Friday, January 20, 2012

Facing The Wilderness of Life

I adapted my sermon last Sunday for this post.

2 Kings 3:1-3:21

In the context of our country’s history, we don’t think about wilderness in the same light as the biblical wilderness.

We grew up hearing about Daniel Boone and the wilderness...meaning the woods and forests.
But in the Bible, when the writers spoke of the wilderness, they were referring to desert regions.

Picture in your mind a dry place where nothing green grows.
Everything in the wilderness is brown and unappealing to the eye.
The environment of the wilderness is void of any brightened colors, ranging from brown to browner. (Is that a word?)

Everything in the wilderness has adapted itself to live in this type of climate.
It rarely rains in the wilderness, and when it does, plants store the moisture they need because there is no guarantee when it will rain again.

When we, as Christians are going through our wilderness experience, we must be like the trees and the other animals of the wilderness.
We must learn to adapt our faith to the challenges that a wilderness brings.

The animals in the wilderness have learned to travel and hunt at night because it is cooler at night.

Spiritually, we too must learn to find a place where the Lord can minister to us in our wilderness.
It is a place where He can give us instruction about what to do next.

Like the trees that store up water, uncertain of when it will rain again, we must store up His Word in our hearts.

Many of us are living in the wilderness for various reasons.

The wilderness is a place of dying.
It is a place where all the things that cause you to stumble in your walk with God are killed.

If you have ever watched a movie where people have gone into the desert with little or no understanding of life in the wilderness, they often did not survive there.
Since they had no one to help or advise them, they tried to fight the elements in their own strength.

In the same manner, many of us have spiritually been in the wilderness, and we have tried unsuccessfully to fight the battle in our own strength.
You see, the wilderness is a place where God says,
"I finally have you in a place where I can speak to you."

In our text today, we find that because Jehoram was unprepared for life in the wilderness, he needed someone who knew something about the wilderness.
Therefore, he asked for Jehoshaphat’s help.

Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that you can be fully prepared for life in the wilderness.
Sometimes, God leads us abruptly into the wilderness.
He might have been trying to get you to come to Him or to get you to take your spiritual life more seriously.

Perhaps He has been trying to draw your attention to the call that He has placed on your life.

God loves you so much that he is willing to take a risk on you and lead you into the wilderness experience.

Understand, God will not override our will.
But He also knows that it really is our desire to do His will.
So He takes you into the wilderness experience.
That time when it is not pretty.
It’s dry. It’s Hot! It is trying...

He knows that here in the wilderness, you will either serve Him or reject Him.

You may say, " Lord, where ever You lead, I will follow...even through the wilderness".
Or you may decide to say, "I can’t deal with this. I quit."

God knows that we must be tried in the fire so that we can become pure as gold.
So he brings us into the wilderness experience to perfect our faith.

Can I tell you that you cannot have all pleasure with out pain.
And you can’t truly enjoy the good times without adversity!

Your faith is perfected in the furnace of affliction and adversity.
There is something about going through dilemmas and crises that brings us to the place where we discover things about God which we would not have known under other circumstances!

The sins in Jehoram’s life prevented him from walking with God like he should have.
His relationship with God was superficial.
However, when he got in trouble, whenever he needed God as a fire escape.
He called on God only when things where going bad.
In essence, he wanted to use God as his servant, rather than serve God.
He was interested in God only if God served his own selfish purpose.

Many of us have tried to use God for personal gain.
We view God as a spiritual Santa Claus who is there at our every whim, one who will bring us gifts and presents that are beyond our reach.
The only time some talk to Him is when they need something from Him!

If a loved one becomes terminally ill, we immediately call on Him.
We are ready to beat down the pastor’s door so that he can pray for us, or we call on the saints and implore their prayer and support.

But for some, as soon as the problem is over, what happens?

They slump right back into the backslidden state that they were in before the problem jolted them to pray.
Can I tell you.... that is precisely the reason that some folks are constantly in a problem!

You see, God is fully aware of the sad fact that should we have all our needs met, we will never seek Him with all our hearts.

Like the children of Israel, we tend to become arrogant, prideful, and forget the fact that we must fully acknowledge God in times of prosperity AND adversity!

Old Jehoram was pretty smart, and he knew something about God.
He realized that he did not have a solid relationship with the Lord, he courted the friendship of someone who did.

He said to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, "I have go to go out to fight and I want you to fight with me".

Jehoshaphat says, "If you are going to war, I will go with you.
My people are your people. I’m going to assume the responsibility of getting you the victory and all my captains and warriors are at your disposal".

So, now that the union has been made, and Jehoshaphat has committed himself to bring home the victory, the next question to address is,  "How do we go about it?"

They began to seek the mind of God on the matter.
One of the servants of the king of Israel told Jehoshaphat about Elisha who had the word of the Lord.

So Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and the king of Edom set out to see Elisha, the prophet of God.

2K 3:13 And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.
2K 3:14 And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of
Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor
see thee. (KJV)

You know, there are times that we are so obsessed with our destination that we forget that we must go through various phases to get there.

