WHEN THINGS DON’T PAN OUT: DON’T BLAME GOD

We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise, I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t, I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes, the answers are easy. Sometimes hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

I’m constantly amazed by how practical and relevant the Bible is to us in our day. As an example, here’s what I learned from the Scriptures when things didn’t pan out the way I thought they would.

DON’T BLAME GOD

When things don’t go the way they should—at least, the way God said they would; the easiest and readiest thing to do is point a finger or fist at God and blame Him for the mess. Non-Christians are especially vociferous and vile, blaming God, whenever tragedy strikes. Some of us mouth off everytime we don’t get our way. Poor God!  He gets blamed for a lot of things!

I used to blame God in my younger days as a Christian. But the more I read the Bible and got acquainted with God the more I came to a point where I realized that A RIGHTEOUS, SINLESS GOD COULD DO NO WRONG. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO BE WRONG AND TO DO WRONG!  

  • Psalm 145:17 puts it this way, The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.
  • Daniel 9:14 says essentially the same thing: Our God is righteous in all the works that He has done.  
  • Deuteronomy 32:4 echoes the refrain: He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

There’ve been times when it sure looked like God was wrong. He messed up. He was unfaithful. But we will never, not ever, prove God and His Bible wrong! NO MATTER WHAT GOD DOES OR ALLOWS, HE’S ALWAYS RIGHT AND RIGHTEOUS. HE’S NEVER WRONG. HE NEVER MAKES A MISTAKE. HE NEVER MESSES UP—even when we think He did. Even when it looks like He did.

So if God isn’t to blame, who is? I hate to say it, and you’re not gonna like me for saying it, but sometimes—not all the time thankfully, but nevertheless sometimes—we’re the reason why things didn’t pan out the way they were supposed do. We messed up. THINGS GO WRONG WHEN WE’RE WRONG.

We don’t always know it. At least, not right away. Sometimes we refuse to admit guilt, blame, or responsibility. Sometimes we’re willfully blind, self-deceived, and engaged in a cover-up or denial. And at other times, we’re ignorantly blind: we just don’t see the true nature of things. In either case, when we don’t see, we need the Lord to open our eyes, our heart, and mind, to see where we went wrong.

GET TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Let me put this train of thought on hold and talk to you a little bit about myself. I love to garden. I get a tremendous satisfaction in planting a seed and nurturing it so that it gives me the veggies that I’m chomping at the bit to eat or can. It’s a lot of work, sweat, and time. But I get a lot of satisfaction doing the work.

It’s springtime here in the American Midwest and weeds are cropping up everywhere in my garden. I till the open spaces of the garden. But in the asparagus bed, as also in the strawberry and raspberry patch, I get on my hands and knees and pull each weed out. I’ve been that way about weeds ever since I was a young boy on Guam. I like pulling them out instead of cutting them down or hoeing. By pulling the roots out I get fewer and fewer weeds that way.

When we leave the roots in the ground there’s a good chance the weed will come back, sprout up, and grow again. That’s just the way it is.

This reminds me of the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. Some areas of the holy land were really fertile and lush. Others, rocky. And others, overrun with brambles, briars, and thistles. Like many of us today, farmers back then would cut these thorny brushes down, burn them in the field, then plant the seed. But as the seed was growing, guess what happened. The thorns’ roots that were left in the ground came back with a vengeance . They sprouted so many new thorny brushes that they choked out the good seed and the farmer never got a harvest.

Do you see what happened here? The soil was, from all outward appearances, cleared of thorny brushes. But underneath the soil, the thorny brushes’ roots were still there. They were still alive. And as long as these roots were alive, so was the problem.

Much like thorny brushes, in many of us there are underground roots that not many people see. These are the hidden loves, affections, lusts, and desires that we secretly long after and do unseen in the privacy of our house or room. If we don’t deal with these roots, if we don’t get them out of our heart, they’ll end up growing and killing us spiritually. They’ll render us spiritually barren or fruitless. Like the farmer, the spiritual harvest and bounty that we’re expecting just doesn’t pan out.  It doesn’t happen as promised. Why is that? Because the secret loves that we allow to remain in our heart will grow and keep us from bearing and enjoying the fruit. Left alive in our heart, our lusts will kill us someday. It’s only a matter of time.

So what’s the solution? You’ve got to deal with the root of the problem. You’ve got to get sin out of your heart and mind. As long as you leave it there and nurture it, they’ll keep the good seed of the Word from taking root in your heart, growing, and bringing forth the good fruit of change and righteousness in you.

When things don’t pan out the way God’s Seed said it would, when the fruit of the Seed is lacking; it’s not because God’s Seed isn’t any good. It’s not because it doesn’t work. The Seed does work. Just  not in thorny hearts or minds. Beloved, if you want good fruit, good results, God-promised results; you’ve got to get to the root of your problem. As long as the root’s alive, so is your problem. That’s one reason why things don’t pan out the way we’d like.

DOING THE DIFFICULT: BELIEVE AND OBEY

Some people love challenges. They’ll look at something new. Something hard. And they’ll take up the challenge of doing it just to get the satisfaction or thrill of knowing they can do something they’ve never done before. Something hard. Challenging. Exhilirating.

Just so you know, I am not that way at all. I am 1,000,000,000,000% a comfort-zone type of guy. I like doing the doable. That means it’s easy and doesn’t demand a whole lot of  my time, effort, or thinking. When it comes to what’s new, difficult, or challenging, you can generally count me out, folks. I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole! 

I won’t do the difficult—not unless I’m forced to—because life already has too many difficulties and challenges. I don’t need to  add to them. I don’t need any more trials or challenges!  I’m heading into my golden years and I love to relax, take it easy, and do what I love doing most. Can you guess what that is? It’s studying  the Bible and writing. I just love spending time with the Lord because He talks to me a lot of times—not audibly, but in my spirit—and He tells me lots of really neat stuff. Stuff that I’ve just got to share with you. This blog is a perfect example of the stuff God gives me when I spend time with Him. I love Him. I love what I’m doing. But I dread doing the difficult.

Here’s a question for you. When the Lord asks you to do something difficult…no, strike that. When the Lord tells you to do something difficult, something you really don’t want to do, something you think is impossible, something that’s a Are you out of your mind? I can’t do that! type of thing; what do you do?

Just so you know, you’re not the only one who’s had to do some something really really hard. We’ve all been there and done that. The biblical characters weren’t any different from us. In fact, they were exactly like us: human. I’d like to draw on their life’s experiences and, from beyond the grave, as it were, let them share with us what we’ve got to do when the Lord gives us our Mission I M possible. By God’s grace, we can do what God’s counting on us to do! Here’s how.

