Wednesday, June 26, 2019

UNEXPECTED ANSWERS


Have you prayed for an answer, but the answer has not yet arrived? Will you recognize the answer when it comes? 

The story of Peter’s supernatural rescue from prison gives us a glimpse into the heart of God and how His ways and thoughts are so much higher than our ways and thoughts. He answers prayer, but not always according to our timing and expectations.

We learn in Acts 12 that Peter was arrested and delivered to four squads of soldiers. Typically, a squad included eight soldiers. So, it took thirty-two soldiers to guard one non-violent man. Meanwhile, the Church was earnestly praying for Peter’s release.

Peter was bound with two chains and asleep between two soldiers with sentries posted at the door of the prison. An angel of the Lord stood next to Peter, struck him on the side, and woke him saying, “Get up quickly.” His chains fell off and the angel ordered him to dress, wrap a cloak around himself, and follow him past the two guards. As they approached an iron gate, it opened of its own accord and they went out along a street, and the angel left. 

Peter quickly went to the house of Mary, the mother of John where they were all gathered together praying for Peter. When he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. She recognized Peter’s voice and instead of opening the door ran to tell the others that Peter was at the door. They responded, “You are out of your mind.” Despite her insistence that Peter was at the door, they argued, “It is his angel!” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking on the door. When they finally opened the door, they were shocked to see him standing before them. 

How often do we pray and either we do not fully expect our prayer to be answered, or we have our own ideas of how that prayer should be answered? So, when the answer comes, we, like those who prayed for Peter, fail to recognize it. 

We have the blessed assurance that if we abide in Him and His Words abide in us, we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us (John 15:7). God tells us that before we even call to Him, He will answer. While we are yet speaking, He will hear us (Isaiah 65:24). And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him (I John 5:14-15)

Jesus said, “…whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."  For God calls into existence the things that do not exist (Mark 11:24; Romans 4:17).

BELIEF is the key to faith. To believe means to be convinced, to trust, and have total confidence in God. Paul had such great confidence in God that he was able to sleep peacefully, in chains, between two soldiers! 

Like Peter, are you caught in a prison of circumstances that you have no control over? 
If you have been praying and waiting, yet you have not seen an answer, keep believing and trusting God, so that when the answer arrives, you will recognize its appearing. 

PRAYER: FATHER, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are 
possible” (Matthew 19:26). Help me to trust and focus on You and not my circumstances. Prepare me to recognize and receive Your answer. Thank you for Your unwavering love and the fulfillment of Your promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.





Monday, June 17, 2019

THE HEART IS A RESERVOIR


Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

What does God say about the heart? The heart is mentioned 830 times in the King James Bible, so we can assume that God wants us to understand the spiritual components of the heart. For the heart is a reservoir that can either hold things that support life and faith, or they can hold things that impede the flow of life and faith. The following outlines a few of the many reasons why we must guard our hearts.

The mouth is the heart's barometer. That which is in the heart overflows into our  speech (Luke 6:45). Jesus said, “…I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment”— “for death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Matthew 12:36; Proverbs 18:21;) Therefore, we must guard our heart by guarding our mouth.

King David said, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3-4). Words have the potential to be beautifully wrapped gifts that encourage and uplift, or they can be destructive darts that harm others, including the one who speaks them.What word-containers do we hold in our hearts? The mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (Luke 6:34 NIV).

The deceitful heart make its plans. "The
heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). What concealed motives, hidden secrets, or personal agendas do we have neatly tucked inside our hearts?

The foolish and careless heart knows God, 
but does not glorify Him as God, nor is it thankful, but is futile in its thoughts and becomes darkened (Romans 1:21). What things, that God calls “sin unto death,” has been accepted by society and many Christians, because their understanding has become darkened?

The willful heart walks in disobedience and
rebellion. Satan was the “seal of perfection,” full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (Ezekiel 28:12-19). But he became prideful and said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:11-15). Those two words “ I will,” reveal a willful pride that precipitated Satan’s great fall. That old sin nature continually draws us to willful disobedience and rebellion.

An obstinate heart is hardened to God's
truth, guidance, direction, and is ill-informed about divine things (Deuteronomy 2:30). According to the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
"obstinate" means to be stubborn, unyielding, inflexible, unbending, bull-headed, self-willed, strong-willed, uncooperative, stiff-necked, rigid, uncompromising, and immovable. The obstinate heart is easily deceived.

