A Call to Worship

 Genesis 35:1-4 “1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

When we move from Genesis 34 to 35, we can imagine the atmosphere being like a person living on the streets to living in a mansion. The Lord opens a door that can only be opened with a special key. That key has two words written on it…Faith & Obedience. This key is available for anyone, no matter where you are at in your walk with the Lord. Whether we are on top of the mountain and everything in life is going great, or we are struggling with a trial or a difficult situation. The Lord has this key in His hand, just waiting for us to receive it!

Verse 1: For several years Jacob had lingered some 30 miles from Bethel and had paid dearly for his disobedience. But now the Lord spoke to him and told him to move to Bethel and settle down there. Jacob already knew that Bethel was God’s appointed place for him. (Gen. 31:13 “I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out of this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred” (KJV)). But Jacob was slow to obey what he knew was the right way to go. We know from chapter 31 that God had instructed Jacob what to do and where to go. But like many of us, we all face times when we fail to follow the Lord’s instructions. We know the right thing to do, but we choose to disobey.

Verse 2: Jacob speaks to his entire household; he is so committed to the Lord’s will that he also instructs his servants as well. He tells them to put away the strange gods, be clean, and change your garments. Here is a great picture of salvation, (a) strange gods is our acknowledgement of sin, we are all sinners, (b) be clean is our repentance of our sins, and (c) change your garments is the rebirth into the family of God, putting on a new self. There is always room at the foot of the Cross. I am reminded that no matter where, what, or how we have stumbled in our walk, the Lord is always ready for us to turn back to Him. Jacob provides us with a great picture of the Lord’s mercy, patience, and love towards His children. I am thankful to have such a loving Father.

Verse 3: Jacob tells everyone that they are going to live in Bethel, build an altar and serve the one true God. After the incident in Schechem, Jacob seems committed, not only to act like a Christian, but he is admitting his need for God. I believe this is an important truth for Christians to remember, repentance is when we confess and turn away from sin.

Verse 4: Jacob must have preached a powerful message because they gave up their strange gods. Jacob buries their idols under an oak tree near Schechem. I am reminded of Joshua 24:15 “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (KJV).

I have to wonder how many Christian households need someone to stand up and preach the same message Jacob preached or Joshua spoke to the nation of Israel. How many church pews will be empty because the family is too busy worshipping their worldly idols?

Our call to worship does not simply rest on an attendance record at a local church; it is our personal relationship with the Lord and extends out to our family and friends. Remember that Jacob had to begin with his own faith and obedience first, and then he followed the Lord’s will in sharing his faith with family and friends.

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Graphic Image: Retrieved from: https://www.truthforlife.org/static/uploads/resource_banners/tfl-player-image-a-call-to-worship.jpg

Step Counter!!!

Joshua 1:7-8 “7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (KJV).

Joshua is given a powerful promise. Each new step that Joshua is about to take and lead the nation of Israel will be prosperous. No matter what challenges and difficulties encountered, they are promised success. What a wonderful promise and there is no doubt that hearing this promise would allow Joshua to take each step with strength and courage.

The only stipulation for cashing in on the Lord’s promise; Joshua must remember his previous steps and those of Moses. The stipulation was to continue to observe the law. This made me think of the phrase “remember where you came from”; a phrase often used when someone advances to a higher leadership position.

When we remember the law, we look back at our past in a humble manner. The law is also a reminder of the steps that lead to the Cross. We remember that our authority comes from the Lord. As a leader it is easy to become power-hungry and use that power to gain glory from those under our authority. This is an area where I have seen great men of God fall into Satan’s traps.

As a leader in any profession, we must always remember that the Lord has blessed us and entrusted us to be in such positions. We must be careful to conduct ourselves in a manner that brings honor and glory to the Lord.

Spending time in His word becomes a greater challenge when serving in a leadership position. Leadership usually requires more responsibility and consumes more of our time. It becomes difficult to find time to focus on our personal spiritual growth, but we must also seek spiritual guidance and wisdom for others.

