Tag Archives: Lord

Giving Thanks Through Worship

Today’s message summary of November 19, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

 

Psalm 100:1-5

Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God.

He made us, and we are his

his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;

his faithfulness, through all generations.

 

Psalm 100 is very simple to understand.  It is the shortest psalm in the Bible and very memorable.  It is sung during several worship services.  If you have attended a Reformed Presbyterian church, you would have heard this presented as part of a doxology.

Take notice of the title of Psalm 100.  It is written as a psalm of Thanksgiving.  It is also referred to as a psalm of giving praise.  Both references are correct.  Giving thanks is a way of showing appreciation to God for what He has done.  It is an act of worship.

Psalm 100 has two parts.  The first three verses acknowledge God for who He is, and the last two verses worship Him.

The first command in the psalm is in verse 2, where you are asked to serve Him.  In verse 3, we are two know who He is, and is verse 4, we are to give thanks to Him.  The psalm was written for public worship.  In Jesus’s time, the people would have read this psalm within the synagogue.  The people would publicly assemble to come together in a unified presence to praise God.  It was to be done with exuberance.  It is an invitation to come together with excitement!

Everyone, throughout the world, was invited to worship and praise Him.  It was not a song relegated to the Jews.  People were to shout to Him with gladness!  If you can picture everyone coming together to recognize a king or queen, you can imagine the crowd forming and celebrating loudly.  Thousands and thousands of churches are all worshiping right now in this manner.  There is certainly nothing wrong with making a joyful noise unto the Lord!

This praise was (and is) to be a praise of reverence.  While the physical buildings that existed from the days of Jesus and the Old Testament, we are now able to worship the Lord through our own bodies. Jesus declared that our own bodies are temples before Him.  God deserves all praises from mankind and for all of creation.

Luke 19:40

He (Jesus) answered, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!”

Note that Psalm 95 has a similar approach to Psalm 100:

Psalm 95:1-7

Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord,

shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation!

Let us enter his presence with thanksgiving;

let us shout triumphantly to him in song.

For the Lord is a great God,

a great King above all gods.

The depths of the earth are in his hand,

and the mountain peaks are his.

The sea is his; he made it.

His hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

the sheep under his care.

Today, if you hear his voice.

 

The first command in Psalm 100 is to serve…as in serve the Lord (Psalm 100:2).

The word “serve” describes the act of working or worshiping as a slave before God.  Being a slave for God implies ownership (not in the negative sense of slavery within US history).  God is to be feared as our Master.

Colossians 3:22

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Dont work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

When you note that we are servants of God, it means that there is a reverence for Him.  In the same way that servants have masters, God does not want His true servants to do what they want to do.  Because we are in the flesh, we are to remain obedient to the Lord because it is in our best interest.  When we serve Him, we are to do so with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Psalm 2:10-12

So now, kings, be wise;

receive instruction, you judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with reverential awe

and rejoice with trembling.

Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry

and you will perish in your rebellion,

for his anger may ignite at any moment.

All who take refuge in him are happy.

 

When we serve the Lord, we are being obedient to Him, and we are doing so with gladness.

The epitome of Sunday service worship is summarized in Psalm 100:2. We came and gathered in this building, and into His presence to worship Him.  The building itself is physical and could disappear tomorrow, but we could still gather as a group without the building and worship Him as members of the body of Christ.

The reverence and holiness of God is to be taken into account:

Exodus 20:18-21

All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance.  You speak to us, and we will listen, they said to Moses, but dont let God speak to us, or we will die.

Moses responded to the people, Dont be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear him and will not sin.  And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the total darkness where God was.

 

It is to remind us to not sin against the Lord.  Whether we are gathered in a group or even praying and meditating alone before Him, we are to keep the fear of the Lord on our hearts.  Your understanding of who the Lord is will help to dictate your own behavior.  Those who have little to no fear of Him will often only live for themselves.

Be mindful that when you serve the Lord, your service is an act of worship.  Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily and willing perform this service.  Please note, however, that such service without reverence and faith is meaningless.

The second command in Psalm 100 (verse 3) is to know the Lord.

