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How to know what God really expects of us.

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One of things I struggle with in writing this blog is how to condense topics that I could speak about for hours into a few hundred words,all while maintaining the integrity of the subject matter. I suppose everyone who has a blog struggles with this.

Such is the topic I want to tackle today:how to know what God really expects of us.Of course,I’m aware that a great many people,even some who attend church regularly,do not believe God expects anything of them.

Sad as it is,for many people God is seen as a type of cosmic genie who is supposed to be at their beck and call should a need arise.

The Bible however,paints a very different picture.You see,scripture points us to the fact that God desires to have a relationship with us.

As with any relationship that you might be involved in,it is a two way street.There are expectations,are there not? And if those expectations are not met on a frequent basis,the relationship suffers.

So it is with our relationship with God.He expects certain things from us and when we don’t deliver on our end,this relationship suffers.Think of it this way: God will not bless a relationship He is not involved in. Let that sink in for a minute.

So lets look at a few of those expectations,beginning with a question that the Lord posed to Israel:

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

act-justly

Jonathonsigmon.com

At the time of Micah’s tenure as a prophet in Israel,God had a problem on his hands with this people.

They had developed a malady not unlike us today in that they suffered from a serious case of ingratitude.

So deeply embedded was this ingratitude that the Lord even asked them “what have I done to you”?(v.3).

In telling them that He has showed them what is good,God is reminding them that for centuries they have had the Law and the Prophets to instruct them in how they should live.In other words,don’t even act like you don’t know what is expected of you.

He then gets to the heart of the matter by telling them three things He requires of them.

  1. to do justly,or to exercise Godly,righteous judgement in their dealings with one another
  2. to love mercy,to willfully and joyfully extend love and compassion to others
  3. to walk humbly with your God,meaning to acknowledge Him in all your ways

Notice something missing here? God did not require them to offer a ram,or a goat,or a calf.No,what He required of them was a different kind of sacrifice.One that came from within their hearts.

What He required of them necessitated a renewed heart.He wanted relationship.The same relationship that He desired when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage,and when He delivered to them His Law.

God has always yearned to have a covenant relationship with His people. Now lets take a look at this question as it was asked in Jesus’ day.

There was a certain lawyer who in trying to tempt Jesus,asked him what the requirements were for him to inherit eternal life.

And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.   Luke 10:27

Once again we see the answer to the age old question of “what does God require” to be something other than rules,sacrifices,or tradition.Jesus made it as clear as it could be that what the Lord requires must come from the heart.

Loving God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself is only possible when the heart has been transformed.It cannot be done from the mind,or because it’s the morally right thing to do.

No,the expectations set forth by Jesus bespeak intimacy with God,and that can only come with spending time with Him in prayer and in the Word.Which brings me to the title question of this post:”how to know what God really expects of us”.

The answer is found within the pages of God’s Word.The two examples I shared with you are representative of the content found within the sixty six books of the Bible,nearly all of which contain an abundance of instruction and admonition for our spiritual development.

My hope,my earnest prayer is that we first understand that God does indeed expect something of us.He expects US. Not our things,not our money,not our deeds or even our sacrifices,but rather our hearts.

Secondly,that we regularly read His Word,because the Word of God is alive and more relevant for today than most can imagine it to be.It will keep and sustain you in the darkest hours you may face.It will compel you onward as you draw near unto Him.

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God“.   1 Peter 1:23   ESV

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Ron

 

 

Caught in the middle of an all out war

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I’ve never been to war.I would have been,except that as a wild and angry young man 18 years of age, God intervened and prevented what surely would have been a catastrophe when I tried to enlist in the Army towards the end of the Vietnam war.

As an out of control teenager bent on finding a release for the pent up rage within me,a God that I did not know stepped in and saved my life.Unbeknownst to me,in a few more years He would step in and save my life again when He saved my soul.

So while it is true that I have never been to war on a military battlefield,I have however been on a battlefield of another kind.A spiritual battlefield.In fact,for the past forty years I have been in the middle of an all out war for the control of my eternal soul.

It has been relentless,this battle.Like the old Wide World of Sports TV show used to declare, I can relate to “the thrill of victory,and the agony of defeat”. Though not defeated,I have felt that way many,many times.

In that vein,I thought I would share something very personal with the readers of this blog in the hopes that it might encourage someone who may be locked in a battle where the outcome seems in doubt.

