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Argument With The Almighty

argue with God

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

The Bible teaches us that there is indeed a proper place for argument with the Almighty in the life of the disciple of Christ. Let’s examine this idea, and may you be encouraged to continue fighting the good fight of faith as you begin yet another week of walking with our Lord.

Some of the great saints in sacred Scripture can be found arguing with God . . . and God allowed it for His glory and their good.

Consider Gideon. When God called him to lead the Israelites in battle against the mighty Midianite Army, Gideon argued with God. First, he argued that his clan was too weak and that he, Gideon, was too insignificant. Then he asked for confirmation that he was really hearing from God; but even after realizing that he had spoken face-to-face with the preincarnate Christ, Gideon still argued for a sign, wanting to be absolutely sure that the Lord intended for him to lead Israel. Gideon set out a fleece of wool on the dry threshing floor and said if there was dew on the fleece alone the next morning, he would believe God’s message. God caused that to happen just as Gideon had asked, but Gideon argued yet again, this time asking for the fleece to be dry and dew to be on the ground all around it. Once again, God graciously accommodated to Gideon’s arguing. Finally, fully convinced, Gideon watched in amazement as God shrank his army down from 32.000 men to only 300. Gideon then went forth and led the Israelites in victory against Midian.

Please note this all-important biblical truth:

Almighty argument is allowed only to convince us . . . never to convince God!

Consider Moses at the burning bush; God commanded Him to go back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh’s bondage. Moses had absolutely no desire to go back to Egypt, from which he had fled 40 years earlier after he killed the Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. First, Moses argued from his inadequacy to answer God’s call (just as Gideon did). After God accommodated that argument, Moses anticipated a question from God’s people and argued from the basis of unbelief, objecting that the Israelites would never believe God sent him as their deliverer. After God accommodated that argument, Moses went on to argue that he lacked the ability to speak eloquently. After God accommodated that argument, notice what happened next:

Moses said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses. (Exodus 3:13-14)

Argument with the Almighty is allowed . . . but there is indeed a limit. God allows our argument only to the point of clearly confirming our call. Once confirmed by God, we then must answer the call . . . not argue any longer against it.

It is natural for us to argue with the Almighty against His call just like Gideon and Moses. Do you know why? Because God never calls us to anything that does not require God’s strength to accomplish it. And therein lies the rub. We fear having to trust and depend solely upon God, but that is the only way God works with His people! God always calls us to do what we could never do in our own strength so that we, and all those around us, will know that it was God—and not us—who is responsible for the victory.

So let me ask you this question: Have you been arguing with God about something He has been calling you to do? Perhaps it is time to walk by faith and not by sight and see what marvelous and mighty things God has called you to do for His glory and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering why I began today’s message with Matthew 4:19, it is because I wanted to highlight the response of Peter and Andrew to the call of the Word of God on their lives: “At once they left their nets and followed him.”

May that be the confession of your life and mine: “Here am I; send me!”

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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God’s Greatest Servant

Walk to the light

Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.  (Psalm 119:91)

Did you know that God’s greatest servant is also our greatest fear? At least it is the greatest fear for those who know not the Christ, and that fear is . . .

DEATH!

What is death? First, it is the promised consequence of disobedience that God made to Adam in Eden. And God made good on His promise after Adam and Eve sinned. They died spiritually immediately, just as God had warned, and they would die physically years later. Along with humanity, all of creation was affected by their sin and it still groans today (Romans 8:22).

But death is more than just the promised consequence of disobeying God; death is God’s servant. In fact, death is God’s greatest servant. Why? Because death brings every child of God home to that place that the Savior has been preparing for us (John 14:2).

For unbelievers, death is a terrifying thing. Whether they believe it or not, death apart from Christ is the doorway leading into hell, an eternity of separation from the love of God, where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). Death for the unbeliever is the awful entrance into the eternal wrath and judgment of God. To be sure, death is fearful beyond words for those who have not surrendered control of their lives to Christ, but for the Christian believer who has transferred trust from self to the Savior, death is God’s greatest servant.

Marinate for a moment on what the apostle Paul said about God’s greatest servant:

To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

Death is gain for the believer; it is unimaginable gain—so much so that it is too great for our finite minds to comprehend. Scripture tells us, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and the mind has not conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Every day on this side of the grave is pointing to that day, the day when we will be welcomed home into glory.

Death comes to all of us. But it comes to the believer as a minister of the Master, doing the Lord’s bidding in bringing us to our real home, a glorious home where we will live forever and ever with our Lord and all of His people.

