Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. Proverbs 21:21 (ESV)
Pursuit of happiness seems to be a primary concern of our culture today. Everywhere you look, advertisers are trying to sell us something that they claim will enhance our emotional well-being and promote a sense of accomplishment which in turn will make us happy…right? After all, everything we purchase or acquire in our lives are suppose to be the very things that will improve the odds that we will have a happy life!
Yet too many times, after I have made one of those purchases or I pursued something that I thought I had to have, I found myself wondering why I even pursued it in the first place? What did I think would happen with the pursuit? Was it something that I needed for the moment, or was it a want to fill a selfish desire in my heart?
May we make every effort to pursue righteousness and kindness in this life. As we do, the promise is that we will truly find life, righteousness and honor. Then, our pursuit of happiness will come as a natural result of our daily actions, rather than temporary acquisitions we think will make us happy.
Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) — 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
I have often contemplated what Isaiah must have experienced and felt as he had this supernatural experience with God. The holiness of God had to have been palatable as he stood in His presence, because Isaiah recognized that his unworthiness was a glaring blemish in his ability to stand before Him.
Throughout my life, I have had experiences with God which greatly impacted the direction of my life. It was in those moments that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was doing a special work in my life and that I needed to make every effort to pay attention to His leading and follow His will for my life.
Isaiah was quick to volunteer for service when God asked in a general sense, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It was in that moment that Isaiah realized that he had an opportunity to serve God in a way that would take the supernatural experience he was having and put it to use in practical service to the people. He knew God was placing the commission on his life to be a spokesperson to the nation.
I love his willingness to serve. He humbly knew that his life was not his own and in light of the mercy of God, he had an opportunity to serve God with his soul, body, mind, and will. His response evidenced a humble readiness and a complete trust in God’s plans for his life. In spite of his shortcomings, he made himself available to God for His use.
Each one of us have experienced and received the mercies of God which have been abundant in our lives. Salvation is the chief of those mercies in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we asked God for forgiveness of our sins and committed our lives to His Lordship, we were offering everything that we are and will ever be, to His service and His leadership in our lives.
Isaiah becomes for us the example of who we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God. His desire to be used by God brought no questions as to the impact it would have to his schedule, relationships, and life plan. He readily volunteer without reservation, without setting terms, and without a deeper discussion to the expectations.
May we follow Paul’s command to us: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)
Throughout my life and ministry, I have often read and quoted James 1:5 which says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” With it comes the reminder that God desires to be intricately involved in the growth of our wisdom as we face difficult situations in life and ministry. There is no doubt in my mind that each one of us has asked for wisdom as we faced a decision in which we did not know how to handle or we have encouraged others to ask God for wisdom for their own unique situation.
While asking God for wisdom for our lives is an important step in the process, as I look back on the book of Proverbs, the writer reminds us that gaining wisdom is a process which usually involves the day to day decisions that we make as well as, the tough decisions, situations and circumstances we find ourselves in. I would be great if we could simply ask God for wisdom and He instantly zaps us with all the wisdom we will ever need. But Proverbs 2 reminds us that it is through a series of “if/then” statements, that wisdom is acquired.
How do we gain wisdom in our lives and apply it daily?
- Be receptive to wisdom (1-2) In order to gain wisdom, we must position ourselves to be attentive to the voice of God. This is not something that simply happens because we attend church, read the Bible, or preach a sermon. It happens when we purposely stay aware of the presence of God and attentive to His leadership in our lives.
- Earnestly pursue wisdom (3-4) Throughout our world, we are reminded on a daily basis of what pursuing a dream, position, or prominence looks like. Those who are running for an office, auditioning for a spot on a television show, or building a company becomes an all-consuming passion and focus to those who succeed. It is that laser-guided focus that the writer of Proverbs encourages us to have in our pursuit of wisdom.
