Tag Archives: listen to God

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

 

Whenever I see this verse, I have to ask myself “How will I ever achieve this?”  A pure heart is a rare thing, and when I consider the heart I once had, full of ornery, deceitful, sinful, vile things I have to wonder how I can ever get all of that out of there.  I quickly realize I cannot, but God can.  I just have to figure out how to let Him.  He will not come in and just do it.  I have to ask step by step, and as He shows me the deceitful, wretched ways that are still in there, I can tackle them one by one.

What are some of those things that hide in my heart that make it impure?  The first one that comes to my mind is pride.  Pride hides from one’s heart like a cockroach hides from the light.  If you see one, you know there are probably hundreds.  If you uncover a drop of pride, most likely there is a river of pride just waiting to be discovered.  I can see pride in a person but if I tell them, it is unlikely they will believe it.  Only God and His Holy Spirit can reveal pride to a person, and only the Holy Spirit can help us rid ourselves of that pride by bringing it under control.  It is the most deceitful of all the vices, and the hardest to overcome.  But we must!  God requires humility (Micah 6:8), as we discussed in the last post.  He loves a contrite spirit and a broken heart (Psalm 51:17).  When was the last time your heart was broken before God?  When was the last time you were at an altar, broken and on your knees before Him?  This is how I finally tackled my pride and have some control now.  It is not an easy road.

The next one I think of is prejudice or biases we have.  I know this is true of me.  When I see some people groups I always wonder if they can be as smart or as successful as I am.  I admit this.  If they are not fluent in English, I wonder.  If they are of a different cultural group, I wonder.  If they are foreigners, I wonder.  I know in my head this is really stupid thinking, but my heart is deceitful and always poses this question to me.  It makes me think myself better (pride setting in) and I have a long way to go to overcome this one, but God is working on me in this area, and I am thankful.

Another area, especially for men, is lust.  Men are more susceptible to this and have a harder time getting the images out of their heads.  And the images are everywhere.  TV ads and shows, movies, billboards, magazines, and the like pose women as sexual objects all the time.  I have been caught up in this area most of my life, as I can remember sexual things that happened all the way back to childhood.  They still come back into my mind.  I urge parents to keep their young children, especially boys, away from any material sexual in nature.  It will stay with them for a lifetime, and their lust will grow to deeper and deeper depths as the satisfaction level must be met.  These pictures infect the heart and become as addictive as meth or cocaine.  Avoid it with all you can muster.

The last I will discuss, and there are many more, is covetousness.  It creeps into our lives so easily.  We want a better car, a bigger camper, a different house, keep up with the latest styles or have that new gadget.  It’s not because we need it, but because others are doing the same thing and we want to keep up, or look nice or be cool.  The worst part is we can’t afford it so we take out a loan, or do it on credit.  Believe me, I know all about this one.  It catches me all the time, and it is nothing but envy, lust and pride all rolled into one.  It is an endless cycle that will rob us of our freedom if we allow it to.  Watch out for this trap.

So how do we get to the point of a pure heart.  First, it takes the previous steps in the beatitudes to get to this point.  Be humble, mournful, meek, righteous, and merciful.  Those are the steps to obtain a pure heart.  Wow!  What a journey that is for us.  But we must take it in order to purify the depths of our heart.  It is not possible without these things being active in our lives at all times.  I think by now you can look at this list and see why they are all necessary for the purification of the heart.

Next, we must ask the Lord to show us our own heart.  Remember Jeremiah 17:9 says

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

The Bible teaches us that God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Psalm 94:11 says

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.  We have to go to God to find out what is truly in our heart, because our heart will deceive us all the time.  How do we do that?  Psalm 139:23-24 says it best:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

When we ask God to do this, He will tell us what we should next tackle.  He will show us what is going on our hearts and lead us to His way.  But we must listen carefully to His voice.  It may come from another person, from a sermon we hear, from our daily devotion or from something we read online or see on a YouTube,  Maybe even a song will speak to us.  Many times, these things will come from two or three different sources on this list.  If we are open to hearing God’s voice, we will know He is dealing with us in an area of our lives.  We must pay attention when we pray this prayer or we will miss a golden opportunity to move toward a pure heart.