Let me close with some lovely words from C. S. Lewis. This is the conclusion to The Last Battle, the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia series:

All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Divine Diet

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When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.  (Jeremiah 15:16)

When I ask members of our congregation, “What does the Bible mean to you?” their true answer is easy to discern, no matter what they might say; The Bible means as much to you as the amount of time you spend in it. It really is that simple. Think about others things in life. The more you like something—a special food, a favorite recreation, an important relationship—the more time you spend engaging with it. Well, the same is true for the Word of God.

Think about our opening verse for a moment. What do you think the Word of God meant to the prophet Jeremiah? Jeremiah was on what I call a “Divine Diet.” He feasted on the Word of God; and when God’s Word is your food, it becomes your joy and your heart’s delight.

What have you been feasting on lately? How much time do you spend in God’s Word each day? How has the Word of God been shaping and sharpening your life?

I think we would agree that Jesus knew the Word of God better than anyone . . . spoke the Word of God better than anyone . . . and lived out the truths of the Word of God better than anyone. When Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34), He was making it perfectly clear just how important the Scriptures were to Him. As God, Jesus was the Word of God. But as a man, He needed to study, meditate on, and marinate in, and pray through the Word of God in order to know and do the will of God. And what was true for Jesus then is true for you and me today.

Because the Word of God is both living and active (Hebrews 4:12), the more we come to it, the more alive we are made to it, and the more active we become in living it out. When we are on a Divine Diet of both the Old and the New Testaments, we become more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and we are increasingly strengthened to follow wherever He is leading us.

Remember, after Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested, He used the Word of God to defeat the devil, saying, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

So . . . how’s your diet? Are you getting all the nourishment you need to be all God is calling you to be? Remember, God wrote the Bible so we would read it . . . and the Book we don’t read won’t help!

One last thought: This is the only diet in the world where you can eat all you want, whenever you want, and all you will ever gain is a heart filled with joy!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Being Still Is Still Something

  peace

“Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Many of us have a tendency to think that if we are not busily and frenetically engaged in doing something for the Lord, then we are doing nothing for Him. Not true! What about the times when we are to sit at the feet of our Savior and be still?

Being still is still something, and it is the something we all need much more than we think we do. Why? Because the natural man is addicted to activity. We think we must be like the Energizer Bunny and just keep going and going and going . . .

I want to encourage you today with two examples from Scripture which demonstrate that being still is still something.

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more.” (Exodus 14:13)

After having been freed from more than 400 years of bondage in Egypt, the Israelites were on the way toward the Promised Land. There was a major problem, however; Pharaoh had changed his mind about freeing the people and was furiously pursuing the Israelites, who were confronted by a seemingly impassable roadblock: the Red Sea. You know the story: after a bit of grumbling and complaining, the people of God obeyed the command to “stand still,” and they did indeed see and experience the salvation of the Lord as they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground and then saw the waters close over the Egyptian army and destroy it.

Being still was still something for the Israelites; it demonstrated their trust in and dependence on the Lord God. Now let’s look at the New Testament:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and aside, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

What a profound illustration of being still still being something! In fact, Jesus indicated that it is the best of things. Martha and her sister Mary were both busily engaged in preparing the meal for Jesus. Both women served the Lord and both loved the Lord. But Martha saw the meal as the most important thing, while Mary saw the Master as the most important thing. Martha was addicted to activity; Mary was adoring Jesus.

The message is clear. There is most definitely a time to work . . . but there are also those vitally important times for us to be still in the presence of our Savior. The question that you and I must ask ourselves is this: “Does my life reflect my understanding of the importance of both those times?”

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Divine Diminisher

plant in cracked earth

He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste. (Psalm 107:33-34)

When is a dry desert better than a river that overflows with water? When God delivers it for our good and His glory!

You and I will shout from the rooftops and sing God’s praises when He graciously showers us with His abundance of good gifts. But what about those times when God graciously turns flowing springs into a thirsty ground and fruitful land into a salt waste? Are those “Hallelujahs” issuing forth during those times?

How good is our God? He is so good that He will not let too much of a “good thing” come between us and Him. Think about the last time you were knee-deep in an abundant harvest. These are the times when we tend to drift from the One who has provided it. We have a tendency to become self-sufficient and self-centered, looking to the great gifts we have been given . . . rather than adoring the great Giver of those gifts.

