The Call of Duty

1 Samuel 15:22 ( NKJV )
So Samuel said:     “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,  And to heed than the fat of rams.

(We were blessed this week to have Pastors Wayne and Margaret Holcomb from The Door Fellowship with us this week.  Their messages will be on our website shortly at

What’s wrong with duty?  It seems that often in the church today we emphasize the “feel good” side of our Christian experience at the expense of the simple need to obey God.  I am glad that God has not called us to an emotionless Christianity.  As Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians we know that the presence of God is a very real and very felt thing. 

We know that in our times praise and worship we can release our emotional love for God and experience the sense of His love in return.  The bible teaches us to rejoice which is a definite release of emotions.  One of the main strengths of our Christian experience is peace.  When everything around us is out of control or when stress is the order of the day, we can have peace in our hearts that will enable us to go through any trial and see victory.  Once again this is an emotion.  Emotions are an important part of our Christian life, but they are not the defining part.

Too often we think how we feel is the most important ingredient to determine the state of our Christian walk.  We are not defined by what we feel but by what we believe.  Feelings are a byproduct of what we believe, but it is what we believe that will get us through the hard times.  One way to determine what we believe is to look at when and how we obey.  If we obey only when the feelings all line up correctly, we don’t really believe.  If we obey the Word of God and the voice of God even when we don’t feel the best, then we really believe.

This brings me to my heading and my scripture.  Saul had a duty.  He was the King of Israel, but Samuel was God’s representative.  God trumps a king every time.  Samuel had given Saul a directive to destroy the Amalakites and everything they had.  That was his duty before God.  His emotions, however, told him that he should be allowed to celebrate this great victory.  The people agreed with his emotions.  (The people always agree with emotions.)  As a result they decided to almost obey and almost do their duty.  They just kept the best of the livestock as a sacrifice to God.  They just spared the King so they could show how great a victory they had won. 

Samuel is not amused.  He makes this powerful statement,  “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,  And to heed than the fat of rams.”  In other words, is it better to offer God some kind of sacrifice or to do your duty? 

As Christians we have some duties.  We have a duty to pray.  We have a duty to worship God.  We have a duty to love one another.  We have a duty to honor the house of God with our attendance and our money.  We have a duty to preach the Gospel to every creature.  Feelings will come as we do our duty.  Sometimes we feel that we somehow corrupt our service to God if we do it only out of duty.  The truth is we honor God when we do what we should do because it is our duty and responsibility.

I am writing this to comment on and add my thoughts to the messages brought at LWCC by Pastor’s Wayne and Margaret Holcomb during our church services this weekend.  However, I think it is appropriate that this message came on the weekend we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to do their duty for our nation.  Where would we be today if those who have died for our freedom had given God some kind of “substitute” sacrifice.  They answered the call of duty and never came home.

It is our responsibility to answer the call of duty from our King, our Father and our Creator.  We need to do what needs to be done, no matter the cost and in spite of our emotions so that the Gospel can be preached in the earth, so that our children will grow up to serve God and so our own lives will be pleasing to the one who did His duty at Calvary and gave it all for you and me.

Spots, Wrinkles and Blemishes 2

Ephesians 5:26-27 ( NKJV )
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

This week we are focusing on two thoughts.  Number one, Jesus is coming back.  Most born again believers believe this to be a fundamental biblical truth.  We don’t know when this event will occur, but in Matthew 24:44 Jesus says it will be at a time when we do not expect it.  This puts us in a position where we must be ready at all times.  What if the day were today.  Would you be proud of what Jesus’ would find in your life.  Don’t feel bad if the answer is no.  Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, know we could be doing better.  The point is not to bring guilt upon us but to inspire us to remember that this time will come and we should be doing our best to be ready.

The second thought is that He will come for a glorious or glory filled church.   The above verse says Jesus will present this church to Himself.  That means that He is doing what is necessary to make us glorious.  He will have this church.  Nothing can stop the process, but I need to cooperate with it if I want the road I travel to get there to be as easy as possible.

Glorious implies filled with both God’s power and His character.  To bring us to that place we must get rid of the spots, wrinkles and blemishes.  The spots come out by scrubbing.  I believe the scrubbing is accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  This involves his direct dealings and his dealings through the inevitable pressures that life brings.  The process is completed with the “washing of water by the Word.”  He rinses us clean by the continual flow of the Word of God through our lives, both through preaching and teaching and our own study.

