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The Inside Track – God & NT Joseph

He’s a good God, isn’t he, readers?

Today we’re going to consider God’s dealings with Joseph (Jesus’ earthly father figure) as recorded in Matthew 1. There are some real lessons to be learned in our understanding of how God talks to us, as we look at God’s dealings with Joseph.

Joseph, you will recall was the man married to Mary, Jesus’ mother. For the record, Christ was born of a virgin, and he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, not a man. So if I refer to Joseph as Jesus’ father, rather than split hairs, I’m confident you understand what I mean. Happy day!

By understanding some things about God’s dealings with Joseph, we can better understand God’s dealings with us.

Here are three things about God’s dealings with Joseph that translate directly to the ways God deals with his children:

  1. God helped Joseph understand what was happening
  2. God told Joseph how to proceed
  3. God told Joseph the future

Let’s consider how God helped Joseph understand what was happening.

1.  God Helped Joseph Understand What Was Happening

Our story begins as Joseph is considering “putting away”, or calling off his engagement to Mary who is pregnant with Jesus.

As he is considering what to do, God’s angel spoke to him in a dream, and went on to explain why Mary was pregnant. He explained that Mary was pregnant because she is going to bear the Messiah, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost. Additionally, God gave Joseph further understanding into the great importance of Jesus’ ministry, all with a not-so-subtle overtone that he’s counting on Joseph to fill a specific and super important role.

Joseph, like anybody with an impregnated fiancée not of his own doing, is probably very bothered, depressed, and to an extent, embarassed. I can only imagine what was going through his head.

And just before Joseph seals the deal in his mind that he’ll put Mary away, God shows up and explains everything; has he ever done that with you? Has there ever been a time when things couldn’t be more confusing, couldn’t seem more unfair, and you were at wits end when God himself with the stroke of his hand opened your eyes to the bigger picture of a situation?

Joseph was struggling hard to understand – and then God shows up and makes everything perfectly clear. Just as God helped Joseph understand a situation, he’ll do the same for us. But wait – God’s not done talking… he’s only just begun. Next, he’s going to tell Joseph what he expects from Joseph!

2.  God Told Joseph How to Proceed

So at this point, God has met with Joseph in a dream, and has given Joseph details into why things are the way they are, and now he’s going to tell Joseph how to proceed.

He tells Joseph to marry Mary. Marry – Mary…say that 10 times with a huge smile on your face, and I’ll meet you in the woods with Robin Hood.

Pretend I didn’t just say that – so Joseph is instructed to wed Mary (that’s better), and on top of that, he’s told to name the boy JESUS. In the midst of a difficult situation, have you ever received specific marching orders?

The great thing about God giving his children specific instructions is this: it proves that he wants us to be useful to him. It proves that he has worked for us to do, and that he’s using us to accomplish his purpose. And that much right there is really all that matters in this life, isn’t it? To be useful to the Lord.

Even if it means doing something that we don’t want to do – having God tell us to do anything means that he deems us worthy to serve him. Not that any of us are, but that God thinks we are. God told Joseph to stay betrothed to Mary – in other words, keep on the same course. What’s he telling you to do?

3.  God Told Joseph the Future

Now before anyone takes this to mean that God is a crystal ball for everything one could possibly inquire about, understand right now that I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is this:

As God often deals with us on a “need to know” basis, there are times he will show us future events that for some reason he feels we need to know. Typically when he does this, it’s extremely personal, and not to be shared. There have been times that God has made me aware of things before they ever happened, and he may have done the same with you. Don’t ask me to explain when, how, or why he does it – he’s God; he does whatever he sees fit.

Here, he does it with Joseph. Specifically, he tells Joseph that the child to be born is going to be a boy, that’s his name is to be JESUS, that he is to save Israel from their sins, and that he is also going to be called Emmanuel. In other words, he gives Joseph a glimpse of the future of the child to be born – Christ.

Every now and then we need a warning – and sometimes God gives a glimpse of the future to provide us with that  warning. Every now and then we need encouragement to keep going – and sometimes God gives us a glimpse of the future to give us that motivation when our “want-to bone” is dislocated. He’s got different reasons for revealing his will, but one thing stays the same: when he does, it’s to help us understand the need for us to stay in line with him.

Conclusion

Today we considered three things about God’s dealings with Joseph in Matthew 1: God help Joseph understand what was really happening, he told Joseph what to do with Mary and her future son, and he explained to Joseph the importance of Jesus’ ministry.

And here’s the greatest part of all of God’s dealings with Joseph: Joseph did exactly what he was told. There was no balking, there was no debate, and there was no hesitation on the part of Joseph. What God told Joseph to do is what Joseph did.

Part of the reason we see so little of God’s power nowadays is those that God deals with don’t react like Joseph did. We like to debate, consider, daydream, and get distracted – and when the day is over the only thing we have to show is procrastination, a lack of activity, laziness, and ultimately, disobedience.

