Don’t be Scared of People

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Alright, let’s all take a second and freak out. Yes! I am posting again.

I came to realize I started this blog, I should probably get back to it. I don’t know if anyone is reading it, but it certainly helps me on my walk with the Lord. The Heart Man has a simple purpose, just look at the tagline, “Discovering how to be a man after God’s own heart.” My life has changed quite a bit over the past year, but one thing has honestly stayed the same, I’m still seeking to be a man after God’s own heart.

Today I was reading my devotion; the passage was on Proverbs 29:25. It reads, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (MSG). This means to us that when we fear what other people’s opinion of us is more than God’s, we are often kept from either doing the right thing or keeping in step with God. How many times do we see someone, whether it’s a complete stranger or someone you know well, and they are struggling with something. We know what their help can be. We know who can best help them, no matter the situation. But how many times do we actually speak with them about Jesus? Instead, we often tell ourselves that they would not be interested in the Gospel or they are already against it so why bother. I think this shows us more of an issue with ourselves than with the person we are not talking to. When we don’t share the gospel, we are either showing we don’t love Jesus as much as others opinions of us, or we don’t love the person as much as we think we do. If God’s opinion of us is what matters most, this entire problem is done away with. You want want to disappoint your God, so you will actively tell people about their Savior.

My hope for you today is that you can turn away from the fear of man. It keeps us from doing the very work that God put us on this earth to do. Instead turn your eyes to the one who loves you most. This will give you the strength to not only do your daily tasks, but you will also be able to win hearts and souls for Christ.

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” — Proverbs 29:25, MSG

Salvation Comes From the Lord (Isaiah 24-27)

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Isaiah delivers a prophecy describing the destruction of the whole Earth. This is fitting since it comes after God’s messages of destruction to many nations in the world. The main theme in this vision is that man’s pride will be destroyed. “In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on the earth.” (24:21, NLT). Isaiah then sees a vision of the coming salvation. People will return back to God, and recognize His ability to provide. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat.” (25:4, NLT). This salvation, however, will not be for the people of Israel alone. It is meant for “all the people of the world” (25:6, NLT). After the message of salvation, we find a psalm praising God. It encourages us to keep our trust in God. “Lord in our distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (26:16, NLT). It won’t always be easy, but we are reminded to keep our trust in God no matter what. God then offers a vision of the restored Israel. God will defeat all who stand against Him, and He will save those that remain faithful to him. After the defeat of evil, God will call His people back to Jerusalem and they will worship Him.

We’ve all done wrong. It’s that simple. Paul even wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). Since this is true, we must all realize a common thread for every man, woman and child on earth. We need salvation from our sins. God recognized this as soon as we first sinned, and began a plan to bring redemption to mankind. There are times all throughout Scripture, where the people of God sin and fall away from God. Why? Because we cannot be saved on our own. Our salvation depends on one act, and that is our trust and belief in God. Isaiah continued to preach this to the people of Judah, even though they were heading towards disaster. We can’t do it, that’s where pride gets in our way. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Let’s look at a couple verses again. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears.” (25:6-8, NLT). God promises to remove death from our world, and He did just that. These verses remind me of the Easter story. Christ instituted a meal (the Eucharist, aka Holy Communion), then handed his life over as an offering for the sins of humanity. By our belief, we have eternal life. This can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Through our pain and tribulations, we can find relief in knowing that God has promised salvation to those who not just believe in Him, but in the Son as well (John 3:16).

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that you seek one out. I am always available to help as I can. Just contact me, and I’ll do my best.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I challenge you to talk to someone about Him today. The only way people have an opportunity for salvation, is if His followers lead others to Him. How can we put our trust and faith in someone we don’t know about? Talk to someone, that’s the best we can do.

 

Also in this Series

The Problem of Pride (Isaiah 21-23)

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God continues delivering messages to the nations of the world, by directing one to Babylon. There is debate over whether these prophecies refer to Babylon’s revolt against Assyria (around 700 BC) or the actual fall of Babylon (539 BC). Either way, God tells them that they will be destroyed for their idolatry. Then, speaking to Edom, He makes commentary that their time is coming to a close as well. God turns to Arabia and says, “Within a year, counting each day, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.” (21:16, NLT). God then focuses on His own people. He tells Jerusalem that they will be destroyed as well because they will not rely on Him. In 22:1-13, God describes a people that make every attempt, on their own, to prepare for the oncoming army. They never once turn and pray to God. Then He turns to a individual named Shebna. Shebna could have been just like most of the people of Jerusalem, but he gets special mention because he was the palace administrator. God’s final message to the nations goes to Tyre, in Phoenicia. He tells them that due to their pride. He also tells them that after they are destroyed, they will return after 70 years but still be the same way they are today. However it won’t be for a complete loss. “But in the end her profits will be given to the Lord.” (23:16, NLT).

