Well, it’s happening. As I write this, Hurricane Ian is heading straight for us. The latest reports have it shifting to the East a bit, putting the area where I live directly in the center of its projected landfall. No matter which network you listen to, this one is expected to cause tremendous damage from over a foot of rain, winds in excess of 120 mph, and a storm surge of between 8-12 feet. Those living near the coast will suffer massive flooding, and mandatory evacuations have been ordered for two million people.
So, we have taken all the precautions we can. The shutters are now up. Everything that wasn’t fastened down outside is now inside the garage. The generator is ready should we lose power, and we have plenty of food on hand. We are as ready as we can be.
Amazingly, despite all of the warnings that we have been hearing for almost a week, would you believe that a great many people are just now searching for someone to help them put up their hurricane shutters? Or that people are panic stricken because they failed to have a plan in place for such an emergency as this? I mean, seriously? You live here and don’t have a plan for hurricanes?
All of this reminds me of a story about another catastrophic event that happened because people did not believe the warnings. Seems there was this man named Noah who was instructed by God to build a boat that would enable him and his family to survive a coming flood. (Scripture reference Genesis 6:13-21)
Even though up to that time it had never rained upon the earth, Noah took God at his word and commenced to building. Fortunately for Noah and his family, his obedience to God’s warnings of the impending flood ensured their safety. The writer of Hebrews described it this way:
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Hebrews 11:7
Noah was warned and acted accordingly to save his family. Millions here in Florida have been warned of an impending Category 4 hurricane and have done nothing to prepare, despite the long history of destruction from these storms.
All of this is a perfect backdrop to the spiritual apathy that has enveloped our world. Billions have been warned that we are entering into a time called the Great Tribulation, or Jacob’s Trouble. A time that Jesus described as such a time as never was before on earth, and yet still they do nothing to prepare.
I find it more than a little disconcerting that men will go to great lengths to secure a better job, a nicer house, a more powerful car, and provide for their retirement years, yet they cannot understand the times and seasons we are in. Listen to the powerful words from Jesus about this subject:
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. Matthew 16:1-3
Despite the warnings, man is now, as he has always been, stubborn and unwilling to acknowledge that he is not in control. Oh, and that boat that Noah built? It didn’t come with a steering wheel or a means of propulsion. Noah didn’t need either because God was the Pilot and would steer it where it needed to go. Just as He will do for us if we allow Him to.
Have you ever noticed how quickly people dismiss God’s word today? Whether it’s an encounter with a stranger in the grocery store, or a long-time member of the church, people today seem to have settled it in their minds that they already know all they need to know and therefore don’t need to hear it any longer, or they don’t care to know anything at all about it and just want to be left alone.
As many of you that spend a lot of time in the Bible are aware, this is not exactly a new phenomenon. It’s been like this since the beginning. Remember that couple in the garden that decided that they knew better than God what was best for them?
I was reminded of this as I was studying in the book of Jeremiah this week, and it came as no great surprise to find yet another example of it. The prophet had just delivered a thundering rebuke to the kings of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem because they had rejected the Lord and polluted His house.
As you read the words that Jeremiah delivered to the people, it should be obvious to them that they have brought upon themselves a level of punishment they were not expecting.
“Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle”. 
Now, I would like to think that had I been there and heard this proclamation, I would have immediately repented and turned my heart towards the Lord. At the very least, one would think such a prophecy would strike terror in the hearts of all that heard it. You would think, right?
Unfortunately, however, when God’s people turn away from Him, their ears quickly dull of hearing His voice, which in itself is a mystery, because those same ears have no difficulty in hearing what a million other voices are saying to them. Maybe there is some truth to the whole ‘selective hearing’ thing after all?
Be that as it may, and whether we receive it or not, God’s word is never spoken in vain. There is always a purpose when the Lord speaks. Whether through the pages of His word or from a pulpit on Sunday morning, the word of God declares the very heart of God. Listen to another prophet as he likens God’s word to the snow and rain that falls in order to provide water for growth.
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it”. 
