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Posts Tagged ‘Exhortation’

Sometimes we are told to “Make a joyful shout to the LORD” (Psalm 100) and  “Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150)”  Other times, we can be quiet.

We can be quiet in His strength

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says,  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The picture here is of oxen pulling a plow or a wagon.  The two animals would be yoked together.   A yoke is “a device for joining together a pair of draft animals, especially oxen, usually consisting of a crosspiece with two bow-shaped pieces, each enclosing the head of an animal.”  In order to be yoked together, animals must be comparable in size, stamina and desire to work.   This provides an important spiritual lesson to the believer.

When we are yoked to Jesus, we go where He goes (by necessity).  Because of the yoke, we must look at what He looks at, see what He sees.  By being joined together like this, we benefit from His wisdom and His strength, and we can just be quiet.  Sometimes it is good to just walk alongside Jesus, yoked to Him, quietly learning from Him.

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Do you remember the story of the loaves and the fish in John 6?  Although it is a familiar story, it is worth taking a closer look at exactly what was happening.

We are told a boy had 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish.  Apparently the boy gave them to the disciples.  The disciples gave them to Jesus.

Observations:
  • The disciples gave it all (5 loaves and 2 fish) to Jesus.
  • Jesus took it all from them.
  • Jesus gave thanks for all to the Father.
  • The Father blessed it all.
  • Jesus gave it all back to the disciples to give out to the 5,000 sitting on the ground.
  • The people were filled by what they received – there was no want.

So how does this apply to me, to you?  I need to give all that I have (or get from anyone) to Jesus.  I need to hold nothing back as a safety net or back up in case of future need.  It is in the giving of it all that I show my total trust and surrender to God.

Jesus will take all that I have and God will bless it.  The little I had will be multiplied.  Jesus will bless it and divide it – break it to make it useful for others.  Passing through the hands of the Savior, what little I had will become plenteous and abundant.  Giving it back to me after blessing it and breaking it, Jesus wants to help to distribute it.  It is not mine any longer because I gave it all to Him.

May He who has done exceeding abundantly above and beyond what you can think or imagine take what you have and cause it to nourish many.  May you hold nothing back!

Thank you Father that you love us enough to require everything of us.  Thank you that you do not desire us to have any confidence in our own abilities or supplies.  Thank you that we are children of the Most High God, so our every need will be met through Your provision.  May You multiply what we have for Your glory!

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Psalm 13 begins with the Psalmist sounding like he is accusing God.  “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”  (Ps. 13:1-2)

In these verses, the Psalmist evidences an uncertainty about God.  Uncertainty can cause one to doubt God’s motives or doubt God’s timing.   Sometimes when we become fearful and afraid, we accuse God.  We mistakenly consider Him to be reacting to us like the humans around us who may forget us or hide their faces from us or allow our enemies to over take us and do nothing to help.  But God is not like us or those around us.  He will not forget us.  Isaiah 49:15 tells us,  “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”  Deut 31:6 tells us, “do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

From accusation in verses 1-2, the Psalmist moves into calling out to God and reasoning with God in verses 3-4.  In these verses, he says, “consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.”

Finally, the Psalmist makes a choice in verse 5.   He states, ‘but I have trusted in Your mercy.”  He decides to trust in God’s mercy.  He decides to believe  and act upon what He knows about God.  This is internal to the Psalmist.  A choice to believe God and trust God must come from within.  I must, like priests carrying the ark across the Jordan, step into the water first rather than waiting for them to recede.  Trusting God is a choice I must make daily,  sometimes moment by moment.

From that choice, there is an immediate reward, the Psalmist says, “my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”  When I choose to trust God, I am impacted in my walk with God, in my fellowship with God.  He immediately reinforces the positive step I have taken.

Verse 6 gives us the result for ministry, ” I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  When I trust God, my heart rejoices in His salvation, and from that comes an outpouring from me to those around me.  I will sing to the LORD!  I will declare to the world about my God, about His great bounty, His mercy, and His faithfulness!
To review, here is the progression:
  • Accusation against God
  • Calling out/reasoning with God
  • Trust in God (choose)
  • Receive from God
  • Give out in ministry

We all have times of accusing or doubting God, even if it is only in our thoughts.  The important thing is to move forward in the progression.  Cry out to God, choose to trust God, receive from God and then give out what you have received to those around you.

