God’s Blessings Are to Be Used Completely When Given

line drawing of Israelites gathering manna

“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they [knew] not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did [measure] it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked]: and Moses was [angry] with them” (Exodus 16:14-20).

In the early stage of their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites reached a point where there was no food readily available. Rather than calling out right away to God for help, they decided to murmur and complain about their situation instead. Yet God still provided for them, and in a way that they were not expecting. He blessed them with what has been referred to as “angel’s food,” or, as the people called it, “manna.” It was the ‘perfect’ food.

Unlike other things they had eaten, manna could not wait and be harvested at a later time. It had to be gathered and processed each morning; otherwise, it would rot or melt away.

They only took “every man according to his eating,” (other than on the sixth day on the week) as God had told them. Whatever they collected each day, it was always sufficient, and “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.”

We need to consider God’s blessings in our life in a similar manner. Whether small or great, we are not to delay in using what He has given us. So often, following a period of great need, we have the tendency to ration and store away what God blesses us with. We tend to take for granted that what has been distributed will always be there, or at least it will be for an extended period of time. Some of the Israelites acted in the same way. “Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked].”  Actually, if we do this, we are allowing unbelief to resurface in our hearts. We succumb to an attitude that either His blessing is not going to come to us again, or that He will keep our former shortfall from ever reoccurring.

As the children of God, we should not only ask of Him for all of our necessities and believe that He will supply, but we must also completely use what He blesses us with wisely in return.

When the Israelites gathered the right amount that they had to have of the manna for each day, they used it to satisfy that which they needed most. In this case, it was for the satisfying of their hunger. They didn’t pool it with their neighbors, making one big meal for the whole day, and then grumble about their ravenous appetite the rest of the time. Neither did they barter it with the surrounding nations to get meat or rich delicacies which would have had much less nutritional value.

Ultimately, what God desires in all of this is for us to depend on Him for our concerns. He wants us to come before Him continually.

The Lord does not like to see us hoard that which He freely gives us, and then become complacent or less reliant on Him. Therefore, let’s cheerfully and generously use with thanksgiving all that He blesses us with.

 

[Image credit:CCXpistiavos/Pixabay]

Is Your Sorrow over Sin Leading to Death or Life?

woman sitting on edge of bed with head in hands looking down out open window

At any given moment, there is someone who has done something wrong throughout the world. Whether the offense was a minor or major one, if that person was caught, or the error was exposed, he or she experienced some kind of sorrow. For most people, feelings of anguish only arise when the byproducts of their dishonest actions lay heavily on their mind and soul. Grief may come to them as a gnawing feeling occurring deep within them while they pace around a room. Or maybe the grief happened while traveling, or while sitting in a prison cell. Then there are some whose only real regret was that they were caught and are now unable to do even more evil deeds. All these kinds of sorrow the Apostle Paul called “the sorrow of the world.”

Look at that phrase in context: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The “sorrow of the world” is what comes naturally in almost all of us. It is the sense of feeling sorry at the moment of our wrongdoing, but not sorry to the level that we will never do it again. We knew we were wrong, and if there is a means to apologize or otherwise resolve the situation, we will pursue it—but that is as far as we will go. Even if we follow through by some form of restitution, or submit to a required discipline or punishment, we are very likely to turn back to our sinful ways later on. This sense of regret we felt came as the result of the sin of the first man, Adam. All sin or wrongdoing eventually leads to death if we do not stop doing it.

On the other hand, what the Lord expects of us is a godly kind of sorrow. This is the kind where we stop our wrongdoing at the first occurrence, earnestly ask God for forgiveness, and then repent and completely go in the opposite direction of our sin. But the more we linger in our disobedience to His Word, the faster we will travel on the path of death for eternity. On the other hand, He said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

God loves us more than we can fathom. That is why He, through the death of His Son on the cross, made it possible for us to be free from eternal death—the ultimate penalty for sin.

And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). It hurts Him greatly to see us willfully harboring transgressions against Him. And it is even worse when He is forced to send us to everlasting punishment because we have refused to let go of our transgressions and return to Him.

Why are you sorry? Were you caught in a sinful act which you have no intention of ending? Or is it from committing something wrong that you know has hurt the Lord?

