God Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves!

Occasionally people quote a common saying and ask me where it’s found in the Bible.  I don’t enjoy being the one to tell them that what they have always believed is Biblical, really is just a repeated saying among well meaning people.  My favorite is “God will not put more trials on you than you can bear”.  It certainly sounds good, but that is not exactly what the Bible says.   I wrote a post you might read about that HERE.

Another myth people often say is “God helps those who help themselves.” I would point out the Scripture that says this, but I have not found it. In fact, I think I’m safe in saying that I haven’t found it, because it isn’t there.

While the message sounds good, we need to understand that the only thing we can do to help ourselves so that God will help us is to put our trust in Him to help us! Did I lose you on that one? God wants to help His children. God’s love causes Him to want to bless His children. The thing inside of us, which welcomes His favor, is the love He has for us and the love we have for His Son, not what we have done to help ourselves.

Moses told the Israelites once, before they went into battle, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)  Sometimes our job is not to “help ourselves”, but to be still before the Lord and wait on Him to work His perfect plan in our life.

Perhaps you have been trying to “help yourself” so that God would “help you”. Why not be still, do nothing, wait on the Lord, and let Him help you, in His timing and with His plan, just because you are His child?    The greatest way you can help yourself, might be to humble yourself before the God who wants to bless you. (1 Peter 5:6)

Coming Home To God (Thoughts for a Prodigal)

iStock_000003359196XSmallSo he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NIV

One of the finest word pictures in the Bible: God running to His children! Can you say Godspeed?

Jesus told this parable, not so much about a boy, foolish in his youth who squanders away all his wealth and then comes cowering back to an expectant father. Even though that is what occurs in the story, this story is about you and me.

Jesus is describing for us how God feels about His children. If you are a child of God, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, through your faith in Him and Him alone to save you, then God will always be ready to welcome you home! God will never give up on His children.  God may discipline you, but you can rest assured He will never forsake you. You are His, and He will wait for you as His own.

Stop for a moment and picture this story as Jesus meant for you to see it. Imagine you are the prodigal child. You have wandered away from the comfort and protection of your Father God. You have wasted your life on wild living. It was fun at first, but then the new wore off and you were homesick. You realized what you had given up. What you wouldn’t give to go home, but how could you? You had traveled so far and your pride was at stake. People would say, “I told you so”. Your friends might even make fun of you. And what about your Father?  How could He ever forgive you for what you have done? Plus, does He really want you to come home anyway?  Would anyone?

Still, anything is better than where you are at now, so you head for home. Before you can even see the front porch…while your head was still hanging low…you hear a sound. It sounds like footsteps. Heavy footsteps. You look up, almost afraid to for fear of what you may see, and you the sight is something you have never seen before!

YOUR FATHER GOD IS RUNNING TO MEET YOU! God, the Creator of stars, is running to greet you, a sinner, and welcome you home. He isn’t coming with a frown or a smirk of anger on His face. He has His arms open wide! He has on a great big smile! He has a loving twinkle in His eye, the kind He always had when He was proud of something you did!

He reaches you and instead of shouting insults at you, He tells you how pleased He is to have you home. There are tears in His eyes! He lets out a shout of joy. He orders a party to be held in your honor! He tells the angels to get the band playing! Gabriel starts up the gas grill! GOD IS GLAD YOU HAVE COME HOME!

Maybe you need to go home today! God is waiting! He’s probably over half way towards you right now! All you have to do is turn around, and head for home!
I hope you’ll invite me to the party!

Why Was David “A Man After God’s Own Heart”?

An often-confusing term concerning the Biblical character of David is the term “man after God’s own heart”.  Have you ever wondered what that really means? What does that kind of heart even look like? This morning I read a verse from the writings of David that I believe perhaps best captures the meaning behind this phrase.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalms 16:2

David recognized that the only good in him was the God in him.  Great godly leaders are willing to step aside from their own need for ego building and self-confidence and humble themselves before an almighty God.

I have heard before that President Theodore Roosevelt often went outdoors at night, looked up into the vastness of the universe, simply to remind himself of his humanity compared to the vastness of the universe.  I think that is an important principle for all of us that claim a leadership title.

