Good Decisions and Decisions Made Good

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”  28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”  31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:25-33; NKJV)

At a point in my life when I was making a big decision and was doubting myself, one of the elders/shepherds at the church I was attending said to me “There are good decisions and decisions made good”.  He was communicating to me a lot of things but what I understood was I am free to make decisions but most importantly I needed to make those decisions in prayer and look to Jesus for my guidance and strength.  If I was focused on Jesus, my decision would be good even if it didn’t go the way that I thought it would.

I have since shared this phrase with others as a matter of encouragement and it came back to me this morning as I was thinking through some opportunities and challenges in my life.  As I was thinking, the above verse came to mind.  There are so many lessons in this passage and generally I focus on how Jesus responds.  It has had a profound effect on me in terms of when Peter got himself in trouble, the FIRST thing Jesus did was save him.  When Peter was safe, back with Him and his brethren, only then did Jesus rebuke him and teach him.  That is our Jesus…our Savior…our Lord.  He saves first!

Change and change management is not just a business or organizational term but something we all deal with every day.  We make decisions whether big or small.  We set out on our day and it is made up of a whole lot of decisions.  We often make them fully confident we know how things are going go and boldly set out…and guess what…it doesn’t always go like we think.  One moment we are walking on wave tops and the next we are sinking.  We start flailing and often we make things worse…trying to save ourselves.  I know for me…sometimes I have to be down to my last breath…about to go under…before I put my focus back on my Savior or ask for help.  What I am so thankful for, however, is that His mighty hand thrusts out and grabs a hold of me and pulls me back to Him and safety.

Good decisions and decisions made good.  I pray I make good Jesus-centered decisions but when I don’t, I pray that I call out to Him before it is too late.  Out of the boat…back in the boat…out of the boat again…it’s our life but Jesus doesn’t move and He is all about saving…being His disciple is a good decision and a decision made good.  Focus on Him and go boldly.  Love you all.

Strategic Pause

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Strategic pause is a phrase I have heard both in the Air Force and in the Army.  The idea is that operations are so high and people are busy that there is a need to take break or stop long enough to check and ensure that everyone is okay, take care of different housekeeping items, ensure everyone is on the same page and that the organization is going in the right direction.

This sounds like life to me as well.  Life is busy.  Life can get hard and the burdens seem to far out weigh the rests.  We can get off track and focus on the wrong things.  There are times we need a pause.

I would argue we should pause before we need to pause.  I believe that is what God wants of us.  He wants us to come to Him often and with confidence that He will hear, He will act, and we will be “strategically aligned” to the eternal purpose of the gospel.  Jesus Christ lived as we live and He did it without sin.  Therefore, He knows what we are going through literally and He has the divine power to intercede and help us.  Moreover, He wants to.

Throughout the day, we should pause and confidently go to our Heavenly Father through prayer and make known what is on our heart and lay our burdens at His feet.  We will get more than we deserve and what we get will be just what we need at that moment.  Grace for the moment!  We pray, God hears, angels act and His children are ministered to.

Be strategic.  Plan to be with God.  Take your cares to Him.  Trust He will not forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and that He will work for you.  Purposefully pause before you unwillingly get stopped by the load and burdens of this world and Satan’s efforts to derail you.  Grace for the moment is a prayer away!

Thankfully Praying

Continuing on in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, we read:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

This brings to mind a similar instruction from Paul in his epistle to the Philippians:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9; NKJV)

Take some time and consider the key words in these verses:

Rejoice, pray, thanksgiving, will of God, Jesus Christ, peace, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy.

Evaluate your life today through the lens of these words.

Are you rejoicing in your own life and with those you care about or are you letting the bad things distract you?

Are you spending time in prayer whether it is a time you have set aside or continually conversing with your Father through the good and bad of your day?

Do you see the will of God today?  Do you see Jesus?  Are you trusting God is there and working?  Does this bring you peace?

Are the things you are thinking about true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy or is satan filling your mind with distraction?

