Sheepish Declarations

Sheepish Declarations
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. –Psalm 23:1

In the first verse of Psalm 23, we see two kinds of declaration. One is a declaration of faith, the other a declaration of surrender.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” is a declaration of faith on a God who is able to provide, protect and empower. It is faith because God is invisible and yet we can believe he exists .

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. -John 20:29

The declaration of surrender is implied. If we declare that God is our shepherd, we are tacitly declaring that we are his sheep. Sheep are meek, vulnerable and easily frightened. This means we are to take the attitude of a sheep, that we are lost without a shepherd. In other words, we can find fulfillment and contentment in God and his will for us. I shall not want.

Yet, a surrender to God’s will also means recognizing that he knows what we want and need and that he will supply these according to HIS riches in glory. Not ours.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:19

Our concept of what we want is totally different than God’s. God’s concept is always better and always abundant.

It is significant to note that David made these declarations even when he had already been chosen as king. Everything about David’s life, whether he was shepherd or king, was centered on following after God’s heart.

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the[son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ -Acts 13:22

Declarations of faith and surrender are declarations of devotion to God.

Recommendation Letter

Recommendation Letter

Disciple Recommendation Report
To:
Jesus, Son Of Joseph
Carpenter’s Shop, Nazareth

From;
Jordan Management Consultants,
Jerusalem.

It is our opinion that the 12 men you have picked to manage your new organization lack the back ground, educational and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.

They do not have the team concept.

Simon Peter – is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.

Andrew – has no qualities of leadership

The two brothers, James and John – place personal interest above company loyalty.

Thomas – demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel it our duty to tell you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.

James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus have radical leanings, and both register high on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential.

He is a man of:

• ability and resourcefulness
• has a keen business mind
• possesses contacts in high places.
• He is highly motivated and ambitious.

We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success with your venture.

Very truly yours,
Jordan Management Consultants

What is it to you?

Questions
Shortly after the Resurrection when Jesus appeared again to his disciples, Jesus had mentioned to Peter the manner by which Peter was to die. Peter then asked the Lord about John and what would become of him.

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” -John 21:22

In other words, it was no concern of Peter, for his only concern was to continue to follow the Lord.

Oftentimes we defocus ourselves from the tasks or purposes God gives us when we look at other Christians and what they are doing or not doing for God. Unless their tasks intertwine with ours in a team effort, theirs is of no concern to us.

Are they praying or not praying? Are they ministering or not ministering? Are they following or not following? These are questions better left unasked.

Focus on what God has given you to do. It may seem small or big, insignificant or important. That’s really up to your own perception. For God, it is a task he has deemed you are able to accomplish. Do it then with all your heart.

So next time you see a fellow Christian and you are wondering what he/she is doing or not doing for the Lord, ask yourself:

What is it to me?

The Faith to Forgive

mustard seeds

When Jesus spoke to his disciples about forgiveness, they had a seemingly strange request.

3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” -Luke 17:3-5

Yet, on second look, the request to increase their faith was not that far-fetched, for it does take faith in a loving God to sincerely forgive an offence.

With this in mind, Jesus’ response was allegorical.

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. -Luke 17:6

A mulberry tree has deep roots and difficult to uproot. So can be an offence. It can come from deep-rooted feelings and it can hurt deeply. Thus, it needs faith to forgive so that the offence can be likened to throwing it into the sea and completely forgotten.

The response of Jesus also tells us another aspect of faith. It has to grow. It is not within God’s purview to increase it.

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” -Luke 17:4

Yet, it is a seed that is already within us.

…In accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. -Romans 12:3

A seed of faith has been given to each believer. It is up to us to make it grow. It may take several trials, challenges and, yes, offences.

However, when faith develops, it becomes a powerful force to forgive a wrong, no matter how deep.

The Purest of Spirituality

Spirituality
The Corinthian church thought itself as a highly spiritual church in the sense that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit was prevalent. People spoke in tongues, interpreted tongues, prophesied, uttered words of knowledge and so much more. So, within the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, we find one of the most beautiful dissertations on love.

Yet, the passage on love, found in 1 Corinthians 13, was not written because the Corinthians in their spiritual exercises were practicing love. On the contrary, they lacked it.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Indeed, spirituality without love is not spirituality at all. For God is love. God is spirit. And out of his spirit comes forth love. Living a life of love is living a Godly way.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. -1 John 4:16

To live a life of love is what Godliness is all about.

We don’t need to be ascetics, hermits, pastors or priests unless one of these is our calling.

We only need to love truthfully God and our fellowmen.

Love is the purest of all spirituality.

Listening Through the Noise

Listen
In my last post I wrote about seeing through the storms of life with the eyes of faith. And how do we sharpen our eyes of faith? We have to listen to the word of God.

So then faith [comes] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. -Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

But, in order for us to hear clearly, our hearing ability should be able to pierce through the noise. Not only the natural noise of the world, but more importantly the noise that distracts our hearts from fully receiving God’s word. This takes several forms.

1. Reason.
Benjamin Franklin said it: “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” This is because faith sees beyond reason. Faith stems from within; reason stems from without. Reason looks for answers; faith says they are already there.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

2. Comfort Zone.
Faith is to venture out onto the purpose of God for our lives. But our comfort zone will make us believe that we don’t have to. Our comfort zone will actually make us deaf to the word of God, making us want to be entertained, intellectually tickled and even deceiving ourselves to believe that we are accomplishing God’s work where he doesn’t want us to be.