As we look at Joshua, we begin to see how important it was for Joshua to spend years preparing. Before Joshua could take over, he spent years training and developing his spiritual maturity first. He had to be mature and well prepared spiritually before he could add the additional responsibilities in leading the nation of Israel.

I am reminded that “we” as believers are all filling a leadership position. We are all responsible for the most important job of all ministries; sharing the Gospel with others. Of all the ministries and leadership roles, being trained and ready to lead others to Christ is and should be our number one goal. I don’t think anyone would say that they witness perfectly to others and don’t need to grow spiritually in this area. I know from personal experience that everyone is different when they hear the Gospel message; the excuses for not believing may be the same, but that person has a unique and deeper reason for either rejecting the message or not understanding it. The more we study and grow in the Lord, the better prepared we are when the Lord opens the door of opportunity for us to share His message.

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Graphic Reference

Retrieved from: http://www.fitnessexact.com/wp-content/uploads/counting-steps.jpg

Step Out!!!

 Joshua 1:3-6 “3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (KJV).

Joshua has willingly stepped up and officially takes on the leadership role of the nation of Israel. It is important to notice that Joshua took on his new role before he was given the official brevet command and commission over Israel. While training under Moses, Joshua was fulfilling the role of a spiritual advisor to Moses 1. But that is not the only position he was filling at that time, Joshua was being groomed as a high level military leader and warrior 2.

We see in these verses that God assigns Joshua three important tasks: lead Israel into the promise land, conquer and defeat the enemy, and control the distribution of the claimed inheritance.

Each of these three tasks was followed by three special promises, one for each of the tasks. The first promise was the ability to cross the river and reach the new territory. The second promise was the ability to conquer the enemy. And the third promise was to divide the newly gained inheritance to each tribe.

I want to focus on the final verse of today’s lesson. Verse 6 “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (KJV). I’m afraid that we often fail to step out in faith because we desire to know the details before we make any moves. Meaning, we want the complete detailed plans and instructions first, and to put it plainly, we want all the answers to any “what if…” questions. But that is not how faith works; His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not ours 3.

This is a lesson that may be difficult to learn. But the message for us today is clear; God has given us, all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus 4. In order to obtain those spiritual blessings we must step up in our faith, the process begins when we are moved internally by the Touch of our Master. And this is exactly what Joshua did, and as I explained in my previous post “Step Up”, Joshua was stepping up years prior to this new leadership role. He was prepared to answer the call at a moments notice.

Stepping up in our faith is the beginning phase, being ready and prepared for whatever the lord has planned for us. The next step is for us to step out in faith. Now we have to put on our shoes and start walking. We may not know where, how far, or how long our walk will be, but stepping out in faith is the only way we can claim them. The Lord has set before us a series of doors and there will be one door that He will open when the time is right.

I picture a long walking trail that winds through the mountains of life. I can see thousands of doors and each one is locked shut. Personally I have been walking the “Faith Path” since March, praying every day for the Lord to open a door for me. During my walk I have gone through many frustrating days; as much as I know that the Lord will open that door when he is ready, there will be days when I get tired from walking, days when my shoes become worn out, my feet become blistered, but I continued walking. The Lord opened that door last month and the blessings on the other side were more than I could have imagined. Wiersbe (2010) said it best “He has set before His church an open door that nobody can close 6” and we as Christians must walk the path until we reach that unlocked open door. Then we need to walk through the open door by faith in order to claim the blessings. Just like Joshua did when he took the church on a “Faith Path” journey through the river and defeated the enemy, so they could claim the new territory.

I pray we will all move forward in our walk with the Lord, maturing as believers and being faithful servants so we can move into new territory and claim what He has promised for us. The Lord’s will is for us to continue growing and stepping out in faith 7. If we are not growing and moving forward, then we are moving backwards…

Isaiah 43:18-19 “18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

References

1 Exodus 24:13 “And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God” (KJV).

2 Exodus 17:10) “So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill” (KJV)

3 Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (KJV).

