Are you ready to do His will?

When I was a boy we sang a Hymn called, “Work for the night is coming.” in the church service.  In Sunday School we would sing:

Two will be together grinding at the mill

Two will be together sleeping sound and still

One will be taken and the other left behind

Will you be ready when Jesus come

In the midst of all the deception, [Editor’s note:  Specifics are left out, but this is message is a spiritual advisor’s note of encouragement to church members embroiled in a church division who are holding steadfast to God’s Word], God wants to give us direction.  But our hearts have to be ready to do His will.

A heart that is ready to do God will is a heart first of all that:

1.  Loves God:

Jesus said in John  14:21-23 If you love me you will keep my commandments.  It’s not hard for me to serve Lyn because I love her.  I want to be with her.  Jesus said too that if we keep His commandments that He and His Father would disclose themselves to us. We want to serve God when we love Him.

2.  Knows God:

When you love God and act accordingly God discloses Himself to you.  You see Him and His work and you get to know His as who He is.  God is a God of grace and mercy.  Those are just a couple of His attributes.  In Jeremiah 9:23-24 God says glory in this that you know and love me, that I am a God of loving kindness.

3.  Trusts God:

Rom 10:17 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word o God.  When we are ready God has given us faith.  And faith knows.  Heb 11:1 says faith is the substance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.

4.  Obeys God: 

In I John 5:3 we are told that God’s commandments are His love.  He has given a the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and it takes a Great Commitment.  We will be willing to make that commitment if we love, know and trust God.

Are you ready to do His will?

This readiness is not just taught, it’s caught!  You see it in someone else and you want it too.  It’s the power of example in a life that love, knows, trusts and obeys God.  Readiness in when Jesus belongs to you, and you live everyday knowing you belong to Him.

Are You Leaving a Spiritual Legacy for Your Children / Grandchildren? – Part II

Need to read Part 1 first, Are You Leaving a Spiritual Legacy for Your Children / Grandchildren?

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

These are the words in a letter from Jeremiah written to a group of captives that were taken away to Babylon. (Jer 29:1-4)  Jer 29:4 says, “Thus says the LORD of host, the God of Israel to all who were carried away captive, who I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

God allowed the Babylonians to exile the captives in Babylon.  This was part of God’s discipline in the lives of His people.  Hebrews 12:5-6 says God disciplines every son that He loves.  God can be tough on us at times.  Negative things can come into our lives.  Jeremiah says here it was God who exiled them.

In Jer 29:8-9 the exiles are told that false prophets have been in their midst telling them what they want to hear.  But it is not from the Lord.  The Lord in Jer 29:4-7 let’s them know what they don’t want to hear.  They are going to be in exile a long time.  The false word was they would be out of this soon.

It would be 70 years until the decree of Cyrus and not until 444 BC that the first group would return with Ezra.  The words of Jer 29:11-14 were a promise for their children in the future.  When the time of exile was over the LORD said,, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity.”  (Jer 29:12-14)

So God makes a promise directly to Israel.  The promise is for the future.  And it’s not for one person singular, it’s not for me, it’s for us.  The promise is not made to us today.  But it does apply to us.  It’s not a promise to us that we will be healthy and prosperous.

Did following the Lord make the disciples healthy and prosperous?  Did it keep them from all harm?

God crushed his own perfect and spotless Son.  Great faith doesn’t equal flourishing in the here and now.  Foxes had holes, birds had nests, and the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.  At the end of John 7 John says each man went to his own  house.  But John 8:1 says Jesus went to the Mt of Olives.  Jesus didn’t have a house.

The only place this world ever afforded Jesus a resting place was the cross.  He laid his head to rest there and died.  (John 19:30)  John says, “As he is so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17) We are not to twist God’s word for our own purposes.

In Jer 29:5-7 God tells the exiles what to do.  He says lay down roots there in Babylon.  Build your houses and plant gardens.  Get married and find spouses for your children so they can bear you grandchildren.  Seek the peace of the city where you live and pray for it.  And you will have peace.