Next time someone asks you why David was called “a man after God’s own heart”, point him or her to Psalm 16:2.

What Am I Supposed To Do?

Good reminder for me today…how about you?

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 Message Version

How To Hear From God

ear-closeupI received a great question from one of my readers:
Ron, how do you learn to be a good listener?

(He actually said this in reference to marriage, but I understand he wanted to learn to listen and hear better from God.)

Here was my reply of how to better hear from God. It may not be the answer he needed, but perhaps it is the one you need.

  1. Recognize who God is and who you are. (Ecclesiastes 5:2) We should ultimately listen more than we talk.
  2. Give yourself time to listen. (Psalm 46:10)  It is hard to really listen to someone when you are rushing through the conversation.
  3. Learn His voice over time.  (John 10:14)  I do not need Cheryl (my wife) to introduce herself when she calls.  I know her voice well.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. (Exodus 16)  I like the principle of the daily manna God gave to the Israelites.  This should be our principle of meeting with God.  We should do interact with Him on a daily basis.

Are you trying to hear from God these days?  How do you know His voice?

His Footprints in the Sand

beach-footprints2Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:19 NIV

...through the darkest days of my life…..where were you God…..I only saw one set of footprints in the sand…..where were you God….those were the times, my child, when I carried you…….

You are familiar with the Footprints poem that has been commercialized onto plates, pictures, ties, refrigerator magnets, bookmarks, etc., etc., etc.. I once thought it was overused. In fact, I wondered where the Biblical reference for it was. I knew it was true, because I had experienced it so many times in my life, but I didn’t know the reference to back it up until I read this verse years ago.

Of course, this verse refers to the famous march through the middle of the waters by that powerful leader we know as Moses. Can you imagine how the Israelites felt? They had escaped the years of slavery and persecution to head for what they thought was a chance at real freedom and along came the Pharoah’s finest, ready to put them on the chopping block. Needless to say they were slightly disappointed. Never at a loss for tricks, Moses summoned God, who told them to go through the center of the sea. Yea, right? Yet as strange as that may have sounded at the time the people enter the “water” on dry ground! I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that is what happened, read it for yourself if you don’t believe me.  (Exodus 14)

Did they see the footprints of God? No! Did they doubt who parted the water? Did they question who dried up the dirt? Well, let me ask you, could you have done it? Neither could they! They knew that God was being God….again!

Has He ever been God in our life? Can you explain it? Did you see His footprints? But if you submit yourself to God and allow God to do His work in your life, make no mistake about it, you will clearly know He is God and there is no other!

Read footprints again. You probably have it on a coffee mug somewhere. Remember the times that He took you through the waters. Thank Him for carrying you all the way!

He is a mighty God!

What Is God Up To At Grace Community Church?

thegbwI don’t know how to describe what’s happening right now at Grace Community Church, short of the Spirit of God works in the hearts of people.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since I know God is more interested in people in our community than I am or any of our staff is concerned…and we love our community, but it is an exciting time to be at Grace.

In 3 and half years we have watched God bring people to the church through their neighbors, friends and families.  We have witnessed double-digit growth every year.  After a church reaches the size ours is now growth normally begins to slow to a smaller rate, but this year we have had yet another growth spurt.  Most Sundays this year have been 30% in attendance or more over last year.  (I wish our budget were doing likewise, because we might be able to staff appropriately or build a building soon, but that will come in time.)  Not only are more people attending but also God is showing up in people’s lives in incredible ways!

Another phenomenon is that God is bringing people with influence over a circle of friends or family. As these people get excited they start to bring the people within their circle.  If this trend continues we can expect even greater things in the months to come!  I’m pumped for God!  (I’m nervous for us as a staff, because I think we quit being able to figure out what God is doing or to manage growth a couple years ago! We will need more than ever to rely on Christ’s strength.)

I’m curious from other pastors, is your church experiencing the same thing right now?  Can you explain what is happening?

Grace people, what do you think God is doing?  Do you sense it like I do?