4 Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (KJV).

5 Revelation 3:8 “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (KJV).

6 Wiersbe, W. (2010). Be strong putting God’s power to work in your life: OT commentary, Joshua (2nd ed.). Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

7 Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (KJV).

Graphic Retrieved from: http://naomidemmon.theworldrace.org/blogphotos/theworldrace/naomidemmon/trust
_him_step_out.jpg

Aside

Conflict Resolution

 Acts 15:1-9 “1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (KJV).

After returning from their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas spent some time in Antioch. The church has accepted the new doctrine of witnessing to the Gentiles, which Peter played a major role in with the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10). As Paul and Barnabas fellowship and disciple the church members at Antioch, they run into some problems. They discovered that some of the religious believers from Jerusalem had made their way to Antioch.

The problem had to do with adding stipulations to the gospel message. The new believers were being told that they needed to follow the Old Testament law of circumcision. This was completely contrary to what Paul and Barnabas had preached to them. Salvation is through grace by faith, plus or minus nothing. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, KJV).

The conflict was so important that Paul and Barnabas could not convince these legalistic believers what they were preaching was wrong. They had to form a debate team and journey to the original head church in Jerusalem (v.2).

As the made their way to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas continued witnessing and preaching the gospel message. Once they arrived in Jerusalem and began discussing this issue of salvation, it was obvious that some of the leaders still believed that keeping the Mosaic Law was a requirement to salvation. This was not a one-time meeting. Most commentaries agree that the debate was discussed during 4 separate occasions. The final outcome was an agreement that salvation is through grace by faith, plus or minus nothing. They documented the agreement and sent witnesses back to Antioch in order sign, seal, and deliver the news.

There are a few important issues that I would like to discuss from these verses. Conflict in the church is nothing new and should not surprise us. The key to any type of conflict is the goal of resolution. Resolving conflict takes time; we must be willing to listen carefully and take the time necessary to handle it. When Paul and Barnabas could not find resolution at Antioch, they took the conflict to the next level. The focus was not placed on who was right or who was wrong; the focus was on 100% resolution. If there was no resolution to the doctrine of salvation; the church could not move forward. The division in doctrine would have caused the church to decay from the inside out.

Have you ever seen a church split over silly arguments? I have heard of a church dividing because they could not agree on the color of the new carpet they wanted to purchase. How does such a silly argument promote the gospel message to the un-saved? Why would anyone visit a church that can’t even agree on the color of a carpet?

The other issue to discuss is the legalistic view; which is considered the darker side of Christianity. When Christians add to the gospel, it creates a salvation message that is impossible to achieve. Let me explain: If I create a rule to the salvation message, I point sinners back to the Ten Commandments (Law). But that is not what God’s law is designed to do. The law is impossible to keep; therefore it is designed to point sinners to Christ. Not the other way around.

Galatians 3:21-25 “21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Finding Balance

 1 Timothy 6:1-11 “1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (KJV).

Paul is speaking to the young Timothy, reminding him of the importance of maintaining a proper Christian perspective. As a Christian, living in a world with those who are opposed to our beliefs, it may become difficult to find the right balance. We are to live according to His word, follow His instructions, and defend His truth. Paul also reminds Timothy that it is important to remain respectful to others. The picture given is that of a slave working for his master.

In today’s workplace environment, there are Christians who struggle with maintaining a balanced life of faith. The boss or supervisor may not be a Christian; in fact they may dislike everything Christianity stands for. This may cause a great deal of stress in the life of a Christian. Paul reminds us that we need to be respectful toward those we work for and with, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.

How do we balance our faith? The word “Balance” may be a poor word choice for this application. A Christian does not have to balance their faith in the workplace. It may seem impossible to live your faith in an office filled with people who want nothing to do with Christ. Everything you are trying to live for and by seems foolish to others. How we live our faith at home or at church seems impossible to do at work. But this is exactly what Paul is addressing. We may not be able to openly bring the gospel message into the workplace, but we are told to continue living the gospel through our actions, deeds, and words.