Peace in the heart is true riches.  The wisdom of God’s word is better than silver or gold and precious jewels.  It’s better than anything you might desire.  (Prov 3:13-18)

The LORD says establish a community.  Establish a home base.  Give your children and your grandchildren some roots.  He doesn’t say live for yourself.  He says think about your children and your children’s children.

How about a church home for our children and grandchildren?  How about a Bible School where we can train people in the word for the home base and for other communities the Lord wants to start?  How about a home for our spiritual children as well?  How about being mentors for others?  How about taking an active role in the future of those who go after us.

These children are not here for us.  We are here for them.  How about a church where there is freedom because the gospel of truth is being preached and taught?  [Left blank] and I were matured and equipped in a church like that.  [Left blank] was 19 when we were married.  God’s given us 41 happy years so far.  We have been given much.

Our children and our grandchildren, spiritual children are like arrows in the quiver of a warrior the Bible says.  If I’m going into battle I want as many arrows as possible.  That’s why God says, “multiply and be fruitful.”  The [left blank] Church in [left blank] was a place where children were raised to live for the glory of God.

A baton has been passed to us that we cannot drop.  To those who have been given much, much is required.  The [left blank] areas, [left blank] and the world still need to be reached.  On a Sunday morning in Southern California less than one boy or girl in ten is in Sunday School.

There is so little peace in a world that Christ made peace for everyone on the cross.  We don’t make our peace with God.  Jesus did that for us.  We just receive the peace He offers through repentance and faith in Him.  We need to get people the message of the gospel to where we live.

We need to be faithful to God’s word and God’s Son and continue to pass on the legacy that has been passed on to us.  It starts with the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible.  It’s finding the truth that God bring, it’s found in believing his word and doing it so we find understanding.

Leaving a legacy is about being faithful.  And Jer 29:11 is about God being faithful to us.  He is faithful in the midst of any conflict or circumstance which we face right now.  We need to be faithful to His word and to this text.

We need to leave a legacy. Be praying for us.

Are You Leaving a Spiritual Legacy for Your Children / Grandchildren? – Part I

[Left blank] and I often ask ourselves, “What will we leave our children and grandchildren?  What will we pass on?  There is an old Motown song that says, “Papa was a rolling stone.  Wherever he laid his head was a stone.  And when he died all he left was a loan.”  We don’t want that to be our legacy.

In our family a legacy doesn’t mean a will or an inheritance.  It’s not possessions or money.  Our parents didn’t leave us any money.  They did, “their giving while they were living so they were knowing where it was going.”  Our parents invested in our lives.  They gave us meaning and purpose and love,

Our church family did too.  [Left blank] was 15 when we met.  She was 19 when we were married and 29 when we went to [left blank].  So for 14 years of her life, and 35 years of my life, the [left blank] Church family in [left blank]  invested their lives in ours.  We were brought up in the word of God.  We received meaning and love and purpose for life before we left for [left blank] to plant churches.  Our church family made a large investment of their lives in us.

What are God’s promises for the future?  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord. , thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most quoted and misunderstood passages in the Bible.  The generation of today uses the NIV translation where is says God knows the plans He has for us.  Plans to prospers us and give us a future and a hope.

It sounds great.  What a great promise.  But is real life like that?

My life has been filled with difficulty, pain and suffering.  Yet,  I’ve never met anyone I wanted to change places with.  The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away in my life.  Some of us may have diseases right now that are killing us and seem to be taking away our future and hope.  Some of us are experiencing financial loss or the loss of friends and our church.

Does Jeremiah hold forth a promise with a problem?  What if my health is broken, or I’m going broke.  What if I’m being harmed, molested or abused as  many godly believers are?.  What if even the best things I do and say are being slandered and mocked?

II Tim 3:12 says, “All that desire to live a godly life will be persecuted.”  That is one promise we all can claim.

Where is my future and my hope?  Has my lack of faith or the devil robbed me of this promise?  Is it just me or the devil that brings bad stuff my way?  Have I failed to raise the level of my faith and trust, so that I can receive the promise of Jer 29:11?

