Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Available But Not Automatic

“The blessing of the Lord makes one rich” (Proverbs 10:22). I think that we’re rich beyond our comprehension. We have wealth that we don’t even know about. Part of the Church’s responsibility is to help people become aware of the wealth that is theirs, so they can get their hands on it and use it wisely for the expansion of God’s kingdom.

The minute that I say “wealth,” most people naturally think about money. But there’s a wealth of blessing that is not necessarily monetarily related. I believe God wants us to have abundance in every area and that certainly includes finances. The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow to it. That’s the first point I really would like to make. God doesn’t attach sorrow to His blessing. Now, He can certainly use bad situations to bring about good results, but He does not add sorrow to His blessing according to His Word.

That’s why I’m calling this blog, “Available, But Not Automatic.” The essence of the message is this: the blessings of God are available to us all, but they are not automatic. God gives to us everything that He has. As joint heirs with Christ, we are equal heirs with Jesus. Therefore, biblically, everything that God has, He makes available to you and I, but it is NOT automatic. It is not something where we push a button and waa laa, there it is! It doesn’t work by magic; it doesn’t work by formula. It may be available to us, but that does not guarantee we’re going to get our hands on it!

I believe this includes the manifestation of God’s grace, His presence, His gifts, and His glory in our lives. We can ill afford to take for granted the blessings of God. Even though we know that all we have has been made available to us through Jesus Christ, that is not cause for us to take the blessings of the Lord for granted. And when we begin to think that things are automatic, it’s easy for neglect to set in.  

Think about “neglect” for a moment. It’s like a child who takes his toys for granted, and as a result, tends to neglect them. This principle works in our lives even though in chronological age, we may be adults. It bears repeating: things that we take for granted, we tend to neglect, even kingdom things, kingdom values, and the blessings of the Lord.

Hebrews 2:1: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” I want to break this down. We must give earnest heed. In other words, we’re going to have to pay careful attention to the things that we’ve already heard. That’s what the writer of Hebrews said. The tendency is for us to drift away if we don’t pay attention. And he’s writing to, I assume, relatively mature individuals.

There’s a danger in drifting, and it is infecting the Church today. And you don’t have to get off course by much to end up with a bad result. It’s sort of like the airplane pilot. If an airplane pilot is off by just one degree, of course depending upon how far his intended destination is, being off by one degree, he’ll certainly miss the mark.

It’s true in golf. Now, I never really had to worry about it too much in golf because I could never hit the ball far enough to be too concerned about being off a few degrees. But if you’re Tiger Woods, and you can drive a ball 300 to 325 yards, the more accurate it better be, or you’re gonna end up out of bounds. And the same is true in our Christian walk. The longer you drift off course without taking corrective action, the farther you’ll end up off course. You keep going, going, going, and believe me, that one degree is going to make a bigger difference the longer it is ignored. Are you with me here? The writer of Hebrews says, “Give earnest heed, pay attention, to the things that you’ve heard in order to avoid drifting away.” That’s a great admonishment for us to listen to, take earnest heed, and pay careful attention!
~ pg 

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Heart of Thankfulness, Part 4

If you want more of God, He’ll give you more of Himself. That ought to make you happy. It ought to make you want to rejoice all the time. ALL THE TIME! I’m not going to say that you don’t have the right to be depressed. Yes, I am. You don’t have the right to be depressed! Who do you think you are? Oh, no wonder you’re depressed, because you don’t know who you are! Does that make sense?

Let’s look again at 1 Thessalonians 5. “Let us not quench the Spirit.” Then he goes on to talk about not despising all things and holding fast to that which is good. This could be a whole lesson on life, all of these points in this chapter. These are clear instructions on how to live.

There are obviously many more verses, Old and New Testament, which deal with the issue of remaining thankful. Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks to the Father at ALL times.” In other words, is there ever a time when we should not be thankful? NEVER! NO! There is never a time when you should not be thankful—or without the double negative—we should always be thankful! It will change your world. “But what if I can’t pay my bills,” or, “Well, what if,” there is never a time for you to not be thankful and to give thanks to the Lord. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.

You’ll find out that giving thanks leads to peace. Just read Philippians 4:6-8. Maybe you don’t have peace because you’re not thankful. So many things hinge on thankfulness. So much of our ability to live a victorious, successful Christian life depends upon our discipline to establish and then maintain this disposition. You may have to work at this because maybe you weren’t raised in a thankful atmosphere. 

I love to hear testimonies of people saying, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” Isn’t that great? We didn’t know. Why? Nobody told us. Mama was always just rejoicing and thanking God. Huh? You look at many of the youth of today and is it any wonder? They’ve been raised in greed and a sense of entitlement. And I see many Christians living the same way. And that sense of entitlement keeps them from being thankful, and if they’re not thankful; they can’t overcome. Does that make sense to you?

I want to encourage you to read Deuteronomy chapter 8 wherein the Lord reminded the children of Israel about maintaining an attitude of thankfulness. Moses was speaking to them, and they were about to go and take the Promised Land. God obviously revealed to Moses their concern that people would quickly forget. They didn’t remember the many great things that God had done on their behalf. And so Moses kind of rehearses over all those things. “Remember what the Lord has done. Remember what the Lord has done.” And he even says in Deuteronomy 8, “Do not forget.”

We have a propensity to forget. Why? Because we’re always looking ahead; always looking at what shines in front of us. Do not forget. Then he goes on, “For it is the Lord who gives you the power to accumulate wealth that He might establish His covenant with thee.” Only don’t let prosperity become your god.

Don’t forget where it all comes from. Don’t ever forget it and always seek to honor Him with it. Amen?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Heart of Thanksgiving, Part 3

As a continuation of what we’ve been discussing, which is developing and maintaining a heart of thanksgiving, I really want to focus on the next point that begins with verse 19 of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Now why do you think that He put that in there? “Do not quench the Spirit.” Do you know what it means to “quench”? Literally, according to Strong’s, it means, “extinguish.” You and I have the potential, or the ability, to extinguish the Spirit. I reckon that means something akin to pouring water on a fire.

The Holy Spirit, full of life, is seeking to instruct us in truth as Jesus said the Spirit would. And instead of receiving that life and that truth, we want to throw cold water upon what the Spirit comes to bring. How awesome is the born-again experience in which God comes to live in us. I still cannot wrap my human mind around what it means to have God’s Spirit in me. How does He do that with all of us? And of course, we can give the quick “off the cuff” answer of, “Well, there’s enough of God to go around, there’s no limit,” etc., but God chooses to live in us? To dwell in us? To put His Spirit in us? Wow!

And so Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Now, how do you think it would be possible for you to quench the Spirit? Let’s take this bit-by-bit. A) Is it possible for you or I to quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? B) If possible (which the Word says it is), how would we do it?
Well, let’s read the preceding verses. Verse 16: when we do not maintain an attitude of rejoicing, we extinguish the Spirit. Verse 17: we extinguish the Spirit by not remaining in an attitude of prayer. Again, this does not mean walking around speaking in tongues, praying in the Holy Ghost, and saying “Our Father’s” and “Hail Mary’s,” or whatever you venture to do. It doesn’t mean making a public display of prayer as the Pharisees do, praying on the corner where everybody can see how holy one thinks they might be. It means maintaining a regular communication line with God. Prayer is fellowship, relationship, and communication with God, and it involves speaking as well as listening. Transmitting as well as receiving, and we should always be ready to pray.

How do you respond to bad news? How do you respond to the needs of other people? Do you just get in there in the pity party and wallow around in the mud? I see it in church life all the time. People just wallowing in the mud together like pigs in slop sometimes. I don’t mean to be offensive. Your responsibility is not to join in the pity party; those who are mature are supposed to instruct those who are less mature, not jump into the junk with them! That is a clear sign of immaturity and a lack of spirituality. People don’t need sympathy, maybe some empathy, but sympathy is not going to change their situation. They need compassion. Compassion will seek results and positive change in that circumstance. People don’t just need your emotional input; they need the God in you to be released in their situation!

Oftentimes that comes through prayer. The next time somebody just wants you to jump in the muck with them, take their hand and pray in the name of Jesus! You’ll find out that they’re gonna try to keep pulling your hand in the muck. It’s amazing to me. “Yeah, you can pray, but, but, but,” and they’re just pulling on your arm, yanking you and trying to get you into the muck. And if you don’t maintain a proper attitude, you’ll be yucky, mucky (I don’t think I’ve ever used that term before) in no time at all! It doesn’t take long; you’ll be wallowing around in that stuff. We’re called to bring them out of the muck!

How do we extinguish the Spirit? Look at verse 18: by not giving thanks in all things. By not establishing and maintaining an attitude and a heart of thankfulness. What causes us to not be thankful? Every one of us can identify with that if we just were honest with ourselves here. Sometimes it’s a sense of entitlement. Sometimes it’s our own greed. All the time it’s the work of our flesh. There’s only one thing that keeps us from being thankful and that’s our carnality, or soulfulness, and self-centeredness/selfishness. Like James said, “You want, you want, you want, and you don’t get” (paraphrased). Why? Because you’re seeking to heap something upon yourself, and your motivation is wrong.

I’ve always seen God bless generous people, and I’m not just talking about monetarily. We all know some people who go way beyond their means, yet they do not have a lot of money. But if you ask them, they’ll tell you that they’re blessed. This is not about financial wealth. That’s just one aspect of life. Some of the happiest people that I know don’t have much at all. But my goodness sake, they are so generous, and they’re always happy. No, they’re not just always happy, they’re always rejoicing! What causes us to be dismayed is when we don’t get what we want. So what do you want? Maybe the object of your desire is the problem. What is the object of your desire? Ouch!

We’ll wrap up this series regarding a “Heart of Thanksgiving” with the next blog. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey!

~ pg

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Heart of Thanksgiving, Part 2

Last week we looked at how we are to “rejoice always,” as the Scripture states in 1 Thessalonians. This week we are picking up with the next directive Paul is admonishing us with in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 17, “Pray without ceasing.” What does that mean? It means, “do not cease praying.” Just turn it around. Without ceasing, pray. It means we should always be in an attitude of prayer. That doesn’t mean that we should be walking around with holy garments and saying, “Ohhhh Gaaawwd,” and standing on the corner like the Pharisees. It means to remain in an attitude of prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is communication with God. We should be in a constant state of prayer, even if we’re not “talking.

Do you know that you don’t always have to be talking to God, and He doesn’t always have to be talking to you? But it’s awfully good to know that He’s there when I need Him. And wouldn’t it be good if God knew that I’m always here if He needs me, too? That I’m not distracted; I’m not caught up in other things. Hello? Hello? There’s God, “Hello, hello, are you there? Can you hear Me now? Hello?”

What if we were as quick to listen to God as He is to listen to us? God hears, but He doesn’t always answer because God isn’t duty-bound to respond. And there’s sometimes when we’re just babbling, and it’s a one-way conversation. I’ve wondered if God sometimes just takes the receiver and holds it off to the side while we’re sounding like one of Charlie Brown’s teachers on the other end. I’m not saying that God does that; I said I wonder if He does. Actually, I’m pretty sure that He doesn’t have a cell phone. That might be hard for some to believe: there are no cell phones in heaven. Oh boy, I just rocked somebody’s world.

Pray without ceasing, verse 18. “In everything . . .” What does “everything” mean? Is there anything that is not included in everything? I just love the way that Paul makes these statements. Look at verse 16 again, “always.” Then in verse 17 it says, “without ceasing.” These are very clear instructions. “In everything give thanks.” Why? Because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you! Does that settle the argument? It ought to. “But you don’t understand. How can I possibly give thanks in my situation.” Why don’t you just hush up and do what Paul says do! Paul says that it’s the will of God in everything to give thanks to Him.

Now, we want to debate that! If you don’t believe it, you’re not debating and contending with the preacher or any other human being, you’re trying to strike up a debate with God, and guess what? You have already lost! The minute you open your mouth to try and debate an issue with God, you’ve lost the debate.

In our academy, we teach our children effective communication, and in the rhetoric stage, they also learn effective argumentation. They learn to communicate regarding ideas and/or truths that are based upon true logic. It is illogical to contend with God. You cannot win the debate. God is not a debater. God doesn’t call us together to maybe, just maybe, find some common ground. God’s not looking for common ground. He’s looking for people with enough common sense to understand that He is God. My friends, His way is not only the best way, but it is either God’s way or the highway. He gives us this powerful thing called choice, or free will. Next week we will go on to the next portion of Scripture that deals with “not quenching the Spirit.”

This gives us plenty to work on this week as we are stepping into this New Year:

1.     Rejoice always.

2.     Pray without ceasing.

3.     Give thanks in everything.

May God bless you mightily!

~ pg