Until the Last

To help all of you understand before you make any important, major life changes or decisions, make sure of whose voice you are listening to and where you are getting advice from.

This will be my last entry of Java with Jesus.  Recent events in my life have severely shaken my faith and I cannot in good conscience continue to write this blog when I have been so shaken to my very core.  For those who look forward to these entries, I thank you for reading and following so loyally and I pray for the Lord to bring someone who will continue to inspire or provide insight for you.  With that being said, let’s go out with a bang.

There are a lot messages we get in this world.  Some good, some bad and some just plain nonsensical.  As Christians, we need to look at these messages with discernment and know which ones are truly from Him and which ones are not.  How do we do this?  By studying the Word of course and making sure what we are hearing, lines up with Scripture.

John 10:1-5

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

You know Catherine used to tell me and others, “He knows his Bible.”  And while I can provide analysis and understanding of the Words of Scripture, I’d rather know the voice of the Shepherd.  You see before she and I got together, I had prayed and she had been praying.  What were we praying for?  That one person with whom we could spend our forever with and walk into eternity with.  Then we met and we started talking and before I even made an approach, I searched Scripture to make sure what I was thinking and feeling lined up with Him and it brought me to Proverbs 18:22, and that is when I knew and asked her out.  I had never been more sure of anything after that moment.  And if you read the Proverb in its entirety, I did obtain favor from the Lord, through the blessing of her and continual blessings outside of her.

What’s the point of this story?  To help all of you understand before you make any important, major life changes or decisions, make sure of whose voice you are listening to and where you are getting advice from.  First, bring the issue before Him.  Second, ask Him for discernment with regard to the Scriptures and which path to take.  Last, once your decision is made, search the Scriptures and make sure the decision you have made lines up.  If it does, then you have clearly heard the Lord on the matter.  If not, then you are just hearing the answer you want to hear and not doing what the Lord wants you to do.

A little long for the last entry, but I hope it blesses you.  Please pray for me.  May the Lord bless you and keep you all.

Seek Joy, Not Happiness

So how do we achieve the contentment Paul was speaking of in his letter to the Philippian church?  Simple, get your eyes off the situation and off the people, even the ones who may be trying to help, and get your eyes on the Cross.

What makes you happy?  Is it when you get that big promotion?  Is it when people do things you want them to do?  Is it when you get a gift from someone?  What about when you get sick or lose someone?  Are you happy then?  No, of course not.  That is because happiness is a circumstantial thing.  It’s dependent upon situations.  Sometimes people will make us unhappy.  It happens.  Sometimes situations don’t turn out the way we expect them.  It happens.  So how do we deal with this emotional roller coaster?  We look for contentment in all circumstances.

Philippians 4:11

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:

Let’s start by making it clear, as I think I have already have, happiness is circumstantial or situational.  You can have happiness one moment and then in a flash, the situation changes and you can be completely miserable.  You shouldn’t be seeking happiness because then you are always wanting good news and good things, and that is not the way of this world.  This world has good and bad stuff in it, we have to learn to deal with them both.  So how do we achieve the contentment Paul was speaking of in his letter to the Philippian church?  Simple, get your eyes off the situation and off the people, even the ones who may be trying to help, and get your eyes on the Cross.

The apostle John wrote at the beginning of 1 John, his purpose for writing it was so that believers joy would be full.  He was speaking of having fellowship with other believers and most importantly, fellowship with God and His Son.  I can honestly say the moments when I am truly happiest, again circumstantial, is when I am spending time with the Lord or writing.  But what if I couldn’t write?  Uh oh, change of situation.  Would I still be happy?  Yes.  Why?  Well just because I can’t write, doesn’t mean I can’t spend time with the Lord.   See that’s where my joy comes from, spending time with Him, reading His Word and praying.  You can’t change that situation.

This world puts such an emphasis on being happy.  “If only I had [insert generic external source of happiness here} I’d be happy,” is a phrase often heard.  If it is an object, then you are hosed, because things can break or get lost or stolen.  Then where’s your happiness, gone.  If your happiness is dependent on a person, then you are equally hosed.  People will let you down, it’s a fact.  And it’s not that they are malicious, but life does happen and their own circumstances change, which then changes yours.  And if it takes you making someone else happy in order to make yourself happy, you are stuck in a vicious and detrimental cycle.  The moment that person’s circumstances change, your world goes into flux and you are not happy.  Your happiness depended on theirs and now they aren’t happy so you aren’t.  Situational, situational, situational.  We need to be seeking and pursuing joy, which goes beyond situation and circumstances and is found in one person, the Lord.