BELIEVE AND OBEY 

Abraham, as you know, believed and waited on God for a long, long time to have a child by his beloved wife Sarah, who happened to be barren. After a span of twenty-five years, God finally came through and Isaac was born. (So you think you’re having to wait a long time for God to answer your prayer?)

Fast forward in time. Isaac is now a young man. No one knows for sure exactly how old he was at the time, but it’s likely that he was a teenager, even likelier that he was in his twenties or early thirties.

Anyhow, the Lord spoke to Abraham one evening and told him to go to the land of Moriah and offer his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains there (Genesis 22:1-2). It was a test, of course. But Abraham didn’t know that. As far as he was concerned, God told him to go to Moriah, kill his son, and burn him up as an offering to the Lord.

When God tells us to do something He doesn’t always tell us why. He doesn’t give us explanations. In Abraham’s case, He said just enough to worry me. I mean, if it was God talking to me, I would’ve preferred God said, Go to Moriah and take Isaac with you. I’ll let you know what I want you to do once you get there. Sure, that would puzzle me and get my curiosity going. But I wouldn’t  have had to wrestle with the agony of knowing that I’d be going there to kill my beloved son. What an awful trip that must have been for Abraham!

If I was God, I wouldn’t have told Abraham about the offering part. It would make believing and obeying me a very difficult thing to do. And I definitely want Abraham to believe and obey me. So I’m not gonna make it hard for him to do that. Hence, all I’m gonna tell him is, Go to Moriah and take Isaac with you. Just goes to show I don’t understand God sometimes. Maybe a lot of times. But, thank God, He’s God, I’m not, and He knows exactly what He’s doing!

Notice how Abraham responds to his Mission I M possible: he gets up the next morning, loads the firewood on a donkey, and, heavy-heartedly I’m sure, heads to Moriah with Isaac and a couple of his slaves in tow (Genesis 22:3). What’s so amazing, outstanding, and commendable to me is the guy obeyed the Lord!

If it was anyone of us, we would’ve had lots of reason not to obey. That couldn’t have been the Lord who told me to kill my son. It was a bad dream. It was the devil. God would never tell me to do anything like that. Murder is forbidden. It’s completely out of character for God to tell me to do something that’s sinful or unlawful. No way. It wasn’t God. I’m not doing it! 

Factor in the fact that you have only one son that you prayed and begged and waited for twenty-five years to have him, (okay, Abraham had another son by another woman, but as far as his beloved Sarah is concerned, Isaac is their only son), you love him more than life itself, and it’s a pretty done deal: you’re not gonna obey whoever it was who told you to kill your son.

Abraham obeyed the Lord because he knew the Lord’s voice and he believed the Lord. Abraham heard enough times from the Lord to know His voice.

When you’re walking close with the Lord, when you’re following close after the Shepherd, you’ll know His voice (John 10:4). YOU CAN’T KNOW GOD’S VOICE IF YOU’RE NOT FOLLOWING HIM CLOSELY. IF HE’S A STRANGER TO YOU.

Lots of people don’t obey God because they don’t know His voice; they can’t tell if it’s really God who’s talking to them.

If God told you to do something, would you know that it was God talking to you? Do you recognize God’s voice? Abraham did.

Now when you hear from God you have a couple of choices to make: you either believe Him or not. And you either obey Him or not. Abraham obeyed because he believed it was God who spoke to him.

Notice that what God told Abraham to do really didn’t make sense to Abraham. God would never tell us to murder or kill our child. But the fact of the matter is, this is exactly what God told Abraham to do! Abraham knew the voice of God. He could not doubt that he’d heard from God.

And so, even though he didn’t understand why God told him to sacrifice his beloved son, even though he didn’t like the idea of doing it, even though he didn’t agree with the idea of killing his son; Abraham nevertheless obeyed God because God said it. God required it. And Abraham believed God. FOR A CHILD OF GOD, OBEDIENCE IS NEVER AN OPTION.

Notice the timing or immediacy of Abraham’s obedience: he obeyed God right away. When he woke up the next morning (Genesis 22:3).

Brethren, IF YOU WAIT TOO LONG TO OBEY GOD IT GETS A LOT HARDER TO OBEY HIM. THE LONGER YOU WAIT, THE LESS INCLINED YOU’LL BE TO OBEY GOD. When you procrastinate and postpone or delay your obedience you’re giving yourself and the devil time to talk you out of obedience. Obedience is hard enough without helping the devil make it even harder yet! PROCRASTINATION BREEDS DOUBT AND DISOBEDIENCE. So learn this much from Abraham: WHEN GOD TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING DO IT RIGHT AWAY! PROCRASTINATION TURNS A MISSION I M POSSIBLE INTO A MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Can you imagine how intolerably difficult it would be to kill your only beloved son? Talk about a crisis of faith and confidence! That would probably have killed my faith in God. No way would I ever kill my son! Would you? If you were Abraham, would you have obeyed God?

The redeeming thing here that, I believe, made it just a tad bit easier for Abraham to obey the Lord is what Abraham believed: he believed that even if he killed his beloved Isaac, God would raise him back to life and together they both would return back home to Beersheba (Hebrews 11:19 with Genesis 22:5).

Now keep in mind that, to this point in time, no one’s been raised back to life. No one’s come back from the grave or the dead. It’s never happened before. Yet, Abraham believed that something that’s never happened before would happen: God would raise Isaac back to life! It was this faith, I believe, that enabled Abraham to obey the Lord.

Of course, you know how the story ended. Abraham didn’t have to kill Isaac after all. Just seconds away from killing his son, God provided a ram and Abraham got to offer a ram instead of his son as a burnt offering to the Lord (Genesis 22:11-13).

So what’s the lesson here? If you’re God’s child, God at some point in time is gonna have you do something that’s intolerably, incomprehensibly difficult. When that time comes remember Abraham. None of what God told you to do may make sense. You may not like it. You may not agree with it. And you definitely don’t want to do it!

But if you know you’ve heard from God, then believe Him and obey Him. Right away! Understanding is nice, but you don’t have to understand everything before you believe. Knowing how it’ll all end would be a big help to get you to obey, but knowing how it’ll end isn’t a requirement for obedience. WE OBEY GOD BECAUSE HE’S GOD. WE BELIEVE HIM. THAT’S HOW THE MISSION I M POSSIBLE IS DONE.

GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER PART 5

To get answers to prayer  (1) there are things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray; (2) there are things God wants us to do WHEN we pray; and (3) there are things God wants us to do AFTER we pray.