God is a builder.  Satan is a destroyer.  Fill your heart and mind with the building materials of God, trust His will, feel His peace.  That is what He is shouting from Heaven.  That is my prayer for you and for me today.

Paul’s Prayer

Brothers and Sisters,

I apologize for the brief break in articles and hope this finds you well and having a great summer. This work was started by a brother who loves Jesus and wants to provide encouragement to men as they work to serve Christ. The result has been a sustained set of biblical thoughts and messages that inform and encourage brethren as we all join in an eternally important work. I want to make every effort to keep this rolling an as we get going again, I would encourage you and invite you to contribute or if you have any other thoughts/questions, please reach out as we would love to hear from you.

For today, I want to draw your attention to one of Paul’s prayers found in Ephesians 3:14-21.

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him b glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God is love and His love is for all and is demonstrated in those who have obeyed the gospel of Jesus and have been reconciled to Him. His love is awesome with a width that makes room for us all, a length that represent the extreme measures He will take to demonstrate it, a depth that has room for every sinner every time, and a height that is equal with an eternal and all powerful God who is lofty and yet ever present.

Love. It is a tough word but made easy in Christ. If God could love us so much as to offer His only Son, we should be able to love and live in Jesus despite what we are facing. That is where God wants us to be despite every effort of the devil to steal us away. God’s love is real and it is knowable and will completely fill us if we open our hearts and make room for it…but we will have to get rid of those things like bitterness, envy, anger, selfishness that crowd out the love God is filling us with. And make no mistake, God is and will do the work…we are His handiwork and He is working in us so that we will bring Him glory…in love…so that others might come and join the family of Jesus.

Take some time and think about Paul’s prayer. It’s a great one. It’s one we should emulate. Allow God to work. Get rid of the things you put in your heart through a fleshly perspective and make room for the love God has given and gives from a Heavenly perspective. Watch the fruit of the Spirit overtake the fruit of the flesh and rejoice with all thanksgiving.

Two men who told God about their giving

Compare Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18 with what is recorded about Zacchaeus (a tax collector) and Jesus in Luke 19. One thing you will see is that the Pharisee in Luke 18 told God about how much he gave, but so did Zacchaeus in Luke 19. But one was justified (saved, received, accepted), and the other was not. What was different about Zacchaeus in the way he talked to Jesus about his own giving?

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14)

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Luke 19:1-10)

Here are a few contrasts between the Pharisee and Zacchaeus:

  • Luke 18 says the Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous. The Pharisee was a religious man who wanted to look good and justify himself. Luke 19 shows that Zacchaeus had a humble heart that zealously sought out Jesus.
  • The Pharisee talked about his giving because he wanted to sound like an impressive servant of God. Zacchaeus was defending with himself against the accusations of those standing outside his house saying he was a sinner. The heart of Zacchaeus was not one to brag to Jesus, but he was pleading with Jesus saying how much he wanted to be right with God. He wanted to be in a relationship with God, he didn’t try to impress God.
  • Zacchaeus knew he was lost and needed salvation. We see in Zacchaeus that when he saw he had mistreated someone, he made it right. The Pharisee was too blinded to his own lost condition. He only noticed the flaws in others, not in himself.
  • Both men helped the poor, but one did it as a religious duty to check off his list and to show to all how awesome he was. The other gave because he truly had compassion for those in need.

Are we a Zacchaeus?

Daniel: 21 Days

Read the passages below from Daniel 10 and take note that Daniel was mourning, fasting, praying, seeking and reaching out to God. The spiritual messenger from God said that from the moment Daniel started doing this that the angel was sent to Daniel’s aid. But notice this in the verses below: that angel was delayed for 21 days. Daniel was praying for 3 weeks and the angel was delayed for 3 weeks. Think about that and read the passages.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.
(Daniel 10:1-3)

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
(Daniel 10:12-14)

I don’t have to understand this, but I do accept that sometimes God’s angels are delayed in coming to my aid. The concept of angels being “delayed” or is just hard to wrap my mind around, but that is what this chapter teaches us. They are fighting a battle around me and for me that I can’t even begin to comprehend. There is an enormous spiritual war going on around us (Ephesians 6:10).