Some time ago I came home from work one day,just as I did every other day.While tired from the long day,I was no more tired than any other day so to me it was just a normal day.I hadn’t been home but a few minutes however when a wave of drowsiness came upon me to the extent that I couldn’t stay awake.

Now,you would have to know me to know that that was not normal for me.So intense was this drowsiness that I went and laid upon the bed,thinking it would pass in a few minutes and I would resume the rest of my day.

The next thing I was aware of was that I was in a dream,or a vision,and I was kneeling at a large rock in a garden like setting.Sort of like the picture here.praying-in-the-garden

I actually saw myself praying there,and it was so real that in my dream I had no doubt that it was me.

In the next moment I saw on either side of me two figures.One was clearly good,and one was clearly the enemy.

I cannot say whether or not the “good” figure was Jesus or an angel,but I knew instantly that the other one was Satan.I remember having no fear at all,but what became very clear to me was that these two figures were having a discussion about ME.

I knew that because I clearly heard the enemy say that he would take me back.Just as clearly I heard the other saying “you can’t have him”. At that,the enemy made a comment to the effect that he would not give up the fight for me.Somehow,even in the midst of this dream or vision,I became acutely aware that Satan would never stop in his attempts to defeat me.Just before I awoke I heard the “good” figure say to me “you must pray always Ron”.

Now,if you’re still reading this I need to explain something.I do not believe every dream we have is a vision or revelation from God.And I am very aware that you who are reading this may think I’ve lost it. Or that”much learning hath made me mad”. Regardless, it was very real and it is something I’ve never forgotten about to this day.

The point of my sharing this very personal story is to show you that we are indeed locked in a spiritual battle with a very real and powerful enemy (II Cor 10:4). The scriptures are clear however that our battles are not with flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). No,our battle is with the devil himself.

prophecies-of-war

propheciesofrevelation.org

We must be careful to understand that the enemy desires to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He has placed before all of us roadblocks of discouragement so that he may steal our joy.In doing so he will then proceed to steal away our new life in Christ. Having accomplished this,the door is now open for destruction.

This is the process(there’s that word again!) that Jesus spoke to Peter about. And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  Luke 22:31

As Christians we should understand that the devil desires to have each of us,and that he will never stop trying.To my way of thinking,this is Christianity 101. I also know that this battle will not end until the day that either death or the return of the Lord claims me.

What I’m trying to say here is that we should not be surprised at the enemy’s tactics or his devices.Expect them.Know they are coming.More importantly however,prepare for them so you are not caught unaware.

Jesus Christ is the devil destroyer.He alone conquered the enemy at Calvary,and He alone possesses the keys of death and hell (Rev. 1:18). Yes,the devil may roar,but never forget that he is already defeated and as such he has no power to defeat you!

He may try to sift you as he desired to do to Peter,but the same Jesus that prayed for Peter will also sustain you in the midst of the battle.

I pray these words will encourage and comfort someone.

Ron

 

 

 

 

What is it exactly,that we’re searching for?

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Why are we Christians not content with where we are in life? In our relationships? In our walk with God? If you really think about that question for a while,it says an awful lot about us doesn’t it?

discontentment

gracefromhim4.blogspot.com

 

The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself to be in (Philip. 4:11). Do you know anyone like this? Are you like this? I must admit that I have not yet arrived at this place in my life.

Paul learned to be content,meaning it was not an instantaneous event, but rather a process he went through. A refining process. Being beaten, shipwrecked, starved, abandoned, stoned and left for dead will definitely refine a person to the point that things no longer matter.

Perhaps that explains our mindset today when it seems that we expect instant gratification in almost every situation. We just don’t want to endure the process required to get from point A to point B. The process can indeed become uncomfortable,and we try to avoid uncomfortable, don’t we?

You’ve no doubt heard the expression that a person has to pay their dues. Older  people understand that to mean you have to put in the time and effort to get the promotion,or the job,or the honors.

So it is with serving the Lord. Growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord is a lifetime commitment.To be really honest, it’s also hard work. It requires discipline and much sacrifice on our part.The rewards however,are incomparable to anything we could ever hope to gain from this world.

That’s why we must be very careful when searching for contentment in places we have no business being in. Let me share a personal example with you.

Many years ago there was a time when I actually was content in just about every way possible.While I didn’t make a lot of money,I made enough to get by and I was OK with that.My spiritual life was soaring and I felt like I had it all.It was liberating to be in such a state!

At about this same time I started hearing about a new job,one that paid more than I thought I would ever earn. The more I thought about that job and what the extra income could afford me,the more I began to want it.Soon,it was all I could think about.