On the other hand, during those times that we are diligent to seek the Lord, listen to what he has to say, and do exactly as he says, we make ourselves the kind of people that God wants to have intimate dealings with.

The Bible declares that Joseph was a just man – a just man with whom God communicated. Can the same be said of you? Can the same be said of me? The answers to those questions rest solely on the shoulders of those whom these questions are levied – you and me. Let’s be people who can hear God just like Joseph, and just like Joseph, let’s be people who do as the Lord bids us.

God bless and see you next time here at The Servant’s Journal.

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The Ask – Seek – Knock Advantage

Hello readers, as you probably noticed this post is not part of the series, Spiritual Basic Training – that series has been postponed, as it is being reconsidered.

One of you thoughtfully brought some Biblical concerns to my attention regarding the most recent post regarding what I referred to generally as “rank” in a church. I’m glad you did, because some of the content was unintentionally very Nicolaitane (Rev. 2:6) upon further review.

So this time let’s consider something else – particularly these verses in the book of Matthew:

7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV)

As I thought on these verses, the idea struck me that these verses are the New Testament version of Proverbs 3:5-6, which are:

5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

So let’s consider the Matthew passage by asking these questions:

  1. What am I asking for?
  2. What am I supposed to seek?
  3. Knock on what?

1.  What Am I Asking For?

Jesus tells us to ask – but ask for what? It sounds very open-ended doesn’t it…and here’s the beauty of it:  that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. You can ask him about anything you want, and he’ll help because he cares!

Suppose you’re looking for direction. Something has come up, and you have no idea how to handle it. Having thought all of the possible reactions to the scenario out in your head, your next thought becomes, “what would God have to say about all this?”

You’re going somewhere. Where are you going? Nobody knows, but there’s one thing that’s certain: you can’t stay where you’re at because time waits for no one.

So what we’re trying to do is get direction to a destination which we will compare to God’s perfect answer for any situation you can think of. Right now we’re clueless as to which direction to travel, but eventually we’ll find and enter the exact place we’re looking for (figuratively speaking).

So the first step is to ask. Ask God to point you in the right direction – North, South, East, or West. And by beginning in that direction, you’ll start finding God’s answer.

If I wanted to get from Southwest Wisconsin to Southern California, the first thing I’d need to discern is which direction Southwest is! “God, I need help finding Southwest on my life’s compass…would you help me with that?”

“Sure son…here, turn around 180 degrees…okay NOW: that’s Southwest.” The first thing to do to find God’s will is ask.

2.  What am I supposed to seek?

To figure this out, I had to come up with the definition of the word, “seek.” Here’s what I found:

Seek – Strongs 2212, to seek after, to strive after, to demand from someone

What does this mean? When we are exhorted to seek, really, we’re being told to pursue, to strive after the charted direction that was obtained when we asked.

And more importantly, we are being strongly encouraged to demand from OURSELVES that we not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Being a severely ADD-afflicted adult, remaining undistracted for more than 5 seconds is a small miracle.

Suppose the IRS sent you a letter telling you that they accidentally overtaxed you. (Don’t hold your breath, just stay with me on this one!haha) To make matters right, they have offered to refund you $50K, with one minor stipulation…you had to produce your tax returns for the last 10 years.

If you’re like me, you’d be knees and elbows until you rounded up the papers. Something like that would have us pretty undisturbed until we accomplished our goal, would it not?

And if we could take that same voracity and apply it to our pursuit for God’s will in our lives, we’d be useful to God beyond belief. When we’re not, it’s a sad reflection of how little we truly love the one who loves us so.

So after being oriented, it’s time to begin making it happen. It’s time to begin striving to get where God wants us to be – in the center of his perfect will; it takes effort to get there, and it takes effort to keep WANTING to get there!

3.  Knock on what?

So having asked, and sought diligently, it’s time to knock. In other words, now that we’re there, our efforts to locate and obtain will culminate in this last step.

If I came over to visit, a few things would need to happen: I’d need to know where you live, I’d have to travel there, and then I would have to knock on your door for you to let me in.

But if I did the first two but didn’t do to last one, what would have happened? I would have wasted a ton of energy, and not finished what I started. Paul tells us not to faint, because if we do, we may forfeit our reward.

And it wouldn’t be much different if I knocked, waited 7 seconds, and then left thinking no one would answer the door. The longer I live, the more I realize: God is no hurry. – AT ALL. So after knocking on the door, it’s a good idea to stick around and wait for an answer.

And here’s the best part: we’re promised in Matthew 7:8 that 3 things will happen for sure: we’ll receive, seek and find; each one a logical response from God to our predicated inquiry.

It took all that effort to get there and now that you’re there, knock…then wait for the door to open. Christ promised it will happen, do you believe it will?

