Wednesday, January 30, 2013

God's Timing #4 - Day-by-Day Relationship with God

Understanding God’s timing is all about growing up in the Lord. There are times when some things should never be done, while other things must always be done. At certain times a particular action is the only proper course to take while at other times even good things are inappropriate to take because God clearly says, “not now!” Understanding God in uncertain times can help us avoid painful pitfalls and guide us into His perfect will.
I was reading some title headings in a Max Lucado book the other day and saw a chapter heading that caught my attention. Are you ready? It is going to get your mind moving today. Here it is . . . No, I want you to live in suspense just a little longer. Ok, I’m ready. It is entitled, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Isn’t that cleaver? That is exactly what God was saying to the Israelites as they were backed up against the sea with the enemy pursuing them. Moses gave an unusual command, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Sure enough, the Lord came through and destroyed the Egyptian army without one Israelite striking a blow. They had to let the Lord do the work while quietly observing His hand of power.

I can be the first one to say that God doesn’t always choose to do things that way. But He did that day. We shouldn’t always sit quietly, letting God do all the work. This was what God wanted to do at this particular time. Unfortunately, some Christians have tried to make a complete theology out of this passage, emphasizing that God will always do the fighting for us. They say that believers are merely to watch passively for the salvation of the Lord, no matter the circumstances. If you ran with just one passage in which God overcame the enemies of the people, then we would be deceived. When it comes to being led by the Lord, there is no simple formula that applies to every situation. It is a day by day relationship that can lead us to hear the voice of God in our hearts.

When Moses directed the Israelites to stand still and observe the power of God, he was not laying down a principle to be obeyed in all situations. In the centuries that followed, it was the army of Israel that overcame the enemies by force that threatened God’s people. Only through a close relationship to God in prayer and reading His Word can we create a fertile soil for the Holy Spirit of God to show us what the Lord wants us to do. The Holy Spirit is able to lead us in every new situation. Not only is the Holy Spirit the author of Scripture and the one who convicts of sin, but He can lead us to be victorious. I know that I am not smart enough to know the will of God in every situation I encounter.

As Paul was traveling and spreading the Gospel, he had to be led by the Spirit. There were times when he wanted to go somewhere completely different than where the Spirit led him. At certain times, God alters our plans.
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”
Acts 16:6-7

The timing was just not right. The Lord wanted to spread the Gospel somewhere else. Sometimes we may never know why. For the Israelites, each new battle meant discovering what God’s strategy for them might be. Crossing the Red Sea was the plan for victory at that particular time. The battle of Jericho is a different story.

We need to cultivate a deep relationship with God to know what His will is. Every situation is different, but each outcome is different when we are led by the Holy Spirit.

May you seek the face of the Father today in all you do. Don’t rely on past victories. Seek new ones that may call for a different direction.

I am looking forward to what God wants to do this Sunday.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

God's Timing #3 - Standing Firm in the Faith

Understanding God’s timing is all about growing up in the Lord. There are times when some things should never be done, while other things must always be done. At certain times a particular action is the only proper course to take while at other times even good things are inappropriate to do because God clearly says, “not now!” Understanding God in uncertain times can help us to avoid painful pitfalls and guide us into His perfect will.

We continue this week looking at God’s timing as we study the Israelite's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Last week we looked at God saying, “Never be afraid.” Now let’s turn to what Moses conveys to the people in Exodus 14:13 when He says, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance of the Lord.” This is an always statement. God’s people must always stand firm in their faith no matter what happens around them. Faith should be the center of all that we are in our relationship with God. It should characterize our daily walk with Christ. Faith should be the stabilizing factor in our life. The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the believers in Corinth that still apply today when he said, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Sounds like a pep talk an Upward basketball coach would give his players before going out for the second half of the game. It is not a suggestion but a must.

When the Israelites were pinned between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, God said, “Stand firm in the faith.” As the chariots were approaching at light speed (at least that is what it looked like), God wanted them to trust in their deliverer. The “always” word from God is written for our encouragement in today's uncertain economic times. If you are not sure about standing firm in the faith, then let me remind you of the alternative found in Isaiah 7:9, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Look at the warning in Scripture:

35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.
37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.”
38 “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.                         
Hebrews 10:35-39

No matter what the circumstance or whether it is big or small, we must not shrink back but continue to seek the face of God and have strong faith.

Let me encourage you today to ask for more faith for you can never have too much of that necessity of life.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

God's Timing #2 - Do Not Be Afraid

Understanding God’s timing is all about growing up in the Lord. There are times when some things should never be done, while other things must always be done. At certain times a particular action is the only proper course to take while at other times even good things are inappropriate to take because God clearly says, “not now!” Understanding God in uncertain times can help us avoid painful pitfalls and guide us into His perfect will.

