What is your “Why”?

Why do you do what you do?

Seriously, whether it’s your work, your school, your exercise, your diet, your bill-paying, your church attendance…WHY do you do what you do?

We all have ‘Why’s‘ that we operate under, although we often don’t think about them.

Sometimes our ‘why‘ is very superficial–‘I go to work because I need a paycheck’ or ‘I go to school because I’m required to’.

Here’s the problem though: If you only do these things because you’re told to, or for a short term gain, then the motivation is very superficial and very short-lived..and often very self-centered.

When it comes to longer-term things, though that won’t really work.

WHY do you stay true to your mate? Why do you invest in your kids’ lives?

These need bigger answers–these need to be deeper motives, more sweeping goals.

I stay true to my wife because I love her, and I’ve committed myself to her. She is my prize and I want her to know it!

When it comes to God, this contrast shows up most starkly.

If the only reason I go to church, for example, is that ‘I have to–my parents make me’, or ‘If I don’t, I feel guilty.’, then you’ve got an eternally-significant thing–your relationship with God–being paired up with an extremely superficial, self-centered reason.

That’s not a good mix.

So…WHY do you attend church? WHY do you pray? WHY do you worship? WHY do you obey God?

I’m not asking why these things ‘should be done’, I’m asking you to think about WHY You, specifically, do them.

For example, Paul tells us to “give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.” (Romans 12:1a) this it a ‘command’ or ‘exhortation’.

WHY should we? Because “This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1b)--because He deserves our worship. As the One True God, He is deserving of our sacrifice and service. As the God who has rescued us and given us eternal life, He certainly deserves our lives!

Paul goes on with another exhortation. He says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”.  (Romans 12:2a) This is the ‘What’–the command.

WHY should we do it?

Paul answers, “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2b)

Paul says that the REASON–the “Why” of our worship and obedience is because 1) As God, He deserves it, and 2) It is Only Then–when we’ve let Him transform us–that we’ll be able to to “Learn God’s will for you–which is good, pleasing and perfect”.

Many of us want ‘the good stuff‘ from God, and we assume that ‘If I do __, then He will do __’. If I comply, He blesses–but that is missing the point.

It’s about worship and transformation. It’s about giving myself completely to Him–which is reasonable, given that He is God and I am not!

As I do that, He works within me, drawing me closer and transforming my life…and THAT’S when it happens…that’s when I start to know and see God’s will. That’s when I start to realize how “good, pleasing and perfect” it is!

WHY should we obey God?

Not because ‘my parents make me’ or because ‘I feel guilty’, but because 1) He deserves it, and 2) because in so doing, we open up the floodgates of the Lord’s blessing–and we see in our lives the proof that His Ways are Perfect!

WHY are you doing what you do, especially re: your relationship with God?

Have the courage to ask that, to pray on that, and to let God change that today!

 

 

“Hold Fast”, or Let Go?

What are the things in your life that you Hold On to?

The things that are priorities–such that, whenever other things are going crazy, you prioritize ‘this’?

Is it a Relationship? Your Money? Your Health? Your Faith?

Many times, the things we ‘hold fast’ to are good–the foundational things in our lives (our relationship with God, through faith in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit).

But sometimes we’re just not that smart.

Sometimes we ‘hold fast’ to things that we should Let Go of!

Solomon…regarded as ‘the wisest man that ever lived’ had a lot going for him.

When the Lord gave him permission to ask for anything, he asked for Wisdom. Because God was pleased with this, He gave Solomon not only wisdom, but wealth, success, and security (1 Kings 3:5-15). Many people, from King Hiram to the Queen of Sheba sought Solomon out for wisdom and partnerships, and gave him praise for his wisdom. (1 Kings 9).

In fact, because of the blessing of God…“King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” (1 Kings 10:23-24)

So WHY would Solomon be so clueless as to hold on to one thing that God specifically told him–and the people of Israel–not to do?

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.” (1 Kings 11:1-3)

This man was ‘the wisest on the earth’, yet he had 700 wives and 300 concubines?!

That does not sound ‘wise’ to me–in any way, shape, or form.

