A MOTHER'S DAY MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE

Imagine for a moment that you are Moses and God has just informed you that you will not be going into the Promise Land.  You are standing before the people and this is your last opportunity to speak to them.  What would you say?

There are four pivotal elements that Moses gives to the people that enable them to possess the land God is giving them.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2  Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach YOU. Follow them so that YOU MAY LIVE and YOU MAY GO IN and YOU MAY TAKE POSSESSION of the land the Lord, The God of your ancestors is giving YOU.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #1  - God has a path for your life.

As parents, as grandparents and as church leaders we have to be sure our children, our grandchildren and the next generation know that God has a path for their life.   It is something we need to be sure we emphasize over and over again.

Deuteronomy 4:3 You saw with your eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor.  The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who HELD FAST TO THE LORD YOUR GOD are still alive today.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #2 - Hold Fast To The Lord

What is Moses communicating here?  "Hey, some of the people that started out with you didn't make it this far.  There were some of your friends who were on the same path with you, but when times got tough they didn't hold fast to the Lord."

We must prepare our children, grandchildren and the next generation as we are on the path that God has for us there will be right turns, left turns and U-turns.  There will be times that we take one step forward and two steps back.  It is during those times that we must be sure that our faith is in God. We have to know that we know that although it doesn't seem like you are making progress God will take you to your destination.  It may mean going around the mountain just one more time. 

Deuteronomy 4:5-6 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that YOU may follow them in the land YOU are entering to take possession of it. YOU OBSERVE THEM CAREFULLY, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations. 

PIVOITAL ELEMENT #3 - Observe Carefully The Things You Have Been Taught

When they went into the land God had given them they still had to take possession.  They still had to do the things they were taught. Notice that Moses said it will show your wisdom.  Wisdom is the application of the things you are taught.

When our kids were growing up we would give them instructions.  Whenever they wouldn't follow the instructions we would ask them a question.  Is that a wise decision or a foolish decision? They must have heard that question a million times.  Our goal was that when they became older this question would echo in their hearts.  It would be a guiding force for them living a life of wisdom.

We must encourage our children, grandchildren and the next generation to carefully observe the things they are taught.

Deuteronomy 4:7 Only be careful, and watch  yourselves closely so that  you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #4 - Don't Forget The Things You Have Seen God Do

The people had seen God do some incredible things.  He fed them manna supernaturally.  He fed them quail supernaturally.  He led them in a cloud by day and a fire by night.  He parted the Red Sea when their backs were up against the wall.  God told them to always tell their kids all the things that God had done for them.

We must teach our children, grandchildren and the next generation to remember the times God shows up and shows out when life takes the right turns, left turns and u-turns.

When David and his men returned to Ziklag after war they find that their wives and children had been taken.  The city was burned down.  It said David and his men cried until they could cry no more. Then David encouraged himself in the Lord.  My guess is that David reminded himself of all the times God showed up and showed out.  He got up, took some men with him and got their wives and children back.

Deuteronomy 4:10-13 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when He said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that THEY may learn to revere me.  YOU came near and YOU stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with back clouds and deep darkness.  Then the Lord spoke to YOU out of the fire. YOU heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to YOU His covenant.

PIVOTAL ELEMENT #5 - Teach Them To Hear God's Voice For Themselves

There was a time when the people were so afraid of God they told Moses to listen to God and then come and tell them what He said.  Once Moses told them what God said they would obey Him.  How many of us know that didn't work at all.  They often found themselves doing the opposite of what God told Moses.

One of the greatest things we can do as parents, grandparents and church leaders is to teach our children, grandchildren and our church family how to hear God for themselves.

I think Moses knew this was his last opportunity.  He knew in order for the people to go possess the territory that God had given to them that these were five elements  he wanted them to remember. 

Our children are grown and now have families of their own.  Their spouses have a heart to love God and serve God just as they do.  They did very well in choosing their spouse. We are blessed beyond measure.

