Wednesday, May 31, 2006

God's Will is Humility

God desires humility in our lives. In fact, He promises exaltation to the one who is humble. Luke 14:11 says, "For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Since humility is required for entrance into God's family (Mat.5:3), and to receive God's Word (Jas.1:21), let's "draw near to God" (Jas.4:8) and "humble" ourselves "in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (Jas.4:10).

To help you more with this subject, I recommend C.J. Mahaney's excellent book, "Humility: True Greatness" and Stuart Scott's booklet, "From Pride to Humility." Both can be purchased from Grace Books International or your favorite Christian bookstore.

To read Changed By Grace Community Church's elder's recommended reading list, click here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

God's Call in Your Life (Pt.2)

All believers are called to ministry. It’s not just for the pastor or missionary but for all of God’s children. The call begins at salvation with a call to follow Jesus. When God elects and calls His children to salvation He empowers them with supernatural gifts to function in the body. Some other notable features of his ministry is the call to faithfulness.

The Call to Ministry is a Call to Faithfulness

Every believer is called to be faithful in the power of the Spirit. One of those areas of faithful service is a devotion to prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." The child of God, regardless of the labor, will devote himself to unrelenting prayer. E. M. Bounds states that "The ministry of prayer, if it be anything worthy of the name, is a ministry of hard labor, a ministry of unwearied and intense longing after God and after His holiness. To be too busy with God’s work to commune with God, to be busy with doing Church work without taking time to talk to God about His work, is the highway to backsliding, and many people have walked therein to the hurt of their immortal souls" (The Essentials of Prayer, pp.34, 36).

The Call to Ministry is a Call to Compassion

In addition to unrelenting prayer, the call to ministry is also a call to compassion. Jesus is the greatest model of compassion. Matthew 9:36 reveals that this characterized His ministry. It says, "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." People mattered to Jesus, so much that He met their greatest need (Rom.5:8). In Matthew 14:12-14 we see that after the "disciples came and took away the body (of John the Baptist) and buried it," Matthew says they "went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick." Even when He needed a moment alone, He had compassion on those who needed Him. To minister to the body of Christ and the world, we must be follow the example of Jesus by being faithful in prayer and compassionate towards people. But that will only be possible when we love as He loved (see John 13:12-17).

How are you at praying and having compassion for others? I know we struggle with praying "without ceasing," but what about having compassion on those in need. If we can learn anything today, let’s learn from the example of Jesus. He ministered in the power of the Spirit (Mat.3:16) to those in His path. He also ministered against tradition. He was more interested in people rather than institutions (see Mat.23:1-12). This caused Him to also reach out those those who were not Jewish (see John 4). So if God places before you a brother or sister in need, have compassion for them and love them like Jesus does.

Monday, May 29, 2006

God's Call in Your Life (Pt.1)

What do you think of when you hear the word "ministry?" Do you think of pastors, staff, missionaries or evangelists? God has a call for everyone! Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us about those He has called to be His equippers in the church so that the saints can be equipped for ministry. It says, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Where does God’s call begin? It begins with a call to follow Jesus and that begins at salvation.

The Call to Follow Jesus

The gospel is a call to follow Jesus. In Matthew 16:24, "Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." The greatest invitation of Scripture begins with a call to deny yourself. Thomas Winslow said, "Dying! It is the privilege of the child of God to "die daily." Dying to the power of inbred sin, the lusts of the flesh; the pride of life; the attractions of the world; the idolatry of the creature, and the still greater idolatry of self. Before you can take up [your] cross, you have to die to self.

If you’re not willing to die to yourself, you will never die to Christ. Included with denying your self is denying your possessions. Jesus said in Luke 14:33, "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all he has cannot be My disciple." You don’t have to sell all you have to follow Jesus but you must do all that Jesus says to follow Him. If He says "Give your money or possessions away and follow Me," that’s what you need to do. But to state it any further Jesus says you must deny your family. In Matthew 10:37, He says, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" To follow Jesus you must be willing to put you and all the things dear to you aside and put Christ first. That means you must love Him more than any thing or any person. This is something that continues throughout your walk with Jesus. To follow Him, you must die daily.

The Call to Follow Jesus is Also a Call to Ministry

Everyone is given a general call to ministry or service. This is proven by the simple fact that all believers have a spiritual gift. Romans 12:6 says, "Having then gifts..." According to 1 Corinthians 12:11 the Holy Spirit decides what gift you have. Paul says, "But one and the same Spirit works all these things (referring to the list of gifts in vv.8-10), distributing to each one individually as He wills." Since the Holy Spirit decides what gift you have that means your gift is unique. Though there may be many in the church with the same gift, it’s function will be unique to each individual. But whatever your gift, it is to be used (Rom.12:6-8) and it’s to edify the church (1 Cor.12:7; 14:12).

Have you come to Jesus? Did you deny yourself, take up your cross to follow Him? If the answer is yes, are you using the gift the Holy Spirit has given you to minister in the church (Christ’s body)? If not, then you are a spectator rather than a participant in the function of the body. And just as the human body needs all it’s parts to function, so does the body need you.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Which God Are You Serving?

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex.20:1-6).