Knowing the Lord is also referred to throughout the book of Ezekiel and in many parts of the Old Testament.  To know the Lord is to take the time to learn about who He is.  It helps you to learn about how to not sin against Him, and He encourages you to be obedient to Him.

Psalm 100:3-4

Acknowledge that the Lord is God.

He made us, and we are his

his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

 

Getting to know who He is puts the focus on Him.  When we take our focus off of Him, that it when things start to slip.  If your focus is on the glory of God–and of Christ, then your desire should be to learn more about Him each and every day.

Romans 9:20-21

But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, Why did you make me like this? Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?

The God of the universe is indeed the Potter, and He has created everything.  His love and His holiness cannot be contained because that is the essence of who He is.

The third command is to give thanks to the Lord (Psalm 100:4).  Note that giving thanks to the Lord is not just relegated to the Thanksgiving holiday.  It is far more than that.  Giving thanks to the Lord is an act of worship, and that is to be done throughout the entire year.  It is an act of worship that others in your life should readily see—and wonder.

Giving thanks is not just about having something like food or possessions.  We give thanks to the Lord because of His goodness.  If a person who has nothing can still give thanks to God for who He is, then they understand the character and nature of a holy and righteous God.  One’s circumstances may change, but the nature of God never changes.

Psalm 100:5

For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.

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Prayers for Wisdom (Part 9 of the Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of August 20, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss what it is to pray for wisdom.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

James was speaking to Jewish Christians who were spread throughout the Roman Empire.  These Christians were experiencing various trials.  It was written sometime between 40-50 A.D.  At that time there was a restriction of travel by Christians to Alexandria by the emperor Claudius in 40 A.D.  Another James, who led the church, was murdered around 44 A.D by King Herod.  There was a famine in Jerusalem around 46 A.D., which caused a severe shortage of food.  These Christians faced political trials, persecution and anxiety.

James was writing to these Christians who faced trials, and there are trials that many believers experience today.  He reminded the believers that they were to look to God in the midst of these and other trials in order to obtain God’s wisdom.

We will look at these four aspects of wisdom:

  • The Invitation of Wisdom
  • The Explanation of Wisdom
  • The Application of Wisdom
  • The Gift of Wisdom

Before James 1:5, the verses that precede it set the tone for the seeking of God’s wisdom:

James 1:2-4

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

James is speaking to new believers who desire to use self-control in the midst of difficulty.  It challenges believers to ask God for wisdom in those areas where one is struggling. We are invited to seek after His wisdom.

The Invitation of Wisdom

Proverbs 2:1-10

My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

listening closely to wisdom

and directing your heart to understanding;

furthermore, if you call out to insight

and lift your voice to understanding,

if you seek it like silver

and search for it like hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and discover the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He stores up success for the upright;

He is a shield for those who live with integrity

so that he may guard the paths of justice

and protect the way of his faithful followers.

Then you will understand righteousness, justice,

and integrityevery good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

and knowledge will delight you.

 

The Explanation of Wisdom

Wisdom is not just intellectual knowledge.  There are many intellectuals in this world that still lack wisdom.  They may have high IQs and great knowledge, but when it comes down to wisdom, it means that there has to be a rational thought.

We should not be surprised when we hear things that are foolish that come from these intellectuals.  One of the most foolish things that a person can do is to fail to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Wisdom is the by-product of God’s attributes and His laws.  Wisdom reveals the very nature of God, and by seeking after Him, He will reveal it to you.  The personification of wisdom is Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 8:1-21

Doesnt wisdom call out?

Doesnt understanding make her voice heard?

At the heights overlooking the road,

at the crossroads, she takes her stand.

Beside the gates leading into the city,

at the main entrance, she cries out:

People, I call out to you;

my cry is to the children of Adam.

Learn to be shrewd, you who are inexperienced;

develop common sense, you who are foolish.

Listen, for I speak of noble things,

and what my lips say is right.

For my mouth tells the truth,

and wickedness is detestable to my lips.

All the words from my mouth are righteous;

none of them are deceptive or perverse.

All of them are clear to the perceptive,

and right to those who discover knowledge.