God knew that intermarrying with those who worshiped other gods would draw the people astray…and that’s exactly what it did to Solomon. For all his wisdom, he would not let go. Notice in v. 2 it says he “held fast” to them.

Solomon forgot where his wisdom and blessing came from. He turned his back on the Lord…and God took his kingship from him and divided Israel (Ch. 12).

Why would Solomon be so dense? Why would he be so stubborn? Why would he be so short-sighted and rebellious to hold on to the precise thing God TOLD HIM NOT TO, even to the point of his own peril, and that of his people?

Because sin is deceptive, because we are all prone to it, and we are all wicked and self-centered, if left to ourselves. Without the grace of God, through Jesus, we would all do bone-headed things like that.

…and we do!

700 wives may not be your issue…but you probably know what ‘it’ is…that thing that God has been teaching you and compelling you to leave behind and to follow Him.

We are blessed to be in an age of GRACE (Ephesians 2:8-9), and God is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

But we certainly can learn from Solomon’s example!

When the Word of God, or the Spirit of God, moves you to ‘Let Go’ of something that is dragging you down spiritually, DO IT! Do NOT ‘hold fast’ to that sin–no matter how powerful, how alluring, how satisfying. Have the wisdom to ‘Let it Go’ and turn back to God.

In His mercy, who knows? He may bless you like Solomon!

 

How Do You KNOW?

Should you go to that movie?

Should you post that link?

Should you read that book?

Should you eat that...or drink that?

Should you say that to that person?

 

Living as a Christian can be overwhelming at times–especially when you’re new to the faith. After all, many of the things you used to do/say/share/etc. are now things that you know God is against.

You now know that HE wants you to follow His will…but how do you know with each and every decision?

How do we know what to do, and what not to do?

Seriously…it’s just not practical to go through every day calling your Pastor, or carry your Bible with you everywhere and find ‘just the right verse’ for guidance all the time.

So, how do we do it?

First, let me say that it is CRUCIAL…absolutely Mandatory that you consistently get thoughtfully and prayerfully into the Word of God–cuz that is what God will use to teach you about Himself, His will, and its impact on your life.

Second, you SHOULD consistently go to a Bible-Believing, Transformational church–where you actually are encouraged to give God control of every area of life. (We say, and others have said, “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there.)

But Thirdly, it is important that you learn to live under the ongoing influence, guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes about this in Galatians 5

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

He says that, when you consciously and willingly ‘walk by the Spirit’ you WILL NOT (Did he say that? Yes, I think he did!) gratify the desires of the flesh!

In other words, WHEN a person is ‘walking by’ (Living in step with, submitting themselves to, prayerfully and willingly cooperating with the Spirit), they WILL NOT go into ‘the deeds of the flesh’–ie, sin.

He continues: For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:17-18)

The ‘flesh’–refers to the OLD way we used to live–the self-centered, appetite-driven, insatiable and instant-gratification-driven ‘old us’ that used to run our lives. It did not lead to good things and good behavior. In fact, Paul gives more detail:

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

You know you…you know that you used to be that way.

But now, through faith in Jesus, you’ve been given new life! “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation! The old is gone, New Life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You don’t want to live the ‘old’ way anymore, and you know it!

In fact, you want to live a new way…and you can–as you ‘walk in step with the Spirit’!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)

 

Struggling with temptation? Feeling drawn to sin? Slipping into the old way of life?

Stop!

Pray!

Repent of your ‘dabbling’ with these sins again.

Welcome the Holy Spirit.

Submit to Him and the Word of God!

Then…rejoice! As long as you are cultivating that, and led by the Spirit…you will not fulfill the deeds of the flesh.

Praise God for your deliverance, and your new life!

Prayer and Fasting #3–Are You Thirsty?

Have you ever been really thirsty?

Maybe after a round of Basketball in the driveway, or after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day?

What do you do?

When I was a kid I’d play basketball almost all summer long at my friend Rob’s house. Afterward, we’d go in and have an ice-cold Mountain Dew–-AHHH, refreshment!

Something about a cold drink when you’ve been working and sweating…hits the spot.