- Cry out in prayer for understanding (3) Since we are encouraged to be receptive and pursue wisdom, it stands to reason that the source is not found in our human understanding, but in an outside source. The Holy Spirit was sent for that purpose, to be the one who gives light to our path, who gives sight to our understanding. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can apprehend and apply the truth of God’s Word in our lives. Pray earnestly for wisdom and He will guide you!
- Search, through diligent study, for wisdom (4) Have you ever lost something that was valuable? How did you search for it? Did you tear the house apart looking for your lost item? The writer tells us to search for wisdom which we do so through the discipline of study. While prayer is the first step to opening our understanding in order for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct, we are reminded that we are to diligently search out wisdom.
Wisdom is a valuable and necessary quality to nurture in your life. It is important that each one of us make the commitment to seek wisdom and keep seeking the rest of our lives. Wisdom doesn’t come for just a momentary circumstance but is developed throughout our entire lives. Cherish the process, remember what you have learned in the past, and God will continue to grant wisdom in the days ahead.
If there is one inevitable characteristic of life, it is that transitions and changes continually happen. Whether they are gradual or sudden, planned or unplanned, our response to change is the only thing that we can control through transition. Our response is in direct correlation to our perspective. John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
While Nyree and I are humbled and honored to serve in the role of Church Ministries Director, we have had to face the challenge of transition in our life and ministry affecting our family, church family, and community relationships. While we are working through each transition, we have had to keep our perspective of the future in view. I have had to remind myself of several important elements of transitions that I need to keep in mind.
Recognize that transitions are difficult because they can shake your sense of identity. When I made the announcement that we were accepting a new position, my identity as Pastor of a local church transitioned to something completely different than any other position I have held. When I recognize that my identity as a minister is not founded in my title, but rather, my God-given calling, I can rest assured that no matter what position I find myself in, God has already established my identity.
Realize that transitions are opportunities for personal growth and development. Transitions in life can be God’s gift to us in order for us to have a new start personally. While there are priorities that I will carry with me into this new role, I also recognize that there are areas that I will need to grow in order to fulfill the new responsibilities and expectations placed on me. Transitions are opportunities to practice new habits and new ways of interacting with others.
Remember why the transition is necessary. Transitions are often necessary because God in His sovereignty has orchestrated the change to fulfill His plans for our lives. While we may not always understand the why, we have to trust that He knows what he is doing and place our hope in Him. Only then can we have peace in the midst of transitions.
Rely on your support system, which will provide security during the transition. Throughout this transition many have supported us, by providing encouragement, expressing their love, and offering their assistance. It has been reassuring to know that we have great friends who are our support system in this time of transition.
While transitions are hard in the present, keeping our eyes on the future provides the hope and strength necessary to press on in this journey called life. God has a great plan!!
I love this quote from Richard Exley, because it is a great reminder of the opportunity we have in our relationship with God. God is an ever present help in times of trouble…
“In my darkest hours the apostle Paul has been an inspiration to me. No one faced more trouble than he did, yet he declared “…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us for the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). And then he shouts into the teeth of the storm, “…in all these we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
It doesn’t matter what you’re facing—financial adversity, problems with your children, marital difficulties, or health issues. Jesus knows what you’re up against and He cares about you. What touches you touches Him, and He is able to deliver you. So take heart!
Book: What To Do When Your World Is Falling Apart~ By Richard Exley http://amzn.to/1ZAxOBM
Prayer is an essential part of a believers spiritual life, which also affects every area of our everyday lives. This is such an important part of our walk with the Lord, I wanted to list a few of the benefits that happen when we pray. I will also post a list of resources at the end of the post which will provide some inspiration.
- Brings Us Closer to God
- Brings Us Divine Help
- Brings Us Supernatural Strength
- Opens the Door for Wisdom
- Gives Us Hope
- Improves Our Attitudes
- Reduces Our Stress
E.M. Bounds was a passionate man of prayer. His passion is perhaps best expressed in this quote that he gives from William Wilberforce, a man of political action and great fruitfulness.