Accept my instruction instead of silver,

and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is better than jewels,

and nothing desirable can equal it.

I, wisdom, share a home with shrewdness

and have knowledge and discretion.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil.

I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct,

and perverse speech.

I possess good advice and sound wisdom;

I have understanding and strength.

It is by me that kings reign

and rulers enact just law;

by me, princes lead,

as do nobles and all righteous judges.

I love those who love me,

and those who search for me find me.

With me are riches and honor,

lasting wealth and righteousness.

My fruit is better than solid gold,

and my harvest than pure silver.

I walk in the ways of righteousness,

along the paths of justice,

giving wealth as an inheritance to those who love me,

and filling their treasuries.

 

Note what verse 17 in Proverbs 8 about wisdom:

Proverbs 8:17

I love those who love me, and those who search for me find me.

John 14:21

The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.

 

The Application of Wisdom

How do we apply this wisdom?  It starts with asking God.  It is wise to seek wisdom from those who are following Christ, and not from those who are not following Him.  Applying wisdom is acknowledging the authority that God has in your life.

Proverbs 3:5-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

in all your ways know him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Dont be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Whenever you choose not to ask for wisdom from God, it shows a lack of fear or reverence for Him.

We apply wisdom about asking God within a situation we are going through, and we seek after His presence.  We are to seek His Word and listen for His voice.

 

The Gift of Wisdom

God will give it to you and not hold anything back.

God grants wisdom without any regret.  He desires to give it to you and to help you understand what is going on.

Wisdom is a gift that helps you and also challenges you to remain faithful through the process.  His wisdom will help you in faith.

James 1:6-8

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

God desires to give us wisdom.  He desires to give us wisdom in prayer.  Meditate on His Word.  Recite it to yourself within your prayer.  He will answer and give you what you need.


Doing the Work of The Lord

Today’s message summary of June 4, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

If your focus is on the work of God, it will change you.  God should come first in your life.

If there is a lack of focus, there will be a hole in your life that cannot be filled by material things.

You can be confused over those things that you deem to be priorities.

Over time, God’s work can get lost within the course of life.  You can get so busy living and lose track of what is most important; yet, God has a plan for you each and every day.

The word of God is the most important part of your life.

Haggai 1:1-11

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 

The Lord of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.

The word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, the Lord of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways:

You have planted much

but harvested little.

You eat

but never have enough to be satisfied.

You drink

but never have enough to become drunk.

You put on clothes

but never have enough to get warm.

The wage earner puts his wages

into a bag with a hole in it.

The Lord of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways. Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified, says the Lord. You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why? This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.

So on your account,

the skies have withheld the dew

and the land its crops.

I have summoned a drought

on the fields and the hills,

on the grain, new wine, olive oil,

and whatever the ground yields,

on man and beast,

and on all that your hands produce.

 

Haggai’s words to the people of Judah was a revealing of their weakness toward the work of God.

  • Carelessness about the matters of God
  • Their sincerity concerning the things of God is small
  • Their leisure time was more important than God’s work
  • Their personal comfort was more important

Ezra 5:1-2

But when the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, helping them.

When you see and hear that God is at work, it places an expectation from Him upon your life.  As you remain obedient to Him, He will affirm your efforts and even provide the support that you need in service to Him.

Ezra 6:14

So the Jewish elders continued successfully with the building under the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia.

Ezra 7:5-6

Abishuas son, Phinehass son,

Eleazars son, Aaron the chief priests son

came up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him.

 

The workforce was made up of everyone who had returned from exile.  Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they still rebuilt the altar at its original site (Ezra 3:3).

The people overcame their fear in order to obey God.

Haggai points out the weakness of God’s people and what causes them to be distracted.  What are the distractions in your life that prevent you from serving and honoring God?

Haggai 1:2

“The Lord of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”

  • You can see it, but you won’t do the work
  • You can hear about it, but will not do the work.
  • You can receive from God the ability to do what is needed, but still choose not to do it.

 

The conflict here is your comfort versus God’s comfort (Haggai 1:3).