The Apostle Paul said of the obstinate, that their foolish hearts are darkened because their spiritual eyes are closed (Romans 1:21). Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity (Proverbs 28:14 ESV). Do we yield daily to the things of God?

A heart of unbelief is a dangerous place—
"Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God, but exhort one another daily, while it is called "today," lest any of you be 
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12-13). Unbelief can cause backsliding.

The heart holds desires. We are forewarned
against lust, covetousness, and envy, and told to set our hearts on those things above—for where our treasure is, there our heart will be found (Colossians 3:1; Matthew 6:21). Do we desire God above all earthly things?

An obedient and willing heart says "yes" to
God. Jesus asked His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if You are willing, take
this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done (Luke 22:41-43). Even Jesus struggled with surrendering His will, but His love for mankind and His Father was greater than what He desired, and He surrendered all to God. What are we willing to surrender to God?

God requires a pure heart of integrity. That
heart is principled, honorable, upright, truthful, ethical, and moral. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. ”For it is the righteous man who walks in his integrity, that his children are blessed after him" (Proverbs 10:9; 20:7). Shading the truth, misleading, deceiving, lying, and exaggerating all contribute to an impure heart.

The heart thinks. What we think in our heart, we become (Proverbs 23:7). Jesus asked, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" (Matthew 9:4) We are to think on what is true, noble, right, lovely, admirable, excellent, pure, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). What consumes our thoughts?

The heart remembers, reflects, and meditates. “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). To “ponder” is to meditate, consider, reflect, review, and deliberate. “May the words of [our] mouth and the meditation of [our] heart be acceptable to You, Lord, [our] rock and [our] Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Do we daily reflect on God's Word?

The heart understands, discerns, and gives insight. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). The Holy Spirit will illuminate our heart of understandig when we seek Him.

The heart is a reservoir of either good or bad. We choose what goes into that reservoir. Are we choosing wisely? Are we choosing God’s Word, for His Word is a safeguard against sin (Psalm 119:11).

The heart functions as our conscience. It
alerts us to the presence of sin. It is the inner forum where decisions are made. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Do we include God in our decision-making, or do we make our own plans?

The faith-filled heart possesses unwavering
trust, integrity, purity, obedience, willingness, discernment, insight, understanding, wisdom, joy, and much more. It trusts God in all circumstances. Conversely, a hard and unyielding heart holds doubt, fear, unbelief, pride, sin, inflexibility, stubbornness, rebellion, sinful thoughts, lust, envy, covetousness, and unforgiveness. The hard heart follows its own path.

The more we invest in God, the more we allow His extravagant love to work in and through us. He wants us to trust Him and pour our hearts out before Him (Psalm 62:8). His peace will then protect our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When we speak God’s Word and believe what we speak, His powerful and creative Word becomes action.

What power transforms hearts of unbelief into pure hearts of faith? What should we be storing in our reservoir? The answer to both questions is God's Word. He always responds to faith that is anchored to His sovereign Word. We can depend on His Word to bring truth to our souls, to heal, encourage, direct, lift burdens, and settle joy and peace deep within our hearts. Then as our lives are daily transformed by the renewing of our minds through His Word, we become living testimonies to others of His immense goodness and love.

PRAYER: FATHER, like King David, I ask that You “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Help me embrace and understand Your Word, as I  read it each day, so that I may know how to guard my heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

 WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH



 WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH

We live in a world that is besieged with unrestrained deception of every kind. But it is within the Church, that the enemy actively works to inject deceptions that produce impurity, bondage, and self-promotion. 

There are churches that have become entertainment centers, some with ear-splitting, heart-pounding rock rhythms with lyrics that express wrong theology. Let me be clear; there are also many congregations singing beautifully written, contemporary Christian music that honors God. Unfortunately, some well-intentioned churches are using contemporary music without vetting it for biblical accuracy. They assume that because the music originates from a place that is well respected, that all the music is doctrinally correct. 

The Bible warns, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). The enemy will always plant people in churches who, knowingly or unknowingly put in place man-made systems that are not of God.  