Or do most people have Jeremiah 29:11 wrong?  What did this verse mean to Jeremiah?  What did it mean to those in exile in Babylon that it was written to?  What is Jeremiah saying and meaning?  How do we apply it in our lives? Where is my future and hope?

Jer 29:11 has to be put into the context of the chapter, and the book of Jeremiah, and the Bible.  Jeremiah 29:11 can’t mean now what it didn’t mean to Jeremiah back then or his readers.  And it could be a promise be for a specific people at a specific time.  One thing we do know is it does have an application for us today. It may not be made to us.  But there are applications we can draw from it.

Paul said in Romans 15:4 that the scriptures are for our encouragement and learning.  They give us hope.  He said in II Tim 3:16-17 that all scripture is for teaching, correction, reproof, for training in righteousness, so we could be equipped for the work ahead of us.

Jeremiah 29:1-4 tells us that this promise is in a letter to the exiles who were in Babylon.  It’s a specific letter to a specific people with a specific promise of what is going to happen when they return from exile.  It’s to a specific group, at a specific time, in specific circumstances and in a specific place.  It tells the God is going to prosper when they return from exile.

They didn’t return for 150 years.  The people the letter was written to had all died.  The promise was also made to a group not individuals.  It wasn’t a, “here and now, all for you promise.”  It was the promise of a legacy for their descendants.

The promise does has applications for us.  Not for me singular, but for us plural.  It’s about leaving a legacy.  It’s not made to me or us.  But it can apply to us.  And it’s not about having a daily experience of health and wealth.  It’s not a right here and right now promise.  It’s not about better stuff and a better life.  It’s not about flourishing now.  This is earth not heaven.

But it is about leaving a legacy for our children and our children’s children..

We will look more at Jeremiah 29:1-14 in Part II.

We will start looking at it verse by verse.  And we will see it is about establishing a base, a home, a foundation for those who come after us that is is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone and His apostles and prophets.

Jer 29:11 is about a legacy of a foundation for the lives of those after us.  Lives that are built on God’s Son and God’s Word.  It is about giving them roots to establish and hold them.  (Jer 17:5-8)

It’s about giving them a home and a base.  And it’s not for just our physical children.  It’s for spiritual children as well.

Ready to read Part II, Are You Leaving a Spiritual Legacy for Your Children / Grandchildren?

Do You Love the Church?

Do you love the church?

Paul said Jesus, “loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Paul loved the church as well.

A couple of weeks ago I was teaching Genesis 29.  Jacob went to Haran as a single man, and he ends up with four wives, 12 sons and daughters.  It’s a mess.  His first wife’s name is Leah.  And the Bible says she was unloved by Jacob..

If Genesis 29 was just about Jacob and his wives you would leave depressed.  But the Bible is about God.  Jesus told the religious leaders that they searched the scriptures thinking that in them they would find eternal life.  But he said, “They speak of Me.” (John 5:39)

God reveals himself in written for us the Bible.  He is the God of the universe, but he shows his care, concern and affection for individuals.  At the end of Genesis 29 it says God saw Leah, and God heard Leah. He knew Leah even better than she knew herself.  She mattered to Him.  God had great affection for her. He loved Leah before she was ever born.  He loved he before she has ever done anything.

My daughter [left blank] is expecting her first child this month.  She had an ultrasound Friday.  She saw clearly her little girl’s face, she was sucking her thumb, and her hair was flowing.  She said she was beautiful.  She is her mother, and she loves her already.  And she will for the rest of her life.  Just like [left blank] and I love [left blank].  [Left blank] loves that little girl before she has done anything bad or good.  She has a mother’s affection for her.

Leah named her first son see a son.  She thought Jacob would now see and love her.  She named her next son hears.  She hoped Jacob would hear and love her.  She named he next son joined or cleaves.  She thought with three sons Jacob would cleave to her and love her.  He didn’t.  She named her fourth son the Lord be praised.  She knew God saw, heard and cleaved to her.  She knew the Lord loved her.  So she would praise Him.