Consider Isaiah’s attitude:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” -Isaiah 6:8

3. Excuses.
The Gospel of Luke gives us a pointed illustration of this in chapter 9, verses 57-62, where we read of three men who made excuses instead of venturing out in faith to follow Jesus. In this passage, they heard the voice of the Lord, but still made excuses. Add to these excuses the oft-repeated one: “I did not hear from God.” Yet, the reality is, they refuse to listen.

Apparently the noise is far more compelling.

4. Unwholesome Talk.
This includes gossip, backbiting, negative criticisms and the like. We would rather talk about other people’s misfortunes instead of ministering to them. We hide these kinds of talk behind the guise of wanting to pray for them. When we find the downtrodden, we should only mention them to God and no one else unless we’re leading a ministry that seeks to do something good for them.

When someone asks me how to know the will of God, I answer, “Go where the need is greater; there you will find God’s will for you.”

Through the noise we need to build a quietness around us so we can listen to the voice of God that stirs up our faith.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10

Seeing Through the Storm

File:Ocean.pngWhen Jesus walked on the water towards the disciples who were struggling in their boat against a fierce gale, they at first did not recognize him and even thought that Jesus was a ghost.

Jesus had to assure them that it was him and not a ghost.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).

What caused the disciples not to recognize Jesus and even think he was a ghost?

It was fear. They were in the middle of the lake and in the midst of a sudden storm. The fear of the boat capsizing and imminent death translated into seeing Jesus as a ghost.

Peter, gathering up courage, then requested to walk on the water to go to Jesus. Yet, as he walked, he was distracted by the force of the wind, which made him fear, and he sank. Jesus had to pull him up and place him in the boat.

The reality in that particular situation was that Jesus, the Son of God, was there and they were safe. The unreality was that the disciples saw different things because of fear. For the disciples, they saw a ghost. For Peter, he saw the wind and the sight overwhelmed him.

So often, fear can play tricks on us in the midst of life’s storms. We begin to see things that are unreal and they can overwhelm us.

Thus, we need to bring the reality of Christ into our storms. We need to see him through the storm and press on to him where there is safety, comfort and wisdom. Jesus always gives an invitation of resting in him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

To rest in him is to trust in him, that he is always there and willing to extend a helping hand.

We cannot see Jesus with the eyes of fear. We can only see him with the eyes of faith.

Between the Boat and Jesus

Boat and Jesus

When Peter walked on the water, we are told that there were other disciples as well in the boat.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. -Matthew 14:22

Yet, it was only Peter who ventured out to go to Jesus.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. -Matthew 14:28-29

We do not know how far the boat was from Jesus. We can surmise, however, that the boat was somewhere in the middle of the lake and, thus, was already in deep water. We are also told that a storm had suddenly descended upon the lake.

So it was with some measure of faith that Peter asked to walk towards Jesus. The other disciples could only cower in fear and watch as Peter stepped out into the deep.

Fear worked in two ways here. One, it immobilized the disciples. The other, it triggered Peter’s faith.

For a few moments Peter was able to walk on the water. But then, as he was distracted by the wind that was sweeping over the lake, immobilizing fear again took over and he began to sink. Jesus’ admonition was apt: “You of little faith,” he said.

It wasn’t faith in Jesus that was little. It was faith that he could walk in water that was wanting. For if it was faith in Jesus that was little, Peter would have tried to swim back to the boat. But he cried out to Jesus to save him and Jesus did.

Peter felt and knew the mighty arm of the Lord.

Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. -Psalm 89:13

Many might think that Peter’s walk on the water was an exercise in futility. It wasn’t. It was a lesson in faith; for many times we need to get out of our “boats” and walk to Jesus. Our “boats” can be our comfort zones and Jesus, the will of God.

The walk of faith may seem stormy and perilous, but the end result is knowing the power of God.

Gaze and Seek

Pixabay Image 220664
King David, the man who was described by God as “a man after his (God’s) own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), had a single life priority and that was to be in God’s house forever.

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. -Psalm 27:4

There were two motivations for this priority: one was to gaze on the beauty of the Lord; the other was to seek him in his temple.

The word, “gaze,” has almost a mystical quality to the action, for it means to look in an ecstatic state. There was such a wonderment and love within David for his God.

The other motivation was to seek God or to inquire of him. I liken it to having a fireside chat and asking God all the questions I can ask him.

David was so desiring to spend the rest of eternity being at God’s side. He probably was tired of the travails in the world he constantly endured.

He wanted his eyes to be fixed at pure divinity and not the ugliness of the human soul. He wanted to hear the melodic truth of God’s voice and not the discombobulation of the world.

How noble it would be to share in the desires of David!

And we can when we listen with our hearts to God’s melodic voice when we read his word. We can gaze at God’s beauty when we look at the world with love and offer ourselves in selfless service to our fellowmen.

We don’t need to wait to be in heaven to experience being at God’s side. We only need to abide in Jesus.

Eternity can begin today.

Learning from David’s Anguish

anguish

Imagine the anguish of David, a “man after God’s own heart,” so deep that it became a prophetic utterance spoken years later by Jesus as he was dying on the cross at Calvary.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? –Psalm 22:1

David continues his lament with, My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Many times we might find ourselves in David’s situation and, what’s worse, we feel God isn’t hearing nor answering our prayers. We then begin to despair, lose hope and give up on God.

Yet, although David found himself in a desperate situation, he never gave up on God. Instead, he looked to the sovereignty of God. He knew God was in control.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises ( verse 3).

He didn’t rely on what he thought his situation was; he relied on what he knew about God.

Thus, he submitted himself to the will of God, not that God desired for David to be in anguish. But for David to come to a greater experience of God’s deliverance and goodness.

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it (verses 30-31)!

Today’s disappointment may just be leading you to a divine appointment.