As I look back these are the five elements that have played a part in them possessing the territory the God is giving them.

I encourage you to keep these five elements before you. If you are a parent, grandparent or church leader they are critical in their ability to go possess the land God has given them.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9  And these words that I command YOU today shall be on YOUR heart.  YOU shall teach them diligently to YOUR children.

HOW DO WE KNOW IF OUR FAITH IS IN GOD?

As we near the end of our series on the book of James I was asking God to help me to "connect some of the dots" of all the things James writes about.  

He covers a lot of territory in his letter to those believers who are facing persecution.

  • Count it all joy
  • Ask for wisdom
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger
  • Don't show partiality
  • Don't just listen to God's Word, but do what it says
  • Control your tongue
  • Show your faith by your actions
  • Draw close to God

Looking at the list may seem random, but if we look a little more closely to what James says it might make more sense. James tells us when we aren't living joyously into a trial we should ask for wisdom, but the next thing he says hopefully is what connects all these "random" things together. 

James 1:5-6  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.

That's what did it for me. "When you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God." Faith is the key to living well into our trials. James begins writing about things that are symptoms of NOT having faith in God.  

How do we know if our faith is in God?  Are you angry?

James tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

The reason I get angry is because I don't get what I want.

James 4:1-3 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Can you imagine?  These believers are so angry with each other for not getting what they want they scheme and even go as far as killing someone to get it.  If that is the case who is their source?  They are!

Since God is not doing such a good job of getting them what they want then they must give him a helping hand.  Their faith is more in their own ability than it is in God.

How do we know if our faith is in God?  Do you show partiality?

James 2:1 My dear brothers and sister, how can you CLAIM TO HAVE FAITH IN OUR GLORIOUS LORD JESUS CHRIST if you favor some people over others? 

Poor people were coming into the church and given a seat on the back row. Rich people were coming into the church and they were getting a seat on the front row.  What was going on there? They were looking to the rich people to help meet their needs. The rich people were their source not God.

How do we know if our faith is in God?  WORKS, WORKS, WORKS!

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you SAY YOU HAVE FAITH, but don't show it by your actions. 

Someone said to me recently "A Saved Faith is a Serving Faith." What he was saying is there is a natural flow of wanting to serve others when we experience the love of God through salvation. It's our serving that puts on display our faith in God.

How do we know if our faith is in God? WORDS, WORDS, WORDS!

James 3:7 No man can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing are pouring out of the same mouth. Surely my brothers and sisters this is not right. 

Words are symptoms of what is in our hearts. If we are using our words to tear people down to make us feel better about ourselves then we have an identity problem.  We don't know who we are IN CHRIST! That shows we don't have faith that we are who God says we are.

How do we know if our faith is in God?  Are you full of selfish ambition and jealousy?

James 3:13-18  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth....For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Sounds like ambition was getting the best of them.  They were jealous of what the other person had and fighting to get it. Sounds like they had become their own source. I'm going to get what's mine.

If you are jealous of what another person has and willing to fight to get it then that shows no faith in God at all. 

Bottom line is it is our FAITH IN GOD that helps us live joyously into a trial or our LACK OF FAITH IN GOD that will be our downfall.  Just be aware of these symptoms.  

  • getting angry
  • favoring some people over others
  • not serving
  • tearing people down with our words
  • and fighting to get what's mine

Recognizing these symptoms will communicate to us if our faith is in God. 

AM I DISPLAYING THE WISDOM OF GOD?

Am I displaying the wisdom of God? Wisdom isn't merely knowledge, it's knowledge applied. James implores us to examine the outcome, the fruit, to determine who is wise.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13-18 ESV

The wisdom of man leads to death, but the wisdom of God leads to life.

"But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic"

Jealousy and selfish ambition are the results of me focus. They are not the only results, but these are more traits which James points to to help us to identify and turn to God. James tells us that if we are experiencing these results, not to hide it and be false to the truth. 