As we finish this week let’s talk about the wrinkles and blemishes.  As I was preaching this message I heard myself ask, “How do you get rid of blemishes?”  There are many kinds of blemishes, but we most often think of acne when we use this word.  As teenagers most of us dealt with that period where our skin seemed to break out in pimples for no apparent reason.  I could be very embarrassing and unsightly.  As I asked this question I was thinking, “I don’t know.”  Then I heard the Lord say, “You have to grow up.” 

I believe for the church to be a glorious church we are going to have to grow up.  To get rid of the blemishes that hinder us we are going to have to make a commitment to mature as Christians.  In the natural the only thing that we need to grow physically is time.  In reality even in the natural there is a difference between simply growing and being “grown up.”  A grown up takes responsibility.  A grown up is accountable.  A grown up is a productive member of the community.  It takes two things to produce a grownup, learning and experience.

In the spirit it takes the same.  We must learn from the Word of God.  We must “study to show ourselves approved unto God.” (2 Tim 2:15)  We must also be active enough in our spiritual life to gain experience.  We need experience in praise and worship, in service, in prayer and in fellowship with other believers.  As we both study and work we will grow in our spiritual life until the blemishes begin to disappear. 

Last let’s talk about the wrinkles.  How do we get rid of them?  There is only one way I know of to get wrinkles out of clothes, heat and pressure.  I have a travel steamer that I take on trips.  I don’t like to wear wrinkled clothes, however  I don’t do well ironing on a bed.  The steamer seems a good choice.  I hang up the clothes and run the steamer up and down and it takes out the wrinkles, right?  Wrong.  It helps, but it doesn’t really do the job.  Heat and steam are not enough.  To really get the wrinkles out I need to add pressure. 

Many of us are under pressure today.  Many of us are feeling heat.  Some of it is the devil.  Some of it is the result of our own bad decisions.  Some of it is the leading of the Holy Spirit.  You may say, The Holy Spirit wouldn’t lead us into a place of heat and pressure.”   Luke 4 said that the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness, a place of heat and pressure.  You are no different.

Whatever the source of the heat and pressure the result depends upon how we respond.  If we stay faithful in the circumstance and keep applying our faith until we see victory, God will have taken some wrinkles out of our lives.  If we run away, get discouraged or blame God, we will still be wrinkled and more heat and pressure will need to be applies.  I don’t know about you, but one trip to the ironing board at a time is all I want.

Once spots and blemishes are gone clothes are indeed wearable.  They won’t smell and there won’t be any holes.  However even older clothes will look better if they are neatly pressed.  New clothes can look shabby if they are not pressed.  Jesus is presenting himself a glorious church.  It will happen.  Let the Holy Spirit scrub out the spots.  Make a commitment to grow up in you faith so we can be rid of the blemishes.  Finally, to be really glorious, to really shine for Jesus, let him deal with those wrinkles.  Heat and pressure are not usually pleasant and rarely fun, but there is something about  those freshly pressed clothes.  When the process is done the results are really glorious.

Spots, Wrinkles and Blemishes

Ephesians 5:26-27 ( NKJV )
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

This week we are proceeding form the thought that Jesus really is coming back.  This is a foundational truth of biblical Christianity.  It will happen.  When?  According to Jesus when we don’t expect it to.  We need to stay ready. 

Not only is he coming back, but according to the verse above, He is coming back for a glory filled church.  A church filled with His power and His characteristics. It will be a church with a flow of God’s power in manifestation.  It will be a loving church, a holy church, a church that looks like Him in every way.  This all is going to happen.  I don’t know exactly how or when, but I do know that I want to be a part of it. 

The above verse does give us some clues.  It will be a church without spots, wrinkles or blemishes.  When those things are gone from the church it will be glorious.  Another revealing statement is that Jesus will present himself with this church.  It will be His power that brings it to pass.  Let’s look at each one of these a little more closely.

How do we remove spots.  Today we use some kind of spray spot remover.  My wife will take the liquid detergent she uses and apply it directly to the spot before she puts it into the washing machine.  In bible days there were no spot removers or washing machine.  They washed clothes in the river or in tubs.  To get out a stubborn spot involved scrubbing.  Look at this verse in Malachi.

Malachi 3:1-3 ( NKJV ) “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me.  And the Lord, whom you seek,  Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight.  Behold, He is coming,”  Says the Lord of hosts.  “But who can endure the day of His coming?  And who can stand when He appears?  For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.

We often cry out for a visitation from God.  I believe that is what we need, however this verse gives us a slightly different interpretation of what His coming will be like.  He will bring purifying fire and a launders soap.  We will talk about the fire aspect of this verse later, however when he speaks of launderers soap I see the process by which spots are removed from the church.  With scrubbing. 

