Monday, January 30, 2012

Eyes And Ears

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)
It is possible to listen to someone without looking at them. It is also possible to look at someone without listening. But when we look at someone while listening to them, we can learn a lot.
Some of the most painful experiences come when we are ignored by people who are supposed to love us. I know a man who endured years of being ignored by his father. His father had never forgiven him for something he had done as a teenager. Even when the father was on his deathbed, he would not look upon his son. When his son would try to speak to him, the father would turn his face away. The son tearfully told his father that he loved him and never knew for sure that his father ever heard him at all.
I am thankful that God does not hold grudges. When we come to Him in repentance, He sees us and hears us. Then He forgives us.

I. THE LORD IS LOOKING UPON THE RIGHTEOUS. Like a creator who loves to gaze on the object of his labor, the Lord looks lovingly on the righteous. He looks to see the growth of goodness. He looks to see what was once nothing become something. He looks with eyes of love.
II. THE LORD IS LISTENING TO A LANGUAGE OF PRAYER. Only those who are praying to God are communicating in God’s language. Many prayers are meaningless repetition and do not communicate with God. It’s because He speaks in a dialect of love. Only those who have connected with God are truly communicating with Him. Only those who love God want to talk to Him. God hears the prayers of the righteous. We become righteous only because of the sacrificial and transforming work of God. He, who is righteousness, became unrighteousness on our behalf. The righteous sacrifice was then offered as a ransom as a price of freedom from captivity. Once we acknowledge this payment, we accept the reality of being transferred from one master to another. Love is communicated in this transaction. When we recognize this, we accept this love and begin to speak this same language. God’s ears are open to someone speaking His language.
III. THE LORD IS ALIENATED BY EVILDOERS. The Lord is repulsed and offended by evil. The more fearful thing is that He is against the evildoers. We should be examining our hearts before God to discern if we have evil motives. If our actions are motivated by evil desires, we are in danger of being found to be enemies of God. This is a terrifying scenario to consider. That God would not look upon me with favor or hear my prayers because of my evil actions makes me tremble inwardly. To understand God as a merciful God, you must experience your need for mercy. Experiencing our need for mercy helps us recognize the character of God who is the Righteous Judge. Only He has the unique wisdom and the ability to judge rightly all the time. We don’t want to be on that side of God. We need to be on the mercy side.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Preaching On Purpose

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
Being “called to preach” is a phrase people in church have understood as occasions when someone surrenders their life to the ministry. It usually signified someone becoming a pastor or evangelist. But aren’t we all “called to preach”?
If you have ever been led by God to share His word with someone who has rejected your intrusion, you know how painful that can be. Sometimes God’s word will divide families and friends and that can be very uncomfortable. We don’t want to feel responsible for that.
When we come into the knowledge that God gives us a word to share to accomplish His purpose, that knowledge can set us free. Now we all want to be thought highly of by others. But when our need to be approved by others is greater than the desire to serve and please God, we should do a heart check. When we seek to be obedient to God by sharing His word, God is glorified.
I. WE ARE CHARGED TO PREACH THE WORD INTENTIONALLY, NOT ACCIDENTALLY. The word should be studied carefully so we will be ready with a ready word. God never does anything aimlessly. He has purpose in his plan. His word is never wasted. It goes out and does not return without accomplishing its purpose.
II. WE ARE CHARGED TO PREACH INSTANTLY, NOT OCCASIONALLY. The word is to be ready to be delivered at a moment's notice. Already described as a double-edged sword, the word should be like a loaded gun. If we have to wait to load our weapon before it is discharged, the opportune moment may pass.
III. WE ARE CHARGED TO PREACH THE WORD REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT IS POLITICALLY CORRECT. In season or out is a reference to how socially fashionable it is to preach the word. Prophets through the ages have preached and no one cared but God. God doesn't care about how people receive His word. He doesn't need their approval. But He does care about their lives. And He does command us to preach an unpopular word at times. Confrontation of a holy God’s word with the condition of sinful man is always uncomfortable, but timely.
IV. WE ARE CHARGED TO PREACH THE WORD TO ACHIEVE GOD’S PURPOSES, NOT OURS. To correct and encourage is the purpose of preaching God's word. Although the word cannot correct unless applied, or will not encourage if not believed, that is not our responsibility. We are only charged to preach. Transformation occurs when people are responsive to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We only preach out of a desire to serve God, not attract a following, or change men into our image. The results of preaching the word are not up to us. God is calling men to holiness through the preaching of His word. The results are up to God.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Test Of Faith