This also tells me that when my prayers are delayed in being answered that I can assume that there is more going on that might explain why I am not getting a quick answer. It is not that God is aloof or apathetic, He truly cares and is sending aid to us all the time. But there is more going on in this spiritual warfare that what I am personally undergoing. God will send me aid, He promised it, but it may take a few battles in the spiritual realm before I get the help I requested. In fact, those battles may be directly connected to the answers to my prayers.

Daniel: From the first day

Daniel 10:11-12 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. (12) Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

At the beginning of Daniel 10, Daniel is fasting, praying and mourning for 3 full weeks. He is torn up and he is reaching out to God, and God answers.

What I want to focus on for today’s article is what this spiritual being said to Daniel. “For from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

Notice what it did not say – This messenger of God did not say, “From the first moment you checked off every religious box and achieved religious perfection.” That’s the way a lot of folks try to live even when we say we are saved by grace. God doesn’t work like that. From the first day Daniel set his heart to understand and to be humble before God, God was hearing Daniel’s prayer and sending answers to them. Period.

This is like the Ethiopian in Acts 8 and Cornelius in Acts 10. Both men were humble, and both men were searching. God sent His messengers to both men. The same is true today, and we know that because of Jesus’ promise.

Luke 11:9-13 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (10) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (11) What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; (12) or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (13) If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Your God loves you, and from the very moment you decide to humble yourself before Him and to seek His truth, He is sending messengers to your aid. Count on it.

Angels Among Us

You ever get a song stuck in your head…it is all you can think of…it is distracting in that it is all you can hear when there is nothing said?  Well I don’t have a song stuck in my head but rather a scripture:

“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10; NKJV).

Jesus is teaching his disciples of the importance of even one soul in what we call the Parable of the Lost Coin.  What strikes me about this verse is the awesome interaction between what we are doing in this world and what our Heavenly Father and His angels are doing in Heaven.

It is easy to lose sight of Heaven if we allow what we can see, touch, hear, smell, taste, smell…that is the physical world we live in…dominate our thoughts, speech, and actions.  Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom (Matt 6:33) and Paul tells us to seek those things which are above (Col 3:1)…because that is where Jesus is.  If we did this, wouldn’t that lower our anxiety…instill in us the awesome power of our Father…excite us about being in the Lord’s Body…fill us with peace and love for each moment God blesses us with?

Consider the boy with Elisha as the Samaritan army surrounded their city.  What anxiety he must have had…how certain he must have been that their doom was at hand.  After all, he could see it…he could hear it…he could smell it!  What did Elisha pray?  Why did he pray it?  What was God already doing?

He prayed that the boy’s eyes would be opened so that he might understand what was really going on…to have confidence in the Lord as Elisha did…to give him the rest of the story…that God was there…that He had sent His army.

“Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw.  And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:17; NKJV).

The mountain was full of a heavenly army…with horses and chariots of fire…they were all around Elisha!  Because “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”  (Psa 34:7; NKJV).

God’s army of angels is innumerable…it cannot be calculated.

 “…many angels around the throne…and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands…” (REV 5:11; NKJV)

These mighty angels rejoice when even one sinner repents…and it doesn’t stop there.  They are not idle bystanders.  They are INVOLVED in our salvation.  They are “…ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation…” (Hebrews 1:14).

GOD’s angels serve GOD’s children…consider these examples:

Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego:  “Look!”  Nebuchadnezzar shouted.  “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire.  They aren’t even hurt by the flames!  And the fourth looks like a divine being!” (Daniel 3:25; NLT)

Peter:  “Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter.  The angel tapped him on the side to awaken him and said, ‘Quick!  Get up!’  And the chains fell off his wrists.” (Acts 12:7; NLT)

 We are not alone…not within the Body of Christ.  We have each other and we should rejoice in each other’s spiritual successes and rally around each other in times of need…praying always!  We also have our Father, our Elder Brother, our Comforter…and a host of angels who are watching, engaging, and talking about God’s eternal plan as it unfolds in our lives (Eph 3:10).

