God’s Guidance

Many Christians complain that God doesn’t speak to them when they’re in need of guidance. For some reason they have forgotten the first and most basic way God leads His children—through His written Word!

As the psalmist said, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Whenever you see the scriptural phrase “This is the will of God,” you know for sure that’s His will. You also know that to disobey is to break His Word. Other clear indications of His leading are the precepts and principles in the Scripture.

Precepts are clearly marked statements like “Abstain from sexual immorality.” That’s like saying, “Speed Limit 35.” What is speeding? Anything over 35 miles an hour. That’s a precept.

Then there are principles in the Scriptures that are general guidelines that require discernment and maturity if we are to grasp them.

So often in the emotion of the moment or the pressure of the day, we make a decision that we would never make in the clear, discerning light of God’s Word. Make a habit of reading the Word when you’re facing tough decisions or moves, and study it prayerfully. God will talk to you!

You will never, ever go wrong in consulting the Scriptures.



Does God Love Me?

Psalm 145:19-21

Life can hit us with the most unexpected and undesirable circumstances. When that happens, shock and pain might make us wonder, Does God really care about me?

First of all, we know from 1 John 4:8 that “God is love,” which means His very nature is characterized by compassion and concern. Love originated with the Lord, and He is our greatest example of how to express it. This truth, combined with the reality that God is holy, means He is perfect in His love—He’ll never make a mistake in the way He loves us.

Second, we know that our heavenly Father loves us, because He calls us His children. “To those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God,” writes John in his gospel (1 John 1:12 NIV). Sadly, some people don’t have a parent who shows them love. But God is the perfect parent. It would be completely against His character to mistreat any of His children.

Finally, God gave the supreme demonstration of His love at the cross. We were all dead in our sins, but Christ went to the greatest length possible to give us life. The Son of God came to earth as an expression of His Father’s awesome, fathomless, infinite love and did for us what no one else could do.

After considering these three facts about God’s love, how could we not expect Him to take care of even the smallest details of our life? Look for ways He is expressing His love to you, and remember Jesus own words on the subject: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).



Don’t Ignore The Warning Signs

I was driving along the road in my noisy ’62 VW Bug with my seatbelt on, calling a friend on my hands-free phone. After a few rings, he picked it up, but as soon as I said “Hello,” I heard a sound like a siren going off.

“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s my car alarm,” explained my friend. “I didn’t put my seatbelt on.”

A few seconds later the alarm went off—after he had buckled up. When our conversation ended, I reflected on the incident.

This is interesting, I thought to myself. That alarm made my friend realize that he didn’t have his seatbelt on. What about my Bug? It’s so old it doesn’t have an alarm system to warn me.

And then I thought back to the long time I drove without a seatbelt—until God finally sounded the alarm. Yes, I knew the law, but I ignored it, because I thought nobody would notice and after all, what policeman would want to stop a slow-driving old Bug?

But one day after I had talked at length about a well-known Christian singer who died in a plane crash because he had overloaded his airplane, it dawned on me that I, too, was violating safety regulations. I suddenly realized that I should have obeyed the law. I quickly told the Lord that I was sorry and that from then on I would wear my seatbelt.

I am very sure the Lord must have tried several times to talk to me before, but I was not listening. This time He not only talked to me, but also convicted me that I was wrong to jeopardize being seriously injured or even killed in a car wreck.

A Dangerous Road

My dear friend, perhaps you have a car that sounds an alarm when you drive off without putting on your seatbelt. But what about the other areas of your life—your personal walk with God, marriage, financial dealings, conduct, speech, purity and faithfulness?

There are no audible sirens that will automatically come on when you head in a wrong direction or ignore God’s laws and safety measures, which you well know from the Bible.

However, for one reason or another you choose to ignore them and you coast along just fine—or so you think. Oh yes, here and there you see a few warning signs, but you conveniently decide to disregard them. You like to feel that you are in control.

It’s a dangerous road you are traveling on, convincing yourself that you know better than God, that you are stronger, holier and smarter than anyone else and that therefore you don’t need to heed God’s safety measures.

I can assure you that you are heading for a sure crash if you keep ignoring the warning signs God sends you through Scripture, other believers and the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart.

