Are You Too Small?

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Juday,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
–Micah 5:2, NASB

Have you ever thought that you were too small, or too unimportant, for God to care about? This is a thought that has often plagued my own mind. “God, I’m a nobody. What can you do with me?” Yet still, He gives me more to do.

I believe that God often looks for the ones who are overlooked, in order for His glory to shine the most. Jesus spoke on the mountain, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, … God blesses those who are humble” (Matthew 5: 3 & 5, NLT).  It’s the people that the world looks down upon, that God’s power shines through the most.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
–Matthew 5:3, NLT

If you are doubting your worth, or do not understand how God can use you, remember this: God created you. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139: 13, NASB). He cares deeply for you and created you with a purpose. I do not know what that purpose is. I even have a hard time knowing my own purpose. Yet I still trust that God will continue to show me why He put me on this earth. During this Advent season, let us pray for God to help us learn the reason why we are here.

Trust is the Most Important (Isaiah 49-51)

Book of Isaiah

After telling the Israelites that they will be set free from captivity in Babylon, He reclaims them to be His servant nation. He starts with how intimately He knows them, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (49:1, NLT). The Lord tells the people that He has given them the strength to do whatever it is required of them, to be His servants. Then, just as He had before, He begins to give His people promises for their redemption. He knows that they will have pain and He will remember it. “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls.” (49:16, NLT). He will bring them back to their former glory, but not for them. They shall become a beacon to the nations that point back to God, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles,” (49:6, NLT). It will be His power that accomplishes this restoration, not the work of man. God asks of His people, “Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?” The answer is a resounding nobody. Yet God reveals, “The captives of warriors will be real eased, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved. For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood. All the wold will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:24-26, NLT). None can claim this same power that He wields, therefore, if it happens than it can only be God who has done it. God continues to describe His awesome power. “Why was no one there when I cakes? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.” (50:2, NLT).

Isaiah seems to take a break from speaking the words of God for a few verses and starts talking about being God’s servant in His own life. He states how morning after morning He is woken up and given new understanding for God’s will. He has to carry it out no matter what. This has lead him to being persecuted, beaten, and mocked for simply following the Lord’s instructions. Yet he has one bit of encouragement for his fellow Israelite, “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!” (50:9, NLT). He knows though, that men become proud and begin to claim that they are doing things by their own power, not God’s. But God has words for these people as well. “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from [God]: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:11, NLT).

God brings forth a call for the people of Israel to trust in Him. Humanity has always had a problem with being able to trust the Lord, so He shows them ways that He has been faithful to them. He speaks of Abraham, who was old with no children and now exists as a once great nation (since they are now in Exile). He then looks to Moses, where He brought His people out of the land of Egypt. Yet the problem with trust seems to be what others think. God says, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? … Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and ager now? It is gone!” (51:12-13, NLT). Yet his people know they have suffered His wrath before. God tells them, “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'” (51:22-23, NLT).

We live in a world that stands against God. We cannot argue this fact. We constantly see laws being made that make being a Christian harder, we see laws being made and court cases being won against allowing the presence of God into our public lives. I know that the topic of homosexuality is very controversial, but it is a perfect example of this. The Bible teaches one thing, and the  world says something different. The beginning of Creation is another perfect example; the Bible says one thing, the world another. The list could go on and on. But God consistently offers us salvation for those who trust in Him. Paul writes to us in his letter to the Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is agains us? … But in all these things [tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (8:35)] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31 & 37, NASB).