Hidden Treasure

I have found things and people that I treasure, not above my relationship with Him, but that I do work on caring for and cultivating.  However, my relationship with Him is what I do my best to cultivate the most.

Do you have something or someone valuable to you?  I don’t mean a car or a house, but something of true value?  It could be something small and simple, like an old coin.  If it’s a person, then it’s a person or people who give you the strength and encouragement in dire straits.  These are the things we should hold onto to when we face difficult and possibly impossible circumstances.

Matthew 13:44

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This parable, one of many told by Jesus in this chapter, speaks of someone who gave up everything for a hidden treasure, the kingdom of heaven.  He valued that treasure so much, he gave up everything he had for it and made his livelihood working, because at the time buying a field meant your job was to work that field, cultivating and caring for that field.

I have done my best to cultivate my relationship with the Lord.  And I will admit, there have been times where I failed.  I make no qualms about admitting my own failures and they happen to be with regard to interpersonal relations.  But I have found things and people that I treasure, not above my relationship with Him, but that I do work on caring for and cultivating.  However, my relationship with Him is what I do my best to cultivate the most.  And here’s the reason why, He loves me unconditionally, and if you read some of His interactions with the disciples, He had trouble with interpersonal relations as well.

Please hear my heart, I am not saying I am Jesus nor God, but I am saying that I identify with Him and can kind of understand His frustrations at times in His earthly ministry.  There was a time when His disciples, after He came down from a mountain, couldn’t case a demon out of a little girl and He asked how long would He have to deal with them.  It wasn’t the people He was speaking about, it was their lack of faith.

So what hidden treasure have you found in your life?  Whom has the Lord blessed you with?  And what are you willing to give up in order to cultivate that field with?  Is it everything?  Think about that, are you willing to give up everything to cultivate a relationship with the earthly hidden treasures God has given you?  Cultivating your relationship with Him is most important, then comes everything else.

Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

Sacrifice is tough, but Jesus didn’t say it would be easy.  He also doesn’t leave it to ordinary folks.

“We are the bride of Christ.”  Ever hear that phrase?  It is saying we, Christians, are Christ’s bride that He is going to present to His Father in heaven.  Now I personally don’t look good in a dress, especially a white one.  However, I digress, Christ sacrificed Himself for us and in relationships, that is what we are often called to do, sacrifice what we want for the ones we love.

John 10:11-16

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and, leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Sacrifice isn’t easy.  Giving up the things you want because you love someone else means an act of unselfishness, which we as humans are not prone to.  But here is the deal, what did Jesus sacrifice?  Well, for those who don’t know, He sacrificed His life for us.  He lived and died for us.  And that is what relationships are all about, living and dying for another person.

In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  I personally have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of friends.  But the friends that I do have, I consider them ride or die.  I’d give up my life for them.  And for the one who has that single special place in my heart, she knows who she is, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.  So I make conscious choices to do or not do certain things.

Sacrifice is tough, but Jesus didn’t say it would be easy.  He also doesn’t leave it to ordinary folks.  He left the ability to those truly empowered by His Holy Spirit to do it.  And the sacrifice cannot be made grudgingly, or in a way that breaks your heart, it should be made with joy.  You are following His example.  After all, He lost community with His people by saying He was the Christ, His family thought He was nuts for saying that as well, so He lost them, and He lost His life.  Think about all that the next time you become bitter about a sacrifice you make and realize, your sacrifice isn’t really that big compared to what He sacrificed for you.

Getting Knocked Down

While we should be active in doing the tasks the Lord has put before us, we should not wait until He knocks us down to rest.

2 Chronicles 32:24-26

24 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the Lord; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem. 26 Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

No, I did not start today’s entry the way I usually do just because today’s Scripture was just so powerful to me.  You know, when we get sick or have an illness, we get mad at God.  We wonder why He is letting this happen to us.  I can personally speak of this because I don’t get hit by gradual illness, I get hit by “on this day you’re fine, oh and tomorrow, I’m not.”  It’s extremely disheartening, but it’s also humbling.