God has provided a means for forgiveness and repentance; it is up to you to make use of it. As long as you continue to hold on to your sin, you will live in sorrow, leading ultimately to death. But if you are willing to give your sin over to Him to handle, to seek His forgiveness and go totally the other way, then your future will be an abundant, eternal life. Where is your sorrow over sin leading you? The choice is yours.

 

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Why Look to Your Past for Your Future?

 

image of seated man with glasses in mirror hanging on tiled wall

“And it came to pass, that as he was come [near] unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God” (Luke 18:53-43).

How often do we, the children of God, look to our past when we have a need that we cannot meet?

Jesus was on His way into the city of Jericho when He came within the vicinity of a blind man. He stopped to respond to the commotion that the man was making. This blind man, known as Bartimaeus, had heard that Jesus was within earshot and earnestly called out to Him. Why? Because he had a need that he could not overcome in his own strength. He also knew who Jesus was, and that He could cure his condition. Bartimaeus was not able to make himself see again. If he had reflected solely on the fact that he had been and still was without sight, he might have never called out to the Lord. But he did not dwell on the unresolvable—he put his full attention on Jesus.

The Lord is not looking for what we think is the best thing to do. He is seeking for what we believe He is able to accomplish, above and beyond our finite mindset.

Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). When we focus on what has not been taken care of—the negative things of our past—we restrict God. Almost anybody can believe for what is possible; but it is solving our impossibilities that God desires us to believe Him for.

We must reach the place where we believe that the Lord totally and completely is able to handle any difficult situation, infirmity, problem, or extreme condition that we may find ourselves in.

Even if the problem has been with us for most (if not all) of our life, we have to continue looking forward to the Lord in faith if we are going to receive our breakthrough. We need to let go of our old self with its negative mindset, and associate with Him to the point where we can see the impossible as being fully possible. We cannot allow ourselves to look back on our past, continuing to believe that our future is destined to be more of the same. As children of God, let’s do what the formerly blind Bartimaeus did—hold our peace no longer, but cry out persistently to Jesus instead, totally believing in Him for our miracle. Then He will be able to reply, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee” (emphasis added).

 

[Image credit: Charis Gegelman/Unsplash]

He Will Never Do It Again

graphic displaying Jesus and Simon the Cyrene carrying cross up hill with a red 'no' circle overlay on top of picture

Many years ago, I heard a song that said, “If He had to do it all again, He’d do it all again.” The song’s overall message tells how great the love of Jesus is. It is true that He loved us so much that, even though there was nothing in us to deserve it, He came to Earth to take away our sins and give us a new life by dying on the cross for us. This song implied (with no expectation of it actually happening) that Jesus’ love for us is so great that He would willingly come and die on the cross again to redeem us. But, in reality, though this never can or will happen. Jesus became fully man when He came to Earth to die for us.

No man can die more than once, including Him. It is therefore impossible for Jesus to return again to die again to redeem us from the curse of sin and death.

When Jesus was on the cross, He made a statement in His final hours that completed God’s plan for the salvation and victory for everyone in the world, past, present and future, who will believe Him. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up [His spirit]” (John 19:30 emphasis added). He fulfilled all of God’s requirements found in the Old Testament. Throughout His time here on Earth, He satisfied every expectation His Father deemed necessary, in order to re-establish the relationship with Him that man lost due to sin.

Before all that God’s Son accomplished on the cross, sin could be covered only temporarily by the sacrifice of an animal in our place. Therefore, people had to continually go before a priest, who would take the item a person brought to be sacrificed and present it before God on his behalf. There was no real means for someone to go freely before God by himself. A priest and a physical sacrifice had to go before him.

Now Jesus’ finished work on the cross enables us to freely come before God through Jesus as our Great High Priest.

He fulfilled the role of the priest, and He also gave His life as the final and ultimate sacrifice. There is no longer a need for us to offer up an animal, as was previously required.

This is the reason that it is impossible for Jesus “to do it all again.” What He did for us on the cross was final. If He had “to do it all again,” it would mean that the first time was incomplete. It also suggests that when He declared “it is finished,” everything was not accomplished after all, and therefore Jesus made a mistake. To carry this train of thought out even further, for Jesus to be in error would mean that His heavenly Father is wrong as well, since Jesus is always fully obedient to what His Father tells Him. This would contradict the nature and existence of God therefore, resulting in total chaos!

When Jesus came in person to this world to provide the way of deliverance from the curse of sin and death, it was once and for all.