By this we understand that God has given us His word as a great benefit for us. The tragedy, however, is when it is rejected. When we consider it as unnecessary for our lives or judge it to be of no value to us, or if we refuse to humble our hearts and accept it because it offends us, we miss out on all its benefits.
Some might ask “well, why then did the Lord say His word would not return to him void, but would accomplish what He pleased if in fact we reject it? What has been accomplished”?
What has been accomplished is that in our rejection of His word, we have considered it, and to a nation whose ears are dull of hearing this is enough. Our decision to reject the word of God stands as a testimony against us, a testimony that will be revealed in that great day when we give account for the life we’ve lived.
Judah refused to hear the word of the Lord and suffered terribly, ultimately enslaved by Babylon. America has refused to hear the word of the Lord and is even now suffering terribly, with far more severe judgments to come shortly. The entire world has refused to hear the word of the Lord and is teetering on the brink of WWIII. I wouldn’t wonder if many of our ears don’t tingle at the thought of the catastrophe that awaits us!
My prayer for you all is to listen to what the Lord is saying to you today. Let His word work in your heart, your home, and in your family. God’s “word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”. 
May it guide you safely through the troubled waters of this life.
The above quote from Winston Churchill was given in a speech delivered to the British House of Commons on December 10th, 1936, just hours after King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in response to the harsh criticism he received from the Church of England, the British government, and the public, for his decision to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson.
In this speech, Churchill went on to say that “Nothing is more certain or more obvious than that recrimination or controversy at this time would be not only useless but harmful and wrong. What is done is done. What has been done or left undone belongs to history, and to history, so far as I am concerned, it shall be left”.
According to Churchill, there was no going back from the decision that had been made. King Edward VIII had made his choice, and for the country to survive in an era of impending war, the only way to do that was to move forward and not spend time on what might have been. Dark clouds were on the horizon, and it wouldn’t be long before the nation would come under a near catastrophic attack from the German Luftwaffe, an attack that very nearly brough the nation to its knees.
Today, America stands on the brink of implosion. Historians are in near total agreement that the nation is now more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Those same dark clouds of war that surrounded Britian surround this nation as well, with the frequent saber rattling of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea serving to remind us that we no longer enjoy the status as the most powerful nation on the earth. That fact alone should send shivers down our spines.
In Churchill’s day, it was expected that the leaders of the government would stand up in defense of the populace. Indeed, having someone like a Churchill or a Roosevelt guiding the affairs of the nation offered great solace to its people, especially in times of grave uncertainty about the future. The fact that both men regularly brought God into their speeches and conversations further helped to instill confidence in the people they served.
Sadly, in America today we can lay no claims to having such leadership. Just the opposite is true. Instead of uniting a divided nation, we are seeing played out before us the ultimate dividing and conquering of a once proud Republic.
In what has to be one of the most devastating root causes of the unprecedented dismantling of America currently underway in Washington D.C., America is no longer “One Nation Under God…”. That’s because we are no longer “One Nation”.
We are a divided nation, a nation of many isms and schisms all vying for supreme control while giving no indication of a willingness to compromise or bring about unification. Instead, detractors and dissenters must be silenced. Unlike the America that our ancestors enjoyed, where opinions and diversity were considered to be our strengths, today those qualities are allowed to exist only if they can be used to gain an advantage over ‘them’.
I’ve said this many times, and it becomes more apparent with each passing year, that we have become like ancient Israel, adopting the customs and ideals of the heathen nations around them, nations whose sins eventually engulfed the people of God and led them back into captivity. Today America is drowning in a sea of perversion, filth, and debauchery the likes of no nation ever before. Even the ancient Romans, famous for their deviant lifestyles of sexual promiscuity and idolatry, could not have dreamed of such a corrupt and perverse nation as ours.
Perhaps most shocking of all is this: like Britian of the 1930’s, America today cannot go back to what it once was. It cannot happen, it will not happen. No rallying cry to make America great again can effectively turn the tide or reverse the trends of today. We as a nation have gone too far in our rejection of God Almighty. It will make absolutely no difference who lives in the White House. America will never again be the land of Mayberry and Aunt Bea.