When is the right time to do God’s will and be obedient to Him?  The right time is when you see it, hear about it, and have received from God the ability to do it.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give youa land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plantand when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

Haggai 1:5, 7

Now, the Lord of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways.”

You need to give consideration as to your ways in life.  You need to go over how you make your decisions and reflect deeply upon how you are spending your time.  He wants you to be thoughtful as to your ways.

God challenges you with your way of thinking here.  Before God asks you to do something, you need to consider how you are going to respond to Him.  He may give you something that will pull you out of your comfort zone.

God will enable you to do many things in your life if you simply remain obedient to His will.  Take pleasure in it, you please Him and honor Him, and God will honor you.

Are you taking care of God’s business?  It remains as a priority in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Haggai gave words of encouragement only after the people were willing to obey.

Haggai 1:12-14

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the entire remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. So the people feared the Lord.

Haggai, the Lords messenger, delivered the Lords message to the people, I am with you”—this is the Lords declaration.

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. They began work on the house of Yahweh of Hosts, their God.

Once the people began to fear the Lord, their own fear to proceed had subsided.  The people had to see God for themselves.

God’s message is “I am with you.”

Romans 8:31

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Haggai 2:3

Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem like nothing to you? Even so, be strong, Zerubbabel–this is the Lord’s declaration. “Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest.  Be strong, all you people of the land”this is the Lord’s declaration. “Work! For I am with you”the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.

To build the temple was going to require strength. God’s encouragement was to say “be strong” three times.

When the Spirit of God is with you, there is no need for fear.  He will enable you to complete the task at hand.


What Do You Come to Church For?

Today’s message summary of May 28, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Why do people go to church?  Is it a possession that one holds onto?  Ultimately, every person needs to understand what the real purpose of church is.  We can lose our love for the Lord while being involved with church for a number of other reasons.  Somewhere, the church of Ephesus lost its first love…the love of Jesus Christ.

When one comes to church, one should be coming to see, hear and receive.

When you see what God is doing in the lives of His people, you can rejoice!

When you come to hear God’s Word, you come with the understanding that He teaches and also corrects you.  (Some will not come because they do not want to be corrected.)  God wants you to know that you are on a journey with Him, and His teaching will help you along as you go.

God wants you to receive Him.  He desires to catch your attention and hold it with the desire to hear Him speak to you and guide you.

You should want to see what God is doing…not only in your life, but in the bigger picture.  While there is often a focus on numbers in the church, God has done many great things with just a small number of people.

Church is not a place for gossip.  That is the wrong reason to attend a church.  The words reflected upon should be His words.

You should want to hear from God about the matters concerning you and your life, but also what He expects of you.

You should want to receive from God.  He wants you to receive His power, strength and faith (confidence) to do what He is asking of you.

There is a reason to come to church.  God desires to see you continue to grow within the church in these areas.  He wants you to have faith and the ability to step out when things are unknown or unclear.  That is where we see God’s greatest work and accomplishments.

People may argue that John the Baptist did not have a church, but John did indeed have a ministry, even if it was out in the wilderness.

Matthew 11:7-10

As these men went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes?  Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the one it is written about:  Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You; he will prepare Your way before You.

The wilderness, where John’s “church” was located, was far from town, or what many would consider to be the comfort of home.  Your going to church should be like going to a place where God’s word teaches and convicts you to a place where you learn, grow and develop a desire to fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Church should be a place of solitary for you.  The primary focus should be on Jesus Christ.  It should be free from restraints.  It fulfills a desire of quietness in your spirit.  Church can be your desert place (the wilderness), where you are alone with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Church is to be a place of education–teaching needs to be taking place, and effective teaching does take some time.

Your mind, within the church, is to be separated from everything in life and focused on what God is saying, understanding what you are hearing, and what you are receiving from God.  What you receive is what you are going to leave with.

If you’re always in a rush, you won’t be able to hear God speak to you the way He desires to.  Church is the place where you can slow yourself down and put aside those things that can distract you from Him.

A reed could grow twelve feet tall and be paper thin, and when the wind blows, it just lays down.  It goes with the wind.

The wind, represented here by religion and government, could have caused John to be indecisive or to be shaken.  To waver or to show doubt can cause one to be unsteady.