The love of God and His Son for man is so immense, perfect, and infinite that there is no need whatsoever for a ‘repeat performance.’ On the contrary, we need to accept His finished work at the cross as our own, based solely on the first and only time He did it. Jesus is coming back to this Earth again. This time, though, it will not be for another attempt at redeeming man, but rather in judgment for those who have rejected His initial offer of salvation and deliverance, when He died on the cross on their behalf to free them from the power of sin. Everything man needed to come to God was completely provided for then. There is no point in standing around waiting to see if Jesus will ‘do it all again.’ We need to yield our heart to Him now, based on what He has already done on our behalf, while we still can!

If you want more information on how to accept this finished work Jesus made possible during His time here on the Earth for yourself and receive external life, please click here.

 

[Graphic credit (without red slash and circle): raphael/Pixabay]

God Delights in Us

photo looking up at five different people as they are looking down and smiling

As a child of God, many of us have a tendency to look at our self in a critical way. As a result, we bring on feelings of discouragement, because we often feel that we don’t match up physically or spiritually with other believers around us. We tend to think of the growth process that the Lord is bringing us through as a necessary evil we have to endure, in order to reach the pleasurable results which He has promised us.

Yet God sees us differently. He does not focus on our past or even our present condition. Instead, His focus is on the end result. Like an artist, He views us in the finished form that He already has in mind. When a sculptor selects a section of stone, he already has a mental picture of what it will look like when his work is completed. The rough sections that initially stick out are not a concern to him, because mentally he has either removed them or shaped them to perfection.

“He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). The writer of this Psalm was in the midst of both his enemies and the king of Israel, who was in close pursuit—all of them out to destroy him. But he knew to call on the Lord and not to continue on in his own strength. In turn, “He delivered me…” Why? “…because He delighted in me.”

And, like the sculptor, God sees the whole piece. He is not concerned or bothered by the means for shaping it; He is looking at the end result, in which He finds delight. On the other hand, we, as the one being sculpted, struggle with the process He is bringing us through. We focus on the painful discomfort of the chiseling, grinding, and overall shaping of our life by our Divine Sculptor. We try to resist His attempts to improve our form spiritually. But all of these efforts of ours only serve to delay the development of the final product.

Remind yourself that God does not look at us with disdain and contempt. He also does not consider one of His children more beautiful than another. Our part in all of this is to cooperate and let Him make us into the being that He envisions. We are not to accept the view others have of us, or of our sinful past, that the devil loves to remind us of. Instead, we are to look upon Jesus.

God receives pleasure when we put Him first in our life. He doesn’t find delight in what we wear (or don’t wear), how intelligent we are, whether we have red, blond, or black hair, what our age is, or how successful we have become in this world. His delight is in us, His children. We may have our ups and downs spiritually and physically—in spite of all of our many anomalies and discrepancies, His delight is still in us!

The Lord does not want us looking back at our past and all of our sinful ways, nor focusing on our current condition. His desire is for us to look forward to His Son and His finished work on the cross. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry here on the Earth, God said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Our lives need to be filled with the One in whom He is well pleased.

The next time we are taunted for the way we look, or accused by the enemy about something in the past, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to walk away feeling down, discouraged, or depressed. When the pressures and struggles around us lead us to despair, let us look up to God. He “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He is the very One who led us into these difficult situations, to shape us into that in which He delights. The psalmist did not say that God delighted in the birds of the air or the animals of the field. He also did not tell us that He delighted in our education or our prosperity. He said “…He delighted in me”—and He delights in us as well.

[Image credit: rawpixel.com/Pexels]

Jesus Never Lost His Composure

Photo of two identical men seated on couch in argument with one man's hands in the air

If we analyze the life of Jesus Christ, the one thing which is most evident out of all of His characteristics is that He never lost His composure. No matter what situation or circumstance He encountered, He was always untroubled and composed. Even when the religious leaders threatened His life, He was able to either walk right through their midst or slip away unnoticed.

Jesus was tempted (tested) by the devil in the wilderness, but He never rose up in anger or commanded him to flee. He merely responded to each attempt with a passage in context from God’s word. He knew just what to say at any given moment.

A storm arose while He and His disciples were at sea, yet Jesus never grew anxious or panicked. There was absolutely no fear in Him. In fact, during the peak of the storm, “…He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24). He had such peace in the situation that He had no need to be awake.