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)

In the construction industry materials used for building are tested for quality. The testing of concrete is an amazing thing. The goal is to test the integrity of the design. The concrete is subjected to massive pressure until it reaches the breaking point. The only way to know the strength of concrete is to bring it to a point of failure. The concrete is often explosive in its failure. It not only collapses, it ruptures from the inside. You can not only see it, but you can hear it when it fails.
The testing of our faith is often like the testing of concrete. Faith is brought to the breaking point to discover the object of the faith. Faith in self will always fail. The stress is too great. When our faith fails, it is catastrophic in its result. Things collapse and even explode. The pieces of broken lives are painful to put back together.
God is in the business of testing and purifying. He tests the reality and purity of our faith by subjecting us to situations where we must choose who we will believe. When we choose to believe God, no matter what the test, we have passed the test. Some things Jesus told Peter can encourage us today.

I. IN TIMES OF TESTING, JESUS IS PRAYING. The good news is that the enemy of our souls must request permission to attack. This is a pretty one-sided war. Can you imagine a military commander on the battlefield asking his opponent’s blessing upon his next combat operation? We can be encouraged to know that Jesus has real authority over the enemy and reinforces our decision to remain faithful and believe in God. He does this when He prays for us.

II. IF FAITH IS REAL, IT WILL NOT FAIL. Jesus does not pray that Peter gets faith, he prays for the faith Peter has to sustain him. When we are born again by the Spirit of God, we are given the ability to believe. We, like Peter, are given faith as a gift. It is strengthened only when we are given the opportunity to believe God in times of testing.

III. ONLY AFTER WE RETURN TO GOD CAN WE REINFORCE OUR BRETHREN. More concrete does not always strengthen. It's the integration of steel that gives the most strength in tension. Steel will bend and flex and keep it together. After we have stumbled, we can return to God. After we have been stretched to believe God, we can testify as to His faithfulness and integrity. God tests us to purify us. He has a plan for us to encourage one another. It’s the body of Christ He is building.

Monday, January 2, 2012

All Out Search

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Remember being sent to look for something when you were a child? More times than not I would return with the news that I wasn’t able to find whatever I was supposed to be looking for. My mama would then go look herself and would usually return with it, responding that I must not have been looking very hard. What she was saying was that I was doing some halfhearted searching.
When we lose something precious, we often spend a lifetime looking for something to compensate for the loss. We may be searching halfheartedly, looking to fill that void, finding only pain and disappointment. We may be searching desperately and don’t really know that it is the presence of God that we need to find most of all. In a time when it seemed all was hopelessly lost, God spoke through Jeremiah that He could be found…if someone was seriously seeking Him.

I. SEEKING GOD MEANS ACTIVELY SEARCHING FOR HIM. Our desire to seek God comes from outside ourselves. It is not our idea to go on a quest to find God, though we may think so. God decides to reveal Himself. God helps us find Him as He progressively reveals Himself. He does this when He sees us acting on the desire to find Him. When He sees us looking, He knows we are seriously considering Him. Actively searching means taking steps to look for Him where He may be found. God will not be found where His name is not glorified, although He may reveal Himself in the midst of ungodly situations. I will not find God in the midst of committing adultery, but God may send a witness to deliver convicting truth. Seriously seeking God means looking where you would expect to find Him. He is revealed in the preaching and teaching of His word, through the prayers of His people and through the church in pursuit of His purpose. Actively searching for Him is participating and becoming involved on our part.
II. SEARCHING FOR GOD IS NOT A HALF-HEARTED EFFORT. Searching with the whole heart is searching with a passion. A half-hearted search indicates that we really don't care about finding what we are looking for. Who among us would search for a missing child with a half-hearted effort? When we search for God, we search for what we have been missing our whole lives. We must be earnest in the effort. A half-hearted attempt to find God will not produce results. We must be abandoned to the search and desperate to find Him. And we will only find God when He chooses to reveal Himself.
III. WE FIND GOD WHEN GOD REVEALS HIMSELF. Someone has described God revealing Himself like a father who teaches his children how to play hide-and-seek. God is like the father who clears his throat while yet in his hiding place, allowing his children to experience the joy of “finding” him. God teaches us how to be a part of the game. He watches to see if we are interested and participating in the search. Then He “clears His throat”, allowing us the joy of finding the One who has been there all along.