Conclusion

There are some exciting things that have come my way lately. There’s a lot that could go right, and there’s a lot that could go wrong if I’m not careful.

Following Christ’s words to ask, seek and knock is the only real chance any of us have to not screw our lives up. Doing it may put you in a place you didn’t think you’d be – and not doing it will put you somewhere you never thought you’d be for sure, and not in a good way.

Ask, seek, knock. Get pointed in the right direction, pursue it with all you got, and then pull the trigger and do it God’s way all the way to the end. It’s to only right way to get it done, and it’s the only way his power will assist us in doing what he has for each of us. You’ll be glad you did and so will I if we do.

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3 Remarkable Quotes from Sunday, August 15,2010

I’m thankful for the church the Lord has allowed me the privilege of being a part of. Yesterday we had a guest preacher, Bro. Maury Gibson who by the way is an outstanding preacher.

A few weeks back we saw God’s power spring a leak in our Sunday services, and yesterday it happened again. During the song service, God got all over a singer, and before the preacher got up to preach, the altar was loaded with people. Bro. Gibson preached, and there was some serious Spirit movement during the invitation at the end.

Next week we’ll be having a revival with Bro. Brian McBride, one of the best evangelists in the business. There’s no telling what’s going to happen when the Lord gets through using that man’s preaching!

As the title implies, this post considers some great quotes from the preaching and teaching yesterday. Three things that were said really got my attention and are worth sharing.

I have the memory of a elephant – wait, strike that. Did I say elephant? I meant the most forgetful person on earth. So realize that these statements are not presented verbatim, they are paraphrased. I did the best I could to retain the necessary elements of the remarks, so I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

Without further ado, the three quotes we will consider pertain to the following areas:

  1. On holy living
  2. On Baptist churches today
  3. On empowerment for service

1.  On Holy Living

“Our sin nature grows uncultivated, whereas godliness requires cultivation.”

This one came from Bro. Rod Warnke, who may have actually gotten it from someone else, I don’t recall. He taught from Hebrews 12 in Sunday School, and quoted a few men, each time giving credit for the source. I couldn’t remember if this quote came from him or someone else. Either way, it’s a great statement.

In Hebrews 12, we have the “root of bitterness” verse, and that contributes to the idea of this quote. Anyone who has lived for God and stayed living for God knows one thing: it requires effort to stay close to God.

Left up to themselves, even saved folks can live like the devil. Obviously that’s not supposed to happen, but it will happen unless a child of God takes steps to prevent it. Preventative – like pulling weeds. It takes energy to REMOVE those things that don’t belong.

How do those things appear that don’t belong? It requires a LACK OF PREVENTION, which means the required effort and attention were neglected. In other words, when we don’t restrain ourselves, and feed on God’s word, over time, we can become overgrown and eventually useless to God. To halt harmful growth, we can’t just contain  the growth, we need to remove it by the roots.

2. On Baptist Churches Today

“It used to be that 20 people might get saved at a special meeting; nowadays it’s a miracle if the church members show up…”

I was talking to Bro. Gibson between Sunday School and Worship service about why we don’t see the power of God like we used to. He mentioned several things, and this was one of them, and it stuck out like a sore thumb to me. It’s a sobering testament to the flim-flam resolve of God’s people today. And we better watch out – because if we’re not careful to “cultivate” (see  previous point) this could easily be said of us one day.

We have so many distractions vying for our attention today it’s sickening. But hasn’t that always been the case? Consider a saved Baptist farmer in the 1950’s: he probably worked 14 hours a day, had several mouths to feed, had little or no recreation time, yet was faithful to the work of God.

Now consider many Baptists today: he’s an employee, works 40-50 hours per week (8-10 per day), and has more time to himself than ever before. Even after spending time with the wife and kids, he still has more time than he’s willing to admit.

Now I’m curious: if Baptists were faithful 60 years ago when life was 50 times harder than it is today, how do we stack up when we get too exhausted to come to church, or just don’t feel like it? Compared to the faithfulness of the saints of previous generations, we are completely without excuse.

It comes down to an issue of priorities. If God’s important to me, I’ll make time for him. If he isn’t I’ll be too busy and find every excuse I can to not have to go to church. Like it or not, it’s a choice we all make. – A choice for which we’re all accountable, the consequences of which will echo for eternity.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Matthew 6:21 (KJV)

3.  On Empowerment for Service

“I told a man of God that I felt God calling me to preach, but there were 2 huge problems: I didn’t know my Bible, and I was scared to death to speak in front of people…He told me I’d do great.”

This one comes from Bro. Maury Gibson’s sermon during worship service. As a singer who deals with stage-fright like no other, this quote greatly encourages me.

