Commitment is something that is not taken very seriously in many areas of peoples lives any more. From cell phone contracts to marriages, no one wants to have commitment to anything or anyone. (It is almost easier to get out of a marriage than it is a cell phone contract!) But if you desire to live for God you have to have commitment to Him and to His ways. Commitment means you are committed no matter what happens, good or bad. You stay the course no matter how rough the seas may get. You continue living for God and doing His will no matter how hard it sometimes gets. Jesus said in the middle of describing perilous times of the end in Matthew 24:13 "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." In order for us to make it to Heaven, there must be some "enduring". That means there must be commitment to God. Too many times, people give up on living for God when the road gets rocky and times get hard. My friends, that's when we need God the most and need to draw closer to Him than ever before.
We recently held the dedication service for our new building and what a service we had! Bro Bryan Parkey preached a fantastic and powerful message and many friends from the Missouri and Arkansas Districts were in attendance. As I reflect on the service, I began to think about dedication. We dedicated our building to the Kingdom of God and to serve our community. All well and good. But what about the true "temple" of God. Paul reminds the congregation at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:16, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" So if we dedicate a building to the service of the Kingdom and communities, shouldn't we also dedicate the temple, meaning ourselves? And I believe that unlike a dedication for a building, we should dedicate our temple to the Lord each and every day, if not multiple times per day. That would serve as a great reminder as to what we are truly to be doing with our lives.
According to World English Dictionary, the definition of dedication is not only "a ceremony in which something, such as a church, is dedicated", but also "complete and wholehearted devotion".
Forgiveness is a word and an action that is not easily defined, but it is something that can define a person. Perhaps I can start by telling you what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not weakness. It is not a sign of inferiority. It is not letting someone get away with hurting you in some manner. What forgiveness is, however, is a characteristic of Christ. It is turning the other cheek, or maybe better understood, turning over a new leaf. It is letting go of past hurt, past sorrow, past pains. It is releasing yourself from those haunting memories. It is allowing the Great Comforter to rule your actions and reactions to the past. It is showing the love that Jesus showed, even while dying on the cross. He was able to forgive those who had hung Him there, those who had condemned Him to death, those who had yelled "crucify Him, crucify Him." By hanging on the past, by not forgiving, we are allowing those things to control us instead of Jesus. Forgiveness in our lives is not for the offender, but for the offended. It is so crucial to our well being Jesus told us to forgive as we desire to be forgiven. If you want forgiveness, my friend, by all means, forgive.
John C. Maxwell, an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 16 million books, stated "Change is inevitable; Growth is optional." Change truly is inevitable. In fact, God instituted change as He created the earth having seasons, as He created animals and then us humans to be born and grow into the different stages of life.
God never changes as we read in His Word (Malachi 3:6 "For I am the LORD, I change not; ..." and Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.") But God is about change; I believe God desires change, especially in us. We were born into a sinful state and we all have sinned (again according to the Word, Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" ) therefore, we must change from our sinful state into the image of God. We must change our behavior, renew our mind, and transplant our heart in order to be pleasing to God. The only way for this to happen is to be "born again" as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. We must become the "new creature in Christ Jesus" as Paul explains to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 5:17.
Let me cut to the chase. I believe in order for us to be pleasing to Jesus, we must repent of our sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of those sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38). I also believe that we are to continue to change into what He wants us to be and that, my friends, constitutes change.
Not only do I want to change, I want to grow. Especially in the things of God!
John 16:13 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth...". Jesus was letting us know that when the Holy Ghost was given and received, He could then lead and guide His people through the Spirit. Paul told the church at Rome in Romans 8:8-9 "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
These verse hold so much I cannot tell a fraction within this post, but one important fact is without the Spirit of God DWELLING in us, we are not "in the Spirit" and, therefore, we are not being led by the Spirit. Which means we are being led by the flesh which means we are not pleasing to God.
Verse 9 tells us plainly, if we have not the Spirit, we are not His. So I ask you, how important do you think the Holy Ghost (aka the Spirit of God) is to your salvation?
