Sunday, March 22, 2015

Preparing and serving

1 Samuel 7:3-4,8

As we look at this passage of scripture, we see Samuel addressing the Israelites. After a period of approximately 20 years with no Word from God, the children of Israel were finally repenting. Finally putting away their idols. Finally turning from a life of idolatry back to life in the LORD. The history of Israel is about to bend in a new direction as they demand a king to rule over them.

Samuel told the people of Israel that if they truly wanted to return to the LORD with all of their hearts, they had to put away their foreign gods. He also gave them 2 pieces of advice.

1. Prepare your hearts for the LORD
2. Serve the LORD only

The scriptures tell us that the children of Israel did what Samuel advised them to do. They drew water and poured it out before the LORD, signifying self-denial and humility. It was an act of pouring their hearts out to God. They also fasted and prayed as they acknowledged their sin before God.

Yet, when the Philistines rose up against them, their first response was fear. They asked Samuel to cry out to God for them. They asked Samuel to petition the LORD for their safety.

Listen to verse 8:

“Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that He will save us from the Philistines.”

The children of Israel knew that He was their God. They referred to Him as “the  LORD our God”. They just didn't feel confident that He would hear their cries. They wanted Samuel to petition God for them. Why was that the case? It was because there  was no relationship between them and the Lord. They didn't have close, personal intimacy with their God.

Do we truly desire intimacy with God? If we do, we must know that it won't happen accidentally. It won't happen just by chance. If we desire intimacy, we must pursue it, we must purpose our hearts for it. When we prepare our hearts and diligently seek it, we will find it.

If we honestly desire a relationship with Christ, we must search for Him. We must do the things that are necessary to find Him. Read the Word. Study the Word. Pray without ceasing. Be thankful. Praise Him in all things. It's about cultivating a godly lifestyle that brings glory, and honor to our God and King!

If we do those things, then when we fall into bondage or face a crisis or trial, we can be confident of our intimate relationship with Christ. We can cry out to Him our own selves and know that He hears our voices and that he cares about our problems!

When the enemy rises up against us, we can be sure that “greater is He that is in us, than He that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)

We can be assured that His power and His authority reign in us because of our relationship with Him. We can begin to pray with confidence because of the work of Christ in us.

Let's look at this verse:

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that please Him” ( 1 John 3:22)

We must look at the whole verse to get the entire context of it. If we only look at the first part, it seems like we get whatever we ask of God. And we know that this simply is not true. It wouldn't be healthy for us to get our every desire in life. While there is no doubt that our God loves us and wants us to have good things, it wouldn't be the best thing for us to get everything we ask for.

The word ‘because’ in this verse is very important. It is there to show us that we have a responsibility that comes with being the recipient of God’s love and goodness. We can receive from God because we keep His commandments. He is instructing us here to do what His Word tells us and we certainly can't keep His Word if we don't know His Word!

We must not only read and study the Word daily, but we must learn to be good listeners when the Word is being taught! We must allow His Word to penetrate deeply into the marrow of our bones. It needs to abide deep within us. We must allow it change us. Transform us. We must hear it and do something with it. It must be applied to our lives if it is going to be of any use to us.

Do we desire for God to hear our prayers? Do we desire for our prayers to be answered? If we do, we must be obedient. If we want to be obedient, we must love God.

“If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

Those are the words of Jesus. He is telling us that if we truly love Him, we will keep His Word and do what He says.

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:10)

Do we want to be like Jesus? Do we want to be Christlike in our walk and our talk? We must abide in His love. We must keep His Word.

The last part of the verse in 1 John 3:22 says, “and do those things that are pleasing in His sight”

Such powerful words. Words of instruction. Words of command. Words of great importance.
If we are desperate for intimacy with God, we must do those things that please Him. Not things that only please ourselves. There is no sacrifice in that. But it is about the things that bring joy and glory to God.

1. Reading His Word
2. Abiding in His Word
3. Abiding in His Love
4. Loving others more than ourselves
5. Communing with Him in prayer
6. Being selfless
7. Preparing our hearts
8. Seeking His will
9. Serving Him

When our lives please God, He finds ways to delight in us. When we begin to delight in God, the desires of His heart quickly become the desires of our hearts. When we are truly seeking God’s face, when we are truly seeking a close relationship with Christ, when we are desperate for intimacy in His Word and in His will, we open the door for Him to do a mighty work in our hearts and in our lives.

We begin to fade in the background as we begin to see Him in the reflection of our mirror. Our wants and desires no longer seem important. Our focus turns to seeking and developing the most intimate relationship with our Savior possible.

Draw near to Him. Seek His face. Deny ourself. Delight in Him. Begin to see Him move and work in ways we never thought possible.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

God working in Nicaragua

It's our third morning to wake up in Nicaragua and we have 23 more to go. It's hot here and the sun is intense but we are very thankful for a nice breeze during the daytime! We have already seen the Lord work in ways that only God our Creator can do!

We are doing several different things while we are here. Our first few days have been spent in the home of our interpreter that we met in December.  Sigard and his wife are family now and have blessed us immeasureably. We came here with the funds to bless a needy church. A church that needed a roof finished, a wall built and concrete for the floor. We spent 5 hours yesterday purchasing the materials and working out details with the Pastor and  one of his workers. It was such a joyful time as we see the humility of Pastor Francisco and how truly grateful he is for what we can do. Truth is that even with the improvements we are helping them make, the church looks nothing like we would expect in America. We wouldn't want to worship in a building like it and that is a pitiful fact. What we can't express to you in written words is how precious the worship is in the church. The Spirit of the Lord is so present there! We enter in with joy and gladness and are filled to overflowing in Him. The sad truth is that we are spoiled. Help us, Lord.

We met another Pastor on Friday. Pastor Nelson has a church here in Vera Cruz and we stopped in to visit him. He shared the churches need with us as well as his vision for the church. The Lord immediately impressed upon Jimbo and I that we could help. Or rather that we were going to help. The Lord had blessed us with a monetary gift that we needed for our own finances, but instead we were able to use this to purchase bars for the church windows, a door and enough concrete, sand and gravel to cover the dirt floor.  It truly blessed our hearts to see the love and gratitude the Pastor had when we told him what the Lord wanted to do. We are excited to see God work. We were able to speak and preach last night at their church service and they had a full house. Their people had such a reverance for church and prayer and worship. We were blessed abundantly! We will be be doing bible school for the kids when we come back this fall.

We will be at Villa Holland tonight and then tomorrow we head out for the remote area of Bluefields. Keep us in your prayers and pray that God continue to work through us and in us!