Think about it: if I could do it all by myself I wouldn’t need God’s help. But if I need God’s help, I’ll need to be careful to do it the right way everytime. And when we serve the way God wants us to, pretty soon it doesn’t matter how perfect the “performance” was, what matters is if Christ is happy with it. Who cares what anyone thinks if the Lord is pleased?

Bro. Gibson went on to say this as well:

“God enables us for service; if you think you can’t – he will; if you think you can – he won’t.”

It sure reminds me of Paul’s thorn in the flesh – it needed to stay so that Paul would stay needy. God help us to never think we have it figured out and forget to get his help. Help us to always need something and never have need of nothing.

Conclusion

Today we looked at three quotes that dealt with holy living, Baptist churches today, and empowerment for service.

I was the song leader during the evening service last night. One thing I’ve been asking the Lord to help me with is to show me how to song lead in a way that brings the most possible honor and glory to the Lord Jesus. And then another quote hit me while leading a song:

“Though no one join me still I will follow…”

We sang this line in the song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. To be able to sing this quote from the bottom of one’s heart means that an individual is resigned to the idea that no matter what happens, he’s made up his mind to follow the Lord, and will stand alone if necessary.

It’s a noble thought, but a word of caution: be careful whenever your emotions lead you to think that others just don’t get it or that you’re the only one that does. Remember the example of Elijah, and how while he thought he was the only one, God informed Elijah that he had 7,000 that never bowed the knee to Baal. That’s a good pride check.

Holy living, faithfulness to God’s people, God’s house, and his work, empowerment for service, and resolve to stand – these are all components of a church (and individuals) that will see God’s power. Some great things were said yesterday, and I thank the Lord that I was there to receive the blessing of hearing them.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s coming. The end of this age, God’s power in abundantly proportional amounts to  the wickedness of our world, and Lord willing, a manifestation, the magnitude of which has not been seen in this country for years.

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Is God’s Power Predictable? #3 – God Uses Individuals (Strength is NOT in Numbers)

Welcome to the last post of this series. We are trying to determine one thing: is God’s power predictable? The previous two posts support the notion that God’s power is predictable, and that God wants us to know that  his power is predictable.

Our theme verse is:

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. – Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

So far we have considered those things that have worked in the past, particularly in the issues of repentance and all glory going to God. We have examined Scripture that indicates that God himself never changes, leading to the conclusion that what worked before should work again. Based on our theme verse, we find that we should be looking for those things that used to work, and scrap our “new and improved” methods that may be new, but don’t improve a thing.

So you have a good preacher who’s preaching Bible-repentance, and seeks God’s glorification.  But for some reason, (be careful to not become judgmental), there seems to be an unshakable coldness.

Wouldn’t it be great if a church came together with one mind and decided to do whatever it takes to fix everything? If that many people did, there’s no telling how mighty the manifestations of God’s power would be in their church. But there’s just one problem: no matter how bad you want it, it doesn’t look like anyone else does (CAUTION: don’t always believe your perceptions!) What can you do to motivate people in your church to want God’s power just like you?

Today we’re going to see that God uses individuals to motivate other individuals to create a group movement. In all cases, individuals make decisions. Sometimes the actions of one individual spur similar actions on the part of another individual, and that is what we are interested in exploring. Thus, God’s power may be revived in a church because of the godly actions of a single individual. What if that individual is you? Does that sound like somebody you want to be?

So let’s consider the influence that individuals can have in two related yet different ways. Based on your behavior, you may:

  1. Directly motivate others
  2. Indirectly motivate others

1.  Directly Motivate Others

A.  Leadership

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. – John 13:34 (KJV)

This portion is Jesus himself speaking to his first church. This applies to preachers teachers, moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas, etc. When someone is an authority, it is their job to provide leadership. If others are in your care, you have a responsibility to exhort and teach them to be godly.

B.  Mentorship

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 2:1 (KJV)

This applies to anyone who has experienced-based advice, and is typically senior to somebody eager to learn godly service. Here, Paul, is speaking to his trainee, Bro. Timothy regarding the ministry of being a pastor. Both New Testament epistles to Timothy contain a similar tone: as Timothy’s mentor, Paul teaches Timothy the specifics of his service.

The best way to learn how to teach Sunday school is to pair up a would-be Sunday school teacher with someone who has been doing it for years. What would otherwise take years to learn, and lessons that were learned the hard way may be learned much more easily by somebody with experience imparting their knowledge to an attentive candidate.

When I’m looking for advice on song leading, who should I ask? That’s right – Bro. Songleader who has been doing it for a long time. If a young man wants to become a pastor, who is going to train him better than anybody? Note: the answer to this question is almost never a Bible college professor who was never a pastor himself! Even some that were pastors aren’t much better, but you get the idea – new pastors need training from an experienced pastor.

