“We love because He first loved us.”❤️1 John 4:19
Learning much about loving our neighbor this Valentine’s week! ❤️ Yesterday our K-2 students delivered hand crafted Valentine’s cards with lots of smiles and hugs for the residents of Kingswood Place Assisted Living Center next door!
Exodus 4: 13 (NKJV) But he (Moses) said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”
Moses was standing at the burning bush listening to the actual, physical, audible voice of God almighty. God had just given him a staff that would turn into a snake and other miraculous signs. Amazing signs, the voice of God, a burning bush, God’s absolute promise that He would be with Moses – and Moses STILL tries to convince God to send someone else. Isn’t it sad how easily we make excuses for ourselves? We even say “I would go if I saw something like a burning bush.”Really! Be honest with yourself – you know what God wants you to do, deep down, but you (like me) come up with one reason after another why you should be let off the hook. Moses tried the same thing in chapter 3 and 4. He argued that he wasn’t significant enough, that he wasn’t a good enough speaker and finally he just begged God to send someone else. Too often we do the same thing. We argue with ourselves, not realizing we’re really arguing with God’s Spirit that is leading us to make a change or get involved in some action. We try to convince God that we shouldn’t be expected to be moral – after all, we’re weak and emotionally vulnerable. We shouldn’t be expected to get involved in service at the church since we’re too old (Moses was 80 when he faced the burning bush). But God isn’t interested in our excuses, our opinions or our reasons He should call someone else. God said to Moses in vs 12 “Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” What is it that God has called you to do? Where has God called you to act in obedience? What excuses are you making that you need to quit making? “Now therefore, go…”
Philippians 3:13 (NKJV) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
If we honestly believe God has a plan for our lives then it would be wise to consider how well we’re doing. Sometimes, God leads us to set a goal or develop an idea but we can get distracted – even by our own success. The apostle Paul, who wrote these words, was one of the most prolific missionaries in history and wrote about 2/3rds of the New Testament. But as he reflected on the goals he felt God had set for his life he concluded, “I do not count myself to have apprehended” – in other words, I’m not there yet friends! It would have been easy for Paul to “chill out”– after all, he had accomplished more for the Kingdom than most people. But Paul understood that so long as he was alive, he had something more to do for the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth.
Paul learned to “forget what was behind”and “press toward the goal”. The success of the past is in the past. The failures of the past – are in the past. Our task is to remember that God is the God of the living, not the dead (and the past is dead to us). We need to press on because the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is a lofty calling. Perhaps God once called you to participate in the children’s ministry at your church. It would be easy to say in your heart “I’ve been there, done that. I’ve done my time of service. It’s now time to for someone else to help.” It could be that God has indeed called you on to some other point of service but if not, could it be that you need to “forget what is behind”and “press on”? God is calling us to be involved with the advancement of His kingdom all the way to the last minute of our lives – all the way to the end.
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Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”
The history we read about in the Bible is not just campfire stories to help us feel better about life. This history is about real people who faced every imaginable challenge and triumphed through their faith in God. God’s will is that we remain submitted to following Him no matter what circumstance we face. We can be victorious over the challenges we face in our lives too. This doesn’t mean we will always get the job or experience a physical miracle – although we certainly can experience these things if God desires. The point is that trusting God no matter what we face always, I mean ALWAYS, attracts God’s blessing in one way or another. So how should we proceed? Believe that we will always experience amazing things when we decide trust in God by choosing to live for Him no matter what the challenge. We need to become a people who choose to do what is right, rather than what is easy. There will always be a sacrifice in making this choice. We need to quit complaining about the difficulties of faith and simply step out, obeying the voice, the principles and the direction of God and we will experience the hand of God guiding us all the way to the door of eternal life.
Judges 2: 18 (NIV) Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, He was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.
Over and over, in the book of judges, we read how the people were lured away into worshipping other gods so that the true God allowed difficulties to come their way as a means of bringing them back to their senses. What I find encouraging is that even as much as the children of Israel rebelled and fell into sin, God continued to have compassion on them. God doesn’t want to see us under affliction or oppression. So often we put ourselves under affliction: We darn well know better than to lie or cheat or let our emotions rule us – but the lure of a self-centered ambition causes damage in our lives, our relationships disintegrate and we find ourselves “afflicted”. But God will have compassion on us if we cry out to Him. If we’re sincerely willing to turn around and walk God’s way (repentance) God is faithful to have compassion on us. He guarantees it.
Fasting There are all kinds of ways to fast. You can have nothing but liquids for 7 days. You can eschew all forms of sugar and other “sweet meats” as Daniel did. You can decide to eat only one meal a day or only eat before and after sunset. Whatever you choose to do – make sure it is a genuine sacrifice.
A fast is designed as an “act of worship”. It’s NOT designed to manipulate God or try to control the outcome of a situation or circumstance. Instead, as an act of worship, it is a means of demonstrating to God the sincerity of our request, ALWAYS saying “nevertheless, Lord God, not my will but yours be done in this situation.” Fasting reminds us that all we have comes from God. As an act of worship it pleases God.
2 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 2 (NKJV) Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
The word “shaken” in Greek is sä-lyü’-ō at it implies being tossed about, as from the winds of a great storm. The word really implies being unhinged in mind or terrified. It is easy to allow fear and anxiety to overwhelm us when we look around us and see so many blows against all that we believe is holy and good. These gusts of cultural assault come from all directions and, like a storm tossed sea, it can appear overwhelming, even terrifying.
But Paul wants us NOT to allow these things to “unhinge” our confidence in God. Many followers of Jesus fret and cry out “what is happening to our world? What are we to do?” But we are to consciously keep ourselves from being filled with fear or anxiety, even in the face of stormy seas, because we have been warned that these times would come. And also, with this warning, we’ve been given the promise that God is in control. God holds the unveiling of the end of things in His hand and He holds our eternal destinies. There is nothing to fear, for even if we face physical loss in this life it is nothing in comparison to the rich, eternal reward promised to all those who follow Him. So, let’s remember the last 2 verses of this chapter in 2 Thessalonians, and continue standing firm for our king in these final and crooked generations: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish your in every good word and work.”
Genesis 42: 36 (NKJV) And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”
There was a famine in the land of Canaan and Jacob’s sons had gone to Israel to buy food. Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead when, in fact, his other sons had sold Joseph as a slave into Egypt and lied to Jacob saying that he had died. From Jacob’s perspective, everything was falling apart. The ruler of Egypt had taken his son Simeon as a hostage and was demanding Benjamin as well. The situation looked bleak.
But we know that the ruler of Egypt was none other than Joseph, Jacob’s lost son. Joseph was testing his brothers to see if they would sell out Simeon or Benjamin to save their own skins. When they passed the test in Genesis chapter 45, Joseph revealed himself as their brother and sent for his father Jacob. Everything that Jacob thought was conspiring against him was actually lining up to save the lives of Jacob’s entire family. God had a plan and even though Jacob could not see it, his adversity was actually part of the solution to his problem.
This is also true in our lives. If we serve God, in the end, things will work out because God promises…“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). We just have to hang in there, continue to be thankful and trust God that He will work things out – just like things worked out for Jacob.
Psalm 19:1 (NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There are some 8 octillion stars. That would be enough for every living person to own about 3 trillion. Up until the invention of the telescope, most people believed there were only about 3,000 stars because that was all you could see with unaided eye. But God revealed the truth to His prophets long before “science”. God said, “in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore….” (Gen 22:17 NKJV)
The fine-tuning of the balance between gravity and expansion in the universe is precisely perfect for life to exist on this planet, estimated to be one part in at least a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion. That would be a ten followed by fifty-three zeros. That’s inconceivably precise. Everywhere we look, as far as we can see, there is breathtaking beauty and precision. Just the fine-tuning of the universe alone should be enough to confirm that only God, who is greater than time, space and matter, could have engineered it. And if He engineered something as vast and stunning as the rainbow of galaxies that spin around us, surely He knows how to steer me through life. This is why the same passage I quoted for this devotion also says “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple”. Lest we forget how precise our God is, go out into your yard tonight and just look up….