This soap was not “Ivory”, which is gentle to the skin.  It was a harsh lye soap that was hard on  whatever it came into contact with.  I believe God has been scrubbing us to get the spots out of our lives.  Ephesians indicates that the water is the Word of God, but the soap is the dealing of the Spirit.  God is scrubbing us by His spirit to get rid of the spots from our lives.  He is rinsing us in the Word until we are clean.

This is not always a pleasant process.  I remember once we were going to preach at a church in Virginia and my youngest daughter fell asleep in the van with gum in her mouth.  The gum ended up everywhere.  We had to preach that night.  My daughter was probably 4 or 5 and we put her in the tub and mom had to scrub.  It was not a pretty sight.  She had gum on her skin, in her hair and everywhere else.  Gum does not come off easily.  It hurt when mom scrubbed at the gum with a soapy wash cloth.  Mom didn’t like it, Nicky didn’t like it and I didn’t like hearing her cry, but there was no choice.

Jesus is coming back for a glory filled church.  Many of us have desired a visitation to prepare the world for His coming.  However any visitation is going to prepare us first.  I believe some of what we are experiencing is God washing out the spots.  We need to cooperate with the process.  We need to let Him scrub as much as necessary.  We need to fill our minds with the Word and let it rinse away the things in our lives that are keeping us from being the glorious church that Jesus is coming back for. 

In verse three of Malachi 3 it says,”He will sit as a refiner…..”  He is in no hurry.  He will settle in as the refiner.  He intends to take the process to completion. 

Examine yourself today.  Has there been some rough scrubbing going on?  Some things that don’t feel too good?  Some areas that seem almost under attack in your life?  If what’s under attack is ungodliness it may not be the devil.  It may be the “Launderer” attacking the spots by the work of the Holy Spirit and the washing of the water of the Word.  Let God have His way.  In the end the results will be glorious.

A Glorious Church 2

Ephesians 5:26-27 ( NKJV )
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Yesterday we touched on the fact that, not only is Jesus going to return, but He will return for a glorious or glory filled church.  We talked about glory as the power and presence of God in manifestation.  Whenever there have been times in history of major significance, there have always been manifestations of His glory.  From the days of Moses to the early days of the church we have seen the miraculous.  There have been many other such times like this in church history and I believe we live in such a time now.

There is another aspect of the glory of God that is just as significant as the miraculous.  Glory can also mean the defining characteristics of a person or thing.  Is there a sports star, celebrity or someone you know that every time you think of them a certain characteristic comes to mind.  Most presidents have a particular characteristic that defines them.  Sometimes it is an outward thing.  Our current president is the first African American to hold the office.  Although that is not the some total of who and what he is, it is what most people think of when they think of him. 

When we think of the glory of God we must think in terms of His defining characteristics.  What are they?  The bible says God is love.  Love defines him.  You can’t think of the God of the New Testament without thinking of love.  Grace and mercy are a part of that.  He is also defined by holiness, wrath, faithfulness, goodness and truth.  All of these are characteristics that define God.  They are manifestations of His glory.

If the church is to be glorious we need to be filled, not only with God’s power, but also with his defining characteristics.  Jesus is returning for a love filled church.  He is returning for a holiness filled church.  He is returning for a church filled with truth.  Pick any one from the list above or from many other characteristics of God in the bible.  If the church is going to have the miraculous manifestation of glory, we also need the character manifestations. 

Look at the words of Jesus.

John 13:34-35 ( NKJV )
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus is saying the very same thing.  They will know we belong to him by our love.  That is a defining characteristic. 

We need to examine ourselves.  Am I glorifying God by showing the world His defining characteristics?  Another important characteristic is holiness.  If we want the power of God we must live right before him.  We must display his character of holiness to the world.  Some people get caught up on the “supernatural” side of Christianity.  They are “in the spirit” but if you examine their lifestyle you find out that holiness, integrity and character are not priorities for them.  I don’t believe this is going to work in our day.

This is a bit of a long passage but take a look at what Peter told the church of his day. 

1 Peter 2:11-16 ( NKJV )
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.  Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

In our church we have tried every method we could think of to bring the world into a saving knowledge of God.  We have gone to the streets.  We have knocked on doors.  We put up billboards and had TV commercials.  We tried service evangelism where we went into the community and raked leaves, painted houses and washed windows to let people know Jesus loved them.  We have used our cell groups as an outreach tool.  While all of these things had some effect, none produced any real fruit. 