 We’re looking at the things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray. We said IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT. There are five aspects of being right. (1) Being right with God. (2) Being right with people. (3) being right yourself. And now, (4) asking for the right things.

4. ASK FOR THE RIGHT THINGS

A CARDINAL RULE OF ANSWERED PRAYER IS YOU’VE GOT TO PRAY IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD’S WILL. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: {15} And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

IF YOU WANT ANSWERS TO PRAYER YOU MUST KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS BEFORE YOU PRAY. Then once you know what God’s will is, you pray in accordance or agreement  with  His  will. 

Brethren, YOU JUST CAN’T RUSH INTO PRAYER WITHOUT FIRST TAKING THE TIME TO ASK GOD WHAT HIS WILL IS! This is where a lot of us miss it and it’s the reason why a lot of us, a lot of times, don’t get answers to prayer–it’s because we asked God for what we wanted without taking the time to find out if it’s what He wanted. ANSWERED PRAYER IS FIRST AND FOREMOST WHAT GOD WANTS. If God doesn’t want us to have whatever it is we’re asking for, then He isn’t going to answer our prayer no matter how hard or how long we pray.

So how do you find out what God’s will is? You read the Bible and pray. And wait. That’s where a lot of us miss it. We don’t wait and listen. God wants to show you His will and, if you’re listening, God will speak to you by His Spirit. Sometimes He uses other people to tell you what He wants you to do. No matter how God chooses to speak to you, He will let you know His will if you really want to know it. And do it.

The good news is the promises of God are a revelation of what God’s will is. When you read the promise of salvation, forgiveness, healing, deliverance, provision, wisdom, and all the others; God is letting you know what His will is. When you ask for these provisions of God you’re praying in accordance with His will. Thus, you can be confident that God will hear and answer your prayer.

IF YOU WANT ANSWERS TO PRAYER YOU MUST ASK FOR SOMETHING THAT GOD HAS PROMISED. YOU CAN’T ASK GOD FOR SOMETHING THAT ISN’T HIS WILL. THUS, YOU CAN’T ASK HIM FOR SOMETHING THAT HE HASN’T PROMISED. So a crucial part of getting answers to prayer is knowing in advance what you can ask God for and what you can’t.

Some things, like healing and forgiveness, are understood by every people in every generation of time. It doesn’t matter if you live in the first century or the twenty-first: you know what sickness is and you have need of healing.

But because there are so many different cultures in this world and because each new generation brings new inventions; God couldn’t be specific about everything that He was wanting to give His people. For example, He couldn’t write a  verse  of  Scripture that promised you a new car because those poor saints in the first through the nineteenth centuries just wouldn’t know what a car is. So to clear up any confusions, God decided to lump all these specific provisions in one general word, the word ALL.

Jesus promised us in Matthew 21:22, ALL things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. The furniture, computer, house, job, vacation, and all the other things you’d like to have are covered in Jesus’ all-inclusive promise.

All things, brethren, applies not only to the things you need: it also applies to the things you desire. Mark 11:24 makes this fact resoundingly clear: Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Brethren, Jesus couldn’t make it any clearer than this. And His saying it trumps whatever anyone else says to the contrary. According to Jesus,  IT’S GOD’S WILL TO GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART! Hallelujah for that! But don’t stop here. Read on cuz there’s more.

Your heart has to be right! I’ll talk about this in my next post. But if you’re righteous and walking close to God, God can trust you with the desires of your heart. THE RIGHTEOUS DESIRE RIGHT OR RIGHTEOUS THINGS. That’s why God isn’t afraid to give them what they desire. Psalms 37:4  makes this truth abundantly clear: Delight thyself  also in the Lord; [find your pleasure or happiness in God; let God be the desire of your life]  and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Coming Up On My Next Blog In This Series. Having wrong motives or reasons won’t get your prayer answered. Surf on in and let’s get things right.

WHEN THINGS DON’T PAN OUT: WE LISTEN AND LEARN

DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT AND DISILLUSIONMENT

We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having things go our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really, really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes the answers are easy. Sometimes, hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

I’m constantly amazed by how practical and relevant the Bible is to us in our day. As an example, here’s what I learned from the Scriptures when things didn’t pan out the way I thought they would.

WE LISTEN AND LEARN 

God gave me a promise of healing and I take that very literally and seriously. After all, He wouldn’t have made me the promise if He didn’t mean it. If He meant something else.

I recently went through a bout with high blood pressure. It came right on the heels of my sister-in-law dying, which was a rather intense situation for all of us who knew her and loved her. Well, we thought that my  high blood pressure was connected to Doreen’s death. So it stood to reason that my blood pressure would return to normal after we laid Doreen’s body to rest and got on with life.

Several weeks later, my blood pressure remained high. I’m talking upwards of 178/98 with a pulse running between 95 and 115.  I’m talking rapid, loud, pounding heartbeats. The kind of beats that keep you up at night because you can’t hear or feel anything other than your heart racing and pounding like a car that’s careening out of control and seconds away from crashing.

Naturally, I prayed and ask God to heal me. I spoke words of life, health, healing, and peace upon my heart. I rested in bed. I honestly tried not to be worried or anxious. But after six weeks in this weakened condition, with no improvement whatsoever, I have to admit I got afraid. My pastor came and took me to a clinic. And from there I was ordered to the emergency room. My blood pressure was 225/125. My pulse was 116. I was on the verge of a massive heart attack or stroke.

Reluctantly, I went to the ER—not understanding why God hadn’t heard or answered my prayer. Yeah, I was afraid. But I wouldn’t have been afraid if He’d answered my prayer in the first place and brought my blood pressure back to normal several weeks ago. Why did He let the trial get out of hand? I was counting on Him to heal me. But He didn’t. Now it was up to the doctors to do that.

Like I said earlier, I’m a Christian. I’m a believer. And I wasn’t about to turn my back on God just because He didn’t heal me. God has His reasons. I didn’t know what His reasons were at the time. But He graciously preserved me for the six weeks that my heart was pounding and overworked. I was thankful for that much.

Not too long ago, the Lord showed me why He didn’t answer my prayer. It was because He wanted me to make some lifestyle changes. Dietary changes. Changes that would make me healthy and strong so that I can live longer and finish the work He gave me to do. If God had answered my prayer the first day of my trial, or shortly thereafter, I wouldn’t have made any life-prolonging, lifestyle changes. Why would I? I would have used His healing mercies to continue eating salt like it was going out of style. I wouldn’t be exercising on a daily or regular basis. I wouldn’t be concerned about the toxins that are poisoning our foods and our bodies.  Unanswered prayer was a wake-up call from God that effected an immediate, and on-going, change in my diet and lifestyle habits. It was a blessing in disguise. Something good came out of a bad, disillusioned experience. I learned to make the changes that God wanted me to make.