Why can’t we go back to those wholesome and peaceful times we cling to in our memories? Because America has forsaken the God of its forefathers, and every nation that has committed such an atrocity has eventually succumbed to the sins it has chosen to embrace.
Astonishingly, there are several scriptural references that parallel the moral and spiritual decay that envelops America today. For example, we find in the Old Testament book of Hosea a chilling message given to the nation of Israel that could just as easily been given to our nation today.
1 “Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. 2 By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed. 3 Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away.
4 “Now let no man contend, or rebuke another; for your people are like those who contend with the priest. 5 Therefore you shall stumble in the day; the prophet also shall stumble with you in the night; and I will destroy your mother. 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children”. Hosea 4:1-6
When confronted with these words from the Bible we are sure to have one of several responses to them. We may consider them as something so out of date and irrelevant that we immediately dismiss them. We might look at them and say, “well that was for Israel, not America”. Or maybe we will look at them and agree that we are seeing history repeat itself before our very eyes.
One thing is certain, however. Just as Churchill stated, we too cannot look back. The only path left to take is the path the apostle Paul talked about in Philippians 3:13: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead“.
Those things “which are ahead” are why we run this race. Reaching forward is the opposite of returning to the past. Paul saw no need in clinging to what was, or to what used to be. Like Churchill, he understood that what had been done or what had been left undone was best committed to history. What mattered was right now. What mattered was reaching forward.
I’m looking ahead to a new Heaven and a new Earth where godliness and righteousness are the rule, not the exception. Sin, brought about by man’s disobedience to his Creator, has corrupted and all but destroyed this earth, leaving me to feel more and more as though I don’t belong here. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to be here any longer. This place is not my home, it’s only a temporary residence that I’m occupying until He comes.
I don’t know what America and the world will look like when Jesus comes again, except to say that it’s going to be much worse than it is now. The downward spiral the world is in will continue; with society slipping further away from the God who longs to redeem them. Is it any wonder then that Jesus asked the question in Luke 18:8 “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Still, I am not discouraged, because I know that nothing will take the Lord by surprise! I’m running this race so that I might win the crown of righteousness. I’m in it to win it, and I’m determined to let nothing, or no one to cause me to lose what I now have in sight. The finish line is just ahead, and I intend to cross that line in victory! We cannot afford to look back!
Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; For I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. 
These words, penned by David, are a cry to God for His protection and power. At first glance, they appear to be written by someone languishing in the depths of poverty and despair. As we know, however, David was neither financially poor nor materially needy.
As king of Israel, he had everything he could ever hope to have so far as earthly wealth and prosperity. In spite of his great wealth however, he saw himself as being “poor and needy”, or more accurately being poor and needy in spirit. He knew, as do we, that there are some things that wealth cannot buy.
I dare say most, if not all of us, have felt or even now feel that very same “needy in spirit” attitude. This is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary! In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven“.  If no less than the Son of God stated that such a person was blessed and belonged in the kingdom of heaven, then we who count ourselves among them should rejoice!
Being “poor and needy” in spirit was something that David understood all too well because of the stress and pressures he faced on a daily basis. Apart from his sins and failures to obey the Lord, David dealt with constant threats on his life. All of this brought to him a keen awareness of just how dependent upon the Lord he was.
I wonder, how many of us have been battered by the storms of this life to the point where we too now consider ourselves to be “poor and needy”? Without question, I am numbered among them, as are many of you. Has not life taught us to be completely dependent upon the goodness and mercies of God?
This reminds me of the words of Asaph as he wrote in Psalm 73: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever“. 
David asked the Lord to “preserve my life, for I am holy”. He wasn’t bragging about himself, neither was he attempting to lord over anyone else. What David meant was that he was consecrated to God, having been called and set apart by the Lord himself, and he was determined to honor God despite the trouble he may have been facing. Despite his failings, I believe David was a man of integrity, and as such it was his earnest desire to maintain his integrity so much as he possibly could.