The advice to listen to your heart can drive you the wrong direction very easily.  Listen to God would be much better advice.  Many people do not really understand how to listen to God’s voice.  It really is not hard.  What is hard is doing what is required and that is the advice Psalm 46:19 gives us:

Be still and know that I am God

It is when we still ourselves, our thoughts, and our minds and allow God to breath His still small voice into our spirits that we hear His voice.  Silencing those areas of our lives is very difficult for most.  It takes time to develop this practice, but it is well worth it.  They say it takes 20 minutes to close off the mind to outside thoughts.  20 minutes of just waiting on God to speak to us with no other thoughts or cares of this world creeping in.  This is not a time to be meditating on your favorite verse or portion of scripture or the latest message you heard.  It is a time to just meditate on God and yearn to hear his voice.  Not asking in your head but sitting quietly and stilling yourself before Him.  I remember the first time my counselor at Pure Life Ministries asked me to do this.  I could not figure out how in the world I could accomplish it.  But I learned and now it is priceless to spend that time with God.  Do all you can to get to the place you hear His voice clearly.  The benefit of a pure heart can be yours.

The result of having a pure heart is also priceless.  We shall see God!  What a remarkable statement.  We shall see who God really is and what He wants for our lives.  We shall see His purpose and the way to achieve it.  We shall see His image, the one that we are made after, and we shall know how to walk out our day to day lives.  We will see God starting to be formed in us.  We will be transformed by the renewing of our minds and we will prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  I want to walk there and live there.  How about you!

Be blessed!

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Sometimes I Just Wonder Why.

I awoke this morning at five with a few words in my head.  As usual, I knew God was speaking a new verse into my spirit, so I rolled off the bed and grabbed my phone (the modern day note pad beside the bed).  I opened up my email and created a new message – to myself.  I sat back down on the side of the bed and just started typing as the words came to me:

To be ever in His presence
To be always by His side
This Is what I long for
This is my desire

I reflected on these words for a few moments and laid back down on the bed, phone in hand.  This is my heart’s cry!  To be with Him in good times and bad, in hurting and in joy, in the midst of the storm and when all is peaceful.  He filled me with the truth of these words, then I started to hear His voice again, and started typing more.  And more.  10 minutes later, the song was done.

This is how God works with my poetry and songs.  Every one of them comes just like this.  It is rare I only get a piece and then go back and finish it (although once in a while that does happen).  It just pours into me from His voice and within my spirit, and I do my best to capture the words exactly as He dictates.

When, I finally got up and dressed, I was ready to post this piece, which is called “Settled By His Grace”.  I started reading it back to myself and broke down weeping at the words God had given me.  And I just started to wonder why?

I am not anybody special.  I am a sinner saved by grace.  He has been so merciful to me throughout my life.  Far from perfect, in fact not even in the same vicinity as perfect.  I falter daily trying to follow Him.  I am an unknown in this world.  My poetry is posted here and on my Facebook page regularly as He directs me.  Many followers, few readers, some likes.

Many have said they are masterpieces.  That is because the Master gives the words.  Many have said they are blessed by the words.  That is because God brings a blessing.
Many have commented they sang along with the poem as they read it.  That is because God puts a song in their heart.
Many have encouraged me to keep writing.  God keeps giving the words.

I think it’s natural to ask “Why me, God?”  Why do you give these songs to me?  These poems?  These words of praise? These words of encouragement to the body of Christ?  Is it simply for the few dozen that see them where I post them?  Is it simply for my comfort?  Or is there a greater purpose?

My piano teacher is convinced that if these songs God gave me could reach the right eyes and ears, it would not be long they would be all over the airwaves.  My best friend agrees.  My pastor and my congregation agree.  My wife is flabbergasted by the steady stream of words that God puts into my heart.  It is humanly unexplainable.

Many have said it’s simply that I listen.  I listen for His voice and write what He says.  Can it really be that simple?  If so, I am thankful He gave me ears to hear.  If so, I am awed by His choice of me as a vessel.  If so, then let His will be done in all of this.  I will remain a conduit through which He can speak to you and others.

I will continue to listen.  I will continue to write His words.  By His grace, I pray he will continue to give them to me.  By His mercy, they will be posted on my poetry blog as often as He gives them.  (If you are not on my poetry blog, you can find it here).

For now, here is the whole song he gave me this morning – “Settled In His Grace.”  I pray it is a blessing to you.

