:1-16; 7:1-23 (CSB)

 

-       Fear is not the absence of faith, it is simply faith in the wrong things. 

-       Key Truth: “Eliminating obstacles to faith clears a pathway to live The Jesus Way.”

-       Fear- “A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.”

Main Question: How does the stronghold of fear paralyze us from being all that God has called us to be and do? 

1.    God chooses people despite their fear
(Judges 6:1-10)

2.    God’s not concerned with our excuses. 
(Judges 6:11-16)
God + You = a Majority!

3.    God always asks us to trust His uncommon logic
(Judges 7:1-8)

4.    God always calls us to respond to fear with faith and obedience(Judges 7:9-23)

After the Message: 
Read Judges 6:1-7:23. What is your greatest fear? How is it keeping you from following Jesus? What excuses are you making based on your fear? Will you surrender that fear to the Lord and ask Him to help you trust him and follow Him by faith and in obedience? 

  

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Paul’s Doxology Extolling the Riches, Wisdom, and Knowledge of God

Friday, April 12, 2024 Submitted by Kay Crumley

Paul’s Doxology Extolling the Riches, Wisdom, and Knowledge of God – Romans 11:33-36 

Those of us who have been in church for a long time probably remember singing the Doxology hymn.  

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow 
Praise Him, all creatures here below 
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost 

Amen, amen, amen, amen. 

 

What does doxology mean? Just reading these lyrics gives us a pretty good idea what it is, as song of praise to God. One definition I found says it is an expression of praise which gives glory to God. That leads me to another question, who do we usually give glory to if not God? I believe we humans are guilty of taking glory for ourselves when it should be His. The lyrics of this song remind us that all blessings come from God therefore all of creation should praise Him more than anything or anyone else. We praise Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That should be our tribute to Him every day of our lives.  

 

In Romans 11 Paul is writing to the church, specifically the Jewish people, reminding them of the goodness and blessings of God. He provides a detailed explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ reminding them that the coming of the Messiah was foretold by the prophets. He then explains to them that just because the Israelites are His chosen people doesn’t mean they are exempt from submitting to Him in obedience. They had grown spiritually hardened. Thus, God opened the way for the Gentiles to hear and accept the gospel and become adopted sons and daughters of God. Paul was the messenger God raised up to take the gospel to them. Our salvation comes from God’s grace and not from what we can do to earn that salvation. Jesus paid the price for our sins by His sacrifice on the cross. We are welcomed into His family by our faith in Him. God is our redeemer and only through Jesus Christ can we have the privilege of His blessing of those who have been redeemed. Paul concludes this first 2/3 of the chapter with the fact that regardless of our disobedience and hardened hearts, God is a God of mercy and forgiveness. It seems he is overcome with the knowledge of who God is so concludes the chapter with by glorifying God in an expression of praise. 

 

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! 
How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! 
34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? 
Or who has been His counselor? 
35 Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid?  


Paul takes the first three verses to marvel at the person of God. The depth and knowledge of God is deep and rich. His wisdom is more wonderful than we are capable of comprehending. His thoughts are beyond our understanding, they are higher than our thoughts, Isaiah 55:8-9. Our minds cannot conceive the things in His mind as He is so much greater than us and reasons in ways we are incapable of perceiving. He has no counselor as He is the beginning and the end of all, He is the self-sustaining being having no need for guidance or discussion for the right choices. We need that kind of help for daily decision making but God has absolutely no need, He is the Master and Creator over all. He owes us NOTHING. He needs nothing from us, and we have given Him nothing for which He must repay. God is. You can try to add to that, but the truth is that your list would be never ending. He is ALL of anything and everything we can think or imagine. This is Paul’s expression of the wonder of our God and praise for His Lordship over all.  

Paul ends summarizing who God is and giving Him all honor and glory. 
 

36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. 
To Him be the glory forever. Amen.  

 

He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things; everything is because of Him. He is the maker of all things. We use the created materials to make things, but we do not create the basic materials from which those things are made. The universe is held together by Him. Man cannot control nature, that if from God. Our purpose in life is to give glory to Him. He is our purpose. He alone is worthy of our praise. 

I challenge you to take time today and every day to focus on His greatness and to list the many attributes that is God. Give Him your praise and glory. Recognize your relation to Him which should bring you to your knees in humility of His Awesomeness. 

  

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