As Christians, we too have been called of God, set apart to do His bidding. This is an area of great interest to the adversary, so much so that he will do anything to cause us to doubt our calling in God. Satan knows that when we doubt our calling we will begin to look inward instead of upward.
We begin to reason within ourselves that we can’t, we aren’t qualified, we aren’t worthy, and on and on it goes. The key word here of course is “we”. Instead of focusing on the God of the calling, we focus on the perceived weaknesses of the called!
David continues his prayer by reminding the Lord that he has been calling out to Him “all day long”. I don’t know about you, but it is a rare occasion in my life when I need to pray just once before the Lord answers. Most of the time I am like David and need to talk to the Lord about it continually, and only then does it seem the Lord will answer.
Call it a lack of faith if you want to, but I prefer to believe that God is teaching me to have patience while at the same time deepening my trust in Him.
Like a lot of you, it burdens my heart greatly to hear people say that we are to pray once then forget it because to ask twice is an admission that we are lacking in faith. These are the same people who tell us that when someone doesn’t receive their healing, they are not ‘operating’ in faith.
Sadly, these misguided individuals continue to cause devastating damage to the body of Christ with their erroneous doctrines, as evidenced by the many grieving parents living with the false guilt of not having enough faith to get through to God so that their sick child would be healed. All that to say that David’s example of calling upon the Lord “all day long” had nothing to do with a perceived lack of faith on his part but served instead to affirm his trust in the Lord.
It is comforting to know that while we are certain to face our share of challenges in this life, we serve a good God, one who is ready to forgive out of the abundance of His mercies. Our God is ready to forgive us, to rescue us from our many failures and shortcomings, and restore us to a place where we can once again rejoice in his grace.
Yes, Satan will always try to discourage us from seeking help from the Lord, but I am reminded of the writer of Hebrews imploring us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need“. 
God still forgives, and that is a message this world desperately needs to be reminded of today. There is still hope in God, the God who is good, ready to forgive, and abundantly merciful to all who call upon His name.
Today, we live in the age of insatiable consumerism, where the ability to create and make our own choices is considered to be a right. It’s not ‘s surprising then that this attitude has crept into the church. The result is a demand for a ‘Buffet Christianity‘ in which the believer can choose or reject what’s being offered as the notion strikes them.
This begs the question: “is this ‘build your own gospel’ really the smart thing to do? Are we somehow better off taking our Bibles and keeping what we like and tossing the rest? When it comes to matters of faith, do we really have the right to choose what we believe? And what would Jesus himself say about all of this?”
Well, Jesus actually did address this very subject. Let’s look at Matthew’s gospel, beginning in chapter four, where we find his account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by none other than Satan himself.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
Jesus is in the wilderness because the Spirit has led him to this encounter with Satan. After spending 40 days and forty nights in this place, Jesus is no doubt mentally exhausted, weak in body, and hungry. It is in this depleted physical state that Satan appears to Jesus, and right away he tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread. Satan knows Jesus is hungry. He’s been there all along, no doubt lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to catch the Lord in a moment of weakness in order to gain the advantage over him.
Jesus, however, sees through the temptation and responds to it by reminding the adversary that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God“. Did Jesus say, some of the words of God? Did he say that man shall choose which words of God to live by? Did Jesus ever use the word ‘choice’ when responding to the devil? No, he didn’t!
Jesus firmly rebuked the enemy by telling him that man is to live by every word from God. If this is true, and if we are to believe the Bible is true, then man cannot reject any part of God’s word. It’s either all or nothing! The fact is, in all sixty-six books of the Bible. there are exactly ZERO verses that state or even remotely imply that it is acceptable to adhere to Buffet Christianity.
This then leaves us with a dilemma. What do we do with those parts of the Bible that we either don’t like or don’t agree with? The answer is simple: we must accept the entirety of God’s word, or we accept none of it. Either we believe Jesus Christ meant what he said about living by every word that comes from God, or we do not. It’s really that simple. We must accept the parts that are easy and the parts that are hard. The parts that are easy to go along with and the parts that make us very uncomfortable. The parts that we like and the parts that we just plain do not like. Or we forget it all.
