Archive for February, 2012

February 27, 2012

Delays, Delays, Delays!

by Lester Young

Have you ever received a word from the Lord about something, but He neglected to give you any kind of timetable for its fulfillment? Yeah, me too. But now that I think about it, to the best of my knowledge, that’s almost always how those packages arrive.  You’ll get the Word and initially it’s quite exciting, just like Mark 4:16 describes.  You receive it with joy and gladness.  Then, in the middle of praising and thanking the Lord, you decide to ask Him just when whatever it is you’re believing for will actually happen.  And guess what………… (dramatic pause)………….. you get absolutely no reply to that inquiry – whatsoever.  Nevertheless, you know you’ve heard from the Lord, so you strike out in faith, believing that you’ve received (Mark 11:24).

And you’re waiting. A week goes by. Then a couple more. Now several months have passed and you see absolutely no change in that situation at all. No, that’s not really true; for upon closer inspection, you notice that it’s actually gotten… worse! What do you do? Unfortunately, all too often, we as Christians just meekly accept defeat and let the thing we’ve hoped for quietly slip away from our minds; or we devise some kind of way to deal with the problem ourselves.

What we usually fail to grasp is that pure faith isn’t tied to timetables or deadlines. Remember Jesus’ friend Lazarus? After he’d died, his sisters Mary and Martha lost all hope that he could be restored to health (John 11:21, 24, 32). In their minds, the ‘point-of-no-return’ (that is, his death) had been reached. But the Lord knew better. And how about Jairus’ daughter: she died while they were en route to help her. People came from the house to inform the father not to bother the Master any further because, again, the ‘dead-line’ had passed. Nevertheless, Jesus told him to not be afraid but just keep on believing, and his daughter would be completely healed (Luke 8:49-50).

The point here is that just because things don’t work out according to your personal script or timetable, that’s no reason to move off your faith, especially if you’ve already got His Word on the outcome. Remember, Abraham waited at least fifteen years from the day God declared it until his promised son Isaiah was born (Genesis 12:4; 15:4; 16:3-4, 16; 17:21; 21:5). And the fig tree that Jesus cursed in the morning showed no apparent signs of change for at least twelve hours afterward (Mark 11:14). They passed by it again that evening on the way back to Bethany, and no one noticed any difference in it. But the next morning the tree was shriveled up from its roots (Mark 11:19-20). So somewhere between twelve- and twenty-four hours after ‘cursing,’ the effects became visible. Before that, nothing out of the ordinary could be seen.

Jesus’ faith went to work immediately on the most crucial part of that tree’s existence – its roots – even though the work it was accomplishing couldn’t yet be perceived by the natural eye. And our faith works no differently than Jesus’; it’s all been given by God (Mark 11:23; Luke 17:6; Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:13). Know that as soon as you plant an apple seed in the ground, the apple factory inside it comes to life. But the consumer-ready product won’t be available for a number of months (or even years), right? In fact, you wouldn’t know the shop had even opened for business just by looking at the spot where you planted it – not for awhile, anyway. Nevertheless, things are happening – important, necessary things that must occur first before the company can put its full apple-assembly line into operation.

So if you find yourself waiting – and waiting… aaannnd waiting – for a promise of God to be fulfilled, don’t fret. Seedtime-and-harvest is simply “the way it is.” (You can appropriately diagram that phrase this way: seed-time-harvest.) It’s how the entire Kingdom of God operates: it starts with a seed and grows into fruit (Mark 4:13). Don’t even consider throwing your faith away. Instead, hook up some patience to it (Hebrews 6:12, 10:35-36).  Then, put on some overalls, Farmer Jim, and take care of your ground and your crop (in other words, keep the ‘weeds’ out) until that bumper harvest appears – because you’ve got His Word on it! (Matthew 13:19-23; Mark 4:14-20)

 

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February 25, 2012

More than just ‘Acceptable’…

by Lester Young

Have you ever wondered just what that “acceptable year of the Lord” thing is that Jesus talked about? He mentioned it when reading the book of Isaiah in the synagogue one Sabbath day:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives,

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February 22, 2012

Gratitude: Robitussin for the Soul

by Lester Young

God’s Word says to give thanks in all things, right? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Most of us have read or heard that at least a few dozen times before, so it comes as no earthshaking surprise. But have you ever wondered how God could really expect you to be thankful when the bills are all past due, the kids are all past getting on your last nerve, your dog just drowned in the toilet and the goldfish got hit by a bus (and you still haven’t figured out how it got out of the bowl in the first place, let alone all the way over to Main Street)? You’re thinking, “Life’s not only running over me, it’s backed up a few times to try to finish the job… so why should I be giving thanks?”