The idea of mentorship strikes most of us as common sense; but for some reason, it is not very popular even among God’s people. Why? Because it requires submission – and that requires leaving one’s ego at the door. If you find somebody who’s been active in a similar service as yours for a long time, latch onto them and milk them for everything they know. Or, on the other hand, be willing to share what you know. You may be directly contributing to the greatest janitor, cook, usher, parent, teacher, singer, or preacher  of the next generation. I can only speak for myself, but I’d love to be part of that!

C.  Friendship

And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. – 1 Samuel 23:16 (KJV)

Jonathan and David were best friends. As this verse says, Jonathan was a friend who was a great help to David during the greatest trial of his life – his fugitive flight from Saul. What if David didn’t have Jonathan? He’d still have God, but future generations (we) would be missing this tremendous application of what a godly friend is.

We don’t need any friends except for God himself. You’re abundantly blessed, however, if you have one or two that you can count on no matter what. Within a good church, those relationships while naturally exist. And if you are saved, it should go without saying that the closest friends you have are saved too. If my “friend” can’t give me godly perspective, the closest relationship I’ll ever have with him is that of professed Christian brother whom I love as a church member.

Alternatively, you need to be a godly friend. Who can tell? If being a godly friend to somebody gets him through a very tumultuous time in his life, he could go on to do unheard-of things for God, and you’ll be part of the reason he was able to make it. Can that be said of you?

2.  Indirectly Motivate Others

A. Inspire Faith in Others

51Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

52And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. – 1 Samuel 17:51-52 (KJV)

Recall that during Saul’s reign as King, there was nothing happening on the battlefield, as Goliath would come out and mock the armies of Israel – they were scared to death. Goliath was an obstacle to God’s people – he caused them to be afraid. As the Scripture says, when David killed Goliath, the Philistines took off running, and Israel (God’s people who were previously oppressed) chased after them. David took Goliath out, and it caused others to believe that victory was possible.

So how can you or I inspire faith in those around us? There’s lots of ways. Maybe God has done something for you – give a testimony, and tell how the Lord helped you – someone in something similar may need to hear that you were able to make it through to make it through temselves.

Don’t be afraid of praising God publicly – if the Lord moves on you, don’t be afraid to shed some tears; don’t be afraid to praise him during a song. It may be that somebody else is going to see your boldness and become bold enough to praise the Lord right behind you. That shouldn’t be the whole point for doing it, the whole point should be to glorify God. You just never know what your obedience could stir up in someone else.

B. Provide Relief to Others

30Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.

31And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. – Judges 6:30-31 (KJV)

This story really does something for me. Gideon’s father was a Baal worshiper who knew better. Israelites weren’t supposed to worship Baal, they were to worship Jehovah. God tells Gideon to throw down his father’s altar to Baal, and build one to Jehovah in its stead, which Gideon does one night.

The men of the city find out that Gideon is responsible, and they want to have him killed. Gideon’s father, a former Baal worshiper stands against them, telling that if Baal has a problem with it, Baal should do something about it. In other words, Gideon’s actions prompted his dad to get right with God. If Gideon hadn’t obeyed, his father may have continued in evil.

If you’re involved in public wickedness that seems covered up, confess it and forsake it publicly. This will convict the fire out of anyone else in the same boat, and could give them the necessary prodding to get things right themselves. Your obedience may relieve others of those things that hold them back.

There is just no telling how huge of an impact a simple act of obedience can have on others. Can you impact other people, possibly several other people at once? Absolutely – do what God leads you to do, and see what happens. Other people are watching a whole lot more than we realize, and if someone is going to step up, it might as well be you and me.

Conclusion

We find that individuals in Scripture influenced others with their actions. And just like back then, individuals today can influence in similar ways. But just because we are saved, does that mean that we automatically will influence others for good? There’s a chuckle.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. – John 21:3 (KJV)

Don’t you just love Bro. Peter? At this point Christ was resurrected, and Peter, who days before had denied Christ made the decision to go back to doing what he did before he was useful to the Lord – he was going to go back to being a fisherman. But he’s not the only one – he took others with him! In this case he used his powers of persuasion for the forces of evil, not good.

If you go down the wrong path, you run the risk of taking other people down the same dangerous road with you, whether they realize the danger in it or not. Just as you can influence people for good, your example has the potential for destroying lives if you’re a bad example. Be mindful of that.

So which will it be? Ultimately we decide one way or the other. To not decide, we are deciding wrongly. Do you have opportunities to be a direct influence to somebody under your care, who is learning to serve like you serve, or just needs to see somebody else do it first? If so, rather than thinking there’s not a lot you can do, know today that you are a lot more capable of affecting others than you think!

Remember what God told Gideon when the army to fight the Midianites was whittled down from 32,000 to 300?