Israel was to worship the God of the exodus. They were to serve Him only. There were not to fashion themselves as the other nations. But were to worship the One true God. In Deuteronomy 6:4 God told them, "Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is One." There is only one God and He must be worshiped in a prescribed manner. But not everyone believes in the monotheism of God. Some believe in a polytheistic God (multiple gods) while others do not believe that God exists at all. But for those who do believe that He exists they see Him in six ways:

An Eager Bellhop

Some see God as an eager bellop whose always there when you need him. He carries your baggage. He never argues with you because you're in charge. His only responsibility is to make you happy. What he gets from you is: a smile, a thank you, and, if he's lucky, a tip.

A Stern School Teacher

Others see God as a stern school teacher whose destiny it seems is to ruin a year of your life. He's the ultimate record keeper who monitors all your activities and gives hard tests to see if his students suffer. He has wants and demands but seemingly never gives or encourages.

An Impersonal Scientist

If it's not an eager bellhop or a stern school teacher then it's an impersonal scientist. He's intellectual but not emotional. He spends all his time locked away in his heavenly labortory working on unknowable wonders.

A Clever Magician

A fourth way people see God is as a clever magician who must always work through signs, miracles and wonders. If there is no manifestation of power, they conclude God really isn't involved. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign" (Mat.16:4).

A Heavenly Grandfather

Yet there are those who see God as a heavenly grandfather whose presence is acknowledged. He's invited occasionally and smiles and tells them he loves them when they misbehave.

Mr. Fix-It

Last but not least, some view God as Mr. Fix-it. To view God merely as Mr. Fix-it makes Him worthless for anything else. He's great when were in a fix; but unnecessary when everything is going well.

How do you perceive God? Do you view Him in any of the ways listed above. The best place to see God is in the Bible. It is there where He is revealed. Let me encourage you today to read the Bible and make sure you see God as He is revealed in His Word.

(Points extracted from Masterpiece Magazine by Gregg Cantelmo, pp.6-7).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What is Your View of God?

"On January 7, 1855, the minister of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, England, opened his morning sermon as follows:

‘It has been said by someone that "the proper study of mankind is man." I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. . .

But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. . . . The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.

And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.

These words, spoken over a century ago by C. H. Spurgeon (at that time, incredibly, only twenty years old) were true then, and they are true now. Many people have various views of God. Erwin Lutzer, in his book, "Ten Lies About God," writes: "‘I believe in God’ is perhaps one of the most meaningless statements we can make today. The word God has become a canvas on which each is free to paint his own portrait of the divine; like the boy scribbling at his desk, we can draw God according to whatever specifications we please. For some He is ‘psychic energy"; for others He is ‘whatever is stronger than I am’ or ‘an inner power to lead us to deeper consciousness.’ To say, ‘I believe in God’ might simply mean that we are seeing ourselves in a full-length mirror" (pp.2-3). Donald McCullough adds: "When the true story gets told, whether in the partial light of historical perspective or in the perfect light of eternity, it may well be revealed that the worst sin of the church at the end of the twentieth century has been the trivialization of God...We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions" (Quoted in Ten Lies About God by Erwin Lutzer).

How do you see God? Do you see Him as "a safer deity" or a "God of more manageable proportions?" The best place to get a safe view of God is from the Bible. For it is there where God is revealed. Begin reading His Word today as Jesus taught the disciples to pray. He said, "Hallowed by Your Name" (Mat.6:9).

Click here for a fuller treatment of this subject.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Desiring God (Pt.2)

Yesterday we looked at Psalm 42:1-2 where David indicates the insatiable desire he had for God. I asked whether we have this same desire. Notice the intensity of it. "As a deer pants." He is literally "longing" for water. David describes this as his desire for God. He didn't feel this way about the world. Remember the apostle John said, "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. 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. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17). Do you "pant" after God? Is that your "soul's longing." I know that we are hindered by sin and the flesh, even David indicated to us in Psalm 103:1 that he had to tell his "soul" to "bless the Lord." But do you do this? How can we cultivate this kind of longing? Well, I believe it begins with what we're craving or I should say "who" we are craving. David craved for God. The deer craved for water. When you want God that bad then you will have the desire that David talks about here. Begin by asking Him to consume your desires. Make a priority to put Him first today. Start by prayer and reading His Word. I guarantee your desire will grow and change as you do this. The key is "priority." Read Psalm 37:4 and see what the key was in David's desire in this verse and apply that in your heart today.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Desiring God (Pt.1)

Psalm 42:1-2 says, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (emphasis added).

Have you ever had this kind of desire for God? One that just drives you to Him? In this passage, the psalmist gives us the truest expression of a child of God in worship. His "soul thirts for God." There are so many things to distract us from this kind of relationship that we rarely thirst for God like this. Notice that all of his focus was on having God now which is why he asked "When shall I come and appear before God?" In the world we live in having God now is the last thing many want. They want Him only after they have had their fill of this life but not so with David. He had a heart for God and it shows itself right here in this psalm.

If I could encourage you today I would challenge you to feast on God's Word. Begin by taking small bites, like reading through a book in the New Testament (e.g., 1 John). Then move to larger books (e.g., John). Before you know it you will find yourself desiring God's Word more. You see, when you want God that much then you are desiring the right things -- not to mention thirsting for the right One. So as "the deer pants" so must you. Pant after Him today!