This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul if not in body. More solitude and earlier hours! I suspect I have been allotting habitually too little time to religious exercises, as private devotion and religious meditation, Scripture-reading, etc.
Hence I am lean and cold and hard. I had better allot two hours or an hour and a half daily. I have been keeping too late hours, and hence have had but a hurried half hour in a morning to myself.
Surely the experience of all good men confirms the proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean. But all may be done through prayer — almighty prayer, I am ready to say — and why not? For that it is almighty is only through the gracious ordination of the God of love and truth. O then, pray, pray, pray!
Quoted in Power Through Prayer, Location 734.
My prayer is that you will be inspired to communicate with your heavenly Father on a consistent basis. Make prayer your priority everyday, and your relationship will be enriched and life fulfilled.
Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds~ http://amzn.to/1ZFn6ty
The Complete Collection of EM Bounds on Prayer~ http://amzn.to/1ZFnfxk
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears By Mark Batterson~ http://amzn.to/1ZFnkAT
Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson~ http://amzn.to/1R2BMl2
The Circle Maker Prayer Journal By Mark Batterson~ http://amzn.to/1R2BZEO
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God By Timothy Keller http://amzn.to/1R2CwXw
My prayer for you as we approach 2016, is that you passionately pursue God and discover that He has passionately been pursuing you. May He grant to you, the mysteries of His will and desire for your life. May He show His lovingkindness toward you in order to reveal His loving care for you. and may He bless you with supernatural faith, hope, and peace as you enter a new season.
God has great plans for your life! Trust in Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and He will lead and guide you in unexpected ways, toward a fulfilled and purposeful life! Have a great 2016!
Currently, my family and I are on a journey of sorts. We have an annual tradition of going to Branson between Christmas and New Years. It has been something that we have done for several years and it seems that we look forward to it more each year. The lights, shows, music, atmosphere, and of course the turkey legs at Silver Dollar City are just a few of the things we love to be a part of.
However, the chance to get away with “just us” is what we look forward to the most. We don’t have many opportunities to be able to travel as a family since we are often separated by schedules, jobs, and school. Having this time together is something that we cherish and we look forward to just being a family and enjoying each others company.
This year as we travelled to Branson, we came in the midst of a strong winter storm that brought heavy rain, sleet, snow, and high winds to the state of Oklahoma. Driving east, we hurriedly tried to out run the frozen precipitation, but encountered the challenge of driving through the high winds and heavy rain.
By the time we reached our destination, my body was worn out from the tension of keeping the vehicle on the road and out of danger from other drivers. To say the least, getting to our destination was not a relaxing venture.
The journey of life can have many challenges along the way which test our resolve to face the difficulties that are thrown at us. These challenges can come from outside, when we deal with the encounters we have with other people. But I find that the biggest challenge that most of us face is inside our minds and hearts. Winning the battle in the six inches between our ears is the toughest challenge.
Have you ever thought, “I just can’t seem to live the Christian life the way I know I should?” “I’m frustrated with how I operate in my daily walk with the Lord!” “I don’t have spiritual victory or a sense of accomplishment in my life!” or “I struggle with the simplest forms of obedience, and I feel like I am constantly defeated!”
The good news is that you are not alone in feeling this way. The bad news is that we often remedy these symptoms of our Christian walk with the wrong medicine. Too often we apply the remedy of a new church, a new pastor, new friends, a new spiritual experience, or a new worship experience. We get prayed for, get prophesied over, and pray for a miracle that will change the weak state of our christian walk, only to be frustrated with the results.
While experiences may help us for a time, we often find ourselves falling into the the same patterns which keep us defeated. Why? Because too often we are singularly focused on what God can give us. If he could give us a new experience, environment, or empowerment, then I could free myself from who I am now.
While God is able to do so much for us…salvation, deliverance, wisdom, direction, peace, strength, provision, etc…the problem lies not in what God can do for us, but what we are willing to give to him. While He provides everything that we need to live the Christian life, we can never fully realize those blessings without fully giving ourselves to Him. It’s not about trying to get from God as much as we can, which makes us happy, it’s about what we give to Him, which bring true joy.