We need the power of God.  We need to be a glory filled church.  We need to be filled with the defining characteristics of God so His power can be released through us so your friends and neighbors can come to know the wonderful love of Jesus Christ and the joy of spending eternity in His presence.  The alternative is unthinkable.

Jesus will present himself a glorious, glory filled church.  Will you be part of it?

A Glorious Church

Ephesians 5:26-27 ( NKJV )
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 

Yesterday we talked about the biblical truth that Jesus is going to return.  We don’t know exactly when.  It could be today since Jesus himself told us it would happen at a time when it was not expected.  We need to live in light of His inevitable return.  Our conduct should reflect the possibility that it could be today.  Our work and focus should be influenced by the reality that the day will come.  Jesus is coming back.

What will He find when he comes back?  Will he come for a weak defeated church?  Will he come for a hiding remnant church, holding on to the end hoping for rescue?  The verse above seems to indicate something else.  It says He will “present to Himself” a glorious church.  What does glorious mean?  It means “full of glory.”  The church at the time of His return will be glorious.  This is not speculation or wishful thinking.  It is a statement of fact in the Bible.  (The lack of glory in the church right now might be our greatest indicator that His return really isn’t quite yet.)

I believe that all Jesus is doing right now is designed to cause his church to be full of glory.  Let’s define glory.  It is His power and presence in manifestation.  Holman’s bible dictionary calls glory, that side of God humans recognize and respond to.  The church Jesus is coming for is full of things that will be recognized by humanity as God.  I believe one aspect of this is the manifestation of the power of God.  We need more of the power of God.

Whenever God desires to assert Himself in human affairs we see the manifestation of his power.  In the days of Moses the glory of God was displayed in His dealings with the Pharaoh of Egypt.  Everyone of the gods of Egypt were exposed as impotent and irrelevant by demonstrations of the manifest power of God.  In the end there could be no question who was God.  This continued through the wanderings in the wilderness.  By the time the Israelites cross over the Jordan river and confront Jericho, we find from the testimony of Rehab that the people of Canaan were terrified of Israel.  They had heard all the stories about the supernatural nature of God’s deliverance and knew they could not stand against His glory.

In the days of Jesus we see this aspect of God’s glory manifested in healings and miracles.  The doubters and distracters even among the religious leaders of the day, had a hard time disputing that God must be behind His ministry.  More than once they would have areested Him but it was said that His actions caused “God to be glorified” and they could not take Him for fear of the people.

In the early days of the church we see the glory of God displayed by manifestations of His power.  From supernatural “Jail breaks” by Peter to “special miracles” at the hand of Paul, God is displaying His glory through the manifestation of His power.  I am convinced that we live in another day when God is going to inject himself into human history in an unmistakable way.

I want to irgive a small testimony of how this is already working.  My wife has gone back to work as a nurse.  She has always loved nursing and quit to stay home with our children.  When number six went off to bible school, she felt it was time to go back.  She put her resume online and within two hours had a job in a nursing home. 

Since she has been there God has used her to pray for employees.  She has offered to pray for headaches and fevers and any other ailment that might arise.  One day she got to work and a co-worker complained of a problem with her leg.  My wife is quite sure she mentioned it because of the reputation she has gained for getting results in prayer. 

God has also used her to pray for residents who were coming to the end of life.  In more than one occasion there have been miraculous manifestations of the peace of God for both those whose life is ending and for the families.  This may not exactly be “raising the dead”, but it is no small thing to those families.   A couple of weeks ago one of the supervisors called to see if my wife could come in early.  The reason was that another nurses mother was a resident who was not doing well and she thought my wife could do some good!  They paid her to come in and pray.  Wow!

Why did this happen.  Not because my wife is also a pastor and called minister.  It happened because she made herself available.  It also happened because Jesus is coming back for a Glory filled church and we can either doubt that and be on the sidelines or believe it and be in the forefront.  I believe the choice is ours.  Jesus is coming back.  Jesus is going to present Himself a glorious, glory filled church.  I want our church to be an integral part of the glorious church Jesus presents to Himself.

Jesus is Coming Back

Acts 1:11 ( NKJV )
who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

There are many things in Christendom which we hold as doctrine that are not necessary to salvation.  I believe in many principles that are, in my mind, necessary for successful Christian living, but not for salvation.  One example would be tithing.  I believe it is the open door to financial blessing, however not paying tithes will not keep you out of heaven. 