This reminds me of the familiar comfort of Romans 8:28, And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. God didn’t promise that everything that happens to us is good. What He promised was He would take everything that happens to us and make them work out for our good. No matter what happens to us, everything—including the bad things, the things that nearly got us killed, the things that caused us a lot of grief, misery, and pain—will turn out for our good. Of course, we’ve got to continue loving God in spite of all the suffering. But the comfort is something good is gonna come out of our trials and tears.

In my case, God didn’t heal me of my high blood pressure problems when I was going through them. That’s because He was doing something good, something better, for me. By not healing me at the time He was actually saving and prolonging my life! Wow! How neat is that! I would never have imagined that had God not shown me.

I could have chosen to be bitter and angry towards God. I could have criticized and rejected the promises of healing. Like many before me, I could have brazenly preached that trusting God doesn’t work. But I chose to be thankful and chose to continue believing God even when I didn’t understand. As a consequence, God made everything turn out good–actually, gobs better, for me.

Just so you know, my blood pressure’s back to normal now. I’m making the lifestyle and dietary changes that God wanted me to make. And God kept His healing promise after all. Just goes to show that God’s Word is true and He’s true to His Word. When it looks like things aren’t panning out the way God said they would, it’s because He’s got something good, something better, in mind for us. We just need to listen and learn.

RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD: GOD’S LOVE AND HELL

Talking about sinners today is a really tricky, sensitive issue because it makes it sound as if the Christians who are talking about it are hateful, insensitive, intolerant, and judgmental. We’re accused of being unloving. Worse yet, gasp, unchristlike. Unscriptural.

Yes, there are Christians who go overboard and become unchristlike in their stance for righteousness and the truth. Some mean well and don’t know any better. Others are just plain hateful. So, yes, whenever anyone of us acts unchristlike towards anyone, the unsaved especially, we deserve a good tongue lashing and verbal trashing.

But what happens when we take a stance for truth and right and we aren’t hateful, self-righteous, judgmental, or unchristlike about it? What happens when we speak out with love and in love? Would taking a stance against sin be wrong or inappropriate? Truth be told, a lot of people would rather that everyone just shut up and not say anything about sin or sinners.

I’m not hateful or judgmental. I love sinners. I really do. I hate the sins they’re doing. But I’m concerned enough about their souls and eternal destiny to speak up against their sins and lovingly offer them the hope of salvation and the hope of a changed life found in Christ.

I was thinking about God’s love not too long ago. Namely, John 3:16, For God so loved the world. He loved the world. He loved and cared enough for sinners to send them His Son as a saving sacrifice for sin. If you had one, and only one, son would you kill your son, or have him killed, to save the life of a stranger or an enemy? God did. Jesus is God’s undeniable proof that He loves sinners and wants to save them from Hell. God is love (1 John 4:8). He loves sinners.

Only thing is, God left the gates of Hell open. He didn’t shut them up. I mean, if I saw the entrance to an underground world of eternal pain and misery I would shut the entrance up, cover it over, and secure it so that no one would ever fall in. This is love, isn’t it? You would do the same thing yourself. Why? Because this is what love does. Right? Yet God in His love for sinners didn’t shut the gates of Hell. Why? Damned souls are still falling into that pain pit at a record clip. These souls He loves He lets perish in the pit. And yet, He calls Himself, He is, the God of love.

The very talk of Hell causes many to deny God’s love. In their view, there’s no way God can be love if He sends people to Hell. Hell, to them, is proof that God isn’t love. He isn’t loving.

But God is love—even with Hell and in spite of Hell—because that’s what He says He is and I naively believe God for who He says He is. Besides that, I have human and world experience to prove it. Read on and I’ll show you.

God is love. And He works very hard and long to try and save sinners. 2 Peter 3:9 shows us God’s heart of love towards sinners, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins.

No, God doesn’t send people to Hell. All of us are free to choose our way and make our own decisions. God honors and respects our choices.

But choices have consequences. We suffer whatever consequences our decisions bring. We can blame God and everyone else for the consequences we suffer. We can choose to reject all blame or responsibility for our decisions and actions. But doing so will not relieve us of the self-inflicted consequences of our choices.

It’s like the crook who cries Foul! behind prison walls. He’ll ramble on about the unjust nature of his  incarceration and blame a cop, a lawyer, a jury, and a judge for being in prison. But for us who know better, the guy robbed a bank. He got caught. His imprisonment is his fault and no one else’s.

Generally speaking, a crook doesn’t commit a crime with the intention of going to prison. He figures he’s gonna make a clean getaway. If he gets caught he’s smart enough to beat the rap. Yet, for all his smarts and swagger, he lands up in the prison he never thought he would see.

This is the way it is with sinners and Hell. For all their bravado, sinners don’t want to go to Hell. But they end up there because of their sins. Now, really, whose fault is that? God’s or their’s? God didn’t make them sin. They chose to sin. They wanted to sin. So if Hell, like prison for a crook, is where sinners go to be punished for their sins; why do we blame God for sending sinners to Hell? If, in our right minds, we don’t blame a cop, lawyer, or judge for a crook’s incarceration; why are we so otherwise minded to blame God for all the damned souls in Hell?

God is love. In our preferences of love, He could have covered over Hell’s gates. He could have done away entirely with that miserable place and make it non-existent. But what good would that do? Seriously, stop and think about it. What good would that do?

Let’s translate the question into the reality of our day. What would happen if we closed all our jails and prisons? What if every prisoner was freed and loosed? What if no rapist, murderer, or pedophile was locked up or put away for good? What would our society and community look like then? Would we want to live in such a dysfunctional, No Hell, “utopian” society? The fact is, we’re already surrounded by gobs of people with criminal tendencies. That’s scary enough! Would we want to add to that sense of insecurity by emptying our prisons and letting every criminal go free? Life wouldn’t be normal as we know it now: it’d be a war zone where everyone’s attention would be riveted around self-protection and preservation. You can choose to live in such a society if you like. But I believe I speak for the majority when I say that that’s not the kind of place I’d like to live in.

It’s lamentable that people choose to be criminals. It’s sad when criminals are locked up. But it’s for everyone’s good. It’s what we call a necessary evil. A necessary evil that’s spurred by society’s care for its citizens, its efforts to promote the common good, and it’s vigilant, unceasing work to preserve peace, security, and the pursuit of happiness.

Turns out, God is similarly-minded. He really is a God of love. He has the smarts on us. He knew what He was doing all along when He made Hell and He was doing it for everyone’s good. Hell is undesirable and unpleasant. It’s a necessary “evil” if you want to call it that. But necessary nonetheless.