Pray to God that our eyes might be opened!  Praise Him in all His glory!

The Attacks Of The Devil

The Israelites never saw it coming!  By the time they realized what happened 24,000 souls were dead, Numbers 25:1-2.  Things seemed to be going well for Israel, but all of that would change.  How did this happen?  The devil attacked them.  He used Balaam and Balak to help God’s people to fall, Numbers 31:16.  The devil wants to defeat us, 1 Peter 5:8.  Sexual immorality is just one way that the devil will attempt to beat us.

Let me give you four other tactics that the devil has used against the church in the first century that he will use against us.  Let’s also consider how God’s people overcame those attacks.

    1. FEAR FACTOR:  Satan wanted to silence God’s people from speaking about Jesus, Acts 4:1-4; 5:17-23, 33, 40-42; 7:54-58.
    2. FAKE FACTOR:  Sadly, the devil achieved his mission with two Christians, Ananias, and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-5.  They lied to the Holy Spirit.  They were fakers.  While the devil won a battle, he had not won the war.  The people of God continued in their pursuit of spreading the good news, Acts 5:12-14.  They continued and so did the devil with his attacks.
    3. FUSS FACTOR:  The devil’s opportunity came in Acts 6:1-3.  Some complaints arose.  Certainly, the brethren would devour one another.  However, the devil’s plan didn’t work, Acts 6:7.
    4. FALSE FACTOR:  A controversy in the church occurred regarding salvation, Acts 15:1-11.  Some Jews believed the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved.  The truth prevailed.  God’s people prevailed.  But how did they do it?  Here’s how.

They kept their focus on Jesus.

    1. This is how they overcame the fear factor.  They prayed for boldness to stand firm during persecution, Acts 4:29; 5:40-41.
    2. This is how they overcame the fake factor.  The punishment that Ananias and Sapphira received was death.  Discipline was given.  It had an impact among the brethren, Acts 5:11.  Discipline is necessary today.  Being honest is still necessary today.
    3. This is how they overcame the fuss factor, Acts 6:1-6.  The apostles were concerned about God’s work.  They devised a plan to preserve unity.  It worked!
    4. This is how they overcame the false factor.  They stood on the apostles’ doctrine, Acts2:42. This must be our attitude.  The devil never stops his attack toward God’s people, Luke 4:13.  Therefore, we must always be on the defense.

Daniel – He Understood by the Books

…I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
(Daniel 9:2-3)

Yesterday, I preached on Daniel 9 and this amazing prayer Daniel makes before God. I’ve already written previously about Daniel’s understanding of the word and how it helped him in his prayer, but I wanted to make a few additional points.

Daniel understood God’s timing and accepted it. You know, Daniel 6:10 tells us that Daniel had been praying toward Jerusalem 3 times a day since he was a youth. So let’s just for argument sake say that Daniel didn’t miss a prayer in all those times. 365 days x 3 times a day x 70 years = 76,650 prayers! Daniel had prayed tens of thousands of times, but God said they would be in Babylon 70 years. The Bible says that Daniel understood the word of Jeremiah. He accepted that until the 70 years were over, he could not ask for God’s people to return home. God calls us to persisently pray, but He also asks us to trust His timing and purpose. He makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Daniel had his Bible opened when he prayed. He didn’t compartmentalize Bible study and prayer into separate “acts” or categories. His prayers were connected to his study of the Scriptures. If we’re not doing it, let’s get our Bibles open while we are praying and look at all the wonderful character of God so we can praise Him. How about we point to those promises of God in Scripture while we are praying? We can even quote prayers, because many prayers in the Bible are just as applicable to us today as they were back then.

Another simple point is that God’s word was not lost during the captivity. His word was preserved and traveled hundreds of miles to a heathen kingdom where Daniel was able to study that word while in captivity.