Pride is a big problem for humanity. I know that I have a big problem with it. In today’s reading, the people of Jerusalem were not trusting God to take care of them. I know that this is a popular circumstance for God’s chosen people, but I really think it is a good picture of all of us. We have times where we trust God, things go well, we stop trusting him, things go bad, and we wonder why things stopped going well in the first place. Pride is the thing the misaligns us most with God. Where God tells us one thing, our pride gets in the way and we do something else.

This really becomes a problem when we speak about God to other people. We could know about God. We could be able to answer any question you have on the Bible. We could be able to tell about all the things Christ did. But if we have pride, it never becomes personal. We’d say, “Christ died on a cross” but we’d never think, “for me”. Pride doesn’t allow God to work for us. It gets in His way. Do you know who’s fault that is? Your’s. I have the same problem. My pride likes to get in the way too. Let’s all decided to take a stand, and let God work in our lives. I can’t do anything apart from God. I do nothing, it is Christ working in me! That’s how we should be. Not “prideful” but “Christ full”.

 

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The Cost of Following (Judges 20)

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In today’s chapter we read about the aftermath of the previous chapter. After the death of his concubine, the Levite chapped her body into 12 pieces and sent them throughout the land of Israel as a call to arms. The people of Israel came together to find out what had happened in the city of Gibeah. The Levite told them, and they all decided to go to war with the tribe of Benjamin for what had happened in Gibeah. Judah was chosen to lead the armies of Israel. After 2 attempts (with significant loss), they made one final attempt to overcome the Benjamites. They succeeded and destroyed the entire city to Gibeah.

When we set out to do the things God requires of us, is it hard or easy? Does it cost us little or a lot? The people of Israel had a wake-up call, and realized the great evil that had happened in their land. They knew, for the Law of God, that the evil had to be purged from the land. But when calls  upon us to do something, it is seldom an easy thing. Sometimes we even fail.

I believe that when we given an opportunity to do God’s work, He can test our resolve. He will sometimes make us fail to make sure we are really committed. The Israelite’s knew what they had to do, and God wanted them to do it, yet they still failed twice before succeeding. God wanted to make sure that they were doing this for the right reasons, and that they were committed to uphold His Law.

God’s work also makes us give up lots. A rich man came to Jesus and asked how he could get eternal life. Jesus told him two things. First he was to keep the commandment. Then he said, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Luke 18:22, NASB). Jesus asked this man to give up everything. Each time a disciple was called to follow, he had to leave his family, job, and life behind in order to follow Jesus. This just says to me that we must be prepared to give up everything for God’s work.

If you are feeling called to do something, I encourage you to persist through your failures. Failures don’t mean you’re wrong. The phrase “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called” comes to mind. That qualification process, is a learning process, and sometimes we fail. The cost of following can feel like a failure as well. Giving up/losing everything feels so wrong in our cultures that teaches “more, more, more”. But if it is truly the call of God working in you, it will work out for good. I encourage all followers to keep working, and trust in God. He’s helping us to become more like Him, which is completely different from the people we were before.

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 88

The Letter to Philadelphia

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The second to last letter written in John’s Revelation was for the Church at Philadelphia (not the one in Pennsylvania). This church is the first church that Jesus didn’t have an issue with. He congratulates them on remaining faithful and encourages them to press on. But what can we learn from this letter? The previous ones were easy, since Jesus had a lesson and warning to give them. But this church gets its statement right at the beginning of the letter. “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.” (Revelation 3:8a, NLT).

Christ opens doors for us. He offers us opportunities to further the gospel along. This could as simple as us talking to a friend, or could be a dramatic as becoming a celebrity. The focal point is that we use these opportunities for Christ. But the part that I love, that I believe truly makes the point is “no one can close”. This says to me that if Christ wants you to do something for him, not only will he give you the opportunity, no one will be able to stop you. The enemy will try to stop you, and believe me he will, but Jesus tells us “I will make [Satan and his followers] come and bow down at your feet” (Revelation 3:9, NASB). This shows that we will overcome against them as well. Jesus says that no one will stop us, so continue on in his power.