You see whenever we are in good health and have things going well, we can get prideful.  Sometimes, like me, that involves me going at full tilt, full speed all the time and not slowing down and resting when the Lord is telling me to.  A lot of this week’s entries, if you haven’t noticed, have dealt with God attempting to get our attention and if you don’t listen to Him one way, He will put you in a position where you have to do what He tells you to.

It shouldn’t get that far.  While we should be active in doing the tasks the Lord has put before us, we should not wait until He knocks us down to rest.  A proper amount of rest can assure we are going to be continually fit to serve Him as He wants us to serve Him.  Going full tilt and full speed all the time will lead to burn out, just like in a car engine and it can do more damage than would have happened had we just listened in the first place.

If the Lord is telling you to rest, then you need to heed His prompting and take the time to rest.  That resting time is not only a humbling experience, but it is time the Lord is giving you to work on things perhaps you never noticed were faltering, such as your relationship with Him.  The bottom line is, don’t get knocked down, humble yourself, sit down and rest.

Testing God

Jesus is the example we have to follow with regard to stepping out in faith.  He did everything in faith, knowing the Father would handle things.

You know in the years that I have been a believer one of the saddest things I have ever seen is the lack of faith among Christians themselves.  They profess to believe and claim faith, but when God says to do something, they need proof that He is going to do what He says He will do before they step out in faith.

Judges 6:36-40

36 So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— 37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.

We return to Gideon, the runt of the litter from the runt tribe of Israel.  The one whom God chose to use to get Israel out of oppression.  And yet here he is, testing God, wanting proof this is what God wanted him to do.

Faith in God means faith in what He wants us to do.  It’s not faith based upon anyone’s interpretation or based upon anyone else’s life.  Yes, God will show His faithfulness through the work He has done in the lives of others, but this should be a testimony as to what He’s done.  Each Christian has a different walk and we are all in a different place with God.  He’s not going to ask me to do the same thing He asks you to do, or step out in faith the same way.  But what He is going to do is tell you to have faith in Him.

I personally am an analytical person, sometimes over-analytical.  It takes a great deal of strength for me to do anything just based on faith.  But when God is telling me to have faith in Him, He’s working, He’s fighting or to go do something, I simply do, without question and without needing proof that He is going to be faithful.  Jesus is the example we have to follow with regard to stepping out in faith.  He did everything in faith, knowing the Father would handle things.  That is the type of person that I wish to be, faithful in Him, faithful He will handle things and faithful He knows what He’s doing.

Choices and Consequences

Listening to God with regard to our choices will always yield positive results.  It’s when we are not obedient to Him that we end up having problems.  

There are always choices in life.  Some choices are easy, like what to wear for work or what to eat for breakfast.  Other choices are much more difficult, like whom to allow into your life or whose advice to listen to.  The easiest way to make those choices is simply to listen to the Lord.

Joshua 7:20-21

20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”

Some quick background, at this point in history, Israel was running rough shod over every enemy they encountered.  They defeated those enemies without a single issue because they had God behind them and were obedient to Him.  Now, in this scenario, they had been told not to take anything from the enemy they had previously defeated and Achan made a choice, yielding to the enemy and not obeying God.  And it cost Israel dearly.

Listening to God with regard to our choices will always yield positive results.  It’s when we are not obedient to Him that we end up having problems.  And then we have to face the consequences of those choices.  In some instances, the consequences are minor and we can handle them.  In others, the consequences can be disastrous, as was the case here where Israel was defeated by an outpost much smaller than they were.  So how do we know the right choices and how do we hear from God about the choices.  Simple prayer and the Word.

Yesterday, I spoke about God attempting to get our attention.  Today, I am going to conclude with directing your own attention to Him without His prompting.  If you want to know what you should do or what path you should take on the more difficult choices in life, direct your attention to Him.  It’s like going to ask your Dad for advice.  You go to Him, lay everything before Him and then He gives you the advice.  He’ll tell you what you can do, and then He’ll tell you what He wants you to do.  Doing what He wants you to do will always be the more difficult task, but also the more rewarding.  So today, when making your major life choices, make them wisely so you can avoid the negative consequences later.