Prayer is not just something nice to do at church; it is an essential part of your walk with God. How far would any relationship go if there were never any communication? The same applies with our relationship with God. We must have communication with Him. The key, I believe, is "communication". When we communicate, we establish then grow relationships through communication. Relationships are based on the act of speaking AND listening.
I feel the need to stress and emphasize the necessity of a continual and faithful prayer life. There are very few things that we are commanded to do continually. According to Philippians 4:4 we are to "Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say rejoice." Also in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to "Rejoice evermore."
The next verse (17) tells us something else we should continually do: "Pray without ceasing." Luke 18:1 lets us know that Jesus says that "...men ought always to pray...".
Prayer makes a difference; it's supposed to make a difference. It can make a difference in the situation you are praying for. It can make a difference in the lives of those you are praying for, and it will make a difference in your life.
1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
As a whole, creatures are selfish. I can remember growing up helping feed the cattle and watching as they would fight over the hay and feed. I have seen other animals attack one another over food. Perhaps that is why God has commanded us to "love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart..." and to "love thy neighbor as thyself". How difficult that is!!
In order to serve God and to be what He wants us to be, we have to go against the instincts we have within us. We have to go against the "natural" response. After all we are "by nature the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27 "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Even Paul had to go against what his body wanted and submit himself to what God wanted, otherwise, he would be "a castaway".
So the next time you feel those selfish desires rising up in you, be reminded that we are to care for others the same way we care for ourselves.
Rom 12:10 "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;"
We have launched a new motto for Refuge, although it is not a new idea. "Loving God, Loving People" is not just a motto, mission statement, and vision statement, it describes who we are and what we do. We are commanded by God to "love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind" and "love your neighbor as yourself". The hard part comes by not just saying we love, but showing that we love. Showing God we love Him is obeying His Word (John 14:15) and by doing good to people (remember Jesus said that if we do to the least of these we do it unto Him). The Bible teaches that if we love God we should love people (1 John 4:21).
I want everyone to experience all God has for them. If we teach people about God and His love for us, hopefully they will fall in love with Him and follow His Word. We must be about our Father's business and be doing what He has commanded us to do, and that is to go and teach (Matt 28:19). Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. If we are to be Christians (meaning Christ-like) then we must do as He did!
And that happens when we Love God and Love People.
What is it that you want? Wealth, health, happiness? What is it that you really crave down deep inside?
Perhaps this sounds like a broken record to some, but what would happen if our first thought, our first response to the question is "more of God". Why is it that we wonder why we are not blessed, why we are not encouraged, why we are not strengthened on a regular basis? Is it because we only think about God and church on Sundays and Wednesdays? What would our lives be like if we had God on our minds continually? Doesn't Paul encourage us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17)?
Many may say, "that's easy for you to say since you're a preacher". True, I am a preacher and a pastor. That is why I have a unique view into peoples lives and can see how true the Word of God is when Jesus spoke, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21)
How blessed we would be if we put our "treasures" into the things of God!! How blessed we would be if we wanted Jesus the most in our lives!!
Here is a fascinating revelation...people do what they want to do. Ok, so it's not a NEW revelation. It amazes me the things people will do to avoid the things they are supposed to do to be pleasing to God. It also amazes me the number of times people will do something and then ask God to bless it...what is wrong with this picture?
If we truly "seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33) then what we want is irrelevant. Our desire should be pleasing God and seeking after His will in our lives, not our own will. After all, didn't Jesus pray, "not my will, but thine, be done"? (Luke 22:42)
The thing is, if we seek after His pleasure enough, soon our desires will line up with God's desires!!
Let me get to the point. If we constantly do what we want to do, we will never be in the will of God because our carnal mind is "enmity with God" (Rom. 8:7). If we are to follow Jesus, we MUST deny ourselves, take up our cross daily then we can follow Him (Luke 9:23).
We have to get out of this mindset of seeking to please ourselves all of the time. Paul told Timothy that this would describe the people in the "last days"; "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:1-4)
It is time for our wants to be God's wants, it's time to do what we want as long as what we want is what God wants!!!