Then “…when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way” (Matthew 8:28). But He was not fazed by them at all. Instead, He cast the devils out into a nearby herd of swine, maintaining full control of the situation.

Later Jesus healed a man with a withered up hand. The religious leaders became angry because He did it on the Sabbath. They took God’s commandment given over a thousand years earlier—to honor the Sabbath, keep it holy, and do no work on that day—to such an extreme that even healing was not permitted. Yet in their ‘holy’ zeal, they were hypocrites, because they permitted livestock to be rescued out of a pit on the Sabbath without penalty. As a result of Jesus’ actions, “… the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Matthew 12:14). But this did not bother Him. “…when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (v. 15).

Once Jesus and His disciples were in a desert area ministering to the people. The day grew late and no food was available anywhere nearby. He did not worry, but He could have let Himself become overly concerned and begun to make arrangements for getting food. On the contrary, He took a handful of bread and fish, blessed it, and gave it to His disciples to distribute.

He was fully confident that the thousands present would have enough to be satisfied, with plenty left over.

Even though Jesus always kept His composure, He was not a soft-spoken, passive, non-confrontational person. Once “…Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12, 13). Yet He still maintained control of Himself and the situation. After all, this was His house and their ungodly actions were desecrating it. Afterward, “…the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them” (Matthew 21:14). He never demonstrated any bitterness or hatred. His anger was a righteous anger and nothing greater.

More than once the religious leaders tried to trap Him. One case involved paying tribute (taxes). They asked Jesus, “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). And once again, Jesus did not lose His composure. “…Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites? Shew Me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:18-21). He effectually shut them up and exposed their foolishness with little more than raising His voice.

At one point, the religious leaders grew so disgusted and upset with Jesus and the truth He proclaimed that they tried to kill Him on the spot. “…they took up stones to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59). He still did not lose His composure and let Himself get out of control.

Even when Jesus was tried and hung on the cross for crimes not committed, He never angrily defended Himself. He did not try to fight physically for His innocence. While He hung on the cross in extreme pain, He cried out, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34). He could have called out to His Father to send destruction upon the guilty and to get Him off of the cross.

So how did He manage to do all this without ever yielding to the devil, or just giving up? It was all due to His relationship with His Heavenly Father. He declared, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus continually sought and communicated with Him, never allowing their fellowship to become strained or broken. Whenever He had the opportunity, Jesus would go before His Father in prayer, sometimes all night long.

Through this unity, Jesus knew just what to say and where to go at any given moment. He never worried or doubted. He had no concern about others taking His life.

“Then they sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come” (John 7:30 emphasis added). Jesus had to fulfill all of His Father’s requirements first. He was subject to His Father’s will and none other. His Father knew what was best for Him, and anyone else who would believe in Him.

Therefore, if Jesus, the very Son of God, had to continually go before His Father in prayer as a human being, how much more so should we, as children of God, do the same? God provided His Son in the flesh for us as our perfect example. He wants us to follow His Son’s example and be in close fellowship with Him. When we grow fearful and doubt Him, we have slipped out of that fellowship. We will always lose control of a situation when our relationship with Him is strained or broken. The only way that we can have a close bond with our Heavenly Father and maintain a level of calmness in any situation is to do like His Son and spend quality time in prayer and communication with Him. We need to continually place His interests for us above our own. Jesus never lost His composure, and neither should we.

 

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How To Be Great

graphic image of large man with right hand leaning on head of smaller man

For most of us on this Earth, being very popular, highly esteemed, and regarded as worthy to be above others is our fondest innate desire. Many highly educated and well-respected individuals have taught various ways to accomplish this (for a fee), along with a multitude of other vain conditions. Every year, billions of dollars are spent to try to make ourselves appear great and glorious.

Yet true greatness will never be accomplished by any human method or philosophy.

The greatest minds of philosophers, psychiatrists, scientists, etc., are not capable, even collectively, of producing a solution that will effectively elevate the status of respect for all of us in life. Some leaders of various countries have gone so far as to use brute force to make their citizens treat them as great leaders, and yet, in the final analysis, they don’t achieve true success.

But God desires for us to go contrary to man’s way of thinking. In Genesis 3:19, He shows us just how ‘great’ He actually considers us to be: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (emphasis added). God does have high regard for us as being created in His image, but in our current, sinful state, He can only treat us like what we really are—nothing more than dust.

There isn’t anything we can possibly do on our own that will make us great in the eyes of God.  