My days can get so lonely
When I try to walk alone
But there’s no reason this should be the case
He promised to be with me
Until the very end
I’ll daily set my eyes to see His face

He’s with me in my spirit
I must listen carefully
His voice is calling out most every day
He wants a conversation
He wants my company
He wants to walk with me and guide my way

To be ever in His presence
To be always by His side
This Is what I long for
This is my desire
Walking close beside Him
Step by step each day
Hearing words of hope
Settled in His grace

The sweet sweet love of Jesus
Is always there for me
In good times and in bad He’s always near
By faith I feel His presence
My spirit knows His breath
When I remember this I’ll never fear

To be ever in His presence
To be always by His side
This Is what I long for
This is my desire
Walking close beside Him
Step by step each day
Hearing words of hope
Settled in His grace

Knowing Him
Loving Him
Praising Him
Hearing Him
All I need
He provides
Ever present
In my life

To be ever in His presence
To be always by His side
This Is what I long for
This is my desire
Walking close beside Him
Step by step each day
Hearing words of hope
Settled in His grace

 

A.S.K. – The Key to Prayer Chapter 3D – We Must Listen for a Response

If we expect to get a response from God then it’s of critical importance that we listen for that response. Listening is the next step in communicating with God. I must admit that I’m not very good at listening. Often, when I get into a conversation with somebody, I am thinking about the next thing I want to say and I don’t always completely hear what the person that I’m talking with has to say. I also have other things that are going on around me that cause distractions. It is critical that we learn to listen to God. Listening closely will vastly improve our day-to-day life and our prayer life.

The way that we hear from God the most is through His word. If you are not reading the word of God on a regular basis – I recommend daily – you are not training yourself to hear His voice. Yes, we can train our ear to His voice. The truth is that God speaks to us every time we read His word! We need to make sure our hearts are prepared to hear. We have talked about this in previous lessons.

Romans 10: 17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Not only will He reveal His will to us through His word, but it will also increase our faith. How many times have you been reading a familiar portion of scripture and you became aware of something new in that portion of scripture that you hadn’t seen before. It’s always been there you just hadn’t noticed it or hadn’t thought about it in the way you are right now. That is God talking to you through the Holy Spirit. Start to recognize this as His voice and you will realize that you’re hearing from God a lot more than you think you are.

When we want to hear from God, what are we listening for? Are we listening for an audible voice or a stirring in our heart or just a faint small voice speaking to us? 1st Kings 19:11-12 tell us about Elijah:

11 And he (God) said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORDwas not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORDwas not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Elijah just came from a glorious victory over 400 prophets of Baal. Now he was afraid of Jezebel the Queen and was on the run. God told Him to get to the mountains, and when he got there, God asked Elijah “What are you doing here?” Elijah answered that he was all alone serving God in the nation, and now they were out to get him. God told him to go stand on the mountain before the Lord and we see the events listed above. A strong wind, an earthquake and a fire passed by Elijah, but God was not in any one of them.
We often look for God in the hustle and bustle of this world, or when our worship services are really going well and the praises are being lifted high in the church.

Being from a Pentecostal church, I love it when we shout and sing praises to the Lord. I love the high praise, which is what I call it – when the drums and the guitars and the keyboard and the singers are turned up on high volume and the church and all the grounds are filled with the praises of the Lord. But as much as I love that, it is rare to hear God speak during those times. It is when things quiet down that God speaks with a word of prophecy or tongues with an interpretation is brought forth.

I will never forget the prophecy that came forth upon me in August of 2010. We were in one of those tent revivals and had just finished a rousing worship service and heart thumping hour of preaching. The room was quiet and the man of God came up to me and said “Because you have been waiting patiently and crying out to God to use you once again, God is going to do a new thing in you. Something you haven’t done before and do not expect. And that new thing will be for God’s glory, and it will produce praise and glory to His name. It is not something you will do, but something He will do. It will spring out of your heart so that all will see that it is God that is doing this thing, and not you.” I was in tears when this was spoken. I had been out of ministry for over 3 years because of sin in my life, and I as so hungry for God to move. Two months after this, God started to give me worship choruses, songs and poems, and that has not stopped. Over 2,000 poems, songs and worship choruses have flowed through the Holy Spirit into my heart and onto paper. They are still coming today. When God speaks to us it will come to pass!

Psalm 29:3-9 King James Version (KJV)
3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
7 The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.

Psalm 29:3-9 is one of the best portions of scripture to see a description of the voice of the Lord, Look at the attributes David gives to the voice of the Lord: It thunders upon the waters, it is powerful and full of majesty, it breaks the cedars (these are the strongest of trees), it fills with joy like a young calf, it divides fire, it shakes the wilderness, makes the animals bear their young, and it discovers the forest.

