What God requires

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There are times, more than I’d like to admit, that I really don’t want to do the right thing; mainly, because I don’t feel like doing it. Some days, I would rather stay in bed instead of getting up to read my Bible and have prayer time with God. Sometimes, I would rather respond in anger to someone who is out-of-place or rude instead of responding in a calm and appropriate manner; actually,  I’d really like to bop them in the nose! At times, I would rather not stop and pick up a head of cabbage on my way home from work as Connie has requested of me. Often, I’d prefer to watch television instead of mowing the grass; would rather eat lemon cookies than raw carrots; and would rather not listen to complaints about my sermons and just go to lunch. But, bottom line, the way to victory requires discipline and has nothing to do with our feelings. God requires us to do what is right in all situations, not just when we “feel” like it.

God has given us the freedom to choose the right way or the wrong way; but He expects us to choose the right way. To enter the narrow gate, we have to actively pursue God’s Word and live by it obediently. There are days when I don’t feel like living obediently; however, I’ve learned from experience and the school of hard knocks, that it is faith not feelings that leads to eternal life.

Today, choose to do the right thing. Choose God’s way. Be one of the few that finds the small gate leading to the road of eternal life.


Go near to listen

Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

The Hebrew word for guard is Sha-mar meaning to take great care of something. It means to pay close attention and to protect from intrusion. The word Sha-mar places the responsibility on self. It is our duty to guard and protect and defend.

In this scripture from Ecclesiastes, we are requested to watch ourselves carefully as we go to house of God to worship Him. Our worship must be about HIM and our minds must be fixed upon the things of God.

To honor God in worship, here are some steps you can follow to help you guard yourself:

1. Prepare for worship. Have a good mental attitude. Go before the Lord with a humble and expectant heart. Look forward to going to church or reading your Bible in the morning or meeting with God in prayer. It isn’t a chore but a privilege.

2. Prepare yourself to adore Him. Open your heart and spirit to emotionally connect with Him. It isn’t a ritual; it is an action of openness prompted by one’s self in loving expression to our Father.

3. Be prepared to concentrate. Turn off your cell-phone. Stop making mental lists of what you have to do. Stop planning and find a place in your head to focus on God, and only God.

The scripture tells us to “go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”

4. Approach your time of worship prepared to hear from God either through music or sermon or the Word of God. Don’t be foolish and run your mouth endlessly. One of the reasons people have a difficult time hearing from God is not because God isn’t talking, they aren’t listening!

5. Listen to God and then respond. It is so difficult to speak to someone who you know isn’t listening to you but calculating a verbal response in his or her head. When God speaks to you, listen to what He is saying.

Worship is a time to glorify God; to connect with Him; to hear His Word; and to rejoice in Him and praise His Name. Think about how you worship God. Make changes if necessary. Enjoy being in His presence for He adores hearing from you.


Why are you hiding?

Genesis 3:8, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’

The other morning, everything looked so green and lush as the sun’s rays hit the moist grass and newly budding leaves. I can only imagine the beauty of The Garden of Eden. From the early morning light to the evening starry sky, every day was perfect. And God walked with Adam and Eve and enjoyed their company.

But on this day, they didn’t come running to Him; they hid from Him because they were ashamed.They did not have the same relationship with Him anymore because sin had separated them from God.

How many of you are hiding from God today?  Sometimes we hide from God because we are guilty. Sometimes we hide because we feel dirty. The reality is, we really can’t hide from God, He knows exactly where we are; but He’s waiting for us to come running to Him.It is important to realize, whatever is causing you to hide today from God, Jesus has already covered the sin on the cross.

Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

So, what is behind your hiding today?

One of the best examples of forgiveness in the Bible is Paul. Paul actually persecuted Christians. He thought he was helping God to rid the world of these law breakers. When Paul discovered the truth, he was forgiven and God used Paul for the good of Christianity.

God will forgive whatever you’ve done; but, you have to stop hiding and bring your sins to Him. He loves you and has a tremendous plan for your life – just as He had for Paul. Confess your sin to Him; tell Him how much you need Him; and realize that He loves you and you are forgiven.

Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”


Relationships

Sometimes, I post certain devotions that I have used before – either because it is on my heart to do so or that particular thought needs repeating. This past week I have been evaluating my relationships and want to send a reminder to you to do the same.

Every few months, I try to evaluate my relationships. I actually give them a rating – 10 is excellent – 1 is really bad. I start with my relationship with God, then my spouse, my children, my parents, my sibling, my friends, and my co-workers. It is almost comical to me because whenever relationships aren’t what we’d like them to be, it’s human nature to immediately access what the other person is doing wrong. “If he would just do this or if she would act this way…” When I evaluate my relationships, I force myself to look at what I am doing wrong or not doing or doing too much of.