We might just shrug this off, thinking that we are not out solely to please God; we just desire to be ‘somebody’ in this world. But how can this be achieved in a world where the standard of superiority is always fluid? The very thing considered great and outstanding in one part of the world might be insulting in another. At one point in time, as a small example, a woman had to have a pale complexion to be considered beautiful, yet, later on, this attitude changed to thinking that a woman of great beauty should be as highly tanned as a bronze pillar! Some are regarded lofty and ideal individuals if they are accomplished orators, while others are held in high esteem for their silence and reserved nature. And consider this as well: how can we achieve superiority when everyone else is trying to be superior also?

That is why we need to look beyond this mortal, sinful world. God never intended for each of us to act like we are great or superior to another.

This is one reason why He sent His Son to Earth to provide a way and an example for us to follow. Throughout His time here on Earth, Jesus demonstrated how man’s expectations for greatness are inappropriate.

Jesus did not come to Earth the first time to be considered great or to be worshipped—He came here to serve. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). He came to put into practice what had been declared in His Word. Who can live by what someone says if that person is unwilling to follow his own teaching? Not until after Jesus had humbled Himself as a servant did “God also…highly [exalt] Him, and [give] Him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

Consider this short list of occasions where God’s Son humbled Himself to the level of not just a lowly servant, but even a despised outcast as well.

  • He was born in the manner of a common person, not like a child of royalty.
  • His first bed was a feeding trough, not a plush cradle in a magnificent palace.
  • He was led into the capital on a donkey—a lowly means of transport for a king.
  • He was considered to be out of His mind, to the point that His own family wanted to have Him put away.
  • He was accused of crimes He had not committed, then crucified in place of a murderer.
  • He was hated and ultimately killed by secular and religious leaders.
  • He ended up in the most degraded position of any human being in history.

Jesus never displayed an attitude of self-pity. He didn’t hang His head low, always walking around looking glum. He never regretted or resented coming to this planet in the role of a servant.

He trusted in His Father, who knew what was best for Him in every situation and circumstance that He would encounter. He looked forward to whatever God had prepared for Him next. He knew God’s way would always be the best way.

Is it possible for us to be great, therefore, if not in this present frail and short life, but for eternity? It can only happen if we are first willing to humble ourselves to the position of a servant. Jesus said, “…but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For [which] is greater, he that sitteth at meat [reclines at a table], or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26-27 emphasis added).

The Apostle Paul laid out the method God wants us to follow: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 emphasis added).

On the path to true greatness, our only perfect example is Jesus.

 

[Image (modified) source:Geralt/Pixabay)

The Next Move Is Ours

 

In every board game, such as checkers or chess, the first player makes a move and then another move always has to be made, alternating back and forth until the game ends. Whether you go first or second, your opponent will always have to move one of his pieces to another space after you make your move.

While the work Jesus does is not a game, He does expect the same kind of action from us. In many areas during His time of ministry here on Earth He made the first move. Then He expected man to make the next move after Him.

Let’s look at a few examples. We find the narrative of the death of Lazarus in the book of John. Jesus was informed by Mary that her brother Lazarus was sick to the point of death. Jesus could have just said the word and healed him, like He had done on many other occasions. But this time, He chose to wait until after Lazarus died before He traveled to Bethany where he once lived.

When Jesus finally did arrive, Lazarus had already been dead and buried in a cave for four days. At this point nobody believed there was any hope for him. But that did not matter to Jesus, for “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). When He reached the opening of the cave that had been sealed with a large rock, Jesus told those present to “take ye away the stone” (John 11:39). He made the first effort in regard to raising Lazarus from the dead; now they were to make the next move.

Jesus could have moved the rock Himself, but He wanted to see how much they really wanted Him to work in this predicament.

If they were not willing to take the simple step of removing the barrier to the cave, then why should He continue? “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid” (John 11:41). After a brief prayer to His Heavenly Father, “He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.” (John 11:43-44a). Then “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44b). It would not have been difficult for Him to go one step further and free Lazarus from his burial cloth right then, but that was not the focus here. Jesus expected the next move to be made by them.

Another example is found in the eighth chapter of Luke. “…behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as He went the people thronged Him” (Luke 8:41-42). Common sense says that Jesus should have ordered the crowd to turn aside, rushed over to the ruler’s house, and healed his daughter while she was still just sick. But Jesus does not follow human common sense; He is only obedient to what His Father desires. Therefore, He allowed Himself to be delayed. When He finally arrived at the ruler’s residence, the man’s daughter was dead.