Lest we forget, Satan was in charge of worship in heaven until he became full of pride, tried to usurp God’s authority, and was cast out of heaven with one-third of the angels who also rebelled. He knows full well what worship should be and he also knows how to pervert it. He is fully aware that music affects the mind, body, spirit, soul, and emotions. He successfully perverted secular music with evil, demonic, and sexually explicit lyrics. But most importantly, he has, with stealth-like accuracy, injected what appears to be innocuous lyrics into Christian music, which has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry. In reality, some contemporary lyrics are emotion-driven and do not give glory to God but are an assault on His very nature. 

Praise is defined as showing gratitude towards God. Worship is defined as expressing reverence and adoration for God. Praise and worship must be all about God and not about us and how we fee. For praise and worship is a time of honoring God as we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. There we give thanks to
Him for His immeasurable goodness as we bless His holy name (Psalm 100:4). Praise and worship are our gifts to God as we prepare our hearts, minds, and the very atmosphere of the church to receive from God through the preaching of His Word. 

Most worship leaders and praise team members, along with those who attend church are good, well-intentioned people, who have hearts to worship God. Unfortunately, Satan takes advantage of those desires and uses people, led by emotion and a lack of understanding of scripture, to create lyrics that do not honor God. Therefore, a question must be asked in regard to worship music, “Do the lyrics support sound biblical doctrine, and do they elevate the name of Jesus and God the Father?”

“Reckless Love” is just one of numerous scripturally errored contemporary songs sung in many churches. The stanza reads, “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, “reckless” love of God…” Aside from the word, “reckless,” the other words in the song agree with Scripture

I admit that when I first heard “Reckless Love,” I sang it without paying attention to the word, “reckless.” Then one Sunday, as the congregation was singing that song, the Lord asked me, “Am I reckless—especially with My love?” Clearly, God takes issue with associating that careless word, “reckless,” with Him. For that reason, when that song is played, I substitute “reckless” with "saving love of God.” 

It is important to know that reckless is defined as “a person whose actions are done without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action; being rash, careless, thoughtless, heedless, hasty, precipitous, impetuous, impulsive, devil-may-care; irresponsible, foolhardy, audacious, ill-advised, imprudent, and unwise.” Thus, "reckless" is the very antithesis of God's definition of love.

Does "reckless" describe our all-knowing, intentional, thoughtful Creator, who carefully and with full authority and purpose spoke the world into existence and created every living thing? In reading Genesis 1 and 2, we clearly see God’s intentionality and His careful attention to detail. Every Word that He speaks generates life and purpose; therefore, He places tremendous importance on every word that proceeds out of our mouths.

God is so intentional, that He had His holy Word carefully recorded so that those who read it would know all truth. His intentionality was further demonstrated when He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. That was not reckless love; it was well thought out and executed perfectly through the perfect, sinless Christ.
You may ask, “What is the big deal about one word?” That one word is not only a big deal to God, it is offensive to Him, because we are saying that His love is thoughtless and careless.
God's intentional Word carries tremendous power and authority, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." He attaches all importance to His preeminent Word, and the words we speak and sing. For by [our] words [we] will justified, and by [our] words [we] will be condemned" (Matthew 12:37)
God has given us gifted, Christian song writers (past and present) who have written doctrinally solid worship and praise songs that exalt God. Therefore, we must carefully examine current song choices to see if they are doctrinally accurate, God-exalting songs. Satan knows that one, wrong word can change the meaning and intent of a song. 
God looks to us to praise and worship Him with our whole mind, body, and spirit (1 Cor. 14:14-15). And because God is a Spirit, we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Peruse the Psalms that David sung unto the Lord. Many of those Psalms were adapted in the 70s and 80s as beautiful songs of worship. I saw firsthand, how God responded to hearing His precious Word sung to Him. Miracles happened, people committed their lives to Christ, many were healed, and lives were radically changed.

Jesus warned that there would be great deception in the last days. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Right now, there are churches who are innocently singing music that is not honoring God. 

The Church must wake up to the enemy's strategies! God is calling His Church to worship Him in all truth. Simply stated, if the lyrics do not line up with God's Word, then the Church must not sing them.
   
PRAYER: Father, forgive me if I have sung songs that have offended and not blessed You. You call me to worship You in spirit and in truth, and that is the desire of my heart. I ask that You give me wisdom and discernment in recognizing songs that worship and glorify You, and those songs that do not honor You. In Jesus’ name, amen.