With these attributes, why does He remain so quiet with us? It is because He wants to be close to us and have that personal one-on-one with us. If He spoke to each of us in full volume, it would be heard for dozens of miles away, like thunder is, and it would be seen from hundreds of miles away, like the lightening is. It would break our houses and shake the land. His voice is so powerful that the Israelites decided they wanted God to speak to Moses and then Moses would speak to the people, because they heard the thundering of His voice and were afraid (Ex 20:18-21)

John 10:1-5 King James Version (KJV)
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are His sheep and you will know His voice. Do you know the voice of the Lord when it comes to you? Can you recognize it from the voice of the enemy? They are both speaking to us, but only one speaks with things that line up with the Word of God. This is another reason you have to know the scriptures and rely on the Holy Spirit to bring them to your remembrance when you need them.

Do you remember the portion of scripture in Matthew 4 when Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days? Satan tempted Jesus and he even used a portion of scripture to do it! He said “He (meaning God) will give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee.” These verses can be found in Psalm 91. But Jesus knew His scripture and He knew the enemy had left out just 4 little words that drastically change the meaning of these words. “In all they ways” – that means in the everyday life you live. It does not mean He will prot4ect us if we decide to jump off a cliff, or in front of a train. Jesus told the enemy that he shall not tempt the Lord His God. We should never do that! If the enemy came to you quoting scripture, would you know if he was accurate? Jesus used scripture from Deuteronomy all three times the devil approached Him.

I have long been an advocate of reading the bible through in a year at least once in your young Christian life. I have done it at last 6 times through my 40 years of being a Christian. Not when you first get saved, but sometime after that would be better. The reason I believe that is important is two-fold. First, it gives you the whole story, and you are better able to connect the New and Old Testament. Second, Jesus told us the Holy Spirit would bring things to our remembrance (John 14:26). How can He bring it to your remembrance if it is not already in there? Now I do believe that the Holy Spirit can give you scripture from anywhere in the bible, but it is better for you if it is already there ready to utilize when you need it.

I got a little sidetracked there, but my point is that you need to know scripture so that when you hear that quiet voice, you will be able to discern if it is God or the enemy. Remember, Satan can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). We need to know our bible!

In Matthew 13 Jesus gives the parable of the sower and the seed and explains what it means to the disciples.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Jesus lets us know here how important listening is. We will also refer to this portion of scripture in our next lesson – Accepting the Response. The first person is the one who receives the seed – the word – by the way side. The way side is hard, trampled down dirt, and the seed cannot take root at all. It is gobbled up by birds the moment it is cast down. These are those who think they already have all the answers and are not even willing to listen to exhortation or another differing view. There is a lot of pride in this person, and I have been there in the past. When God tries to speak to them, if it’s not what they want to hear, they don’t let it in at all. They are almost in a place where they refuse to hear the voice of the Lord, even though they have prayed and asked for a response. If it’s not what they want, they won’t hear it.

The second one is the one represented by the stony ground. The word comes in and takes root, but then tough times come, it is forgotten and cast off. The voice of the Lord makes a first impression, but if it does not take care of the trial or test completely, that person forgets the mercy that has already been extended and backs off from what God has said. Boy, would I be in trouble if I did not recognize the little mercies (and big ones) He has granted me and spoken to me while going though this cancer business. His voice is always speaking, guiding and directing. I keep asking for healing, complete healing, and slowly but surely it is coming. It would be very easy for me to say “Well, God has not completely healed me, so I guess He is not answering my prayers,” or “God has not made my songs big hits yet, so I guess He is not hearing my prayer”. God IS healing me – one step at a time. God is still sending me songs – His purpose is known unto Him – who am I to question it. I will not allow my circumstances to outweigh His mercy!

The third person is the one who accepts the voice of God and what it has to say., and the word takes root and blooms in them only to eventually be choked out by the world and the mockers. Have you ever had someone who says to you – “God did not do that, the doctors did”. Or maybe it was more like “God would not tell you something like that – you must be dreaming”. We hear those words, and we stay quiet after that about what God has done, or what He has said. Why? Because the world chokes God’s word right out of us. The voice of the Lord becomes silenced in that particular case because we were intimidated by the voices of this world.

And the last of course are those that hear the word and take it in. They study it out and know that it was God that was talking to them. They stick with it and grow and are fruitful because of it. We need to be like the last the ones that take in the word and act upon it. Don’t let the world, or your problems, or anything else rob you of what God has said. No one else knows what God has said to you, unless you have told them, or unless God has revealed it to them. It is important to seek Godly counsel in the form of a pastor or mentor on critical decisions, as long as you know those people you are asking are filled with the wisdom of God. But remember – if you are going to do that, be ready for God to speak through those people!
Always keep in mind that His still, small voice is the one that created the universe. It is the voice that hung the stars in place. It is the voice that started the earth, sun and stars rotating in their own ways. His voice is the most powerful force in the universe, and He is speaking to you on a regular basis. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” It is in the stillness of life that He comes to us and speaks to us. Make sure that, in your prayer time, you allow time for God to speak to you!