On the other hand there are certain Christian truths that are essential without question within “born again” Christianity.  Salvation is only available through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12.)  This is not optional to Christianity it is foundational.  Another such truth is the return of Jesus to the earth.  There is much discussion about the events surrounding that return, but the fact of a second coming of Jesus Christ is universally believed.  Jesus is coming again. 

Sometimes as we look at out world and it’s condition we wonder if or when this might happen.  When I look at the church and it’s condition Jesus second coming can seem far away.  We are caught up on modern life and there is little urgency about something as remote as a second coming.  We feel like time will continue as it is forever.  However the bible is clear.  Jesus is coming again!

2 Peter 3:11-12 ( NKJV )
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

I do not recommend that we get caught up in the events and predictions of the coming of Christ.  During the “Jesus Revolution” of the 1960s and 70s the theology of the last days was on everyone’s mind.  There were songs about it, books about it and predictions as to when it would happen.  This kind of focus causes us to miss what God wants from us today.  One of the first things Jesus said to the church in Acts chapter 1 one was that the events surrounding and timing of the second coming were none of our business.  However I do believe we need to live in the light of it’s reality.  Jesus is coming again!

A popular Greek word from the days of the Jesus revolution was “Maranatha.”  There are Maranatha churches and ministries everywhere.  This is a term coined in the days of Paul.  It means, “Jesus is coming soon.”  Paul lived in the light of this eventuality yet never saw it.  He understood, however that Jesus said His return would be a time when we did not expect it.  I know we believe in the Second Coming in our church, but I am not sure we expect it right now.  I am not sure we desire it.  I am sure that if we don’t live in light of it we may be very surprised when it does happen.  You see Jesus is coming back.

Why am I stressing this point.  I believe God is reminding us that He is in control, that things are working out in His time and that we need to be ready and able to cooperate with Him in the outworking of His plan.  He is going to come back.  Believing it won’t make it happen.  Believing it won’t affect God and what he does in relation to Jesus’ return at all.  He is going to do what He wants to no matter what you or I believe.  However believing in the return of Jesus can give us hope.  Believing in the return of Jesus should affect how we live.  Believing in the return of Jesus should spur us to greater concern for the lost as time really is running out.

Think about this as you go through your day.  How would it change your life if you knew without any doubt that today was the day of His return.  You don’t expect it to be today?  You might want to be ready! The fact that you don’t expect today to be the day qualifies it to be the very day we will see Him in the eastern sky. 

Matthew 24:44 ( NKJV )
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Embracing the Present Will Create Your Future

Genesis 39:3-4 ( NKJV )
And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.

(Sorry, but no post for yesterday.  No excuses, the day just got away from me.)

This week we have been talking about the value of a surrendered life.  Not a life surrendered to circumstances but a life surrendered to God.  When we truly surrender control to Him we actually find ourselves in control of the circumstances that would otherwise overcome us.  We looked at Abraham, who obeyed God when he didn’t know the full outcome.  We looked at Jesus who, in Gethsemane had to surrender to God when he could do nothing in himself.  He closed the back door of temptation by declaring that the Father’s will was paramount not His own.  Finally we have been looking at Joseph who found himself in an impossible situation but chose to actively surrender to the will of God rather than give in to discouragement or anger.

I want to close this week by taking a closer look at Joseph and see how his surrender to God actually worked in his life.  Our guest speaker this week, Sister Sharon Cranford, used a phrase that I find very descriptive of what Joseph did.  He embraced the present.  Whatever situation he found himself in he embraced it, applied himself within it and ended up victorious.

As a pastor for more than 30 years, I find that most people are defeated in life and their Christian walk by two things.  The past and the future.  Focusing on either will keep us from hearing God today.  If we can’t hear Him we can’t obey.  If we do not obey we will miss the opportunities that the present will provide us.  I can imagine that Joseph could have given in to this trap.

Joseph had much to long for in the past.  He also had a grudge that he could have focused on. He had a good life.  He was loved by his father.  His brothers, however hated him and sold him into slavery.  He had the two most common reasons to lose his future in the past.  He could have spent his days wishing he was still in his father’s house.  He could have wallowed in regret over what he had lost.  He could also have slipped into depression over the rejection suffered at the hands of his brothers.  He could have given into the bitterness that a lack of forgiveness always brings into our lives.  Either would have caused him to miss what God had for his present which would have led to his never fulfilling his future destiny.