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When the hymn-writer wrote those words, ‘When peace like a river attendeth my soul, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul,’  he described the reality of the alternating of peace and turbulence in the life of a believer.   More peace and less turbulence is my goal.  But how does one “get” peace?

The Bible gives some important answers to this question.  First of all, Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  So on the one hand, peace has been given to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Although we have been given peace, we need to live in the place of peace.  To that end, the Bible also teaches us to pursue peace.  The Psalmist in Psalm 34:14 says to “depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”  Romans 12:18 tells us, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”   Romans 14:19 tells us to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”   Hebrews 12:14 says, “pursue peace with all people.” (emphasis added)   These verses speak of a lifestyle that we, as believers, need to seek after.  We need to put some effort into peace-making and peace-keeping.  We need to not be the ones engaging in peace-taking.

The better news is found in the book of the prophet Isaiah where he says of God in Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”  The reality is that when our minds are focused on God, God keeps us in the peace He promised us.

A few other thoughts on peace are found in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  By committing our lives to God in prayer, we make way for God’s peace to guard our hearts and minds.

May the peace of God descend upon your heart today.  May you pursue peace as much as you are able.

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In Deuteronomy 31, Moses teaches the strategy for overcoming the enemies in your life.  I believe this strategy can be applied to enemies of any kind including enemies from within.  Essentially, if you read Deuteronomy 31, you will immediately notice one important element of the strategy – God.

Deut. 31:3-6 “The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said.  And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them.  The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you.  Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Almost all of the doing is being done by God:
  • He goes first
  • He does the work of rooting out the enemy
  • We just walk into the land He has already made ready for us to possess

This is a strategy I can live with.  All the heavy lifting is done by God.  He destroys all the enemies and gives me what they had.  He promises to always be with me.  I need only do what He has commanded – walk in the paths He has laid for me.

Remember, “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!  Then Israel shall dwell in safety, The fountain of Jacob alone, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew.  Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places.”  Deut. 33:27-29

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You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 2 Corinthian 3:2-3

1.  As believers, our lives are letters (epistles).

  • Maybe you have heard it said, “You may be the only Bible those close to you ever read.”   If that is so, let your life reflect the gospel as clearly as possible – no mixed messages.
  • God’s plan to share the gospel is through people ministering to people. He desires that our lives be so changed by our relationship with Him that others will wonder, question, and follow.
  • Is the message in the letter written on your heart communicating the message of God’s love to the lost and condemned world around you?

2.  God is the author.

  • Pages don’t write themselves; they have an author
  • God will write your story if you allow Him.  God wrote Esther from captive to queen.  God wrote David from Shepherd boy to mighty warrior to King.  God wrote Joseph from slave to Pharaoh’s second.  God wrote Saul from assassin to Apostle.  God wrote Peter from fisherman to great church leader.  God can write my story to be a great epoch tale of victory over evil if I let Him.
  • God desires to leave His imprint on our lives, marking us as His forever.

3.  He authored us by His Spirit.

  • Give up striving.  This is not about what you do:  how many times you go to church, how much money you give.  This is about surrendering control of your life to Jesus, so He can fully communicate His message to the dying world through you.  To do that, you must first receive the message yourself and let it transform you.   Only then can it hope to transform others.
  • Start soaking up the Word.  Sit with Jesus daily.  Read, study and meditate on the scriptures.  Let them permeate your life.  Let them write your story.
  • Remove barriers to the working of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Confess your sins, allow God to cleanse you by His Spirit.  Pray always and without ceasing, so that you might always be in communion with the author.

May the richness of living for Christ become abundantly clear to you as you draw closer and closer to Jesus.  It was Jesus who promised that sitting at His feet was the “good part” which would not be taken away.  May you settle there and find rest for your soul while you wait.

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One of the best books that I have read in the past several years is Let Go by Fenelon.  You may ask, “What kind of name is Fenelon?”  Fenelon is actually Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France.  He lived during the 17th century.  He was a spiritual advisor to some believers in the Court of Louis the 14th.  Let Go is a collection of Fenelon’s letters.  He is very honest and straightforward to those to whom he is writing.  He speaks with a firmness that is actually quite refreshing and needful in this age of those who fail to speak the truth that will set us free because they fear they will offend.  I read Let Go like a devotional, taking only a letter or so a day and mediating on it.  I have read and re-read it all year and given copies to many of the woman that I know who are hungry for a closer walk with God.  The isbn. # is 0-88368-010-6.

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