The last thing I want to mention is out of Exodus 29:20 where we read that the ears of the priests were anointed. Are your ears anointed to hear the word of God? Faith has to be applied to hearing just as much as it does to anything else, because without faith it is impossible to please God. Are your ears ready to hear with faith, nothing wavering, or is your faith double-minded? Will you accept the voice of the Lord when it comes, or will you toss His words up in the air and say I’m not sure whether that’s God or not? Are you ready to accept His response even if it goes completely against what you would like? That will be our next lesson!

Listen for Your Mission

James 2:5-8 KJV

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

James now paints an interesting contrast between the poor and the rich.  I am not sure this is necessarily true today, but back in those days I can imagine the poor really did reach out a lot more in faith while the rich ridiculed them and did not depend on their faith as much.  However, I really want to bring it into the modern day, and see what we come up with.

Today, the poor are considered those who are up to 400% above the poverty level in our country.  I looked up the definition of poor, and it said lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society.  The federal poverty level in the US is $22,000 a year in household income for a family of 4.  To put that in perspective, the poorest country in the world is considered to be the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the average annual income is $400 USD per person.  To make this even more alarming, the percent of people living below the poverty level ($22,000 a year for family of 4) is 14.5%, but the number of people below the poverty line ($400 USD per person) is an astounding 70%!  I would say this country has it made!

So do we even know what poor is?  I don’t think we do.  I would think the average homeless man panhandling in the street would make more than $400 per year!Since we are so well off, how much do we really need to depend on faith?  Faith to get food on our table, faith to have a roof over our heads, faith to get from one place to another.  I have to admit,these basic necessities of life are not a problem with me.  We have rarely been at a point where we were lacking in any of these areas.  Have you?

On the other hand, I am mentoring a young prophet in Uganda.  During the time I have been working with him, he has lived in a makeshift tent for about a year, finally getting the m] finances to get an apartment earlier this year (at $50 a month).  he has had many times that food was scarce and he went days without anything but what he could c=scrape together in the wild.  He was dependent on others for any transportation as well.  Yet this young man is hungry for the things of God, and displays incredible faith to continue on.

I share all this with you to give a picture of what poor means.  We don;t know poor in this country very well, but if anyone could be classified this way, it is those who are struggling every month to meet the basic necessities of life.  Sometimes they ask for our help, sometimes they ask for God’s help, but most of the time, they depend on themselves to make it through.  I think there is an element of pride their which should be out down.

How willing are we to help the poor?  We are God’s vessels to bless others in this world.  Are we hearing God when He speaks to us about helping someone out?  I would guess we are sometimes, but I would also guess there are many times we don’t hear Him, or make some excuse as to why we can’t help them.  God will not train down money from heaven – He depends on us!  We must move out in faith to help those God puts on our hearts.  I believe those who are poor around us will not ask us, but they depend on God to provide.  God is looking for those who will.

The rich, on the other hand, are said by James to oppress the poor.  Who is rich?  Well just about everyone in our country is rich compared to Congo!  We have it made when we look at that comparison.   Do you see yourself as rich?  I don’t,, but I have a lot more than at least half the population of the world maybe even more than 3/4 of the population.  Do I oppress the poor?  Do I despise them?

I have to be honest with myself here and with you. I have always had a problem with people on welfare who can work but refuse to so they can collect benefits.  I think we should develop a system where if they don’t work and they can, they are penalized.  if they do work, their wages are looked at when determining their government help.  The bible says a man who does not provide for their family is worse then an unbeliever.  Anyone who can work, should.   do despise those who just seek government handouts when they can contribute.

That being said, I also have despised the poor who just live off our government, even if they can;t work.  That is wrong of me.  I have worked on that part of my life, especially in the last year.   I  am being taught empathy by God right now, and I see things so differently.  I try to put myself in the other persons shoes all the time, and I have gained a lot of perspective.  Empathy is a powerful tool that God uses to draw us closer to each other.

So today may not be too much different than in James’s day!  At least when I look at my life, I can see similarities.  Can you?  James finishes this section by using the golden rule.  It doesn’t matter what social class someone is in, this rule applies.  How would I like to be treated?  If God spoke to someone about helping me, wouldn’t I want them to listen and do what God said?  Well then I should do the same!