Paul explains in the latter of verse 1, “…worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed”. We should not be focused on “how we are being treated as a Christian in the workplace”. The question should be, “how am I treating others, including my supervisor or boss”. Paul gives us a great reminder to “Lift Up” and not to “Put Down” others. That includes putting ourselves down because of the way we are treated.

Paul continues in the remaining verses, describing what happens when we focus on our own self-pity. We become filled with pride, envy, and strife. The “woe is me” syndrome is the opposite of how we should be as Christians. Self-pity is defined as the “psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor competence to cope with it”. 1

Our Lord was not treated kindly, but yet he walked this earth teaching us to love others, through our actions, words, and deeds. Paul reminds us to continue in our faith, walking, talking, acting, and living with a greater goal in mind. We are to respect our supervisors and co-workers; we do it because He did it for us on the Cross. When we respect others, work hard, and do the best we can do, we are putting the Lord first in our lives. Showing others what and who Christ is. There are many ways to share Christ, how we act is the outward display of what the Lord has done for us on the inside.

 Maybe the word “balance” is the right application here. The Christian balances what the Lord has placed on the heart (inside), in order to be able to share with others (outside). If the Christian has too much weight on the inside (heart), then it becomes difficult to shift the weight to the outside (others) and vice versa.

Think of it like this…A man who walks a tightrope has to shift his weight back and forth; otherwise he ends up leaning too far to one side and falls off. His balance must remain centered on the rope. He may use his arms or a long pole to help keep his balance, but no matter what, his focus must remain on the center of the rope.

Walking the rope is how a Christian should walk, straight and centered on truth. If we lean too far in either direction we fall off the path of righteousness. The longer we walk the rope, the more people will see our accomplishments, but if we don’t walk the rope, then nobody will be able to see how wonderful it is to live for Christ. In the workplace, we don’t have to stand around saying “look at me, I’m walking a tightrope”. All we need to do is stay focused and centered on the rope. The further we get, the bigger the crowd. It won’t take long until people will be curious or inspired and want to try walking the tightrope. The applications are endless.

Proverbs 12:28 “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is not death” (KJV).

Matthew 7:13-14 “13 Enter ye in the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Reference

1 Self-pity Wikipedia definition. Retrieved 12/16/2014 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-pity

Striking While the Iron is Hot…

 Haggai 1:14 “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,” (KJV).

The chapter begins, with what I refer to as a “teachable” moment. God’s people were hard at work rebuilding their homes. The detail and quality of their work is worth mentioning. They were building fancy interiors, lining the stoned walls with custom wood paneling. The type of interior you would find in a palace.

Haggai delivers a wake-up call, reminding them that the Lord’s work was not being accomplished. Instead of building His house; they were building their own. The rebuilding of God’s house was being delayed. In the latter part of verse 5 Haggai asks an important question “Consider your ways”. He continues with “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Hag. 1:6, KJV).

The chapter reminded me of some familiar excuses. I’ll get to it later… If I work long hours, I can get that promotion…I’ll worry about my soul later… Mark 8: 36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul”? Working hard, earning a living, having nice things, and climbing the ladder of success are commendable, but we have to slow down sometimes and ask ourselves to, “Consider our ways”.

Setting priorities can be a daunting task. You may spend hours or days establishing your priorities, figuring out a way to accomplish them all. But all it takes is one more item to “pop-up” and your carefully designed priority list goes out the window. I am reminded that my priorities need to begin by placing the Lord at the top of my “to-do” list.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV). Proverbs 3:6 “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (KJV).

I thought about the saying “strike while the iron is hot”. The Lord stirred their hearts at a time when they were extremely busy. I have to wonder how many times the Lord tried to stir my heart, but I was too busy to listen. Quiet time in His word keeps the iron of our hearts warm.

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher