The Will Of God

Romans 12

Over the years, I have found most of us are trying to determine God’s will for our lives. We have come to understand that His ways are better than our ways, and if we desire abundant life, we want to be in the center of His will. Most of us have heard the story of Jonah, a man who refused to go where God wanted him and was consequently swallowed by a large fish. I do not want to spend any time in the belly of the beast and would much rather go where God wants, and do what God wants. Part of His will can be difficult to decipher and is only determined by following the example of Mary, sitting at His feet. If you are trying to decide what job to take, who to marry, or if you should have another child, the best thing to do is spend time with Jesus.

As you fast, pray and read His Word, you will find He gives direction to your life. However, there is another side to the will of God, one that is of even greater importance and is much easier to determine. It is His will for how we are to live. While at times it may be hard to obey, it it is never difficult to determine. Here in Romans 12, Paul gives 25 specific details as to how the Christian ought to behave.

1. Let love be without hypocrisy.

2. Abhor what is evil.

3. Cling to what is good.

4. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.

5. In honor, giving preference to one another.

6. Don’t lag in diligence.

7. Be fervent in spirit.

8. Serve the Lord.

9. Rejoice in hope.

10. Be patient in tribulation.

11. Continue steadfastly in prayer.

12. Distribute to the needs of the saints.

13. Be given to hospitality.

14. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

16. Be of the same mind toward one another.

17. Do not set your mind on high things.

18. Associate with the humble.

19. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

20. Repay no one evil for evil.

21. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

22. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

23. Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

24. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on   his  head.”

25. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This list gives us plenty to focus upon as we seek to uncover what is next in the plan of God for our lives.

Pastor Jim20140722-063344-23624719.jpg

The Will of God

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Romans 12

Over the years, I have found most of us are trying to determine God’s will for our lives. We have come to understand,  His ways are better than our ways and if we desire abundant life, we want to be in the center of His will. Most of us have heard the story of Jonah, a man who refused to go where God wanted him and was consequently swallowed by a large fish. I do not want to spend any time in the belly of the beast, and would much rather go where God wants, and do what God wants. Part of His will can be difficult to decipher and is only determined by following the example of Mary, sitting at His feet. If you are trying to decide what job to take, who to marry, or if you should have another child, the best thing to do is spend time with Jesus.

As you fast, pray and read His Word, you will find He gives direction to your life. But there is another side to the will of God, one that is of even greater importance, and is much easier to determine. It is His will for how we are to live. While at times it may be hard to obey, it it is never difficult to determine. Here in Romans 12, Paul gives 25 specific details as to how the Christian ought to behave.

1. Let love be without hypocrisy.

2. Abhor what is evil.

3. Cling to what is good.

4. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.

5. In honor giving preference to one another.

6. Don’t lag in diligence.

7. Be fervent in spirit.

8. Serve the Lord.

9. Rejoice in hope.

10. Be patient in tribulation.

11. Continue steadfastly in prayer.

12. Distribute to the needs of the saints.

13. Be given to hospitality.

14. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

16. Be of the same mind toward one another.

17. Do not set your mind on high things.

18. Associate with the humble.

19. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

20. Repay no one evil for evil.

21. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

22. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

23. Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

24. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

25. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This list gives us plenty to focus upon as we seek to uncover what is next in the plan of God for our lives.

Pastor Jim20140722-063344-23624719.jpg

Drowning

Ezra 9:6
“And I said: ‘O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.’”

After some initial reforms, the remnant, who had returned to Jerusalem from captivity, soon began to drift from the Lord. The ways of the world are always tempting for the child of God; as such, many of the people began to pick up the customs of the day. Soon, it was difficult to see any difference between believer and unbeliever. News of the people’s behavior devastated Ezra, and he began to cry out to the Lord. His prayer reveals what to do when we find ourselves overwhelmed by our own failures.

There are times in the life of many believers when we are drawn away from the Lord, and find ourselves caught up in sin. Tangled like Jonah in seaweed, we find ourselves caught in sin with seemingly no way to escape. The guilt can be so great we are ashamed to even begin steps of repentance. I think Ezra was experiencing this. He realized how they had taken advantage of the goodness of God by pursuing the ways of the world. Instead of remaining in his failure, Ezra reminded himself of the grace of God, and His desire to restore the fallen saint. It was the grace of God that caused Ezra to seek forgiveness, even when he was neck deep in the guilt of sin.

Perhaps you have failed in a big way. Perhaps the guilt of past, present or continual sin is keeping you from moving away from it, and toward the Lord. Can I encourage you to do what Ezra did? He went before the Lord, confessed his sin, trusted in grace, and made the appropriate changes in his life. God is willing to forgive. Are you willing to return, receive and repent?

Pastor Jim

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Divine Response

“What does the divine response say to him?” Romans 11:4

Paul is referring to one of the most difficult times in the life of the prophet Elijah. He lived during a time when the nation of Israel had turned from the Lord and had become steeped in idolatry. As the people stood in the valley of decision, swaying between a decision to follow Jehovah or become more like the world around them, Elijah stood boldly for the Lord and saw the beginnings of a national revival. This did not come without a price. Jezebel the queen who was openly opposed to the ways of God, began a campaign to see Elijah killed. These were not idle threats, for she had been responsible for the death of many of the prophets of God. Elijah saw no other course of action except to flee. He ran from Mount Carmel in the north of Israel, all the way to the wilderness where Moses had received the Law of God. There, in a place of solitude, he began to cry out to God. “I alone am left of the prophets of God and they seek to take my life.” He truly believed that his life was over and there was no escape from certain death. His fears led his heart to speak, but in the midst of his trial he heard another voice saying,

“I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Paul referred to this as “the divine response.” In the midst of trial, as his fear caused his heart to speak, God had another message designed to comfort, strengthen and produce hope within his servant, Elijah. He was not alone in this. There is always a divine response whenever our hearts speak to us, and this response is always found in the pages of God’s Word. Peter referred to “His great and precious promises.” (2Peter 1:4) It is critical in our times of trial, we learn to listen to the voice of God which cries out against the voice of fear, depression, temptation, anxiety, worthlessness or any of our other emotions. It has become very common today, when we are faced with indecision, to be encouraged to “follow your heart.” The problem is, our hearts often speak contrary the promises of God. Whenever our hearts cry out, we must look into the Word of God to find divine response.

What is you heart saying to you today? Is fear, doubt or discouragement, causing you to question the ways of God? Take some time to look into His precious promises and allow the Divine response to give direction to your wayward thoughts.

Pastor Jim

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Adjectives

“Ezra the priest, the scribe, expert in the words of the commandments of The Lord…” Ezra 7:11

Webster’s dictionary defines an adjective as “a modifier of a noun to denote the quality of the thing named… or to specify a thing as distinct from something else.”  I wonder what adjectives would be used in a biography of my life. Would I be described as tall or short, grumpy or friendly, rich or poor? It fascinates me that when Ezra’s life was all summed up, he was described as a priest, a scribe, and an expert in the Word of the Lord.

A priest was more than his vocation, it described him as a man who spent time in the presence of God. As a scribe, he was one who transcribed the Scriptures (Tradition holds that Ezra was involved in developing the Old Testament canon). Being an expert in the Word, was the result of spending day after day getting in the Word of God.

When all is said and done, these are the adjectives we should seek to have describe our lives. Take time today to get in the Word and spend time with Christ.

Pastor Jim

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Deep Desire

Romans 10:1
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”

We use the word heart to refer to the seat of our deepest desires. It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “I love you with all my heart.” The same was true in Paul’s day. He declares, with this expression, one of the things that kept him going in the face of difficulty, opposition and persecution, was his desire to see his friends come to Christ.

As the chapter continues, he speaks of two actions born out of this desire. First, Paul informs us, his desire led him to pray. Prayer is the greatest weapon in the arsenal of the Christian. With it, we are able to pull down the strongholds that Satan has in a person’s life. In this case, Paul explained, the Jews were held captive by thinking they were righteous enough because of their actions. They thought keeping the Sabbath, observing the feasts, and eating Kosher, were enough to grant them access to heaven. Paul’s response was to explain they completely misunderstood how righteous God actually is. Sin and holiness are contrary terms. Holiness speaks of purity, while sin refers to uncleanness. Since God is perfectly holy, no sin can withstand His presence. Those who think God will ignore their sin because of their good deeds,  misunderstand the holiness of God, and are in for a rude awakening when they stand before Him. Paul knew that arguing was not the secret to rescuing His friends from this deceit. So he resorted to a much stronger force. He prayed for their salvation. Prayer will soften the heart of the hearer and provide an open door to share the Gospel. Having said that, prayer is not the only weapon in our battle to rescue our friends into eternal life. Paul went on to say,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:15

For a person to have their sins forgiven and be made right with God, they must believe they are a sinner, and Christ died to remove their sin. This is not intuitive knowledge, nor is it something revealed in nature. A person can look up at the stars, around at the environment, or down into the seas, and realize there is a God.  However, in order to know the Son of God became man, died on the cross, rose again, and that belief in Him results in eternal life, the Gospel must be preached. Paul’s deep desire drove him to bring the Gospel to his friends, even if it meant opposition from the very ones he was seeking to save.

What is your hearts desire? To answer that simply, look at your actions. What do you pray for? What do you spend your time, talents and treasures upon? What do you risk your life for? Perhaps it is time that we develop a greater love for God, expressed in a greater desire to see others come to Christ.

What will you do for the kingdom today?

Pastor Jim

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Back To Work

Ezra 5:2
“So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”

Not long after returning to Jerusalem, the people became greatly discouraged in the work of the Lord. Things were moving slowly, and they were facing a great deal of opposition from those around them. Soon, the work of the Lord ceased all together. It is worth noting what encouraged the people to resume the work, and finish the task to which God called them. We read simply, “the prophets of God were with them, helping them.” The help was provided in the form of exhortations to the people, to continue in the work of God.

From the book of Haggai, we learn these discouraged people neglected the work of the house of God, and their efforts were spent building and remodeling their own homes. It seems they were experiencing the effects of having a divided heart. They had expressed a desire to help further the kingdom of God, only to be sidelined with pursuits of their own. Haggai’s message was simple,

Haggai 1:4
“ Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”

I wonder how often we have found ourselves in the same situation. The difficulty of serving the Lord has caused us to neglect ministry. Perhaps all we need is a solid nudge to get back to work. Whatever we are facing, it is time to get involved in the work of the Lord.

Once the people determined to get back to work, they faced the same struggles which caused them to quit in the first place. The work was still difficult and the opposition great. It was at this point that Zechariah added to Haggai’s message. He declared,

Zechariah 4:6
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

For years our yard was a mess. A hurricane had leveled trees, and a broken irrigation system caused nothing but the weeds to grow. My approach was to ignore it; I felt the job was just too big. After an extended period of time and gentle nudges from my wife, I finally decided to tackle the project; only to find I lacked the strength to accomplish it on my own. I quickly found I was not really on my own. Upon making a couple phone calls, others came to my aid. They helped remove tree stumps, weeds and unwanted thorn bushes. Too often, we neglect the work of God because it is too much for us to handle; not realizing we are not, in fact, on our own. The Spirit of God will always provide whatever we need, to do whatever He has called us to.

Pastor Jim

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