Some of us are praying and fasting this week for ourselves, for our churches, and for our nation, but here’s the question: Are you Thirsty? Really Thirsty?

The Psalmist wrote: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and meet with Him?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

He knew the ‘Thirst’ I’m referring to.

It’s much deeper than physical thirst. Spiritual thirst leaves us aching for God.

Spiritual thirst is a thirst for love, intimacy and connection with God. It drives us to our knees. It cannot me satiated with simply a ‘sip’–like a worship song on the radio or quick prayer before bed. This kind of thirst goes down to our core!

So let me ask you again: Are you Thirsty? Really Thirsty?

I contend that most of us–if we’re being honest–are not!

We don’t sense our thirst because we’re distracted by other things. We are distracted by the ‘stuff’ of this life–entertainment, material goods, food, money, friendships, sex, work goals.

Within reason, all of these things are good, and can be blessings from God. But they are never to be a substitute for God! These blessings come from His hand–they don’t replace Him!

Others are distracted by temptations…things that entice us to compromise and sin. We think they will satisfy, but they don’t. All they do is leave us more ashamed and defeated…and we are still thirsty. Yet now, because of sin and the enemy’s accusations, we don’t think we can go to the ‘Living Water’ for refreshment.

Jesus said “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)” (John 7:37-39)

Again, the question we need to answer is, Are YOU THIRSTY?

I’m not only talking about those who need to come to Jesus in faith as Savior and Lord for the first time–although they are welcome and to be celebrated.

I am talking to those who have already received Jesus, by faith, and have New Life within (2 Corinthians 5:17), but have grown tired, apathetic and comfortable.

So let me ask you…and be honest…

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness–not so much ‘in society’ as in your own heart?

Do you long for a deeper, closer relationship with Him?

Do you ache to rid yourselves of the temptations and distractions, so that you can know Him more?

Are you (as we say @ KCC) “Passionately pursuing an ever-deeper relationship with God”…or are you ok where you’re at?

I long for our church to be ‘on fire’ for Him–to be so Thirsty for Him that we break every chain that holds us back and we turn our back on our apathy and compromise and we seek Him above all things.

I’m sure that He longs for ALL Churches to be that way!

Today, in prayer, pray about this. Be honest with Him.

If you’ve been too full–of yourself, of this world, or of temptations–to really sense the ‘thirst in your soul’, then repent! Ask His forgiveness and lay aside every single thing that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind which has held you back.

It’s time to become ‘Thirsty’ again…and let the Living Water fill you!

IF God Loves Us, THEN… (Lessons Grammar and Baseball)

“If/Then”.

It’s called a “Conditional Clause”, and we use it a lot in life.

Sometimes we don’t even think if it, but we live this way:

IF I do (this thing) THEN I will get (this result).

 

You see it in Major League Baseball all the time.

Batters have a specific routine they get into before entering the batters’ box. Pitchers have certain habits they will do to get themselves ready to make a pitch.

Where do these behaviors come from?

One day they probably made this gesture and got a Home Run, or a strikeout in a key situation, and now they think that ‘IF they keep doing (that behavior) THEN it will go well for them.’

Sometimes it’s just wacky.

Sometimes in life, however, it’s pretty accurate:

IF I eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise, THEN I will usually be healthy.

IF I live within my means and save money, THEN I will have enough when an emergency arises.

 

There’s also something a little bit deeper than this “conditional clause” I’d like to challenge you on.

Last week, I shared the question: “Does God Really Love Us?”, and challenged you to consider whether or not you really believe that. (Read it here: https://pastordajo.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/does-god-really-love-us/)

As you considered that, I hope that the answer was a resounding YES!

 

But I have a new question for you:

‘IF God really does love us, THEN what should be our response?’

I think the answer is Trust! Faith!

Think about it: IF a child believes that daddy will catch him, THEN he is more likely to jump off the side of the pool. IF a child thinks mommy will listen, THEN she will open up about her problems.

Similarly, IF we believe–really believe–that God loves us, THEN we will trust, follow, and submit ourselves to Him and His Word, in faith.

The Scriptures say “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

How do we SHOW our faith?