I began to look away from my life of contentment,searching elsewhere for what I did not know, somehow convinced that this new job would be a blessing from Him and that I would continue merrily on my way.After all,what difference could it make where I worked?

So I applied for the job and got it. Much to my great surprise I soon began to hjob-is-crushingate everything about it. The job itself,the people,the red tape,the long hours,the stress. You name it,and I came to loath every part of it. This was shocking to me as I had never hated a job before.

To say I was no longer content would be a huge understatement.Every part of my life suffered,especially the spiritual part of me.I was left with little time for prayer and study,and in short order realized I was in trouble.The grass was definitely NOT greener on the other side!

I spent four and a half years at that job,and when I was laid off I was probably the only person there who shouted for joy at the news! Those were the worst four and a half years of my life,and I say that with no exaggeration.I had suffered terribly for my mistakes,and prayed that God would forgive me and help me find the job He wanted me to have.

Which He did, on both accounts!

So I’m wondering,where are you with this whole contentment thing? Only you can answer that,but if you’re like me those closest to you probably have a pretty good idea.

Careers,titles,authority,money,all these are fleeting things that will disappear and may cost you more than you bargained for.

So what is it exactly,that we’re searching for? It’s taken a long time, but I now know the answer to that question.We’re searching for the very things that God is offering to us. All we have to do is accept them. It really is that simple!

I’ve learned (the hard way) that contentment can only come from a life grounded in Christ.I’m hoping you realize that as well.

Be blessed!

Ron

How to choose between the wide and the narrow:part 3

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In my previous two posts I’ve talked about the Narrow Gate and the Wide Gate,and how one leads to life and the other leads to destruction.

I’ve talked about who the “many” are that are heading towards destruction,as well as who the “few”are that are on the pathway to life.

I’m going to conclude this simple little study in this post by explaining how we can be certain we are choosing the Narrow Gate that leads to life.

So, how do we correctly choose between the Wide Gate and the Narrow Gate? I’ve thought long and hard about this, not wanting to offer up a great theological dissertation, yet at the same time not wanting to minimize what I believe to be the greatest decision you will ever make.

So at the risk of being guilty of over simplification, here goes:

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Wait…that’s it? That’s the key to choosing right verses wrong? That’s how I choose the Narrow Gate?

Can it really be that simple? What about all the rules, the do’s and don’ts? What about joining a church? Surely there is some sort of list I need to check off! And what about those good deeds I keep hearing others talk about?

No, none of that is necessary in order for you to make the right choice.

Certainly, after salvation there are important decisions to be made. That is another topic for another day. We’re talking about making that first step, and that first step is saying YES to Jesus.

Everything, and I mean everything, is secondary to accepting Jesus as Savior. The Christian life begins and ends with Jesus.

Now I’m going to say something here that may shock you. For all I know, it might anger you. Or worse!

If any blogger, pastor, preacher, teacher, Rabbi, priest, or any other religious leader tells you that their way is the only way, I want you to RUN as fast as you can away from that person.

The ways of men are simply that. They are not God’s ways no matter how well intentioned they may be. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Jesus Himself declared that “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.   John 14:6   NKJV

The most important decision or choice you will ever make in this life is the decision to accept Jesus as your Savior. He is the Narrow Gate that leads to life, and He invites everyone to enter this gate.

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

How to choose between the wide and the narrow:part 2

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In today’s post we are going to examine the second distinct people group from Matthew 7:13, 14, the “few”. If you remember from my last post, Jesus stated that there would be few that find the narrow road that leads to life.

The key word “few” as used here can be defined in one of several ways, including:

  • A small number of.
  • Emphasis on how small a number of people or a thing is.
  • The minority of people; the elect.

Don’t overlook the importance of this word. I believe that Jesus used it purposefully. Even though it is a very small word, it carries significant weight and impact in this lesson.By using the word few,Jesus is pointing out that the many,or the majority,are headed the wrong way.

How does the fact that Jesus used this word sit with you? Does this bother you or make you uncomfortable? Doesn’t it sound like Jesus is saying that those who find the way to life are in the minority?

Think about that point for a moment. There are over 7.5 billion souls on this planet. The latest estimates (2015) are that there are just over 2.2 billion Christians, or roughly 30% of the world’s population.few-there-be-stuart-miles-fdp-etpr-2

Even if every one of those 2.2 billion are numbered among the “few that find it”, that leaves 5.3 Billion, or 70% of the world’s population that will enter through the Wide Gate. From a purely statistical point of view, this is astounding!