It was from that fourth son Judah that Jesus came.  God chose Leah, the unloved, to be in the line of His son.

We teach a lot about actions and attitudes, but it’s the affections of the heart God God wants.  There are only two commandments The first is to love Him.  The second is to love our neighbor.

Romans 16 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  Paul pours out his affection for the church in Rome.  The church to Paul was not a place of convenience.  It was a place of concern and care.  Life matters when other people matter to you.

The church is a place to be a blessing and not a burden, a help and not a hindrance, a stepping stone and not a stumbling block.  It’s not a place where you say, “Serve us.”  It’s a place of service.  It’s not a place where you endure people.  It’s a place where you enjoy people.

The church is not a place where you shop for the best deal for yourself.  It’s a place where you love people.  Do you love the church? 

The church Paul writes to in Romans 16 is a place of love and affection.  It’s characterized first by:

1.  Extraordinary Unity:  In Gal 3:27-29 it says we are all one in Christ Jesus”  Whether Jews or Gentiles, man or women, slaves or free, we are all one.  It doesn’t matter what custom or culture dictate.  Every person has equal value.  No matter what gender, what ethnic background or wealth or social status we are all in one family.  Jesus chooses us to be part of his family, and we choose a church family.

Paul in Romans 16 writes to men and women.  4 out of the first 7 people he lists are women  He writes to Jews and Gentiles.  He writes to people with slave names.  He writes to the poor and the rich.

The church isn’t a business, ti’s a body.  It isn’t a corporation, it’s a community, it’s not a factory.  It’s a family.  Christ breaks down every wall.  We all have a common father and brother.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  And we have family affection for each other.  No one is better than anyone else.  We stand equal before the Lord and each other.

2.  Extraordinary Diversity:  We don’t talk alike or look alike or act alike.  The goal is not union or sameness.  We have different backgrounds, abilities, likes and dislikes.  Some of the people in Rom 16 we Jews, and some were gentiles.  Some had spectacular conversions.  Some were saved when they were children.

Some were very hard workers like Aquilla and Priscilla.  Some did the right thing, for the right way, at the right time and for the right reason.

Some of the people in Rome were trying to gain praise, some were busybodies, some suffered from self righteousness.  Some served for the right reasons.  And some for the wrong reasons.  Some were control freaks.  They had to write the constitution and bylaws of the church themselves and head up the boards.  They had to have their own way.  But they were all part of the same family.  They were kinsmen.  And Paul loved them all.

3.  Extraordinary Affection:  I was asked to speak once in a church off Hwy 50 in [left blank]. The church did not have a great building.  The preaching and the music there were so so.  The church didn’t have a big staff or a lot of good programs that church consumers are looking for.  But they had to have an overflow room, because there were so many people there.

Why?  They loved the Lord.  And they loved each other.  I knew the pastor there well.  He was not a talented person.  He was not good looking,, gifted or filled with charisma.  But he loved the people there.  He was filled with care and concern.  He love the Lord and taught His truth from the Bible.  The church ministered to the Lord, they ministered to the Lost, and they had a ministry of Love for each other.

The church was not filled with wealthy people.  But they gave [left blank] and I the biggest honorarium we ever received.  They just showered us with love and affection.  Their cups overflowed toward the Lord, the lost, toward each other and us.  Affection brought people there.  Affection kept people there. Goodness and mercy followed those folks.  You left there saying, “Surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place.”

It was an extraordinary experience.

In Rome and [left blank] It all started with the truth of God’s word.

The church in [left blank] didn’t have any great method of presenting the word of God.  But they believed it, and they did it.  It wasn’t that they could explain the Bible any better than any other church.  It was their trust and obedience.  And they spoke the truth in love.  They lived the truth out with great affection.

The church to Paul and the people in [left blank] was a people to love.  It was a place to serve.  It was a place to praise.  They were not looking for better methods.  They were looking to be better men and women.  They were looking for people to love.