Hell’s existence doesn’t deny God’s love, any more than all our jails and prisons are a denial of society’s need to protect itself and promote the common good. If anything, and to the contrary, in my thinking, Hell proves God is love. When you do everything you can for everybody’s good—Calvary and Hell included—that is good and that is love.

GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER PART 4

To get answers to prayer (1) there are things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray; (2) there are things God wants us to do WHEN we pray; and (3) there are things God wants us to do AFTER we pray.

We’re looking at the things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray. We said IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT. There are five aspects of being right. (1) Being right with God. (2) Being right with people. And now, (3) being right yourself.

3. YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHTEOUS

You can’t be hypocritical. You can’t be a Christian on Sunday morning, then live the rest of the week acting like a heathen. You may like living like a heathen. You might enjoy a heathen lifestyle. But that kind of lifestyle doesn’t get you answers to prayer. YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHTEOUS TO GET ANSWERS TO PRAYER.

Psalms 34:15-17 puts it this way,  The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.  (16)  The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.  (17)  The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. Look at verses 15 and 17 once again. Who does the Lord hear? Whose prayers does He answer? The righteous.

Listen everyone. I’m not for being self-righteous or being holier-than-thou. But no matter how you cut it, Christians are supposed to be different from everyone else. They’re supposed to be right. They’re supposed to live right. Right by the Book.

Yes. We’re all fallen and none of us is perfect. We make mistakes and we’ll continue to make them as long as we’re imperfect and alive. But being imperfect is not an excuse to be unrighteous. You can’t use your imperfection as a reason, incentive, or justification to not be righteous. To not rise about human frailties and live nobly with integrity.

God is very concerned about how we live. No matter what you call it—you can call it rules, laws, commandments, exhortations, admonitions, principles, guidelines, suggestions, opinions, or whatever else suits your fancies. I don’t care. The point is, the Bible is chock full of God telling us how to live. A lot of us don’t like that. But God’s got every right to do that. He’s God. We’re not. He’s the sole Master and Lord of the Universe. He has every right to tell us what to do. It doesn’t bother me because God isn’t a heartless Tyrant or Dictator.

He’s a loving Parent. Everything He does, everything He says and requires, is done because He loves me more than everyone else put together. And everything He says and does is for my good. He’s watching out for me. He has my best interests in His heart and mind. He knows what I don’t. That’s why I don’t have problems listening to Him. I trust Him. I love Him. I owe Him my life. I owe Him my full, unquestioning, unreserved obedience.

At some point in life we’re gonna need God to help us. To be there for us. To hear us. And answer our prayer. A lot of people get along just fine without God or His help. But you can be absolutely sure that one day each one of us will need God in a serious way. And when that day comes, don’t you want to have God’s ear? I do.

God’s telling us here in Psalms 34 how we get His ear. Righteousness gets prayers answered. Unrighteousness doesn’t. It’s as simple as that. WE CAN’T LIVE ANY OLE WAY WE PLEASE AND EXPECT GOD TO HEAR AND HELP US.

James 5:16 repeats the Psalmist’s refrain, The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. That means WHEN YOU’RE RIGHTEOUS YOUR PRAYERS WORK. YOU GET ANSWERS. YOU GET MIRACLES. Your prayers make a difference. That’s because your prayers have power. That’s what availeth means. You know how a muscle man has power or strength in his muscles. That’s what you have in your prayers when you’re righteous: you’re a spiritual muscle man. You’ve got spiritual power. The kind of power that gets things done.

Have you ever listened to a dead, lifeless sermon? Yeah? Lots of them? You ever listen to a sermon that just set your pants on fire, brought you to tears, got you on your knees, and brought you to the altar? Back to the Lord? You remember that sermon well, don’t you? You’ll never forget it. What’s the difference between a lifeless sermon and a soul-stirring one? You can call it power. Soul. Anointing. The Spirit.

Like sermons, prayers can be so dead and lifeless. People quit praying because they don’t get answers. They don’t make a difference. They don’t change anything.

It doesn’t work that way for righteous folks. God made you a promise, dear friends, and He doesn’t lie. If you’re righteous your prayers have muscle and power with God. They get answered. God Himself sees to that. You can count on it. Expect it. When you’re righteous.

1 Peter 3:12 repeats the now-familiar refrain, the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Who does God hear? Who has His ears? The righteous. If that’s you,  IF YOU’RE RIGHTEOUS, YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO EXPECT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS.

It’s not a demand. It’s not a pride thing. You ought not be proud or demanding when it comes to God because God doesn’t owe you a thing. God isn’t beholden to anyone. No one’s bossing God around and telling Him what to do.

The expectation of answered prayer is a calm peace and assurance that you have as a righteous person.  God gave you His Word and God, being the Righteous God that He is, will keep His Word. It’s not a demand. It’s an assurance from God Himself.

So you want answers to prayers? Do you have God’s ear? Be right. And God’ll be there for you every time.

What if you need help NOW? What if you’re not right right now? Friend, why don’t you get right right now? Now’s a perfect time and it only takes a minute. Tell Him you’re sorry for what you’ve done. Ask Him to forgive you. Give your life to Him and let Him call the shots. Then call out to Him and ask  Him for help. God will answer you and show you just how loving and merciful He can be. He’d love to have you and help you! Guaranteed!

Coming Up On My Next Blog In This Series. Asking for the right things. You mean there’s some things we can’t ask for? Drop by and find out. I’ll leave the light on for you.

DOING THE DIFFICULT: SURRENDER TO GOD

INTRODUCTION

Some people love challenges. They’ll look at something new. Something hard. And they’ll take up the challenge of doing it just to get the satisfaction or thrill of knowing they can do something they’ve never done before. Something hard. Challenging. Exhilirating.

Just so you know, I am not that way at all. I am 1,000,000,000,000% a comfort-zone type of guy. I like doing the doable. That means it’s easy and doesn’t demand a whole lot of  my time, effort, or thinking. When it comes to what’s new, difficult, or challenging, you can generally count me out, folks. I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole! 

I won’t do the difficult—not unless I’m forced to—because life already has too many difficulties and challenges. I don’t need to  add to them. I don’t need any more trials or challenges!  I’m heading into my golden years and I love to relax, take it easy, and do what I love doing most. Can you guess what that is? It’s studying  the Bible and writing. I just love spending time with the Lord because He talks to me a lot of times—not audibly, but in my spirit—and He tells me lots of really neat stuff. Stuff that I’ve just got to share with you because, in my heart, I know He’s talking to all of us. This blog is a perfect example of the stuff God gives me when I spend time with Him. I love Him. I love what I’m doing. But I dread doing the difficult.