This is not a call to blind faith that simply pulls things from Scripture and trusts others to know what is right. We are called to question everything, and discern what God’s will for us is (Philippians 1:9). Yet there are things that God is clear about and that the Bible teaches. If we are to believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and infallible, this leads us to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions, especially if we have listened to the world too much. God said to His people, “Why are you afraid of mere humans?” Maybe this call is to stand up for what is true. Take a stand against the world. We may lose friends and make enemies. But people can only attack our bodies, God deals with our eternal souls. Who should you be more scared of, man or God who spoke you into being?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 109-110

 

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Stay Strong (Isaiah 36-39)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading we leave behind all of God’s messages to the nations of the world, and enter into a story. We find that Assyria has invaded Judah and is preparing to hold Jerusalem under siege. The king sends a messenger to speak with messengers from King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib, of Assyria, began to taunt the people of Jerusalem and offer them anything in order to survive this siege if they only let the Assyrian army into Jerusalem. Hezekiah and his people refuse, and the king sends for the prophet Isaiah. The king asks for Isaiah to intercede for the people with God, and he delivers a message, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.” (37:6-7, NLT). After receiving more messages from Sennacherib, Hezekiah begins to pray to God for deliverance. That night God killed 185,000 members of the Assyrian army. When the surviving members awoke, they fled back to Assyria and the king went back to Nineveh. While the Sennacherib was worshiping his god, two of his son came and killed him. Then King Hezekiah became extremely ill, and was dying. Isaiah told the king that he would not survive this illness. Hezekiah then prayed to God, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” (28:3, NLT).  After hearing his prayer, God decided to bring Hezekiah out of his illness and give him 15 more years to live. After the news of Hezekiah’s recovery, King Merodach-baladan of Babylon sent envoys to give his best wishes and a gift. Hezekiah became so delighted by the gesture that he showed the envoys everything that he owned. Isaiah came to the king and asked about the men he showed around. Isaiah then delivered a message from God, “The time is coming when everything in your palace — all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now — will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left. Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.” (39:6-7, NLT).

The thing I loved about this section was how it started. King Sennacherib threatens the people of Jerusalem by saying, “But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem … Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian kin! … Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? … What God of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:7, 14-15, 18, 20, NLT). Some of these comments seem very familiar to me, they just sound a little differently to us today.

As a Christian, my main filter in life is the Bible and my faith in Jesus Christ. This fact is the founding principle of my entire worldview. Because of this, I can seem to be an “idiot”, or “hypocrite”, or “bigot” (I’ve never personally been called this, but other Christians have). The problem is a world that doesn’t understand why I believe what I believe. The world wants to teach that there is no God, let alone salvation from our sins. It wants to teach that the only right way, is the way you decide is right and no one else. It wants to teach us that we cannot stand up for what is right when it stands in contrast of others. The problem is that with me there is a sense of wrong, but the world wants to teach us that there is no wrong.

I love this passage from Isaiah because it shows me that there will always be someone trying to convince us our beliefs are wrong. Sennacherib was trying to convince the people of Jerusalem that they were wrong to trust in God. Today people tell Christians they are wrong for trusting in God as well. I encourage you to stay faithful in your beliefs (so long as they are biblical). If you are facing difficulty, make sure to pray for the strength to get through these hard times. Stay in the Word, and spend some time in worship. God is powerful enough to help you overcome adversity. So what the world tells you you’re wrong? So long you stay true to the Word of God, and show love to everyone, that’s what matters most.

 

Also in this Series

Where Does Your Wisdom Come From? (Isaiah 17-20)

Book of Isaiah

Continuing His messages towards the nations, God addresses Damascus and the Northern Kingdom (Israel). The people had fallen away from God. They had been assimilated into the Assyrian Empire, which lead to a cultural change for the Israelites. They began worshiping pagan idols and Asherah poles. Which is directly against warnings found in the Bible (Deuteronomy 12:3; 16:21). He tells them, for their abandonment, they will be destroyed along with Assyria. Several years later, God delivered a message to Ethiopia. This message was given because Ethiopia had asked Judah to be in alliance to repel the oncoming Assyrian threat. But Isaiah responded by telling the that Judah only need God to withstand Assyria. This message comes as a message that God will overcome Ethiopia and use the Assyrians to destroy them. Next God addresses Egypt. He tells them, “What fools are the officials of Zoan! Their best counsel to the king of Egypt is stupid and wrong. Will the still boast to Pharaoh of their wisdom? Will they dare brag about all their wise ancestors? … The officials of Zoan are fools, and the officials of Memphis are deluded. The leaders of the people have led Egypt astray.” (19:11 & 13, NLT). However, God tells them that they will leave behind their human leadership, and look to God for help. “In that day Egypt and Assyria will be connected by a highway. The Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. And Israel will be their ally. The three will be together, and Israel will be a blessing to them.” (19:23-24, NLT). The final message given in this section was to both Egypt and Ethiopia. Isaiah walked around naked for 3 years, because this is what Assyria was going to do to them when they were conquered by Assyria.