Of course, there really is no way for us to number the few or the many. That task, thankfully, belongs to God and God alone.I use the numbers as a reference only.

But could Jesus really be saying to us that not everyone who thinks they are on the right track,isn’t? Well, he actually did say that here:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Matthew 7:21-23

Now we have Jesus telling us that not only will there be “few that find it”, He is also telling us that many will think they will enter through the Narrow Gate, only to be told that He never even knew them! The four most dreadful words we could ever be told are “I never knew you”!

This brings me to ask a very important question:does this sound like something we should trust to chance? I don’t think so! Jesus Christ is telling all of us that we can be busy doing all types of good deeds,church or religious works,and still miss heaven!ef-2-chance-dice-03

 

If that doesn’t cause us to take a look deep inside our hearts,I don’t know what will.

So we see that in truth there actually are going to be comparably few that find that narrow road that leads to life. OK,OK,so, exactly who are these “few”? The answer is found in Matthew 25:31-46. Here is an excerpt from that passage:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’   Matthew 25:31-40   NKJV

These, beloved, are “the few that be that find it”. May I encourage you to study these verses of scripture? Within them you will find many character traits of the chosen.

In my next post I’m going to conclude this topic by showing you how to make absolutely certain that you choose the path that leads to life.

How to choose between the wide and the narrow

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Gates.

I like gates. Plain ones, ornate ones, all kinds of gates. Being a country boy, I got used to seeing gates either around the neighbor’s property or my own. They always made me curious about what’s on the other side.

Gates are built for several reasons. One is to allow access to areas that otherwise would be unreachable due to fencing or some other type of obstruction.

Some are very imposing and seem to say “keep out”, while others have that inviting look that says “welcome home”.

pasture-gate

toadhollowphoto.com

They are also built to contain things or animals, like sheep, cattle, and other animals so they cannot escape and freely roam where it may be dangerous for them to do so.

Gates are also used to safeguard the entryway of a small village or town. These gates serve as a type of passage way into the village. Once through the gate, you’re in.

Around the Old City of Jerusalem there were several gates that permitted citizens to enter and exit the city as needed.

Names such as Zions Gate, Jaffa Gate, Lions Gate, Herod’s Gate, and several others might be familiar to you. All of these gates served distinct purposes, and the history of them is quite fascinating.

map-of-old-jerusalem

While Jesus was intimately acquainted with all of the Jerusalem gates, He also spoke of gates in a figurative manner, such as when teaching his disciples.

Jesus referred to two of these types of gates as the Narrow Gate and the Wide Gate. You will find them referenced here in Matthew’s gospel:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.   Mat 7:13-14 NKJV

As Jesus speaks of these gates notice that he also references two distinct people groups, the “many” and the “few”. I find it interesting that every one of us fits into one of these groups, the only distinction being which gate we ultimately enter through when our lives here on earth are complete.

Let’s take a closer look at these two gates along with their corresponding entrants. Let’s begin with the Wide Gate.

What is significant about this particular gate? For starters it’s big enough to accommodate the many. Also, the road leading to it is wide. It’s easy to get through isn’t it? Unfortunately, this gate also leads to destruction.

Sometimes the easiest choices in life lead to consequences we’d just as soon have avoided, agree? The easy way is so enticing, and it’s the rare person among us who would deliberately choose the more difficult path. Indeed, our nature is to seek the path of least resistance.security-consequences

Jesus said that there are many who will be going through this particular gate. Who are these “many” described in verse 13?

I believe they fall into two different, or sub groups of people.

1) Those that willingly and knowingly rejected Christ as their Savior.

2) The religious who have been deceived into believing they are “good enough”, and thus have trusted in themselves rather than Jesus.

Luke 19:10 tells us “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost”. Obviously, those in group # 1 have rejected the One that came to seek and save. This group of people has therefore chosen the Wide Gate that leads to destruction.

Perhaps far more tragic than the 1st group is group #2. This group has some knowledge of the fact that on their own they are not “good enough”, however they are deceived into thinking that by looking inward they can do enough on their own to ultimately enter through the Narrow Gate that leads to life.

The great sorrow here is that they knew they were inadequate by themselves, that something was missing, but they chose to look within for the solution rather than look to Jesus Christ. In doing so they have also chosen the Wide Gate that leads to destruction.

Be watching for my next post, which deals with the second people group, the few.

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