Yes, we can have disagreements on the interpretation of a specific verse of scripture. There are reasons after all why there are so many different denominations today. That does not, however, give us the liberty to reject something just because we do not have a complete understanding of it. You see, we have to come to the place where we understand that God’s word is immutable. It has not nor will it ever change just because we have a hard time accepting parts of it. It falls upon us then to allow God’s word to work in our heart and life to the point that it changes US!
One of the biggest problems with Buffet Christianity is that it will never allow us to completely surrender our life to God. That’s because it’s impossible to fully surrender to God when we believe we are in control to the point of picking and choosing which parts of His word we live by. You see, Buffet Christianity isn’t concerned with a lifestyle that exemplifies personal holiness or godliness. Neither does it regard living a sanctified life as something we should strive for. Instead, Buffet Christianity promotes a lifestyle in which we identify as Christian, but live according to the standards of this present world we live in.
In this season of “teachers having itchy ears” and God’s word being reduced to fables in the minds of tens of millions, the words of Jesus Christ have never been more needed than they are today. The divinely inspired word of God is now, and has always been, a God glorifying, Christ affirming, divine revelation of Almighty God.
A divine revelation that we are to embrace every word of.
The other day as I was working on an upcoming message, I got to thinking about the scripture that says Satan is transformed into an angel of light. Perhaps you are familiar with it?
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 2nd Cor. 11:13-15
In this text, the apostle Paul was calling out those who were pretending to be an apostle such as he was, yet who were actually false, deceitful men disguised as ministers of righteousness. I find it very interesting that Paul thought nothing of identifying and calling out those who were deceiving the people. Contrast that with today’s preachers’ and their misapplication of “touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm”. 
As I dug into this further, I began to think of all the tricks and methods the enemy uses against us to hinder our worship of the Lord. Satan is, of course, the master of disguise. He never appears as a sinister little creature dressed in a red suit carrying a pitchfork. Instead, he shows up looking and acting for all the world like your best friend. Sugar-laden platitudes roll off his tongue as he presents his case for why the sin in our lives is really not sin after all.
What we fail to see in his clever ruse however is that he is distracting us by causing our hearts to be turned aside just enough for us to accept things that we should know better than to accept in our lives.
Distraction is the name of the game in spiritual warfare. For example: have you ever considered how much time is spent on social media? It is shocking when you see the numbers! According to broadbandsearch.net, we spend an average of 147 minutes a day on social media.  In an article in Forbes magazine, it was reported that Americans spent more than 1300 hours on social media last year alone. 
Considering that a typical full-time job is 40 hours a week, or 2,000 hours a year, we are spending the equivalent of over half of the hours required of that full-time job surfing the web, using apps or games on our phones and tablets, posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or constantly checking our phones for who knows what reason. How many of us are guilty of wasting so much time?
It’s when you step back and really look at this that it hits you! Especially when you realize that most of us don’t come close to reading our Bibles for 147 minutes a WEEK! Or even in a MONTH!
I don’t know, is it just me, or are we really that distracted? To be 100% transparent with you, I am. Oh sure, I spend a lot of time researching things for sermons and lessons. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the total amount of time I spend online. It’s all pretty sobering, to be honest. And more than a little convicting.
Here’s the bottom line. Anything that consumes our minds so much that Jesus Christ is relegated to some distant corner of our minds is UNGODLY and a SIN. There, I said it. The dreaded “S” word. Maybe in your case it’s not social media. Maybe it’s a person that consumes so much of your time that God is lucky to get a few crumbs of your time. Oh, and let’s not forget that at this time of the year, many people are consumed by politics, with the rantings on MSNBC or FOX news prime weapons of mass distraction.
Funny thing, these weapons of mass distraction. They’re being used against us on a continual basis, yet the master of disguise has packaged them up so nicely that we welcome them with open arms. The false “angel of light” has transformed them into something so desirable, so pleasing to the mind and eyes, that were Adam and Eve here today, they would not hesitate to partake of them.