This time, Jesus did not tell anyone to physically do something. He expected them to: “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).

The next move was in their hands. Jairus needed to believe that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life. In verses fifty-four and fifty-five, at least one of those present followed through and trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness. “And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat.”

Look at one more example found in the fifth chapter of John. In Jerusalem, there was a pool of water that was stirred up periodically by an angel. Whoever entered in during this time would be healed of his infirmity. One man present had been afflicted with a disease for at least thirty-eight years, yet he had not been able to enter into the water in time to be delivered from his condition.

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:6-7).

Obviously, the man wanted to be healed; he was just at a loss as to how to do it. But Jesus came along and made the first move: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

At this point, the man could have replied, “But sir, I have been trying to walk for some thirty-eight years now and nothing has happened. Could you just pick me up and place me in the pool when it is stirred again?” Yet, in the next verse, the afflicted man believed in the words of Jesus and he made the next move. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…”

Time and time again, we find that God will move first, and then hand it over to us to trust in Him and make the subsequent step. He leaves us with the choice to either obey His request in order to have our victory and deliverance by faith, or to stand still in doubt and unbelief, missing out on the blessing He has in store for us.

The bones of Lazarus might still be sealed in a cave, a synagogue ruler’s young girl would never have seen her thirteenth birthday, and a man might have died next to a pool of healing water if those present had not obeyed the Lord’s command.

Jesus isn’t going to make all of the moves for us. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). He will often leave a portion for us to do, in order to try our faith in Him. Whenever the Lord moves first in our life, we need to remember—the next move is ours.

 

[Image credits:channah/Freeimages;Devanath/Pixabay]

Connecting to the Right Outlet

Rockwell is a pretty smart guy, except when it comes to non-technical things. Sure, he knows that a car can’t run without gas or oil, and that refrigerators, microwave ovens, and light bulbs all need electricity to operate. But ask him how they function, and he will struggle to give an explanation.

This is why, one cold morning in early March, Rockwell could not get his electric space heater to operate. He plugged it into an outlet in the living room and turned it on. After ten minutes, nothing had happened. He removed the plug and inserted it into the socket underneath, but still no power or heat.

He picked up the heater, shook it vigorously several times and placed it back on the floor. There it sat with no lights, no noise, and certainly no warmth. 

With friends coming for lunch, he knew he had to do something to get the place warm. He went to the basement and brought up another heater—smaller but still adequate. He inserted its plug into the same receptacle, turned the unit on, and waited. It, too, just sat there—cold, dark, and quiet.

Rockwell decided that this was too technical for him to bother with at the moment. So he returned to fixing breakfast. Meanwhile, his neighbor stopped by for a brief visit.  He noticed right off that the house had almost no warmth, but he figured that Rockwell was already aware of this, so he kept silent and sat at the breakfast table. After they chatted a while, the temperature grew colder, and his neighbor could not remain quiet any longer. “Rocky, my boy, are you running absent-minded this morning, or did your heater give out on you?”

“Well, I plugged it in and tried all kinds of things to make it work. I even hooked up another one I got downstairs. I figured if I wait long enough, one might eventually turn on one way or another.”

His neighbor went over, checked both heaters, then the outlet.  Then he took a desk lamp, connected it to the same outlet, and got the same results: nothing. Finally he took one heater and plugged it into another electrical socket across the room. Voila! It came alive immediately and began to warm the room.

“Well, there’s your problem,” his neighbor remarked. “They were plugged into a dead outlet. For some reason, there was no power available there. They have to be connected to the right outlet if they are going to heat the room. All of your efforts earlier were useless.”

Now, how many of us today are living a cold life? Not a physical cold, where we need socks, sweaters, and heaters to get and stay warm, but spiritually, in our hearts. No matter what good method we try, we can’t seem to find the solution. We accepted Jesus Christ in our heart, yet we are still in a constant struggle to be free of some bondage in our life. Whether it is smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, immorality, lying, stealing, or a whole host of other sinful habits, we just cannot rid ourselves of their control.

So we turn to the medical world, psychology, self-help programs, religion, government assistance, pastors, churches, neighbors, and family members. We pray, go to church, read the Bible and consult other Christians, yet we still struggle with these problems. They frequently make us ashamed, depressed, confused, and overwhelmed.