How many times to we honestly seek wisdom? For me, I feel like I do it everyday. But where do we look? I think most people look to a role model, a professional (therapist, counselor, etc.), or even people like psychics. The problem with this is that they are all humans. Human wisdom is fallible and temporary. It doesn’t really help us in the long run. It may help us feel better in the moment, but one day it will no longer help us. True wisdom comes from God. James wrote in his letter, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NASB). We should turn to God for wisdom. He shows us here in Isaiah that human wisdom can be disastrously wrong, yet “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5, NASB). God’s wisdom knows no bounds.

So I ask, where do we go to seek wisdom? Would we rather ask someone for their opinion, or do we ask God? This isn’t to say that people can’t help us get God’s wisdom. God brings up men and women that can do this. Typically they are found as pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc. Not all men point you away from God. I’m just saying that we should pay attention to where our advice comes from. People who do not follow God, can only give opinions according to their worldly view. Yet someone who follows the Lord, can give you His advice. But you should spend time in the Word and in prayer on your own. DO NOT rely solely on someone else’s thoughts and opinions. God has a message for you, and you can’t hear it if you are not listening to Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 101

Also in this Series

No Longer Need To Wait (Isaiah 9-10)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, Isaiah gives the people of Judah hope in the coming Messiah. He describes, not only the current time, but a dark time to come. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (9:2, NLT). He tells them that the times may get hard, and God will be angry against those that have left Him, but here is still hope in the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s message then turns towards Assyria. God announces His anger with the king. He tells them that they have become too proud because He has used them as a punishing rod. The Assyrian king now thinks that he is greater than God. God offers hope to His people, showing that He will overcome Assyria. “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down.” (10:34, NLT).

What I love about these couple chapters is that it shows us how God offers us hope, even in the darkest of times. The people of Judah had strayed so far from God. The people of Assyria were a constant threat to them. No matter how they looked at it, they lived in a dark time that did see and end. God knew their fears and offered them hope.

He still does that for us today. We live in a world where sin runs wild (not that this is any different from any other time). But God wants to help. He promised the people of Judah a Messiah, today we can receive that Messiah. God said through Isaiah in the first chapter “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow;” (1:18, NASB). He made this happen through Jesus Christ. John writes about him, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:8, NASB). We no longer have to wait on a Messiah, he’s already here. We simply need to trust him, and to be his followers.

Also in this series

A Call to Be Different (Isaiah 5-8)

Book of Isaiah

As we start today’s readings, we finish the description of fallen Judah. God gives His reason for their punishment through a song about His beloved vineyard. He tells of a vineyard that only produces bitter grapes, rather than sweet ones. In order to solve this problem, He says to them, “Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it.” (5:5-6, NLT). God is telling His people that they must change and come back to Him; they are not the people He sent them out to be. These first few chapters (1-5) were set up to address Judah as it currently was.

Then Isaiah returns to the beginning of his ministry. He recounts God’s calling upon him to be a messenger to the people. We receive many accounts about the glory and majesty of God. Aside from Revelation, Isaiah 6 might just be my favorite. “He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings … Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (6:1-2, 4, NLT). After having his sins forgiven, Isaiah volunteers to be a messenger for God.

The first message Isaiah is sent to give is for King Ahaz. Ahaz was facing both the armies of Israel and Syria. God told him not to fear and to trust in Him, because He would not allow the opposing armies to win. God then offered to give Ahaz a sign for the promise He made to him. Ahaz refused to “test” God, so He chose a sign for him. “Look! the virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (7:14, NLT). Isaiah then receives a call to act differently from other people.