Giving an Account for Our Generation

Heeding such warning signs applies not only to our personal walk with God, but also to our calling as the Body of Christ in this world. We are called to be salt and light, to set our mind on the things above and not on the things of this world—and we are commissioned to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

How serious are we taking our calling? Let me ask you a few questions. When was the last time you and your church or fellowship group fasted and prayed a few days—not for your own needs, but for the lost world? When was it that your church body sacrificed their comfort, resources and plans so others could hear the Gospel? What are the things your fellowship preaches and promotes? Is it how to have a more comfortable life and increasing wealth in the here-and-now, or is it how to become a grain of wheat and die so that others may live?

My dear friend, are we waiting for the sirens of war, terrorism and economic crisis to go off before we wake up and get serious about picking up our cross and following Jesus?

If, as members of the Body of Christ, we don’t heed the warning signs, we will one day stand before the throne of God to give an account for losing our generation.

Let’s Listen!

The history of the people of Israel is given to us as instruction and warning. After crossing the Jordan river, they took possession of their promised land, with God fighting their battles. He told them that this land would be theirs forever if they obeyed His Word. But very soon the people drifted away from God’s instructions and did their own thing.

God in His mercy sent prophet after prophet to warn them and to keep them from losing their lives and land. However, they ignored all His warnings until they finally lost everything and were taken away into captivity.

May God open our eyes, ears and hearts to the warning signs all around us and the alarms that are already going off.



The Spirit’s Applying Work

He will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16:15

There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no help unless a gracious hand applies them to us. We are thirsty but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle, it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds and medicines to ease all the pains that he now suffers: What he needs is to be carried there and to have the remedies applied. It is the same with our souls, and to meet this need there is one, even the Spirit of truth, who takes the things of Jesus and applies them to us.

Do not think that Christ has placed His joys on heavenly shelves so we may climb up and retrieve them for ourselves; rather He draws near and sheds His peace abroad in our hearts. Christian, if you are tonight struggling under deep distress, your Father does not give you promises and then leave you to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well. The promises He has written in the Word He will write afresh on your heart. He will display His love to you and by His blessed Spirit dispel your cares and troubles.

Let it be known to you, if you mourn, that it is God’s prerogative to wipe every tear from the eyes of His people. The good Samaritan did not say, “Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you”; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of His promise, but He holds the golden cup to your lips and pours the lifeblood into your mouth. The poor, sick, worn-out pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is lifted up on eagles’ wings. Glorious Gospel that provides everything for the helpless, that draws near to us when we cannot reach it ourselves—it brings us grace before we seek grace! There is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to them!



A Prompting From the Holy Spirit

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” -2 Corinthians 6:2

Rush from work. Scarf dinner at Hamburger Hamlet with Judy. Dash into van. Oh! Stop and pray before heading to church to speak. 

Pulling out, I noticed a woman leaving the restaurant with a baseball cap over her scraggly hair. I sensed a powerful urge to invite her to church. She needs to hear what I have to say. “Ridiculous,” I thought. What am I supposed to do, God? Yell out, ‘Hey, follow me to church!’ 

Heading out, I berated myself for not following through. “Lord, next time I promise I’ll obey your promptings!” Ten minutes later, Judy screeched up behind me in the church parking lot — the woman in the baseball cap right behind her! Apparently, after I’d left the restaurant, she had asked Judy who I was. “Joni is speaking nearby,” Judy relied. “Would you like to go?”

In the parking lot I heard her story. “I have breast cancer. Two hours ago I learned that it has spread to my brain. It’s inoperable. I don’t know where to turn.” My mouth dropped open. I now understood why the Spirit had urged me to stop and invite her, a complete stranger, to hear me speak.

That night as I talked about heaven and the Gospel, Joyce and her husband opened their hearts to Jesus. I shudder to think it all was nearly lost because I let embarrassment override His voice. That night, I learned that every prompting to share the gospel is a prompting from God. Oh that we would be quick to obey… for that one whom He loves may never pass our way again.

This week, God’s voice may whisper, “Make that call… forgive him of… apologize for… check on her.” Don’t brush it off. Today is the day of salvation.



Returning to God

Malachi 3:7-12
Many Christians are familiar with God’s words in verse 7 of today’s reading: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” When Malachi delivered this message to Israel, they seemed ignorant of the fact that they had left the Lord. Throughout the book, God made statements about their poor spiritual condition, and they always responded by asking how they had offended Him.