By obeying His Word: Jesus said, for example:  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:25-28)

So, IF we believe in God and believe He loves us, THEN we will follow!

IF we believe in His Love for us, THEN we will trust Him enough to submit to His leading–as read in His Word!

Yet, many of us live as though we know better than He does.

We live as though ‘Our Word’ (opinion, feelings, etc.) are more important than His Word.

We see this a lot in our culture–especially with regard to sex, sexuality, relationships, values, etc.

 

Yet, we still have to ask: IF we believe in Him and IF we believe He loves us, THEN why aren’t we living that way?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

What does He–your loving heavenly Father–say in His Word about how you’re living?

IF we really believe in Him, THEN we probably need to repent of our stubbornness and disobedience and get in line with His Word again.

IF He is God, THEN we are not, and HE gets to set the standard for right and wrong.

IF we really believe, THEN we will follow.

Does God Really Love Us?

We often hear, and often say, ‘God Loves You’!

Do we really believe it?

Seriously…do you? Are you CONVINCED that God love you?

Here’s why I ask:

I grew up believing in God, but honestly, not really believing that He cared all that much about me–Dave–as a person. I certainly did not operate my life as if I believed that God loved me and wanted what was best for me.

I lived my life as though God was out to kill my fun, take all joy away, and lead me into a religious prison.

Therefore, not surprisingly, I ran from Him. I rebelled in every way possible. (I’ll spare you the messy details.)

It wasn’t till later that I realized I had been believing a lie!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they might have LIFE and have it to the full!” (John 10:10)

At Kalamazoo Community Church, we’ve been considering the implications of that for several weeks now (I’d encourage you to listen to the podcasts at http://www.mykcc.org).

Here’s the thing: This is all theoretical and has no real impact if we leave it in the realm of ‘theological truth’ and don’t apply it to our lives. And really, we won’t apply it to our lives unless we really BELIEVE that God LOVES us!

Otherwise, we’ll treat it like a Christian ‘Hallmark Card’–nice sentiment, but no real impact.

So let me ask again…

Do you really believe that God loves you?

If you do, than that should mean that you know He has the ‘best’ in mind for you. That He wants what is ‘best’ for you, and that He will bring it about–as you trust and follow Him.

Yet, many of us believe the lies of the enemy instead, and turn away to find our ‘best’ life in the ways of, and the things of this world.

Romans 12:1-2:And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

In other words, rather than buying into what our world and culture says, we should give ourselves to God, day-in and day-out. As we do so, He will make us more like Jesus, and will in the process bring about His will for our lives…and His Will is GOOD and PLEASING and PERFECT!

Do you believe–really believe–that God loves you?

I do!

Let’s follow His lead and let Him show us!

Faith…ACTIVE Faith!

Think of your faith again.

Is it merely ‘intellectual assent’? Is it merely a system of beliefs that have you assured of forgiveness for sins now,  and going to heaven when you die?

God wants it to be SO much more!

Look at Hebrews, Ch. 11:  Not only does it tell us what faith is (v. 1), and why it’s important (v. 6) it is also FULL of people who’s faith caused them to act.

This faith was not merely ‘academic’, but very personal, very active, very bold and very real!

Noah built an Ark…taking lots of time to do so when others would have ridiculed him and maybe even tried to stop him.

Abram left his home and family and went out to follow God’s leading, but did not have any knowledge where he would be led!

This chapter is FILLED with people who trusted God enough to step out!

In some cases, it went very well…By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.” (vv. 33-35), but not always:

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” (vv.36-38).

The Point?

Their faith was ACTIVE! It was WILLING! It was EXPECTANT!

They Listened for the Lord’s leading, and FOLLOWED!

Their faith was not a road to ‘safety’ and ‘security’…rather, it was a path to Adventure (and not the film ‘Hobbit’ type of ‘adventure’ that we experience vicariously–this was PUT YOUR LIFE ON THE LINE TO FOLLOW–type of ‘adventure’!

And here’s the point: I believe God is still looking for those who are willing to listen, to follow, who do not ‘demand’ security and a ‘safe, predictable plan’ from God.

God is still leading…are we willing to follow?