We vow at the beginning of each day or week that we will not give in, but we still end up succumbing to the same sinful actions. 

As a Christian, why does it have to be this way? Why can’t we be free and victorious? Why do we have to be in this bondage? The answers lie in our understanding of Jesus Christ and the cross. By putting our faith in something else, we will always be under the control of sin. God does not want us to be in this state any more than we do, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He fulfilled all of the requirements of His Father that we could never accomplish, and paid a debt that we are unable to repay. 

The problem is that, when we accepted His Son into our hearts and made Him Lord of our life, we did not totally yield to Him. Instead, we continued to fight these battles with sin (a spiritual problem) in our own strength and effort (a non-spiritual answer).

Look at this another way. We are attempting to remove the coldness (sin) from our heart by connecting to a dead outlet (the world and its hopeless solutions). But when we plug into a live outlet (Jesus Christ and His victory on the cross), we allow power (His Spirit) to flow freely in our life. He is now able to remove the control all of these sinful habits mentioned earlier have on us, and our heart begins to warm up.

But, as long as we keep trying to clean up our sins by our self, we remain connected to a dead outlet and receive no connection to the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The “law of the Spirit of life” refers to when we connect into the live outlet. By plugging into a dead outlet, we are walking after the flesh, meaning the ways of this sinful world, which will always be followed by “the law of sin and death,” or bondage. 

Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

The only way to be free of the sin habit that perpetually plagues us is to accept the victory of the finished work of Jesus on the cross as our own victory. Stop plugging into a dead outlet of our own futile works, thereby cancelling out all Christ has done for us. Connect to the right outlet and we, as children of God, will find freedom from the control sin has had in our heart and life.

 

[Image credit:Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Where Is The Center Point of Our Faith?

A drawing of a plumb line attached to a small wall

Builders constructing a building make regular checks as they go to be sure that it does not lean in any direction. In spite of all the advanced technology available today, there is one ordinary, non-technical device still being used to make sure a structure being built is straight: the plumb line. This tool consists of just two simple components—a line, such as a string, a rope, or a strong, flexible wire, and the plumb—a small metal weight attached to the end of the line. When it is held at a specific position on a structure, it will show how far off center the building being constructed is, by revealing how straight the framework is in relation to the line itself. A plumb line left unhindered will always swing back to the center point in relation to where it is hung.

A photo of a gold pendulum swinging on a printed diagram

A pendulum also follows the same principle as a plumb line. It is essentially a weight attached to a string, a rod, or a flat decorative piece of metal that is connected to a pivot point. A pendulum may swing back and forth in many different directions, but when left to itself, it eventually slows down and comes to rest at the center point.

We can apply these examples to our walk with God. If a plumb line was held next to our spiritual position with God, how far off would we be in relation to His straight standard? Our center point must always be Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. If we lean in any direction toward anything other than Him, the faith we are ‘building’ will become off center. And, if left unchecked, it will eventually lean so far off center that our faith will collapse and fall. Therefore, our central focus has to remain on Jesus and nothing else.

In order to stay right in the center of what God has planned for us, we need to stop trusting in our own efforts and start trusting in His Son instead.

Now, the question for us is, where is the center point of our faith? Is it in Christ and His finished work on the cross, or in something else? It doesn’t matter what we do that is good, bad, or somewhere in between—if Jesus is not the focus, the center, of our life, then we will always be ‘off.’ Whenever we turn to anything other than Him, we are swinging away from the center point of true peace in our heart.

When we put our efforts into other areas, we are basically saying that His sacrifice was not enough, that we also have to do something ourselves to make our life right with God. The more we try, the more we move away from the plumb line, and lean the wrong way spiritually. We need to stop swinging back and forth, like the pendulum, away from our center point.

The Apostle Paul said, “But to him that worketh not [himself], but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Who is “Him that justifieth the ungodly”? Jesus.

By believing on Him and what He has done for us on the cross, our“faith is counted for righteousness.”

That’s it. We have no need for special programs and rituals, or counseling and treatment, or anything else. We just need to place our total trust in Him, keeping Him continually as the center point of our faith—not the world, not religion, not our own ideas, not anything else. Then we will be able to rest secure, trusting in the center point of our faith—our Lord Jesus.

 

[Image credits:(plumb line) Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain]; (pendulum) Manfred Antranias Zimmer/Pixabay]