For example, when a woman is pregnant, it is apparent to all that she is carrying a baby.
After the baby is born, all we see is a beautiful baby.
We forget that there is a process of bringing that baby into the world......a process that is painful, for both the mother and the child!

For the mother, it is the process of pushing this delicate life our of her body where it has lived snugly for nine long, peaceful months.
For the baby, it is the process of being pushed into a place that it perceives to be unfriendly and cold, very different from the home it had occupied for nine months.

Just like the baby in it’s mother’s womb, we may have to let go of something that has become part of us. The comfortable place.

We are always confessing that we want the perfect will of God for our lives, but we must not forget the fact that we must conquer the obstacles that stand in the way of our future success in which God’s ultimate will is realized.

King Jehoshaphat asked the question, "How shall we go up against Moab to get victory?"

The unexpected answer was, "You have to go through the wilderness of Edom to get the victory."

Listen to me church, If you want to get the victory, you must be willing to go through the wilderness.

I want to reiterate this fact:
It is not always easy to get the victory because it belongs to the other side of the wilderness!

You must be willing to go through a little time of abasement, confusion, adversity, and even opposition before you arrive at your destination.

Many think that it is unfair to go through this phase.

But you see, it is the wilderness that weeds out the saints from the "aints".

It is the wilderness that weeds out the people who really want to do something for God from people who just have a momentary, superficial, mundane relationship with Him.

It is the wilderness that makes a hypocrite back up and say,
"I can’t take it anymore".

The wilderness, God’s killing field, will weed out all the impostors because they cannot survive the adversity of the wilderness.

I want to warn you that you will have to go through the wilderness to attain the will of God for your life.

The wilderness teaches us to stand;
It teaches us to cast our cares upon Him;
It teaches us to rely and totally depend on Him for life support, because we know in due season we shall reap if we faint not!

Some can’t handle the smallest problems.
Some feel that the hardships placed on their path indicate that God either has forsaken them or is punishing them for some sin they have committed.

The devil has successfully employed that lie to deter folks from seeking the Father.
Don’t for a moment think that you can do it on your own.
You will fail miserably.

Remember the story of Joshua and Caleb.
When the spies had been sent in to Canaan, and the report came back, Joshua and Caleb were the only two with a good report.
They were the only ones of faith.

Had they tried to enter into Canaan on their own strength or cognizance, they would have perished in the wilderness.

Even when life in the wilderness became dull and unappealing, they did not stop seeking God.
They continued to rely on His guidance.

We need to be like Joshua and Caleb, and be persistent in faith even in the wilderness where problems are at their worst.

The greatest battle that we face while we are in the wilderness is the one between the new and the old man.

The old man that God is trying to kill in the wilderness refuses to die.
It wants to resurrect old hurts and old problems.
But as new creatures in Christ Jesus, we must put the old man to death.

Despite the situations that you may be facing, you must constantly remind yourself that you are a new creature and the old man is DEAD!

Let me tell you something this morning...
My God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
There is nothing too hard for Him!
There is nothing that He cannot handle!
Because we know who we are in Christ Jesus and what we mean to our heavenly Father, Satan tries to discourage us.

He tries to use sickness, financial problems, family stress and anything and everything you can think of to incapacitate us.

The question that you must ask yourself is, "Who is my God?" "Whom do I serve?"
Then answer the question.... "My God is the way Maker."
The Bible says that if God be for us, who can be against us?

* God is so real in my inward man.

* He has not only washed away all my sins, but He has filled my
cup with His love so that my cup bubbles over.

* He is the Lover of my soul.

* He is the Answer to my every need.

* He is my Burden-Bearer,

Now, maybe you are the kind of person who can handle everything that comes your way, but I can’t!

However, I know someone who is able to take it!
His name is Jesus!

The enemy fights those who know who they are and whose they are.
The Bible affirms that God is Faithful.

Are you aware that the more the enemy fights you, the greater the indication that blessings are on the way?

You must become aware of this fact as a Christian!
If you do not know this about your life, you cannot make it.

You have got to know that it is because you are on the verge of a miracle that the devil is fighting you.

He is fighting you so hard because you are getting closer to your
deliverance, and the closer you get, the greater the struggle!

If you hold out a little while longer, God’s going to give you the victory in every circumstance of your life.

I am learning to be encouraged when I meet with obstacles because I see them as an indication of a fresh move of God in my life.

Now let me tell you, when you are in the wilderness, you must find out what the plan of God is for you.

You cannot rely on anyone else’s plan.
Only a plan from God will suffice in the wilderness.

God has not promised that you will not go through hardship.
And He has not promised that you will not experience adversity.

But listen to what He does say,
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
When you go through the flood, I’ll be there.
Should you have to go through fire, I will be there.
As I was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so will I be with you.
I will be the forth One in the furnace!"

I am so very grateful that the Lord’s been walking with me these past 34 years.

I say this, not because I have not been through anything, or that I have not faced various challenges and dark moments in life,
but rather because I do recognize that the Lord has been with me in the fiery furnace.
He has protected me from the scorching of the flames.
When the pressure and the flames seemed as if they would engulf me, His words of assurance would comfort me.

There are many who would have lost their mind had the Lord not been on their side.