The religion was the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The government was King Herod and his sinful life.

John stands against these two powerful forces.

Note that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be upheld within the church setting.  It’s not enough just to call yourself a Christian.   It is about living as God calls you to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Complaints about the church:

  1. It’s not relevant.

John was relevant according to his message.

  1. It lasts too long.

How long do you sit through a movie?

  1. Church is boring.

Is it boring because it is not what you want it to be?

  1. I don’t like the way church is being run.

It’s your place to determine how church is being run.

  1. It’s the same routine each Sunday.

It is all in your approach to being educated in the Word.  It is more important to see Christ in your life,                  and understand that He never changes.

 

Psalm 122:1

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

 

Psalm 73:16-25

When I tried to understand all this,

it seemed hopeless

until I entered Gods sanctuary.

Then I understood their destiny.

Indeed, You put them in slippery places;

You make them fall into ruin.

How suddenly they become a desolation!

They come to an end, swept away by terrors.

Like one waking from a dream,

Lord, when arising, You will despise their image.

When I became embittered

and my innermost being was wounded,

I was stupid and didnt understand;

I was an unthinking animal toward You.

Yet I am always with You;

You hold my right hand.

You guide me with Your counsel,

and afterward You will take me up in glory.

Who do I have in heaven but You?

And I desire nothing on earth but You.

 

The church should be providing information to you about how to live life in these perilous times.

We go to church to hear the message that God has to give to us.

 

Matthew 3:1-6

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:

A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

Prepare the way for the Lord;

make His paths straight! 

John himself had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

 

Romans 10:14-17

But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!  But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message?  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.


Prayer: What Difference Does It Make? (1 John 5:14) [Part 7 of a Series]

Today’s message summary of May 21, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss prayer but we also want to be able to learn how to listen to God in the midst of prayer.

Elijah went into hiding because he learned that his life was in danger because of his efforts to remove the idols of the day from the presence of Ahab and Jezebel.  There, the Lord spoke to him…

1 Kings 19:9-18

He entered a cave there and spent the night.

Elijahs Encounter with the Lord

Then the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah?

He replied, I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.

Then He said, Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lords presence.

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?

I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, he replied, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and theyre looking for me to take my life.

Then the Lord said to him, Go and return by the way you came to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.  Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu.  But I will leave 7,000 in Israelevery knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.

There are many points here, but we will cover the following point relevant to listening to God when we pray:

Identifying God’s voice.  Many of us can recognize specific voices, such as a mother, brothers or sisters, or even children and parents, and that is because of your personal knowledge and exposure.  In contrast, we often can struggle hearing God’s voice.  Please note that God has never stopped speaking to his church.  Our struggle is the amount of time we spend trying to hear Him.  We face many distractions that keep us from hearing Him.  Consider that Elijah, a very devout man, was in a place where he had become frightful even though he was a man full of faith and had spoken to God on a regular basis.  You would not necessarily expect that he would struggle here as he did.

God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”  We can ask ourselves the same question.  Even when we are speaking to God, sometimes we cannot hear him because of how our fears can drown out the voice of God.

Can you identify the voice of God?  Are you able to decipher His voice over the voices of others?

John 10:2-5

The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.  They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they dont recognize the voice of strangers.

The sheep know His voice.  If you know Jesus Christ, you can identify His voice.  It is often, however, that we, as His sheep, will willingly listen to strangers that lead us to sin.  Other voices that are contrary to God will try to drown out God’s voice.  We can often be easily distracted.  We need to be intentional in pursuing the very things that God directs us to in order to succeed.

We can hear the voice of God actually answering previously unanswered prayers.

Colossians 3:15-16

And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Ephesians 5:18-21

And dont get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

speaking to one another

in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,

singing and making music

from your heart to the Lord,

giving thanks always for everything

to God the Father

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

submitting to one another

in the fear of Christ.

What is really in your heart?  Is it the Word of God or is it something else?  What permeates from you?  Is the Word of God something that comes naturally for you?

When you hear a voice of condemnation or one that promotes depression, it is not the voice of God.  We are to decipher those voices of the world versus those that come from God.

