What we really need!

Needs abound everywhere you look!  Quite frankly the needs are often overwhelming.  We see needs in our own lives, in our families, in our church, in our community, in our country, and in our world.  Some days our eyes are far more open to the needs around us than others.  Whether today is one of those days for you or not, the fact remains we are in great need!

Needs manifest themselves in many ways.  You don’t have to look far to see great financial needs.  Many are facing physical needs of one type or another.  Mental and emotional needs seem to be at an all time high.  Of course the greatest needs are spiritual in nature.  In fact, the greatest need every human being has is spiritual.  We all need a personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.  But today, I want us to ask a different question.

What is the greatest need of God’s people?

While the answer to this probing question may be framed in various ways, the Lord clearly led me to a passage today that continues to burn in my heart.  It has been over a week since my last blog post.  The reason is, my schedule has been beyond busy.  While the Lord’s time has been protected and a major blessing in my life each day, I have struggled to find time to write and share a portion of His work in my own life with you for several days now.  In fact, I did not plan on doing so today and really do not have time to write these words.  However, two verses caught my attention so much a few moments ago that I just had to share.  “I cannot help but speak…” (or write in this case).

A friend is leading an event in Tennessee this week.  Last week I committed to spend a portion of my prayer time directed towards the event.  In addition, the Father has lead me many times over the last week to stop what I was doing and pray for my friend and the work the Lord is doing in TN this week.  Occasionally my friend has been sending out reports of what God is doing, and it is truly exciting.  I just took a quick look at my email and saw a report come in and was lead to stop and read it.  In the report he mentioned Psalm 80:4, which I promptly read.  The Father led me to continue to read the entire Psalm, rather than just verse four.  There is one verse that is repeated twice in the Psalm, word for word.  It is found in verse seven and again in verse nineteen.

Restore us, Oh LORD God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!”

As soon as I read these words in verse seven the Spirit burned them into my heart.  This is exactly what we, God’s children, need today!  We need the LORD to “restore us” and to “cause His face to shine.”

Too often we look to the White House, the Congress, the Courts, a political party or a political action group to “save us.”  We think that if we just get the right person, persons, or party, in power our land will be healed.  We often blame all the problems of this nation on others. While all the time we ignore the fact that we, the children of God, are far from Him.  WE do not love Him like we should.  WE do not rely on Him as we should.  WE do not adjust our lives to obey Him as we should.  Then we blame everyone else for the ills of this nation.

It is time that WE, the people of God, turn to Him in prayer.  WE need to acknowledge our sin.  WE need to entreat our Father to “restore us!”   WE need to ask Him to once again “cause His face to shine ” on us!  For, when He does, “we will be saved!”

An Example to Follow

How do you handle it when you are mistreated?  What if you are mistreated and later have the opportunity to do something about it.  Imagine being mistreated by a co-worker who really caused you pain.  A little time passes and eventually you receive a promotion in the company.  Now the person who mistreated you answers directly to you.  How would you treat that person?  How would you want to treat him/her?

 

God’s Word has much to say about how He wants us to treat those who wrong us.  In the latter chapters of Genesis we find an excellent example to follow.  Joseph was horribly mistreated by his older brothers.  He was his Dad’s favorite and his brothers didn’t like it.  One day when Dad was not around, they sold him into slavery.  He ended up in Egypt, but rather than wallowing in self-pity Joseph served his new master faithfully.

 

While serving in Potifer’s house Joseph was falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit and was promptly thrown into prison.  Once again Joseph responded by trusting God and serving faithfully, even in prison.  Through the providence of our Mighty Lord, he was not only delivered from prison but was made the highest ruler in Egypt, next to Pharaoh himself.

 

Through the course of time, the Lord not only used him to save the land of Egypt, but Joseph also saved the lives of his Dad, his brothers, and their families.  After their Dad died, the brothers were certain Joseph would now take revenge on them and have them killed for the evil they had committed toward their brother.  Therefore they concocted a plan.  Consider the text with me.

 

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. “Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:15-21)

 

From a human perspective most of us would say Joseph had the right to avenge his brothers.  In his case, he also had the authority to have them put to death at will.  Yet, notice Joseph’s response.  He says:  “Do not be afraid, am I in the place of God?”  Notice his next statement:  “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  Joseph understood that though his brothers did him wrong, God brought something good from their failure.  He trusted the Lord and took care of his brothers.  We serve an Awesome God!  He is worthy of our trust!  Even when bad things happen to us.  He is at work to cause all things to come together for our good and for His glory!

 

Has someone hurt you?  Don’t seek revenge.  Instead, trust God!  Leave it to Him to deal with the one who caused your pain.  Trust the Lord to take what that person meant for evil and use it for your good and His glory!

A Missing Element…

Parents, do you ever feel like your kids treat you like a vending machine?  The other day I was listening to Tim Conway talk about his kids.  He said to make things easier on them he simply installed an ATM machine at the house.  Through the years I have heard many parents complain that once their children reach a certain age the only time they speak is when they want something.

Often we treat our Heavenly Father the same way.   When we go to God in prayer we rush in with our laundry list of requests and rush out again.  In reality the LORD wants us to make our requests known!  In fact, He commands us to do so repeatedly throughout the Bible.  The fact is our God delights to hear His children bring their petitions before Him.  The very act of making requests demonstrates a level of humility and dependence that our Lord desires.

Yet, making requests should not consume all our prayer time.  Rather, we should take time to offer praise and thanksgiving to our Awesome God!  Do you remember the 10 lepers Jesus healed when He was here on earth?  Jesus met them on the side of the road.  When they called out for mercy He replied, “go show yourself to the priest.”  As they went, responding in faith and obedience, they were healed.  Yet, only one returned to give Jesus thanks.[1]  Let me challenge you to be like the one that returned.  Take time everyday to thank God for His blessings on you.

Don’t just focus on thanksgiving, but make praise a part of your daily life as well.  Consider the words of the last Psalm.

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!

Psalms 150:1-6

 

The Psalm begins and ends by telling us what to do:  Praise the LORD!

The Psalm tells us where to praise:  In the place of worship & anywhere in the world!

The Psalm tells us why we should praise:  because of What He does! & because of Who He Is!

The Psalm tells us how to praise:  with instruments, with actions, & with voice!

Decide today that Praise & Thanksgiving will become a part of your daily life.


[1] Luke 17:11-19

The Test

Do you hate taking tests as much as my students? Most people don’t like to to take tests. Yet, the reality is tests are a part of life. There are spiritual tests that are far more important than academic test. One of the most important tests is the test of love. This test has only one question. No one can take this test for you. You are the only person on earth that can answer this question. The test is scored by God, and God alone. Are you ready? Who or what do you love the most? Don’t be too quick to answer! First consider what the Beloved, Apostle John said about the issue. “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.” 1John 2:15 Whatever you answer you give to this question essentially falls into one of two options. Either you love God first and foremost, or you love someone or something in the world the most. While most believers will quickly give assent to the love of God, the question is does our lives demonstrate this reality? Do we show we love God first, by the way we spend our time, our talents, and our treasures? Or, do we simply give lip service to loving God, while all the while we focus on our own wants and desires? Ultimately, this is a matter of the heart! Only you and God know the answer to this question. Over the years I have met people who were “well off” financially, but they did not have a love for the things of this life. Rather, it was very clear their focus was on loving God. At the same time I have met people with very little of this world’s goods, who were constantly focused on the things of this world. I once heard a preacher say, “It is not what you got, it is what has got you!” What is it that captures your attention? What is it that is most on your mind? Is it the Love of the Father, or the love of the world? “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful grace, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

The Ministry

When you think of the term “the ministry” what comes to your mind?  For some it is a man in a clerical collar.  Others think of someone in a suit and tie who works for the church.  Today, many people simply think of those who are on the professional ministerial staff of a local church.

 

The more important question is not what you or I think of when we think of “the ministry” or of those whose job it is “to minister.”  Rather, the most important question is, “Who does God hold accountable to be involved in ministry?”  Consider today’s passage with me.

 

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”  (Eph 4:11-12)

 

There is no doubt that Jesus Himself called the Apostles to fulfill a ministry of establishing the early Church.  They had a unique and specific role to fulfill.  He also called some to be prophets.  In both the Old and New Testaments most of the prophet’s focus was on forth-telling the Word of God, not fore-telling.  Today, we have the Word of God complete and so I see the gift of prophet as one who forth-tells the Word of God in a forthright fashion.  Those with the gift of evangelist focus on telling the Good News of the Gospel. The Pastor/teacher keeps his focus on the expositional preaching/teaching of the Word of God bringing about both conversion and spiritual growth.

Often today believers tend to think that all ministry happens as a result of the work of the pastor/teacher, the evangelist, and the missionary.  However, that is clearly not the emphasis of the text before us today.  Notice what these leadership roles are charged with in Ephesians 4:12.  These leaders have been tasked with the responsibility to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

Whose job is it to minister to the Body of Christ?  Whose job is it to edify (build up) the Body of Christ?  According to the Bible, it is the job of every saint!  Every believer has been charged by God to get involved in ministering to others.  You should minister to other believers!  You should minister to the lost!  The pastor certainly has a job to do, but the full force of the ministry does NOT belong to him.  He is to equip you to get involved in the Lord’s work!  The fact is, if you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you are responsible to minister to others.

 

Want to walk by faith?  Then get involved in God’s work!  Go to your pastor this week and tell him you have not been doing your part.  Tell him you want to minister to others.  Ask your pastor to equip you to do the work of the ministry.  Then learn from him, and get busy ministering to the Body.

A Challenging Example

Last week we saw the LORD’s fulfillment of His promise to Abraham when He gave Isaac to be the Patriarch’s heir.  What shock it must have been to Abraham when several years later the LORD appeared to Abraham again and told him to take Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice to God.  The story is recorded in Genesis 22.  Today, I have been thinking about three or four verses from this story.

 
When Abraham arrived at the place where he saw Mt. Moriah in the distance he spoke to two servants who had travelled with the Patriarch and his son.  Consider his words.

 
And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’”  (Gen 22:5)

 
Notice carefully Abraham’s words, “the lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you.”  After all the ups and downs of Abraham’s faith in the past, it is as though he has learned his lesson.  He may not have understood why the LORD sent him on this errand.  He may not have known what the day would hold.  What he did know is that the LORD had clearly indicated that through Isaac Abraham would become a great nation and through this son, the entire world would be blessed.  Therefore, he concluded in faith that the two of them would return alive.

 
A few verses later Abraham demonstrates his faith once again.  Isaac looked around and saw the wood for the sacrifice as well as the stuff needed to start a fire.  What he didn’t see was a sacrifice.  So he asked his dad about the sacrifice.  Consider Abraham’s response.

 
And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together.”  (Gen 22:8)

 
As you read the story you learn that Abraham was willing to obey God without reservation.  When they arrived on top of Mt. Moriah they built an alter, prepared the wood, and then Abraham placed Isaac on the altar.  He took out a knife and raised it, then God intervened.  The LORD stopped him from proceeding and let him know he had passed the test.  Look what happened next.

 
Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-WILL-PROVIDE; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided.’”  (Gen 22:13-14)

 
Abraham’s faith and obedience was rewarded!  He didn’t understand, but he trusted God, obeyed God and waited to see how the LORD would fulfill His promise.  The Father does not always provide in the way or the time that we expect, but He always fulfills His promises.  He always provides!

 
What are you facing today that you need to simply trust to the LORD?  What is He calling you to do today?  Trust and Obey!  He will do what He says He will do!

Impossible!?

Often in life we find ourselves facing what seems to be an impossible situation.  Sometimes we allow our circumstances to completely overwhelm us and we give up hope.  If that is where you are at today, let me ask you a question.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14)

 
Maybe today you would say, “I believe God can do anything and I have claimed that promise and been waiting and waiting for Him to act.  Yet, nothing has changed.”

 
What are you facing today that seems impossible?  Ask yourself, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14)

 
Today’s thoughts are excerpts from this month’s NEBC newsletter coming out on Friday March 22, 2013.  To read the full article, go to the NEBC website (www.nebcvt.org) today and sign up for our monthly newsletter.