Has Jesus given you an opportunity to shine the light on him? Are you doing it? The Church at Philadelphia was taking the light shown on them for their good deeds, and reflecting it towards Jesus. We should follow this example, because when Christ has a will, there is no other way. So follow him, and let everyone know that  it is all for His glory (Colossians 3:4). Take no credit for yourself, because we are only able to accomplish what we do by the power of Christ working through us (Colossians 3:17).

The Letter to Sardis

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The fifth letter written at the beginning of John’s Revelation, was given to the Church at Sardis. Sardis is a city located in between Thyatira (north) and Smyrna (south).  The church here had a significant problem with following through. Jesus says to them “nothing of God’s work has been completed” (Revelation 3:2, MSG). Christ even goes to the point of calling them “dead, stone dead” (Revelation 3:1, MSG). He is calling the church to come back to life and continue doing God’s work. He knows that they have the “can-do” spirit to get it done, but they have decided to stop working.

How many of us have this problem ourselves? I know that if I lose interest in a task, it may never get accomplished. But this doesn’t work when it’s God’s work we are doing. James writes in his letter, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James:217, NLT). That’s what Christ was saying to the Church at Sardis, and it’s the same for us. We cannot simply say that we follow Jesus, and not do anything to progress the gospel (or even live it for that matter). Christ wants us to be alive in our faith, and we show that by doing things.

What can be done? Conveniently, Jesus himself told us how to live out the Gospel. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, NASB). We must keep God as our focus throughout our lives, and love Him. Then we are to care for others, because this is what Christ taught us to do, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NASB).

So let’s come back to life, and resume the work God has given us to do!

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Going Into Battle

For the past seven weeks, I have been doing a Bible study on worship with my church’s praise team. It has been a pretty great study so far, and I look forward to the last two weeks of it. The study, while going throughout the Bible, focuses on one story. It can be found in 2 Chronicles 20.

In this story, Judah is being threatened by 3 different invading armies. King Jehoshaphat orders a time of fasting and prayer. The prophet Jahaziel then delivers a message to the king and all Judah, “thus says that Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b-17, NASB).

After receiving this message, the people fast and pray. In the morning the army marched out to station itself for battle, but leading the charge were the priest and holy worshipers (a choir!!!!). These people lead the people of Judah is a praise song that went like this, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NASB). During the praise, God made the armies confused and they destroyed themselves!

Isn’t that a great story? But it has a point that I’d like to share with you.

Life gets hard. The people of Judah were experiencing this (3 armies at once!). But no matter how hard life can get, we should lead the charge with praise and worship. As we’ve been discussing this week, praise is important (especially when we are waiting on God’s promises). The people of Judah showed us what can happen when we place our trust in God. They didn’t have to lift a sword in order to defeat the three armies, all the did was sing. God did the rest of the work. The story goes on to show that they went on to plunder for three days! It must have been a massive gathering against them. But the listened and trusted in God. They went into battle praising Him, and He provided for them.

God wants to do the same for you. All you have to do is surrender your life completely to Him. Then, go into battle singing His praises. We can’t go into the “battle” of the day saying “Let me figure it out, then I’ll ask God.” Give it to God first! He can handle it.

I thought of a couple songs that would be appropriate for this post. So please take a listen, and give your battles over to God.

Was It Really Worth the Trouble? (Jonah 3)

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Today’s chapter starts with Jonah on, what I’m sure is, a beach. He’s probably lying down on the hot sand with the sun shining down on him, thinking about the last few days’ events. Just a quick recap: he was told to go to Nineveh, ran away, got almost shipwrecked, got tossed from the ship, swallowed by a whale, spent three days inside the whale, then was spat out by the whale onto this beach. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty worn out from thinking about these things. I can’t imagine the way Jonah must feel. But God comes to him again, and commands him to go to Nineveh.

Jonah, having learned his lesson, gets up and travels to Nineveh. At this time, not only is Nineveh as sinful as I mentioned before, but it is also the capitol of the Assyrian Empire. This empire was the biggest in world, and was one of the biggest enemies of the Israelite nation! But Jonah went. On his first day in the city, he proclaimed to them “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (3:4 NIV). This was the moment; the moment that Jonah feared. He proclaimed the message of God to the Ninevites. At any moment the army should be coming to either arrest him, or kill him. But that didn’t happen. I’m sure their reaction astounded Jonah; he never would have thought they would have reacted the way they did. “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” (3:5 NIV). The king even reacted in this way (3:7-9). And because the people repented, God spared them from their punishment (3:10).

