God’s Direction – 1st Place!

Most of us desire to know God’s direction for our lives.  We want to know, what, how and where to do the will of God.  In our prayers, we ask God to open the doors of opportunity and close the doors He does not desire for us.  When we read Scripture, we long to hear from God to determine the exact direction He desires for us.  However, when we do not hear or see the direction we think God has for us, how do we react?  Do we get frustrated and stop praying?  Do we get angry at God and “take some time off” from our relationship with Him?  Or do we stop and ask ourselves, why is it that God isn’t speaking?  Is there something in our lives that He wants us to focus on before giving us the direction we long for?

Thousands of years ago, Israel had been taken captive by Babylon.  God had ordained this as Israel was living in sin.  After some time, Persia then overtook Babylon and took the Israelites captive.  During that time, Nehemiah (the Israelite cup bearer to the king – and prophet) saw Jerusalem in shambles.  He prays to God about this and God moves the heart of the king so that Nehemiah can go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

During the process of rebuilding, there were many who opposed the Israelites from rebuilding the walls.  God continued to move the heart of the king and under Nehemiah’s direction, the walls were built and completed.  Then more opposition came.  And this is where Haggai, the prophet, comes in.

Haggai was given the task, by God, to motivate the Israelites into working on the temple.  The Israelites were scared at first and then became comfortable with their surroundings.  Over time, they saw some success and began building and taking care of their homes.  Yet, even as they worked on their own homes, the temple was still in shambles.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’  Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” – Haggai 1:2-4

Many times, as new believers, we are excited to be in this new relationship with our Creator.  We confess our sins, read the Scripture – looking for His direction and we spend time in prayer (even if we don’t understand how to pray, we still spend the time trying).  As time goes on, we see the successes of focusing our attention on our relationship with our Creator.  Maybe, you received an unexpected raise or a new job (that you were praying for) came your way.  You begin to see how God operates and the rewards you get for being obedient to Him.  But then…. you get comfortable.  Without realizing it, your prayer life begins to wane.  Reading Scripture becomes more of a chore than of a pleasure and you become very comfortable right where you are.  This is where the problem begins.

You notice that life isn’t all that exciting anymore.  Yeah you’re a Christian, but so what.  You go to church once a week and pick up your Bible on occasion.  You pray at meals or when you have a problem, but other than that, your prayer life is eh.  Suddenly, one day, you begin to notice that the job God had provided to you no longer seems to be that exciting anymore.  It’s okay, becomes the thought process for everyday living.  So what happened?  Why has life become so boring, so mundane?  Simply put, it is because we forgot about our relationship with God.

The Israelites were getting comfortable.  But they also wondered why things weren’t going the way they thought it would or should.  Have you ever worked so hard, yet you feel like the results are just mediocre?  You work and work and work, and in some cases in ministry, only to never be satisfied or see the fruit of your labor?  You read and pray for months only to never be satisfied with what you are reading or hearing?  This is what the Israelites were doing.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but harvested little.  You eat, but never have enough.  You drink, but never have your fill.  You put on clothes, but are not warm.  You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” – Haggai 1:5-6

Because Israel had not put God first, God allowed them to never be fully satisfied.  Have you ever felt, you are never satisfied?  I know I have.  And as a child of God, us never being satisfied should be warning sign to us.  Not being satisfied means we have placed God second and other things first.  We have allowed the cares of this world to supersede that which God commanded… “I am the Lord your God.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  In essence, we place an idol where God should be.

When we place God second, it is not to say we don’t believe in Him, but we say through our actions, we can do better.  We tell the Creator of everything that we know more and can handle whatever it is we are going through.  Let me encourage you today by saying, none of us have a handle on our lives.  None of us really understand what we go through and why we go through it.  Our minds are great at lying to us, convincing us that we do not need anyone.  When we place God second, we shouldn’t wonder why life isn’t going well.