For Christians, these are dangerous days, and they are about to become much more dangerous. The spirit of anti-Christ is very much alive and well in America and the world. The “spiritual wickedness in high places”  that Paul wrote about has saturated the world’s governments from the top to the bottom. Knowing these things, I believe we could all benefit from a concerted effort to spend more time in God’s word and far less time on social media.
What can God do for me? What’s in it for me? What blessing does God have for me today?
It’s all about my salvation. What matters most are my spiritual gifts. My call to ministry is far more important than yours. My ministry is more popular than your ministry. My Jesus is moving in my life.
Spiritual Narcissism. It’s real, and it’s enough to make one sick. Me… Mine…My…
As I’ve been hard at work preparing this Sunday’s message “God’s glory belongs to Him alone”, it occurred to me that when we make our walk with Christ more about us than we do about others, we are being far more than just selfish. We are actually stealing God’s glory!
We read in Isaiah 42:8 that God said, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images”. Well, what is God’s glory?
As best as this simple mind can comprehend, God’s glory is found in the makeup of His unique characteristics. Traits such as honor, splendor, majesty, dignity, power, beauty, goodness, justice, and holiness are but a few of the characteristics that comprise to make up God’s glory, and God said He wasn’t sharing His!
We need look no further than the Bible to see examples of those who attempted to steal God’s glory. One of the best-known examples of this is found in the Old Testament book of Numbers where Moses disobeyed the Lord by not speaking to the rock to bring forth water. Because he struck the rock twice with his staff instead of speaking to the rock as God had told him to do, God was deprived of the glory that was due Him as the provider of the water. In other words, Moses stole God’s glory! So critical was this disobedience of failing to give God glory that Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 20)
In the New Testament book of Acts, we read about King Herod, who made a fatal error when he too tried to claim the glory that belongs to God.
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, it is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost. Acts 12:21-23
Do you see a pattern here? When we position ourselves between God and the glory that is His alone, there will be terrible consequences. When we receive blessings, and we don’t attribute them to God, we are stealing His glory. The glory that He has made clear He will not share with anyone. Every time we succeed in life, and we attribute it to our own abilities, talents, and gifts, we are stealing God’s glory.
We would do well to remember this from James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. We aren’t blessed because we are good, we are blessed because God is good. For this we should always seek to bring Him glory.
It is true, we see many today who thrive on the adoration they receive from others. Athletes, politicians, actors, singers, preachers, and many others all clamor to be heard, accepted, and yes, idolized by men. Nothing new there, is there? Man hasn’t changed much since Eden, has he? It’s always been about Me… Mine…My…
We who serve the Lord, however, understand that if there is any praise, and adoration, any glory to be given, it all belongs to our Heavenly Father.
Recently, I delivered a message to our church entitled “Against All Odds”. My text was taken from the 7th chapter of Judges, a familiar story to many of you about how God used a man named Gideon and 300 soldiers to defeat an army of well over one hundred thousand Midianite soldiers.
The account of Gideon and how that the Lord kept whittling away at his army in order to reduce its size is a study in faith and trust in the word of God. Starting out with 32,000 soldiers, a nearly 4 to 1 disadvantage against the army of Midian, God eventually reduced that number to 300. Why would God do that? He did that so that when the victory came, Israel would not praise Israel for the victory, but God. God knew if He had left the number at 32,000, then Israel would have declared the victory was a direct result of their own strength. God was out to prove to Gideon and you and I that when we bring God into our battle, the size of the opposition does not matter. What matters is that we understand that God’s strength is far greater than our weaknesses!
When Gideon was first told that he would lead Israel into battle against overwhelming odds, he, like many of us, was quick to remind the Lord of his inadequacies. Through a series of faith building assignments, Gideon was finally convinced that he could do what the Lord had called him to do. So, assembling his little army of 300, Gideon positions them where he believed they would have the best opportunity to launch a surprise attack. There was just one little problem with Gideon’s strategy: it wasn’t God’s strategy!