It's easy to say I'm not jealous, selfish, ambitious, but what does the result of that look like in our hearts?

Do you find yourself ever angry about what someone else received?

Do you find it difficult to celebrate the success of others, or even just someone specific?

Do you find yourself designing how you will get something, apart from what God is leading, or something He has explicitly said No to at this time?

Do you see manipulation?

Do you find you have a lack of peace or anxiety?

Do you find yourself lusting-desiring after other things or people?

Do I see?

“Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?” “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”  John‬ ‭9:39-41‬ ‭NLT‬‬

James implores us not to pretend like we can see, when we cannot in fact see. He implores us not to cover up our jealousy and areas of darkness, which ultimately leads to even worse strife. For if like Jesus says, we can admit that we cannot see and turn to Jesus (repent) then we find freedom. We find grace. This is real wisdom. This is the path to REAL freedom.

Not looking with human eyes upon ourselves, but allowing the reflection of God drive us to Him. When we do, we allow the grace to flow in. But it's hard for me to admit that I display these qualities. I don't want to admit (and certainly not people to see) that I do at times get jealous.

Those who know Jesus are called to be representatives of heaven. I cannot display heaven to people while I'm filled with Hell. That may sound harsh, but listen to the words James uses to describe it "demonic". That's a harsh word, and it's the reality. I can only display spirit things, heavenly things, heaven to people, while I am filled with that. While I am recognizing my own blindness, my own lostness, and turning that all over to Jesus and having the wisdom to just merely admit and ask for His wisdom to flow in, and continue to do this. It sounds so easy, and yet it is so hard. It's so easy to revert back to my-self. My desires, me on the throne, instead of God on the throne. When I see "the wrong" person get that thing, that promotion, I am tempted to jealously and placing me on the throne to manipulate to get the thing that I want. Resist, by admission, resist by turning to Jesus, resist by confession, submit to God and watch as you begin to reap peace.

We sow heaven when that is what is filling us, and as we sow heavenly things, we begin to experience heaven around us, even in hell like circumstances. This is the fruit of the wisdom of God.

IS YOUR FAITH PROGRESSING?

Facebook has over 1.9 billion users a day.  Their revenue each quarter is 6.4 billion.  There are 510,000 posts every 60 seconds.  Facebook is making billions of dollars every year giving people an opportunity to express themselves.

It seems our culture is quickly moving more and more toward people expressing themselves in an angry way. 

James says in chapter 1:19-20   Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James gives us one of the principles of how God's Kingdom operates to produce the righteousness of God. Our problem is we live in a world where that principle gets turned upside down.  If anything our culture is quick to speak, quick to anger and slow to listen.

We've been talking about experiencing joy in the midst of trials.  It is during these trials that our faith is put on display for the world to see. Our challenge is when things don't go our way we find ourselves responding in anger then anger does not produce the righteousness of God. 

The past Sunday we learned four things about words.  

WORDS ARE POWERFUL

Proverbs 18:21 says, Life and death are in the power of the tongue,and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Words can be used to build someone up or tear down.

Words can wound or words can heal.

WORDS ARE A GIFT FROM GOD

James 1:16-17 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every GOOD GIFT and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

As destructive as words can be they are gifts from God. When we are getting thumped on our words are symptoms that we are not living well into what we should know.

Nobody ever has to wonder if their words are filled with anger.  Nobody ever has to wonder if their words are filled with jealousy.  Nobody ever has to wonder if their words are filled with bitterness.

WORDS REVEAL WHAT IS IN OUR HEARTS

Luke 6:45  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

I like to say it like this.  "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth LEAKS!"  

If you have bitterness in your heart it will leak out.  If you have anger in your heart it will leak out and neither one of those produces the righteousness of God.