Heart of a Servant

Introduction to the book of James

Welcome to my next attempt at sharing some reflection and bible study, this time in the book of James.  To be honest, I am not sure why the Lord has directed me to come to this book, but I am eager to get into it as I have spent a lot of time studying in James through the years..  I also must admit that the last thirteen months working through the Psalms has ministered to me in a very profound way.   Doing he Psalms study in conjunction with my recovery from my twin stem cell transplants was a wonderful experience, and I thank the Lord for taking me through that.  I expect that the Psalms experience will often give me a renewed perspective to the words of James.

I am not sure yet exactly how I will work through this book, so I am gong to start out a verse at a time and each post will go until I feel a good stopping point has been reached.  One thing I want to try and avoid is have posts that are too long.  I feel many of the Psalms posts were quite lengthy, as I ignored word count.  I will attempt to keep these at a more readable length, but will not stop just to be stopping.  Once the Spirit gets hold of me, I just write.  That will continue.

I welcome your comments throughout this study.  I pray the Lord ministers to you through the words He gives me, and I enjoy reading your thoughts as well.  Whether you agree or disagree, please leave your thoughts. I love a good conversation!  Now , let’s begin:

James 1:1 KJVGa

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

It s widely accepted that the James who wrote this book is not James the son of Zebedee, who was a disciple of Jesus while He walked this earth.  Rather, it is the half brother of Jesus named James who became a Christian after the resurrection.  When Paul started His ministry, James was one of the first people to greet him (Galatians 1:19).  James had become a leader in the church in Jerusalem and was one of the first to accept Paul’s ministry as authentic.  He also worked extensively with Peter once Peter was released from prison and became a pillar of the early church (Gal 2:9).  This letter was written between 45 and 48 AD t the Jerusalem council, so it is written to a Jewish Christian audience.  That is why he says in the first verse to the twelve tribes.

James considers himself a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  A simple definition of servant is one who performs duties for another.  As I look at that definition, I have to ask myself “What duties do I perform for my God and my Savior?” I lead worship at my local church,  write a few blogs that I hope express His spirit to all of you, mentor a young evangelist in Nigeria, and I am an encouragement to many others.   I am a loving father and husband who does his best to help his family follow God more closely.  Sounds like a decent list to me.   But what does God think?  What does Jesus think?  I like to think they are pleased, and I am quite sure they are, but how much more could I do, or should I do?  I think these are questions we all ask ourselves.

To me the real question is how hard I am listening  Am I hearing God when He asks me to speak to someone about His Son?  Am I hearing Jesus when He wants me to help a friend out of a jam and I seem to be ignoring the situation?  Am I hearing God when He tells me not to worry or fret about what is going on around me, but instead I try to figure things out myself and become impatient?  Am I listening when Jesus tells me to pray for that person in the wheelchair at Walmart, but I am too busy to hear His voice?  How often do I get too busy to listen?

A good servant always listens for his master’s voice,  He makes sure he hears exactly what the master wants and then sets out to accomplish the task without hesitation.  He does not question his (or her, sorry ladies) master.  He does not sit and wonder if he should do it or not.   He knows his masters voice and does the bidding of his master.  He/she does not worry about what others may think of him.  Once he is told the task, he does it.  Simple.

I want to be that kind of servant for the Lord and for God.  I want to hear Him every time He speaks to me, and I want to be willing to do whatever He asks me to do.  I wrote a short chorus not to long ago that says it this way:

Wherever you want me to go, I’ll go
Whatever you ask me to do, I’ll do
Whatever you ask me to say, I’ll say
Whatever you want me to give , I’ll give
However you want me to live I’ll live
Whoever you want me to love, II’ll love

Because I am yours, all yours
I have given all my heart and soul to you
Eternally yours, all yours
Help me live my life to glorify your name

That is my prayer, not only for myself, but for you as well.

Be blessed!

 

 

 

The Rocks Rise Up

One of the things that has been a mystery to me in the past is why farmers have to continually pick rocks out of their field. Here in Iowa about 80% of the soil is tilled and planted to grow corn and soybeans and other crops. And every year farmers have to pick many rocks of all sizes out of the field.

I lived in New England before I lived here and I can remember rocks being referred to as New England potatoes because they would grow in the fields every year. This is probably one of the reasons that New England farmers put a lot of stone walls everywhere as boundary markers. You can walk through forests that have been there for decades upon decades and all of a sudden come across a stone wall out in the middle of nowhere. This tells you that at one time this was tillable soil and somebody had a fence line made out of Rock. If you have a rock wall at the end of your field any rocks you pick can go on that fence. Than- makes a lot of sense and makes picking out rocks a good thing.

stone wall

In Iowa we don’t have stone walls so the rocks have to find a place on the farm somewhere. Most of them are fairly small, but occasionally farmers tell me that they get one that has to be dug out and carried away with some type of implement. Huge rocks, bigger than me, are often found. Why does that happen?