They would have gone crazy and lost control, but the Lord comforted them in their darkest hour.

It is not that we did not go through the wilderness, but when we went through it, God was with us.
God will be with you when mama, daddy, sister, and brother leave.

When the folks you thought would be with you all the way, walk out of the door, God says, "Lo, I am with you always even unto the ends of the world."

You need not fear the wilderness if you take God with you everywhere you go.

I must take Him with me everywhere I go, or else I would fall on my face.

I truly need the Lord for I cannot function without Him.
I need Him in the morning;
I need Him in the noon day;
I need Him when the sun is down.
I need Him to run this church.
I need Him to teach me how to be a good father.
I need Him to be a good husband.

Don’t you try anything without God, because you will not succeed.

The enemy may come to discourage you.
He may whisper to your mind that you are all alone.
He will tell you that God will not help you or that you have committed a horrible sin that has brought God’s wrath on you.
Don’t you buy that stuff for even a minute.

Satan thinks that he catches the Lord by surprise, but oh, is he wrong!

God is a God of plans.
He is a God of order.
As the God who knows all things, He is never surprised by the attack of the enemy.

While the enemy is planning his strategies,
God has already made a counter plan for him.

He has already made a way of escape for you.
Now, you must trust Him!

Peter asked the Lord if he could join Him on the sea.
After the Lord told Him to come, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the sea until he took his eyes off of Jesus.

Maybe you are in trouble right now.

Maybe you are hearing this sermon, and you are trying to find answers to your situation.

Maybe you have been trying to run your life without God, or you have been trying to deal with your wilderness without God’s help.

You may be convinced that you know what you are doing and that you are not obligated to listen to anyone.

Be careful, for pride comes before a fall.
My friend, you do need God.
You need Him to help you hold your mind together.

You need Him when you are at the breaking point and people have disappointed you.

Can I tell you something....
Nobody else but God will get up with you at 4:00 a.m. and hold you in His arms.

Nobody else but God can comfort you when you are depressed.

Only God can supernaturally soothe your nerves and quell your worries.

Only He can give you that peace that passes all understanding.

When the Bible talks about peace that passes all understanding,
it refers to a peace that is anointed!

When people look at your situation, and then look at you, they will be confused.
They will say, "Why is he/she so peaceful?
Doesn’t he realize that it is hopeless?"

It is simply the God-given peace that you enjoy.
Try it. Believe me, you will like it!

God says, "It’s gonna be alright.
Just trust Me, just lean on Me, and look to Me for total deliverance!"

You might not be able to see how it will work out, but you’ve got to trust that before it is all over, God’s going to give you the victory.
You see, God’s Got a Plan!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus.

I have had people ask me throughout my life, if I am a religious person.  I usually reply no.  I have a relationship with God.  I don't need religion.  This video does explain pretty well what I am talking about.

Friday, January 06, 2012

We must Peek, Push and Press in 2012

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyday and everything worked out just as you planned? Think about it, if every morning the sun was shining, the temperature was just right with a light breeze coming from the right direction. You made exactly the amount of money that you needed and had enough left over to do what you wanted, your kids never needed new shoes and your extended family never bothered you! And what if in your spiritual life you always understood the scripture, God always answered your prayers exactly like you thought He should, your body was always healed and no one ever got on your nerves? Wouldn't it be nice? But it usually isn't that way is it?
But what if you could do something about where you are? What if there were simple steps that would enable you to reach beyond where you are to where God wants you to be? Would you be willing to take those steps? After all, we can't expect God to do everything...can we?
Our walk with God is a journey and a covenant, there is nothing God cannot do, He is willing to do anything for His children, but there are somethings we have to do with Him to arrive at our destination:

1. Peek -Perhaps our greatest need is to see what God is seeing, to have spiritual vision that enables us to see beyond the outward appearance and to see what is actually taking place around us. The amazing thing to me is that too often we believe that God doesn't really know what is actually taking place in our lives, we think He's surprised at the events of our lives and world, that unless we tell Him, He really doesn't have a clue...but He does. Just as Elisha had to remind his servant, God has to remind us, open your eyes and look, there are more for you than against you, surrounding you is an angelic host that is prepared to defend you and to deliver everything you have need of...just peek into the realm of heaven!
2. Push -Sometimes we have to push some stuff out of the way, to get rid of the things that prohibit and hinder our progression. The Apostle Paul said that we have to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us in order that we may run and obtain the prize. But not do we push out the stuff, we push ourselves out of the box, out of our comfort zones, out of the nest so that we may fly! I have to admit, sometimes it's easier to stay in the nest than it is to fly, to do something we've never done before, to go where we've never have to push yourself knowing that in every step you take God is with you!
3. Press -The Apostle Paul we haven't arrived or received everything Christ died for us to receive, so we press forward. Pressing is more than getting up in the morning and saying, "Well, I think I'll be victorious today!" In fact, we are victorious because we are in Christ and He is in us. Pressing forward is the determined walk that says regardless of what takes place in my life I will keep moving, I will go forward until I have crossed the finish line!
Today, take a moment to peek into what God is saying, push out the junk and push out from the safety zone and press forward into all that God has for you...It's going to be worth it!