In this passage, God accuses them of robbing Him by withholding the tithes and offerings required by the Law to support the Levites and priests. God viewed their persistent disobedience to His commands as theft because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to Him. If we consider all that the Lord has given us, we must ask ourselves whether we’re robbing Him in any way. Consider these examples:

  • God has given us life and determined the number of our days (Psalm 139:16). Yet some of us claim that we don’t have time to read the Bible or pray. We may be busy, but it’s our responsibility to prioritize time with the Lord in the 24 hours He has allotted to us each day.
  • Our Father has also given us abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts, yet we oftentimes reserve their use for our career or hobby rather than for serving Him.
  • God is the one who has given us the ability to work and earn an income, and all He asks of us is the first portion.

Is there anything of the Lord’s that you’ve been keeping for yourself? With an obedient and grateful heart, you can joyfully give back to Him a fraction of whatever He has given you.



Help to Make It Through

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

“When my Grandma died, it’s like I froze,” Ryan admitted. “My homework wasn’t getting done—especially a huge research paper for social studies. But Taylor got on the phone every night with me. He talked through the project little by little. We brainstormed a topic, talked about research sources, went to the library together to check out books, and came up with a list of questions to ask the teacher when I got stuck. Taylor even helped me get the right format for my footnotes. I couldn’t have survived that semester without his help.”

When you lose a loved one through death—or you face any other life-altering tragedy—you need more than just comfort to get through the pain.

Talk about it: What other kinds of help do hurting friends need?

Here’s a big one. Support. It’s another type of help you can offer friends who suffer. And it’s a type of assistance many of us find easy to offer. So what’s the difference between comfort and support? Check this out:

People supply comfort when they share your emotional pain.

People supply support when they help in practical ways.

Life doesn’t stop after a tragedy. But the heavy emotions you feel often drain the energy you need to keep up. When you hurt, you usually need help for a while just to get normal tasks done. You need people to carry your burdens.

You might not like to admit you need help. But don’t push away the support others offer. God put Galatians 6:2 in the Bible because he knows there are times we need the support of others. Whenever bad things happen, that’s a time to let others do things for us—like helping with homework. It’s one of God’s great ideas for meeting our needs when we need it most.

So what if I need something and nobody steps up to help? Ask for it. There’s nothing wrong with telling a trusted friend or a leader at church about our needs—and explaining exactly what kind of help we need.

God didn’t design you to go through life’s toughest moments alone. You can’t survive without both comfort and support from others. After a while your needs won’t seem as large as they do at first, but don’t expect to dive back into life-as-usual right away. Let your friends and family care for you as long as you need it!

TALK: How have you shared comfort and support with a hurting friend? How did it help?

PRAY: Dear God, get us ready to support people we know who are suffering from the pain of personal tragedy.

ACT: Think of a friend who is suffering. What does he or she need from you right now—comfort or support? How can you provide that?



You Have To Make The Journey Yourself

If I lived to be 120 years old and someone said to me, “You’ve served the Lord since you were 16. Now that you’re older, what is the most important advice you can give to God’s people for their life on earth in the light of the horrendous darkness and need of our world?”

My answer would be very simple: “Be broken.”

Though I am only in my 60s, there is no greater truth I have learned in my journey with the Lord than the significance of embracing the life of brokenness. When it comes to our usefulness in God’s work, the greatest problem that keeps us away from the life God has for us is not our failure, sin or lack of ability, but it’s our stubbornness and lack of brokenness. God cannot work through an individual who is proud, defiant and self-sufficient.

His Strength Instead of Ours

King David, for example, knew God so intimately, but when he chose his own way, as in the case of Bathsheba, he lived spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically sick for a full year. He fought with everything he had in him to hide his sin and keep his image and honor intact. But in the end, he couldn’t do it anymore; he was dying inside. In his confession, he declared and passed on to us what God is looking for: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

Some of us are naturally gifted and able. As such, we are in great danger of walking through our life and doing great things for God—all in our own strength. Only in the end will we find out that in spite of all our accomplishments, God could not use us to impart Christ’s tender, gentle, broken and creative life to others. No doubt our gifts and abilities are given to us by our Creator; however, they will only become useful in building God’s kingdom if we walk in humility and brokenness, depending on His strength instead of ours.