This final call of Isaiah’s still rings true for us today. We are called to still live a different life from unbelievers. Let’s take a look at some of these points:

Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. (8:13, NLT)

Preserve the teaching of God; (8:16)

But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? (8:19)

People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. (8:20)

It doesn’t sound completely unlike the things we are told today. It just goes to show me that the things God wants from/for us never really changes. Unbelievers do not do any of these things, especially realize they are in the dark. God calls us to live a certain type of life, and to do certain things. This isn’t because God just decided this was the way to be. It is the best way to be. That’s what God wants for us, the best. There is another passage of scripture where we are called to be different.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all me will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NASB). Christ even acknowledged that we are to be different.  On the night of his betrayal, he gave a prayer to God saying, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15-16, NASB).

We are called to be separate from the world. It should be obvious. People should know from the way that we are that we believe in the one true God, and that we believe in His Son and Holy Spirit. Our faith changes us. It’s not merely something we say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian” without even breaking a smile! God changed you through faith! You are not the same person you were before, but you now stand new. You cannot be a follower of Christ and expect things to remain the same. Christ was a game-changer. He changes our lives. We are called to be different, and that’s what we must be. Sure, you’ll be ridiculed. But what’s more important? Your friends not picking on you, or your Savior knowing you by your faith and love?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 99-100

 

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The Call to Come Back (Isaiah 1-4)

Book of Isaiah

I had a request for a Bible study to do in May, but I think I will go ahead and start it today. We will be starting the book of Isaiah. However, this will be a little different from the ones we have done in the past. Since Isaiah is 66 chapters long, we cannot take it one chapter at a time. We will be doing at least 2-3 chapters per post, in hopes we can get it done in May. So let’s pray that God opens our hearts to hear the words He has for us through this book.

 

Isaiah’s ministry lasted through four different kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He spent his time teaching Judah the need to repent and turn back to God. He spoke about their faithlessness, and the coming judgment upon Judah. However, he also taught about a coming Messiah to save God’s people. So his messages of pain and destruction were also coupled with hope and salvation.

Isaiah opens his book by describing the rebellious nature of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God says to these people, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care — but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” (1:3, NLT) He is letting the people know how far they have turned. They have even gone so far that their worship has become a ritual by rote, rather than a meaningful expression to God. But God still offers the people of Judah hope, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.” (1:18-19, NLT). Isaiah then begins to bring on the terror to come on the day of judgment, to those who do not come back to God. Isaiah writes “When the Lord rises to shake the earth, his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground. They will hide in caves in the rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty. On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rodents and bats,” (2:19-20, NLT). The Lord than promises to make the people humble and realize their need for Him by saying, “[I] will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water,” (3:1-2, NLT). But God does promise a restoration for the people who survive. He promises to bring Israel back as a great people, with Him as their comfort and shelter (Isaiah 4).

I think if we all set and think about it, the warnings found in these opening chapters not only apply to the world we live in now, but to some degree every society since Creation. We have all felt that the world is “going to hell in a hand basket” at one point or another. I say this because I don’t want anyone thinking, “Oh no! Our time sounds exactly like this!!!!!” While the promise and threat are very real, we live in a time where God has already given us our salvation. We simply need to accept it as our own. There will always be unbelievers driving the world in a direction contrary to the way Christ teaches us to be. They are even some believers that get it wrong (including me, I definitely am not the fore-most expert on the Will of God). But so long as we are not reading Scripture and praying, we are not following either. We know a few lines, and we think that is all we need. Honestly, that’s how we have some really bad teaching out there.

To turn this and make it more personal, have you had a time when you have not sought God’s will for your life. Let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us are in that practice. I think most people (who are in the practice of prayer) are more of the mind “I’ll make the decision then ask God to bless it later.” The truth is that it works the opposite way of that. If we want to do our best, and make sure our life is in line with God’s will, we consult Him first then make the decision. Often times, I’ve found, He takes forever to get back with me. But I think it is to help us realize what we are about to do. In these open chapters of Isaiah, the people of Judah stopped consulting God. They did whatever they pleased. That can become us when we have the “do now, bless later” approach to running our lives. God promises us, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT). I’d much rather choose a path that I can trust, and leads to good, than to forge my own path and lead myself into destruction.