Well, if you’ve got a moment, let’s just consider that question. But first, we should establish one thing right out of the gate: If Jesus is Lord of your life, then His words should be in charge, agreed? Which means that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is not exactly a suggestion, it’s a command. He said it, and if for no other reason than pure reverence, we should therefore start responding, “Thank You, thank You, thank You!” But that’s not the end of it; God’s not that selfish or shallow. In fact, He doesn’t have a selfish or shallow bone in His body. Everything He’s ever said, everything He’s ever done, has been for our ultimate benefit. So when God described exactly what sin was in the Law He gave to Moses and told Israel “Do NOT do these things!,” it wasn’t because He didn’t want anybody to have any fun. It was because He didn’t want His people to die! (Remember Romans 6:23 which clearly states, “The wages of sin is death.”) In the same light, there are underlying reasons – and very compelling ones at that – why God tells us to be thankful.

For starters, giving thanks to the Lord forces you to change your perspective. Without question, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to look at those tire tracks running across your thorax and feel particularly grateful. And therein lies the point. You see, He didn’t tell us to give thanks for all things, He said we should give thanks in all things – in all circumstances. Choosing to give thanks makes you stop looking at the negative circumstances around you and start recalling the good things God’s already done for you in the past. It causes you to quit looking at darkness and begin to focus your attention on the light, His Light (Psalm 89:15; John 8:12, 11:9-10). And the entrance of God’s light also brings with it His life, because the two can’t be separated (John 1:4) – where one is, there’s the other right with it. Jesus, the Word of the Living God, is the Life and the Light that illuminates everyone and everything (John 1:4, 9; 8:12; 11:25). Those spiritual forces of Life and Light impart a spark of expectant hope, which in turn causes you to begin to lift your eyes toward the Lord your Salvation (Psalm 121:1-2) instead of wallowing around in self-pity.

Now before you even go there, let me say that we can all find something to be thankful for. Are you reading this? Then you’re alive and you have access to the internet. That’s two quick things right there. Are your kids underfoot? Even if you currently feel like grabbing them around the thr… well, never mind about that for now – they’re still blessings from the Lord, and we should thank Him for them (Psalm 127:3-5). (Note: Even if you have to do the thanking through clenched teeth, that’s okay – just quote the Scripture and do it by faith.) The list of things big and small that we can and should be thankful for can grow quite lengthy with very little real effort on our part, if we’d just pause for a moment and take stock honestly.

The medical-science community has verified the effect that the mind can have on the body and its response to diseases and other adverse circumstances. Fear and long-term stress are without question two of the most dangerous enemies to health we face in this world, and they’ve been linked to all kinds of detrimental bodily reactions and activities (and that’s just one of the reasons you find the command “Fear not!” all through the Holy Scriptures). On the other side of the coin; laughter, being grateful and appreciative, being quick to forgive, and not ‘sweating the small stuff’ have all been shown to have measurable positive effects on both mental and physical well-being. It’s nice to see that the medical field has ‘discovered’ what God already knew and told us to do, isn’t it?

Bottom line? God’s not talking just so He can watch us grovel and thank Him because He’s so great. He is great, but that isn’t why we’re told to maintain an attitude of gratitude. When we thank Him for past deliverances and blessings we already have, it causes us to keep our faith in gear toward Him for present and future victories. If He caused us to overcome before, He’ll do it this time, too. And, as a side benefit; with a joyful, hopeful and thankful attitude; everyone’ll find you a lot more pleasant and fun to be around – God included!

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