And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. – Judges 7:2 (KJV)

God has always accomplished more with less. So is God’s power predictable? I believe the answer is a firm yes. Do powerful manifestations typically require the majority of the members of a church to be right? Usually. Can you as a singular individual be reasonably sure that godly living on your part has a very serious potential for bringing about revival in your church? There’s no doubt about it.

No matter who we’re talking about, an individual CAN accomplish abundantly above all we ask or think with heaven’s help. What God needs are more individuals who understand and believe that. The more people we can get believing that God can, God will, and God wants to, the more God will be enabled to start stirring the brew.

So to close this series, let’s remember one thing: God’s power IS predictable, as Bro. Jeremiah reminds us:

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. – Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

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Is God’s Power Predictable? #2 –Old Paths Still Work

Welcome to the next post of this series that asks: is God’s power predictable? Recall our theme verse:

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. – Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

Last time we talked about a few old paths that need re-trailblazing. We looked at how the preachers preached Bible-repentance, people heeded the call to repent, and God’s people sought his glory, not their own.

The goal of the series is to come up with a way to make God’s power predictable. Do not construe the previous sentence as arrogance; no man can control God, and we are not seeking authority over him. Here’s what that means: based on Scripture, there are obvious conclusions to be drawn – outcomes that God deliberately wants for us to know about!

So if it wasn’t obvious before, it should be pretty obvious by now that this author believes that God’s power is predominantly predictable. Not 100% predictable, because he’s still in control, and sees things that we can’t that limit him. But just as in his dealings with Israel in the Old Testament, if we do this he’ll do that. If we don’t do the other thing, we can forget him doing another thing. These are all things he wants us to be informed of.

We saw what worked then. Today our goal is to prove that just like it worked back then, it will work today. But not so fast – it comes with a price that many aren’t willing to pay. God help it to never be said of us. What is the common crossover between then and now? Let’s consider:

  1. God hasn’t changed
  2. God will never change

1. God Hasn’t Changed

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. – Malachi 3:6 (KJV)

If God doesn’t change, that means that the way God operates doesn’t change either. So here’s the not-so-secret secret: the difference between how God operated in the 1950s and today is STILL EXACTLY THE SAME.

And just like back then, the message of the Gospel is still unpopular. People still have to be saved God’s way or he’s not going to save them any which way. That requires people to take a good long look at themselves and be honest with themselves – looking ugly square in the face is just as unpleasant as it was 100, 200, 2000 years ago, take your pick.

God still expects us to act like Christians, and when we don’t, he expects us to confess and forsake our sin. Family members are still going to be offended, and coworkers are still going to ridicule. And also as then, we have every opportunity to experience and know the power of the Lord if we submit to his leadership as saints throughout the ages have. It may be difficult today, but it was hard back then too – and in most cases A LOT harder back then, because a stance for Christ often meant being tortured, and often times executed.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)

Here’s what the Bible conveys repeatedly: everything Christ was back then is STILL everything he is today. Remember what the two men in white apparel said at Christ’s ascension?

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. – Acts 1:11 (KJV)

2. God Will Never Change

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. – 1 Peter 1:25 (KJV)

When will the Bible stop mattering, and become obsolete? Never. In other words, if it’s in the Bible, it applied since time began, and it will apply clear into eternity. It sure sounds a lot like God himself, doesn’t it? Unbound by time and space, the great I AM, the Lord God Omnipotent reigns forevermore, Amen.

And it’s a god that emanates lovingkindness and mercy who makes it abundantly clear repeatedly in Scripture that he has no plans of reneging or shifting gears in his dealings with man. Ever.

My favorite kind of person is a “what you see is what you get” person. God help us all to be more open and less hypocritical. And if God tells us everything we need to know for having a relationship with him in Scripture (which he does), he’s as “what you see is what you get it” as it gets.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. – Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

Through Scripture, we should all be very thankful that we know what to expect. We may not know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the date and cause of our death, but praise the Lord if we’re saved, we know how it’s going to end. What’s even more exciting is the fact that we’re going to win and Christ is going to be glorified –whether anyone likes it or not.

God never changes – that’s a huge benefit which is easy to take for granted. In this “here today, gone tomorrow” world, isn’t it great to know that we’re putting our hope in someone that will never change?

Conclusion

Today we saw the precious truth that God hasn’t changed. And if that wasn’t enough, better yet, he’s never going to change. That tells us that his actions/reactions, dealings, and wisdom contained in Scripture apply just as much today as they ever have. Isn’t it exciting that God’s power is very much within our grasp! This next part is depressing.

Here’s the unpopular truth: the reason we don’t have it like we say we want it is because secretly we really don’t want it. And by we, I’m referring to saved Baptist church members. Consider these passages:

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? – Jeremiah 5:31 (KJV)

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! – Luke 13:34 (KJV)

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old path, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. – Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

But aren’t these verses talking about people who are lost? Sure, I agree that a majority of those being referred to were unsaved. But this much is also true (and I speak from experience):  a saved person can be just as stiffnecked, hardheaded, and rebellious as any lost person ever thought to be.