Soft and Pliable

There is so little that God or anyone else can do for us as long as we manipulate circumstances, justify ourselves and fight every opportunity to be broken. The more we fight, the harder our hearts become. On the other hand, when we embrace brokenness, our hearts will become soft and pliable in the hand of God.

When we meet Christians who are broken, we notice their tenderness and that there is no harshness or demand in them. We feel a sense of peace when we are with them, and we are not afraid of them. They may not say much, but we perceive there is something more than words and right or wrong that guides their lives and causes them to radiate God’s peace.

“Learn from Me”

Jesus, who is Almighty God, embraced humility and brokenness to such an extent that the prophetic Scripture describes Him, saying: “But I am a worm, and no man” (Psalm 22:6). Because He was completely yielded to the will of His Father, He was able to lay down His life for us and become our Savior.

Jesus desires that we cease from strife, walk in peace and produce eternal fruit. That’s why He invites us: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

The only way we experience this rest is when we cease from fighting to preserve ourselves, and embrace brokenness. No one can make this decision for us; there is no shortcut.



Effective Radical Prayer

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.  Matthew 18:19–20

Effective radical prayer engages the hearts of men and women, teenagers and young adults, boys and girls. Solo prayer invites the ear of the Lord, but group prayer purifies prayer. In a group of devoted disciples, God’s will is established and boldly petitioned to heaven. Prayer support from a small group gives confidence, direction, and determination.

For example, the righteous one who fervently prays for those outside the faith is effective to draw them within the faith. There is no doubt hell shudders when heavenly supplications seek to snatch lost souls from eternal damnation. The Holy Spirit hovers over prayer meetings motivated to glorify the Lord and save sinners. Group prayer ignites eternity.

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

We pray and praise God, but Christ converts. The pressure is not on Christians to make Christians, but to pray for hearts to be pricked by God’s Spirit, converted, and born into the kingdom of God. The Lord uses prayer to soften sinners so the soil of their heart moistens and seeds of truth take root. Pray without ceasing for Jesus to save lost souls.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46–47).

The local church is a natural location to lean into the Lord in small group prayer. Our home can also be a sanctuary of supplication to Christ, with other like-minded believers. So begs the question, “Are you engaged in effective prayer with other followers of Jesus?” Prayer is a team sport. It is not meant for us to only linger alone with the Lord.

We all need prayer, and we need to pray for others. It is a Holy Spirit-initiated prayer movement that moves cultures and communities toward God. Perhaps we complain less to each other and pray more with each other. When we humble ourselves together before God, He hears, He answers, and He heals. Effective prayers mobilize the body of Christ.

“You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 msg).

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me great faith to pray boldly in the name of Jesus, in His name I pray.

Apply

Does Christ capture my heart in radical prayer with a small group of believers in Jesus?



Blameless!

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Jeremiah 15:21

Notice the personal nature of this promise: “I will.” The Lord Jehovah Himself intervenes to deliver and redeem His people. He pledges Himself personally to rescue them. His own arm shall do it, in order that He may have the glory. Not a word is said of any effort of our own that may be needed to assist the Lord. Neither our strength nor our weakness is taken into account, but the lone “I,” like the sun in the heavens, shines out resplendent in complete sufficiency. Why then do we allow ourselves to be wounded by calculating our forces and consulting with mere men? God has enough power without borrowing from our puny arm.

To enjoy peace, our unbelieving thoughts must be stilled, and we must learn that the Lord reigns. There is not even a hint of help from any secondary source. The Lord says nothing of friends and helpers: He undertakes the work alone and feels no need of human arms to aid Him. All our looking around to companions and relatives are vain; they are broken reeds if we lean upon them—often unwilling when able, and unable when they are willing. Since the promise comes from God alone, it is best for us to wait only on Him; and when we do so, our expectation never fails us.

Who are the wicked, that we should fear them? The Lord will utterly consume them; they are to be pitied rather than feared. As for terrible ones, they are only terrors to those who have no God to turn to, for when the Lord is on our side, whom shall we fear? If we run into sin to please the wicked, we have cause to be alarmed; but if we maintain our integrity, the rage of tyrants will be overruled for our good. When the fish swallowed Jonah, he found him a morsel that he could not digest; and when the world devours the church, it is glad to be rid of it again. In all occasions of fiery trial, let us maintain our souls in patience.