How do we know when God is communicating to us?  In biblical times, God did so in many different ways.  He can use these means even today.  He communicates to us through our friends or even our worldly co-workers.  In order to hear what He is saying, we must be attentive to this communication and live intentionally for Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:6-9

For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may reside in me.

Notice how God communicated to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19:11-12

Then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.”

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.

These are three supernatural and spontaneous events that occurred.  Notice that Elijah is trying to hear God’s voice through all of the noise but it was only when things were quiet and still was when he heard it.

It is important for each one of you, in our busyness, that we have to be still and focus on His voice.  It is in our quiet moments when we can hear Him best.

When we are praying to Him, what would it look like if we were silent?  What you will hopefully hear is your quiet conversation with Him and His response as you learn to read and meditate on His Word on a daily basis.


Prayer: What Difference Does it Make? (Part 6 of a Series)

Today’s message summary of March 19, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a man from Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, the first named Hannah and the second Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. This man would go up from his town every year to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts at Shiloh, where Elis two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the Lords priests.

Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he always gave portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to each of her sons and daughters. But he gave a double portion to Hannah, for he loved her even though the Lord had kept her from conceiving. Her rival would taunt her severely just to provoke her, because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving. Whenever she went up to the Lords house, her rival taunted her in this way every year. Hannah wept and would not eat. Hannah, why are you crying? her husband Elkanah asked. Why wont you eat? Why are you troubled? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?

In verse 10, it is noted that Hannah was depressed about her inability to conceive.  She was very upset and was praying to God that she would be remembered in her difficulty.

1 Samuel 1:9-11

Hannah got up after they ate and drank at Shiloh. Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lords tabernacle. Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servants affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.

She was weeping in such a way as a woman who had lost her only child.  Her condition was one of deep despair.

The reality of infertility makes a woman feel inadequate or incomplete.  A woman’s desire is to bear children.  In Hannah’s time, women who remained barren felt worthless, and they typically would not receive an inheritance that would allow for care for themselves and family members.  A woman’s prestige was based upon her ability to produce offspring.

It should be noted that Hannah’s inability to bear children was allowed by God, and perhaps for the sole purpose that He wanted Hannah to draw closer to Him and to not dwell on her circumstances.

2 Corinthians 12:6-10

For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger[a] of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Hannah found her self-worth in God.  This is also a lesson for each of us.  We believe that the things that we do defines who we are.  All joy that we experience comes from Him, and it should remind us that we are to seek Him in everything.

When we pray to God, we are to pray with the understanding that our desires are to be rooted within a relationship with Him.  He wants us to grow more and more with Him.

In her prayer to God, we will focus on these three things:

  • Hannah’s vow to the Lord
  • Hannah asked for recognition
  • Hannah’s offering

Hannah made a vow with God not only with herself but also with her future child.  When she made this promise, it affected the course of her child’s life.  The vow was a Nazarite vow, where the person would separate and consecrate himself for service to God in the temple.  We find that Samuel would be serving the Lord diligently for his entire life.

Making a vow is not to be taken lightly, and is not recommended (Judges 11:29-40).

So, (Akron Alliance Fellowship) Church, when you are praying:

Matthew 5:37

But let your word yes be yes, and your no be no.[a] Anything more than this is from the evil one.

When Samuel was born, we know that Hannah followed her vow by keeping her commitment.  Her only child was committed to service.  Her desire to be a mother was fulfilled, but she released Samuel to serve the Lord.  This is the type of prayer that we are to focus on when it comes to our own service to Jesus Christ.

Hannah prayed to the Lord to be remembered by God as her servant (1 Samuel 1:11).  In Hannah, whose name means “grace,” you can understand her sincerity of prayer before the Lord.  Note that God heard her affliction, and we see that Hannah bore Samuel and many more children afterward (three sons and two daughters).

The lesson here is remaining prayerful.  God, in His sovereignty, does recognize your prayers, and it make take some time before He answers them.

Hannah’s offering was giving her son back to the Lord.  She offered her son as a way of serving the Lord in her desire to please God. Samuel was faithful in service and became a judge over Israel.