On the other hand he could have focused on the future with the same results.  He could have spent every day hoping for his father to come and rescue him.  He could have given into despair with the thought that nothing would ever change.  The words "always” and “never” are lies the devil uses to cripple us in the present.  “I will always be this way” and “things will never change” are common thoughts when we are in difficulties.  Both are impossible.  One thing that really is always true is that things will change.  You will change.  Don’t buy into the lie.

Joseph did not focus on the past and he did not focus on the future.  He didn’t forget his family and he expected good things for his future, but he embraced the present.  That’s all he had.  That’s all you have.  Listen to the words of Jesus.

Matthew 6:34 ( NKJV )
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

If we learn to pay attention to the present we can be victorious.  Your life is what it is.  You can’t change it by wishing for yesterday and you can’t overcome by hoping tomorrow will be better.  Joseph saw his circumstance and made the best of it.  He worked hard where he was and ended up as the head in every situation.  When he was a slave, he became the chief slave and ran the household.  When he found himself in prison because of false accusation he worked hard where he was and became the literal ruler of the prison.  Eventually his wisdom and diligence caused him to become the most powerful man in Egypt next to the pharaoh.  This put him into position to save his family which was God’s purpose for his life all along.

What does your today look like.  Is it less than you had hoped it would be?  Is it better?  Has life given you a hard road to travel?  Are you looking to tomorrow in the vain hope it may somehow get better?  None of that will be productive.  This is the day you have.  “This is the day the lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Find out what God wants for your today.  Apply yourself to that and you will see that the future will come and, because you found the will of God today, tomorrow will be what God needs it to be for you to fulfill your true destiny in Him.

Joseph’s Journey

Genesis 45:7-8 ( NKJV )
And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

As we have discussed the idea of a life surrendered to God, we have looked at two major biblical Characters.  The first was Abraham.  He was required to leave his homeland even though he did not know where he was going.  He had to follow the leading of God until God got him where he needed to be.  If he obeyed God he was promised an inheritance, but he had no guarantee and he had to abandon himself to the will of God in order to obtain it.  He had to surrender control of his future to God.

We then looked at the greatest example of surrender any Christian can have and that is Jesus himself.  His whole life was surrender.  He was born for one purpose and that was to die for our sins.  The greatest point of surrender for Him was the garden of Gethsemane.  Throughout his life he had been in mortal combat with the devil.  He always triumphed, but now he would have to triumph without action.  He would have to surrender to the devil and to the will of God.  He cried out to God asking to be able to bypass this terrible thing.  However he spoke 7 words that changed eternity.  “Not my will but yours be done.”  This settled the issue and closed all the back doors that the devil might have used to bring temptation.  It was a total surrender to the plan and purpose of God.

Today I want to introduce another character who was surrendered to God.  In his case it was not his choice initially.  He had to learn to surrender through some very difficult circumstances.  His name was Joseph.

Joseph was the favored son of a father with 11 sons.  His father’s favoritism caused him to be resented by his 10 older brothers.  Adding to the problem was the fact that God had also chosen Joseph and given him two dreams.  In these dreams his brothers as well as his father and mother were bowing down to him.  His brothers were not amused, but these dreams really were from God. 

Joseph did not understand the dreams at this point.  Like many of us, he was taken by the parts that seemed to indicate he was better than others.  He his father had indicated as much and the dream seemed to confirm it.  He would rule over his brothers.  In the end the fact that his brothers would bow down to him was not the point at all.  Joseph didn’t know that yet and his attitude stirred his brothers to action.  They took hold of him, bound him and threw him into a pit.  They sold him to a passing Egyptian caravan and told his father he was dead.

At this point it seems that Joseph’s dream will never come to pass.  He is a slave.  He has no control over anything in his life at this point.  He has no idea how he could ever get out of this situation.  He has no one to buy him out of bondage.  He has two choices.  He can fight against his situation in the flesh and make matters worse or he can surrender to God and trust Him to bring about the changes.

For most of us we find ourselves in Joseph’s position at some point in life.  We are forced into situations by circumstances we cannot control.  It may be financial lack that puts us in a pit.  Maybe our marriage is bad and we don’t see any way to change it.  It might be sickness, sin or some other thing over which we have no real control.  In any event we find ourselves in a pit that we can’t climb out of or a slave to something we can’t overcome. 

The natural tendency in such situations is to try to fight against it.  We feel we need to do something.  Indeed there may be some action that we can and should take.  We don’t throw away natural wisdom.  On the other hand, many times these efforts are ineffective.  The second possible response in these times is to throw up our hands and say, “There’s nothing I can do about it.”  We give up and accept that this is just my life.  Neither is the best choice. 