I finally took the time to look it up on the internet. Rocks conduct heat better than the soil. In the winter time, when it gets cold here, the moisture in the dirt freezes the soil. Under the rocks will freeze before the soil around it. We all know that water expands when it freezes, so when the ice under the Rock thaws out there’s a gap between the Rock and the ice. This gap is then naturally filled in with dirt which raises up the rock, sometimes by as much as six inches. This causes rocks to be continually forced to the service.

a big rock

 

Jesus did a lot of his teaching in parables and many of those parables involved the ground. He did this because most of the people in Jesus time were farmers and they could understand how the Earth worked. There’s a lesson to be learned from these rocks and I think it’s one that we all need to eat.

We may do a great job feeding our spirit with the word (Heb 5:12-14, Jer 3:15, John 6:51)), taking in the living water (Eph 5:26, John 4:14) and being in the light (Psalm 119:105, I John 1:5-7). The word needs to always be vibrant in our lives. Our prayer life may be active (Phil 4:7) and we might seem to be going along well. But once in a while there comes a time when we lack energy toward God, when our zeal is gone and our spirit seems empty. This has happened to me on many occasions. In those times it’s easy for us to grow cold in our spirit instead of staying hot or warm. This is the time when the rocks can rise in our lives.

Rocks represent some of the harder times is our spiritual. They may represent some of the areas where we do not allow God to do the work that He wants to do. We have closed those doors so He cannot go in, and God is a gentleman. he will not force Himself on us, but He will bring about circumstances that will work on those areas. These bring up stumbling blocks, or rocks, in our lives.

Remember the story of the tares (Matt 13:24-30)? When seed fell on rocks, or soil, the birds could swoop down and take it away. These “birds” are people around us who laugh and mock our faith and our belies, and we bow to their criticism and turn away from what God wants to do in our lives. The rocks remain and the word goes away, leaving us floundering, and we do become unfruitful.

rocky ground

It is so essential that we get into these areas in our lives and remove the rocks that are causing the problem. We do this by having diligence in our faith and turning back to God. We do this by lifting all the praise To him. But most importantly, we do this by taking our eyes off of ourselves and becoming more humble and obedient to the word of God. Most likely, we have been reading the word and praising Him, but we have not been watching our pride rising up within us, and we get proud spiritually. This is the biggest rock of all. God takes great interest in how you deal with these times in your life.

You cannot avoid the rising rocks. It is going to happen in your life on occasion just like it happens to the farmers every year. There is nothing can do to avoid it (James 1:1-13, 1 Peter 4:12). But you can take action if you have rocks that are holding you back from worshiping Him as you should and giving him your all.

If you sit there and say this cannot happen to me. I am full of zeal and following the Holy Spirit’s lead, then I say you are too proud and you need to humble yourself, bow down, and ask God to forgive you and to show you your pride. We are all affected by this. We are all vulnerable to the rocks rising in our lives.

I implore you to search your heart and ask God to search your heart and reveal any wicked way that’s in you (Psalm 23-24). Allow Him the access that He needs to show you where you need to change. The hear His voice and heed His words. It takes a careful listener to hear God speak many times. Quiet yourself before the Lord.

One more thing. When Jesus was entering Jerusalem for the last time, and the people laid down their clothes and palm branches while they welcomed Him with praise, there were some who chastised Him for accepting their praise. They were the proud Pharisees and Scribes of the day. Jesus said on the day that if the people didn’t praise Him, the rocks would cry out and praise Him (Luke 19:40) If the people were cold toward Him, as the religious leaders of the day were, the rocks would rise up and show His glory. They would bring us to our knees before an almighty God. They would produce honor for God in our lives. this s what the rocks are for. Allow them to shape and mold you. Become a vessel of honor for God.

Are You LIstening to God?

Psalm 102 

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.

Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.

The psalmist has a deep desire for God to hear his prayer.  So do we.  This is a cry any one of us could have at any moment of the  day.  We want God to hear our prayer, and to be there when we are in trouble.  And we want as speedy answer.  In our microwave generation, if the answer is not there within a day or two, we get nervous, thinking maybe God  did not  hear us, or  forgot  about us, or even worse, that He said no.  Sometimes, we expect God to answer us in the way we want things to come out.  we presuppose that God will say yes.  That is not the  way it works.   He is God – He will decide the answer, and He will do it on His time.