There is a parallel to her actions to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

John 17:9-11

I pray for them.

I am not praying for the world

but for those You have given Me,

because they are Yours.

Everything I have is Yours,

and everything You have is Mine,

and I have been glorified in them.

I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to You.

Holy Father,

protect them by Your name

that You have given Me,

so that they may be one as We are one.

 

Jesus asked God to keep and protect His servants.  The persons that Jesus would die on the cross for belonged to the Father.


Critical Conversations

Today’s message summary of March 12, 2017 from Columbus Morgan:

Jesus Christ gave instruction to His disciples as to what was going to take place as He was transitioning to return to the Father:

John 13:1-5

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariots son, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.

The washing of the feet had to be a very awkward experience.  The feet were most likely the dirtiest parts of the body because of where people had to go, even when you take into account where sheep would be and places of mud and dirt.  The disciples watched in wonder.

John 13:6-8

He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, Lord, are You going to wash my feet?

Jesus answered him, What Im doing you dont understand now, but afterward you will know.

You will never wash my feetever! Peter said.

Jesus replied, If I dont wash you, you have no part with Me.

 

Jesus told Peter that what He was doing then would not make sense, but later he would understand.  He would experience the ultimate in humiliation, at the hands of the Romans, when He would be crucified.

Psalm 51:1-7

Be gracious to me, God,

according to Your faithful love;

according to Your abundant compassion,

blot out my rebellion.

Wash away my guilt

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I am conscious of my rebellion,

and my sin is always before me.

Against YouYou aloneI have sinned

and done this evil in Your sight.

So You are right when You pass sentence;

You are blameless when You judge.

Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;

I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,

and You teach me wisdom deep within.

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

 

David knew that he needed to be washed by God in order to be clean…not just a physical washing, but a washing of his heart.

Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in order to show them that there was no room for pridefulness in serving Christ.

We are born with a selfish heart and it is rooted within us at birth. We have to put aside our own feelings and desires to be obedient to His will.  Jesus Himself said, “not My will, Lord, but Your will be done.”

This washing was a demonstration of how you and I are able to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Unless Jesus Christ washes you from your sin and transgression, you are unable to have a relationship with Him.

John 13:9-11

Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.

One who has bathed, Jesus told him, doesnt need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you. For He knew who would betray Him. This is why He said, You are not all clean.

Once you are saved, you are already deemed clean.  We are made clean, but we now need to live as if we are clean.

Galatians 2:19-20

For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

What do we need to clean up in our lives?

A lot of us have so much pride in that we do not want to admit to Jesus Christ those areas that need to be cleaned.  The reality is that we cannot do it for ourselves.  He has to do it.

Some of us have anger, pride and bitterness.  What areas of your life need the basin, the pitcher of water, or a general cleansing?  Jesus wants to clean and renew you.

John 13:12-16

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.

I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.

Once Jesus cleanses and renews you, it is now time for you to serve Him.

Philippians 2:5-8

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

who, existing in the form of God,

did not consider equality with God

as something to be used for His own advantage.

Instead He emptied Himself

by assuming the form of a slave,

taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man

in His external form,

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient

to the point of death

even to death on a cross.

 

Not just death, but the ultimate humiliation of death on a cross.  Jesus, the creator of the universe, humbled Himself for our sake–because He loves us.

God is the head of the church and is our supreme authority, but He desires for us to live in such a way where we are reaching out to others in service for Him.  He wants you to live in His example before others.

Jesus also wants you to live and thrive before others.  He desires for you to live life to its fullest.

John 13:17

If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

We are to move into a relationship by allowing Christ to wash us, cleanse us, and to work in those areas over time.  Have you allowed yourself to be washed and cleaned up?

Has God placed you into a position of authority where you can reflect God’s love to others?  God has laid on my heart to really go hard for Him, and worship Him before others in the public and in the workplace that does something different…more different than ever before.  Things may or may not work out as they should, but God will be with you as He works with you.

Philippians 1:6

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It’s hard to praise the Lord when things aren’t going well, but He challenges us to do just that.  We have to lift up the name of Jesus in bad times just as we do when things are going well.