Whether there is something natural we can do or not, the most important thing in impossible, out of our control situations is to surrender.  Not surrender to the devil or the circumstances, but to God.  That’s what Joseph did.  In the next 2 days we will explain how and why that is true, but for the moment we just need to know that it is true.

In impossible circumstances surrender to God does not mean giving up.  It means surrendering control to Him.  It means trusting that His love for us is greater than any impossibility.  It means believing that He can work the circumstance out for my good no matter what.  As long as I am holding onto the thought that I can solve the problem on my own, God cannot really help.  If I just quit and give up I give God nothing to work with.  When I choose to look at the impossibility and say, “I can’t do anything about this but God can.”, I am giving Him faith that he can work with to help me overcome. 

Look at your life today.  Is it out of control?  Is it a pit you can’t get out of?  Don’t give up, but do surrender to God’s will, God’s care and His wonderful love for you.  In the end that will make the difference both during the trial and in obtaining the victory.

A Life Fully Surrendered 2

Luke 22:41-42 ( NKJV )
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed,  saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Yesterday we looked at Abraham as an example of a surrendered life.  Hebrews 11 says that he obeyed God, but that he went no knowing where he was going.  He trusted God to the extent that he surrendered control over his future to Him.  This is difficult for us.  We like to be at the steering wheel of the car more than being the passenger.  A life surrendered to God must be able to give Him control.  When we do that, we will find that He knows the destination and the best route for us to take.  Surrender leads to final victory.

The greatest example we have of surrender is Jesus.  His whole life was surrendered to God.  As and adult He didn’t have a family, a career or a home that we know of.  Everything He did was according to the will and purpose of the Father.  He said, “I do what the Father does and I speak what I hear from the Father.”  His life was never his own.  We need to understand, however, that Jesus did have a choice.  He was not “preprogrammed” to respond that way.  He chose to.  How do we know this?  The above prayer confirms it.

Jesus has faced many things in His 3 year ministry.  It began with a wilderness encounter with Satan himself.  I have been tempted by many things but I have never warranted the attention of Satan.  Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and overcame.  He was opposed in His ministry and overcame.  He encountered sickness and disease and overcame them.  He cast out devils, he resisted the Pharisees brand of wisdom and prevailed.  He had won every battle, every attack of the enemy to this point had failed.  In Gethsemane things are different.  Here he must choose not to fight back.

Jesus understood why He was born.  He knew what God would accomplish through His sacrifice, but that did not make it easier.  He was the divine Son of God, but He was also the human Son of Man.  He did not want to go through the suffering before Him.  Some would say that this would diminish Him, but I believe it is just the opposite.  Jesus didn’t want to obey God.  He didn’t want to surrender.  I can understand that and it makes me know He can understand me.

In all the other trials Jesus was active.  Surrender often involves our being passive.  I hate to wait.  I am like most other Americans.  I want things right away.  I am part of a TV generation  where all problems can be solved in 1 hour or less and that’s including commercials.  I don’t want to wait weeks, months or years for God to provide what I need.  When I am waiting there is little I can do.  The battle is the Lords not mine.

Jesus faced much more than waiting, but in the same way He could not resist.  He was left to believe that God would cause Him to be victorious in the end.  The prospect of what He had to go through to get there was something He did not want in Himself.  His words are clear.  “If it could possibly fit into your will for me not to go through this, that would be great.”  How many times have we said this to God.

I would rather not have to go through difficult things.  I would rather not have to wait.  I would rather not have to surrender my will in favor of God’s.  There must be some other way, God.  I am sure we can figure out something that will give me what I want without this difficult circumstance.  Jesus felt that way too, but His answer did something that guaranteed eventual victory.  “God, even though I don’t want this trial, I choose your will above my own.  What you want is what I will do.”

With that statement Jesus closed any and all back doors in his life.  You see when we don’t surrender fully to God we leave back doors open.  We reserve the right to a little sin if things get too bad.  We trust God but we want to keep our options open.  “I want your will God, but I have an alternative just in case your way is a little to hard or too slow.”  When the back door is open we will never fully go through the front door.

In my home the word “divorce” had never been mentioned in relation to our marriage.  We have had a great marriage for nearly 38 years.  There has never been a need to think about divorce, but I believe part of the reason this is the case is that we closed the back door in the beginning.  We surrendered to God as well as to one another.  There has always been only one option and that is to work out differences and find ways to agree.  Period.