But here’s another question.  Do we hear God when He cries out to us?  Are we intent on hearing Him when we take time in prayer?  Do we hide our face from Him when trouble comes our way?  I would guess there are many times when we are in trouble and we go to God n prayer, we are so busy making our request that we don;t take the time to listen to His answer!  He might be answering right when we are asking, but our ear is not inclined to Him and His words to us.  Have you ever thought about that?  I think about it all the time. Am I listening to God enough?  Do I hear Him every time He tries  to talk to me?  When I am writing my blogs, I always pray that God will speak through me, and it’s not just my mind putting these words down.  If they are His words, they will minster to the reader.  That is my hearts desire.

For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.

My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.

By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.

I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.

I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.

Here we have someone who is  longing for an answer from God.  It sounds like he has bee praying for a while, and still has not seen the answer come.  The days have been wasted it seems, vanishing like smoke, and he is distressed.  His appetite s gone and he is losing weight.  A pelican in the wilderness, or an owl in the desert, are out of place, and will not survive in those environments.  He is in a bad place.  Can you identify with that?  Have there been times that your prayers seem to go unanswered and you just feel like the problem goes on and on?  You can see that you’re not alone – this writer, and I’m sure many other people, are in the same place as you are.

Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.

For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.

10 Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.

11 My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.

The enemy is even coming against him, as if his own problems aren’t enough.  Do you have that person who just always seems to be digging into your side, causing you agony just by the sound of their voice  They are always against you and oftne bring you to tears with their snide remarks.  Do they make you feel like the world is against you, and your life is just worthless?

12 But thou, O Lord, shall endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.

13 Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.

14 For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.

15 So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.

16 When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.

But thou, Oh Lord!   I love to hear those words n the middle of a psalm.  The writer knows that God will never abandon His city or His people.  God endures forever, and H ell have mercy o His people.  No matter what comes, we can take pleasure in knowing God is still on the throne.  He will build us up, and His glory will shine through.  That’s what will happen when the answer comes.

You see, God will never abandon us.  This is so important to remember when we are going through tough times.  He will never abandons us.  He is always there, guiding us every step of the way.  It is so important n these hard times to listen for God to speak and not just pray to God.  He will tell you what to do if you listen closely.  The Holy Spirit will guide you through if you are tuned in to Him.  Never doubt that!  Practice listening when times are good, and ti will be easier to hear Him when they are not so good.

17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.

18 This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.

19 For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth;

20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;

21 To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;

This writer knew that someday, future generations would be reading this word, and we would praise the Lord because of it.  Imagine that?  Doesn’t that alone bring encouragement to you?  God will look down from the heavens an hear those that are desperate for Him.  He will loose us from our bondage so that we can declare His name.

When the answer to your payer comes, are you quick to give God the glory, or do you say, the doctors were great, or my friend came through and helped us out, or that things just worked out right?  Be quick to give God the glory!  Be quick to sing His praises!  I am impressed with all the knowledge of the doctors and nurses who have helped me through this battle I am in, but God gets the glory, every time.  I lift up His name for being so merciful to me.

22 When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

23 He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.

24 I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.

It is my hearts desire to serve the Lord, and encourage others to  do the same, all the days of my life.  And  I pray that those days will be many, not few.  I want to reach as many people as  can with the good news of His salvation and His undying mercy to us.  The writer here felt same way.  He asks God not to take him away in the middle of his life, but feels God has shortened his days for some reason.  He says God has weakened his strength.

God has weakened my strength as well.  This cancer is a beast, and the side effects have me copped up inside most of the time.  So I have taken to writing these blogs.  And God is using them to minister to people.  I just want to shout out and praise Him for using me in any way He can.  I refuse to just sit here and do nothing.  There s so much I can contribute, and bring Him glory in the process.  I know when His full healing comes and I have regained my strength that He has great things in store.  Until that time, I will write of His great love for you!

25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.

26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:

27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

28 The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

God has been forever, and will be forever.  Hew does not change, and His purpose does not change.  His servants will continue throughout time, and  plan to be one of them.  I will serve the Lord unabashedly for as long as He decides to give me breath in hopes of winning just one soul for Christ.  If He decides to lengthen my days, those days will be spent in glorifying His name  If He decides to shorten my days, I pray my songs and poems will be sent on around the world to minister to people.  He s a good God, and I wiill love Him regardless of the outcome.