We’re cozy right where we’re at (my people love to have it so) and we won’t get uncozy for the Lord (ye would not). Even our theme verse contains the response of many of God’s own people (“we will not walk therein”).

The reason we see so little of God’s power is those who lay exclusive claim to it don’t want it. We’re talking groups of people as a whole, not just one or two on the fringes of the church. We’re talking about majorities in Baptist churches that insist on being comfortable rather than being right or on fire for Jesus.

But here’s the good news: just as a group of believers can collectively decide that they’d rather have a conveniently useless Christianity, another group may decide that the time has come to do whatever it takes to get God’s attention.

That means it’s time to kill and confess my sin that’s grieving the Holy Spirit. It’s time to drop my grudge and drown my bitterness in Calvary’s blood.  Stop living like the devil and polishing your halo for church. If enough people in a church do that, it’s safe to say that God’s power showing up to do some serious heavy lifting isn’t probable, it’s certain.

But how can I make a difference? I’m just one person, only capable of so much…right? WRONG! Next time we’ll take a look at how God uses individuals (not hordes of people) to usher in his ability to blow the doors off a church service and ultimately a community. What can God possibly do with you? I have no idea – and if I had to speculate, it would be nowhere near what is truly possible if God gets involved! Who can tell? God bless and see you next time Lord willing.

Yesterday Today Forever

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Is God’s Power Predictable? #1 – What Used to Work

Welcome to the first post in this series. In this series, we want to know one thing: is God’s power predictable? Our theme verse for this series is taken from the book of Jeremiah:

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the

old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. – Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

If you saw the great manifestations of God’s power 20 to 30 years ago, let me ask you this: how often does that happen nowadays? Most will say almost never. It makes me think of that portion in 1 Samuel that talks about how “the word of the Lord was precious (rare) in those days ”.

While that may cause the hearts of some to lament, we need to be clear on something else: if the KJV 1611 is the Word of God, God’s power may be rare nowadays, but praise God it’s also AVAILABLE.

So if it happened back then, but it’s not happening now, what changed? Or maybe the better question is: if it worked back then, why are we doing things differently now? It reminds me of the expression, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it!

We live in a very cause and effect world. Cause and effect is biblically branded as the concept of sowing and reaping. Actions have consequences, both good and bad. So here’s the situation:

If God’s power is not predictable, it’s pure luck if we ever accidentally experience it. After all, God is sovereign and decides what he will do and when. Unbound by any greater authority than himself, nobody can require him to act any certain way… or can they?

On the other hand, if God’s power is in fact predictable, that means that God is predictable. If we know what God wants, and we know what he won’t tolerate, we are then in a position to decide if we will have God’s power or not. That means it’s up to us a whole lot more than we want to believe!

So in accordance with our theme verse, let’s consider some “old paths “. What’s so special about the way they did things back then? If we get back to doing things the way they did back then, is it possible that we could have the same reaction from God?

Let’s walk down these overgrown old paths:

  1. Preachers preached repentance
  2. People practiced repentance
  3. Praise went to God

1.  Preachers Preached Repentance

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: – Acts 17:30 (KJV)

If there is one thing that’s missing everywhere you look nowadays it’s this: accountability. Our society is doing its darndest to try to remove any and all accountability for wrongdoing and a lack of self-control. If I hear one more person say, “well, it’s not really his fault because…” I’m going to scream. Well hold on, I suppose I’d be accountable for screaming uncontrollably, so that’s a bad example.

And what’s worse is the same lack of responsibility has crept into Baptist churches. Salvation has been watered down into a joke – gee I wonder who stir fried up this business of, “repeat a prayer and you’re going to heaven”? Thanks for nothing, Easy beliefis-I mean, Satan. How do we counteract it? With this: Old fashioned repentance preaching.

That being said, there’s a big difference between skinning a congregation in a mean spirit and preaching with righteous anger (be ye angry, and sin not). The only way a sinner is going to be saved is with genuine repentance, and he needs to hear it. Tap dancing around sincere repentance doesn’t do anybody any favors – in fact, it has the opposite effect, causing people to think they’re okay when absolutely nothing has been settled with God.

The saints need to hear it too. Have you ever gotten hardhearted? Why does that happen? I can only speak for myself, but usually it’s because I allowed something to fester over time. I thank God for those times when he sends a sermon to shake me by the neck. What’s needed are preachers who aren’t afraid to stomp on sin because in doing so, they’re helping – not hurting! If somebody gets upset, and the preacher is preaching what he supposed to preach with the right spirit, the upsettee is upset with God, not the preacher.

Preachers, we need you to preach Bible-based repentance!