As long as we keep back doors open the devil has an avenue to bring doubt.  Once the back door is closed there is no place for him to gain traction in our lives.  One way to close back doors is to surrender to the Word of God.  What it says is what I am.  What it prohibits I will not do.  When that is settled in our hearts there is no place for the devil to enter into discussion.  This is what Jesus used during the wilderness temptation and I believe knowing what the Word of God said concerning the will of God helped Him in Gethsemane as well. 

When Jesus left the garden He was at complete peace.  Throughout the rest of the time leading up to His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus is the calm in the midst of the storm.  He is in complete control of the situation.  Why?  He was surrendered.  All back doors were closed.  The outcome was absolutely established because Jesus” path was absolutely clear.

Is there some area in your life where you have allowed a back door?  Close it today.  Whatever area you are holding back in case God doesn’t come through, give to God.  Whatever temptation you are allowing to stay in your life just it case things get too difficult, release it to God.  Whatever doubt that may be there that God does not care enough for you to see you through the current difficulty, let go of it and close that back door.  God will not fail you.

A Life Fully Surrendered

(We were blessed to have Sister Sharon Cranford with us this weekend.  She is a missionary to Kenya in East Africa.  Here are some thoughts on what she had to say.)

Hebrews 11:8 ( NKJV )
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Surrender is a hard thing.  We like to know the details.  We like to have some degree of control over our lives.  We thank God that He “holds the future in His hands”, but we want to know what He intends to do with it.  The problem is that God requires faith from us and by definition faith is the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1.)  Another translation says, “faith is the evidence of things not perceived with the senses.”  If we know the future and can control the future we are not in faith.

Abraham is called the father of faith in Romans 4.  In this verse we see one of the first manifestations of faith in his life.  The invisible God calls him to leave everything and go to another land.  There was a promise of blessing in this land.  God’s purpose is in this land.  As we read about these wonderful bible characters we forget that they don’t know the end of the story like we do.  We anticipate the wonderful blessing that will come upon Abraham as he obeys God.  We know he is going to obtain an inheritance for his children as he obeys God.  Hebrews, however, gives us insight into his frame of mind.  “He went out, not knowing where he was going.”

There is great blessing in surrendering our lives to God’s care.  God has great reward for us.  He has a great destiny for us.  We can build an inheritance for our children by surrendering to God.  However surrender implies that I must obey Him “not knowing where He is leading me.”  I must trust him with my life.  Not in theory, but in reality.  Trust is the real issue with surrender.

I know that it can be difficult to trust.  Maybe you have been hurt by people.  Maybe your family was not the best.  Maybe life hasn’t worked out the way you think it should.  That could really be said for most of us.  However, if the God of the bible really exists He is not like any of those people.  He is what He says in His word.  He is a God of absolute love.  He is motivated only by your highest good.  You really can trust Him.  You really must trust Him.  There is no other alternative if you believe He exists at all.

Abraham began a journey with the first steps of obedience.  This verse says, “He went…..”  Many people have asked me how to trust.  I have pondered this deeply because I know what a difficult thing it is.  Certainly I can say that we learn to trust God by giving place to his Word in our lives.  As we read His thoughts we come to know him better and it is easier and easier to trust him.  I can also say that we need to be a part of a local church where we meet people who are trustworthy and who have learned to trust God themselves.  The problem with this is that none of us are perfect and we will usually be let down at some point.

The best answer I have come up with is that the only way to learn to trust is to do it.  Abraham had to go.  If he did not go nothing else would have happened.  If he did not go there would have been no Israel, no messiah and no Christianity.  God did not explain it all to him in advance.  He simply had to obey the first step.  He had to go even though he did not know what the full outcome would be.  He had to go because God said to go and that was step one in learning to trust.

Let me encourage you to begin today.  Don’t bring the whole set of “trust issue” luggage with you on the first trip.  Just bring the “carry on bag” if you will.  If trust has been a problem find some small area you can trust God with.  If you are born again you have already placed your life in His hands.  Find an area that is troubling and give that to God.  Obey His word and see what He will do.  Go to a leader in the church and let him or her help you do this.  We have all been through the same thing in one form or another.

Let me say one more thing.  We have been and will continue to talk about the “new wineskin” local church.  This is the church that will be able to contain the fresh outpouring of the Spirit that we are seeing in our day.  Part of what God wants from His church is that we be real Christians in attitude and practice.  If you are a Christian be someone that others can trust.  When someone gets saved and comes to church, be a person  they can rely on.  You will be surprised and how being trustworthy yourself will help you trust God. 

The only true victory in the Christian life comes to one who lives fully surrendered to God.  Take that first step today.