ULTIMATELY, WORDS  REVEAL TO US IF OUR FAITH IS PROGRESSING

We're not talking a saving faith as in salvation. We are talking about a growing dependence on God.  We are talking about the trials in our lives bringing us to a place of greater dependence on God.

If we find ourselves angry at someone maybe it is because we are looking to them to be our source OR we believe they have gotten in the way of what we deserve.  If that is the case we are definitely not depending on God which means if anything our faith is digressing. 

James tells us that no man can tame the tongue.  That doesn't mean we are hopeless. It just means that we have to depend on God to help us.

James 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 

What is James encouraging us to do?  He's encouraging us to make God our source.  He's encouraging us to have a greater dependence on Him in the midst of a trial. As we live well into that then our faith is on display for others to see and our lives produce the righteousness of God.

 

 

 

Jesus: The True Elder Brother

One of my favorite TV shows is Designated Survivor.  When I watch it I find myself on the edge of my seat because there is so much tension in the show.  Every great story, every great tv show, every great movie is filled with tension.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells another one of his parables. This parable is filled with tension.  It starts out with a shepherd who loses his sheep.  He goes on this search to find his lost sheep and when he finds it he wants to invite his friends to celebrate with him. Then he tells a story about a woman who loses a coin and turns her house upside down to find it. When she finds it she invites all her friends to celebrate.  

Then Jesus tells us a story about a father and his TWO sons.  On the surface these two sons are very different.  One is a good son and the other is a bad son.  One is an obedient son and the other is a disobedient son. One son is responsible and the other son is irresponsible.  These two sons are like night and day OR are they?

If we look underneath the surface both sons are the same.  These two sons are not very different at all.  

Both sons are alienated from the father. Neither son loves the father.  They are only concerned with what they want, what they think and what they feel.  

The younger son asks his father for his inheritance.  It is very dishonoring to the father to ask for the inheritance before the father has passed away.  He is basically saying to the father, "I wish you were dead!" 

The elder son when his younger brother returns home refuses to celebrate when the father pleads with him to come celebrate. It was very dishonoring for the elder brother to refuse the father's plea. He cares nothing for the father or his feelings.

Both sons are only concerned about the father's things.  The younger son wants his inheritance.  The elder son is only concerned that his father killed the fatted calf for his brother and never even killed a goat for him.  Can you feel the tension in this story?

I bring your attention to the first thing Jesus said about this father and his sons, "A father had TWO sons!"  We know this story as The Prodigal Son which leads us to believe that there was only one lost son, but ultimately BOTH SONS ARE LOST!  

  • One son is lost in his riotous living and the other in his righteous living.
  • One son is lost in his disobedience and the other son lost in his obedience.
  • One son is lost in his ignorance and the other son is lost in his pride.

Easter is not just about those people who are obviously lost.  It is as much about those who believe they are doing all the right things like reading their bible, praying, going to church and tithing. Jesus said it best in Matthew 7:21-23.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

That is the scariest verse in the bible.  Is it possible that all these years we've heard the story of the Prodigal Son and not realized that both sons were lost?

If the elder son was a TRUE elder son he would have cared for the Father and would have gone to find his younger son and bring him home NO MATTER WHAT THE COST.

You and I had a TRUE ELDER BROTHER who came from Heaven to Earth because He loved the Father with all His heart.  It didn't just cost Him his wallet.  It cost Him His life.  It was the ultimate sacrifice.

  • He didn't receive the finest robe. He was stripped of His robe!
  • He didn't receive a ring on His finger. He received a crown of thorns!
  • He didn't receive the fatted calf. He was the fatted calf!

The Easter message is about God through His Son invites ALL OF US into a relationship with Him!

Thank God that you and I had a TRUE ELDER BROTHER who gave HIS ALL!  Jesus paid it all!  All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow!

If you want to know more about this perspective I encourage to go to amazon.com and purchase the book "The Prodigal God!" by Tim Keller.  It will change your life just like it did mine.