2.  People Practiced Repentance

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

When Grade A repentance is preached, at that point, the preacher did his job. So now we’re ready for a Holy Ghost overflow, right?

Not necessarily. The best preacher alive can do the best preaching there is, and if it falls on deaf ears and hard hearts, the most powerful repentance preaching may go unheeded. Have you ever heard of Chorazin? Bethsaida?

And after solid repentance-laced preaching goes out, make no doubt about it – God’s going to hold somebody accountable. Who? The preacher who did what he was supposed to? No, guess again. The people (lost and saved) who refuse to do anything about what they just heard? Bingo.

Throughout Old Testament Israel, God sent them a steady stream of prophets – in the good times, and in those times of most despicable idolatry. Israel was often a stiff-necked and rebellious group of people, but they were God’s people. Does that sound like anybody we know? How about saved Baptist church members? I’m one of them.

It’s not enough for the call to repent to go out – those who hear it have to do something about it. When saved people are satisfied to compartmentalize their Christianity into ritual church attendance, take a wild guess what their church services are going to be like.

But when a group of people decide that they’re going to fix the way they are living and do what ever it takes to get God to show up, take a guess at what their church services are going to be like!

Keep on preaching that old-time repentance, preacher. And when that message from God himself is broadcast through the preacher, we need to fall on our faces and fix it, just like church members did back then.

3.  Praise Went to God

Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. – John 12:28 (KJV)

Didn’t you hear? GoWithTheFlow Baptist Church is having Bro. BigNamePreacher – I mean, excuse me, DOCTOR BigNamePreacher for a revival! He’s authored several books and pastors an enormous church, so surely we’ll see a great movement of God! Right?

Maybe, but if we do, it will have nothing to do with his degrees and accomplishments. It would be because he knows how to channel all glory in a service to the Lord, directly off of himself. It would be because he’s more interested in God being glorified than him being recognized as a great this-or-that.

I remember going to a camp meeting when I was little. Looking back, of the 10 to 15 preachers who would show up for the camp meeting , it didn’t matter which one took the pulpit, because every one of them could preach and have God smother the tent with conviction.

And when it happened, everybody was blessed, other preachers included. In other words, he wasn’t preaching to get the crowd’s attention on him, he was preaching to get the crowd’s attention on the Lord. And that is why God would show up – preachers used to be after God’s glory, not their own.

One of my favorite preachers told a story I’ll never forget: after preaching, a woman came up to him and told him that was some of the finest preaching. In his heart, he said, “I know it was”. And as soon as the woman walked away, the Lord told him, “I could have accomplished that with a 3-year-old.”

God bless the preacher in this story, because he used it as an illustration of how NOT to act. It seems to me there needs to be more preachers like this one, who understand which direction the glory needs to go – God-ward.

Preaching, singing, testimonies, and any kind of action there is within the church all needs to be done for one reason and one reason only: to glorify the Lord Jesus. That’s how it was back then, and it’s something that we’ve gotten away from today.

So the next time you preach, teach, sing a special, sing with the congregation, testify, or serve, here’s a question to ask yourself that will let the Lord know that you mean business when it comes to making sure he gets all the glory from what you’re about to do. Ask:

How do I do this in a way that will bring the Lord Jesus the most honor and glory possible?

If you do that in an honest heart, your service will matter. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to serve more often. And don’t be shocked when other people come up to you and tell you how much your service encouraged and helped them.

Back then, they wanted one thing: to give God the glory, not themselves. More and more nowadays, it’s preachers, singers, and others looking for the accolades. Let’s get back to giving glory to the one who deserves it, and who can tell? Maybe, according to John 12:28, he “will glorify it again” someday soon! Every bit of me can’t wait until he does.

Conclusion

Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. – Haggai 1:12 (KJV)

God tells Haggai to articulate God’s displeasure with Judah for fixing their houses, and leaving the Temple in shambles. God tells them to finish the Temple. The Governor  of Judah, and the son of the high priest (who was probably executing the office high priest) get the message, and compel the people to finish the Temple. This is a sterling example of corporate repentance.

And in similar fashion today, if God’s preachers get back to the old paths, we’ve got a chance. When they get back to repentance preaching, saved church members have a choice to make: repent or business as usual. If God can stir the leaders, whose actions enable God to stir the people, we could be staring at revivals in the churches unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. – Haggai 1:7 (KJV)

And here’s what else Bro. Haggai told them: you better think it through. It’s not enough to know what the old paths are. If we know what they are, it’s time to heed Bro. Haggai’s preaching: it’s time to consider our ways, and get real serious about getting back to doing what works.

In the next post, we will answer the question: is God’s power predictable? We’ll expand the position that God himself is deliberately predictable, regardless of which generation calls on his Wonderful name.

I want to thank the Lord for the great life he’s given me. Himself, my wife, my kids, my Church, my parents, my home, my job, my health, all of it. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.

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