So we lift up our eyes to Heaven and says these words that the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV).

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 97-98

Harmony Not Discord

live_in_harmony_print-r45a2b6a348244e968417771fa5e63950_ea28_8byvr_324

There are days that go by that I feel the Church likes to bicker about what is right and what is wrong. We should worship in this way. We shouldn’t be accepting of this or that. We cannot participate in certain activities. While I can agree that this conversation is important, I think far too often it becomes the focal point. In all things the Church has one major function, to glorify God here on earth. So how can we learn to put our differences aside in order to help people see God?

If we go back to Paul’s letter to the Roman’s we read these words, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (Romans 14:17-19, NLT). This is found in a section where Paul is talking specifically about food, but I think there is a deeper point to be made here. We all have a difference of opinion. We cannot help it. No two people can agree on anything, and Paul knew this. He is saying here that it is more important for us to be cooperative than counter-operative. We should recognize where we have disagreement and seek to make a compromise as quickly as possible. As long as we fight, we become less effective at reaching people for Jesus Christ.

In another letter, Paul speaks about prophesying in the Church. He says that it is important for each member to get a turn to speak and finishes by saying, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, NLT). Our God doesn’t like chaos, he wants us to be peaceful with each other.

I realize that theological disputes will always happen. But we cannot reach a point where unbelievers see us as a group of people that can’t agree on what we believe. Rather, they should be seeing God in us. God knows what is right, and what is true. If we keep our eyes focused on Him, the better we can be at showing him to others. When we keep our focus on what we think is right or best, we don’t focus on what God says is best. Trust in Him is the most important thing. I think many of the problems the Church faces today could be solved with a little more faith and trust in God.

Which Way Will You Choose? (Judges 21)

Right-Career

As we finish up the book of Judges, we see that Israel really hasn’t changed during their war on the tribe of Benjamin. The book ends with the phrase that has been used a few times in the last chapters, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25, NLT). The people of Israel felt bad that they wiped out a tribe of Israel, so they sought to get wives for the survivors of Benjamin. They were trapped by an oath they had made that none of their daughters would marry Benjamites. So they looked for people who had not joined in the war and made the oath with them. The area of Jibesh-gilead had sent no one to the war, so (based on another oath) the people of Israel went to Jibesh-gilead and killed all of the people except for the women virgins. These women were to be given to Benjamin as wives. However there were not enough women for the surviving men. So Israel instructed Benjamin to wait in the vineyards near Shiloh and take the daughters that came out to dance at the festival.

We end the book of Judges with a differing opinion of what is right. God commanded the evil be eradicated from the land of Israel. So He commanded that Benjamin be destroyed. After their success, the people felt bad that an entire tribe of Israel had been destroyed. So they sought to make it better. The people’s opinion of what was right is that Benjamin must survive their destruction. They felt terrible for Benjamin’s situation, but sometimes that’s the consequence of disobeying God’s Laws.

So here we are left with a question that I feel flow throughout all of Judges. Is it better to trust and follow God, or our own desires?

This question has plagued humanity ever since it’s creation. We read in the beginning, that there was a tree God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from. “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.” (Genesis 3:6a, NLT). They both chose to follow their own desires, and not what God had planned for them. Ever since that day, we have all been faced with the question of who knows best for our lives.

As I was saying yesterday, the cost to follow God is large. It’s so big that many of us don’t want to pay it, and we don’t want a gospel message that asks something from us. We would rather keep Jesus at arms length, and not allow him to get close. But Jesus tells us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:25, NLT). Right there Jesus lays it out for us what it takes to be a follower of God. We must turn away from the things that we desire, and focus on the things God desires. We must die to ourselves and our sin. Then we must follow Jesus Christ.

So it comes down to a simple point. We can either choose to follow a loving God that brings order to chaos, or we can trust our sinful desires that do nothing but create chaos. Which would you chose?

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 89

The Cost of Following (Judges 20)

followingjesus

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