Placing God first in everything isn’t easy.  We have a tendency to work very hard for little reward.  But when we place God first, we still work hard but God gives the increase.  We plant the seed of His Salvation into the lives of others by loving them and telling them about Jesus Christ.  We water the seed of His Salvation when we go through the hardships with others, praying for them when they cannot.  But we cannot harvest what is not there.  Only God gives the increase.  Only God makes His Seed into a living plant.  Only God can grow the fruit.  We benefit from the harvest, but God does most of the work.

Unfortunately, we have a desire to try and force the fruit to grow.  We water more.  We add fertilizer over and over again.  We place lamps around the plant on the cloudy days.  We work and work and work, only to find ourselves exhausted and dissatisfied.  We then blame God, others and even ourselves when things don’t go the way we desire.

So how do we get out from underneath this pitfall?  How do we place God first?

Well that’s for next time.  Until then, God bless and encourage someone today.

The Irrevocable Promise…

When you were a child, did you ever make a promise?  Did you say, “If you do this or that, I promise to repay you”?  Maybe you said to your parents, “I promise to clean my room”, even though it was just because you wanted to go out with your friends.

This habit typically continues in our adult life as well.  We promise our bosses to do better, when they say we aren’t doing a good job.  We make promises to God in fear that He might discipline us so harshly that we may not be able to handle it.

The human condition is one that protects itself from danger.  It is a condition that we inherit from our parents.  In fact, if you watch how children interact, you will find out that as soon as they are able to communicate in sentences, they will say, “I promise….PLEASE” for almost everything just to get what they want. So how does God feel about promises?  Does God promise us things just for His wants?

Romans 11:25-32 speak about promises that God made that are considered irrevocable.  This basically means that no matter what people think or what they do, these promises do not and will not change.  Here is the passage:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

‘The deliverer will come from Zion;
    he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
 And this is my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.’

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.  Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

Why would Paul write to the church in Rome about Israel?  At that time, the Gentile believers were being inundated with various teachings.  One of those teachings was about circumcision.  There was a group of Jewish believers that taught circumcision was required for salvation.  Another group taught that the time of the Jews salvation was over and only Gentiles could be saved.  Yet another group taught to follow the teachers rather than the Scriptures.  All of this caused confusion and tension between various believers.

Paul was not only taught by Gamaliel (still considered to be the wisest of all rabbis), but was also a Roman citizen.  Paul had gone to Rome to spread the Gospel.  As Paul understood Roman law as well as the Mosaic laws, he was in the best position settle this argument.

He starts out by mentioning that no one should be ignorant on this subject.  Everyone needs to understand what he was about to teach.  Paul wanted to ensure all people had a clear, cut understanding of the position of both Israelites and Gentiles.

Israel has been hardened to the Gospel “for a time”, not forever.  One day, Israel will recognize her Messiah and return to Him.  When will this happen?  After the last Gentile becomes a believer.

“Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” – Romans 11:26a

There will come a time when Gentiles will no longer become believers.  Only God knows how many and we must recognize that our time is short.  Therefore, it is essential for all of us to share Christ with those who haven’t heard yet.  We know from Scripture that there will be representation from “every nation and language”and that the number of those people cannot be counted by man.  However, there are a specific number of Gentiles that will be saved.  Once that occurs, Israel’s eyes will be cleared and she will understand who her Messiah really is.

What I found interesting in this passage was the fact Paul says, “…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable”.  WHAT A PROMISE!  No matter what we think or do, God’s gifts cannot be returned, destroyed or forgotten.  They are irrevocable!  But it gets even better.

Paul explains that God allows the evil in this world to happen because He desires to show His mercy.  “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their (Israel’s) disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.  For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy n them all.”

When we sin, we prove this Scripture over and over again.  Is this to say we should continue in sin?  Absolutely not!  In fact, understanding this and taking it to heart should draw us closer to the Scripture and away from sin.  In fact, when we see the sin happening around the world, we should rejoice because God is showing His mercy by not annihilating everyone of us.

One day Israel will recognize who their Savior is and we as Gentiles should not think of ourselves any more highly than them.  We should desire to share the Gospel with those of Abraham’s decent as to complete the task we have been given…to share the Gospel with everyone.

Remember, God’s promises are irrevocable.  They can never be changed.  God bless and encourage someone today.