You see, while Gideon was positioning himself for a battle involving spears, arrows, and the like, God was positioning Gideon for a different type of battle. His was to be a battle of faith and trust in the promise of God vs. his own capabilities. What can we learn from this? For one, isn’t it amazing how that God will place us in the most unlikely situations to test our faith? So often, when we’ve been stretched and tried beyond what we believe to be our limits, and all we’re looking for is a way out of the situation, God will instead choose to use that situation to teach us something!
Secondly, if we really believe the word of God that tells us “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6) then our inadequacies do not matter. If we will take to heart the word of God that says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7) then our limitations do not matter. If you’ve ever felt outnumbered in life, then this should tell you that the strength of your opposition doesn’t matter. Again, what matters is God’s strength is far greater than our weaknesses!
When God reduced Gideon’s army to a paltry 300 men, then and only then did he have Gideon right where he wanted him! God had placed Gideon in a situation where the only thing he could do was trust God to do exactly what he said he would do. And that, my friends, is why when we question “O God, where are you?”, that God whispers to us these words from Proverbs 3:5…
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
My prayer is that if you are feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered, you will remember that it isn’t the size of the enemy that’s important. Neither is it important how great a treasure chest of resources you have at your disposal. What’s important is the size of your God who is mighty to save. Yes, you will have times when it makes absolutely no sense to trust God. I’ve been there, I’ve lived there. There will be times when God takes you down to the water’s edge to try you, to prove you, to see what you’re made of. Will you trust Him with all your heart, or will you try once again to rely on your own resources?
Here’s what I have learned across the many miles and decades I’ve been serving the Lord: faith and trust in God are the most powerful weapons at our disposal. Against all odds, I have seen God move in my life time after time. Through insurmountable heartache and despair, God has been faithful to deliver. And now, after all these years, it has become clear to me that He has been positioning me all along for such a time as this.
How about you? The twists and turns of your life have shaped you into the vessel you were meant to be. None of this has been for naught. God is positioning you to what only you can do. I encourage you to be strong and courageous in His service. Your story is of great value to the Kingdom of God!
One of the greatest love stories in the Bible is the story of a woman named Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. The backdrop of this story is that during a time of famine in the land of Judah, Naomi’s husband Elimelech took his wife and their two sons to the neighboring country of Moab in search of a better life.
As is often the case however, their dreams of greener pastures did not pan out. Instead, Elimelech died there, leaving Naomi a widow with two sons to support. Though her two sons eventually found wives, Ruth and Orpah, tragedy was soon to strike again as her two sons also died in Moab. What had started out as a temporary journey until things got better back home, ended in a decade of tragedy, misery, and heartbreak for Naomi.
Maybe you can relate? We sometimes think we can move away from our problems. Poor job prospects, inadequate housing, failed relationships, all of these and more cause us to pack our bags and head for something better. The truth is however that instead of leaving those things in the rearview mirror, we often bring them with us. No matter where you go, you bring your past with you – so the same problems you hope to leave behind often just follow you to a different place.
In the story of Ruth, Naomi is faced with dim prospects. To be a childless widow in the days of the Old Testament meant certain hardship and one disadvantage after another. There was no one to support you so you had to live on the kindness and generosity of strangers. Naomi was in a desperate situation. As if that alone wasn’t bad enough, now there were three widows! How would they ever survive?
Some of us have traveled this lonely path. We’ve learned that when life brings devastation, it’s not easy to hope again. After all, it’s hard to have hope when you can see no way out of your situation. Yet, when things are the most difficult, that’s also when we need faith and hope the most. In the moments where life feels like it’s crushing you, if we turn to the Lord, He will ignite a tiny flame of faith in your heart. And sometimes, that tiny flame will set off a raging fire of faith!
As we study the events surrounding this family, we begin to understand that even though our desperate situations don’t allow us to see beyond the current pain and anguish, God can give us hope that our story isn’t over – that better days are coming. Such was the case for Naomi and her two daughters-in- law. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for this trio of desperate women… God showed up!