Here’s a question for you. When the Lord asks you to do something difficult…no, strike that. When the Lord tells you to do something difficult, something you really don’t want to do, something you think is impossible, something that’s a Are you out of your mind? I can’t do that! type of thing; what do you do?

Just so you know, you’re not the only one who’s had to do some something really, really hard. You’re not alone. We’ve all been there and done that. The biblical characters weren’t any different from us. In fact, they were exactly like us. Human. I’d like to draw on their life’s experiences and, from beyond the grave, as it were, let them share with us what we’ve got to do when the Lord gives us our Mission I M possible. By God’s grace, we can do what God’s counting on us to do! Here’s how.

SURRENDER TO GOD

Not everything that’s hard to do is hard to do. Huh? Run that by me again. You heard me. Not everything that’s hard to do is hard to do. Sometimes the easiest things, the doable things that we’ve done countless times before, can be the hardest thing to do.

Sickness is a good example. I was in bed for six weeks and when I stood up to go from one room to another, or wash a hand full of plates, I was so tuckered I had to sit down immediately. Being sick, weak, or diseased is a perfect illustration of how the doable things in life can be very difficult to do.

What I’m talking about here, though, is when we have an attitude problem. You ever have a kid who thought that taking out the trash, or cleaning her room, or mowing the lawn, was out-of-this-world impossible for them to do? We can relate, can’t we? Well, like kids sometimes, okay, maybe lots of times, we’re not in the mood. We’re not surrendered or submitted to God. We want what we want and when God tells us otherwise, wow, it’s the hardest thing to obey God.

When God tells us to do something that we really don’t want to do, if we’re His children, we can rest assured that God is eventually gonna have His own way. He has His Ways and Means Committee and He knows exactly what He has to do to get us to change our mind and get us to obey Him. Jonah is a perfect example. If we’re stubborn and hardheaded enough it may take God years to change our mind. Years with a lot of chastisements and convictions. But for those of us who are a little more supple and who don’t enjoy God’s chastening, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time or persuasion for us to change our mind and agree to do things God’s way.

When we’ve got our mind made up and God tells us to do otherwise, the first and smart thing to do is  get alone with God in prayer. You can try and change God’s mind if you like, but it’s not gonna work. Pray instead for a change of your heart and mind. Surrender your will to God’s will. And ask God for the grace, strength, and desire to do His will.

  • I  love the promise of Philippians 2:13. It lets us know that, when we don’t want to do God’s will, or when we think we lack the power or strength to do His will, God does something to us—He changes our mind—so that we become willing to do His will. Here’s how the verse reads, For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
  • Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can pray and ask God for grace, mercy, and help whenever we need it. And the really neat thing about it is, we’ll get it! God will give us all the strength we need to do His will. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. I love the word there. Don’t overlook it. You get God’s grace and mercy there. Where? At His Throne. That means in prayer. You’ve done a lot of bellyaching. Have you gone to God and prayed? You get the grace when you pray.

Do you think God’s really being unreasonable with you and asking you to do something you can’t possibly do? I mean no offence, dear friend, but you’re wrong. WHEN GOD TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING HE GIVES YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO THE JOB: a willing heart, a willing mind, and all the strength you need to get the job done. If you have none of the above, then it’s yours for the asking! This is one prayer God will definitely answer!

Jesus came to earth knowing all along what He had to do. He knew His life would eventually take Him to Calvary. That’s where His life, His work, would end as far as the earthly aspect of His mission was concerned. It would end with a death that was violent, painful, and horrible-beyond-description-or-imagination. It was a death that was truly abhorrent in every way. And feared. When you factor in the spiritual dimension of His death–the weight of the world’s sins on Him, the hellish punishment of everyone’s sins, and the Father abandoning Him for a time (which, to that point in time, the Father had never done before), then you can imagine a little of the dread or apprehension that Calvary was to Jesus.

Moments before He was arrested, Jesus got alone with the Father and prayed, Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from Me (Matthew 26:39). He was talking about the cup of suffering that the Father had appointed for Him to drink. There was a part of Jesus in His humanity that didn’t want to go through the suffering. It was a very difficult thing for Him to do and His first inclination was to not do it. I don’t think I’m wrong or blasphemous to say that Jesus didn’t want to do it. Let this cup pass from Me sure makes it look like Jesus wanted out.

But, and here’s the important thing, even though Jesus didn’t want to go through with Calvary, He wanted one thing more than His desire or will and that was He wanted to obey the Father. Obeying God trumped all the thoughts, emotions, and desires that He was feeling at the time. More than wanting out of Calvary, He wanted to obey His Father and He resigned Himself to obeying Him. He surrendered His own will to submit to, and do, His Father’s will. 

Remember. This scene was played out three times (Matthew 26:39-43). Jesus wrestled and pleaded with the Father three times. We’ve done that ourselves. We’ve tried to change God’s mind about something several times before. But we finally gave up and surrendered to His will when we saw God wasn’t budging. Like I said, you can try and change God’s mind if you like. It’s not gonna work.

Remember also that Gethsemane came before Calvary. Before Jesus suffered He surrendered. Submission preceded obedience.

Beloved, SURRENDER AND SUBMISSION COME BEFORE OBEDIENCE. Some of you can’t obey God, some aren’t obeying God, because you haven’t surrendered your will to God.

GOD ISN’T ASKING YOU TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. EVERYTHING HE ASKS YOU TO DO IS DOABLE. YOU CAN DO IT!

But, like I said at the start, even the easiest or most doable of things become really hard when our attitude stinks. 

So if obeying God is a really, really difficult thing for you to do, chances are you need to surrender your will to God. You have to go to your Gethsemane first and say Not my will, but Thine be done. Brethren, you can do God’s will. But only when you set your will aside and realize that DOING GOD’S WILL IS THE BEST POSSIBLE THING YOU CAN DO.  God bless you and help you do His will.

WHEN THINGS DON’T PAN OUT: WE STILL BELIEVE

DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT AND DISILLUSIONMENT

We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having things go our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise, I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t, I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes, the answers are easy. Sometimes hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

The Biblical characters were very much like you and me. They were, in fact, totally human. Just like you and me. Life didn’t always pan out for them too. How they responded and dealt with the mess they weren’t expecting  can be a compass, or a lighthouse, to get us back on track with the Lord. So, from beyond the grave, the dead speak and show us how to continue being faithful when it looks as if God isn’t.

WE STILL BELIEVE

My sister-in-law came down with a really aggressive form of cancer a couple of years ago. She started getting really sick in November 2012 and by January 2013 she was in a real fight for her life. Things didn’t look good for her and my first inclination was to let her go to be with the Lord. But Doreen was believing for life. She had a promise of healing from God’s Word. And she wouldn’t have any talk or thought of dying. She was gonna get healed of cancer!

Well, if she was believing for healing and life, I felt we owed  it to her as a family to believe with her. So we took up arms against the devil, lifted up the shield of faith, and wielded the sword of the Spirit. We warred and sang our way from one battle to another. And God worked miracle after miracle! We were stunned! We maybe shouldn’t have been. But we saw God’s power working miraculously in response to the faith and prayers of God’s people. We were so humbled by God’s love and mercies towards Doreen and us. So encouraged by the fact that we were seeing God’s Word and power and faithfulness in action. So grateful that faith and God’s promises do work!

After another successful day of warfare and miracles, we went to bed Saturday night confident and hopeful that Doreen was on the mend. She was able to swallow again. That meant she would eat and drink more, get strength, gain weight, and mend back to health—just as God promised and just as we believed.

I was stunned when I woke up early Sunday morning with the news that Doreen had only a few hours to live. How can that be? She was doing good when we left her late Saturday night.

Then I remembered a dream that the Lord had given me that very early Sunday morning. Doreen’s husband, Jeremy, and I were in a boxing ring, the devil was on the canvas, and Jesus the Referee lifted up both of our arms and said, This fight’s over. This fight’s been won. Ominously, when I woke up Sunday morning, there was this dread, this knowing, that God was taking Doreen home. Sure enough, when the text message came, it was like a text message from God: It’s time to quit believing for healing and life. I want her home with Me. It’s time to let her go. This fight’s over. This fight’s been won.

Won? By dying? I couldn’t understand it. I still don’t. I’m hurt and grieved. But, I’m a believer and I still sing God’s high praises because He’s true and faithful no matter what happens.

I’m talking about what we do when things don’t pan out the way we thought or believed they would. A friend of mine was sharing her story with me recently. She’d been contemplating adopting another young child. She’d prayed about it and, one day, God gave her the go-ahead and told her the child would be a blessing to her every day of her life.

Life didn’t pan out for her the way God said it would—at least, not in the way she understood God’s words. The child was a handful and a trial in many ways. A lot of heartaches, disappointments, and tears. It contradicted what God told her. For years and years she didn’t understand.

Then one day recently, after years of enduring a reality that contradicted God’s promise, God showed her what He meant by the promise. The blessing that the child would be every day was not so much the child, but the work that the Lord would do in her through the child. The blessing was God’s transforming work in her.

In her case, when life doesn’t pan out the way you thought or believed it would, the problem is not because God didn’t keep His promise. He keeps it. He always does. The problem is our understanding of what He promised. We think we understand. But really we don’t. So what do we do when life doesn’t pan out? Whether we understand God’s ways or not, we keep believing God. God’s Word is true no matter what.

What I went through with Doreen and what my friend went through with her child reminds me of an incident in King David’s life. The King wanted Joab his General to number all the men of war. Joab, however, didn’t think that this was a good idea. Unless God told you to count, you didn’t count. That’s because you’d start trusting in your numbers instead of God to win your battles. Anyways, Joab knew this and advised the King not to do the census. The King, however, prevailed and Joab reluctantly did as he was ordered.

When the numbers came in, David felt guilty about what he’d done. But it was too late. God had His punishment in store for David. The King could choose one of three punishments: (1) three years of famine; or (2) three months on the run from his enemies; or (3) three days of the plague (2 Samuel 24).

Well, David knew the Lord to be a merciful God. With a merciful God, what could possibly go wrong? Sure, some people would get sick. Some might even die. But it isn’t going to be a catastrophe because God’s merciful. He isn’t going to let that happen! So David thought.

But the plague didn’t pan out the way David thought it would. In three days’ time, no thanks to David, seventy-thousand people were dead! Seventy-thousand! This clearly wasn’t what David was expecting! When David grasped the awful reality that confronted him, he, I’m sure bitterly, cried out to God and said, I’m the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let Your anger fall against me and my family (2 Samuel 24:17).

David was trusting in God’s mercies to spare him and the nation from the worst. God is merciful. But His idea of mercy doesn’t always line up with ours. Seventy thousand dead isn’t our idea of mercy. Evidently, for God, it was.

Grief-stricken and stunned beyond belief, David built an altar and worshipped God (2 Samuel 24:25). In doing so, he shows us what we do even when it seems as if God failed us or punished us disproportionately to our sin: we still believe, worship, and follow the Lord. No matter what comes. No matter He does or allows. No matter what’s happened. We still believe.

We don’t always understand. Sometimes we think we do. In either case, when life doesn’t go the way we thought or believed it would—the way God promised it would—it’s not because God led us wrong. Sometimes He lets us know why. Sometimes He doesn’t. No matter what, we still believe and worship God. Maybe, like Satan and Job, God just wants to show us off to the devil and prove to that liar that God’s people will still love Him, trust Him, serve Him, and praise Him, no matter what misfortunes come their way.

GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER PART 3

To get answers to prayer (1) there are things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray; (2) there are things God wants us to do WHEN we pray; and (3) there are things God wants us to do AFTER we pray.

We’re looking at the things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray. We said IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT. There are five aspects of being right. (1) In my last post we looked at being right with God. (2) Now, in the second place, we’ve got to be right with people.  

2. YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT WITH PEOPLE

How you treat others has a profound effect on your prayers. IF YOU’RE NOT TREATING PEOPLE RIGHT, DON’T EXPECT GOD TO HEAR OR ANSWER YOUR PRAYER. HE WON’T.

Look at Zechariah 7:9-10 with me: This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.  (10)  Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. 

What the Lord wanted the Israelites to do wasn’t rocket science. He wasn’t speaking to them in tongues. The people understood full well what God was telling them to do. Start treating people right. Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, the immigrants or foreigners living among you, and the poor. Don’t be thinking of bad things that you can do to people. Treat everybody right. Don’t be messing people up.

Well, God’s people didn’t take God’s words to heart. Zechariah 7:11-12 records their stubborn response: Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing.  (12a)  They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by His Spirit through the earlier prophets.

God, in turn, got mad with His people (verse 12b). And in His anger, this is what God did: And it came about that as they would not give ear to his voice, so I would not give ear to their voice, says the Lord of armies (Zechariah 7:13). God, in a word, didn’t listen to, or answer, their prayers.

Isaiah 58 pretty much tells the same story. God’s people were boohooing on God’s shoulders, asking why God wasn’t paying any attention to them even though they were praying, fasting, and seeking His face. They were crying out to Him! But God wasn’t answering! Why not? He told them why in Isaiah 58:3-4, Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.  (4)  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

God says, Do this. This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.  (7)  Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help (Isaiah 58:6-7).

And if we do what God says, this is what God does: Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.  (9a)  Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ He will quickly reply (Isaiah 58:8-9a).

Harboring unforgiveness and ill feelings towards a person has a hindering effect on our prayers: it’s like stuffing cotton in God’s ears. I love the promise of Mark 11:24, but Jesus quickly follows the promise with a command to forgive if we haven’t done that yet:  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.  (25)  And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:24-25).

God’s so concerned about how we treat people that even a man’s mistreatment of his wife is a cause for unanswered prayer: Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Are you beginning to get the drift here? If we’re unforgiving, unloving, abusive, and malicious towards people—towards a person—whether they’re in the family or church, whether they’re a Christian or not; we’re putting ourself in a position where God won’t answer our prayer. GOD DOESN’T ANSWER OUR PRAYER WHEN WE DON’T TREAT PEOPLE RIGHT.

Friends, if you haven’t gotten an answer to prayer, or if your prayers are going unanswered; then it would be worth your while to examine the state of your relationship with people. If there’s  someone  that  you’re  not getting  along  with, someone that you’re harboring bad feelings towards, or someone that you’re hurting; then you’ve found the reason why your prayers aren’t being answered.

YOU HAVE TO TREAT PEOPLE JUSTLY AND RESPECTFULLY IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS. If you want God to do you right, you’ve got to do people right. Treat them right first. Then ask God for what you want. That’s how you get answers to prayer.

Coming Up On My Next Blog In This Series. Being righteous. Think you can get answers to prayer without living the right way? Do you seriously think how you live your life doesn’t matter to God or affect His hearing? Wow, are you in for a surprise! Surf on in and God will have your surprise waiting for you.

GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER PART 2

Like I said in my previous post, I’m not much for formulas or secrets when it comes to anything having to do with God. I started out with a lot of formulas a long, long time ago and I slowly, painfully, learned that God isn’t going to allow Himself to be put in a box and made to do things for us whenever we push the right buttons. So when it comes to answered prayers I don’t have any formulas or secrets to give you.

Here’s what I’d like to do for you. I read through the Bible a number of times and I noticed that God said a lot of things—I mean a whole lot of things—about prayer. So I collected what God said about getting answers to prayer. Since I’m a pretty organized, structured fellow, this is how I organized my findings. If we want to get answers to prayer (1) there are things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray; (2) there are things God wants us to do WHEN we pray; and (3) there are things God wants us to do AFTER we pray.  

IF YOU WANT ANSWERS, BE RIGHT

IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT. There are five aspects of being right. (1) Be right with God; (2) Be right with men; (3) Be righteous; (4) You’ve got to ask for the right thing; and (5) You’ve got to ask for the right reason. Let’s look at each of these individually.

1. YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD. Jesus tells us in John 15:7, If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

I’d like to you to focus on the latter part of this verse because Jesus very clearly promises to answer our prayers: Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Notice however that before Jesus gives us the promise He tells us what His condition is: If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you. There’s a two-fold condition for answered prayer here: (1) We have to abide in Christ; and (2) Christ’s words have to abide in us. Let’s look at each of these conditions individually.

First, we have to abide in Christ. What does that mean? To abide means exactly what it means: to live, dwell, remain, stay, or continue, in a certain place. In the vernacular, if we want God to answer our prayers we’ve got to hang out with Him. We’ve got to go and find out where He is, then when we find Him we stay with Him. We walk with Him. We develop a close, intimate friendship and relationship with Him.

If you’re an occasional visitor to the throne room; if you’re a Sunday Christian or a Holiday Christian; if you don’t talk a whole lot to God; don’t think a whole lot about Him; don’t spend a whole lot of time with Him; if God doesn’t live in your house; if He isn’t your constant companion throughout the day or week; if God’s a stranger to you; then the promise of answered prayer doesn’t apply to you.

Read it again in John 15:7. The prayers that Jesus promises to answer are the prayers of those who are always at Jesus’ side. Answered prayer isn’t a formula or a secret: it’s a close, intimate relationship with God. This is where answered prayer begins.

The second condition for answered prayer that we find in John 15:7 is Jesus’ words have to abide in us. What does that mean? The word abide means the same thing as before: God’s Word has to live with us, stay with us, always be in us. It’s like a soldier who carries his backpack full of MRE’s (Meals Ready To Eat). When he’s hungry, when it’s time to eat, he pulls an MRE out, tears it open, and eats it. The food goes out of the package and goes into his stomach.

That’s the way it must be with God’s Word. If the Bible is a closed book, if we’re not reading it, learning it, memorizing it; then it’s like an MRE that stays in the backpack but never makes it to our stomach.

The Word doesn’t benefit us until we open it, read it, understand it, believe it, memorize it, and obey it.  It’s like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.  The only seed that produces fruit is the seed that goes into the fertile soil of the heart. When we open our Bible, read it, and open our heart to it so that we understand it, then God’s words abide in us. When this happens—when we’re with Jesus and His words are with us—then Jesus promises to answer our prayer.

Another way of looking at it is this. If you’re not living close to God, THE FARTHER YOU ARE FROM GOD, THE LESS INCLINED GOD IS TO HEAR YOU.

Isaiah 59:1-2 says it best, Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:  (2)  But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

If you’re in sin and are disobeying the Lord, then the only prayer God will hear from you is your prayer of repentance; your prayer for forgiveness and/or salvation.

The principle of answered prayer is this. IF YOU DON’T LISTEN TO GOD, GOD’S NOT OBLIGED TO LISTEN TO YOU.  Proverbs 28:9, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. (Read Proverbs 1:24-32.)

THE MORE LUKEWARM YOU ARE; THE MORE WORLDLY, SELFISH, UNHOLY, AND DISOBEDIENT YOU ARE; THE LESS CHANCE YOU HAVE OF BEING HEARD.

If you want God to hear and help you, you’ve got to turn around and head in His direction. 2 Chronicles 7:14 comforts us with this promise,  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

I John 3:22 sums it up, And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. Brethren, IF YOU WANT ANSWERS TO PRAYER YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD. BE OBEDIENT TO HIM.

Coming Up On My Next Blog In This Series. Being right with people. Think that answered prayer is strictly something between you and God? Not so. People are involved and they’ll have some say or pull on whether or not your prayers get answered. Stay tuned.

« Older entries Newer entries »