Today, we have a plethora of opportunities to learn and receive from God all of His benefits. We have various churches, seminars, conferences, revivals, and books which provide practical, emotional and spiritual help. The key to receiving true happiness and freedom in life, is to give all that you are and all that you have to God. It is only then that you truly become who He has designed, created, and planned for you to be.
Romans 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In preparing for a message that I will be preaching this coming Wednesday night, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you concerning triumph and suffering. I am looking forward to sharing with our congregation, a message of hope that will encourage people who are struggling. God has something special planned for you!
We don’t often associate triumph with suffering. In fact, they are considered to be on opposite sides of the spectrum. One is considered the highest of highs, while the other is considered the lowest of lows. Yet Scripture teaches us that there is triumph in suffering! I know what your thinking…”How?” Let me tell you… But first, let’s talk about suffering.
Suffering is not a popular subject to talk about especially in the arena of Christianity. In a day and age when the blessings of God are spoken of more than suffering for the faith, it’s no wonder that many people are surprised and become deeply discouraged when suffering comes. Especially when it is unjust and unfounded suffering at the hands of others. Yet Jesus said that we should expect that persecutions and trials will come to believers for and in spite of their faith.
How do we handle suffering when we have been abandoned, persecuted, or belittled in our faith? Christ’s perfect example of suffering unjustly and through that, accomplishing the glorious saving purpose of God, should give believers hope and confidence for the triumph of God’s purpose in the midst of their own suffering. God in his providence, is always accomplishing his eternal will and plan, even in spite of the times of suffering and the times of joy.
Through the cross, Jesus showed us his ability to triumph over sin, to proclaim the victorious message, to give a complete salvation, and show his supremacy over all things. Because of his triumph on the cross, we have a victory that is freely given to us and a hope that will last eternal.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
(Excerpts from a message that I will share at Tecumseh First Assembly of God on March 18, 2015)
Joshua is one of my favorite people in scripture. His leadership after the death of Moses, is an inspiration to everyone who leads, especially those who have followed a long-term leader. Yet, I also find that Joshua had times when he buckled under the weight of defeat. Joshua 7 is one of those times.
Joshua has led the nation of Israel through two major victories in which God came through on their behalf. They were miraculously able to cross the flooded Jordan river and defeat the mighty city of Jericho. Yet when they met defeat at Ai, Joshua was quick to place blame. Where did he place the blame? Not on Israel, but on God himself!
Listen to what he says, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!” Joshua 7:7 (ESV)
Isn’t that just like human nature. Whenever things begin to disintegrate in our lives, we begin to look around for someone to take the fall. “It surely isn’t our fault, it has to be God’s!”
Joshua failed to remember what God had done for His people in bringing them out of Egypt.
- Sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt (Ex. 3)
- Opened the Red Sea for them (Ex. 14)
- Fed them with manna when they were hungry (Ex. 16)
- Gave them water from a rock (Ex. 17)
- Led them across the flooded Jordan (Josh. 3)
- Enabled them to conquer Jericho (Josh. 6)
Now after one defeat … Joshua blames God.
The key to living a life of victory is to think about, and be thankful for, all that God has done for us. He loved us so much that He gave His Son for us and through His sacrifice, He offers us salvation by faith and receives us when we come to Him. On top of this incredible gift, He is intricately involved in our lives, consistently loving, caring, protecting, blessing, and disciplining.
Instead of blaming God for our defeats, take time to go to Him and listen to His direction for your life. The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?” Joshua 7:10 (ESV) He then explained to Joshua the reason behind the defeat and how he was to proceed in his leadership.
Focus on Him and let Him help you overcome the defeats in life. If you take time to remember all that God has done in your life so far, and listen for what He is doing now and in the future of your life, I believe you will find out that there are more victories than you realize. Living a life of humble thankfulness is the key to facing life’s challenges with confidence!