Jesus was asked which of the Commandments of God was the most important in Mark 12, He responded in verses 29-31, ““The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The question was prompted by a teacher of the law. He overheard Jesus answering such questions as marriage at the resurrection and paying taxes to Caesar. What’s interesting is the Bible doesn’t indicate that Jesus pondered an answer. He didn’t rub His thumb across His chin or scratch His head; He didn’t say, “Wow! Now that’s a great question, let me see…” Without pause or contemplation, Jesus answered him. That should tell you and me how important personal relationships are to God and how much we need to value and respect them.

The greatest detriment to relationships with others is our actions and how we handle certain situations. Jesus gives us specific instructions as to how to handle what we encounter with people; and usually how we handle our end of the bargain governs how God will judge us.

Matthew 5:38-42, “38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 18:15-17, “15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Think on your relationships today. How are you measuring up? How are you treating others? We cannot control how someone else treats us, but we can control how we react to them. Today, take time to consider your role in the relationships you have. If you can’t rate them over a 6 to 7, there’s work to be done. Always, start with what you need to do to improve on your end.


The Blessing of God’s mercy

Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

In elementary school we played a game. Two people clasped hands and bent each other’s fingers back until one person screamed, “Mercy!” It was all about enduring the pain the longest. The person who didn’t scream mercy, won the game. Once mercy was shouted out, the hands were unclasp and the game was over. It was all about ending pain.

Mercy is not a verb in the English language; and yet, it is an action given to someone who doesn’t deserve it but gets it anyway. Most of us want mercy from God and other people. We do not necessarily want others to receive mercy when they have wronged us. Strange, isn’t it? We want God to extend His mercy toward us when we mess up; but when someone messes up, and we are affected by it, we’d rather them not receive mercy from God.

To be “merciful” is to give people a second chance; to forgive a wrong done against us or another person; to allow someone into our lives who doesn’t deserve to be there. When we show mercy toward others, we receive mercy from God.

In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus “how many times should we forgive someone.” Jesus responded by telling a story of a king who forgave one of his slaves. The slave owed the king a great amount of money. The king graciously forgave the debt. Despite the mercy of the king, the slave in turn had another man thrown into jail because he owed the slave money. When the king heard about this, he was very severe in punishing the slave because he was not willing to show the same to the man who owed him money.

Maybe there is someone you need to extend mercy toward today. When we are merciful toward others, we receive the blessing of God’s mercy.


Fill your spirit with Him

Psalm 35:9, “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.”

Take a moment today to stop and enjoy life. We are all moving on the fast track. Schedules are filled to the maximum with appointments and activities. We are so busy doing our list that we do not even realize if we actually like what we are doing.

When is the last time you stopped to notice which bird in your yard was chirping so beautiful. Do you even listen to them for any length of time? What about the stars at night, or the flowers blooming, or a butterfly passing by? When is the last time you really looked at your children? Noticed their eyes?

Time stops for no one and it is moving quickly.

Yesterday, I was running late for an appointment but as I was leaving the building, I noticed two children in a nearby park, playing.  It was their laughter that caused me to stop. I leaned up against my car and simply listened. The voices reminded me of my children many, many years ago. Oh, how I miss that sound! I can remember coming home and hearing the kids in the yard and how they would drop everything and come running toward me.

Don’t miss your life because you’re too busy living it. God created so many splendid things for us. Take the time today to really notice what is around you. Refresh yourself. Taste your food. Listen to the sounds surrounding you. Touch those you love. Rejoice in the God who gave it all to you. Fill your spirit with Him.

Today, delight in the God of your salvation.


The myth

There is a dangerous myth floating around. What side you believe is the difference between life or death for you. It is the belief that there are no eternal consequences for our actions here on earth. It is a cultural crisis imposed by a nonchalant, politically correct, live life my way attitude. For the most part, people believe God exists, the crisis comes when we live as if He doesn’t exist.

Life without consequences is a life filled with selfish desires and chaos. There are consequences for everything you do – good or bad. No action occurs without some reaction. Newton’s third law of motion, “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.” In other words, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Don’t fool yourself, what you do today will have a consequence tomorrow.

The greatest tragedy is the consequence of not following and believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior. It is extremely clear in John 5:24-25, Jesus tells us, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; He has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”

There is a religious teaching which indicates one need only pray the sinners prayer. Understand, Jesus makes it clear in His word, when you are saved, you are a new a different person. Don’t be fooled by thinking because you said a prayer you can continue in your sinful lifestyle. The consequence will be as Matthew wrote in 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

People fall short in their definition of “believe.” Jesus’ definition of believe is doing what He tells us to do and living as He instructs. Matthew writes in 19:17, “‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’”

I struggle with the shock some are going to experience when they realize Jesus did not know them. It is senseless to come to the end of your life and hear those words when Christ makes it very clear how to know Him. Consider today your relationship with Him. Do you read and study His word? Do you practice daily following His guidance and His laws? Do you communicate with Him through prayer and worship? If you answered no to any one of those questions, today is the day to make the change. Start living your life on the path to eternity.


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