PLEASE

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Monday, February 28, 2022

Sometimes I wonder about the strangest things. Like this morning, I wonder why we say “please” when we ask for something. Here’s what I think. The basic meaning of the word “please” is “to be agreeable; to satisfy”. I confess that the satisfaction part of the definition is more significant than the agreeable part. When I am pleased with something, I feel satisfied by it. When I take pleasure in something, it satisfies me and in some sense fulfills me. It is in that sense that we use the word “please” the most. When we make a request to another person, we are usually asking within the context of our own perceived satisfaction, and we want the other person to know that it will please us.

But we misuse the word when we think it of it only from that perspective. We cannot be truly pleased if what we ask for is not agreeable to the one we are asking. Saying please when asking for something must take into account whether or not the person we are asking will be agreeable to what we have asked and will be satisfied to grant it. “Please” is a two-way street. As parents and grandparents we have practiced this for years, but have probably never really thought about it. Kids think, as do childish adults, that saying “please” guarantees results. No matter how many times my grandchildren would say “please” when asking me for permission to play in the street, I would deny their request, because I am not in agreement with their desire and it would not satisfy me. They can say “please” all they want, but I will not be pleased to say yes. The ultimate expression and fulfillment of “please” is to be in agreement with the person being asked.

I started thinking about that today while I was evaluating how my life pleases God. I thought about God’s words to His Son Jesus when He was baptized, when He said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” How and why did Jesus please the Father? We tend to believe that pleasing God, or people, is all based on performance. But at this point, Jesus had not yet performed anything. He simple lived in quiet, humble submission to God’s will and purpose for His life. He was a carpenter, with nothing written about His life after His birth except one event at the age of twelve where He astounded people with His wisdom. Otherwise, His life had been lived to this point in obscurity – unnoticed, unrecognized, and unappreciated. Yet God said He was pleased with Him. Pleasing God goes far beyond performance.

It’s not that performance isn’t a part of pleasing God, but it doesn’t start there. As important as doing the work of God is, pleasing God begins with God doing His work. It is only possible to do the work of God if we first let God do His work in us. What ultimately pleases God is this – when He can fulfill the work of His Son Jesus in our lives.

Ephesians 2:8-10  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God is most pleased when we become His workmanship. Then, when He creates the life of Jesus in us, it will result in us doing good work that pleases Him. That is why God was pleased with His Son before any work had been done. Jesus was fully surrendered to whatever God’s work would be, and that was the basis of God’s pleasure.

So many people spend their lives trying to work hard to earn the approval of God. Some even waste their lives trying to earn the approval of people. But this one truth will set us free. God is pleased with me because I am His workmanship, and there is no performance that can improve my position. Performance doesn’t earn position. Performance only validates position. God is pleased with position, not performance, and our position in Christ pleases God. He is in agreement with it. He is satisfied with it. That truth has power to change your life. Insecurities will dissolve into the security of God’s approval on life because of who we are in Christ and not because of what we can or cannot do.

Will you let this truth have the same effect on you…please?

Pastor John

UNITY

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Not all churches understand unity. Many have never experienced it. Like the church I read about this morning. The Pastor had presented an idea to the Elders several weeks earlier that he believed would facilitate greater spiritual growth and outreach within the church. The Elders met to debate the idea, and the meeting dragged on for hours. They were worn out from arguing. Each side had presented convincing arguments that only seemed to entrench the opposition more deeply in their own defense of their position. Finally it came time to vote, and the results were announced to the congregation the following Sunday. The Elders had voted 6-5 to participate in Unity Sunday.

Unfortunately this scenario describes far too many churches. A firmly entrenched group of long-term “owners” of the ministry seem to run everything. Newcomers are excluded from leadership and are not included in the inner circle of information. They are called foreigners, aliens, and immigrants, but are never accepted as fellow citizens or members of the household. That’s because some churches believe that they get to define their household of faith and get to choose who belongs to it. A few powerful and influential people take power and dictate the direction of the church. Once that happens, it is nearly impossible from a human perspective to ever overthrow their self-appointed reign.

But that’s not how God established the church. Here’s how the church is supposed to operate.

Ephesians 2:19-22  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The church is God’s household, and in Christ, everyone, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, powerful or weak, black or white or red or yellow or brown, newcomer or long-time member, is joined together to form a building in which God dwells by His Spirit.

Because God is holy He can only dwell in holiness. Unless the whole building – everyone who calls Jesus Lord and has been washed in His blood for the forgiveness of sins – is joined together it cannot rise to become the holy temple in which God will dwell. Racial prejudice has no place in the church. Preferential treatment for people of a particular heritage is unacceptable to Jesus. Assigned status based on financial solvency is an offense to God. Every member of Jesus Christ is a member of God’s household and is to be accepted, included, and treated as an equal.

I think this story illustrates perfectly what our Scripture passage is saying today:

During Vacation Bible School one year the pastor’s wife had an experience with her primary class that she says she will never forget. Her class was interrupted on Wednesday about an hour before dismissal when a new student was brought in. The little boy had one arm missing, and since the class was almost over, she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the cause or his state of adjustment. She was very nervous and afraid that one of the other children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him. There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible. As the class time came to a close, she began to relax. She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony. “Let’s make our churches,” she said. “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s…” The awful truth of her own actions struck her. The very thing she had feared that the children would do, she had done. As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Davey, let’s make the church together.”

My friends, let’s make the church together, using every building block God has given us. Together, in unity, we will become the dwelling place of God in all of His glory.

Pastor John

MORE THAN WE CAN IMAGINE

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

I am in awe of God. Every day the awe deepens. Every day the splendor of who he is becomes more real. It’s not at all like this guy, who was still a little groggy after waking up from surgery. He turns to his wife and mumbles, “You’re beautiful.” Then he rolls over and goes back to sleep. A short time later he wakes up, looks at her again, and says, “You’re cute.” She asks him what happened to beautiful, to which he replies, “I guess the drugs must be wearing off.“

Sometimes the initial thrill of things wears off. You only get your first hole in one once, or see Mount Rushmore for the first time once. Familiarity minimizes awe, and that is probably true about most experiences in life. It has long been my dream to live on the shores of a lake, where every morning I could dive off the end of my dock and exercise these aging muscles with a good swim. The thrill of being able to jump in my boat any time I want and go fishing would be spectacular. I would like to think that I would never grow complacent toward the blessing of being able to live in such a paradise, but I’m afraid I would. If the lake property didn’t also include enough woods on which to deer hunt, or wasn’t located close to a golf course, I’m sure I would begin to complain. I think most of us become dissatisfied with what we have, always looking for something better and more fulfilling on the other side of the fence.

That’s what makes our relationship with God so fascinating. Nothing grows old with Him. Every day there is something new to discover about the paradise of personal intimacy with God. It’s like knowing that every morning’s sunrise over the lake will be more spectacular than yesterday’s, and with every record fish caught from the lake God has replaced it with bigger ones. It’s like one of my friends always says, “His mercies are new every morning.“ Here’s how the Apostle Paul describes it.

Ephesians 1:15-19 “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

In my years of ministry I’ve stood next to people who shared a testimony of what God was doing to personally move them higher in their spiritual lives. I’ve heard people who had walked with Jesus for many years say how God was moving them out of their comfort zones into ministry they never knew they were gifted to do. I listened as a new Christian told how God brought him to understand his role as the spiritual head of his family and how he is accepting that role. One young couple that is new to our church talk about their pain from previous church experiences and how meaningful it has been to find a church that is faithful to God’s Word and where they have been accepted for who they are. In all of this I’ve seen Jesus Christ confirming our mission. The Holy Spirit is actively at work in people’s lives. I am in awe of God. I will NEVER grow weary or complacent about what God has done, is doing, and is planning to do.

This is real church. This is people who have the Spirit of wisdom and understanding and are pursuing knowing God better. I am watching people whose hearts have been enlightened and are living according to the hope of their heavenly inheritance and not according to the pursuit of an earthly one. I am serving with a group of people who believe in the power of God to do immeasurably more than they could ever ask or imagine. I am in awe of God!

Thank you, Jesus, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Head of the church, for calling us together to accomplish your great and eternal purpose of connecting people to God. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who equips us to do that work, and who brings us to unity of mind and heart to bring glory to Jesus Christ our Savior. And thank you for today and the new adventures we will embark upon together. Lead on, O King Eternal. We will follow you!“

Pastor John

CHOSEN

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

“I’ll take John.“ 

Growing up I didn’t usually hear those words until there were only two of us left. The two boys who were selected to be captains had already chosen all of the best players for their teams. I knew they wouldn’t choose me right away. Most were better hitters because they had more muscle. I was the skinny, tall kid who still stumbled over his feet because he had grown faster than anyone else and his coordination hadn’t caught up. I knew I would be included on one of the teams, but I also knew that the rest of the team may not be very enthusiastic about me being one of them. But regardless of what they thought of me, I would do my best and give my all to make them glad they chose me and not the other guy. I may have been included as a last resort this time, but I would earn my way up the ladder and get chosen earlier next time.

The need to feel included is huge, but simple inclusion isn’t enough. Without acceptance and participation, inclusion is meaningless. But in Christ we have been included, accepted, and been granted full rights of participation. I can’t speak for you, but for me this is an incredible truth. We have been chosen by God to participate on His team. 

Ephesians 1:11-14 “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”

At first it appears that Paul, the author of this letter to the Ephesians, is about to distinguish between those who were chosen first and those who were added later. Paul and the rest of the Jewish Christians to whom Jesus had revealed Himself first and were His chosen people since the days of Abraham seem to have an advantage over everyone else. God appears to be just like all the human team captains we’ve known – the first chosen will be the ones that bring Him the most glory.

But wait, here comes the incredible part. God included the Gentiles on the team too, and not because He had to because they were in line waiting to be chosen, but because He wanted to so He could get even more glory. He not only included us, but He gave us a permanent Uniform to identify us as one of His team members forever. The Uniform marks us as His possession, and informs us of our position on the team. When wearing the Uniform, we are equipped to play that position like no one else can. The Uniform destroys all distinctions between members of the team, and erases all relevance of when we were chosen. The Uniform guarantees equal acceptance. Every team member is assigned the same ultimate purpose – to be for the praise of our Captain’s glory.

We’ve been included in Christ. We’ve been accepted by God. We’ve been given the privilege and power to participate in God’s pursuit of the championship of the world. Of course we know He is already the Champion. We now live to let the rest of the world know they can be on the winning team. And the more people we bring to the line to get chosen, the more praise there will be to His glory.

Pastor John

PRAISE THE LORD

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A young man asked a rich, old businessman how he had made all of his money. The man nodded wisely and said, “It was 1932, in the depth of the Great Depression, and I was down to my last nickel. I used it to buy an apple that I polished all day. At the end of the day I was able to sell that apple for a dime. The next morning I invested that dime in two apples. I polished and polished those apples, selling them for 20 cents at the end of the day. I continued this process for a week until I had accumulated 6 dollars and 40 cents. Then my wife’s father died and left us 2 million dollars.“

I can relate to the work ethic of polishing apples. I can’t relate to the wealth of such an inheritance… except from a spiritual perspective. In the spiritual realm, there are two distinct groups of people – those who polish apples and those who freely receive an inheritance by grace. Only one group is connected to God. Only one group has the guarantee of eternal life.

As we mentioned yesterday, the Apostle Paul starts off his letter to the Ephesians by highlighting the incredible gift of salvation we have received from God through His Son Jesus Christ. Four times in the first fourteen verses he refers to the praise that is due to God for what He has done. Today he expresses praise in the glorious grace that made our salvation possible.

Ephesians 1:5-8. “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

Grace describes a gift that is given to an undeserving recipient. Apple polishers never receive grace. Apple polishers never understand God’s unconditional love. Apple polishers never get redeemed, never get forgiven, and never receive an inheritance. The poor in spirit do. The broken and humble do. Those with nothing receive everything. Those who have lost it all get lavished on. Those who work hard to polish the apple of their heart to make it worthy of God’s presence never enjoy His company. Those who admit that their apples are full of worms and discard them as worthless are given the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Becoming an adopted child of God does not require me to be polished, only poor. Poor enough to realize that I am hopeless and lost. Poor enough to accept a gift, knowing that I have no way to repay the Giver. Poor enough to finally understand grace.

O how we need to praise the God of grace. We who were poor have become rich because of the glorious grace of God. We have been adopted into His eternal family. We have been made joint heirs of all things owned by God. We have been guaranteed an inheritance of lavish wealth. We are the beneficiaries of an eternal life insurance policy, and have already received every spiritual blessing of that inheritance because the Owner of the wealth already died. We have been redeemed from our sin because He died to completely pay for our sin. We have been unconditionally and absolutely forgiven for our sin because of the grace of God that honors the blood of His Son Jesus shed on Calvary. 

Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed redeemer.

Pastor John

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

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Monday, February 21, 2022

HAPPY 46th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY TO MY AMAZING WIFE!

I woke up one morning at four a.m. with a sermon outline running through my mind. I don’t remember

dreaming about it. It was totally the Spirit of God who wanted to talk to me. I love those times of intimacy with the Lord when He initiates communication. It brings such peace to my heart knowing that I am in the center of His will at that moment. I knew right away He was giving me the outline for a Sunday message. I laid there for over an hour and prayed as the Holy Spirit developed the thoughts and points for me. Since thenI have been thinking about how each of those points needs to apply to my life.

One of my favorite books in the New Testament on the role of the church is Ephesians. It’s practical, it’s

powerful, and it’s precise in telling us who we are in Christ and how we are to live as a result of our salvation. As I started reading it this morning, I was deeply impacted by the emphasis on praise from the very beginning of the book. I know I don’t spend enough time in praise. My life can quickly get out of balance with complaining. I can easily see wrong before I notice right. The demands of the immediate can quench the dreams of the future. Emotional responses overwhelm faith, resulting in excessive energy being expended to seek solutions rather than resting in the arms of a faithful Lord and praising Him for what He is about to accomplish.

In Paul’s opening statement in Ephesians he expounds on God’s plan to save us. Within that context he uses the word praise four times. Each one has significance. For today, I need to focus on just the first one. 

Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Paul encourages praise based on blessings. In Christ we have received every spiritual blessing available from the realms of heaven. My problem is I tend to count problems rather than blessings. It amazes and confounds me how quickly a problem can wipe my memory bank clean of any good that has happened.

Does that happen to you? Good, I’m not alone. When one thing goes wrong it can destroy all the bliss of previous blessings. I remember the first time I ever went to a professional football game. As I entered the stadium I was overwhelmed with gratitude that someone had given me these tickets, and that I was going to see players I admired up close and in person. I was experiencing a blessing. I was so thankful to be there. That all ended when those same players started making mistakes, and my team started losing. I yelled. I got mad. I lost all concept of thankfulness for being there. I remember thinking what I could have been doing at home had I not wasted my time to watch this stupid game. All the benefits and blessings of being there were lost.

We must train ourselves to think beyond the problems of life and praise God for the blessings that cannot be lost. There is an old hymn we used to sing that really says it well. Let its words minister to your heart today.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

No matter what happens in life, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Not one of those blessings can be taken away. There is no problem or experience that can diminish the reality of the spiritual blessings of relationship with Jesus. Our attitude is our choice. Today, I choose to count my blessings. How about you?

Pastor John

ENGAGE COURAGEOUSLY

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Friday, February 18, 2022

If you recall, we started a conversation yesterday about knowing the purpose of the church. It all started at a 2003 Promise Keepers Conference that refocused my passion on God’s commission for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in all the world. I shared one example of how God confirmed that message within the first week after the conference. Here are two more:

One of our worship leaders at the time was going through a very difficult period of life because of his daughter’s health struggles.  He wrote a story from his daughter’s perspective.

“Dad talked to a cook and a cashier today down in the cafe and he shared that he worked for a Christian radio station. The cook (Joe) then said “What religion are you”? Daddy said, “Joe, you’d better make sure you have those hamburgers off the grill because we are going to talk. We are not of a religion…We have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ:” Daddy said. “It’s not about being Catholic, or Baptist or Pentecostal, it’s about Jesus dying on the Cross for my sins, raising Himself from the dead three days later and living today and wanting to live in my life. It’s not about a religion, it’s Who do you say Jesus is?” Joe…after hearing all of this, said, “Oh, cool, that’s an interesting way of looking at things.”

This Christian man had capitalized on an opportunity to share his faith in Jesus.

The final thing that happened was while I was at a birthday party for my youngest grandchild. One of my son’s new neighbors was invited to the party. As I talked to her, she asked where I was a pastor. Obviously my kids had already talked to them about what I did. Then I asked her if they went to church. She said no. Then the Holy Spirit gave me the next question to ask, and I said, “So is that by choice or because you just haven’t found one yet.” I appreciated the honesty of her answer when she said it was by choice. She explained that she and her husband have chosen to simply try to live moral lives and that was enough. She said she didn’t like all the denominational stuff. I agreed with her about that, and told her that we don’t talk religion at our church, but that it’s all about a relationship with Jesus Christ. We were interrupted by children at that point, but it was a start.

My friends, the message I clearly understood at the PK event nineteen years ago is still the passion of my heart. We must begin to take possession of our land and engage the enemy in spiritual battle. We must stay focused on why we exist as a church – to connect people to God. We must be personally committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and families. Do we need a church buildings? Yes! But they are only tools to accomplish the ultimate purpose of God, to spread the news that Jesus saves.  Let’s recommit ourselves today to engaging our culture with courage and conviction, and watch God conquer the land.

Pastor John

REFOCUS

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

On August 16th, 2003, I was sitting with a group of men from my church at a Promise Keepers Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was at a time when our church was beginning a process of evaluating space and facility needs. Our current facility was not adequate to meet the needs of many people in our congregation because it wasn’t handicapped accessible, we were seriously limited in classroom space, and we had no room to grow on the current location. As I sat in that conference I remember my mind swimming with all the possible ideas of how God would solve these problems. Would we buy another building and renovate it into a church? Would we buy land and build a new ministry center? Where would a small group of people get the money to do either of those things? How was God going to do this?

Meanwhile, Pastor Erwin McManus was being introduced as the next speaker.  Pastor McManus began by reading Deuteronomy 2:24.  “Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle.”  I thought it was a little strange for a challenge to pastors he was about to deliver. But as he explained the historical context of that verse, it became clear to me what I needed to learn. God had commanded Israel to conquer the lands He was giving them. They soon rejected that plan and refused to take possession of the Promised Land. They became weak. They lost their vision. They were negotiating with their enemies. They were not engaged in God’s battle, but were satisfied to simply wander through life trying to survive their wilderness experiences. I made the connection quickly that this is what is happening to churches today.

God spoke clearly to me that day. I knew that I never wanted to fall prey to the secularized ABC success system – Attendance, Building, and Cash. As I listened and prayed, it became obvious that God was calling me and the church to see its commission from God – engage the enemy in spiritual battle to take possession of lives for Jesus Christ. I resolved before God that day that everything I would do in my ministry would be about obedience to God’s commission.

I heard God say several important things to me that day. “Churches that are not afraid to engage their culture will capture their culture for Christ.”  I believe we as pastors, church leaders, and church attenders have sold out to an institutionalized version of the church. We consider it a profession, or a mere job, or nothing more than community service, when in reality it is the call of Almighty God to accomplish an eternal and glorious purpose. We have become nurturers not warriors. We no longer serve with courage to win the world but in fear of what the world will think. We have lost the confidence that the gates of Hell itself cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. I saw clearly that day that attendance, buildings, and cash flow were all distractions from the real purpose for our church’s existence – to engage the people of our community with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and watch God take possession of their lives.

Following that conference, three things happened to confirm the message. Let me share the first one today. At that time our church was holding two services each Sunday because of space limitations. Following the second service, I watched as a man sat in the sanctuary with a high school student who was in church for the first time. He was a troubled young man who seemed to have no hope. He was introduced to Jesus, and God took possession of His life. The man who shared the truth with him had never met him before, but because he was committed to Christ’s commission the Holy Spirit led him to speak to the young man. I talked to that young man in church the next week, and he was thrilled with his new relationship with His Savior, and is already growing in his love for God.

We must stay focused on why we exist as a church – to connect people to God. We must be personally committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and families.  Let’s recommit ourselves today to engaging our culture with courage and conviction, and watch God conquer the land.

Pastor John

KNOWING GOD’S WILL

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Yesterday we introduced the subject of knowing God’s will when we pray. There’s no way to cover that topic fully in one short devotional.  But there is a starting point that lays a foundation upon which we can build. If we will grasp this truth, then we may never again struggle to know God’s will. We may struggle with what His will is, but we will know it.

Here’s the truth – God’s will is not about making decisions, but about making disciples who are living in complete conformity to the image of His Son. Every detail of life is under the primary will of God to bring each of us to fullness in Christ.

John Boykin, in an article entitled The Gospel of Coincidence published in Christianity Today, says,” It’s easier to piddle around wondering whether it’s God’s will that you rent this apartment or that one, than it is to face up to God’s ultimate will for you: that you become conformed to the image of His Son.” 

You see, we have confused decision-making with God’s will. Every time we pray about a decision we need to make we place ourselves on the throne of our life. When we have to ask God whether or not we should do something, we are demonstrating that we are not yet surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s control of our lives. If we were, we would stop having our own ideas about stuff and all ideas would be the result of living in Jesus Christ from whom comes the will of God. When we confuse decision-making with the will of God, it indicates that we are living for self and not letting Jesus live in our place. If we would just stop living for self, and let the life of Jesus Christ be lived in and through us, we would always be living God’s will.  

It may take a little while to wrap your mind around that concept, but just because it’s hard, don’t stop trying. When Jesus struggled with the will of God when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was not because He was seeking to know it, but because He was already living it. His struggle was with surrender to it, not seeking to know it. When we are in communion with our Lord Jesus Christ through the indwelling fullness of the Holy Spirit, we will always know the will of God for each step of our journey through this life. That’s the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6.  The New Living Translation puts it this way – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.”

So the next time you have a decision to make, and you’re tempted to ask God to show you His will, go back and evaluate the origins of the idea. If the idea is an expression of the life of Christ in you, then you already know your answer. If the idea is an expression of your own self and flesh, then drop it altogether and surrender that part of your life to the control of the Holy Spirit. Let every choice of your will be to die to self and invite Jesus to live His life through you. If at any point of your life Jesus is not seen and honored, then it can’t be God’s will.

Pastor John

GOD HEARS

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Upon his arrival at his new post, a western journalist looked down from his apartment window to see the wailing wall in Jerusalem. For days he would see the same elderly man arrive at precise times in the morning and the afternoon. He decided he needed to meet this man. After introducing himself, he asked, “What is it that you keep coming here to pray for?” The man began his story. “I have come to this spot twice a day every day for 25 years now. In the morning I come and pray for world peace and the brotherhood of man. I go home, have tea, do some work, and then return in the afternoon to pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth.” The journalist was amazed at his persistence and asked, “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for those things?” He simply responded, “Like I’m talking to a wall.”

How often do we feel the same way about some of our prayers? We seem to have been praying forever for certain things – the salvation of a relative, the healing of a disease, the provision for a need, or direction for our lives. It can get discouraging sometimes, can’t it? Is God really listening?

To answer that question, let’s look at what the Apostle John says in the fifth chapter of his first epistle.

1 John 5:13-15  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Belief is the basis of all prayer. Kenneth Woodward, in an article on prayer in the March 31, 1997 issue of NEWSWEEK, wrote, “If you believe, no proof is necessary. If you don’t believe, no proof is sufficient.” Do we truly believe that God answers prayer? Consider this – the very first prayer he answers is the prayer for salvation, to which He responds with eternal life. If you believe and know that you have eternal life, then you will also believe that God hears and answers other prayers as well.

So what about all of those other prayers? Why have they not been answered? Well, for one thing, some of them may not have been heard. Whoa! Hold on there pastor. You just got done stating that if I believe then I can know that God hears all of my other prayers as well. No, I didn’t say that. I did say that He hears other prayers, but I didn’t say He hears all prayers, and neither does the Bible. John makes it clear that the only prayers God hears when we approach Him are the ones that are asked according to His will. Many of our prayers are for our own good and according to our own will, and God does not hear them. He cannot answer what He does not hear.

An old television commercial illustrates this point. A man is sitting in a manager’s office being interviewed for a job. There is a stain on his shirt. As he begins to talk about his desire for the job, the manager is distracted by the stain, as if the stain is speaking a foreign, garbled language. It is all the manager can hear. He hears nothing that the applicant is saying. I think it’s hilarious. It’s also true of our prayers. We come before God with the stain of sin called self plastered all over our prayers, and God is not listening to us.

But look at what happens when we come before Him with pure hearts and surrendered wills – He hears us. Here’s where belief is vital. John says that if we know that He hears us, we can be assured of an answer. Once we know that God hears us – because we believe that He hears any communication that involves His will, His purpose, and His glory being accomplished – we can also know that He will do what we have asked. It makes perfect sense. Let’s assume for a moment that I know in advance that someone wants to give me a million dollars. Would I approach that person with fear and doubt, or would I approach them with confidence and ask for the gift? Of course I’d leave right now and go to see that person. That is the confidence that we can have in approaching God when we ask according to His will.

So how do we know His will? We’ll take that up tomorrow. For today, check your belief system. Do you believe that it is God’s will to save sinners who repent? Do you know you have repented of your sin and received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Did He grant you eternal life? Then approach God about anything else that is His will, and He will hear you and do it.

Pastor John