Ten Commandments, Tenth Command

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Exodus 20:17 NIV

God created us to crave; to want; to desire. God created us to have a deep yearning for something– Him! At the fall of man, our wanter got a little mixed up and started wanting the world. If you read Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, and Revelation 12, you will find that Satan was created because an angel desired more than God.

We now live in a society that really has a mixed up wanter system. Sometimes it seems we have lost all sense of fairness and have entered into an all-I-can-get mentality. We are driven, not by our desire for righteousness, but by our desire to keep up with the Vanderbilts (the Joneses are out of style now). Our children no longer dream over the Sears toy catalog; instead, they receive a new toy as soon as it hits the shelf (if it doesn’t sell out first).

Contentment is not a word we teach in homes, schools, or even churches anymore. We have courses on how to achieve, succeed, crush the competition, buy and sell more, meet all our desires, and we have plenty of credit cards to get what we can’t afford. The shame is not in being greedy anymore, but in doing without.

What happened to our contentment? Didn’t Paul encourage us to learn the secret of being content with what we have? Didn’t Jesus say apart from me you can do nothing? If our retirement plan is Heaven and we are fully vested, what else do we really need?

I don’t know about you, but I need to change my wanter! I need to correct my cravings and focus them in the direction they were intended: on loving and honoring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! What a difference it would make in the way we live, if only we could be content with what we have!

But guess what the good news is! If you have Jesus, and even if He is all you have, HE’S ALL YOU NEED!

The tenth commandment may be the best of all, because once we get our wanter fixed, what we want will cause us to keep all the rest!

Call on the wanter repairman today! His name is Jesus!

What Does Grace Mean To You?

I’m thinking a lot lately, really the last few years, about the word grace. What a beautiful word!

According to Dictionary.com it means:

  • elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
  • a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
  • favor or good will.
  • a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior
  • mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
  • favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.

The definitions continue under the heading of “Theology”:

  • the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
  • the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
  • a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
  • the condition of being in God’s favor or one of the elect.
  • moral strength

The founders of Grace Community Church and I have received so much grace we even put it in our name. Yesterday I was reminded how much our staff is a product of God’s grace. We’ve all needed lots of it. (Everyone we decided except for maybe Ben. Of course, he probably just hides it well.)

Lately though my thoughts have been on how we abuse grace. We take it for granted. We attempt to cheapen grace. We failed to accept it. We try to add to it.

Today, at least for the moment I’m typing it, I’m just going to be overwhelmed with the amazing grace my Father provides for me.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

What are your thoughts about the word “grace” today?  Have you needed lots?  Has lots of grace been given to you?  Think carefully about this next question:  Are you abusing grace?

Ten Commandments, Ninth Command

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 NIV

The Bible says that liars of the Truth will end up in Hell.

The ninth commandment is no joking matter. This one command is quite possibly the most broken, and one we tend to see as minor sin. Our God, however, does not qualify good and bad sin. Sin is sin to God, and He can tolerate none of it. One white lie is as bad as a cold-blooded murder to a Righteous and Holy God.

Yet, most of us break the command every day. Oh sure, I know you don’t go to court every day to testify against your friends, but have you ever talked less than kindly about them? Have you ever complained about their actions, repeated a rumor, criticized their work, or summarized your theory about their life? Let me put it in simpler terms. Do you gossip?

When you say something about someone else that may damage his or her reputation, you have broken the ninth commandment, and God says Hell is good enough for you! Praise God for the grace of His Son Jesus, (grace and grace alone will get you to Heaven) but you have broken His holy law when you speak against another.

What do you have on your heart or mind today? (Remember, sin is not confined to action, but also applies to hidden thought.) Is there something you’re thinking about another person? Does what you’re thinking build them up or tear them down? Would you repeat it to God? If you did, would God be proud of you for thinking it?

Momma (and Thumper) knew best when she said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Let that be your goal today. It will be tough! You may have to bite your tongue a few times. You may not be able to talk for weeks.

But, Praise God, you will be on your way to obeying the ninth commandment. Soon you’ll start talking again. People will love what you have to say. God will be pleased!

Speak the truth in love today!