God is in the business of multiplying and diminishing. The Divine Diminisher will not tolerate any rivals. So when we turn to other “gods,” He will turn us back to Him by turning rivers into deserts and fruitful lands into a salty waste. Christian, this too is a time to shout from the rooftops and sing His praises! God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him, so He will not let anything capture and keep our affection. To be sure, many lesser “gods” compete for our affection, but God will not allow them to keep it. Do you remember what God said to the serpent in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned?

I will put enmity between you and the woman . . . (Genesis 3:15)

After Adam and Eve sinned, they had become friends with the devil. But God stepped in and made it perfectly clear that He would not allow the devil to keep their affection; Satan had captured it, to be sure, but God stepped in and made sure he could not keep it. And from that day forth, the battle rages on within you and me, and it will continue all the way into glory.

So the next time God decides to diminish something in your life—when He turns a flowing spring of some success into a dry and thirsty ground—remember what He is doing: He is showing you just how much He loves you! He began a good work in you, and He has promised to carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Praise His mighty name!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Holy Laughter

young-boy-laughing

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2)

If someone asked you to define the word “laughter,” how would you respond? Here is a typical definition: a response to something clever, humorous, or absurd that touches our “funny bone,” resulting in an outburst of laughter. I’m sure you have heard that laughter is good for the soul (Proverbs 17:22), but there is another kind of laughter that is not only good for the soul, but is absolutely glorifying to God.

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17)

Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Genesis 21:6-7)

This is holy laughter. This laughter comes from the depths of a soul that trusts in God completely, in spite of the circumstances, knowing, just as the psalmist knew, that our Lord has done great things for us. God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations, and He kept his promise when Abraham had reached the ripe old age of 100; Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was 90. Holy laughter submits and surrenders to the will and work of God in His timing and in His way. Holy laughter springs from a soul that magnifies the Lord when the sky is blue and the clouds are fleecy . . . and also when dark storm clouds roll in, bearing hurricane-force winds.

One of the lessons that you and I must take from Abraham and Sarah is just how insignificant our obstacles truly are to God. When we think about our problems, which we so often make into mountains, we must remember that those same problems look like insignificant molehills to the Almighty. To be sure, the obstacles for a couple as old as Abraham and Sarah to conceive a child were absolutely overwhelming. In the natural realm, such a thing was utterly impossible. But remember, with God nothing is impossible when it comes to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. That thought should fill us with holy laughter from the time we put our feet on the ground at the start of the day until the time we slip under the covers at night.

A sense of humor is a good thing, but it can be shallow, secular, and devoid of the supernatural. But holy laughter—laughter that is rooted in the truth of who God is, what God has done, and what God has promised to do—should be the mark of every disciple of Christ. The gift of holy laughter flows from a spiritual vision that has been shaped by the promises of God . . . promises that find their “Yes!” and “Amen!” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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More Than A Feeling

hands of service

You desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  (Psalm 51:6)

When you are walking out of corporate worship, how often do you hear someone say something like, “I was really moved today” . . . “The tears were really flowing”? . . . “My emotions were deeply touched today”? That can be a good thing, but if our response to the preaching of the Word of God stops at a feeling and does not move us on to faithfulness, it is less than a good thing. The goal of the Christian life is to go beyond feelings and stop at nothing short of all-out faithfulness.

When we are truly stirred by the Holy Spirit, our emotions do not simply come and go. They come and go with the hands and feet of Christ. Our emotions manifest themselves by extending the mercy of our Master to mend a broken heart. The emotions go forth and express themselves by pouring out the grace of our God in delivering good works to others. Emotions that become the fuel that ignites the fire of our faithfulness are emotions that have been delivered to us from on high . . . and for two reasons only:

For God’s Glory

&

The Good of All Others!

The Old Testament prophets were quick to condemn the emptiness of emotions that were not accompanied by an outward expression of good works. It is very emotional to tear the clothing . . . to put on sackcloth . . . to heap ashes upon the head . . . and to sacrifice the fatted ram. But when all of these outward expressions of emotion are not followed up with the faithful obedience of the heart, they are empty, shallow, and utterly devoid of meaning that would give glory to God. May God give us the grace to live out this profound truth from the inspired pen of the prophet Joel, “Rend your heart and not your garments” (2:13).

So . . . how emotional have you been lately in your worship of your God? Have you walked out of church emotionally moved, but with no corresponding movement of your hands and feet?

Let me close today with a word of great encouragement from the apostle Paul:

I pray that out of his glorious riches [the Father] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:16-17)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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