Upon hearing that the famine in Judah was over, Naomi decided she had had enough of the miserable existence she had been living and made the decision to go back home. Back to Judah, back to the land given to the children of Israel, back to the Promised Land.
This is where the real beauty of the story of Ruth begins to evolve. For her two daughters-in-law, it’s decision time for them as well. Do they stay in their own country of Moab where their families reside, or risk it all and return to Judah with Naomi? Do they stay with the familiar, or strike out in faith in search of a better life in a country they know nothing of?
In the end, Orpah decided to stay in Moab while Ruth cast her lot with Naomi. The end result couldn’t have been more different for these two daughters-in-law. Outside of ancient Jewish legend, Orpah is never heard from again. Ruth, on the other hand, was welcomed into her new country (Judah) and soon found love in a man named Boaz.
As if this wasn’t enough, Ruth soon gave birth to a new son, a son named Obed. You might remember that name from the genealogy of Jesus, because Obed was the grandfather of king David. All of which leads me to wonder: who but God can do such things as these?
I want to leave you with this thought: just as the life’s story of Ruth was not over because of the terrible losses she incurred, neither is your story over! Despite the setbacks, disappointments, and struggles you may be dealing with, your story is not over. I encourage you to do what Ruth did when Naomi decided to return back to the land of her faith. Pick up where you left off. Start again, knowing that the Lord is with you to make a way where there seems to be no way.
I bet you’ve heard that expression many times, haven’t you? Maybe we really need to shed a few pounds, but we won’t forgo the pint of ice cream every day. We can’t have it both ways. Or you’re having a bad morning and you decide to just go back to bed, only to be haunted by the thought that the car payment is coming due, and you really need the money. We can’t have it both ways.
From a spiritual point of view, we want the peace, security and blessings that come with serving God, but we also want to hang onto some things of the world that aren’t necessarily good for us. We can’t have it both ways.
Thankfully, the Bible gives us a lot of instruction on how to face the struggle to have it both ways and come out victoriously. Take the Apostle John for example. He found it necessary to write to believers to expose the many false teachings that had crept into the church, teachings that declared nothing off limits. John also went to great lengths to encourage the church to pursue a life of holiness with God and separation from the world.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1st John 2:15-17
These three short verses of scripture reveal to us what I think is one of the most powerful truths in the entire Bible; we cannot love both God and the world. He calls us to make a choice. Knowing the dangers of being pulled in and swept away by the world’s enticements, John clearly states that to love this world will cost us the love of the Father. I don’t know about you, but I believe that is a very grave position to be in. What is John really saying here? He is saying that we can’t have it both ways. We cannot love the world and our Heavenly Father at the same time.
The three most familiar tools in the enemy’s arsenal are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. John tells us that none of these come from the Father, but from the world. Or to be very specific, they come from Satan.
When you really think about it, it’s easy to fall in love with the world, because the world makes it easy to do so! It accepts everyone-on its terms. Yet what the world doesn’t tell us is that it wants something from us in return. It wants our love, our time, and our undivided attention. If you love the world, the world will in turn reward you. It’s that simple. It may offer you a place of prestige, of status, of honor, of comfort. The world knows how to reward those that love it and can make you feel right at home here.
What the world neglects to tell you however is that even at their best, the rewards that come from this world last only as long as we live and all too often, we don’t realize that until it’s too late. The day will come however when all of the accolades we’ve earned as well as every creature comfort will be left here for others to deal with. Oh, and last time I checked, Heaven still wasn’t accepting U-Hauls and moving vans!
You know what I’ve been thinking? I’m thinking I’m too near the finish line to be caught up in the things this world can offer me. That’s right, I’ve been at this far too long to ever think of compromising my relationship with God for some shiny trinket or gadget. Time is slipping away from us and nothing this world can give us can change that fact. These are dangerous, perilous times we are living in and there can be no room for compromise in our hearts.
God is calling all of us to make a choice: love the world, or love God.
One thing is certain my friends…we can’t have it both ways!