If we fail to believe that God is serious when He says "never," we suffer the consequences of our disobedience. There are also consequences from not doing what God clearly tells us to do. So let’s look at an Old Testament story that will help illustrate this principle.

The Israelites had just left Egypt after the Lord delivered the ten plagues on the Egyptians. While they were camping at the edge of the Red Sea, Pharaoh changed his mind again and decided to pursue them into the desert to bring them back. You can read how it unfolded in Exodus 14:10-16.

Now sometimes when you get between a rock and a hard place, you do the natural thing and you blame the person responsible – Moses. As the Israelites saw their enemy approaching they panicked. They said things like, “I wish you would have left us alone and we would have just stayed in Egypt as slaves where we had three square meals.” They even regretted believing in the word of the Lord delivered through Moses. They forgot how God rained down the plagues on the Egyptians. How fast we forget when times get tough. They even forgot the Passover night when their children were spared. There was no faith to be found anywhere. It was in that moment they heard a “never” word from the Lord through Moses. It was simply, “Do not be afraid!”

Whether it is the Israelites at the Red Sea or you and I in Findlay, Ohio, fear and timidity are never God’s will for His people. To be controlled by fear means living by no faith. In Hebrews 11:6 it says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It doesn’t matter who is pursuing you or how bad the economy gets, fear is never an option for the children of God. When we ignore God’s Word, “Do not be afraid,” we grieve the Holy Spirit and rob ourselves of what God intends for us to experience. Fear is far worse than any disease you can get because we make excuses and live with it while experiencing a slow internal death.

It’s easy to wonder why the Israelites had so little faith. But we are not in that life threatening crisis either. How big is your faith when a crisis hits? Remind yourself today and every day that fear is not an option. God is in control. Determine to stay fearless even if the earth or our economy gives way.

Don’t let news or any situation control your emotions. Let me remind you what Psalm 46:1-3 says,
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with surging.”

God did not forsake the Israelites at the Red Sea after doing so much to deliver them. Pharaoh would not have the last laugh over the Creator of the universe. So, walk in faith today and know that God will deliver and give you many reasons to increase your faith.

I am looking forward to a great day on Sunday as we gather and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s exciting to come together as the Body of Christ and grow in His Word. Great things are happening and lives are being transformed. Invite a friend with you this week…

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

God's Timing #1 - Becoming Like Jesus

Timing is everything. From when you mention something to your wife, your boss, or your best friend, timing plays an important role in the outcome of your message. I think I have learned that the hard way many times. Prayer, too, can be a matter of timing. Not understanding God’s timing regarding a matter we are praying about can lead to spiritual disappointment and missed opportunities.

Sometimes when I pray for something I have a hard time wondering if God is saying not to do it, never to do it, or don’t do it now. We had a meeting the other day about our involvement with the Marose church in Haiti. We want to continue our partnership with Marose but the question is, “What does that look like this year?” We have no doubt that we are to help and support this church. We can either physically go there, send financial support to get the Medical Clinic off the ground and running, or do both. We have decided to continue to pray and see what the Lord is leading us to do in the next few weeks. Would you pray with us as we pray for the Lord to show us what would be most beneficial to this church?

Whatever the outcome is I know that it will be good because we are desperately wanting to know what God wants us to do. The ultimate goal for all involved is that the Lord be glorified and that somehow we all grow more to be like Jesus. The Bible declares that from before the creation of the world, God intended us to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29). This is the spiritual yardstick by which we can measure our progress in becoming more like Jesus. To be more like Jesus is not about memorizing more Scripture (although that would not hurt). It’s not about being in a visible leadership role either. It is about having His character and His spiritual poise. No matter what happened, the Lord knew what to say and when to say it. He also knew when to be silent. He always had perfect timing and when to withdraw from the crowds for a time of rest or prayer. Jesus’ sense of what the moment required was flawless. That is what spiritual maturity in Christ is all about.

Some things should never be done, while others must always be observed. Some things should be done some of the time and other times it would be inappropriate because the Lord doesn’t want it done now. Understanding the timing of the Lord will help us avoid painful outcomes and guide us in knowing His timing.

Instead of writing a book in this email devotional, I am going to take the next several weeks to break this down through the Scripture to understand it more. Exodus 14:10-16 will be the verse we begin to unfold the timing of the Lord. Until then, let’s run with the verse we learned at Upward Basketball practice last night.

“Everyone should be quick to listen. But they should be slow to speak. They should be slow to get angry.”            James 1:19b (NIrV)

Great things are happening at the church. The Spirit of the Lord is moving. This Sunday we will dedicate a few of our precious babies and continue in our series, “Rich Toward God.”

Let’s grow together and be more like Jesus…

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike