Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Available, But Not Automatic, Part 3

We are continuing with the topic of “Available, But Not Automatic,” and how that relates to the blessings of God in our lives.

You’re all familiar with the word, “soteria” in the Greek. It’s synonymous with “sozo,” which refers to our deliverance, our healing, and to the abundant life that Christ came to provide for us. “How shall we escape if we neglect this great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). And then the writer continues on in verse 4, “And God also bearing witness . . .” How did God bear witness to the things that had been spoken? The answer is in verse 4. “God bearing witness both with signs and wonders and with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”

That’s how God confirmed His Word. I want to say this, and I don’t mean this as an offense, but is it neglecting so great a salvation, is it an example of neglect, to not allow God to confirm His Word the same way today? Here’s my point. God still wants to confirm His Word with signs, wonders, and miracles, and He does this through believers. The problem is that oftentimes we’re neglecting our salvation. I don’t mean that in a condemning way, and I’m not saying that you’re headed towards hell. What I am saying is that we don’t place the value upon what God has given us and give Him the credit that He’s worthy of.

Many times we don’t believe His Word to the point of doing it. Why is that so difficult? I think I know why. Because in our human way of thinking, there is tremendous risk involved. What keeps us from praying for the sick? What keeps us from delivering those who are held captive? Oftentimes I hear excuses such as, “Well, that’s just not my gift.” Well, then you’re in direct contradiction with the Word of God because Jesus told all of His disciples to go and do these things. There were no exemptions. There was no, “I want everyone to go out and do these things except you. I’m giving YOU a different gift,” huh? There were no exceptions when it came to this mandate. If you are a disciple, Jesus told you to do these things!

When the disciples went and did "these things" in places as stated in Mark 16:20, God once again confirmed His Word with signs and wonders following. See, I’m getting to one of our Core Values, which is “O” for “Outreach” (derived from the acronym W.O.R.D.). Oftentimes we define “outreach” as food distribution, going to the homeless shelter and cooking a meal, or going to spend some time with those in the nursing home or prison. Now those are all great things to do; they are forms of outreach. A lot of times we will do those things, but neglect doing that which requires greater faith. Why? “Well, God has called me to feed the hungry, but not heal the sick.” Really? How about let’s be honest. “I believe God wants me to heal the sick, but I’m afraid.” How about, “I believe God wants me to cast out demons, but ‘what if?’” That’s the risk factor.

Obedience to God will always involve a level of human risk. What we’re really saying is, “obedience to God is risky business.” And we think about all of the “what ifs” and all of the failures. We say, “Oh yeah, I prayed for this guy and he died.” Well, so did I. It was a different guy. Back in the 1980’s, first guy I ever prayed for. . . died. Boom. Dead. I’ve been praying for sick folks ever since. I don’t know how many have died; I do know that a bunch of them have lived. And it’s not going to keep me from doing what the Word of God has told me to do. What are we risking?  Here’s the deal. Am I risking my good name? What is it that I’m afraid of risking? My reputation? My job? Am I really willing to put all of that on the table over here and finally walk in obedience to God?

These are some questions that I’d like us to dwell on for the next few days. Ask God to search your heart and show you areas wherein you’re holding back, and not only that, but WHY you may not be moving forward. Regardless of the past, it is a new day and a new, fruitful season that is abounding with God’s favor. All we have to do is take steps in the right direction and be obedient to His command. 

~ pg 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Available, But Not Automatic, Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous blog wherein we are looking at the blessings and promises of God and how they are available, but not automatic.

"For if the words spoken through angels proved steadfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him" (Hebrews 2:2-3).

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? I want to remind you that the word "neglect" here means to be "careless with; to treat lightly; to make light of, to not regard as being as valuable as it is." I've had to receive the Lord's rebuke and my own as well as I think that sometimes I'm simply careless with this salvation and life that God has given me. I don't always value, or treat them as priceless, as I should. And how do I do that? By giving greater importance to other things.

That can oftentimes be seen in my day-to-day decisions. Every day we are faced with a multitude of choices and decisions. So many times people ask: "Pastor, how can I know what God wants me to do? I'm trying to make a decision in my life." It's amazing to me how many people go to their pastor looking for direction. And I'm not advising against that, there is a place for it. Usually most people who come to me for counsel already have their minds made up, or they have not really sought the Lord on their own. Many times they want me to confirm something that they're suspicious of, but most of the time they're going to do it how they've predetermined anyway. Hopefully, throughout the course of this series, we'll all be better equipped in the decision-making process that God would want us to follow.

Here are the criteria for every decision you make. I want to remind you that when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they had to make a choice between two, and they made the wrong decision. Don't ever think that you're somehow smarter than Adam. He's the guy who named all the animals. But when he was faced with "two," he made a wrong decision. And I know why he made the wrong decision; it's because he didn't follow this little piece of advice I'm gonna give you. This isn't because I think I'm so smart. It's just that it comes from a very familiar passage of the Bible. You all know Joshua 24:15, right? There's a little nugget tucked right in the middle of it, "As for me and my house we will choose to serve the Lord." He said to the people of Israel, "Choose ye this day whom you will serve." Choose. You have a choice to make. Will you choose the gods of your fathers, the pagan gods that they decided to go after? When I say, "The gods of their fathers," I'm not referring to "Jehovah," as their fathers served strange gods.

Are you going to follow that example, or will you follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one true God? Choose this day. You know, in every choice that we make, it can come down to something this simple, and it will help clarify our decision-making. This is what drives us nuts sometimes, causes us to walk in so much confusion, and why oftentimes Christians have to pay a terrible price. We can't figure out why we're not blessed. Well, we would be if we made the right choices!

No, you wouldn't live a problem-free life, but even in the midst of your struggles, you'd know what to do to overcome, to get to the other side, and to walk in the blessings of the Lord. You can make right choices, and every choice by definition involves choosing. So Joshua says, "Choose whom you will serve." Every decision is going to serve somebody or some cause and bring about some result. Every choice you make has ramifications.

We must choose what God desires for us even though we don't always understand why He would want us to make that choice at that specific moment. We may not understand. It's called, "being led by the Spirit." Oftentimes there's contention between being led by the Spirit in obedience to God and doing what we think is best. Eve saw the fruit and that it looked good, to be desired, and that it would taste good. She took it, bit it, gave it to her husband, and he ate it, too. Don't you know that they thought that they were making the right choice at that moment? Why? What could have caused them to think that they were making the right choice? They did not give heed to the things they had heard, so they drifted away and made the wrong choices. They didn't make the decision that would serve the Lord.

So we have to ask: what god are we serving? Are we serving some strange god of the world, the god of flesh, of greed, of selfishness, the god of self? He says, "How shall we escape if we neglect or treat carelessly so great a salvation?" Our choices in life are a direct reflection of the god/God we serve. Let us choose carefully this day whom we shall serve.

~ pg