So what does that mean for us today? I see two big points in this chapter. The first is that God has a plan and knows what is best. Jonah did not trust in God that He had a good plan in place. When he was told the first time to go to Nineveh, he ran away because all he saw was trouble. He knew that going to a place that had long been against God, he would surely die. But what Jonah didn’t know is that, according to historical records, there was a recent eclipse and the Assyrians would have taken it to be a bad omen. So the people of Nineveh were receptive to a message of their destruction, because it was already on their minds! So God sent Jonah, in order to bring these people back to Him.

The second point that I see is that God want’s for us to repent of our sins and come back to Him. God planned to destroy the city of Nineveh, but He decided to offer them a choice. So He sent them the prophet Jonah to speak His message. When the Ninevites repented of their sins and turned towards God, He chose to spare them from destruction. God wants the same for you and me. We are sinful creatures, but God offers us salvation through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We simply have to repent and seek to follow Him. It’s not an easy path, but it is certainly a better one than the one that ends in punishment.

Jonah was given a task to do from God, and thought that it would take his life. While that is a possibility in the life of a prophet, the Ninevites were much more receptive to his message that he had thought. Has God given you something to do? Are you spending time saying “No” rather than doing as God has asked? If this is the case, take a lesson from Jonah. God’s task maybe easier than you think it is. I’m not here to say that it is always easy, but on the off chance that it is. Is it really worth it to add so many problems to your life?

Fleeing from God (Jonah 1)

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I thought it would be a good time to start a new book study. We are going to start with the book of Jonah. I know, I know. We’ve all heard this story either from Children’s Church, or from our kids after Children’s Church (or, my personal favorite, Veggietales). But we’re going to  take a look at the actual Scripture in this story.

Jonah’s story starts with a message from God and a choice. It’s something we’ve all experienced, especially those who are in ministry. God called Jonah to travel to the city of Nineveh and tell them about God, in order for them to turn away from their sin. This call to travel would have had Jonah leave his hometown, Gath Hepher, and traveled east in order to get to Nineveh. If we look at the book of Nahum, we see that the sin present within Nineveh was plotting evil against God, cruelty and plundering in war, prostitution, witchcraft, and commercial exploitation. Which is probably why we see it said, “But Johan ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3 NIV). 

After having fled, the ship got caught in a major storm. The sailors decided to find out who was responsible for their situation, and the lots fell on Jonah (1:7). So Jonah told them to toss him from the ship, and after the did everything they could, they did throw him off. And when they do, he is swallowed up by a giant fish!

But the choice is what intrigues me today. Jonah shows us that he could chose not to obey God, despite being a prophet. He was called to go to one of the most hostile places imaginable for a prophet of God. It would be the same as God calling us to go preach in a place like North Korea, where being a Christian is a crime punishable by death. I know that the theological point is that when God calls you to do something, you do it! But I think Jonah speaks to the common man. Even if we were well protected by both man and God, could you honestly say that you wouldn’t be afraid to go into such a place? I know I would. But God keeps after Jonah. He does everything to get his attention and show him the error of his ways. At the end of this chapter, Jonah is now in the most desperate place imaginable; inside a whale.

If you’ve ever felt like saying no to God, and you want to run away, I say that there is a great story in the Bible for that feeling. I look forward to reading the rest of this book with everyone. And learning more from this “children’s” story.

 

 

PS Don’t forget to go like the new Facebook page and you can always follow me on Twitter @No_Shirt_Guy!

Let It All Fall Apart

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As a young worship leader, one of the hardest things for me to see is my music ministry fall apart. We have been going through a time where things weren’t working out for the best, and I actually had to let someone go today. It’s frustrating because you have a vision, but God seems to take it in another direction. Something you either didn’t intend or it seems worse. The important thing is that we submit to the work God is doing, especially if that work is ministry.

Jesus tells us in John’s gospel, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (John 15:1-2 NLT). God works within our lives and ministries in order to make them better. He is never satisfied with what we can produce and wants it to be better.

It may seem like everything is falling apart. There are many times I’ve said to my wife “My praise team is falling apart!” But the truth is that things aren’t falling apart. God is simply removing the things that don’t work, so that the things that do can be improved. Our lives are meant to bear fruit for Him. That could be simply living a life for Him, or as difficult as seeking out people to bring to Him. Either way, God has given us our lives and work. We should strive to do them better in His name. So when things look like they are going wrong, I say that God is working to make things right again. So let it all fall apart. When it comes back together, it will be better than ever.